Congressional Industrial Complex

Much has been said about the F-22 (“The Lazarus”) and Congress (“The Savior”). A quick survey of House and Senate defense authorization bills shows a legislative branch marching to a different drummer — one more in step with their districts and industry than DoD.

Both bills have inserted items Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates had cut from DoD’s needs. No unfunded requirements this year. Gates’ message is simple: All eyes and money are on the wars at hand.

In addition to the $1.75 billion* for seven additional F-22 Raptors that has received some attention (it has been said the target of the Gates crackdown is what some have seen as an out-of-control Air Force), lawmakers have provided for an additional three C-17 Globemasters and the House coughed up just under half a billion for laughable presidential helicopter (VH-71) that might have broken any existing budget record (program costs went from $6.1 billion to more than $13 billion). Lockheed announced it was cutting 600 jobs because of the loss of the contract.

Maybe lawmakers were concerned about national defense calling for doubling the F/A-18 Hornets, something the chief of naval operations has said he wants to move away from so he can move forward on the joint strike fighter. Jack “Show Me the Money” Murtha expressed concern over a shortage of F/A-18s down the road. How far down and exactly which road remains unclear, but we are reasonably sure it is a path paved with gold and leading past fat cat contractors en route to his Pennsylvania district. Get this: The House even added two ships, one a littoral combat ship. (Maybe CNO Gary Roughead does have friends in Congress.)

There is no rainbow for the Army in this story. Gates cut much of the man-ground technology from Future Combat Systems (FCS), the centerpiece of the Army’s modernization program. No Congress to the rescue on this one, possibly because FCS has been the target of lawmakers for some time. The Army was challenged in explaining its 18-plus systems in a way staffers could understand.

Despite congressional efforts to keep contractors afloat and constituents employed, the budget clocks in at $3.8 billion less than what Gates and the president have recommended. One cut appears to be funding to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. At the same time, lawmakers increased military pay 3.4 percent, up a half percent from the president’s plan.

Lawmakers will work to resolve these issues in the coming days, as they do each year.

* By 58-40 the Seante voted to remove the $1.75 billion provision July 21.

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