Ricks – Goin’ Rogue on Defense Spending

In a recent Foreign Policy Blog entry (that was reprinted by the Early Bird) defense writer and man-about-the-Pentagon Tom Ricks shared his take on the recently passed Defense Appropriations Bill.

In “Defense Spending: I’m A Hawk, But Give Me A Break” Ricks hits some budget breakers but seems to single them out for dollar value and not their intrinsic evil. (Ok, that may be an overstatement.) Regardless, 2010 is really no different than past years and some appropriations again push past the blinding flash of excess coinage.

Ricks writes:

$4.4 billion for two Navy destroyers and one littoral combat ship. Yow. Maybe it is time to start buying warships from South Korea, or at least invite competitive bids? Folks, this is billions, not millions. Imagine what $4.4 billion could do to rebuild our highways, or send deserving kids to college, or rebuild New Orleans.

It seems God has grinned upon the Boys in Blue, and the Navy slowly will build itself to at least 313 ships from its woeful 180 or so now—no matter how hard they make it. At this period in warfare, even given perennial missions of power projection and sea control, we doubt the Navy has a clear strategic vision of how to employ its fleet. (And it has a published strategy.) That said, Congress approved just more than $1 billion for the littoral combat ship (which clocks in at around $600 million per copy) and two destroyers, as Ricks writes. BUT $1.3 billion is going to the Zumwalt class (DDG-1000), the Canceled Stealth Ship to Nowhere, thanks to some slick lawmaker deals. Roughly $1.5 billion goes to the Arleigh Burke class (DDG-51). The Boys are returning to the Burke’s proven platform following the Zumwalt-class disastrous run. (Seen “enabling” below.)

The problem with LCS and DDG-1000 extends beyond the dollars. It is systemic. Congress continues to enable Navy program mismanagement. The Boys took the $240 million LCS and redesigned it to nearly triple the estimate. The same applies to the failed Zumwalt. (“Mission? Let’s just make it do everything, even if it is an unstable platform! Cost? Irrelevant.”) The shipyards located in prominent lawmaker districts play into this funding dart game as well. Ricks charges the money may be better used rebuilding New Orleans. Don’t be fooled! The City that Time and God Forgot is slicker than Congress and the services put together and was in worse shape before Katrina.

Thoughts? More info to come as we match legislative fact to fiction.

Recent Posts