November 13, 2007

The Defense Budget

Abu Muqawama gets nervous whenever the New York Times has a staff editorial on military issues. Believe it or not, the New York Times editorial board does not have anyone who could be considered a true "expert" on national defense issues. (Which makes sense, you know, because it's not as if the nation has been at war over the past six years -- or as if other nations and non-state actors ever go to or prepare for war...) Carla Anne Robbins comes closest, but she's not exactly Raymond Aron, or even Michael Gordon.

Nonetheless, today's editorial on defense spending -- published the same day the Washington Post reports the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the average family of four $20,000 -- is a good one.

The recent crash of an Air Force F-15 fighter jet — and the grounding of the entire 700-plane fleet as a precautionary measure — is the latest reminder of the tough military budget choices this country will face for the foreseeable future. Even if American troops were withdrawn from Iraq tomorrow, billions of dollars would still be needed to replenish military equipment, swap aging weapons systems for new ones and rebuild and expand ground forces strained to the breaking point by this misguided war.

After years of signing blank checks to the Pentagon, the next president and Congress will also have to insist on a serious review of what is truly needed to protect the country from a new generation of threats — and not just line the pockets of contractors and their lobbyists.

Although the crash in Missouri on Nov. 2 is still being studied, initial reports suggest that the plane suffered structural failure and disintegrated in the air. That F-15 was built in 1980, but some of the planes in the fleet are more than 30 years old. The problem is that the Air Force’s chosen replacement, the F-22 stealth fighter, is both extremely expensive and already out of date — designed originally for air-to-air combat against Soviet style MIG fighters during the cold war.

American taxpayers have a right to insist that the Pentagon make sounder choices in the future.

Read the rest here.