Many Bucks for Little Bang

Posted: Feb 18, 2011 12:01 PM
Many Bucks for Little Bang

And now the budget cutting begins. We've got the entirely phony budget cutting program emerging from the White House and ambitious plans by GOP leaders in the House. About time, but count on stupidity, pork barrel politics and plain old greed and mismanagement again turning "smart" into "dumb."

With at least a trillion dollar a year deficits projected as far out as the eye can see, we should all be worried not just about what we have to pay back to China, but what is being promised out of our children's very first paychecks and earnings throughout their lives...and their children's lives.

It is pretty much a guarantee that they will face their own challenges, deal with their own natural and manmade disasters and have their own set of economic, national security and social challenges. Is it too much to ask that we not only stop stealing money from them to spend on ourselves now but get a lot smarter about the defense legacy that we leave behind?

Remember the $800 toilet seats out of the Pentagon some years ago? It's happening again, of course, and this time with a block-headed, over-budget, behind-schedule missile defense system called the Medium Extended Air Defense System--or MEADS. Think big bucks for a small bang. What else is new?

Instead of simply upgrading the Patriot missile defense system which has proven its worth at a fraction of the cost, we are spending billions of dollars on a new system that was promised to be ready by 2008 but which now (big surprise) is billions of dollars over budget and years behind its promised delivery date. Yes, once again we get to spend twice the money for half the value and just keep spending it like there is no tomorrow.

Adding insult to injury, here’s what Army officials recently said: “The system will not meet U.S. requirements or address current and emerging threats without extensive and costly modifications.” Even though the Army doesn't want it, we are on tap to spend almost a billion dollars more by 2013 along with our partners, Italy and Germany, in this flea-bitten dog. If, of course, they wake up to the fact that this is a bad deal, we’ll be stuck with the entire tab.

So why keep running down the wrong road to reinvent a missile defense system we already have for less money and better defense? The State Department apparently thinks that this joint program is keeping Germany and Italy happy when, in fact, the Bipartisan Policy Center recently concluded that it not only duplicate what we already have in the Patriot system but that “all three partners may actually be unenthusiastic about the program.”

As my friends in Texas like to say, “If it a’int broke, don’t fix it..”. The “fix” in this case is another over-budget, behind-schedule costly weapon system that doesn’t work as well as what we already have and which costs ten times as much as even an upgrade of the already-proven Patriot system.

Count me as one of the people who believes that tough cuts must be made to balance the budget and that the nation has to remain strong militarily. But there is smart spending and then there is dumb spending. Dumb spending actually undermines a strong defense. Many budget cuts are needed but will prove painful. Cutting the MEADS program is not one of them. This one is a no-brainer.