ARMOR LACK: WHO'S TO BLAME?
So who's responsible for American troops still operating in Iraq without proper protection? Congress deserves some of the blame, according to this 60 Minutes report, spotted by Steve Gilliard:
Winslow Wheeler, a long time Capitol Hill staffer who spent years writing and reviewing defense appropriations bills, thinks he knows one reason why those shortages exist, after looking at the current Defense budget. Army accounts that pay for training, maintenance and repairs are being raided by Congress to pay for pork-barrel spending.And buried in the back of this one, Wheeler found a biathlon jogging track in Alaska, a brown tree snake eradication program in Hawaii, a parade ground maintenance contract for a military base that closed years ago, and money for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial celebration...According to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a member of the Armed Services Committee who speaks out against pork-barrel spending, there is a total of $8.9 billion of pork in this year's defense bill, which would go a long way toward upgrading all the equipment used by the National Guard."I don't think that this war has truly come home to the Congress of the United States," McCain says... "The least sexy items are the mundane - food, repair items, maintenance there's no big contract there," says McCain. "And so there's a tendency that those mundane but vital aspects of war fighting are cut and routinely underfunded."
True. But if the Pentagon's top brass made these "mundane" items priority A1, Congress would fall in line, quick. Instead, these basics for the troops have been pushed back
-- into "supplemental" funding, while the Defense Department's main budget gets filled with pork and leviathan projects meant to "transform" the military for the next century.In fact, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker admitted in a recent interview with Army Times that he sees the Pentagon's wartime budget increases as a "window of opportunity
" to pour cash into programs like the $117 billion Future Combat Systems initiative.
"The level of operational tempo that we have is being paid for with the supplemental. The increased consumption of repair parts and ammunition are all being funded by the supplemental. But the issue is that, from a strategic perspective, we have a war to fight and we're receiving increased dollars. I call that the window of opportunity these dollars that we're receiving. And we have an Army to transform. So what is important to understand and I think what really is the extraordinary window that we have here is that we can combine these two. Combine this momentum - the momentum from the focus that war gives us, the funding that we're getting from the war, and our transformational effort...We dont know how long this will go long or how long supplemental funding will continue to support our wartime effort. But it makes sense to us to leverage the momentum and the additional funding we have so that where we go forward to a transformed force for the 21st Century. (thanks to Defense Tech reader BH for the catch).
THERE'S MORE: Look, it's not like Future Combat Systems is a bad idea. The Army should be investing in fighting tomorrow's wars. But there are good soldiers dying in Iraq now. Today. And picking FCS over armored trucks is like buying life insurance when the rent is three monts overdue.
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