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Come on, have some more F-22s! You know you’re hungry

Submitted by on Monday, 20 July 2009 No Comment
robert_gatesHave you ever had dinner in a genuine Italian mama's kitchen?

The food keeps coming. Pasta and cheeses and peppers and desserts and wine. And then some more. You'll try to wave her off and push yourself back from the table, but she's not hearing you.

"No!" she'll insist. "Eat!"

No, thank you, you'll insist.

That must be how Defense Secretary Robert Gates is feeling  about now.

He's been saying "no thank you" all year to the F-22s Congress keeps trying to pile on his plate - 12 aircraft at $361 million a pop, beyond the 187 already planned. A dozen planes he simply doesn't want or need. A program that's already cost $65 billion.

Eat more! cries Congress. Surely you're still hungry!

No, I'm not, Gates keeps saying.

Just one more tiny serving? Congress insists.

No, Gates says.

And it's a well-reasoned "no."

Gates prefers the newer, cheaper F-35, which he believes is better suited to the way wars are being fought today. In contrast the F-22, he told the Economic Club of Chicago last week, serves only a few scenarios - are those largely are ones left over from the day when we thought most of our battles would be super power versus super power.

Gates also prefers more money for more troops to fight today's wars. “It looks as though the Army believes it needs additional soldiers to do the job that we have asked them to do,” he said later in the week. “So, buying more F-22s would very much inhibit our ability to even temporarily grow the force.”

Not surprisingly, senators and representatives from states with stakes in the military-industrial complex are the ones most adamently trying to force feed. They've come up with a number of imaginative defenses in defense of this brand of defense spending.

Anyone who opposes the F-22s is putting America in peril, they'll say. The F-22 is valuable in far more scenarios than officials believe - why, if we'd used on to take out the Somali pirates that whole thing would have ended much more quickly. The peaceniks are trying to weaken the country by gutting defense spending.

"Our budget adds up to about what the rest of the entire world spends on defense, and only in the parallel universe that is Washington, D.C., would that be considered gutting defense. " Gates counters.

Admittedly, this new world order is hard to get used to. A defense secretary saying there's no need for more bright, shiny objects? No wonder Congress is shocked.

Gates appears to mean it, though, just as he means it when he says the military has to be better at differentiating between the nice-to-haves and the have-to-haves rather than continually asking for the Earth.

"If the Department of Defense can't figure out a way to defend the United States of America on a budget of more than a half-a-trillion dollars a year, then our problems are much bigger than anything that can be cured by buying a few more ships and planes," Gates said.

Step back from the trough and take some Tums, Congress. The feeding frenzy is over.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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