Defense Secretary Robert Gates is proposing deep cuts to some big weapons programs such as the F-22 fighter jet as the Pentagon takes a hard look at how it spends money.
Gates announced a broad range of cuts Monday to weapons spending, saying he plans to cut programs ranging from a new helicopter for the president to ending production of the $140 billion F-22 fighter jet. The Army’s modernization program would be scaled back, while a new satellite system and a search-and-rescue helicopter would be cut.
Gates says his budget will “profoundly reform” the way the Pentagon buys weapons and does business.
To fight new threats from insurgents, Gates is proposing more funding for special forces and other tools.
Gates’ goal is to not only apply some much needed budget discipline to the Pentagon — defense spending has gone up 72% over the last nine years — but also to make better use of the money. As such, the new presidential helicopter is to be eliminated, as is the $140 billion production project of the F-22s.
The next question, of course, is what Congress is going to do in response. Lawmakers are big fans of “military toys, and they especially like military toys manufactured in their districts,” and the lobbying in advance of Gates’ announcement has been pretty intense. Now, that pressure is going to get worse.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) thanked Gates today for his “good faith effort” and “hard work,” but added, “[T]he buck stops with Congress, which has the critical Constitutional responsibility to decide whether to support these proposals.”
I’m skeptical of Congress’ ability to be responsible on this, but maybe they’ll surprise me.