If the Pentagon doesn’t want the money…

IF THE PENTAGON DOESN’T WANT THE MONEY…. I’ve made the case on more than a few occasions that officials shouldn’t be able to call themselves “fiscal conservatives” while also insisting that the Pentagon budget is untouchable. It’s just a basic test of credibility — the United States now spends about as much on defense as every other country on the planet combined. To call for budget cuts while leaving defense alone is irresponsible.

Some conservatives — Kristol, Palin, Rubio, et al — disagree with this. Fine. But can we at least agree that spending money on defense bills to pay for things the Pentagon doesn’t want is an immediate credibility killer?

Tanya Somanader highlights a great example today, pointing to Rep. Phil Gingrey (R), a right-wing Georgian, who can’t wait to slash spending for all kinds of social programs, but also happens to favor opposes unnecessary defense spending.

The F-22 stealth fighter jet, for example, is a weapon designed to address threats last faced during the Cold War. It “has not performed a single mission” in Iraq or Afghanistan, and comes with a $120 million price tag per plane. Coupled with the $8 billion it would cost the Pentagon to upgrade the 100 F-22s already in use, the F-22 landed on Defense Secretary Gates’s chopping block last year. After consulting with other Defense officials, Gates concluded, “there is no military requirement” for creating more F-22s.

Yet despite that, and the overwhelming bipartisan agreement that the plane qualifies as taxpayer waste, and in spite of own his commitment to cutting spending, Gingrey now thinks he knows better than the Pentagon and is calling for resuming production of more F-22s. Not only is Gingrey willing to waste taxpayer dollars on an unnecessary and unwanted weapon, he’s willing to fight his own party to do it, because the planes are built in his state.

It’s also worth remembering that for every hour the F-22 spends in the air, it requires more than 30 hours of maintenance. One of its key problems is — I’m not kidding — “vulnerability to rain.” After years of effort, the plane, in operational flight tests, has met only seven of its 22 “key requirements.” It features a radar-absorbing canopy that tends to imprison pilots for hours. Seriously.

The Obama administration — you know, the folks Republicans like to characterize as liberal big spenders who can’t be trusted with the nation’s checkbook — successfully scrapped this indefensible waste of Americans’ money. It wasn’t easy, but last year, the White House managed to secure bipartisan support to stop the unnecessary spending.

But next year, a leading conservative Republican wants to bring it all back. I wonder how many Tea Partiers are aware of this.