Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Robert Gates: The Bravest Person in Washington?

By Peter Henne

Like many inside the Beltway, I gasped this morning as I read the front page of The Washington Post. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has announced plans to cut "thousands" of positions in the DoD, including numerous contractor jobs and the entire Joint Forces Command. One of the few constants in this region is the defense industry; the expanding federal government resulted in numerous firms specializing in government contracts, especially in defense and intelligence. I suspect that many people in this area--including those who loudly denounce US military spending--secretly assure themselves that, if all else failed, there would still be a contractor's job waiting for them.

I am of mixed feelings about this. As someone who has worked with this industry, I know that government contractors perform valuable services for the government, and make up for shortcomings in the federal hiring process. Also, the Joint Forces Command plays an integral role in ensuring the military services work well together. At the same time, the government has become dependent on private contractors to an extent likely unintended by anyone, and a great amount of money can be saved by stream-lining DoD offices.

I do hope, though, that Gates' brave move--doing what he thinks is right for the country--means Congress will no longer be able to play politics with our defense budget. Previous attempts to focus defense spending on critical items have been stymied by Congressional opposition, as seen in the fight over the F-22 fighter. And Republican Senators have placed holds on crucial Presidential appointees in order to ensure defense contracts are steered towards their states, holds which were withdrawn when the public realized what was happening. With the Senate apparently mired in dysfunction, letting the bureaucrats make decisions like this may ironically be more democratic than letting Senators use our national security to enhance their electoral prospects.

That is not to say politicians will--or should--leave Gates alone.
Unfortunately, VA Governor Bob McDonnell and Representative J. Randy Forbes--both Republicans--somehow found a way to blame Obama's domestic policies. But people do get worried when their jobs are threatened; communities have a right to question whether the economic impact of these cuts are worth the savings in federal spending. I can only hope that Gates' initiative will lead to a real debate in this country about defense spending, not more cynical political posturing.

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  • Totally! I could not believe what I was seeing. Nobody has had the guts to speak out like this...

    The defense is the major expense and almost every country needs to reduce its defense spending!

    But why is he singling out contractors?

    By Blogger The Kid, at 12:24 AM  

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