As Rachel noted on Twitter last week, there’s only one “magic part of government” in which Congress forces officials to “take unwanted money.”
And that magic part of government, of course, is the Defense Department.
The Pentagon faces election-year roadblocks in persuading Congress to back cost-saving defense cuts as the military moves away from robust wartime budgets.The House panel that decides defense spending came out with a $570 billion blueprint Thursday…. The spending bill echoes the broad defense policy bill that the House overwhelmingly passed last week that saves ships and aircraft despite pleas from senior military officers for the reductions…. Military leaders have warned that sparing what they consider to be parochial programs will undermine their ability to train soldiers, sailors and airmen to fight. But lawmakers are determined to protect favorite weapons.
That last part is of particular interest. For all the talk about House Republicans’ preoccupation – if not unbridled obsession – with cutting government spending, these GOP lawmakers insist on giving the Pentagon money the Pentagon does not want and does not need. Worse, by throwing money at weapons programs Defense Department officials do not approve of, the Pentagon has concluded this congressional spending actually “undermines” the military’s goals.
But since the political world has become so accustomed to this bizarre dynamic, no one even seems to notice this anymore or find it odd.
The Pentagon requested a modest pay raise; Congress went beyond what was requested.
The Pentagon requested a slight increase in out-of-pocket costs for housing and food, in order to help control the cost of benefits; Congress turned down the request.
The Pentagon requested retiring the U-2 spy plane and the A-10 Warthog; Congress funded them anyway.
The Pentagon requested shuttering unnecessary bases; Congress is keeping them open.
Lawmakers, at least on the right, aren’t just throwing unwanted money at the department, they’re also ignoring military leaders on policy matters – the Pentagon wants to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, and Congress doesn’t care.
“It is not our job to accept the department’s budget as is, but if we are to reject the Pentagon’s cost-saving measures we need to offer alternatives. We didn’t. We ducked every difficult decision,” Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said last week. “We played accounting games and cut readiness as we stand by and wait for a miracle. We owe our troops more.”
Remember, House Republicans like to say fiscal responsibility is one of their strong points. Of course, when it’s funding that benefits low-income families on the line, the GOP “knows how to make the tough call”; when it’s funding the military, the GOP knows how to spend recklessly and unnecessarily.