Defense Secretary Gates has a big problem; he has lots of money to spend on defense but not so much that he doesn’t have to justify spending it. Kind of like a rich man trying to get into heaven thru the eye of the needle. Both are being judged not on their past successes but on what they can justify that they did with their lives or respectfully our money! Gates success might be a bit harder to achieve. He has to come up with a budget for a war he has yet to fight, against people who have yet to declare themselves combatants, to be fought in other countries and here in America too, while choosing weapons that are not only appropriate and affordable but applicable to a war that has no end. The key word here is affordable. A word not easily found in military budgets, but which is definitely in the Obama budget.
Let’s face it; war has gotten a lot more complicated in the last century or so. A few hundred years ago war was some guys lined up to the left and right, and if you were lucky their guys had on red coats and single shot muskets and yours could hide in the trees and pick em’ off all day. Today, weapon systems require the equivalent of college educations to fire, repair and maintain and that has raised the price tag of the soldier needed to operate them. High school dropouts need not apply! No longer do we need to not only spend millions training pilots to fly billion dollar airplanes but we also need to increase the money we need to train foot soldiers to handle everything from advance firing systems to modular GPS systems just to be able to communicate with other soldiers in the field.
Add to all this the ying/yang effect military purchasing has on the economy and you soon understand the effect cutting costs will have on thousands across the country. Everyone wants the soldier’s home, but the cutting of a military equipment order for one aircraft effects thousands, cutting an order for a ship, hundreds of thousands and cutting a helicopter or stealth fighter literally eliminates the livelihood for an entire community. Sadly the economy could not survive without some aspect of military spending.
Today, drones silently fly above us that map movement of suspected enemy combatants under a controller thousands of miles away watching everything on a computer. This past summer’s mega movie Iron Man was more real than any of us care to mention while it tended to glamorize the toys of war so to speak. It brought the reality of what these weapons are supposed to do; kill. Add to this a certain paranoia that some of us have that these very weapons could be turned against us for surveillance and you may ask yourself where the line of active war and safe vigilance lies?
Unarguably for Mr. Gates the truly uncountable factor of his budget will be the cost of what it takes to outsource war. That would be the line item he places the big question mark in. While Congress fights for their community’s share of the war contracts, they tend to overlook the numbers that will cause a real escalation to this budget; that being the paying of outside companies to provide services and equipment. Under the Bush administration America’s corporations were hired to provide the likes of services from laundry to mail delivery as well as vehicle maintenance and transport and all the support services our soldiers needed. The expense was overwhelming.
The last administration didn’t even bother to put the cost of fighting the war in their budget; one can quickly understand why. And given the fact that we will spend, borrow and steal if we have to get the money to win anything we are engaged in, it seems like a thankless gesture to even come up with a budget. Yet there it is. Now that I think about it, that rich man trying to get into heaven and Gates are both going to need one thing to accomplish their goals; both are going to have to empty their pockets come clean and pray to God and hope no one is reading the fine print in either of their proposals!