Monday’s edition of The FNP featured a story about Congress spending nearly $500 million in the last two years on a program to build upgraded versions of the iconic Abrams tank.
What makes this story so compelling is that Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno says, “If we had our choice, we would use that money in a different way.”
So why would elected public officials — both Republican and Democrat — be forcing this spending choice on the Army? Well, call us cynical, but we’d say it has to with securing projects for home districts, and the re-election that usually follows such largess. It’s the good old pork-go-round — as American as apple pie.
According to the AP story, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and fellow Ohioan Rep. Jim Jordan — “two of Capitol Hill’s most prominent budget hawks” — are among those backing the Abrams project. So is Ohio’s other U.S. senator, Sherrod Brown. Coincidentally, much of the work is taking place in Lima, Ohio, which is in Jordan’s congressional district. All claim that their support is aimed at protecting national security, not pork-barrel spending.
This program may be good economically for the places blessed by Abrams contracts, but that doesn’t make it good for national defense. Wouldn’t giving the Army what it says it needs and wants be a better idea? Shouldn’t the Army know best? Shouldn’t its preferences drive how shrinking military budgets are used? Not when you’re riding the pork-go-round.
Jordan says that it’s his job to represent his congressional district and that the Abrams contract work in Lima is vital to the local economy. Then he staunchly adds: “But the fact remains, if it was not in the best interests of the national defense for the United States of America, then you would not see me supporting it like we do.” Odierno doesn’t think it’s in the best interests of national defense. Now, who are you going to believe?
One additional point of interest: General Dynamics, a big player in the Abrams contract, spent nearly $11 million last year lobbying.
The economy and jobs are important in Lima as elsewhere, but does it make sense to spend nearly one-half billion military dollars — which could/should have been spent in better ways — on something that the military says it doesn’t want or need?
It’s the same old story, folks: Bring home the bacon to your home district and get re-elected, then bring home more bacon, then get re-elected, then ... well, you get the idea.
Right, it’s the pork-go-round.