Policy by other means

Generally speaking I don’t have a whole lot of confidence in the United States Congress.  When its senators and representatives raise their heads out of the trough from time to time, it is often to procure ever more dollars and pork for their particular districts, and not at all about the welfare of the country or the surety of those sworn to defend it.  I feel the members could use a little discipline in the form of term limits, and no small amount of solemn reflection on the needs of the country before ladling out dollars.

So I am pleasantly surprised that various members of the House Armed Servcies Committee (Air-Land Forces subcommittee) are waking up to the fact that the various budget assumptions and constraints of 2010 are, in fact, going to force major policy revisions onto the United States.  Simply because it will no longer be able to do all of the things it is used to doing, and in some cases, will not have sufficient density of assets to continue doing.

Frustration Central: It’s become clear that lawmakers are becoming increasingly irate that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has issued a budget proposal with striking force structure changes across the board, but particularly for the Air Force, without providing evidence of studied analysis and review. At one point last week at the House Armed Services air-land forces panel hearing on Air Force modernization, chairman Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) declared that the 2010 defense budget has “serious policy implications” for future force structure and yet the “request did not include any information or data regarding plans, programs, or budgets for Fiscal Year 2011 and beyond.” Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), ranking member of the panel, suggested, “It appears to me that in many cases, funding limitations in the FY 2010 budget topline were the sole driver in major policy decisions.” Abercrombie noted the “significant changes” to Air Force modernization programs. He and other lawmakers expressed concern about decisions that arbitrarily ends F-22 production, that bank much of the nation’s tactical air capability on an unproven F-35, that shed some 250 legacy fighters earlier than anticipated and without Congressional consultation, that cancel the combat search and rescue helicopter replacement program, and that undercuts the Joint Cargo Aircraft program. Bartlett asserted: “We can’t see the strategy. We can’t see the assumptions. We can’t see the plan for the out years.” Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) went further, describing that hearing and others as “a series of testimonies that can only lightly be described as incredible Pentagon double talk.”

Daily Report“, Air Force magazine, May 26th, 2009.

Particularly heartening is the fact that many of the quoted criticisms are from Democrat committee members; indicative of a seriousness that some would call lacking in their executive branch counterparts.

Perhaps the members of the Congress are good for something other than funnelling pork to their districts, after all.

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