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GOP Pushes for More Tanks Pentagon Doesn't Want

April 29, 2013

If you had any doubts that Republicans believe in government stimulus spending to create jobs, look no further than the Pentagon budget. Two years after House Speaker John Boehner sought $450 million in funding for a second F-35 jet engine that the Defense Secretary and Presidents Bush and Obama opposed, Ohio Senator Rob Portman and Rep. Jim Jordan want more money to build additional Abrams M1 battle tanks the Pentagon says it doesn't want.
As the AP reported, Congressmen from both parties have decided not to "listen to the generals" when it comes to the priorities of the U.S. military. And modernizing more of Army's M1 fleet is not at the top of the list:

In the case of the Abrams tank, there's a bipartisan push to spend an extra $436 million on a weapon the experts explicitly say is not needed.
"If we had our choice, we would use that money in a different way," Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army's chief of staff, told The Associated Press this past week.

Leading the battle to force the Pentagon to buy weapons it doesn't want are two supposed deficit hawks from the Buckeye State where the Abrams is built. Senator Portman, formerly President Bush's head of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), is among those Republicans citing the discredited Reinhart-Rogoff study as the basis for steeper government spending cuts. Meanwhile, Congressman Jordan, who voted for the 2011 sequester legislation that will trim the Defense budget by almost $500 billion over the next decade, insists U.S. nationals security is at stake:

"The one area where we are supposed to spend taxpayer money is in defense of the country," said Jordan, whose district in the northwest part of the state includes the tank plant...
"Look, (the plant) is in the 4th Congressional District and my job is to represent the 4th Congressional District, so I understand that," he said. "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."

For his part, Portman had an ironic explanation for why Uncle Sam shouldn't stop buying more of the modernized battle tanks until 2017:

"People can't sit around for three years on unemployment insurance and wait for the government to come back."

As it turns out, the ironies hardly end there. In his FY2014 budget, President Obama has proposed undoing the $1.2 trillion sequester in part through new tax revenues to pay for the extra spending. (Republicans like John McCain want the Pentagon sequester ended, too, but aren't willing to pay for it with new tax revenue.) Meanwhile, last week's economic growth numbers show the toll government cutbacks in general and in defense spending in particular (which sliced 0.8 percent from GDP) are having on the American economy. Nevertheless, the Washington Post reported on Sunday, those cuts to defense spending (which nearly doubled between 2001 and 2011) "pose an economic quandary for liberals."


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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