DEFENDING AMERICA
David H. Hackworth
January 24, 1995

THE PORKERS ARE BUILDING A SUPER TROUGH

Washington, DC -- The Republicans have taken over the Pentagon's pork barrel with glee. They're already building a giant scoop to ladle out even more lard to their constituents: their states, their defense contractors and the military.

Republicans Strom Thurmond and Floyd Spence, both certified South Carolina Class A porkers, haven't gotten the word that the Cold War is over. They want to return to the Reagan era, when defense spending was high, taxes low, the nation not staggering from debit -- 20 cents of every tax dollar today goes to just servicing the debit -- and the Soviet Bear was growling with convincing menace.

What makes this alarming is that neither Thurmond or Spence, who chair the powerful Senate and House Armed Services Committees respectively, have ever seen a weapons system they didn't like. Nor have either ever had a fresh thought when it comes to defending America.

Both want to restore "America's military strength." Restore it from or for what, I can't figure, since we don't have one serious enemy out there! Yet the U.S. defense budget is almost ten times greater than the combined spending on military toys and boys by all the potential bad guys our intelligence folks count (Iraq, Iran, North Korea and Libya).

This newly invented "Evil Empire" conglomerate is a joke. Their ground forces have worn-out Soviet gear similar to the type we put out of business with ease during Desert Storm. Their navies and air forces could be closed down before sunset on the first day of a shoot-out by less than half of our current defense team. The only one of the four I respect as a fighting foe is North Korea, a country we now keep running with American oil.

The U.S. spends more on defense than the rest of the world combined, most of whom, such as France, Germany, Great Britain and Japan, are our allies. Such massive spending places a terrible burden on our citizens and saddles the nation with a military capability far too powerful for the challenges we face. It's like having ten cops for every one citizen.

After three days of talking to lawmakers, their aides and inside-the-Beltway contacts, I came away from Greedland really down. Spence wants more "resources" to be added to the defense budget, and the 92-year-old Thurmond wants to "freeze the 1996 defense budget at $273 billion."

The Thurmond-Spence South Carolina pork machine is dedicated. It's almost impossible to turn around in the state without stumbling into a Military Industrial Complex. The 1994 payroll for almost 100,000 personnel located on 11 military bases across the state -- active duty, reserve, National Guard and civilian -- is a cool $2.6 billion, and now the good ol' boy porkers are hungry for more.

In the 1980s, Newt Gingrich was a keen advocate of military reform. He knew what needed to be done and where the bodies were buried. The critical question is: will he roll over and let the porkers run amuck in 1995?

Gingrich's "Contract With America" promises to improve America's armed forces. This needs to be done. But it won't be accomplished by throwing more money the nation doesn't have at a Pentagon already bloated by twice the amount of money needed to defend America -- $252 billion for 1995.

The answer lies in Newt and his fellow lawmakers employing vision, boldness and integrity. They must look at the defense of America with reformers' eyes. Our defense game plan and military organization -- which hasn't changed in 50 years -- has created a wasteful, multilayered, pig-driven bureaucracy.

For example, the porkers added $11 billion of inappropriate non-military defense items such as the Summer Olympics, cancer research and electric vehicles to the 1995 Pentagon budget. Newt should do the following: strip these out of defense and move them to the proper budgets or kill them; nuke the offending porkers; dig out his reform notes; and start taming the military hog before it gobbles up his revolution.

The citizens are watching and expect the promised changes. If they don't get them, Newt can expect another bloodbath in 1996; but this time around, he and the Republican pork farmers will be the targets.