DEFENDING AMERICA
David H. Hackworth
4 August 98

HEADS UP: CONGRESS PLANS ANOTHER PENTAGON PORK COUP

Every member of Congress isn't a porker! There really are decent congressional members who manage to resist temptation and put America first and pork last.

"Oh really?" you ask. "Name one." Well, how about Senator Charles Grassley, R.-Iowa? After all, as the Marines say, it only takes a few good men and women. And Chuck Grassley is a good man.

But sadly, few others come to mind. As Will Rogers said, "Once a man holds a public office, he is absolutely no good for honest work." Except that our current congressional leaders aren't as easy to finger as the crooks Will Rogers wrote about.

To illustrate their cunning, examine the scheme our 1998 pork-barreler have cooked up to slip billions of bucks into the Pentagon's coffers. Act 1 began in 1996 when Republican Senate and House Hawks started making noise that there weren't enough defense dollars.

They hushed up the truth -- that there are more defense dollars now per individual warrior than we've ever had in our nation's history even though there's no enemy in sight. They ignored the fact that since the cold war ended there's less to pay for since our Air Force fighter wings have been cut by 50 percent, Army maneuver battalions by 44 percent and the Navy fleet by about 40 percent.

Act 2 sneaks in a whopping defense spending increase geared to neither trigger a Presidential veto nor violate the balanced budget agreement.

The plan calls for waiting until just before Congress recesses this week and then, in the dead of night, adding about $20 billion to next year's defense budget with a gimmick known as a continuing resolution. And then flipping off the lights and scampering home.

President Clinton and we taxpayers will be left in the dark holding the bag. Cutie Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., masterminded this slimy scam, which shouldn't be surprising. His Georgia district is the pork capital of the United States. Here's just one example: In the last couple of years he's caused $1.3 billion of your tax dollars to be wasted on 28 C-130 cargo aircraft -- made in his district, of course -- that the USAF didn't order, didn't need and doesn't want.

The hawks both in the House and the Senate are zealously into increasing defense spending not because an enemy is breaching the outer wire but because it's the easiest pork to glom onto these days when government dollars are tight and closely eyeballed. Sure our combat readiness stinks. We've got squads without soldiers, tanks without engines, ships without crews and airplanes without pilots or spare parts.

But tossing more money at the Pentagon ain't the solution. Right now that concrete puzzle factory is still readying itself for another Desert Storm with WWII strategy and tactics, out-of-date platforms and a cold war mind-set which Congress doesn't mind in the least. Why should they? New carriers, fleets of aircraft, submarines and tanks a plenty, no matter how redundant, obsolete or otherwise useless mean corporations are raking it in while the pork flows.

Instead, Congress should do their duty, do some fresh hard thinking and become the catalyst for reshaping our forces to best face 21st century threats. After all, the chances that our next major war will be another dust up in the Gulf are about as likely as Stormin' Norman taking up ballet.

What's needed is a revolution in military thinking which will produce bold vision, bold concepts and bold changes such as closing dozens of unneeded military bases; firing scores of ROAD (retired-on-active-duty) generals and admirals and colonels and USN captains; shutting down hundreds of outmoded command posts; merging services and functions into a joint team that as Colin Powell says "fights to win"; merging and slimming redundant organizations like the Army, the Marines and the Air Force; canceling dozens of pork weapons and congressional pet rock projects; and reconfiguring our fighting forces to be agile, lean and fast. Ready for future wars, not those of yesterday.

Sure, these changes would be hard to swallow. Change is the most difficult of human endeavors. But if change is made we could defend our national interests better with about half the bucks we're now throwing at defense and end up with a better team.

If you don't believe me, ask Senator Grassley.

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