President Obama on Monday chose a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars to deliver a piece of his mind to the industries that build America's weapons, the lobbyists who represent them and the members of Congress who give them what they want. The VFW was warmly receptive to the message, being an organization most interested in warriors and former warriors, the people on the ground.
Obama isn't the first president to criticize peculiar military spending, some of which the Pentagon doesn't even support. This year's Pentagon spending legislation, which has been approved by the U.S. House, includes a new fleet of helicopters for the president, which he'd announced long ago he didn't want. Then there are the cargo jets and the engines for fighter jets, both of which are criticized by some in the Pentagon itself and by other experts on the military.
The president has threatened a veto, and reiterated that threat at the VFW meeting in Phoenix. The problem, he told the vets, is that the spending backed by so many in Congress is anachronistic, going for "doctrine and weapons better suited to fight the Soviets on the plains of Europe than insurgents in the rugged terrain of Afghanistan."
Pentagon waste, from big-ticket toilet seats to multibillion-dollar gear that may be out of date by the time it's built, has long been accepted simply as the consequence of doing business in Washington. Powerful members of Congress like to steer billions of dollars of business to companies in their districts or states with large defense contracts. Entire communities exist to support nearby military bases.
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