Democrats in Congress move to get their pound of flesh from the military while they still have time

By John Keller

Posted by John Keller

JULY 23, 2010. Interesting story in The New York Times on Thursday, entitled Pentagon Faces Intensifying Pressures to Trim Budget . The thrust of the story is this: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are winding down, which leads the Democrat majority in Congress to consider reducing current and future defense budget requests for the first time since 9/11.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, meanwhile, is trying to stave off Pentagon budget cuts by convincing Democrats in Congress that he can make the military more efficient, and use money saved to pay for military procurement , operations, military research and development , and other costs.

Nevertheless, the story goes on, Democrats in Congress are trying to move more quickly than the Pentagon had expected in trimming the DOD budget request for next year. Best of all, The Times writes, "And in the longer term, with concern mounting about the government’s $13 trillion debt, a bipartisan deficit-reduction commission is warning that cuts in military spending could be needed to help the nation dig out of its financial hole."

Let's see, the Democrat majority in Congress, with backing from the Obama Administration, domestically has shoved through extremely expensive, unpopular, mostly ineffective measures concerning economic stimulus, health care, and jobs security, but it's up the nation's military "to help the nation dig out of its financial hole." This just doesn't make sense, and it's not what's really going on.

The Democrats are about to lose control of Congress in November, little more than three months away; they know it, and we know it, so if they are going to shove any more unpopular measures through, then they have to do it quickly. They have little more than three months before the November elections -- a period in which Congress won't do much because Democrats will spend that time fighting for their political lives on the campaign trail -- and the three months of a lame-duck congressional session before the new Congress is seated next January.

I rarely, if ever, trust Democrats when it comes to the military. Except for a few, most mouth platitudes about supporting the troops and the nation's defense, but at heart many of the Democrats in Congress today loathe the military on a visceral level, a phenomenon most likely left over from the '60s generation, of which many of today's serving lawmakers are members. These Democrats would like to gut the military and use the money saved for their favored domestic social programs that buy them votes. Since 9/11, however, their hands have been tied politically. Moreover, many Democrats in Congress believe that defense has gotten more than its fair share of the federal budget since George W. Bush took office in 2000, and now's their chance to get even, but the clock is ticking down.

Anything these Democrats want to do, they have to do it fast; desperation is starting to show. So now their gaze falls on the military, which has been struggling to slog through the tasks assigned it in South Asia now for nearly a decade. Desperation often results in rash action. Look for the rhetoric in Congress to become increasingly down on the military and military expenditures in the coming months, as Democrats attempt to lay the groundwork for big DOD budget cuts while they still have the time to do so.

Now obviously the military can find ways of increasing efficiencies and streamlining procurement, and Defense Secretary Gates seems to be going in the right direction in that regard. This, unfortunately, is not what many Democrats in Congress want to see, however. Instead, I believe many of them want to do the military material harm between now and next January.

The only way to avoid damage to the U.S. military during that time is to find any way to stall Congress until the clock runs out.

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The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

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Volume 26, Issue 7

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