Congress is getting ready to mark up and vote on the Obama administration’s supplemental bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lawmakers are sure to attempt to use the supplemental to breathe new life into some outmoded, overpriced, and unneeded weapons programs that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates proposed either eliminating or completing in the 2010 base defense budget, arguing that these programs should continue on the basis that they are vital to U.S. national security interests.
In fact, the supplemental request submitted to Congress last month already includes funding for one such unneeded program: four additional F-22 Raptors. Yet the F-22, a fighter program that was originally designed to defeat Soviet fighter planes (which were never built), has no relevance to the wars we are in today and has never been used in either Iraq or Afghanistan.
But while the debate over whether or not to include the four additional F-22s may be over, military leaders must do their part to deny lawmakers the ability to argue that other unnecessary programs are worth sneaking into the supplemental because they are vital to our national security.
The secretary’s proposal would eliminate these unnecessary programs, and it would also maintain or increase funding for defense capabilities that are urgently needed by commanders on the ground. Most important, Gates’s plan would maintain funding for the growth in the ground forces to ease the disproportionate strain placed on them, increase the number of special-operations forces, and boost funding for needed capabilities such as helicopter pilots.
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