These days, progressives seem to think the federal government is a goose that lays an endless supply of golden eggs. In the face of the COVID pandemic, progressives want new spending to bail out state governments. They want unlimited unemployment benefits so people never have to go back to work. They want more for housing, more for climate change and more in taxes.
In fact, the only place they don’t want more spending is in an area that is actually the federal government’s main responsibility: national defense.
It would be a big mistake for Democrats to allow progressives to apply the ‘Defund the Police’ message to military spending.
“We’re in the midst of a crisis that has left millions of families unable to afford food, rent and bills,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) said in The Nation. “But at the same time, we’re dumping billions of dollars into a bloated Pentagon budget. Don’t increase defense spending. Cut it — and invest that money into our communities.” In the same article, longtime progressive Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) adds, “With so many people across the country struggling to make ends meet, the last thing we need to do is increase investment in wasteful Pentagon spending.”
And from the leader of the Left, words of wisdom from twice-defeated presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT): “At a time when the U.S. already spends more on the military than the next 12 nations combined, it is time for us to take a serious look at the massive cost over-runs, the waste and fraud that currently exists at the Pentagon.”
Luckily, cooler heads seem to be about to prevail in the Democratic Party. Although Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Sanders are constantly in the news as the voice of the policy of the party, there are moderates in the party who hold enough sway to give the Biden Administration some support for military funding.
“We are ending our longest conflict of 20 years, but more than ever, the world is watching what we do here today,” Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria says. “The president’s budget — I have been saying ever since it was released that it does not do enough.” Her fellow lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee went along. They passed an amendment that “would bring the total military spending budget to $740 billion, with nearly half of the additional funding earmarked to procure new ships, aircraft, and combat vehicles as well as pouring money into the development of emerging technologies and new military laboratories,” the New York Times reports. The vote was a convincing 42-17 and will add $24 billion to the defense budget.
One of the places that money should be invested is in the KC-46 refueling tanker. To prove the point that Sen. Sanders was making, however, it should not be wasted on trials for a new and unknown tanker.
Here is the background: the U.S. Air Force needs to add to its tanker fleet. It has already been buying an American-made tanker, the KC-46. And that tanker is already cleared to refuel most of the craft that the Air Force now uses. So the decision should be simple: buy more of the tankers that are already in service.
“However, there is a possibility that Airbus will offer its much bigger ‘multirole tanker transport’ based on the A330 jetliner, even though the Air Force rejected that solution in a competition ten years ago,” military analyst Loren Thompson wrote this year. “The Airbus tanker might be offered in concert with Lockheed Martin, which has a teaming arrangement with Airbus on aerial refueling opportunities.” Thompson adds that Airbus is supported by lawmakers from Alabama, because the French airplane company would send its frames to that state to be finished by Lockheed.
Not only would this amount to paying a foreign company to produce American military hardware, it would be a waste of money on other levels. Thompson notes that a fleet of one type of tanker is less expensive to maintain than a mixed fleet would be. You’ll save on spare parts, repair costs, training, and many other such costs.
Fully funding the Pentagon isn’t wasteful; it’s a congressional responsibility. This month, lawmakers are taking baby steps back from the lure of Progressivism and supporting needed military upgrades. That should include more KC-46 tankers, and not include a wasteful procurement bidding process.