David Ignatius claims there’s fat to be cut from the Pentagon’s budget, and he’s probably right. Except, in all his ignorance, in some places he’d rather cut meat from the bones. First up:
Perhaps the craziest Pentagon spending plan is to purchase 30 new Virginia-class attack submarines, at a cost of (this is not a misprint) $2 billion each. The United States already has the best attack subs in the world — those of the Los Angeles class. What’s the threat that these $2 billion subs are needed to combat?
The Los Angeles-class boats are, without a doubt, the finest deep-water subs in the world. However, they’re lousy in shallow waters – such as the Persian Gulf, most of the Chinese coast, and the Straits of Malacca. The Virginia-class subs were designed to excel in littoral waters – precisely the areas we’re most likely to need subs in the future.
Then there’s the ultimate legacy system — America’s vast nuclear arsenal. The Pentagon is spending $7.8 billion to maintain 6,000 strategic nuclear weapons and delivery systems, including 800 targeted on the Soviet Union — oops, I mean, Russia. Why keep all these weapons at a time when the country can’t afford and doesn’t need them?
Strangely enough, it’s more expensive to get rid of nukes than it is to keep them. If Ignatius wants to stop Congress from spending money where we don’t need to, he should argue to keep all those Minuteman III and Polaris missiles exactly where they are.
Admittedly, Ignatius has valid concerns about the F-22 Raptor (sorry, Will!) and the V-22 Osprey. While I don’t doubt we’ll need the F-22 someday, I see no problem in delaying full production (unless, of course, the contracts are written in such a way as to make postponement more expensive than a slowdown – in which case, we’ll just have to write the damn checks). And while the Osprey is a great idea, it’s one whose time has not yet come.
Overall, though, Ignatius should stay away from military spending, where he sounds even sillier than usual.