Sunday, November 18, 2007

Tightening the belt of the Defense Department

Congress finally did something right this week. They failed to appropriate more funding to the war in Iraq without a commitment by the commander in chief to withdraw the troops from there soon. After approving half a trillion dollars of "emergency appropriations" with no strings attached since the invasion, thereby perpetuating the war in Iraq, congress is finally responding to its constituents and leveraging more pressure to redeploy the troops.

Secretary of defense Robert Gates responded to the failure to fund the Iraq war with a threat to furlough as many as 200,000 civil servants and defense contractors this winter. This could potentially force the Defense Department to close dozens of domestic military bases. Gates couched his threat with a claim that the furloughs would be "the least undesirable" alternative to the lack of funding.

But Gates failed to acknowledge one very desirable way to respond to a lack of funding: an immediate and orderly withdrawal of troops from Iraq. That would save the Pentagon nearly $2-billion per week. Certainly that must be far more money than it costs to pay the 200,000 civil servants and defense contractors Gates threatened to furlough.

More importantly, this is how the American people want the Pentagon to tighten its belt. In fact, with the redeployment of the troops from Iraq, president Bush would not even need the $189-billion supplemental appropriation he's asking for in the first place. Congress did approve the Pentagon's $470-billion base budget, so no one can claim that it does not support the troops.

No comments: