Saturday, March 13, 2010

Something to think about: Coast Guard vs. Missile Defense

Frank LoBiondo has been complaining about funding to the Coast Guard. I think I said the money had all been spent in his Iraq adventure, but Think Progress has a better comparison when discussing missile defense:

However, pointing out the factual inadequacies of missile defense hits the right wing at its emotional core. Its support for such a wasteful and strategically na├»ve system has almost become theological in nature. The right does not care about the system’s opportunity costs (we spend more on it than the entire Coast Guard), or the program’s effectiveness (there have been no realistic tests), or the implications of its development (a new arms race). Instead, for the right this is purely a faith-based defense program, making anyone who can effectively challenge it the target of a witch-hunt.

But the right doesn't care about the Coast Guard, which helps actual people, as much as its dreams of winning a fantasy Third World War with a fantasy weapon system. All these billions later and we don't have a system that really works. If LoBiondo were really serious about the Coast Guard, he'd look to this wasteful program. There's more to look at. Writing in the NY Times, Lawrance Korb and Steve Duggan compared the Coast Guard budget to the F-35:

The solution is simple: we need a unified national security budget. That would let lawmakers see that, for example, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a next-generation aircraft that is not needed in the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, is projected to consume more money than the entire Coast Guard in 2011. Yet the F-35 program has suffered so many cost and technical problems that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates just fired its manager. Such inefficiencies and disparities are obvious when compared directly, but they get blurred when the Coast Guard and the other services are considered under different budgets and by different sets of Congressional committees.

Frank LoBiondo, though, has attacked any reform of the F-35 program. I think he just doesn't make the connection between the extraordinary waste of these defense projects and the hit to the Coast Guard -- though at least we can hope the F-35 will work, unlike missile defense and the F-22 fighter and the Deepwater cutters.