Showdown Expected On Defense Spending

Last Updated Jul 20, 2009 6:24 AM EDT

President Obama has let Congress do the heavy work on the three major issues that he has advocated since his election. On the "Stimulus", health reform and "cap and trade" he is having the legislative branch write the law with some input. It is only on defense spending that and foriegn policy that he has actually shown differences with the Democratic controlled House and Senate.

In imitation of President Bush, Obama has issued signing statements with various legislation when he felt the new law infringed on his rights as the executive. Many of these have been related to foriegn policy such as one ignoring direction on limits to the International Monetary Fund after the U.S. provided emergency funding. The House quickly passed a law after the statement saying that if Obama did not follow the rules the funding would be removed.

The other major conflict now appears to be the content of the defense budget. Obama and his Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, have proposed in their 2010 budget to end several major programs. It has been possible in the past to end acquisition programs and Congress has agreed on several. On military aircraft production, though, there has been major disagreement. The administration wanted to end F-22 production at 187 aircraft. There were to be no more C-17 transports and end the dual source for the F-35 JSF engine.

The Congress will claim that they are doing what is best for the country. That they are giving the military what they need. Another major underlying reason is jobs in Congressional districts. Major defense programs create these and the U.S economy has been shedding jobs over the last year and looks at facing double digit unemployment soon. There have always been earmarks and directed spending in defense bills and normally the Administration gets most of what they want. In the end it is a big compromise.

Obama and Gates have been very aggressive in saying they will veto the budget if the F-22 money is included. Normally that does not happen in the end when the bill is finished in the late Fall. The administrations in the past have accepted the earmarks as a cost of doing business. The five percent of funding not asked or programmed for will be spent, perhaps some of it wastefully, to get the ninety-five percent wanted. That is how a democratic, republican form of government works. The chances of a veto are small as the F-22 especially has a great deal of support in both the House and Senate.

  • Matthew Potter

    Matthew Potter is a resident of Huntsville, Ala., where he works supporting U.S. Army aviation programs. After serving in the U.S. Navy, he began work as a defense contractor in Washington D.C. specializing in program management and budget development and execution. In the last 15 years Matthew has worked for several companies, large and small, involved in all aspects of government contracting and procurement. He holds two degrees in history as well as studying at the Defense Acquisition University. He has written for Seeking Alpha and at his own website, DefenseProcurementNews.com.