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"Weapons We Can't Afford" (and don't need or work)

David Ignatius had a noteworthy op-ed published in today's Washington Post. Entitled, "Weapons We Can't Afford," Ignatius makes the case that several high-profile weapons systems should be cut or drastically scaled back. These billion-dollar weapons are built for threats that don't exist (ex. F-22 Raptor), are unproven (ex. National Missile Defense), and/or are highly flawed/dangerous (ex. V-22 Osprey). One of Ignatius's last examples of systems he would cut is the Virginia-class attack submarine:
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? Cutting the program would save $2 billion to $3 billion annually.
He's right: the only reason to build attack submarines now or in the foreseeable future is not to counter threats, but for Congressmen to bring home the bacon. It is simply military pork-barrel spending that isn't about defense. Rather it's about appeasing special interests while fleecing the taxpayer. Even the Navy thinks we don't need as many subs. As Ignatius says,
In wartime, the defense budget is even more of a sacred cow than usual, but that shouldn't be. What's sacred is spending the money to protect troops and achieve victory in this war. But the United States is still spending billions for weapons systems that were conceived to fight an adversary that has already been defeated -- the Soviet Union. (emphasis mine)
Again, "What's sacred is spending the money to protect troops and achieve victory in this war." Spending money on obsolete weapons systems that serve to waste money, time and other resources comes at the expense of crucial--often cheaper--but less sexy needs. The now infamous example is that many troops in Iraq were having to buy their own body armor because there weren't enough supplied by the military. Body armor may not be as high-profile or as expensive as the F-22, yet for troops, having it is a matter of life and death. Not only are the American taxpayers paying for this folly, but more importantly our troops are paying as well.

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