Quigley on Defense Spending and Priorities

Uploaded by RepMikeQuigley on 29.09.2010

It's just been a few weeks since we commemorated 9/11 and the horrors of that day, the attacks
on New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. My parents would talk about Pearl Harbor,
the Kennedy assassination seared into the consciousness of the American landscape.
It was a day of shock, and horror, and loss. But something was supposed to come out of
the ashes of the Twin Towers and the smoldering Pentagon. Our nation came together with a
renewed sense of purpose, with the realization that we were going to make America safer.
We needed to change the way we protected ourselves, to face the new challenges and the new threats
of the 21st century. In my mind, in DC in 18 months, we've lost
sight of that. Rather than recalibrating our security strategy
to fight the non-state actors who attacked us, we continue to spend – and spend –
to combat the enemy of a different era. We can no longer continue to spend real money
based solely on those theoretical threats. In the nine years since these attacks, this
country has been in a perpetual state of war — militarily, politically and economically.
We have spent over a trillion dollars trying to buy Middle East security at a gunpoint.
That‘s a huge investment, but any economist will tell you that you can't make decisions
based on sunk costs. It is time to step back, to evaluate
our global needs, and build a military to match those needs – as if we were starting
from scratch. The stakes. We've got to get this right.
I had to add this, after the news that came out just yesterday, that the FBI made an arrest
of a person, from my district, planning a would-be bomb outside Sluggers, at Clark
and Eddy. If you want to talk about the issue being close to home, that is exactly one block
from where my wife and kids sleep at night. So in the end, the bottom line is, we need
to decide if we really can afford to do things the way we are doing them - if we can really
afford to be the world's police. We need to see if military might really ends terrorism.
And we need to embrace a foreign policy rooted in diplomacy and restraint.
It is an uncertain world – while Congress was literally fighting over missile defense,
our enemies attacked us with box cutters. We do face many real and potential threats:
Non-state actors like al Qaeda and Hezbollah; rogue states like Iran, possibly the greatest
threat we face; and potential rivals like China and Russia. The best we can do is to prepare
based strictly on a realistic assessment of these threats to our national security – not on the
need to preserve jobs, bases or contracts. Literally folks, when I was there asking about
the F22 vote on the floor, and I went to the Blue Dogs, arguably the fiscal side of the
Democratic Party, why they were joining with the Republicans to preserve the F-22 that Bob
Gates said we don't need and we don't want and we can't afford, they told me: It's because
it's built in 200 congressional districts. But if it's just about job creation, we would
be far, far better off rebuilding our transit system, our schools, our overpasses, our bridges
that are crumbling right here near you. If we do that, we can protect our interests
with a military suitably scaled — one that capably protects us without costing a dime
more than is necessary. To do otherwise places us in danger of,
as President Eisenhower put it, destroying from within that which we are trying to defend from without.
But after 9/11, we sent thousands of US troops
to Afghanistan explicitly to go after al Qaeda. But now few al Qaeda remain in Afghanistan
CIA Director Leon Panetta says at most there are 50-100 still there.
Al Qaeda is not a state-based adversary, but a global network of extremists who find safe-havens
in unguarded spaces around the world. The latest of which- We were talking to the leaders
of Kenya, who told us they are afraid that they can't protect their borders, and that
Al Qaeda will join them. If you follow the logic of our policy of the last few years,
we would send 52 hundred thousand troops there as well. According to a source at the U.S. Defense
Agency, we know that South Asia is no longer al Qaeda's primary base. They are looking
for a hide-out in other parts of the world and continue to expand their organization.
Their networks are growing and operating in Yemen, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Sub-Saharan Africa,
and obviously even right here on our own soil. Terrorists from around the world can communicate and
unite through the Internet. As Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York Times
last year, "the most active front in this war against terrorism is not Afghanistan, but
the 'virtual Afghanistan' - the loose network of thousands of jihadist Web sites, mosques
and prayer groups that recruit, inspire and train young Muslims to kill." End of quote.
And yet the U.S. has over 95,000 American troops on the ground in Afghanistan, fighting
an enemy that is no longer there. New evidence shows that our presence there
is actually fueling the insurgency we are fighting.
Congressman John Tierney, he's the head of the subcommittee I'm a member of, doing an
extraordinary job. He recently discovered that the U.S. military is funding a multi-billion
dollar protection racket in Afghanistan. A good portion of a $2.16 billion transportation
contract is being paid to corrupt public officials, warlords and the Taliban to get needed supplies
to our troops. So we are paying protection to the insurgency
we are fighting. If you were to start over, what would you
do? How would you do it? At the local level, it was easy. If you were to start over, would
you start up a township government with 748 school districts in Illinois? No. But if you
start over today, would you build the military systems that we have in place today? No, because
you're not solving today's problems today. But before we examine each expenditure against
this question, we have to figure what we‘re spending.
Believe it or not, the sad truth is that DOD is one of the only federal agencies that cannot
pass an independent audit. It cannot account for all of its expenditures and assets. Without
an auditable budget, we have no way of properly analyzing what we are spending.
Another serious need is procurement reform. Procurement costs have increased 110 percent
in real terms since the year 2000. Even if you take out war-related expenditures,
peacetime spending on R&D has increased 75 percent. While Secretary Gates has taken some
bold steps to cut unnecessary purchases, such as the presidential helicopter, F-22s and
the alternate F-35 engine, he continues to face opposition from Congress literally at
every turn. A few examples: Our Navy - We don‘t need
20 times more firepower than any other nation to achieve security. The DDG-1000 Zumwalt
class destroyer, folks: Less agile, more expensive than old destroyers, it's focused on open
water instead of the shoreline locations, while many of our threats occur less than
three miles from shore. The one common characteristic of all these
expenditures is not only their costliness, but they have no useful application in today's world.
All expenditures should be measured against
the benchmark "Will it keep America safer?" And if the answer is no, it should be rejected.
With finite resources must come choices. The real ramification of overspending on defense
is not simply that we have too many unnecessary ships, aircrafts or missiles, but that they are
diverting too many resources to defense we are neglecting other domestic investments
such as health care, education, infrastructure to remain a superpower.
As Benjamin Freidman of the CATO institute said: "We spend too much because we choose
too little." The obstacles to implementing cultural changes
of this magnitude are immense. But the stakes are equally great. America, with its multitude
of resources and role as a beacon of liberty, will be called on to defend its interests
long after al Qaeda is vanquished. I ask only that our resources be deployed as a last
resort and with the tools they need to do the job.
Sixty years ago, President Eisenhower warned of humanity hanging from a cross of iron,
and yet we are here today — seemingly no wiser and even more vulnerable to such a fate.
Even as the Secretary of Defense - not to mention countless defense and budget experts - have
pleaded with Congress to make changes, we remain committed to spending on defense
systems that go far beyond what is needed to keep us safe.
But there is good news: as I‘ve outlined this morning, we can spend less and be safer.
By divesting from billion dollar weapon systems that can't fight non-state actors, bolstering
intelligence efforts and renewing our focus on effective homeland security, we can recalibrate
our power without lessening it. It‘s time for Washington to brace itself for a conversation
that is long overdue. We owe it to the thousands of soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Thank you for being here this morning, and I would be glad to answer any questions you might have.