24 September 2011

"Supercommittee" members and defense spending

From an article at Salon:
Arizona's Republican Sen. Jon Kyl wasted little time. A member of the bipartisan congressional "supercommittee" charged with finding $1.5 trillion in deficit reductions, he did his best to forestall even discussion of cuts to the Pentagon's budget. "When we had our first meeting the chairman asked, 'Well, what do we think about defense spending?' and I said, 'I'm off of the committee if we're gonna talk about further defense spending [cuts],'" he told the audience at a recent forum sponsored by several conservative think tanks...

The Senate minority whip may be the most outspoken member of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction when it comes to the military budget, but the Democrats currently considering whether to cut the deficit via reductions in defense spending or programs like Medicare and Medicaid have received far more money from Pentagon contractors than Kyl or any of their Republican colleagues on the panel, according to an investigation by Alternet, with assistance from the Brave New Foundation and Salon.com.

Since 2007, Democrats on the supercommittee have received more than $1 million in defense industry donations, while contributions to the Republicans added up to only $321,000...

At the moment, before the panel makes any decisions, the Department of Defense faces a likely "cut" of around $350 billion in funds over the next decade under a plan proposed by the White House that became part of the debt ceiling agreement. However, as Salon contributor Winslow Wheeler and others have pointed out, those "cuts" are reductions in future spending increases -- not actual budget cuts in any normal sense...

For many years, top defense firms have divided work on weapons systems across multiple states in order to exert influence over Congress. The supercommittee is far from immune. As the Associated Press recently reported, the "six Republicans and six Democrats represent states where the biggest military contractors -- Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon Co. and Boeing Co. -- build missiles, aircraft, jet fighters and tanks while employing tens of thousands of workers."..

No member of the supercommittee, and no lawmaker in all of Washington, D.C., received more donations from Boeing than co-chair Patty Murray. Of the $3.2 million that the missile-maker dispersed to lawmakers in 2009-2010, the Washington Democrat received $85,860. That sum was $20,000 more than was donated to the next two largest congressional recipients of Boeing money combined, according to data from the Sunlight Foundation.

An analysis by Alternet further found that more than one-third of Murray's top 100 donors during the 2010 cycle were defense contractors that collectively signed $57.5 billion worth of deals with the Pentagon last year...

In addition to continued high levels of U.S. defense spending even in the event of sequestration, the Pentagon has, for the last year, also taken substantive countermeasures to shield its key contractors from future financial peril, including trips to Wall Street to lobby investors to bolster weapons-makers and brokering deals with Persian Gulf states to keep assembly lines active and coffers full.
Much more at the link.

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