TO CONGRESS, which was handed a platter piled high with $705.7 billion to spend on the U.S. military in 2009 and complained it wasn’t enough. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., worried about not buying enough short- and medium-range missiles. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., complained that the Army and National Guard would be shortchanged by $120 billion. Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., feared that the $16.9 billion allocated to shipbuilding would compel a drastic schedule fall-off. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., weren’t satisfied that the budget plan keeps the F-22 production line open. They urged Defense Secretary Robert Gates to buy more of the planes. And Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., expressed his strong support for the increase in defense spending but added that even so, “DoD will have serious and compelling unmet needs.”
Which begs the question, how much is enough? The 2009 defense budget is 7.5 percent larger than the 2008 budget and represents the 11th annual increase in a row. Adjusted for inflation, it’s the largest defense budget since the end of World War II.
Congress should not clamor for more. Rather, it should scrutinize how the Pentagon coffers are disbursed and how that stacks up against national security priorities.