Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Election roundup: telling you what you already knew

The Democratic majority is no more. Some of the highlights/lowlights, depending on your persuasion (oh, no, wait, it's pretty low for everyone, considering the depressing takeaway from all of this: on the issues that inform about one-fifth of federal spending, basically all candidates for public office agree with one another, differing only in which company to enrich with the spoils of the public treasury):

Ike Skelton, chairman of House Armed Services, lost to Vicky Hartzler, whose campaign got a boost when Republican leader John Boehner pledged to get her a seat on the committee if she won.

Gene Taylor, chairman of the HASC Seapower subcommittee -- who bragged during a debate that he was "that [Northrop Grumman] shipyard's salesman in the House of Representatives" -- lost to Missisippi state Rep. Steven Palazzo, who distinguished himself from Taylor by arguing that "at all cost, we must protect Northrop Grumman's shipbuilding capacity." He also criticized his opponent for recommending "going to an all nuclear fleet."
Northop Grumman does not have the capacity or the overhead to actually go nuclear. That would devastate our shipbuilding industry. And, you know, obviously conventional ships fight better. Or at least I have to say that so that it won't look like I'm shamelessly recommending the government-funded sustainment of a less-capable production line out of simple loyalty to deep-pocketed potential campaign donors and a commitment to pork.
Ok, I actually made up everything after "shipbuilding industry." But you get the idea.

Glenn Nye (D-VA) lost. His opponent, as we talked about yesterday, made the case that the "planned closure of JFCOM is a direct reflection on Glenn Nye's leadership." Whatever that means.

Randy Forbes (R-VA) won. He had criticized the Defense Department for the JFCOM decision, while in almost the same breath saying "the most important thing we can do with our defense spending is make sure we're spending our defense spending based on defense needs, not domestic wants." Oh yeah: his opponent was an atheist. In southeast Virginia.

Todd Akin (R-MO) won. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) lost. Bill Young (R-FL) won. John Boehner (R-OH) won, and so did Jim Clyburn (D-SC). So too Norm Dicks and Adam Smith, both Democrats from Boeing... I mean, Washington state. Republicans Roy Blount (MO) and Jim DeMint (SC) won their Senate bids, and Democrats Blanche Lincoln (AR) and Kendrick Meek (FL) lost theirs. What do all these folks have in common? Not much, except that they were the recipients of max donations from either Boeing's or Lockheed's political action committees.

So that's a quick look at the way that stark, substantive choices on defense issues helped to inform this year's election. These results were a clear reflection of the voters' unmistakable preference for candidates who take a lot of money from the defense industry, then talk about how they want to spent a lot of taxpayer dollars on the defense industry. For safety and security, you see.

Todd Harrison of CSBA says -- contra Eaglen -- that if the administration submits a defense budget that's a 1% increase over inflation (as they've said they will), "I don't think either party would produce a significant increase beyond that, given the growing pressure to reduce the deficit." Presumptive HASC chair Buck McKeon argued that this increase would constitute a "net reduction for modernization efforts." The SECDEF, though, insists that cash savings squeezed out of inefficient, wasteful overhead will be reinvested in modernization. (Fancy that: a government agency attempting to make best use of the money it's given rather than begging Congress for more!)

It seems that industry is prepared for cuts from a Republican-dominated Cogress, contra Eaglen. One "senior defense industry executive" told Reuters last month that "we don't see spending falling off a cliff, but we expect real pressure."

And finally: Colin Clark at DoD Buzz agrees with me ("I don't foresee a lot of change in how the HASC handles things military with the ascension of the GOP"). Aviation Week agrees with me. Steve Walt agrees with me. Andrew Exum and Richard Fontaine agree with me. Oh yeah, and I don't know if he agrees with me, but Tom Coburn sure as hell doesn't agree with Mackenzie Eaglen about the safety of that defense topline in a Republican congress. (And really, isn't that more important than agreeing with me?)


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