Gates vs. Congress on military spending priorities
Winslow T. Wheeler, Director of the Straus Military Reform Project, discusses the fight between Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Congress over the Pentagon budget, the neglect of U.S. combat training in favor of expensive weapons systems, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst study of military spending and job creation and how Congress would rather chase Pentagon pork than perform its oversight obligations.
MP3 here. (23:20)
Winslow T. Wheeler writes regularly for Counterpunch.org, where his article “Back From the Dead: Pentagon Pork!” appears. Wheeler spent 31 years working on Capitol Hill with senators from both political parties and the Government Accountability Office, specializing in national security affairs. Currently, he directs the Straus Military Reform Project of the Center for Defense Information in Washington. He is author of The Wastrels of Defense and the editor of a new anthology: ‘America’s Defense Meltdown: Pentagon Reform for President Obama and the New Congress’.
In the Senate, Wheeler worked for Jacob K. Javits, R-N.Y., Nancy L. Kassebaum, R-Kan., David Pryor, D-Ark., and Pete V. Domenici, R-N.M. He was the first, and according to Senate records the last, Senate staffer to work simultaneously on the personal staffs of a Republican and a Democrat (Sens. Pryor and Kassebaum). In 2002, Wheeler authored an essay, under the pseudonym “Spartacus,” about Congress’ reaction to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists attacks (“Mr. Smith Is Dead: No One Stands in the Way as Congress Lards Post-September 11 Defense Bills with Pork”). When Senators complained about Wheeler’s criticisms, he was invited to resign from his position with the Republican staff of the Senate Budget Committee. He is now a senior fellow and director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information.
Wheeler authored a 2002 essay on Congress’ authorization of war against Iraq, “The Week of Shame: Congress Wilts as the President Demands an Unclogged Road to War,” and he wrote various commentaries on Congress and national security, which have appeared in The Washington Post, Proceedings of the Naval Institute, Government Executive, Defense Week, Barron’s, Army Times, CounterPunch, and elsewhere. As a Senate staffer, Wheeler worked extensively on hundreds of bills and amendments that are now U.S. law. These included the War Powers Act, multiple proposals to reform Pentagon procurement, and to require more realistic weapons tests and more accurate reports about them to the secretary of defense and Congress. While at the GAO, Wheeler directed comprehensive studies on the U.S. strategic-nuclear triad and the air campaign of Operation Desert Storm. Both studies found compelling evidence that prevailing conventional wisdom about the performance of both U.S. and foreign weapons systems, such as Soviet strategic nuclear delivery systems and U.S. “high tech” tactical weapons, was highly inflated and unsupported by the evidence available in the Department of Defense.