Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Article: Defense industry moving away from DC

Today in the Washington Post, we have an interesting article entitled Defense Workers Tell Legislators They Won't Move. The gist of the article is that the Pentagon wants to save money by closing and/or relocating military bases that are expensive and/or inefficient and/or don't serve current strategic goals of fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq 25,000 miles away (i.e., virtually all of them). They're recommending closures and relocations that they estimate will save $49 billion over the next 20 years, roughly $2.5 billion a year. This will result in massive job losses to the effected areas. Many of those losses will be in the DC metro area, the political and military nerve center of our nation, home to the Pentagon, numerous bases, contractors, the War College, etc. The defense contractors (the industry part of the military-industrial complex, with the armed forces being the military part and the government being the complex part) are swearing that they won't relocate or cut jobs if the government decides to go ahead with the recommendations.

H.L. Mencken (early 20th century writer and Baltimor native) once wrote, "When you hear somebody say, 'This is not about money,' it's about money."

Taking these two pieces of information together, I conclude that since the defense industry is promising not to move or fire people, they will in fact move and fire people.

All of this strikes me as supremely short sited and dumb. The DC area is literally home to the most educated, and in military matters the most experienced, work force in the world. Further decentralizing what is already the world's most decentralized military production and mobilization structure (thanks largely to how Congressional pork/appropriations work) makes our military less efficient in the long run. If what they really want to do is cut the defense budget to spend money on other defense priorities, then they should use the appropriations process to cut the defense budget ($500 billion a year compared to the reccomendations which estimate savings of $2.5 billion a year), not tinker with the administrative margins so that they can pay an engineer in Texas $50,000 instead of paying an engineer in Fairfax County $80,000.

But my expertise is welfare and social policy, not military policy, so maybe I'm full of it.


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