Congress Is Poised to Buy More Defense Systems the Pentagon Does Not Want

President Obama and his Defense Secretary, Robert M. Gates, succeeded in their effort earlier this month to block additional orders for F-22 fighter jets. The administration argued that the aircraft are unnecessary for the kinds of armed conflicts that the United States is likely to fight in the coming years. (See: "As the Pentagon Shifts Spending Priorities, Some Defense Contractors Gain While Others Lose" in the Wharton Aerospace & Defense Report.).

But according to a report in The Washington Post today, Congress, acting largely in response to defense industry pressures and campaign contributions, appears determined to approve spending about $2.75 billion on other defense systems and programs that Gates says the Pentagon does not need. The unwanted programs were attached as earmarks to a $6.9 billion defense spending bill that could come up for a vote today or tomorrow. About half of the extra spending was requested by private firms, including 95 companies or related political action committees that donated a total of $789,190 in the past 2 1/2 years to members of the appropriations subcommittee on defense, according to an analysis by Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonprofit watchdog group.

The Post notes that Gates vowed in April to fundamentally overhaul the military's "approach to procurement, acquisition and contracting" and urged Congress to support the termination of many traditional weapons programs in favor of more spending on counterinsurgency efforts and operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.