Lawmakers spend where generals don’t

As chairman of a special U.S. Senate committee investigating logistical aspects of how the U.S. was conducting World War II, then-Sen. Harry Truman made it clear he was not out to second-guess generals and admirals. His mission, Truman said, was merely to ensure they had the tools they believed they needed.

What a shame that attitude no longer holds sway on Capitol Hill.

Republicans in the House of Representatives have unveiled their Pentagon budget plan, which would reduce spending – but include dozens of costly stipulations for the generals and admirals. Rest assured Democrats would do the same thing, as they have in the past.

An example: For one reason or another, the Pentagon has concluded it is time to replace the A-10 “Warthog” warplane. It has been one of the most effective ground-support aircraft in history.

House leaders’ budget plan calls for the Pentagon to put its A-10s in storage instead of fully retiring the airplane. Keeping the planes ready at a moment’s notice will be costly. Not doing so, of course, also will be expensive – but will create a fleet of useless antiques.

There are other stipulations, of course. Some of them include not cutting back on or eliminating military bases the Pentagon says are not needed.

Of course the Pentagon could operate more economically. But one wonders how much of the waste is due not to the generals and admirals, but to political meddling.