The Party Line – May 27, 2011: Gates of Wrath

So, Bob Gates, still the Secretary of Defense for about another month, has been talking a lot about fruit of late:

When it comes to our military modernization accounts, the proverbial ‘low-hanging fruit’ — those weapons and other programs considered most questionable — have not only been plucked, they have been stomped on and crushed.

Gates has been vocally working the fields, trampling out his vintage whine, to let it be known that he has cut and cut, and he is done cutting. . . well, at least when it comes to military hardware.

“Understanding” the need to further trim the Pentagon budget, however, Gates does say there is a field that is now quite ripe for harvest. . . and stomping. . . and this would be so-called personnel costs—military pay, pensions, and health care.

To reiterate: big, expensive, new weapons systems–forbidden fruit. The people that pilot those weapons and fight our wars—crush ‘em.

Because when the government bestows its largess on a defense contractor, it is so much easier to harvest the return, be it in the form of campaign contributions or future pay for revolving-door jobs. When federal dollars are spread out over hundreds of thousands of service members, it might help a greater number of people, but it doesn’t help the guys who run the orchard—at least not as obviously or nearly as much.

And Sec. Gates–who does have his future to think about, after all–wants to make sure his successors (or at least his future employers) understand. No more defense contractors need get tossed into the terrible winepress of budget austerity–there are plenty of fighting folks, ready for trampling.

(A version of this post previously appeared on Firedoglake.)