The United States is now in its thirteenth straight year of uninterrupted growth in the defense budget, an unprecedented rise in spending that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has rightly termed a “gusher.” As the United States winds down its mission in Iraq and begins to plan for the first withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan next summer, it is long past time to reexamine whether the level and distribution of US defense spending actually enhances our national security capabilities.
This type of inquiry will quickly reveal a fundamental disconnect between our defense spending and our strategic goals, particularly in the area of major defense acquisition projects. For too long the Defense Department and Congress have continued to direct scarce taxpayer dollars to massively expensive, over-budget, behind-schedule weapons programs that are inadequate to meet the current and future needs of our armed forces. A prime (but not the only) example of such a program is the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) – a 13.2 billion dollar project.
Proponents of the EFV, an amphibious assault vehicle, argue that it offers better armor and firepower than the Corps’ current model. Military writer Ed Hooper claims it will help the Marine Corps get back to its original combat role – “an amphibious force in readiness.”