You Can Call It What You Want

Here’s something to keep an eye on over the next few months. Defense Secretary Bob Gates challenged Congress to help him rein in wasteful defense spending. But some Senators are already indicating that they may try and shoehorn defense spending into the stimulus package.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) first asked whether there were "shovel ready" defense projects that should be included in the stimulus, "things we have to spend money on anyway." Gates replied that he had submitted some thoughts to the White House after President Obama solicited them from him. These would be projects like constructing or renovating "military hospitals, clinics, barracks and childcare centers," Gates said.

It wasn’t really enough for Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.). Chambliss brought up the Air Force’s notoriously wasteful F-22 Raptor fighter jet, "just as an example" — charitable of him! — and said that "if we shut down that line, we’re talking about a loss of 95,000 jobs." (Lockheed Martin, manufacturer of the F-22, has a facility in Marietta, Ga., that assembles the jet’s forward fusillage.) He argued that "if we truly want to stimulate the economy, there’s no better place to do that than defense spending." So much for health care, green jobs, infrastructure, etc.

Gates was pretty noncommital. The facilities-construction jobs were the ones he emphasized in terms of stimulus-related defense spending. But when the defense budget comes forward in April, this is definitely something to look out for.

Crossposted to The Streak.

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Spencer Ackerman

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