New peace dividend, not a good idea

Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

While Americans are looking at profligate federal spending on Build Back Better and the many ideas to fight the coronavirus, some want to use defense spending, and the drawdown in Afghanistan, as a pretext to level fund the Pentagon.

With emerging threats from China and Russia on the march in Ukraine, now is the time to shuffle priorities at the Pentagon and to comply with the increased funding requested in the Defense Authorization bill for the year.

While a Democratic Party in Congress perceived as left-leaning has requested an increase in funding for the Department of Defense, some liberals outside of Washington are making the case that we need to cut defense spending and take advantage of a new so-called ‘peace dividend.’ Vox argued on December 22, 2021, “although the US is no longer in Afghanistan, taxpayers continue to pay for the American military’s massive global presence. Absent a fundamental rethinking of how the US sees national security and the role the military plays in foreign policy, big cuts are unlikely.” That is a simplistic way to look at the need for increased funding for defense.

Congress has legitimate concerns about emerging threats and they are continuing to fund ways to combat new threats. Vox points out that the biggest concern for Congress has been looking weak on China when they wrote, “Congress didn’t think that Biden had committed enough to combat China in his original defense budget request, so lawmakers added some $25 billion in all. Congress added $2 billion above Biden’s request to the Pacific Deterrence Initiative for countering China in its own neighborhood, which brought that budget line to $7.1 billion.”

The report points out that Congress put $4.7 billion more into shipbuilding while also adding over $3.5 billion for military base construction over Biden’s request.

Vox also argued that “contractors are the biggest winners.” The problem with this argument is that China is a real threat and contractors are needed to produce cutting-edge technology to deter China, and Russia, from taking advantage of perceived weakness by Americans. This piece on Vox encapsulates progressive arguments to just slash the defense budget in the name of shifting resources to other government priorities.

There are legitimate concerns with some defense contracting.

One way to streamline contracting is to toss aside bad actors, like Airbus, a European company that has been embroiled in a scandal over questionable contracting with China. That act would both save taxpayer cash while insourcing the expenditure of government money to American companies supporting American workers.

Many conservatives firmly believe in insources, as much as possible, the expenditure of American taxpayers borrowed cash on contractors. Aside from that, Americans don’t want taxpayer dollars going to companies with sketchy ethics.

On January 31, 2020, the U.S. Justice Department announced a $3.9 billion penalty to “resolve foreign bribery charges with authorities in the United States, France and the United Kingdom arising out of the Company’s scheme to use third-party business partners to bribe government officials, as well as non-governmental airline executives, around the world and to resolve the Company’s violation of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) and its implementing regulations, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), in the United States.” The Department of Justice pointed out that this was the “largest global foreign bribery resolution to date.” It makes no sense to contract with potentially and allegedly corrupt foreign companies when you have better alternatives here in the United States.

If one wants to see the close ties between the Peoples’ Republic of China and Airbus, look no further than recent announcements of big plans for Airbus to partner with government-subsidized companies in China, instead of the United States. Flight Global reported on January 18, 2022, “Airbus plans to create an aircraft ‘lifecycle’ service center in China to take advantage of the forecast ‘exponential’ growth of aircraft retirements in the country over the next 20 years.”

AirlineGeeks reported on December 23, 2021, “Airbus is advancing on multiple fronts to increase its presence in China. Last week, on Dec. 13, during the 8th China-France High-Level Economic and Financial Dialogue, leaders from both countries agreed to accelerate the certification of the ATR 72-600. The aircraft is manufactured by the joint venture of Airbus and Aeritalia, an Italian aircraft manufacturer. Eyeing China’s best regional jet market, the ATR 72 is a competitor in the 70-seat-level market.” The big problem with establishing a facility in China is that they may use this facility to do maintenance, upgrades and conversions to aircraft that they will try to later sell to the U.S. government.

The close ties between European Airbus and China should disqualify that company from contracting with the Pentagon at a time when China is emerging as a potential primary threat to U.S. national security. Also, the questionable ethics of the company should lead federal officials to shy away from sending billions overseas to contract with that troubled French-based company.

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Dan Perkins

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