Political Patronage Trumps Military Advice

Members of Congress continually harp at the president about following the advice of uniformed leaders when making decisions about the military. They, however, do not practice what they preach. The Pentagon opposes continued use of the A-10 “Warthog”, a close-air support jet. The Air Force wants to retire the “Warthog” by 2019 because it lacks the versatility of other aircraft. This would save $4.3 billion that could be used for higher priorities.

Did Members of Congress follow the advice they gave the president and support the wisdom of the military? No. An amendment was tacked on the defense funding bill that forbids the Pentagon from allocating any funds to “divest, retire, transfer or place in storage, or prepare to divest, retire, transfer or place in storage any A-10 aircraft.” It also prohibits the Pentagon from closing any unit that flies or is associated with the A-10. Congressman Ron Barber (D-Tucson, Arizona) led the effort.

Did Barber (who was a former colleague of mine in the Arizona Department of Economic Security) take this action based on his high level of experience and expertise in military affairs? No, he is trying to protect jobs at Tucson’s Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and, not coincidently, trying to protect his own office in a tough election. Barber’s proposal passed the House 300-114 and now goes to the Senate, where Senator John McCain (R-AZ) awaits.

McCain is among the loudest (and often the most incoherent) of those who blast away at the president about following military advice in regard to military affairs. He is also one of the biggest supporters of the A-10.