Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, is from Truman country. In fact, his father and former President Harry Truman were friends, and the 17-year-old Skelton attended the 33rd presidents inauguration in 1949.
Ask most lawmakers and they will tell you that the political elements are aligned this Congress for military acquisition reform. This year, both chambers rolled out legislation to overhaul how the Pentagon buys major weapons, and that is due in large part to Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who has emerged as a key ally to President Barack Obama on military matters.
During my tenure in Congress, few budgets have been as greatly awaited as the details of the Obama administrations fiscal 2010 request for the Department of Defense, which is expected to arrive on Capitol Hill in the coming weeks. This anticipation was underscored recently with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates churning up debate within the defense community by announcing a reorganization of priorities at the Defense Department.
When President Barack Obama took office in January, he promptly set the tone for government spending by supporting a $787 billion stimulus spending bill, followed by a $3.9 trillion spending proposal for fiscal 2010. By itself, the Obama budget doubles the total debt created by every president from George Washington to George W. Bush. It accounts for 28 percent of the gross domestic product, the highest level as a share of the GDP since World War II.
In Congress, national defense is all too often associated with weapons systems and military hardware. We can sometimes lose sight of the most important component of our national defense our armed forces personnel. This year may be an exception.
Contentious debate over spending in Washington, D.C., is nothing new and is an important part of our nations dialogue. We must prioritize and focus our resources on those things necessary to move our country forward.
The United States is known around the world for our military air dominance. Our ability to project force, to protect our shores and to pursue terrorists around the world depends on our superior fighter aircraft, bombers and airlift capacity. And the ability to reach distant shores and stay in the air for long periods of time is a result of American research, development, technology and ingenuity.
A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.
I was working in Iraq in 2007 when I first decided to run for Congress. I was nearing the end of a nine-month assignment to Baghdad supervising a United States Agency for International Development program that was working to combat the insurgency by creating jobs for average Iraqis. I had spent nearly a year in 2003 and 2004 in Kabul, Afghanistan, helping to supervise the Afghan presidential election, and when an opportunity arose to work in Iraq, I took it.