May 13, 2002


The Last Crusader : A weapon must go, and with it a mindset. (MACKUBIN THOMAS OWENS, May 12, 2002, Wall Street Journal)
Down in Texas, where I come from, the answer to the homicide detective's question, "Why'd you kill him?" is often, " 'Cause he needed killin'." Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld could have said the same last week in response to questions about his decision to terminate the Army's prized $11 billion Crusader artillery program. Put simply, it needed killin'. Why is a longer story, and one Mr. Rumsfeld touched on when he told reporters, "Our country needs an Army that is mobile, lethal and deployable across a wide range of future contingencies."

There is no question that the Crusader is a fine artillery piece. It has a high rate of fire and can keep up with high-speed armored columns. But it's not easily deployable. The Crusader weighs 42 tons; its supply vehicle 33 tons. The combination is enough to give nightmares to a logistician trying to figure out how to get it into a theater of war. It also exceeds the weight limits of most bridges in many places the Army might need to fight.

For these reasons alone, it should be self-evident that the Crusader must go.

This is a very good moment for Rumsfeld and Bush, but there's no way they'll actually get Congress to kill the program. We'll be buying Crusaders long after the Bush administratrion ends. The fact that it is useless has no bearing on the political reasons that it will continue to be built.

Here's our idea : convenve a summit of Republican and Democrat leaders in Congress with a number of administration officials. Have some folks who we all take seriously on budget issues, like Paul Volcker, Robert Rubin, John Kasich, Dick Darman, Alice Rivlin, etc., run the meetings. And come up with a number of the programs and tax breaks that are most clearly wasteful and that exist and continue only because of political considerations. Set up a bill where there's a dollar for dollar trade off : for every dollar of tax break that's given back or defense spending that's cut, take a dollar out of domestic spending--so Democrats and Republicans are in equal trouble with their constituencies. Tie the whole thing up in a bow and have an up or down vote on it (the way they do with military base closings).

We expect the Congress would vote against the bill, but at least both sides would be forced to confront their own addictions to government money and they might shut up, however briefly, about how it's the other party that wastes our taxes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 13, 2002 9:20 AM
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