Protecting the Profiteers: Congress Insists Army Needs General Dynamics Tanks It Doesn't Want

CNN aired a telling segment on how the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex works. The Army insists holding off on refurbishing thousands of sedentary tanks sitting in the California desert, which would save taxpayers $3 billion. But 173 members of Congress disagree: The jobs in their districts and campaign contributions they might lose if producing and fixing tanks momentarily halts is just too much, though don't expect any of them to say that. Contractor powerhouse General Dynamics, which spreads around money to Congress quite generously, stands to benefit.

 

Leading the way here is defense contractor darling Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), chair of the House Armed Services Committee. In a darkly amusing point in the piece, McKeon, the top recipient of defense industry cash in Washington, tells CNN he has no idea how much money General Dynamics, a top five defense contractor, gives to him. 

Rep. Buck McKeon, a Republican from California and chairman of the House armed services committee, said he didn't know General Dynamics had given him $56,000 in campaign contributions since 2009 until CNN asked him about it.

"You know, the Army has a job to do and we have a job to do," McKeon said. "And they have tough choices because they've been having their budget cut."

McKeon said he's thinking about the long range view. "... If someone could guarantee us that we'll never need tanks in the future, that would be good. I don't see that guarantee."

Similarly, his Democratic counterpart on the committee, Rep. Silvestre Reyes, who has received $64,000 from General Dynamics since 2001, said he is worried about the workforce if the Lima plant is closed for three years.

"Listen, we don't want to play Russian Roulette with the national security of this country," Reyes said.

As usual, rather than admit this is about self-preservation, these members hide behind national security to justify this waste. This is the stranglehold the Pentagon Scheme -- the flow of money from Congress to the Pentagon to contractors and back -- has on taxpayer dollars. 

CNN finishes out the piece showing how this deal went down even as top Army brass didn't want it, and what it means for General Dynamics' bottomline: 

So how did Congress respond to Gen. Odeirno's request to shut down production until 2017?

The answer came in the proposed congressional budget for next year. It includes $181 million for tanks the Army doesn't want or need now. That begs another question: who will likely get the money for the 70 or so tanks covered by that contract when it goes out for bid?

"General Dynamics would probably get the contract for it anyway because they are kind of the ones that are out there leading the way on this," said McKeon.

This system is beyond broken. CNN does a nice job of exemplifying how in this piece. Watch it here.

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