Quote of the Day – Congress Edition

“[C]ongressmen like military toys, and they especially like military toys manufactured in their districts.  I guess we’re about to find out whether they like them even more than they like winning actual wars.” – Kevin Drum

To be fair, Congress often winds up getting it right on weapons systems that the Pentagon opposed.  The military bureaucracy naturally wants to prioritize both the wars it’s currently fighting and those it would prefer to fight.  Having imperfect information, they generally fail to forecast the wars they’ll actually be called upon to fight.   Congress, meanwhile, has an incentive to simply buy the best equipment they can.  As a result, they frequently wind up buying the right toys, even if for the wrong reasons.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Congress, meanwhile, has an incentive to simply buy the best equipment they can.

    Really ? Or do they have the incentive to buy the equipment that benefits the most Congressional districts ? Or that benefits the most campaign-contributing defense contractors ?

    I agree with your point about military bureaucrats, but I don’t think there’s any reason to believe that the men and women in Congress are any better at accurately assessing our military needs.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    As a result, they frequently wind up buying the right toys, even if for the wrong reasons.

    I’m skeptical, James. I think rather that if you shoot enough spitballs some of them inevitably stick on the wall. The number of defense projects is really vast although not as vast as they used to be.

    However, I want to repeat my argument in favor of these “toys”. If we want to have tank-building companies, we’ve got to place orders for tanks. If we want to have companies that build military aircraft, we’ve got to place orders for military aircraft. And so on.

    The complexity of today’s military equipment means that producing them requires skills that are cultivated over a period of years, even decades and can’t readily be duplicated in the civilian equipment world.

    We’ve got a lot fewer of these companies than we had 40 years ago and that’s appropriate

  3. I’ve quoted you and linked to you here.