Making his case for cuts in defense spending,The Washington Post‘s David Ignatius wrote yesterday:
Trimming the defense budget is one of the hardest tasks in Washington. … Senior Pentagon officials recognize that new technologies make it possible to reshape the budget without putting the country at greater risk. … The new technologies that will drive these changes are detailed in a study called “Technology Horizons” that was prepared last year by Werner Dahm, who was then chief scientist of the Air Force. He urged research on “cyber resilience” and “electromagnetic spectrum warfare,” including lasers and other beam weapons.
Lasers are only a few years away from being practical weapons, Pentagon officials say. Ground-based lasers could revolutionize air defense, and a new generation of solid-state lasers may be small enough for airborne platforms. “Directed-energy systems will be among the key ‘game-changing’ technology-enabled capabilities,” wrote Dahm.
This is all true. There is just one problem: lasers were among the first things the Obama administration put on the defense budget chopping block. The Washington Post reported on October 29th, 2009:
President Obama signed a $680 billion defense authorization bill Wednesday that he said begins the difficult process of eliminating “some of the waste and inefficiency” from the defense budget. … The president had threatened to veto the measure if Congress did not cut several costly programs that military leaders said they did not need. Congress did eliminate … an airborne laser and the Future Combat Systems, a space-age Army initiative to link sensors, soldiers, and information systems with unmanned and manned vehicles.
All of the systems that Obama cut are exactly the type of technologies that Ignatius says we need to better defend ourselves in the future. Does Ignatius not know this? Maybe he should reconsider his zealous defense spending cut beliefs.
This is not to say that our defense budget is perfect. Far from it. Heritage Foundation defense policy analysts Mackenzie Eaglen and Julia Pollack have identified defense spending reforms that could save taxpayers more than $70 billion. But it is vitally important that these savings are plugged back in to the new technologies that Ignatius says are needed to defend this country.