I was a bit concerned when it was announced that Leon Panetta was taking over as Sec. Def. He always seemed like a career politician to me, and not a leader. However, some of his recent comments and actions have me changing my mind a bit. In this case, this guy might actually “get it”.
Panetta used his stop at the Electric Boat shipyard in Groton, Connecticut to underline the importance of preserving the know-how of the country’s defense industry that he said was jeopardized by potential sweeping cuts in military spending.
“We cannot have a strong defense for the United States without protecting this industrial base,” Panetta told a crowd of about 200 workers in hard hats.
“I need to be able in this country to produce our ships, to produce our submarines, to produce our planes, to produce our fighter planes, to produce our tanks, to produce what we need for the military.
“I don’t need to rely on another country. We’ve got rely on the United States to do that,” he said to cheers, with an imposing Virginia-class submarine behind him.
The United States has been successful for the last 70 years or so because we have had a solid industrial base. This base is largely a co-product of our defense industry. Historically we have been able to retool industry to fit either consumer / commercial products or defense related products. This ability has allowed us to come out of economic down turns by flexing government budgets to directly stimulate demand for goods.
Drastic cuts in defense budgets will impact our ability to gear up or down as necessary to respond to global crisis, whether they be political, military, or economic. Some of the best consumer products have been the result of NASA and DARPA research and development.
Now, does that mean that we need $100 million a copy weapons platforms? Maybe not but the r&d that goes into those platforms will spin off into consumer goods in another 10 years or so. Can we find more efficient ways to spend our limited funds and still maintain and grow our industrial base? Yes, but it all comes back to gaining control and accountability in both of the elected branches of federal government and simplifying the way we govern and the way we conduct business.