Pentagon Faces Defense Reform Proposal


The Pentagon is facing a defense reform proposal from Senator John McCain. Similar bills have been proposed in 1978, 1988, 1995, and in 2007, but none have ever made it to full fruition. McCain, perhaps foreseeing the Democrats taking the majority in the Senate in 2016, is using his tenure and position as the Armed Services Committee Chairman as a platform to push his domestic fiscal policy and national security agenda. While it is quite possible President Barack Obama will veto this bill that would greatly affect the Pentagon, McCain cites issues such as the current levels of spending on R&D as inadequet.

If passed, this $600 billion defense proposal would dramatically reform the Pentagon’s current programs. However it is unlikely it will pass considering it has failed to reach the President’s desk in over 50 years. This has not deterred McCain from giving it another go while adding provisions that are characteristic of the conservative senator. Military policy analyst with American University’s School of International Service, Nora Bensahel, said, “We are seeing things in this defense act that we have not seen before that bear his personal mark.” Bensahel cites an increase of $38 billion that would be appropriated to the Pentagon and its Defense Department for war spending and reforms to spending on the federal pension system as evidence that McCain “is truly trying to make the most of these two years.”


One issue being addressed in the proposal is what appears to be the relatively low-level of spending the Pentagon places on R&D. Increasing globalization means advanced technologies are more easily accessible to those who could not get it in the past. This means that not only are computers and smartphones available but also advanced military technology. Wired has reported in the United States commercial R&D spending passed government R&D spending in 1980. Google spends 75 percent more on R&D than the Pentagon’s “top four U.S. defense contractors combined.” In the global market, the U.S. does not fare much better. The global R&D is two times that of U.S. with China aiming to overtake the U.S. in 2022.

A problem that McCain is facing, and a reason why Obama has already threatened a veto, are the restrictions placed on the Pentagon’s military spending. McCain vocalized his concerns about this on the floor of the Senate last week. In the past, the Armed Services Committee has been able to bring both sides together because many members of the Senate have military backgrounds. But there are still questions regarding McCain’s own agenda, considering Obama did defeat him in the 2008 Presidential race. Additionally, there are questions regarding the Defense Department’s current rate of developing innovative goods. It has been estimated that between 2001 and 2011 the Pentagon spent $46 billion on almost a dozen programs that failed to become operational.

The Pentagon is facing a new proposal by McCain to reform defense spending. This bill has been seen in Congress before and, as is happening now, has been met with hesitation stemming from restrictions on military spending. Globalization has allowed for technology to spread and as the availability of high-tech military equipment increases cost may also increase. Yet, it is uncertain whether an arms race is the best solution to this problem.

By Joel Wickwire


Newsmax – McCain Using Senate Chair to Reform, Scale Back Pentagon

The New York Times – With Chairmanship, McCain Seizes Chance to Reshape Pentagon Agenda

Wired – Sen. McCain: How to Get Silicon Valley to Help the Pentagon

Photo Courtesy sari_dennise’s Flickr Page – Public Domain License

Photo Courtesy Gage Skidmore’s Flickr Page – Public Domain License

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