Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Defense Budget

So there are new funding and procurement priorities for the DoD budget. They'll almost certainly affect the nature of funding for whatever exactly it is I do. A push toward more practical soldier-level defenses will probably favor the more dinky, nimble research outfits a tiny bit more, even while it rewards less basic research, which basically continues the trend toward ever more applied R&D that Defense has been going on for as long as I've been working.

But by the same token, I don't share the enthusiasm about seeing some of the big boondoggles go. I support budget innovations for taking care of wounded soldiers, addressing family concerns, and improving safety of the people on the ground, but it's hard to deny that they'd be even safer if they weren't fighting. The budget priorities reinforce a national commitment to soldiering, to warfighting as the parlance goes, and removes some of the comforting notions we like to tell ourselves about this big cash monster that is our defense budget. One of the appealing things about the technological military, much like the volunteer military, is that it diverts our attention from the things militaries actually do. I don't mean that just in terms of sanitizing the idea that people are getting killed out there when all you see are clean people in cold white rooms, but heavy investment into developing something that isn't likely to be used in war also keeps up the idea of a (relatively) benign standing army that is reserved for only potential threats, where we just dump that money into big piles of planned obsolescence without killing too many people in the meantime. God knows it keeps communities afloat, but defense contracting is a welfare program for eggheads too, where the big primes can soak up the excess semiconductor guys, and optics guys, and materials guys, and mechanical guys, and give them jobs and a place to use their skills. For the little league, the DoD and related entities are also supportive of anything that can be sold independently of Defense, which is a good thing. It may be wasteful, but in some ways I'd rather keep geeks working out advanced technical gizmos than releasing mindless leagues of shovel crews to the highways.

And this budget, if it's indeed repurposed toward warfighting (which is going to be hard to get past the representatives of boondoggle-rich districts) takes that fantasy away just a little bit more. You sort of wish the public sector would procure solar energy or something instead.


catnapping said...

This is one of the things I hate about our economic system. It's an unnatural thing.

In order for it to continue, it MUST "grow."...so: we must manufacture the "need" for new products: convince people they need to multiply (to include artificial conception, anti-abortion, making BCP not free, and criminalizing suicide no matter the reason); convince consumers not to share; make sure everything breaks sooner than later; alter every human interaction into one of retailer and consumer...

There's just too much profit in war, illness, and crime for those in power to actually work at removing or even reducing their incidence.

They get us coming and going.

Ben There said...

Biggest industry in America = warshit.

Keifus said...

It's a little known fact that the Capital is called Warshit-ton exactly because of this. But you know, there are lots of people in there doing good work, too. Unfortunately, other sectors aren't hiring enough nerds.

Cat: I basically agree in spirit. Sadly, war, illness and crime are renewable industries. (Suicide may be criminal, but I understand it's awfully hard to prosecute.)