Four Case Studies in Changing Congressional Demographics and Major Weapon System Procurement
AIR WAR COLL MAXWELL AFB AL
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Future defense budgets will undoubtedly get smaller yet new weapon systems will continue to get more expensive. Absent any clear threat, how can the Air Force get support for modern systems like the F-22 There seems to be no correlation between how Members of Congress vote on key defense programs and prior military service. Defense spending is more complicated than just a simple relationship between prior military experience and support for major weapon systems. To begin with, congressional oversight has increased enormously in the past four decades since the end of World War II. This increased oversight has allowed more opportunity for members to personally impact individual defense programs. Also, the increase in number and variety of issues addressed by Congress has led to an increased dependence on staff and congressional research agencies for background information on issues. With this increased dependence on staff comes the opportunity for staff to impact issues through their relationship with the member. Interest groups, Political Action Committees, and constituency groups all impact how a member votes. As the military experience of Congress declines, does the military stand to lose in terms of major weapons procurement Not necessarily so, but future programs will require increased education efforts and clear defining of the requirement against a threat, an emerging threat, or emerging capability. Congress understands the need to modernize forces in support of a plausible strategy and defense program. Competing priorities and smaller defense budgets all impact congressional support for defense programs. Some of the strongest defense supporters are non veterans, and some veterans may not have had a positive experience in the military i.e. Vietnam service which would also impact how the member would vote. The future will present a great challenge for the military leadership.
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