Part 3: Reduce Spending and Streamline the Pentagon Budget
Wes Clark is the only one of the current major candidates who has put the possibility of Pentagon cuts on the table. He has said this in response to a questionnaire by the human rights group Peace Action:
"I support cuts in the Pentagon budget provided they don't compromise our national security. I want to cut government waste wherever I find it. I support every dime needed to keep America strong, but I won't tolerate billions of dollars waste or inefficiency just because it has a military label."
This needs to be an active part of his campaign presentation, preferably in the form of a major initiative. The General needs to argue for more strenuous department-wide audits, more funding transparency, empowerment of the DCAA, and strategic cuts to superfluous and non-essential defense projects. This should be done in the name of both increasing national security (by making our defense forces more efficient) and strengthening our economic security (by freeing up funds and holding our military and intelligence agencies accountable for enormous waste).
This has countless advantages:
distinguishes the General from other major candidates who claim to be "budget-balancers", "special interest fighters" and "deficit hawks" by taking on the one area they won't touch...and he knows best
undercuts other candidates' criticisms of his lobbying activities; Clark can claim that he knows both sides of the equation...that he's viewed the problem from the perspective of private industry and from the inside; he can point to his work at Acxiom as an effort to make intelligence data gathering more efficient and less expensive; he can point to his work at WaveCrest as a way to introduce alternative vehicles into the military, thus eliminating our fossil fuel dependencies; his lobbying activities thus become an asset and evidence of a visionary thinker
it would constitute a unique response to recent overcharging in Iraq by Halliburton
it would hit the Republican administration where they are weakest: overspending
it combines the General's two major themes, economic security and national security, in one nice, cogent project...and shows the General to be a problem-solver
The General is in a singular position to achieve this. No one else can claim to know the Pentagon as well as he does...its inefficiencies, bureaucracy and waste...and it is an initiative that even Rumsfeld has bought onto after a fashion. Plus, Clark would take out two irksome controversies with one blow: his lobbying activities and his controversies within the defense establishment.
Imagine him saying this:
"There some folks that call attention to my activities in private industry as if they were inappropriate or opportunistic somehow. But as you know, there are lobbyists for Democratic issues, environmental lobbyists, lobbyists for civil rights...they represent us and our concerns and without them we wouldn't see our values and concerns ever reflected much in the legislation that comes out of Congress.
Well, I was a lobbyist for new industries that will make our military less expensive, more efficient, and make us more secure. And I advocated new technologies that will make us less oil dependent...technologies that will drive the future of American jobs. I went to the top with these ideas...even discussing a few with Dick Cheney. You know how I love to butt heads sometimes....sometimes people are comfortable with their old ideas and reluctant to look toward the future. I can tell you there are many, many legacy systems and projects at the Pentagon...and there's much work to be done. But we lack a Commander-in-Chief with the drive, understanding and focus to address it. That's why I want to lead this nation, and why I feel I am uniquely qualified to do so."