by Edie Allen, WAND National Board member
“Sometimes I wonder if this group (WAND) would prefer unilateral disarmament while they dance through the daisies playing with unicorns.” This was one of the online comments in response a letter to the editor, “F-35 is not worth the bang for the buck,” written by two WAND board members and published in the Washington Post on May 6, 2014.
The image of WAND’s board members, many of whom are veteran state legislators, dancing through daisies and playing with unicorns would be laughable if it weren’t so sexist and insulting. The implication is that women are incapable of understanding military matters and should keep their mouths shut. Let men decide which wars to fight and weapons to build! Freedom isn’t free, and what would Putin think if we stopped shelling out money for the F-35? Women just don’t understand how dangerous the world is!
In reality, women have every right to question our nation’s budget priorities. We’re taxpayers, too. At our recent WAND board meeting (where we did not pick daisies), we discussed the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund. Originally designated for the war in Afghanistan, OCO has become an $80 billion “slush fund” for the Pentagon to pad its budget and avoid the spending caps passed by Congress. Why should we care about this accounting trick?
The United States spends almost as much on defense as the rest of the world combined. The “cuts” that the Pentagon is bemoaning are really cuts to its wish list. No other nation has more than two aircraft carriers, but Paul Ryan complains that we have “just ten.” The F-35 fighter jet is the most expensive weapon in history, but it has repeatedly failed to meet performance goals. The B-61 nuclear bomb would be cheaper to build out of gold. Questioning such waste and eliminating the OCO Pentagon slush fund is not advocating “unilateral disarmament.”
Eighty billion dollars is a lot of money. It’s the total amount cut from all federal programs during the sequester. It’s equal to the entire budget of the Food Stamps program. It’s ten times as much as we spend on the EPA. It’s enough to build 20 new suspension bridges. There are thousands of other ways to spend $80 billion that would strengthen our nation’s economy than giving the Pentagon a blank check.
Fiscal discipline is needed at the Pentagon. We need a sustainable strategic approach to our national security budgeting. Serious military leaders don’t want to rely upon unsustainable budget gimmicks like OCO for wasteful weapons programs any more than serious women leaders want to spend their time playing with unicorns.