President Bush is asking Congress to buy hundreds of millions of dollars worth of missiles that are built in part by Utah companies to replace arms fired in the Persian Gulf war.
In fact, some critics say the administration is asking for far too many missiles - and may be using its Desert Storm request not only to cover war costs but also to fund planned missile buildups that were cut short by last year's deficit-cutting agreements.Included in the $15 billion of U.S. taxpayer money requested to cover the costs of Operation Desert Storm (to be augmented by $53.5 billion pledged from allies), Bush is proposing spending $324 million for Patriot missiles and $545 million for 400 Tomahawk cruise missiles.
The Tomahawks' engine is built by the Utah companies of Williams International and Flameco/Barnes. Its guidance system is made by Litton. The Patriot's air frame is made by Hercules and the power system by Varian, also Utah companies.
Requests for other missile systems with ties to companies with operations in Utah include requests for 9,600 TOW II missiles (built in part by Hercules), 2,760 Hellfires (built in part by Hercules and Thiokol), 2,112 HARM missiles (built in part by Thiokol) and 9,000 more Maverick missiles (built in part by Thiokol).
Congress has placed no caps on costs for the Persian Gulf war but has placed tight limits and cuts on the regular defense budget. That leads critics to question whether the new missile buys are true war costs or merely shuffling to get around deficit-cutting agreements.
For example, in a hearing before the Senate Appropriations hearing Tuesday, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, complained about plans to buy 500 Patriots and spend $114 million to modernize others.
He estimated that only 140 Patriots have been fired during the war out of an inventory of 3,700. "If truth is the first casualty of war, then probably the second casualty is sane and rational military spending," Harkin said.
Gordon Adams, executive director of the watchdog group Defense Budget Project, also told the Deseret News that the numbers of missiles in the Desert Storm request are suspiciously similar to numbers that had been "cut" from regular budgets because of deficit-cutting goals.
For example, he said the Defense Department had cut 364 planned Tomahawk cruise missiles out of its 1992 budget - but then added 400 back into its Desert Storm budget request.
Also, Adams said the military had cut 440 Patriots out of its regular 1992 budget, then added 500 back into the Desert Storm supplemental budget.
It also had cut 2,678 Hellfire missiles out of its 1992 budget plans, then put 2,760 into the Desert Storm requests.
Adams also noted that only missile and ammunition contractors appear to benefit from the Desert Storm supplemental budget requests. The military does not plan to replace aircraft and land vehicles lost, saying they are not needed because of planned reductions in troop strength in the post-Cold War era.
"We've only lost 22 aircraft in the war, which is one-fifth the rate expected," Adams said. "We could lose 700 before we would have to replace any with the planned 10-wing reduction (in the Air Force)."
He noted the military could not replace some types of aircraft even if it wanted to because they are no longer in production.
"They couldn't replace the A-10 (Warthog anti-tank plane). The factory where it was made in Long Island is now a shopping mall," he said.