I emerge from the land of no internet or email to hear about today's crucial Senate vote to delete funding for additional F-22 "Raptor" fighter planes. For why this was an even-more-crucial-than-it-seems sign of whether the new Administration was serious about SecDef Robert Gates' impressive speeches about bringing rationality to defense spending, see here, here, here, and here, for starters. For much more about the F-22 from the Project on Government Oversight, here, and from the Center for Defense Information here. For a summary of why the vote matters, consider this statement from retired Army General Paul Eaton, of Iraq fame, from the National Security Network:
"In stripping $1.75 billion in funds to build seven more F-22 Raptors from the Defense Authorization bill, the Senate has brought our military spending one step closer to matching America's military priorities for the 21st century. The Cold War relic was a symbol of the outdated, unnecessary, and expensive weapon systems that have burdened our defense budgets for far too long....Misplaced defense budget priorities such as additional funding for the F-22 both constrained America's military from adequately addressing the threats we face today and took money away from more essential strategic imperatives."
This issue isn't over -- the House still has to act, and there is the conference etc. And we are nowhere close to having a defense budget that is "rational" in some larger sense. But on both merits and symbolism, this is a significant moment. And as matter of political anthropology, it seems as if President Obama's atypically hard-line promise to veto the entire spending bill if it included more money for the Raptor had its effect.