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Bloomington Pantagraph Editorial - Kinzinger strikes blow for curbing defense spending

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Adam Kinzinger was able to combine his insight as a military pilot with his relatively new role as a congressman to gain House approval of a proposal that would save taxpayers about $100 million over the next seven years.

Kinzinger, an Air National Guard pilot elected to Congress in November was discussing possible budget cuts with fellow pilots before being sworn in. But rather than just complain about the possible hits the defense appropriation might take, they also discussed places where money could be saved.

That's when the "integrated aircrew ensemble" project came up. Nearly $100 million was being set aside over seven years to "research, develop and manufacture" a new flight suit.

Testifying in support of his amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to eliminate funding for the project, Kinzinger said, that during this time of difficult budgets, "we must make tough decisions with regard to military needs and military wants" and added "we must work together to ensure that money we don't have isn't spent on government programs we don't need."

Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff, said that "under the current circumstances" a redesigned flight suit wasn't needed.

Kinzinger's proposal still needs to survive the conference committee, where differences are ironed out between House and Senate versions of the budget. But considering the support Kinzinger's amendment received in the House and the agreement of the Air Force chief of staff, the ban on spending money for a new flight suit should make it into the final budget.

Talking with The Pantagraph last week, Kinzinger said, "National defense has been able to skate without anyone really taking a look at" where the money is going. He agrees with the need for Defense Secretary William Gates to do a thorough up and down review of the defense budget.

The federal budget is so big, it is difficult for anyone -- including congressmen -- to get their hands around all of it, so lawmakers focus on what they are most familiar with, Kinzinger said. In his case, that is certain areas of defense spending.

Even after the United States withdraws -- or at least greatly reduces -- its forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, defense spending won't immediately decrease. Kinzinger notes there will be a need to replace equipment that was lost or wore out more quickly during the war and to address programs that were postponed.

The best way to have money available for the military's needs is to weed out what isn't immediately essential to its mission and preparedness. Kinzinger's amendment is a good example of how to accomplish that.

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