Finally, the secretary of defense can have a large economic impact through the decisions he makes on major weapons programs. During his four years as secretary, Dick Cheney killed a hundred major weapons programs, including the Navy's carrier-based bomber, the A-12; he scaled back the development of programs including the C-17; and he halted production of the B-2 bomber at 20 planes rather than 132. The cumulative effect of those decisions ran to billions and billions of dollars.
In 2009, Secretary Gates stopped production of the F-22 at 187 planes instead of the 347 the Air Force wanted, he stopped production of the DDG-1000 at three ships instead of the 32 the Navy wanted, and he accelerated production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Secretary Panetta delayed production of the Navy's new ballistic missile submarine and the Navy's version of the F-35, and he allowed it to continue procuring the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet.
Secretaries also have a big role in deciding which companies get to build the weapon system in the first place. Secretary Robert McNamara overruled the military brass and awarded the contract for the TFX or F-111 to General Dynamics rather than Boeing. In the mid-1990s, Secretary Perry awarded the contract for the F-35 to Lockheed rather than McDonnell Douglas. And Secretary Gates awarded the contract for the KC-46 tanker to Boeing rather than EADS.
Of course, Congress can overturn any of these decisions -- as it did with Secretary Cheney's attempt to kill the V-22 and Panetta's attempt to disband several Air National Guard units. But for the most part, the decisions of the secretary stand. So if Secretary Hagel wants to settle scores, he will have plenty of opportunities, particularly in an age of austerity.
All of the senators who demeaned Hagel during the hearings and committee discussions represent states that are heavily dependent on the Pentagon for their economic well-being. For example, Senator Cruz's Texas has nearly 200,000 military personnel stationed at some 15 bases or military installations. Moreover, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most expensive weapons system ever developed by the Pentagon, is built in the Lockheed Martin plant in Fort Worth. Much of the V-22 program is also built in Texas. According to Deloitte, the defense and aerospace industry payroll in Texas is about $7 billion and accounts for roughly 340,000 jobs (Deloitte's methodology includes direct, indirect, and induced employment -- an analytical leap we have objected to in the past but which Cruz no doubt endorses).
Similarly, Senator Inhofe's Oklahoma has about 50,000 military personnel at five major bases. Senator Graham's South Carolina has 65,000 military people stationed at eight facilities. And Senator McCain's Arizona has 40,000 personnel at seven facilities, and its defense industry payroll amounts to $4 billion.
Fortunately for his political opponents, Senator Hagel would never stoop to their level. Hagel has repeatedly demonstrated his integrity. He left college to volunteer to serve in Vietnam (a conflict that Cheney, who dubbed Hagel a "substandard candidate," managed to dodge), and he resigned from the number two position at the Department of Veterans Affairs because his boss refused to deal with the effects of Agent Orange and called Vietnam veterans crybabies. Hagel went on to save the USO from bankruptcy and represent his state of Nebraska in the Senate for 12 years with distinction. Given this record, Senator Hagel can be depended upon to put his country first, unlike many of his critics.