Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has embraced Teddy Kennedy’s political legacy in not allowing her progressive beliefs to obscure what is best for America’s warfighters and the Bay State’s workers. Warren has closed ranks with the rest of the state’s congressional delegation to oppose a reprogramming of Army funds that could leave soldiers in Afghanistan more vulnerable and workers in Southeastern Massachusetts looking for new jobs.
Warren’s efforts are focused on a communications system called the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, or WIN-T. The Army says WIN-T is the backbone of its future battlefield communications capability, and therefore the service’s top modernization priority. Nonetheless, Army planners keep doing things that would slow fielding of the system. The latest move is a proposed shift of money out of WIN-T in order to pay some unexpected bills related to the war in Afghanistan.
However, Afghanistan is precisely the reason why WIN-T should not be cut. As the U.S. military reduces its footprint there, the tactical communications infrastructure is getting thinner and thinner. It will become increasingly difficult for remotely-deployed ground forces to stay in touch with the rest of the force. WIN-T was conceived to assure mobile, secure connectivity of combat units with the rest of the force, and Afghanistan is beginning to look like a place where that capability will be needed if soldiers are to avoid being put at risk.
Senator Warren, along with newly-minted Senator Mo Cowen, have joined with the Bay State’s entire delegation in the House to oppose the reprogramming of funds, which in addition to endangering troops would also endanger jobs in the depressed mill town of Taunton. Thousands of workers at the Industrial Park there assemble WIN-T, and there aren’t many manufacturing jobs of that caliber left in the area.
So Senator Warren is following what has become a time-honored tradition in Massachusetts of looking out for warfighters by also looking out for local jobs. The Bay State doesn’t have many bases, but it is a powerhouse of innovation in military technology thanks to MIT and companies like General Dynamics and Raytheon. There was a time when people like Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey couldn’t be counted on to support any kind of defense spending, but the political culture has matured and legislators now see the nexus between keeping the peace and promoting prosperity.
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