Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Defense cuts to an already weakened military exposes us to aggression

Mackenzie Eaglen is a defense policy analyst for the American Enterprise Institute.

Here’s a recent article that she wrote from the Wall Street Journal. (Full text also here on the AEI web site)

Excerpt:

Washington is battling these days over “sequestration,” the $500 billion additional cut to the defense budget looming in January.

[...]In April 2011—long before the near shutdown of the government and the last-minute debt-ceiling deal, which paved the way for sequestration—the president outlined $400 billion in defense cuts he had already approved. He also said that he wanted to “do that again” and find another $400 billion in military spending reductions. All this without any talk of threats, strategy or requirements—just arbitrary budget targets imposed on the military.

Even before sequestration and the possible loss of a half-trillion dollars, the U.S. military has seen three years of budget cuts. The consequences are already here. We have to look all the way back to 1916 to find a year when the Air Force purchased fewer aircraft than are included in Mr. Obama’s 2013 budget request.

Many of the Air Force’s aerial refueling tankers predate human space flight. Training aircraft are twice as old as the students flying them. The F-15 fighter first flew 40 years ago. A-10 ground-attack planes were developed in the Carter years. And all of our B-52 bombers predate the Cuban missile crisis.

Then there’s the Navy, which is the smallest it has been since 1916. At 286 combat and combat-support ships, the Navy today is less than half the size it reached during the Reagan administration. And what about those men and women who have been fighting America’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001? They’re losing 100,000 in active duty personnel. Surely some will go from the front lines to unemployment lines as a result.

[...]Military leaders have suggested that taking on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Third World army would be an operation of “many, many months.” The so-called “pivot” to Asia is being mimed with fewer ships on longer deployments and a shrinking, aging air force. We’re ignoring a wholesale Chinese power grab in the South China Sea and watching the nuclearization of Iran.

In another article on AOL Defense, she focuses in on the cuts to the U.S. Air Force. (Full text also here on the AEI web site)

Excerpt:

Between the existing reduction of $487 billion and sequestration’s additional half-trillion dollar cut, the Pentagon faces a very profound strategic turning point — one entirely different than that articulated by Secretary Panetta. Instead of prudently posturing for future successes, America’s armed forces are headed for a crash.

These pressures are perhaps best illustrated within the Air Force. The service absorbed 90 percent of the cuts levied on the Department of Defense in the 2013 budget — $4.8 billion of $5.2 billion. The effects have been immediate and pronounced: nearly 10,000 airmen are being cut; 227 aircraft are being prematurely retired; and critical capability shortfalls are on the rise.

[...]These budget cuts would not present such dire effects if the Air Force had been able to use the past decade to recapitalize its fleet and overarching infrastructure. At the end of World War Two, the Korean War, Vietnam, and the Cold War, the service was able to weather post-war budget downturns precisely because it had reset the majority of its capabilities during wartime.

Circumstances were different this past decade. The Air Force, already stretched thin by the 1990s procurement holiday, actually saw its percentage of the defense budget decline by one-third during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The service canceled or delayed the vast majority of its modernization portfolio to sustain wartime operational demands.

So 20 years of underfunding has given us an Air Force on the brink. Its aircraft average a quarter of a century in age-with many dating back to the Eisenhower Administration. The wings of Carter-era A-10 ground attack airplanes are riddled with structural cracks. Airmen learning to fly are strapping into T-38s over twice their age. B-52s, all of which pre-date the Cuban missile crisis, are spending up to a year in depot-level maintenance. In light of the F-22 shortage, the Air Force is now extending the lifespan of its 28 year-old F-15s to 18,000 hours — more than three times their original design life.

The Air Force also spent the last decade retiring nearly a quarter of its bombers, fighters, and cargo aircraft in an attempt to free up money for immediate priorities. While helpful on a budget spreadsheet in the near-term, this has stretched the remaining tails even thinner. Shrinking the fleet makes little sense when the mission demand is constant. Aircraft availability rates and maintenance statistics clearly illustrate the rising costs associated with this decision.

Obama is also in favor of the complete disarmament of the United States with respect to nuclear weapons.

The Wall Street Journal explains:

The White House and Pentagon are considering several proposals that would deeply cut the nation’s stockpile of nuclear weapons, potentially to as low as 300 warheads under one such plan, according to a U.S. official.

The proposals haven’t been presented to President Barack Obama but are being debated by lower-level officials on the national-security staff and in the Pentagon.

The U.S. official said the government isn’t considering a unilateral cut to the nation’s nuclear arsenal. Instead, the different proposals represent arsenal levels that could be negotiated with Russia in a future round of arms-control talks.

Nonetheless, the prospect of nuclear-arsenal cuts during a hard-fought presidential campaign is certain to stoke political controversy.

Under current treaty obligations, the U.S. must reduce its nuclear arsenal to 1,550 warheads by 2018 from just below 1,800 now. One of the new proposals would cut the arsenal to between 1,000 and 1,100; another proposes an arsenal of between 700 to 800; and the most drastic proposal would cut the arsenal to between 300 and 400, according to the official.

The fact of the matter is that there are hot spots and threats all over the world. If we want to work towards peace and protect the weak, then we need a large, capable military force. This is the doctrine of peace through strength. Talk is cheap, and disarmament only emboldens evildoers to be aggressive. If we want to stop war, we have to make it costly for aggressors and tyrants. They have to know that there is a cost.

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What is the meaning of Memorial Day?

Arlington National Cemetary

What is Memorial Day? It’s the day that we remember all those brave men and women who have sacrificed to protect our liberties and our lives so that we could be safe from harm.

This video may help you to understand.

From Hot Air, a quote from Ronald Reagan.

Memorial Day is an occasion of special importance to all Americans, because it is a day sacred to the memory of all those Americans who made the supreme sacrifice for the liberties we enjoy. We will never forget or fail to honor these heroes to whom we owe so much. We honor them best when we resolve to cherish and defend the liberties for which they gave their lives. Let us resolve to do all in our power to assure the survival and the success of liberty so that our children and their children for generations to come can live in an America in which freedom’s light continues to shine.

The Congress, in establishing Memorial Day, called for it to be a day of tribute to America’s fallen, and also a day of national prayer for lasting peace. This Nation has always sought true peace. We seek it still. Our goal is peace in which the highest aspirations of our people, and people everywhere, are secure: peace with freedom, with justice, and with opportunity for human development. This is the permanent peace for which we pray, not only for ourselves but for all generations.

The defense of peace, like the defense of liberty, requires more than lip service. It requires vigilance, military strength, and the willingness to take risks and to make sacrifices. The surest guarantor of both peace and liberty is our unflinching resolve to defend that which has been purchased for us by our fallen heroes.

On Memorial Day, let us pray for peace — not only for ourselves, but for all those who seek freedom and justice.

And check some of my Medal of Honor posts:

If you want to help out our troops, you can send them things through Soldier’s Angels.

God Bless Our Troops!

UPDATE: I am listening to this podcast from the Heritage Foundation about the origin and meaning of Memorial Day.

For more reading, why not check out some of the military bloggers?

If you want to help out our troops, you can send them things through Soldier’s Angels.

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Friday night movie: The Cruel Sea (1953)

Here’s tonight’s movie:

IMDB rating: [7.6/10]

Description:

At the start of World War II, Cmdr. Ericson is assigned to convoy escort HMS Compass Rose with inexperienced officers and men just out of training. The winter seas make life miserable enough, but the men must also harden themselves to rescuing survivors of U-Boat attacks, while seldom able to strike back. Traumatic events afloat and ashore create a warm bond between the skipper and his first officer. Atmospheric sea footage.

The Battle of the Atlantic: British and Canadian convoys carry supplies across the North Atlantic to supply Allied forces in Europe and Africa.

Allied supply convoy crossing the Atlantic

Allied supply convoy crossing the Atlantic

Here’s a closer look at the Flower class corvette used by the heroes of the movie:

Flower class escort ship

Flower class corvette

Specifications:

  • Displacement: 950 tons
  • Dimensions: 62.5 x 10.0 x 3.5 meters (205 x 33 x 11.5 feet)
  • Propulsion: Single shaft; 2 fire tube Scotch boilers; 1 4-cyl. triple expansion steam engine, 2750 hp.;  16 knots
  • Range: 3500 nm. at 12 knots
  • Crew: 85
  • Radar: SW1C or 2C (later)
  • Sonar: Type 123A, later Type 127DV
  • Fire control: none
  • Main gun: 1 4″ BL Mk.IX single (range: 12,660 m / 13,850 yd)
  • Anti-aircraft: 2 .50 cal mg twin, 2 Lewis .303 cal mg twin
  • Anti-submarine: 2 Mk.II depth charge throwers, 2 depth charge rails with 40 depth charges

Here is a listing of common navy ships, ordered by size from largest to smallest:

  • Aircraft Carrier (CV)
  • Battleship (BB)
  • Cruiser (CA)
  • Destroyer (DD)
  • Frigate (FF)
  • Corvette (K)

Sound action stations! All ahead full!

Happy Friday!

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Friday night movie: Horatio Hornblower (1951)

Here’s tonight’s movie:

IMDB rating: [7.4/10]

Description:

In 1807, Captain Horatio Hornblower leads his ship the HMS Lydia on a perilous voyage around Cape Horn and into the Pacific. The men, even his officers, don’t know exactly where he is leading them. England is at war with Napoleon and everyone wonders why they have been sent so far from the action. They eventually arrive on the Pacific coast of Central America where the HMS Lydia has been sent to arm Don Julian Alvarado, who is planning an attack against France’s Spanish allies on the North American continent. The hope is that Alvarado’s forces will require the French to divert some of their military resources to North American defense in the aid of their Spanish allies. He arrives to learn that a Spanish Galleon is en route and he no sooner captures it and hands it over to Alvarado that he learns the Spanish are now England’s allies and he must take it from Alvarado. He also gets a very comely passenger in the form of Lady Barbara Wellesley.

Some nice swashbuckling and cannon-fire for a Friday night!

Mr. Lobster Pirate is pleased:

Lobster Pirate is pleased with this Friday's movie

Lobster Pirate is pleased with this Friday’s movie

Beat to quarters and clear for action!

Happy Friday!

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“Act of Valor” war movie takes first place at the box office this weekend!

The Los Angeles Times explains what happened.

Excerpt:

As Hollywood’s A-listers prepare for the Academy Awards on Sunday, it was the Navy SEAL stars of the movie “Act of Valor” who dominated the box office.

The intense action movie opened to a solid $24.7 million, according to an estimate from distributor Relativity Media, proving by far the most popular choice for audiences.

“Good Deeds,” the latest movie from writer/director Tyler Perry, opened to $16 million. It’s the second-smallest opening ever for the prolific filmmaker and actor, ahead of only 2007′s “Daddy’s Little Girls.”

“Wanderlust,” a new Judd Apatow-produced comedy starring Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd, and the thriller “Gone” starring Amanda Seyfried were both flops, opening to just $6.6 million and $5 million, respectively.

[...]“Act of Valor,” which has won plaudits for its ultra-realistic action sequences that feature the SEAL stars in training exercises, was a big bet for Relativity. The financially struggling independent studio topped other bidders by paying $13.5 million for rights to the movie produced by production company Bandito Brothers. It also committed tens of millions of dollars to an extensive marketing campaign that included four ads in and around the Super Bowl and online material targeting video game players.

But the investment appears to be paying off, as box-office receipts came in at the high end of pre-release expectations. Just as important, audiences loved the film, giving it an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore. That was not only true for men, who made up 71% of the audiences, but women.

Here’s the “making of” clip showing how they made it:

Not only were the SEALs in this movie, they helped direct the action sequences!

Here’s a review from the liberal Boston Globe.

Excerpt:

The casting in “Act of Valor,’’ of course, leads to the movie’s innovations. Dialogue that chiefly entails laying out tactics for missions executed in the next scene pretty much obviates any need for Kenneth Branagh. Having the military play itself is propaganda on one hand, and simple efficiency on the other. It also concentrates the movie-going public’s attraction to combat as spectacle. So why bother with a star if what we’ve come to see, ultimately, are the talents of the stunt crew?

As it happens, “Act of Valor’’ was directed by Mike “Mouse’’ McCoy and Scott Waugh, a couple of veteran stuntmen, who don’t simply admire the SEALs’ defiance of death. They appear to relate to it. Written by Kurt Johnstad, who’s a credited writer of “300,’’ the film involves a typical doomsday plot that manages to combine separate international affronts. A SEAL platoon heads into the tropics to rescue a kidnapped CIA agent (Roselyn Sanchez) who’s been tracking the connection between a Ukrainian drug smuggler (Alex Veadov) and a mass-murdering Chechen jihadist (Jason Cottle), whose bond is tighter than initially suspected.

[...]Accordingly, there is beauty in this movie that you’d never experience in any film starring Chuck Norris or Michael Dudikoff. The sound mix keeps suspenseful quiet, while you marvel at what perfect amphibians the SEALs are and how, with them, killing people places a crucial premium on gentleness (the SEALs tiptoeing down a hallway, stirring the air with hand signals, tapping a shoulder, or falling through the night sky). If only the frantic editing had managed to linger longer on the dreaminess of those shots.

[...]Really, the film’s presiding spirit of American might and international intimidation is that of Tom Clancy. He’s credited as an advisor on this film, and his influence shows up from time to time. A scene between a SEAL and the smuggler is among the best in the movie. The two men trade insinuations, and the tension is strong. Veadov is a better actor than the SEAL. But this SEAL, with his graying beard and wry sense of humor, has better lines. A sharply done encounter like that implies just what Clancy may have advised.

The SEALs’ profile is higher since a team killed Osama Bin Laden last year. There hasn’t been this much popular interest since Demi Moore fought to join a similar outfit in “G.I. Jane.’’ “Act of Valor’’ creates an illusion of authenticity while doing strategically little to dispel the group’s mystique. Often with an action film, you know that what you’re watching has been staged. You applaud the rigorous theater. Here, when the film’s climactic sequence has ended, there’s no impulse to clap. The verisimilitude holds you in moral check.

Please go see this movie in the theater! We have to send Hollywood a message.

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