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