Penny-wise and pound-foolish defense cuts

Reuters

Article Highlights

  • Pilot flying hours, ship steaming days and lost live-fire combat training time now will not be recovered easily or in equal time later

    Tweet This

  • Sequester's hit to military readiness, training and maintenance has proven remarkably deep and swift

    Tweet This

  • Defense sequestration is penny-wise and pound-foolish

    Tweet This

News stories on the impact of sequester-related defense cuts on the military have been focusing on the softer and more personal side: the unpaid civilian furloughs, the potential changes to military commissary benefits, the canceling of local air shows and even the lack of Navy fleet weeks.

Hard to find are headlines that explain why sequestration is just poor policy for national security. There is, however, at least one exception: "The High Cost of Saving Money."

In the story, Air Force magazine's John Tirpak notes that the true price of cost cutting is spending twice as much (or more) to rebuild later. In the Air Force's case, the chief of staff has said that it "costs somewhere around two-and-a-half times as much money to retrain a squadron as it does to keep it trained."

Worse, the impact of sequestration is not just the net effect of spending more to save less. Lost time is an unrecoverable asset. Pilot flying hours, ship steaming days and lost live-fire combat training time now will not be recovered easily or in equal time later. Trying to catch up in combat proficiency takes many more hours than simply keeping pilots, captains and soldiers at a steady status.

America's fifth-generation fighter fleet of F-22s offers an illustrative example. This fleet of aircraft was grounded in 2011 for four months. General estimates of recovery time to regain the pilot, crew and maintainers' proficiency status was six months. The loss of time and money to save a bit in the near term is the type of trade-off often missing in the larger discussion about sequestration's costs and benefits.

There are many additional newsworthy stories about the real-world consequences of Washington's automatic budget cuts on the military. The hit to military readiness, training and maintenance has proven remarkably deep and swift: among them ships idling in port and bombers parked at the end of runways, all unusable due to a lack of funds. This sends an unfortunate but powerful message not only to those in uniform who are serving their country, but also to friends, allies and foes around the world.

Sequestration as a way of producing near-term budget savings at the longer-term expense of the health and affordability of military strength seems to be the epitome of a classic idiom of acting "penny wise and pound foolish."

Mackenzie Eaglen is a resident fellow at the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Mackenzie
Eaglen
  • Mackenzie Eaglen has worked on defense issues in the U.S. Congress, both House and Senate, and at the Pentagon in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and on the Joint Staff. She specializes in defense strategy, budget, military readiness and the defense industrial base. In 2010, Ms. Eaglen served as a staff member of the congressionally mandated Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel, a bipartisan, blue-ribbon commission established to assess the Pentagon's major defense strategy. A prolific writer on defense related issues, she has also testified before Congress.


     


    Follow Mackenzie Eaglen on Twitter.

  • Phone: (202) 862-7183
    Email: mackenzie.eaglen@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Charles Morrison
    Phone: (202) 862-5945
    Email: charles.morrison@aei.org

What's new on AEI

image Recovering from tax time blues
image 10 welfare reform lessons
image Let HHS nominee Sylvia Burwell explain Obamacare lie
image Why bold ideas backfire in politics
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 14
    MON
  • 15
    TUE
  • 16
    WED
  • 17
    THU
  • 18
    FRI
Wednesday, April 16, 2014 | 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Calling treason by its name: A conversation with Liam Fox

Join us at AEI as the Right Honorable Liam Fox sits down with Marc Thiessen to discuss and debate whether America’s intelligence agencies have infringed on the personal privacy of US citizens.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, April 17, 2014 | 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
The curmudgeon's guide to getting ahead

How can young people succeed in workplaces dominated by curmudgeons who are judging their every move? At this AEI book event, bestselling author and social scientist Charles Murray will offer indispensable advice for navigating the workplace, getting ahead, and living a fulfilling life.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.