In today's Wall Street Journal American Enterprise Institute (AEI) defense expert Mackenzie Eaglen explains that even before the current budget battle, President Obama planned to cut defense spending--with potentially disastrous results.
- Cuts no one wants? Contrary to the claims of President Obama and congressional Democrats, defense cuts--based on budgetary targets, not strategy or requirements--have always been planned. The President outlined $400 billion in defense cuts in April 2011 and said he wanted to "do that again," even before the sequestration deal was reached.
- Aging equipment needs replacement. President Obama's 2013 budget request would purchase the fewest aircraft since 1916. 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. The Navy is the smallest it has been since 1916. And all of our B-52 bombers predate the Cuban missile crisis.
- Reforms are possible without arbitrary cuts. The Pentagon's acquisition system needs reform. The emphasis on contractors often masks the government's contribution to spiraling costs and schedule delays. As a result, leaders do not face pressure to change the way the Pentagon buys services (which account for more than $200 billion per year). Also, since 2009 the Pentagon's civilian workforce has grown by 10%. This and other factors (such as the bureaucratic effect of "jointness," or collaboration between the branches of the military) have bloated the ratio of contractors and support staff to warfighters.
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."
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 can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through email@example.com (202.862.5945)
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