On the offense over Defense cuts
America’s all-volunteer military is the most well-trained, well-equipped fighting force the world has ever seen. But the strength of our armed forces should not be taken for granted.
Without sustained investments in our troops and their equipment, the military power our nation now wields in defense of our security—including our economic security—will slowly be hollowed out. The result is likely to be an America that can go fewer places and do fewer things in defense of its global interests.
While that may sound good to those who remain uncomfortable with America’s leadership role in the world, starving the military will not make us any safer, given the global demands on our security interests.
The U.S. military confronts readiness shortfalls and a growing array of risks and security challenges. That is why I am deeply concerned about the avalanche of military spending cuts being discussed — from President Barack Obama’s $400 billion proposal to the Senate’s Gang of Six proposal that could cut up to $886 billion.
The time to draw a line in the sand, and go on the offense to support national security must be now.
Let’s be clear: Defense spending is not what put us in this position, and gutting the defense budget to pay the bills is unlikely to get us out of it. As a percentage of our gross domestic product, the defense budget remains just 3.6 percent. This figure is low by all historical standards.
Even if we start slashing major portions of the budget — say $50 billion each year over the next decade — that figure would still only add up to a fraction of the nation’s debt. Yet the additional risk to the nation could be substantial.
Today’s military is worn out from a decade of operations that have pushed already aging platforms to the edge. More than half the Navy’s deployed aircraft are not fully combat ready, as we recently discovered at a House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee hearing, and approximately one in five of our Navy ships are deemed unsatisfactory or mission degraded.
With known shortfalls in the Navy maintenance accounts, the Defense Department would be severely challenged to meet the expected service life of its equipment. Even more concerning are the assessments from our Combatant Commanders in the unclassified portion of the Quarterly Readiness Report to Congress. This paints a distressing picture of a military stretched thin by nearly 10 years of war and a sustained lack of resources.
Even as our forces have been aged rapidly by the high tempo of operations in the past decade, the president has cancelled a generation of weapons programs in just the last two years. While much of the nation has smart phones and iPads, the Army is still operating on an Atari-like system.