Overcoming Obama’s Defense Funding Mistakes

Will The House of Representatives’ National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (passed yesterday)  be sufficient to both address rising threats from abroad as well as make up the significant loss of funding during the Obama Administration? The $686.6 billion (which exceeds President Trump’s request of $603 billion; the Senate seeks to add another $14 billion) goes over the $549 billion limit established by the 2011 Budget Control Act by about $72 billion, so further work would have to be done for the House, Senate or Trump funding figures to be established.

Despite the unprecedented arms buildup and aggressive acts by Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, the Obama Administration chose to slash defense spending, and Congress, which had agreed to the sequester in response to the doubling of the national debt during the former president’s tenure, failed to respond.

America’s military is in a sharply deteriorated state. It had its last major upgrade during the Reagan Administration over three decades ago, and has been sharply reduced over the past 27 years. Its equipment has been worn down from repeated conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan; the same can be said for its personnel.

While all branches of the armed forces have been affected, the latest examples of damage have come the Navy and the Marines. Marine aviation has recently experienced a rise in “Class A Mishaps,” which are incidents that cause death or result in more than $2 million in aircraft damage. House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry pointed out at a hearing last year that the rate for the Marine aviation community has “been increasing significantly.”

The Wall Street Journal recently noted that “Marine aviation has recently experienced a rise in ‘Class A Mishaps,’ which are incidents that carry a body count or result in more than $2 million in aircraft damage. House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) pointed out at a hearing last year that the accident rate for the Marine aviation community has ‘been increasing significantly’…One hypothesis that deserves to be examined is a combination of old equipment and the fact that pilot hours have been reduced in recent years because of funding cuts. Planes like the F/A-18 are stretching past their lifetimes.”

In March, Lieutenant General Jon Davis, Deputy Commandant for Aviation; Rear Admiral Dewolfe Miller III, Director Air Warfare, and Rear Admiral Michael Moran, Program Executive Officer, Tactical Aircraft, testified before Congress about the decline in naval aviation. They noted:

“Through 2009, the Department’s Strike Fighter force was relatively healthy. Several events transpired since 2009, however, which drove our current Strike Fighter inventory shortfall. The Budget Control Act of 2011 started multiple years of reduced military funding and F-35B/C fielding plans were delayed. As a result, the [Navy] decided to extend the life of legacy F/A-18A-Ds…Sequestration led to furlough and a hiring freeze of a skilled government civilian artisan workforce at aviation depots, significantly impacting depot throughput and fleet readiness along with other factors such as high utilization rates, lack of aircraft procurement and lack of spare parts. Throughout this period, the operational demand for Naval Aviation forces remained high and accelerated the consumption of existing fleet aircraft. In essence, consumption of aircraft exceeded new and re-work production capacity of aircraft causing an increasing shortfall… years of underfunding cannot be corrected in one budget year and will require stable, predictable funding over multiple years to achieve positive results. This shortfall will take time and likely require several years to correct…”

An unclassified study by the Mitre organization found that the “Navy’s budget is insufficient to fund required force levels. The Navy’s budget is insufficient to develop, procure, operate, and sustain all the forces need to meet the revised defeat / hold scenario force structure. In addition, budget instability forces the Navy to make acquisition decisions that undermine affordability initiatives…for the last four years, the Navy has been operating under reduced top-lines and significant shortfalls. There will likely continue to be increasing pressure on the procurement accounts, which in turn threatens the near-term health of the defense industrial base.”

Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, Adm. William F. Moran painted a dismal picture of a Navy that has been strained to the limit. Moran told committee members the ongoing demand for U.S. Naval forces far exceeds its long-term supply. And, he added, the Navy is the smallest it’s been in 99 years, making it urgent to “adequately fund, fix and maintain the fleet we do have.” The U.S. Navy has never been busier in a world of global threats, Admiral Moran said. While the Navy is getting the job done the unrelenting pace, inadequate resources and small size are taking their toll.

The House Armed Service Committee noted, following the vote, “Today, we have too many planes that cannot fly, too many ships that cannot sail, too many Soldiers who cannot deploy, while too many threats are gathering. We have come to a key decision point. For six years, we have been just getting by – cutting resources as the world becomes more dangerous, asking more and more of those who serve, and putting off the tough choices. The Chairman and members of the committee believe that we cannot keep piling missions on our service members without ensuring they have all they need to succeed.”