Tag Archives: defense spending

Trump Defense Budget Too Small? Part 2

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government concludes its review of criticism of the President’s 2018 defense budget proposal.

As this report was being prepared, Spacewar reports, a Chinese naval fleet is steaming towards the Baltic Sea to participate in joint exercises with Russia, with the show of force to take place after US President Donald Trump visits NATO ally Poland next month…Russia and China have taken turns hosting the exercises, dubbed “Joint Sea”, since 2012…[the Chinese news agency] Xinhua said … that this year’s drills aim ‘to consolidate and advance the Sino-Russian comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination, and deepen friendly and practical cooperation between the two militaries…The exercises, it added, will also ‘improve coordination between the two navies on joint defence operations at sea…Previous year’s drills have also been held in politically sensitive areas. Last year, the exercises took place in the contested South China Sea, where Beijing’s construction of artificial islands in waters claimed by its neighbours has drawn criticism from the US and other nations which say the project threatens freedom of navigation through the region.”

America also faces threats from within its own hemisphere greater than at any time since the end of the Cold War, and, some would argue, even higher than that era.  Russia’s navy again is docking ships in Cuba. Moscow has emplaced military equipment in Nicaragua. China and Russia have military-to-military contacts with some nations in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. China operates “civilian” bases on both sides of the Panama Canal.  Terrorist cells operate in conjunction with Mexican drug cartels.

For all of these reasons, keen observers of U.S. national security issues believe that the additional funds called for in President Trump’s budget request are inadequate.

An analysis by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) states that “To confront rising threats in Eastern Europe, East Asia, and the Middle East, America needs to adopt a three-theater force-sizing construct. It noted that:

“President Trump’s defense budget would repair, not rebuild, the military. Worse, it lacks the investments necessary to allow a robust rebuilding effort to begin a year from now. The request represents a more muscular status quo at best.

“This budget continues a favored Washington tradition of investing in the immediate and long term while shortchanging the next three to 15 years. This “barbell” investment strategy emphasizes the conflicts of today and the wars of the distant future, while discounting the long bar of the medium term, wherein most strategic and military risk lies.

“President Trump’s overall federal spending blueprint suggests that balancing the budget ranks above rebuilding the military in the administration’s list of priorities…”

Bloomberg News reports that President Trump’s first full-year military budget would delay increases in major weapons systems while committing additional funds into troop readiness and precision munitions, including additional Tomahawk cruise missiles. Readiness, including training, maintenance and resupply of needed munitions was significantly and adversely affected during the Obama Administration.”

The diminished and increasingly challenged U.S. Navy will have to wait another year before the President fulfills his campaign pledge to increase its size from the current 276 vessels to 350. In 1990, the Navy operated almost 600 ships.

According to Bloomberg, The biggest difference in the Trump budget from Obama’s approach is increased funding for the Army to add 26,000 active-duty troops to keep force levels at 476,000, as directed by Congress this year, instead of dropping to 450,000 as had been planned.

Abroad, Trump’s controversial drive to push NATO members to increase their moribund defense spending has had success. In 2017, twenty-five Allies will increase defense spending in real terms, according to NATO.

Even non-NATO nations within Europe have awakened to the vastly increased threat from Putin. Sweden, according to RT, will upgrade its air defense system. “Russian missile systems stationed in the nearby exclave of Kaliningrad make this a necessity. US-made Patriot systems are among the options for the major overhaul.” The Swedish government has also re-introduced conscription, noting “The security environment in Europe and in Sweden’s vicinity has deteriorated and the all-volunteer recruitment hasn’t provided the Armed Forces with enough trained personnel. The re-activating of the conscription is needed for military readiness.”

Trump Defense Budget Too Small?

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government reviews criticism of the President’s 2018 defense budget proposal.

A key issue in the 2016 presidential campaign, ignored by the media but not the voters, was the sharp reduction in America’s national security during the Obama presidency.

President Trump’s first 2018 defense budget request amounts to a $603 billion base budget, a $54 billion hike over Obama’s last figure.  While a step in the right decision, it fails to take into account four key factors. First, the military has been starved for funds during the Obama presidency, (From 2010 to 2015, total defense spending was cut 22% in constant dollars) a deficiency which must now be remedied; Second, much of America’s equipment and the personnel of the armed forces are worn down and exhausted from use in the Middle East and Afghanistan; third, an excessively substantial portion of the U.S. arsenal has simply aged out, much of it dating from the Reagan buildup of the 1980’s and some going all the way back to the 1950’s; and fourth, the world’s strategic environment has changed, dramatically for the worse.

That fourth point must be the centerpiece on any debate over defense spending.  Unlike almost all other federal programs, military planning does not turn on purely internal considerations.  It is always a response to the threat environment. Over the past decade, that environment underwent a radical change. Russia is now, for the first time in history, the planet’s strongest nuclear power. In addition, it has invested vast sums in developing a 21st century conventional military, with cutting edge equipment.  China has also emerged as a rising nuclear power, and some believe that its atomic arsenal is many times larger than once assumed. The U.S. deterrent has become badly outdated. China’s conventional military is as technologically advanced as America’s, and outnumbers its U.S. counterpart in several areas.  Significant nuclear and conventional threats also come from North Korea, and in the not too distant future, Iran.

Defense Secretary Mattis stated that he was “shocked” at the lack of readiness of America’s military. A statement from the House armed services Committee (Chair Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) worries that the U.S. has “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…”

Chairman Thornberry is seeking $28.5 billion above President Trump’s $603 billion for core Pentagon needs, along with slightly under $65 billion for warfighting missions.

Thornberry points out that “FY 17 defense spending is 18% lower than it was in 2010, measured in constant dollars.  And remember, 2010, the year we are measuring against, was before Russia invaded Crimea, before China built islands in the South China Sea, before any of us had ever heard of ISIS, and certainly before North Korea embarked on its crash missile program.
The Administration sent us a budget proposal for $603 billion, about 5% above current spending and about 3% above the amount that the Obama Administration had proposed for FY18.  Their proposal would cut missile defense below current spending, cut ship building accounts, add no additional soldiers to the Army, etc. While Secretary Mattis and General Dunford testified that they support the Administration’s request, of course, they also testified that they supported every one of the unfunded requirements submitted by the Services.  And so the difference in the Administration’s request and this mark is that we [the House armed services committee) fund $21 billion out of the $31 billion in unfunded requirements, plus we start moving toward the 350 ship Navy with an extra $6 billion in shipbuilding.”

 A Heritage Foundation study  concurred with Rep. Thornberry’s concerns. “…military readiness is dangerously low due to chronic underfunding, forced reductions, and the prolonged, high tempo of combat operations. Adequately funding national defense programs should be the primary objective of Congress in the upcoming spending battle. Inadequate and uncertain funding is particularly devastating for our military because it stops new initiatives in their tracks, derails innovative solutions and creates huge, long-term problems for equipment programs.”

Compounding the individual threats from Moscow, Beijing, Tehran and Pyongyang is the clear and growing military alliance between Russia, China, and Iran.  One of several factors in the U.S. victory over the Soviet Union was the very subtle commonality of interest between Washington and Beijing. That advantage has been reversed, and now China and Russia constitute a unified axis aimed at America.  The two giant nations trade technology and advanced weaponry, and their navies have trained jointly in major exercises in the Mediterranean Ocean, the Baltic Sea, and the Pacific.

The Report concludes tomorrow.

The Budget Mistakes that Endanger America, Part 3

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government concludes its examination of the danger posed by inadequate defense budgets.

During its tenure, the Obama Administration engaged in policies which were breathtaking in their scope and in the extraordinary danger they posed. Among  these actions were slashing the defense budget, preventing the development of  an adequate anti-missile shield, proposing unilateral reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, withdrawing all US tanks from Europe, (some have since been returned) cutting benefits to active duty service members, alienating  regional allies such as Israel, betraying key nuclear defense secrets of the United Kingdom to Moscow, prematurely withdrawing U.S. forces from key hot spots, not responding to Chinese aggression towards allies Japan and the Philippines, ignoring Russian, Chinese, and Iranian military growth in Latin America, softening sanctions against Iran’s development of nuclear weapons, and taking no viable steps in response to North Korea’s imminent deployment of nuclear ICBMs.

These actions occur in the face of a US military that was already sharply reduced from its strength in the recent past.  The navy has shrunk from 600 ships to 284, the Army is down from 17 divisions to ten, the Air Force from 37 fighter commands to 20.

This diminished force must contend with a Russia that has returned to cold war strength, possesses a 10 to 1 advantage in tactical nuclear weapons, has invaded two neighboring nations in the past ten years, has returned to cold war bases around the world, assisted in the shooting down of a civilian airliner, and has allied itself with China.

China has engaged in unprecedented espionage against civilian, governmental and military targets in the U.S., and has increased its nuclear and conventional military strength at a pace faster than either the Soviet Union or the United States did at the height of the cold war. It is a full-fledged military superpower on land, sea, air, and space, with technology every bit as capable as Washington’s.  It unabashedly asserts hegemony over a vast swath of seas that it has no legitimate right to, and has brazenly stolen resources from the Philippines. It makes no secret that it views the United States as an adversary, and its extraordinarily powerful armed forces are precisely structured to fight what is left of the American military.

The oft-cited clichés about the amount the U.S. spends on defense, and its comparison with potential enemies, serve to cloud the debate.  Defense spending as a percent of GDP, at about 3.3%, is at a near post-World War 2 low, and represents less than 16% of the federal budget.

Comparisons with the publicly stated budgets of Russia and China, which those opposed to adequate American defense spending often point to, is deceptive.  The non-transparent governments of those nations hide substantial portions of their military spending. They also do not include within their stated figures many items that their U.S. counterpart does.  Additionally, within their essentially command economies, manufacturers are not taking the type of profit American companies do, making the purchase of weapons exceptionally less costly.

The Trump Administration has called for a $54 billion increase in defense spending, although some estimates indicate that the actual figure may be closer to $30 billion. After the Obama disinvestment years, either figure represents merely treading water.

A True Pundit review of the request notes that “The Trump administration claimed that the proposal increases defense spending by 10 percent (approximately $54 billion), however, that number is based on unfounded estimations from 2011. The increase may actually represent a 3 percent increase, when based on the number former President Barack Obama said he would have liked to have seen last year.[Defense Secretary] Mattis said…while the $30 billion is necessary, it is only enough to fill current gaps, and not enough to improve capabilities in the future.”

Writing for the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Mackenzie Eaglen explains: “The current outlook for the U.S. defense budget is middling with a chance of disappointment. When Trump’s first budget is eventually signed into law, it will likely just be a more muscular version of the status quo, increasing defense spending only a few percentage points above last year’s enacted levels… On the campaign trail, Trump set a fairly nebulous goal of growing the military to 350 navy ships, 540,000 active-duty army soldiers, 200,000 marines, and more than 1,200 combat-capable air force fighters. Such growth would cost an estimated $60 billion per year more than what Obama planned for in his five-year budget from 2017, or about $90 billion per year more than the levels prescribed by the Budget Control Act.”

The Budget Mistakes that Endanger America, Part 2

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government continues its exposure of the defense budgeting errors that endanger the U.S. 

In his recommendations for the 2018—2022 budget periods, Senator McCain states:

“We are now at a tipping point…We now face, at once, a persistent war against terrorist enemies and a new era of great power competition. The wide margin for error that America once enjoyed is gone. This deterioration of America’s global position has accelerated in recent years, in part, because the Obama administration’s defense strategy was built on a series of flawed assumptions. It assumed the United States could pull back from the Middle East and contain the threat of violent Islamist extremism. It assumed that ‘strategic patience’ toward North Korea would improve conditions for negotiations and not exacerbate the threat. It assumed that a nuclear deal with Iran would moderate its regional ambitions and malign behavior. It assumed that U.S.-Russia relations could be “reset” into a partnership and that American forces in Europe could be reduced. It assumed that a minimal “rebalance” of efforts could deter China from using its rising power to coerce American partners and revise the regional order. “And it assumed with the Budget Control Act of 2011 that defense spending could be cut significantly for a decade. Though all of these assumptions have been overtaken by events, [President Obama] and many in Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, have nonetheless failed to invest sufficiently in our nation’s defense. Indeed, for most of the past eight years, including this one, Congress has forced the Department of Defense to start the year locked into the previous year’s budget and priorities, which in practice is a budget cut.

“As a result, our military is caught in a downward spiral of depleted readiness and deferred modernization. Readiness is suffering, in part, because the force is too small and being asked to do more with less. This, in turn, harms modernization, as future defense investments are delayed and mortgaged to pay for present operations. That helps to explain why all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have stated that our military cannot accomplish the nation’s strategic objectives at acceptable risk to the force and the mission. Reversing this budget-driven damage to our military must be a top priority for national leaders…

“Donald Trump has pledged to ‘fully eliminate the defense sequester’ and ‘submit a new budget to rebuild our military.’ This cannot happen soon enough. The damage that has been done to our military over the past eight years will not be reversed in one year. Just stemming the bleeding caused by recent budget cuts will take most of the next five years, to say nothing of the sustained increases in funding required thereafter…

“Our adversaries are modernizing their militaries to exploit our vulnerabilities…The cost of further inaction…is worse: We will irreparably damage our military’s ability to deter aggression and conflict. Indeed, as General Mark Milley, Chief of Staff of the Army, has said: “The only thing more expensive than deterrence is actually fighting a war, and the only thing more expensive than fighting a war is fighting one and losing one.

“For many years after the end of the Cold War, U.S. defense planning and budgeting were guided by what was called a “two major regional contingency” force sizing construct. This required the U.S. military to be sized, shaped, and postured to fight and win two major wars in different regions of the world more or less at the same time. In 2012, the Obama administration departed from this construct…it stoked a perception of American weakness and created power vacuums that adversaries have exploited.

“A better defense strategy must acknowledge the reality that we have entered a new era of great power competitions. China and Russia aspire to diminish U.S. influence and revise the world order in ways that are contrary to U.S. national interests. They maintain large, survivable nuclear arsenals. They are modernizing their militaries in order to counter our ability to project power. And they are making rapid progress…the United States must have the will and military capability to deter and, if necessary, defeat these competitors in order to maintain peace through strength. Without sufficient hard power, which is our leverage, our diplomacy will be ineffective.

“A better defense strategy must also account for the threats posed by North Korea and Iran…But these dangers are serious and growing. North Korea already has nuclear weapons and is rapidly developing a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile that could strike the U.S. homeland. Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons has been postponed but not halted. And it seeks to use its malign influence to remake the Middle East in its image. If left unchecked, these threats will grow, to the detriment of American interests, allies, and partners. Finally, a better defense strategy must recognize that violent Islamist extremist groups will continue to pose a direct threat to American lives, and that U.S. forces will be conducting counterterrorism operations at varying levels of intensity, for the foreseeable future. … the scale of our defense challenges are clear: Major improvements can be made in the next five years, but we will not be able to rebuild and reshape our military to the degree necessary in that timeframe. In this way, the goal of the next five years is more digging out than building up—halting the accumulated damage done during the Obama administration through decreasing force size, depleted readiness, deferred modernization, and sustained high operational tempo.”

A professional opinion on the need for even greater increases in defense spending comes from the Military Officers Association .: “While many in Congress, especially the defense hawks, have applauded [President Trump’s] defense increase, several in key leadership positions on the Armed Services committees say it is not nearly enough. The administration termed the $603 billion budget request, which is an increase of $18.5 billion over what the Obama administration had proposed for FY 2018, as an increase of 10 percent, but that number is only in comparison to sequestration levels of $549 billion. So in reality, says Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), Chairman of the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee, ‘That’s really only a 3-percent increase and is fake budgeting’.”

The Report concludes Monday

The Budget Mistakes that Endanger America

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government begins a three-part exposure of the danger caused by the disinvestment in America’s National Security

Two dangerously mistaken assumptions have guided American defense planning since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The first, made by successive administrations, was that there would no longer be a substantial military threat following the end of the USSR, and that the only true danger remaining would be regional conflicts. China’s extraordinary increases in spending on armaments, and its development of a highly advanced and sophisticated force with worldwide reach, has proven that theory wrong, as has President Putin’s dramatic reconstruction of Soviet power and strategy. Both nations have engaged in aggressive actions, confident that their armed strength shields them from repercussions.

Russia has twice invaded neighboring nations, and engages in intimidating actions towards its European neighbors and the North American coastline. China has illegally occupied a resource-rich maritime area belonging to the Philippines. It is now claiming domination over vital sea lanes in contradiction of all international law.  North Korea’s nuclear capabilities have reached an extremely dangerous point, and the Taliban is preparing for a major return to power in Afghanistan. If they do so, Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal may be within their grasp.

Nikita vladimirov, in an article in The Hill.reports that “Russia and China are increasingly challenging the military superiority that the United States has held since the early 1990s…[they]…are spending heavily on ‘modernization’ to improve their militaries’ quality, efficiency and overall performance…According to the experts, China’s military advancement is most noticeable in its new naval and ballistic capabilities…Researchers at the International Institute for Strategic Studies noted the rapid development of China’s new air-to-air weapons that will ‘make the air environment more difficult for the F-35 and supporting aircraft.’…Moscow, meanwhile, is seeking to develop new technologies that would undermine U.S. capabilities in Europe and Asia.

“In summer of 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin highlighted the country’s military progress, asserting that Russia had achieved ‘substantial success’ in modernizing its forces… Tony Cordesman, a national security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said improvements to Russia’s nuclear weapons and precision cruise missiles should be a major concern for the Pentagon…Another highlight of Russia’s push toward military innovation is its lethal T-14 tank…the International Institute for Strategic Studies said the ‘revolutionary’ tank will feature new technologies that will ‘change battlefield dynamics’ in the future.”

The second assumption, solely the work of the Obama Administration, was that significantly scaling back American defense spending and activities would induce hostile nations to do the same.  In essence, President Obama “Gave peace a chance,” to quote the rock song.  It didn’t work. Instead, it had the reverse effect: aggressive nations saw U.S. weakness as an opportunity, and took advantage.

The errors of judgement and the rise of dire threats should have been headline news. But the prevailing leftist ideology within the American media has kept the overwhelming danger out of the headlines.  It is a mantra of Progressive politics that any penny spent on defense is a penny taken away from social welfare programs. Therefore, dependent on ever increasing benefits for support at the ballot box, left-leaning politicians have ignored the hazardous reality and continued their transfer of funds from the military to the programs that get them re-elected.

Former Defense Secretary  Ashton B. Carter noted  that “DoD’s [Department of Defense] 10-year budget projections have absorbed more than $750 billion in cuts, …DoD’s fiscal year 2016 budget is at a near-historic low, representing about 14 percent of total federal discretionary and nondiscretionary outlays.”

In 2010, the total defense budget was $757 billion.  The 2016 budget was approximately $585 billion.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) and Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) noted “Russia has challenged the postwar order in Europe by invading and annexing the territory of another sovereign nation…China has stepped up its coercive behavior in Asia, backed by its rapid military modernization…Military spending is not to blame for out-of-control deficits and debt.  It is now [at] the lowest [share of federal spending] since before World War 2.”

The Report continues tomorrow

Crisis Level: America’s Dwindling Defense Capability, Part Three

The New York Analysis concludes its three part examination of the condition of the U.S. military at the end  of the Obama Administration.

Russia has a larger nuclear capability than the U.S. China has more submarines and will soon have a larger navy. Both nations pose key threats to the U.S. Air Force, Notes the American Enterprise Institute. (AEI).  “…the [U.S.] Air Force has weakened relative to its adversaries. As China and Russia produce and export advanced air defense and counter-stealth systems alongside fifth-generation stealth fighters, the [U.S.] Air Force treads water, buying small numbers of F-35s while spending ever-larger sums on keeping F-15s and F-16s operational – though those aircraft cannot survive on the first-day front lines of modern air combat…Simply put, the armed forces are not large enough, modern enough and ready enough to meet today’s or tomorrow’s mission requirements. This is the outcome not only of fewer dollars, but of the reduced purchasing power of those investments, rising unbudgeted costs for politically difficult reforms continuously deferred, and a now-absent bipartisan consensus on U.S. national security that existed for generations.

In prior times of military crisis, the once-mighty U.S. industrial infrastructure was capable of rapidly turning out new ships, tanks, and aircraft. According to the Alliance for American Manufacturing, (AAM) that may no longer be the case. “U.S. national security is at-risk due to our military’s reliance on foreign nations for the raw materials, parts, and products used to defend the American people…With the closing of factories across the United States and the mass exodus of U.S. manufacturing jobs to China and other nations over the past 30 years, the United States’ critically important defense industrial base has deteriorated dramatically. As a result, the United States now relies heavily on imports to keep our armed forces equipped and ready. Compounding this rising reliance on foreign suppliers, the United States also depends increasingly on foreign financing arrangements. In addition, the United States is not mining enough of the critical metals and other raw materials needed to produce important weapons systems and military supplies. These products include the night-vision devices (made with a rare earth element) that enabled Navy SEALs to hunt down Osama bin Laden. Consequently, the health of the United States’ defense industrial base—and our national security—is in jeopardy. We are vulnerable to major disruptions in foreign supplies that could make it impossible for U.S. warriors, warships, tanks, aircraft, and missiles to operate effectively.”

One example cited by AAM: “The United States is completely dependent on a single Chinese company for the chemical needed to produce the solid rocket fuel used to propel HELLFIRE missiles. As current U.S. supplies diminish, our military will be reliant on the Chinese supplier to provide this critical chemical—butanetriol—in the quantities needed to maintain this missile system. HELLFIRE missiles are a widely used, reliable, and effective weapon launched from attack helicopters and unmanned drones. They are a critical component in America’s arsenal.”

The reduction in defense preparedness has been a factor in the continuing shortage of middle-income level jobs. The cuts continue to defense-related employment continues. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that “Boeing Co. said [on Nov.15 that] it would cut another 500 jobs over the next four years from its defense and space business by shrinking work at its Huntington Beach facility in California and closing two smaller plants in Texas and Virginia…Boeing’s defense arm has cut thousands of jobs over the past five years, a faster pace than reductions at a commercial airplane arm that have climbed in recent months as it faced tougher competition from Airbus Group SE.”

National Review summarized the condition of the U.S. military by quoting U.S. service chiefs at budgetary hearings earlier this year: “General Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff at the time, reported that ‘readiness has been degraded to its lowest level in 20 years. . . . Today we only have 33 percent of our brigades ready to the extent we would expect them to be if asked to fight.’ The chief of naval operations at the time, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, said, ‘Our contingency response force, that’s what’s on call from the United States, is one-third of what it should be and what it needs to be.’ The Air Force chief of staff, General Mark Welsh, said that if his airplanes were cars, ‘we currently have twelve fleets — twelve fleets of airplanes that qualify for antique license plates in the state of Virginia. We must modernize our Air Force.”

President-elect Trump has pledged to increase the U.S. military and modernize the nuclear arsenal. According to the Washington Post “Trump’s win is good news for the defense industry, especially when coupled with Republican majorities in the House and Senate,’ said Loren Thompson, a defense consultant who advises many of the nation’s top-tier contractors.”

Crisis Level: America’s Dwindling Defense Capability: Part 2

The New York Analysis continues its three part examination of the condition of the U.S. military at the end  of the Obama Administration.

The Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute analyses of each branch of the military reveals the following deficiencies:

Army: The U.S. Army should have 50 brigade combat teams (BCTs); Currently, it has only 32.   The force is rated as weak in capacity, readiness, and marginal in capability.“The Army has continued to trade end strength and modernization for improved readiness for current operations. However, accepting risks in these areas has enabled the Army to keep only one-third of its force at acceptable levels of readiness, and even for units deployed abroad, the Army has had to increase its reliance on contracted support to meet maintenance requirements. Budget cuts have affected combat units disproportionately: A 16 percent reduction in total end strength has led to a 32 percent reduction in the number of brigade combat teams and similar reductions in the number of combat aviation brigades. In summary, the Army is smaller, older, and weaker, a condition that is unlikely to change in the near future.”

What would this mean in the event of a major conflict? According to AEI “…a recent RAND war game found that U.S. European Command could not prevent Russian occupation of Baltic capitals within three days, leaving follow-on forces to fight through the Russian Kaliningrad exclave, which bristles with weapons and troops.”

Navy: The U.S. Navy should have 346 surface combatants; currently, it has only 273, and only one-third of those are considered mission-capable.  The force is rated as weak in capability, and marginal in capacity and readiness. “While the Navy is maintaining a moderate global presence, it has little ability to surge to meet wartime demands. Deferred maintenance has kept ships at sea but is also beginning to affect the Navy’s ability to deploy. With scores of ‘weak’ in capability (due largely to old platforms and troubled modernization programs) and ‘marginal’ in capacity, the Navy is currently just able to meet operational requirements. Continuing budget shortfalls in its shipbuilding account will hinder the Navy’s ability to improve its situation, both materially and quantitatively, for the next several years.

According to AEI combatant commanders have only 62 percent of the attack submarines they need. It also is short of fighter planes. One example: Defense One  reports “The U.S. Navy says it needs about 30 new Super Hornets, but it has only funded two in the Pentagon’s 2017 war budget. It has listed 14 planes as “unfunded priorities” and money would be needed for an additional 14 planes in 2018.”

Air Force: The U.S. Air Force requires 1,200 fighter/ground-attack aircraft, but has only 1,113, many of which are overaged. The force is rated as marginal in capability and readiness, but strong in capacity. “the USAF’s accumulating shortage of pilots (700) and maintenance personnel (4,000) has begun to affect its ability to generate combat power. The Air Force … lack of ability to fly and maintain its tactical aircraft, especially in a high-tempo/threat combat environment, means that its usable inventory of such aircraft is actually much smaller. This reduced ability is a result of funding deficiencies that also result in a lack of spare parts, fewer flying hours, and compromised modernization programs.”

According to AEI, budget contractions have resulted in the current Air Force’s dubious honor of being the smallest and oldest in its history…as F-15/F-16 retirements outpace F-35 production. Another recent RAND war game showed it would require more fighter air wings than the Air Force currently fields in total to defeat a surge of Chinese aircraft over Taiwan.

Marine Corps: The USMC needs 36 battalions; it has only 24. It’s rated as weak in capacity marginal in capability and readiness. “The Corps continues to deal with readiness challenges driven by the combined effects of high operational tempo and low levels of funding. At times during 2016, less than one-third of its F/A-18s, a little more than a quarter of its heavy-lift helicopters, and only 43 percent of its overall aviation fleet were available for operational employment. Pilots not already in a deployed status were getting less than half of needed flight hours. The Corps’ modernization programs are generally in good shape, but it will take several years for the new equipment to be produced and fielded…the Corps has only two-thirds of the combat units that it actually needs, especially when accounting for expanded requirements that include cyber units and more crisis-response forces.”

The Nuclear Deterrent: [As the New York Analysis of Policy and Government has previously noted, Russia, for the first time in history, leads the world in nuclear weaponry.] The American nuclear arsenal is rated as weak in warhead modernization, delivery system modernization, and nuclear weapons complex, and marginal in readiness  and lab talent  It is only ranked strong in warhead surety and delivery reliability.  “Modernization, testing, and investment in intellectual and talent underpinnings continue to be the chief problems facing America’s nuclear enterprise. Delivery platforms are good, but the force depends on a very limited set of weapons (in number of designs) and models that are quite old, in stark contrast to the aggressive programs of competitor states. Of growing concern is the “marginal” score for ‘Allied Assurance’ at a time when Russia has rattled its nuclear saber in a number of recent provocative exercises; China has been more aggressive in militarily pressing its claims to the South and East China Seas; North Korea is heavily investing in a submarine-launched ballistic missile capability; and Iran has achieved a nuclear deal with the West that effectively preserves its nuclear capabilities development program for the foreseeable future.”

The Report concludes tomorrow with a look at the industrial challenges to rebuilding the U.S. military. 

Crisis Level: America’s Dwindling Defense Capability

The New York Analysis begins a three part examination of the condition of the U.S. military at the end  of the Obama Administration.

Following eight years of reduced budgetary support for the U.S. military, at a time when threats have increased dramatically from Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and terrorists, the ability of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines to defend the nation has reached a near-crisis level.

The warning signs have been apparent for some time. In 2015, General Martin Dempsey, who was serving as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the U.S. military, noted that funding for the armed forces was at the “lower ragged edge” of what was necessary to keep the nation safe. The latest assessments of American strength confirm that the ability of the nation to protect itself is only marginal. Even more troubling, according to another report, is that the infrastructure necessary to rebuild the military to a more acceptable level is itself below par.

At the start of the current year, Senator John McCain   displayed consternation at the inadequate budget proposed by President Obama.  “…the Senate Armed Services Committee received testimony from the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper who said that he cannot recall a more diverse array of challenges and crises in his more than fifty years of service to the nation…at a time when U.S. military deployments are increasing to confront growing global threats, the President’s budget request is actually less, in real dollars, than what Congress enacted last year…rather than request an increase in defense spending that reflects what our military really needs, the President’s request [will cut] important defense needs – cutting 15,000 current Army soldiers and 4,000 sailors, reducing major modernization programs, and proposing a pay increase for service members much lower than what is needed to compete with private sector wages.”

Contrary to popular misconception, the U.S. defense budget, notes the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, is a relatively small percentage of the federal budget, and a minor part of America’s GDP. “…the FY 2017 Department of Defense budget [prepared as instructed by the Obama White House] … would be 3 percent of GDP, and 14.2 percent of overall federal spending. Overall, the share of defense spending as a percentage of GDP has declined steadily since the end of the Korean War. What makes the Obama drawdown of the Pentagon unique is that, unlike the aftermath of prior wars or the Cold War, the potential threat to the U.S. is rising, not diminishing.”

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) describes the state of U.S. defenses as “a force-planning construct that is woefully inadequate for the global and everyday demands of wartime and peacetime… Gone is any plan that foresees conflict taking longer than one year in duration or any contingency with a whiff of stability operations, long-term counterinsurgency or counter-insurrection, or nation building of the type seen in Iraq and Afghanistan… After six years of budget cuts and operational shifts, hard choices have in many cases turned into stupid or bad ones. Fewer resources and the lack of bipartisan consensus in favor of a strong defense have forced commanders and planners across services to accept previously unthinkable risks as they pick and choose which portions of the national defense strategy to implement… Unmentioned is that the risk to the force grows each passing year. It is now at crisis levels and promises unnecessarily longer wars, higher numbers of wounded or killed in action, and outright potential for mission failure.”

Defense One  notes that it’s not just manpower and hardware that’s the problem. America is losing its lead in technology as well.  “The Pentagon is worried that rivals are developing their capabilities faster than the U.S. is rolling out new ones. The edge is shrinking.”

The Heritage Foundation’s report on U.S. military strength presents a worrisome picture of an understrength military. “The common theme across the services and the U.S. nuclear enterprise is one of force degradation resulting from many years of underinvestment, poor execution of modernization programs, and the negative effects of budget sequestration (cuts in funding) on readiness and capacity. While the military has been heavily engaged in operations, primarily in the Middle East but elsewhere as well, since September 11, 2001, experience is both ephemeral and context-sensitive. Valuable combat experience is lost over time as the service members who individually gained experience leave the force, and it maintains direct relevance only for future operations of a similar type (e.g., counterinsurgency operations in Iraq are fundamentally different from major conventional operations against a state like Iran or China). Thus, although the current Joint Force is experienced in some types of operations, it is still aged and shrinking in its capacity for operations.”

Tomorrow: The report breaks down the needs of each armed service branch. 

Defense Budget, Part 2

The New York Analysis concludes its review of defense spending. 

Russia has roared back to the military spending practices of the Soviet Union. The National Interest  reports “Russia is now engaged in its largest military buildup since the collapse of the Soviet Union more than two decades ago, with major increases in defense spending budgeted each year to 2020. Putin has pushed for this program even over the objections of some within the Kremlin who worried about costs and the possible negative impact on Russian prosperity; opposition to the expansion of military spending was one of the reasons the long-serving Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin left the cabinet several years ago… Perusing budget reports and position papers, Russian plans—spearheaded by the Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Dmitry Rogozin, the deputy prime minister in charge of the defense industry—certainly look impressive—and ominous… If all goes according to plan, the Russian military, by 2020, will return to a million active-duty personnel, backed up by 2300 new tanks, some 1200 new helicopters and planes, with a navy fielding fifty new surface ships and twenty-eight submarines, with one hundred new satellites designed to augment Russia’s communications, command and control capabilities. Putin has committed to spending billions over the next decade to fulfill these requirements.”

Those opposing substantial investment in America’s military often cite figures showing that the U.S. spends far more than other nations. But the comparison is faulty. Nations such as North Korea, Iran, and China do not post reliable figures to begin with, and those that are posted reflect a command economy that can insist that the price of goods, services and labor are forcefully suppressed by an oppressive government.

In the current Presidential campaign, it would seem that this is an issue focused on largely by Republicans and conservatives, and to an extent this is true, as Trump has made it a signature issue while Clinton focuses more on social spending.

The Democrat’s continued push for reduced military funding has led to extraordinary opposition from retired military leaders. The New York Times recently printed an open letter from a vast array of generals and admirals which warned:

“The 2016 election affords the American people an urgently needed opportunity to make a long-overdue course correction in our national security posture and policy. As retired senior leaders of America’s military, we believe that such a change can only be made by someone who has not been deeply involved with, and substantially responsible for, the hollowing out of our military and the burgeoning threats facing our country around the world. For this reason, we support Donald Trump’s candidacy to be our next Commander-in-Chief. For the past eight years, America’s armed forces have been subjected to a series of ill-considered and debilitating budget cuts, policy choices and combat operations that have left the superb men and women in uniform less capable of performing their vital missions in the future than we require them to be. Simultaneously, enemies of this country have been emboldened, sensing weakness and irresolution in Washington and opportunities for aggression at our expense and that of other freedom-loving nations. In our professional judgment, the combined effect is potentially extremely perilous. That is especially the case if our government persists in the practices that have brought us to this present pass. For this reason, we support Donald Trump and his commitment to rebuild our military, to secure our borders, to defeat our Islamic supremacist adversaries and restore law and order domestically. We urge our fellow Americans to do the same.”

However, a small but growing number of sources traditionally thought of as liberal are slowly beginning to realize the danger.

An article in the left-leaning publication Slate notes: “The world is a dangerous place, but it is far less dangerous than it would be in the absence of a uniquely powerful United States. The technologies that have propelled America’s military dominance over the past few decades have grown cheaper and more widespread, and they’ve increasingly fallen into the hands of America’s enemies. If history is any guide, the U.S. will allow its military edge to deteriorate until some rival power delivers its military a humiliating blow, at which point Americans will be forced to scramble to reverse course, under highly unfavorable circumstances. We have it in our power to do things differently—to deter threats before they arise, and to help ensure that the world won’t descend into the great power rivalry that gave us World War I and II. Those who say that we can’t afford to spend more on our military have it backward: We can’t afford not to invest in the peace and security that are the product of U.S. global leadership, and on which billions of people around the world depend…”

Obama Wants Inadequate Defense Budget

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government

begins a two-part review of  defense spending. 

Amidst debate among the presidential contenders over the status of the U.S. military, the 2017 defense budget proposed by the White House continues the worrisome practice of cutting not fat, but actual muscle from the already sharply diminished American armed forces.

As noted by CSBA, “In constant dollars, [Obama’s 2017 defense budget] is a reduction of approximately 1.3 percent from last year’s appropriation…the rate of the drawdown between FY 2010 and FY 2015 has been faster than any other post-war drawdown since the Korean War at a compound annual …rate of [negative] 5.5 percent. [defense spending  now] represents a historically low percentage of gross domestic product (GDP). Including war funding, the FY 2017 DoD budget [prepared as instructed by the White House] request … would be 3 percent of GDP, and 14.2 percent of overall federal spending. Overall, the share of defense spending as a percentage of GDP has declined steadily since the end of the Korean War.

What makes the Obama drawdown of the Pentagon unique is that, unlike the aftermath of prior wars or the Cold War, the potential threat to the U.S. is rising, not diminishing.  Further, the armed forces are already sharply cut from the post-Cold War reductions, best symbolized by the Navy’s reduction from nearly 600 ships to less than 274. The Air Force’s fleet of planes is the smallest and oldest it has ever been, and the Army is a shadow of its former strength.

The strain is evident throughout the services. McClatchy reports that “The U.S. Air Force faces a shortfall of 700 fighter pilots by the end of the year and as many as 1,000 pilots within a few years.”Townhall notes that “The U.S. Army has shrunk to the smallest level since before World War II.”

The military newspapers Stars and Stripes reports that retiring U.S. European Command’s {EUCOM] “Gen. Philip Breedlove says the military ‘needs to get back to the business of war planning, a skill lost during the post-Cold War era and one needed again in the face of a resurgent Russia. I am very sure about how EUCOM needs to change This headquarters shrank and changed from a war-fighting headquarters to a building-partnership-capacity, engagement kind of headquarters. This headquarters needs to be a warfighting headquarters.’ …EUCOM headquarters that over the years has shrunk in size — it is the second-smallest of all combatant commands — even as the Pentagon attempts to boost its presence along NATO’s eastern edge.’ Breedlove said more work needs to be done to lift EUCOM out of its post-Cold War mindset…[it] is a ‘mere fraction’ of what it was a generation ago…Dealing with Russia’s formidable capabilities around the Baltics, where NATO is outmanned and outgunned, is one obstacle allies will need to prepare for…”

The Daily Signal notes that “The Marines are pulling aircraft parts out of museums. The Air Force is cannibalizing planes to keep other planes flying. Three quarters of Navy F-18 fighter aircraft are not ready for combat. The U.S. military today is getting smaller and is struggling to train its people and maintain its equipment due to a combination of high demand and a 25 percent cut to its budget. While we don’t yet know all the details of the recent military plane crashes and the Fort Hood tragedy, we do know that serious and fatal accidents are on the rise. While accidents always happen, senior military leaders believe the rise in the overall rate of serious accidents is due to the lack of funding for training and maintenance.”

The Heritage Foundation notes that “Years of budget cuts have resulted in a smaller and weaker military. The Heritage Foundation’s 2016 Index of U.S. Military Strength graded the U.S. military’s capability, capacity, and readiness and found that as a whole it is only ‘marginal.’ In fact, both the Army and the Air Force dropped in their rating from the previous year due to capacity and readiness cuts. In short, our military today is not able to adequately provide for America’s national security needs.”

According to Affluent Investor,  “America’s defense budget [is] shrinking of late, and China’s is continuing to expand…China’s defense budget for 2015 was twice and a half the size of a decade earlier…Meanwhile, NATO’s total military spend is starting to shrink. …NATO’s share has continued to fall precipitously….With most member failing to live up to their commitment to spend 2% of their GDP on defense, it is likely that, from this year onwards and for the first time in many decades, the rest of the world will spend more on the military than NATO.”

China has more submarines than the U.S. Navy, and will, by 2020, have a larger fleet. The technology fielded by Beijing ranks with the world’s best.