Tag Archives: NDAA

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.”

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.

Pentagon Budget Crisis

Note: As this issue went to press, it was revealed that President Obama is planning furthet unilateral cuts to the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Congress is putting the final touch on the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. hose concerned about the deterioration of the American military in the face of dramatically growing threats are hoping to at least stop further damage from the 2011 Budget Control Act.

According to the American Enterprise Institute “The [2011] law, now shaping the fourth of the ten budgets it is supposed to cover, is on track to reduce overall defense spending by about 20 percent…roughly a total of $1.5 trillion.” Further damage was done in 2013, when, thanks to a standoff between the White House and Congress, the law’s ‘sequestration’ provision came into effect…Sequestration accelerated the downward spiral in military readiness in ways that are now manifesting themselves. At one point, only 10 percent of the Army’s 40-plus active brigades—a total that has now been reduced to just 30 brigades—were fully read…The Navy had to extend ship deployments at the same time it was reducing its maintenance to just 57 percent of what was needed. The Air Force grounded 31 flying squadrons. At the same time, the Obama Administration worked to lock in the reduction in military capacity…”

Following the fall of the USSR, America dramatically scaled down its military. Unfortunately, the drop in the threat level justifying that reduction was only short-lived.

Russia has rebuilt its military into a more modern and effective force than ever, with a commanding lead over the U.S. in nuclear weapons. The National Interest notes that “Russian military modernization and the challenge it poses to the nation and the military has been publicly acknowledged at the most senior levels of the Department of Defense.”

China has used its vast financial resources and extraordinary espionage and cyber capabilities to eliminate America’s technological lead, and build a conventional force that will soon overtake the U.S.  Its navy, in particular, will be larger than America’s in just four years. The International Business Times reports “China and North Korea are growing as military powers as the United States struggles to maintain its influence in the Asia-Pacific region amid defense spending limits…Researchers at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which conducted the study for the U.S. Department of Defense, said the U.S. faces a tough task to secure its interests in the region.’ Chinese and North Korean actions are routinely challenging the credibility of U.S. security commitments, and at the current rate of U.S. capability development, the balance of military power in the region is shifting against the United States,’ the study said. ‘Robust funding is needed to implement the rebalance. Mandatory ‘sequestration’ budget cuts imposed across the government in 2011 have limited U.S. defense spending…”

During the Cold War, the U.S. faced one major foe: the Soviet Union.  Washington, with its NATO partners, was clearly the dominant military power.  Now, however, Russia, China, and Iran are intimately allied, with the U.S. as its prime target.  North Korea adds an additional and substantial concern, with the growing strength and sophistication of its nuclear arsenal.

In contrast, the NATO nations have allowed their militaries to substantially deteriorate.  The balance of power has clearly and substantially shifted against U.S. interests.

According to Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee “Unprecedented threats, uncertainty, and technological change, combined with a high-operational tempo and declining resources, have sharply eroded the readiness of our military…Our men and women in uniform face a mounting readiness crisis that increases the danger to their lives and inhibits America’s ability to respond effectively to a series of diverse and serious threats.”

  In an address to the Heritage Foundation, Thornberry  discussed one aspect of the growing crisis, America’s dwindling air power: “What’s happened over the last few years is that budget cuts coupled with deployments, at a pace and a number that have not really declined very much, have caused a readiness crisis in all the services…The Air Force is short 4,000 maintainers and more than 700 pilots today…In 2015 the Navy had a backlog of 11 planes in depot, next year in 17 they are going to have a backlog of 278…Less than one-third of the Army is ready to meet the requirements of the Defense Strategic Guidance, it’s supposed to be no less than two-thirds…Marine Corps aviation requires on average 10 hours of flight time a month and they are getting about .”

 The crisis on the ground matches that in the air. The Army Times  notes that the Army has been dramatically reduced. “The Army’s latest headcount shows that nearly 2,600 soldiers departed active service in March without being replaced, an action that plunges manning to its lowest level since before World War II. During the past year the size of the active force has been reduced by 16,548 soldiers, the rough equivalent of three brigades.”

Central Command chief General Lloyd Austin, in an interview with Presstv.com, reported “We are getting dangerously small.” He pointed out that troop reductions will leave the Army with a cut of more than 20 percent since 2012.

Real Clear Defense sums up the challenge: “In short, our military today is not able to adequately provide for America’s national security needs. Unfortunately, rebuilding America’s military strength is not as simple as increasing the budget for a year or two. Rebuilding a unit, buying new equipment, or increasing a unit’s readiness can take years… defense budget cuts have led to a significant decrease in military capabilities and readiness, as well as investment in future research and development. As Congress develops the NDAA, six principles should guide its Members’ work:

  • Restore cuts to capacity, particularly U.S. ground forces.
  • Prioritize readiness for all the services
  • Shift initiatives from the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account to the baseline defense budget.
  • Increase funding for updating nuclear weapons and missile defense systems.
  • Provide stability for modernization programs. Increase the national defense budget