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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

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

Defense budget cut again

Congress and the President appeared to have reached an agreement  on the 2016 defense budget. According to our preliminary calculations, the fiscal year 2016 budget is at a near-historic low, representing about 14 percent of total federal discretionary and nondiscretionary outlays. The 2016 defense budget is $177 billion lower than its 2010 counterpart.

According to a report just filed by Defense News , the 2016 defense bill has been slashed  by $5 billion to comply with the budget deal between Congress and the president, including $2.6 billion in “adjustments” to acquisition programs. The total package now comes in at $607 billion, down from the original $612 billion for the 2016 fiscal year.

Breaking Defense outlined the cuts, which run the gamut from mundane items such as fuel purchases to yet another blow to America’s shrunken navy, and cost-cutting on strategic weapons programs as well as on force readiness.  Research into new weapons appears also to have taken a hit.

The cuts come at a time when spending by Russia and China has increased dramatically, and increased threats are presented by Iran, North Korea, and terrorist organizations. Russia has, for the first time, a lead over the U.S. in strategic nuclear weapons, and a ten to one advantage in tactical nuclear weapons.  China already has more submarines than the U.S. Navy, and will have a larger force overall within five years. Beijing also has sophisticated anti-ship missiles that America does not, and which the American fleet has no defense against.

The cuts continue the dramatic shrinking of America’s armed forces, which are barely at a shadow of the strength possessed as recently as 1990. The Navy is the smallest it has been since before World War 1, the army, which by the end of the year will be smaller than North Korea’s, is the smallest it has been since before World War 2, and the Air Force is the smallest it has ever been.  In the past, the drastic cuts were attributed to the downfall of the USSR, but under Putin, Russia has returned to cold war strength.  China has become a major superpower. North Korea possess nuclear weapons and will soon mount them on missiles that can reach the U.S.  Terrorist groups control more territory, money and influence than ever. Russia, China, and terrorist organizations have become active in Latin America.

The qualitative difference between American armed forces and those of its adversaries has evaporated. Both China and Russia possess weapons every bit as sophisticated as those in the U.S. arsenal.  A substantial percentage of American weaponry is worn down from decades of fighting in the Middle East and Afghanistan.  The human effect of prolonged deployments weighs heavily on the readiness of U.S. forces, as well.

A total of $690 million in cuts to the Air Force long range bomber program is illustrative of how U.S. forces are being challenged by antiquated equipment. Currently, the Air Force only has 20 truly modern bombers.   It should be remembered that the B-52’s are so old, the grandfathers of some of today’s pilots flew the very same aircraft—not the same model, the very same plane- their grandchildren now occupy. The B-1 program of the 1970’s was cancelled before many were built, and the Reagan-era  B-2 purchase was slashed from over 100 to the current 20.

A unique feature of the 2016 defense appropriations was the threatened veto by President Obama over the Guantanamo Bay issue.  The White House has threatened to veto the defense appropriations bill if Congress didn’t submit to his plans to close the on-site prison that houses terrorists, some of whom have been released and now again engage in terrorist activities. This marks the very first time that any President has used his veto power over a defense bill on an issue that has nothing to do with defense spending. It is an indication of the lack of importance the current White House attaches to national security.

The Navy has received the fewest cuts.  While there has been very little coverage in the media about the shrinking American armed forces, China’s aggressive maritime policy and the spectacular growth of its navy, which will be larger than America’s within five years (and currently has more submarines) and its advanced weaponry (including the DF-21 missile, with technology the U.S. hasn’t yet attained) has made the public conscious of the growing threat.  However, the American Navy remains at a dangerously low level, down from 600 ships in 1990 to the current 254, and there is nothing in the new budget that demonstrates any determination to return to a safe level.

 

Obama’s dangerous experiment in sharp military cuts endangers U.S.

The Obama Administration’s dangerous experiment to determine whether aggressive states such as Russia, China, Iran and North Korea would respond positively to a diminished U.S. military and a reduced worldwide presence has been a failure.

Russia and China have engaged in a vast, dramatic arms buildup of both their conventional and strategic nuclear forces. Both have developed aggressive postures, including invasions of neighboring nations (Russia in Ukraine, China in the offshore exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.) North Korea has accelerated its nuclear program, and Iran continues to advance its armed forces and supported terrorist activities.  Non-state actors, such as ISIS, have risen to previously unimagined strength.

While all this has been occurring, the Obama Administration has refused to change its deeply flawed and risky course. The American military, already sharply reduced from its 1990 Cold War levels, has been forced to further shrink and deteriorate. The proposed 2016 defense budget is smaller than its 2009 counterpart, when Mr. Obama first took office, and will result in further cuts.

The National Interest notes that “The announcement that the U.S. Army is to lose 40,000 troops and 17,000 civilian employees by 2017 has taken some by surprise. Although it has long been known that the Obama administration was to pursue reductions in the size of the military in line with sequestration, the timing by which those economies are to take place is causing some controversy—especially in light of ongoing events in the Middle East and Europe…they are yet more evidence of a macro-level acceptance by America’s political elite that the country’s global supremacy should be allowed to dwindle—particularly in military terms. By countenancing the strictures of sequestration instead of trying to find a bipartisan escape from mandated cuts, the U.S. political class has effectively acquiesced in a winnowing away of the country’s military supremacy, come rain or shine…

“ Under current spending plans, projections are that the Army will drop to around 420,000 active troops—a size that military planners warn would jeopardize the military’s ability to effectively deploy to multiple war zones at any one time. Not only would this number be a far cry from the circa 566,000 troop–level seen at the height of Iraq and Afghanistan, but it would double-down on the Pentagon’s previous repudiation of a decades-old mantra that the United States ought to be able to fight multiple land wars simultaneously. Under President Kennedy, the military was supposed to be capable of waging two-and-a-half full-scale wars at one time. In the 1980s, Casper Weinberger even articulated plans for a three-and-a-half war strategy. But in 2010, Robert Gates announced that the United States would no longer even prepare to fight two wars simultaneously, preferring instead to organize itself for nontraditional threats like cybersecurity and terrorism.

In a review on the state of the U.S. military, the American Enterprise Institute  notes:

“Even though the number and severity of threats to the United States continues to expand, the US military is only getting smaller. In the 1990s, the US prematurely dismantled the force that helped it win the Cold War. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the size of the US Air Force and US Navy continued to decline, while the size of the US Army rose temporarily before contracting just as sharply… As he prepared to leave office, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno warned that the Army is now “dangerously close” to the point where it can no longer serve as an effective deterrent against foreign aggression…The National Defense Panel rightly warns that the quality of military platforms is no substitute for sufficient quantity. Potential US adversaries are also improving the quality of their forces, in some cases more rapidly than we are.

“The combat Air Force is too small to ensure American air superiority. [It is] is stuck with 20th-century aircraft.

The Navy is too small to maintain presence in the Pacific, Persian Gulf, and Mediterranean…[It] cannot keep up with missile defense demand…The US Navy has a “carrier gap” in the Western Pacific…it is an 11 carrier navy in a 15 carrier world.”

“Since 2011, the Army has cancelled 21 programs, delayed 125 and restructured 124 . . . [as] procurement funding dropped from $21.3 billion to $13.5 billion. The Army is not ready to respond to large crises. Readiness has been degraded to its lowest level in 20 years. . . . Today we only have 33% of our brigades ready to the extent we would expect them to be if asked to fight.”

“American power has slowly but surely atrophied relative to the burgeoning threats that confront the United States. Seemingly attractive short-term defense cuts carried long-term costs, not only in monetary terms, but also in proliferating risk to American national interests. Military spending has fallen since 1991 by every metric—as a percentage of GDP, as a percentage of the federal budget, and in real terms—even as a declining share of the Pentagon budget funds combat-related activities.”

The diminished American military now faces the most formidable threat in U.S. history, as the Russian, Chinese, and Iranian militaries train together and share, in many cases, common goals.

Unprecedented Reductions to National Security

Although Republicans have added dollars to the President’s defense budget proposal,it still represents a 2016 defense  budget that has been slashed by over $100 billion under his administration.

It comes at a time when Russia has dramatically ramped up its military spending, for both conventional and nuclear weapons.  Indeed, Moscow, for the first time in history, now leads America in strategic nuclear weapons, and maintains a ten to one advantage in tactical nuclear weapons. It has returned to cold war bases, including those in the Western Hemisphere.

Additionally, China has become a military superpower, equalling American technology on land, sea, and space, and with growing numbers.

Asymmetric challenges from terrorists and the growing military power of Iran and North Korea add to the threat level.

Contrary to popular belief, only about one-sixth of  federal spending is military related. As noted by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities  “18 percent of the budget, or $615 billion, paid for defense and security-related international activities. The bulk of the spending in this category reflects the underlying costs of the Defense Department. The total also includes the cost of supporting operations in Afghanistan and other related activities, described as Overseas Contingency Operations in the budget, funding for which totaled $92 billion in 2014.”

Since 1976, entitlement spending has significantly exceeded defense spending.

Those seeking to reduce the defense budget, despite the threats, maintain that the U.S. spends more than its adversaries.   However, the comparison is inaccurate. As a democracy with an open press, American defense spending is widely and fairly accurately reported.  In nations such as Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, the publicly stated military budgets substantially understate actual spending. In China, for example, the People’s Liberation Army receives vast sums from profits from interests it holds in allegedly private companies.

Comparative cost factors also come into play. The Council on Foreign Relations  notes that “If military budgets were compared in a way that reflected varying personnel costs, U.S. military preeminence would appear smaller than it does using straightforward comparisons based on market exchange rates.”

As the nuclear threat to the American homeland has increased dramatically, programs to protect from an atomic assault have been cut or eliminated.  According to the Heritage Foundation, “President Obama has cancelled some of the most promising missile defense programs, including the Multiple Kill Airborne Laser, and Kinetic Energy Interceptor…the Administration cancelled  the SM-3 Block IIB interceptor that was supposed to protect the U.S. from a long range ballistic missile threat…”

Defense spending should be grounded on real need based on the actual threat level, not on competing political considerations or ideology. Unfortunately, that is not how the current White House has proceeded.

The President’s flawed defense policy, and Republican complicity

As the President enters into his seventh federal budget era, it is clear that his defense policy can be summarized in a single concept: drain as much funding from national security as possible in order to continue to provide more dollars for his greatly expanded entitlement programs.

To accomplish its goal, the White House has essentially surrendered the safety both of the United States and its allies. Several examples:

  • Budget cuts forced the departure of experienced armed forces personnel,
  • The U.S. Army will soon be reduced to levels below that of North Korea,
  • the U.S. Navy is dwindling from a global defense force to one that is rapidly becoming a mere regional power, (for the first time since WWII ended, no U.S. aircraft carrier is available for regular patrol in the East Pacific.)
  • missile defense programs were cancelled or delayed,
  • key allies have been or are in the process of being alienated,
  • American tanks were withdrawn from Europe,
  • a treaty was signed allowing Russia to gain or retain strategic and conventional nuclear superiority,
  • While every other atomic weapons-bearing nation has modernized extensively, only belated and inadequate updates have been planned for the U.S. nuclear deterrent.

As noted in recent budget hearings, the Pentagon’s 10-year budget projections have absorbed more than $750 billion in cuts, or more than three-quarters of the trillion-dollar cuts that would be required if sequestration is allowed to run its course. The fiscal year 2016 budget is at a near-historic low, representing about 14 percent of total federal discretionary and nondiscretionary outlays.

The results have been staggeringly dangerous. Moscow has entered into a new era of expansionism, not just in beginning the process of reconstituting the Soviet Empire but in rapidly moving into Latin America, as well as threatening NATO members in Europe.  It has embarked on a vast and costly program to make its armed forces the most modern and best equipped in the world.

China’s unprecedented military buildup and U.S. timidity combined to allow Beijing to steal resources from the Philippines and assert flawed territorial claims against almost all of its neighbors.

North Korea has expanded its nuclear prowess into a force that can threaten any spot on the planet, and Iran is poised to become the dominant power in the Middle East.

The White House’s lessening of sanctions against its nuclear program remains a text-book example of how not to succeed in negotiations. Terrorist forces are moving confidently into Africa. The premature withdrawal from Iraq led directly to the conditions allowing ISIS to flourish, and the impending withdrawal from Afghanistan may lead that region to a similar fate. The U.S. didn’t even respond with force when its own ambassador was assassinated in Benghazi.

Traditionally, Republicans have served to check the impulse of the hard left to divert excessive funds from defense to social welfare programs.  However, despite words of bluster, the Republican leadership continues to adhere to the sequester, which, in response to budget deficits that are largely the results of excessive entitlement spending, slices all programs indiscriminately. They have failed to respond effectively, either by legislation, budgetary means, or public statements to the reckless disregard for national security evidenced by the Obama Administration.  The revolt of several Republican potential presidential candidates may be a long-overdue reality check for the GOP brass.