Tag Archives: Pentagon spending

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 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.