America’s military doesn’t have enough money to do its job – foreign policy

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Sherlock Holmes once solved the mystery of a missing racehorse by discovering “the strange incident of the dog that night”. But a Scotland Yard detective objected, “The dog did nothing at night.” Holmes’ laconic answer: “That was the strange incident. “

Today in Washington the dog that doesn’t bark is the defense budget. It is the biggest topic that no one – at least no one outside of the defense community – is talking about.

Sherlock Holmes once solved the mystery of a missing racehorse by discovering “the strange incident of the dog that night”. But a Scotland Yard detective objected, “The dog did nothing at night.” Holmes’ laconic answer: “That was the strange incident. “

Today in Washington the dog that doesn’t bark is the defense budget. It is the biggest topic that no one – at least no one outside of the defense community – is talking about.

There are many warning signs that the defense budget is too small to meet United States global commitments and that military readiness is suffering from dangerous consequences. Back in June, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee that after returning to the military after four years of retirement, he was “shocked by what I saw with our combat readiness.”

What shocks a hardened warrior like Mattis? Defense analyst Dan Goure notes, “The Army has only three brigades of more than 50 fully-manned, equipped and trained combat teams for major conflicts…. Due to a lack of spare parts and inadequate maintenance costs, only about half of the front-line fighters in the Navy and Marine Corps are currently available for combat. In addition, the Air Force is missing around 1,000 pilots, although their size has shrunk significantly in the last ten years. “

In spite of these shortcomings, the “speed of action” of the military, especially the navy, the air force and the special forces, remains high. The Navy’s fleet has been reduced from 594 ships in 1987 to just 278 today, but it still has roughly the same number of ships operating outside of home waters. That means the crews have to work at a hectic pace; Naval expert Seth Cropsey of the Hudson Institute says it is common for seafarers to work 100-hour weeks.

It is believed that this punishing pace of operation contributed to two terrible accidents that destroyers suffered this summer – both the USS John S. McCain and USS Fitzgerald collided with merchant ships and killed a total of 17 sailors. The gap in the ship is only exacerbated by these collisions, with the Fitzgerald likely to be out of service for more than a year. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer says, “We hit way over our weight and possibly robbed Peter to pay Paul to do our missions, and now the bills are coming home.”

The Marine Corps also pays a terrible price for lack of defense funds. According to data from Break defense, “In the past six years, aircraft accidents have killed 62 Marines, compared to just 10 employees in the much larger Navy.” Fatal accidents include the crash of an MV-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft in August, killing three people, and a KC-130T transport aircraft in July, killing 16 people. The problem is that the Marine Corps has aging aircraft like AV. flies -8 Harrier Jump Jets (entered service in 1985), early models of the F / A-18 Hornet (1984) and the CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters (1981). The money just isn’t there to quickly retire these aging aircraft with newer models like the F-35.

Overall, the Heritage Foundation found in its 2018 Index of US Military Strength that “the military stance of the United States is classified as ‘marginal’ and tends towards ‘weak'”. Navy and Air Force as “marginal”. The military had to abandon its historic post-1945 obligation to wage two major wars at the same time – that is simply beyond its current capabilities.

These trends are all the more alarming when we see America’s rivals – including Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea – building their arsenals quickly. Russia has recovered from its low point in the 1990s and is increasingly deploying professional armed forces armed with high-tech weapons that enable Vladimir Putin to project his power as far as Syria. China, meanwhile, is building planes, missiles, submarines and even aircraft carriers to tip the balance of power in the western Pacific in its favor. Both Russia and China are now deploying ultra-quiet diesel submarines, which are difficult for the US Navy to detect.

These are dangerous developments that threaten to unravel the Pax Americana after 1945, leaving the United States and its allies vulnerable to aggression. The problem is widely recognized in both Congress and the Trump administration, yet it is unlikely that anything will be done about it.

During last year’s campaign, Donald Trump pledged more defense spending to increase the army from a planned final strength of 450,000 on active duty to 540,000; the Marine Corps from 24 to 36 infantry battalions; the Navy from 278 combat ships to 350; and the Air Force from 915 combat-ready fighters to 1,200. These are good goals. But the defense budget the Trump administration released in March does not come close to meeting those commitments.

Trump proposes increasing the core defense budget (excluding war costs) by $ 54 billion, or 10 percent. While the president boasts that this is “one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history,” it is actually only the 16th.NS– largest increase since 1977. And it is completely insufficient for the size of the challenge. Given the limited capacity of US shipyards, it would take 18 years to build a 350-ship navy at the rate of four new ships a year. The Trump defense budget is funding only one or possibly two new ships for 2017-2018.

The Senate and House of Representatives recognized the deficit and just approved a $ 700 billion defense budget – a significant increase from Trump’s $ 603 billion. So problem solved, right? Not correct. This is just a “permit” law and its passage is largely symbolic. The real money for the Pentagon has to come from grant bills, and the appropriators are unlikely to be so generous because they have competing priorities. Republicans want tax cuts; the tax bill passed by the House of Representatives last week would add $ 1.7 trillion to already large budget deficits and crowd out defense spending. Democrats don’t like the tax cuts, but most of them want more budget spending, not defense spending. While there are defense hawks on both sides of the aisle, none of the factions ultimately prioritizes defense spending over other ideological commitments.

And neither does the Trump administration. Note that the President – who has plenty of time to judge the NFL, the “fake media”, Jimmy Kimmel, the Mayor of San Juan, Hillary Clinton, Gold Star families, “Little Rocket Man”, “Al Frankenstein” and other favorite targets – has absolutely nothing to say about defense spending. It’s just not a priority for him or his helpers. Even Defense Minister Mattis, who advocates more defense spending, hasn’t made it a single-minded priority like Caspar Weinberger did in the 1980s.

Back in the Reagan administration, the president resolved the debate between Weinberger and Budget Director David Stockman in a decisive way in favor of the Pentagon. Today, the popular belief is that Budget Director Mick Mulvaney is more in charge than Mattis. Mattis is likely distracted simply by preventing Trump from starting World War III and having little energy to spend on budget fights. In any case, he is a warrior by nature and experience, not an accountant.

The result of the bipartisan, bicameral lack of urgency is that the Pentagon is being funded through a three-month “rolling resolution” passed in early September and expiring in early December. Indeed, there is a real danger that by then the congressional leaders will disagree on a budget and simply pass another rolling resolution, although the military complains that doing so makes long-term planning or budgeting impossible. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), The senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, rightly called this “damn stupid” and called it a “marginal flaw in the law”.

However, with the presidential leadership on this issue (or anyone else) effectively AWOL, there is little chance of solving the defense problem. Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), Chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, said, “We are playing with the lives of the best of us and now we see the cost – the tragic but predictable cost of an overworked, stressed force with aging equipment and not enough of that. ”The gambling will continue, with the losers being the men and women in uniform who have vowed to protect the United States.

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