Friday, November 20, 2015

Something Must Be Done

Trigger warning: if you love this country and support our military, reading the following story will depress and/or enrage you.
“Today’s global security environment is the most unpredictable I have seen in 40 years of service,” Gen. Martin Dempsey reported just before he left his post as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “Global disorder has significantly increased while some of our comparative military advantage has begun to erode.”
That’s putting it mildly, as a quick scan of the globe reveals. The Middle East is on fire, with the Islamic State’s jihadist army erasing the Iraq-Syria border; the Assad regime reopening the Pandora’s Box of chemical warfare; allies in Turkey, Iraqi Kurdistan, Jordan, Israel and Saudi Arabia scrambling for cover; and Iran, now ensconced as a nuclear-threshold state, emerging as regional hegemon. North Korea is refining its long-range nuclear-missile arsenal. China is claiming control over international airspace and waterways, turning coral reefs into instant islands to bolster its claims, and fielding a power-projecting military. Russia is staking claim to the resource-rich Arctic, dismembering and annexing sovereign neighbors, rebuilding its army and reasserting itself in the Middle East.
What's happening to our military?

A disappearing Air Force
Pressed by sequestration, the Air Force announced plans last year to eliminate 500 planes from its inventory. In 2013, the Air Force stood down 31 squadrons due to funding constraints. And Air Force leaders admit their pilots aren’t spending nearly enough time in the cockpit...
Moreover, the mainstays of today’s Air Force are rapidly aging....
An Army at Risk
... the Army’s active-duty end-strength has been slashed from a post-9/11 high of 570,000 soldiers to 490,000 today, and what’s projected to be 450,000 by 2018. By way of comparison, the Army’s active-duty force was 480,000 prior to the 9/11 attacks. Put another way, Washington is fielding a smaller Army today – in a time of war and instability – than on Sept. 10, 2001—a time of relative peace and calm.
A ride-along Marine Corps
Before retiring as Marine Corps commandant last year, Gen. Jim Amos noted that “we are beyond muscle” and will soon “cut into bone.” He wasn’t exaggerating.
The Marine Corps’ endstrength will fall to 182,000 by 2017 (down from 202,000). Half of the Marines’ fixed-wing fighters are out of commission, 62 percent of non-deployed Marine units “are missing some kind of necessary equipment,” and the Corps could soon have squadrons “without a single aircraft or pilot ready to deploy,” Marine Corps Times reports.
But the Marines are resourceful. Given that the Navy has only 30 amphibious ships to deliver Marines – but needs 38 – the Marine Corps is considering ride-along partnerships with the navies of Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom and other allies.
Think about that for a moment. The United States Marine Corps has been reduced to hitching rides with the navies of other nation. Have we really let ourselves sink that low?


A Navy in Need
At the height of President Reagan’s buildup, the Navy boasted 594 ships. When President Clinton dispatched two carrier battle groups to smother Beijing’s temper tantrum in the Taiwan Strait in 1995-1996, the fleet totaled 375 ships. Today’s fleet numbers 284 ships. Current recapitalization rates will not keep up with plans to retire ships, leading to “a Navy of 240-250 ships at best,” according to former Navy Secretary John Lehman. At that size, America’s fleet will equal what she deployed in 1915.These numbers aren’t even close to America’s maritime needs. “For us to meet what combatant commanders request,” according to former CNO Adm. Jonathan Greenert, “we need a Navy of 450 ships.”
 Quite a mess. So what can we do about it?
Ending sequestration would be a good start. Toward that end, Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., introduced a budget amendment proposing to replace current fiscal 2016 defense-spending projections with the projections proposed in 2012 for fiscal 2016...
I haven't made up my mind yet who I favor as the GOP presidential candidate, but Rubio just earned himself some points in my book.

Other thoughts:
Even if policymakers fail to end sequestration and fail to give America’s military the resources it needs, they could at least allocate DoD resources smarter. Citing a study from the Government Accountability Office, Real Clear Defense reports the Pentagon owns 30 million acres of real estate and some 500,000 structures, with a total value of $800 billion dollars. Yet the overall occupancy rate of Pentagon-owned structures is only 53 percent. Why not sell off these unused structures and tracts of land, and reinvest the proceeds in new military equipment, increased training and additional warfighters?
That's a one-time short term fix. We need a more permanent solution that will give our military the resources it needs to accomplish its missions. One of the problems with that are out of control entitlement programs.
Even though the Pentagon accounts for 17 percent of federal spending, it has been ordered to cough up half the budget savings mandated by sequestration, which led Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, to point out something too many policymakers fail to grasp: “The growth in the budget right now is in mandatory programs, and particularly in health care costs: Medicare, Medicaid, Children’s Health Program. That’s what’s driving the federal deficit. It’s not defense.”
I thought obamacare was supposed to reduce health care costs. Could it be that Barry was wrong...?

Something else to think about:
... U.S. active-duty end-strength never dropped below 2 million troops during the Cold War. As the Cold War melted away and the Soviet Union collapsed, endstrength understandably fell below the 2-million mark, hovering around 1.4 million in the first decade of the 2000s. But now, active-duty end-strength has dropped to 1.36 million – in a time of war. Remarkably, as the number of warfighters shrinks, the number of DoD civilian employees and contractors is rapidly rising. In fact, in what AEI’s Mackenzie Eaglen calls “a historic shift,” there are now more DoD civilians and contractors (1.474 million) than active-duty personnel (1.36 million).
We have dug ourselves a huge hole over the past seven years. I only hope we as a nation have enough wisdom and resolve to climb out of it, and avoid future holes. I am not, however, optimistic.


Randy said...

13 more months, maybe things will start to improve. I have to hold out some kind of hope.

Old NFO said...

Neither am I... And no way to reconstitute the Navy in any reasonable timeframe either...

Well Seasoned Fool said...

We are in the minority of citizens that clearly see the problem. The majority blissfully have their heads up their asses. I have no answer.

CenTexTim said...

Randy - hope is just about all we have left, after all that 'change' got crammed down our throats.

NFO - no way to reconstitute our entire military quickly if we, God forbid, ever need to.

WSF - our only hope is that they don't find their way to the voting booths for the next decade or two.