Tomorrow starts the 11th year that U.S. military forces will be fighting in Afghanistan. Even though President Obama twice “surged” U.S. troops on the ground there since taking office, he has been busy cutting military capabilities and dollars the entire time.
During his first two years in office, the President and Congress helped accelerate the reduction of America’s military technological advantages. Advanced equipment projects killed, delayed, or modified over the past three years include:
- F-22 fifth-generation tactical fighter,
- C-17 cargo aircraft,
- VH-71 helicopter,
- Combat search and rescue helicopter,
- DDG-1000 destroyer program,
- Next-generation cruiser,
- MPF-A large-deck aviation ship and its mobile landing platform,
- Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle,
- Future Combat Systems (networked combat vehicles),
- Next-generation rotary wing aircraft,
- Multiple Kill Vehicle program,
- Airborne Laser aircraft,
- Kinetic Energy Interceptor program,
- Space test bed for missile defense,
- European “third site” missile defenses (radar and interceptors),
- Military satellite constellations,
- U.S. ground-based midcourse interceptors from 44 to 30, and
- Extended production of the next aircraft carrier from four years to five.
Meanwhile, defense budgets have been falling and are set decline more steeply next year.
Bottom line? The U.S. military has already made significant “contributions to deficit reduction at a time when the rest of government has not,” as stated by Brookings’s Michael O’Hanlon.
Today, GOP contender Mitt Romney joined calls for a reversal of President Obama’s defense cuts and presented a plan to rebuild the U.S. military after ten years of war and ten years preceding that with a procurement holiday.
The military that has been responding with amazing resilience since 9/11 is skeletal compared to the force that started the 1990s. Between the fall of the Berlin Wall and 2001, the active-duty Army was cut from 18 divisions to 10. The Navy, which counted 568 ships in the late 1980s, struggles today to sustain a fleet of only 280. And the number of tactical air wings in the Air Force was reduced from 37 at the time of Desert Storm to 20 by the mid-1990s.
Washington has been busy robbing the future to pay for the present but now the jig is up. The U.S. military is facing a readiness crisis just as its budget is in free fall. Governor Romney proactively called out policymakers and presented a plan to reverse and rebuild. It’s time for others to do the same.