Huntsville Defense Conference: Concerns over the Budget and Military Readiness

Michaela Dodge /

This year, The Heritage Foundation participates again in the 15th annual Space and Missile Defense Conference in Huntsville, Alabama.

After the first official day, it is clear that many of the participants from the defense industry, as well as private citizens, share concerns about impacts of sequestration, which would slash about half a trillion dollars from the defense budget over the next nine years.

Defense would bear as much as 43 percent of total sequestration cuts, even though it makes up only about 11 percent of total federal spending. This is in addition to about $407 billion in cuts resulting from the spending caps mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

While it is clear that the country is on unsustainable fiscal path, the defense budget has not led to the country’s current dire fiscal situation. Mandatory spending—driven by Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—is driving annual deficits and the debt despite the fact that these entitlement programs are not even a part of the annual budget process; instead, they run on spending autopilot.

Across the military, readiness issues are already apparent. Air Force fighter jets are generations apart from the pilots flying them. The Navy deploys ships that are barely able to sail. Members of the Army have had to tape body armor to their SUVs because they are not properly protected.

Ballistic missile defense has already taken a hard hit under the Obama Administration. Not only is it not properly funded, but the Administration canceled some of the most promising programs, such as the Airborne Laser and the Multiple Kill Vehicle. These cuts have impacted second- and third-tier contractors across the country.

As the conference in Huntsville makes apparent, many small companies work on innovative solutions to advance U.S. and allied missile defense programs and keep pace with today’s complex challenges. Their work includes everything from software to solutions for situational awareness, unmanned systems, and missile defense test solutions. These companies, often working in partnerships with their larger counterparts or the government, give the U.S. a technological edge that helps it maintain the best defense capability in the world. These companies, however, will be hit hardest if Congress and the President allow sequestration to take effect.

It is an honor for us to be a part of the Space and Missile Defense Conference in Huntsville. It is clear that American people are interested in fixing the country’s fiscal situation and put the country on a path to prosperity. The Heritage Foundation’s Saving the American Dream Plan offers the opportunity to do just that. It is time for Congress to act.