Belton: Cuts in Military Spending Weaken our National Security

The U.S. Army’s ‘Cyber Center of Excellence’, Fort Gordon in Augusta, Ga., hosted a multi-service ‘NetWar’ to show, and build, cyber Warrior capabilities Tuesday, June 10. Twenty-eight Soldiers, Airmen, Navy and Marine Corps computer professionals comprised four teams representing the U.S. Army’s active, reserve and National Guard with one Joint-services team that included a U.S. Special Operations Command civilian. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tracy Smith)

How many of you would hop into a 1950 Buick, strap on a bunch of bombs and drive that 70-year-old car across the continent? Well, the Air Force does this every day, flying across vast oceans and barren continents.

Why is our Air Force flying such obsolete equipment? They have to use this equipment because of Washington’s inability to fund our military.

The statistics are stunning. The Army is the smallest it has been since before World War II. Experts report that 75 percent of the Army’s helicopters and 95 percent of its combat teams do not have enough equipment to deploy. They recently scrapped half of a dozen future weapon systems and shed 20 percent of its soldiers, all while increasing their deployments by 25 percent.

The Navy is the smallest it has been since before World War I – over a century ago. President Ronald Reagan had a 600-ship Navy, yet today, we have a 277-ship navy, which is less than half of Reagan’s Navy. The Navy only has 10 of its required 14 aircraft carriers, and half of their jets cannot fly. They are reportedly raiding museums for plane parts to get their planes in the air. The Marine Corps is even less equipped: 80 percent of their jets cannot fly and 62 percent of their troops are unable to deploy.

However, the Air Force has suffered the most. It is currently smaller than it has ever been in its history and its jets have never been older, but the Air Force is flying more missions than ever before. The Air Force has not received a new bomber in three decades, and only half of its force is ready to deploy. Experts predict that 88 percent of the Air Force’s aging bombers could not survive a mission in enemy territory.

“We have lost our advantage in key war-fighting areas,” said Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The results of these cuts can be measured in blood. It is hard to believe, but on-duty accidents are currently killing more of our warriors than ISIS, Al-Qaeda or the Taliban. Lack of training is literally more deadly than the enemy.

The numbers would be bad enough if we were not already in a war. It does not take a genius to know that we could soon be in conflict with Iran or North Korea. Worse, Russia is doubling its military spending and China is nearly tripling its military spending while U.S. commitment to the military is at a historic low.

“We are drawing down our Army…at a time when there is unprecedented uncertainty,” said retired Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno.

Why is this happening? The most pleasant answer is “Pax Americana.”

Ever since 1945, for more than seventy years, the world has been at relative peace. We have not seen a general war between any of the great nations. America and her allies miraculously won the Cold War without even firing a shot. How? Presidents from both sides of the aisle invested in the military: gross domestic product spending ranged from 41 percent in World War II to 15 percent during the Korean War to 10 percent during the Vietnam War.

“Pax Americana” was achieved through a simple philosophy that has saved millions of lives: “Peace through strength.” Because America has remained strong in its role as the lone superpower – and the noble sacrifices of our brave veterans who served in the limited wars we fought – the last half of the 20th century was one of the most peaceful times in all of history. This is in stark contrast to the first half of the 20th century – the bloodiest period ever – when over 100 million lives were lost.

Washington slashed military spending in what was called the “peace dividend” after the collapse of the Soviet Union. To be fair, the threat had changed dramatically because we were no longer pitted against the “Evil Empire,” but, since 9/11, we have been bogged down in a low-grade war, all while reducing our military spending to a century-low level of 3 percent of gross domestic product, which is where it remains now.

The real problem has been the trifecta disasters of the Budget Control Act, the never ceasing continuing resolutions (CRs) and sequestration.

“No enemy has done more to harm readiness than sequestration,” said Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

The situation was forecasted years ago when a chairman of the Joint Armed Forces noted that our debt is the most significant threat to our national security. In an effort to find bi-partisan savings, Washington responded to the colossal debt by slashing the military by $1 trillion. Worse, they continue to stymie military planners with their refusal to forecast future spending. It is hard to believe, Washington has only been able to able to pass budgets four times since 1977 without resorting to CRs. Constantly “kicking the can” has crippled the military, especially in terms of technology and training, as generals and admirals have to plan decades in advance to procure new weapon systems.

There is no doubt that President Donald Trump wants to increase military spending, but Washington’s inability to pass budgets, along with our national debt of $20 trillion, means that the military will continue to press hard for a new round of base closures in order to recapitalize old bases into new money. Many of the congressmen I have spoken to say that Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) will happen sooner than later.

American warfighters are the best in the world, but they are vastly fewer in number and enjoy far fewer technological advantages than they did just a decade ago. The result of cuts in military spending will mean a significant loss of U.S. lives in the event that America is tested in a near-peer conflict.

About the author

Dave Belton

Ga. Rep. Dave Belton, R-Buckhead, represents the citizens of District 112, which includes all of Morgan County and the eastern side of Newton County. He was elected into the House of Representatives in 2014, and currently serves as a member of the Economic Development & Tourism, Education, and Interstate Cooperation committees.