In an op-ed published by a military blog this week, a Marine veteran and defense policy expert accused former President Barack Obama of gutting the U.S. military through funding cuts and warned it could send the armed forces into a “death spiral” if it isn’t reversed soon.
In the piece on War on the Rocks, Dakota Wood, a Heritage Foundation senior research fellow for defense programs, argued that the crisis began in earnest after the Budget Control Act of 2011, which “was intended to incentivize the parties to reduce federal budget growth by legislating mandatory cuts so painful — to the country’s security, in particular — that the parties would find some compromise in their positions that would allow them to avoid such harsh consequences.”
There was no compromise, though, particularly from the Obama White House. And so, the problems began to mount.
“Unable to pay for the large force needed to sustain operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and a variety of commitments around the world, the military shrank in size but saw little reduction in its workload,” wrote Wood, who served for two decades in the Marine Corps.
“In fact, it started consuming itself, deferring maintenance and modernization to pay for current readiness and the immediate expenses of fuel, ammunition, and replacement of equipment lost in combat operations. As the fewer people, units, and equipment prematurely aged, the delayed arrival of replacement items worsened the material condition of the force, exacerbated further by the lack of funding for repair parts and maintenance personnel.
“The military is now in a death spiral: too small for its workload; underfunded to repair and replace the equipment it is rapidly wearing out; ill-served by obsolescent critical infrastructure at its ports, bases, and airfields, and increasingly unready for the rigors and scope of a major conventional conflict should the United States find itself drawn into one, which has happened every 20 years or so with frightful regularity since the Civil War,” Wood added.
And the statistics are damning.
“The U.S. Air Force is 24 percent short of the fighters it needs,” Wood noted. “It is also short 1,000 pilots and over 3,000 maintainers. Only four of its 32 combat-coded squadrons are ready to execute all wartime missions. Prior to 1991, the Air Force purchased more than 500 aircraft a year to offset platforms aging out of its inventory. Since then it has averaged fewer than 100 per year, and the operational tempo has only gotten worse.
“The Marine Corps ‘is insufficiently manned, trained and equipped across the depth of the force to operate in an ever-evolving operational environment,’ according to Gen. Glenn Walters, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps. Only 41 percent of the Corps’ aviation platforms are considered flyable,” he continued. Things are just as grim in the Navy, which only has two-thirds of the ships it had at the end of the Cold War.
Meanwhile, Wood states, enemies like China, Russia and North Korea are building up their militaries and dedicating a significant portion of their national resources on them. Thanks to cuts precipitated by his administration, Obama has put our military — and our nation — at risk.
President Donald Trump has often promised to reverse the trend in the atrophy of U.S. military might, but significant damage has already been done by the Obama administration — and our enemies are certainly making hay while the sun shines.
Death spirals in military prowess can be arrested, as Ronald Reagan proved. However, they can’t be halted without a significant amount of effort and money. The president may want to make America’s defenses great again, but whether he can assemble a coalition of lawmakers willing to take the steps that need to be taken is another question entirely.
H/T The Daily Caller
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