Military commanders are lining up to tell Congress they don’t have enough resources to accomplish their many missions as ongoing defense budget cuts catch up to those in uniform and hinder mission success.
President Obama committed roughly 150 U.S. military forces to help fight the Lord’s Resistance Army last year. The problem is that the commander of U.S. Africa Command told the Senate last week he needs more assets to succeed. Using carefully-crafted language to say the military is under-resourced to do its job in Africa, General Carter Ham said that meeting his intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance requirements “continues to be a challenge.”
This comes on the heels of another U.S. commander telling Congress that he, too, does not have enough equipment to do his job. General Douglas Fraser, commander of U.S. Southern Command, described his situation equally delicately, telling politicians: “Do we have enough interceptor vessels? Right now, we do not. It’s really the capacity to intercept that we are really lacking.” Ships and aircraft typically used for counter-drug operations have been diverted to other commanders also competing for a shrinking pool of tools available around the world.
Commanders are now faced with a zero-sum outcome for forces and resources even though none of their missions have decreased in scope or number. General Dennis Hejlik, commander of Marine Corps Forces Command, recently told Inside Defense that the U.S. Marine Corps “have about 1,700 requirements for general forces and can only fill about 700 to 1,000 of them.”
Even traditional Navy and Coast Guard responsibilities to break Antarctic sea ice to escort supplies to a U.S. research center have increasingly been turned over to foreign nations due to shrinking fleets in both services. It was reported in Stars and Stripes that in January, the U.S. military relied on a “Russian icebreaker to deliver supplies to its main base in Antarctica thanks to continued problems with its own shrinking fleet of the cold-water vessels.”
This all comes as the Air Force — with shrinking lift assets just as surge forces are redeploying in great number out of Afghanistan and in heavy demand — just stood up two “new aircraft squadrons to support the Presidential travel needs during the campaign season.”
The last three years of defense budget and capability cuts are beginning to take their toll across the Armed Forces. It’s time for policymakers to man up about the fact that the missions heaped upon the military are growing as they pour resources into handouts for bad mortgages, unemployment and other entitlements. Those who pay most dearly wear the uniform. They will not be able to keep it up much longer. And we won’t be the America we think we are anymore.