Battleland

Calls for Phantom Defense Cuts Must Stop

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Air Force photo

P-38s roll down Lockheed's Burbank, Calif., production line in World War II.

Fiscal restraint is en vogue and increasingly the cover many are using to push other agendas.  Republicans spent a week in Tampa monitoring America’s mounting national debt at their recent convention. Democrats included a call for “tough” spending cuts, especially to the military, as part of their official party platform. The document indicates “outdated Cold War-era systems” should be favored for the chopping block.

It’s time to retire for good the phrase “Cold War-era weapons systems” and the thinking that this is what comprises the vast majority of Pentagon spending.

Brookings’ Michael O’Hanlon said it best in a report on the subject last year:

Despite the claim of some defense budget cutters, few if any of the new systems can still be described as ‘Cold War legacy weapons.’ …There is no weapon today being justified on the grounds that it might be needed against a Soviet-like threat.

Many production lines building systems from a previous era are already slated to close, or are completing their final orders absent foreign military sales. Aircraft like the C-17 Globemaster III, C-130 Hercules, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, F-15E Strike Eagle, and F-16 Fighting Falcon — platforms that have helped form the bulwarks of American air power — will cease production in a few short years. The F-22 Raptor fifth-generation fighter production line has already shut down.

The remaining recapitalization plans of the U.S. military are anemic. As O’Hanlon observes, “for the first time in the history of aviation, the U.S. does not have a manned aircraft program in the R&D [research and development] phase.”

Few stop to ask what consequences further cuts might have on the nation’s defense-industrial base. After all, as Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has observed, “Having the best defense industrial and technology base in the world is not a birthright.”

Since World War II, the United States has benefited from the skills of a robust aerospace, shipbuilding and defense manufacturing workforce. America’s Air Force and Navy operate the best fighter aircraft, long-range bombers, aircraft carriers, destroyers, cruisers and submarines. While technology alone has not assured American military superiority, the defense industry has nevertheless been a potent enabler of American military might.

O’Hanlon called for greater consideration of “deep and significant challenges, arguably more so than perhaps ever before in its post-World War II history” facing this smaller, already-downsized industry.

This time, consolidation is not an attractive option — particularly for taxpayers.

Where there were once more than 30 prominent defense companies, there are now five (check out this eye-opening chart from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments for graphic evidence). On Thursday comes the news that European defence giants EADS and BAE Systems are talking about merging, which would create one of  the globe’s largest aerospace company.

The few major programs now underway have served to boost the cost of what we end up buying. Shrinking competition further would only drive up the government’s tab, while the dollars dedicated to defense are supposedly heading in the opposite direction.

12 comments
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Rick Myers
Rick Myers

I think most people are smart enough to realize that the military can become an endless money pit.  Demagogues can scare you with the idea of the "bogeyman" coming to get you, and convince the weak-minded that the only thing between themselves and oppression is a huge military, but today we are all smarter (even the dumb ones).

Today, we need nation-building at home.  The military has performed well, but the battlefield of the future will not be fought with main battle tanks... it will take place in the engineering drawing rooms, and the corporate board rooms.

To fight the next generation of battles, we need an educated work force... one with great interconnectedness, be it the best internet speeds or the best public transportation, and the best political leaders.

The military will always be needed, but its role will be more like the original role, when Stephen Decatur defeated the barbary pirates... less nation destroying, more keeping the peace.

We will need more alliances and more friends.  We had not ever resort to bullying again.  Soft power will be the necessary skill of the future.  The Talleyrand politician over the Napoleon tactician.  

eifg
eifg

We spend more on defense than all of our potential enemies combined and the military always wants more.  We need to be able to defend ourselves not conquer the world.  The author implies that cutting defense spending will shrink the number of defense contractors which in turn will decrease competition and increase pricing.  This may be true in a normal market but with defense there are not that many customers and really only one who is willing to spend billions upon billions to develop new weapons so if the buyer is smart then the suppliers should not have all the power. Unfortunately I don't think the military has ever tried to contain costs so hopefully the coming cuts will force them to be disciplined and spend our money with care. 

ThomasF
ThomasF

We are not suffering from a lack of spending for our military, the problem is how wasteful the DOD and the civilian contractors are.  Fix the poor management in both the public and private realms and we will be able to do more with less and that is what will be required in the future. 

JohnYuEsq
JohnYuEsq

RECKLESS LIAR Romney = Economic FAILURE! NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST! 

 

We cannot kill everyone into submission. We must win their HEARTS and MINDS. 

 

Truly, ONLY President OBAMA is well equipped for this MISSION. RE-ELECT our HONEST, DECENT, COMPASSIONATE POTUS, OBAMA. 

minstrelmike
minstrelmike

The reason I protested the Viet Nam war was not because I was a peacenik; it was because we weren't _fighting_ the war. If we have billions and billions of dollars worth of weaponry and we cannot use it, then what good is it?

We need tools we can use.And sane strategy. 

The Republicans think drilling for homeland oil will be helpful. Why? There's this unaddressed belief in the Faux News watchers that it will bring down the price of oil yet the price of oil is set on the world market. All we do is increase the profits of oil companies when we could instead leave the oil in the ground for later generations of Americans when it will be much more useful. We have plenty of money to buy oil with right now.

The stated reason is for Energy Independence. Great. Once we quit buying oil from the Arabs, we can bring our battleships home from the Arab Gulf.

And let the Chinese move their battleships in.

Long-term strategy.

EconModerate
EconModerate

It is time to replace all manned fighter aircraft with drones. They are less expensive more maneuverable than their manned counterparts. Let's go one step further and ground our outdated outdated new fighter aircraft.

FredFlier97
FredFlier97

Said like a true ignoramus regarding the employment of airpower.

Fatesrider
Fatesrider

 Gee, Fred, show me an instance when having a manned reconnaissance, bomber or fighter aircraft in combat was more beneficial than an unmanned one.

Just one.

FredFlier97
FredFlier97

On site judgement and situational awareness are unmatched in the heat of battle when your alternative is via a joystick and computer screen.  They aren't unmanned by the way, they are remotely piloted.  There is a huge difference.    

duduong
duduong

Having the F-35 has been enormously beneficial to the shareholders of Lockheed, to the tune of $1T+.