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The Defense Stimulus

A key to American recovery and reinvestment.

3:36 PM, Jan 13, 2009 • By THOMAS DONNELLY
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Larger public good. The value of American global leadership in an era of economic and geopolitical uncertainty cannot be stressed too highly. The security of worldwide commerce depends upon safe, cheap and uninterrupted flows of goods and service through a variety of "commons" -- the seas, air, space and cyberspace -- that are protected every day by U.S. military forces. Their presence helps to preserve the industrial world's access to natural resources and protect the interests of allies and trading partners.

By any measure, defense should comprise a vital component of any stimulus package. This is a matter of economic good sense and, frankly, fairness to the men and women serving our country in a time of war. The Pentagon can intelligently and easily support $20 billion in additional spending per year; critically, this would continue the program to expand the Army, which will remain stretched by deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, by 30,000 soldiers per year. Such investments would not only create thousands of jobs across the country -- and preserve jobs at risk from premature program terminations -- but promote American exports and create a secure environment for global economic recovery.


As will be the case with all stimulus spending proposals, it will be necessary to integrate defense stimulus plans with the normal Pentagon budget process to minimize programmatic mischief and ensure the best value for the taxpayer. Nonetheless, based upon the Defense Department's current budgets and five-year plan, it is possible to suggest obvious areas where additional spending makes sense; adding $20 billion to the baseline defense budget, approximately $520 billion for 2009, is an increase of less than 4 percent, an easily "digestible" amount. Potential additions include:

The Army's "Grow the Force" initiative. Recruiting and training an additional 20,000 soldiers per year would cost about $3.5 billion. The pace of current operations -- driven by the requirements of Afghanistan and Iraq -- has proved the need for more troops.

Creating and equipping an additional 4 Stryker brigades. This family of wheeled combat vehicles has done yeoman service in Iraq and as the Army expands it should add more Stryker units. An additional 250 per year would cost about $550 million annually.

Maintain F-22 production. The Air Force originally wanted 750 Raptors, but the line will end in 2009 after the purchase of just 183. Close allies like Japan and Australia would like to purchase the fighter. Renewing the final 3-year procurement would secure an additional 20 aircraft per year at $4 billion annually.

Sustain C-17 production. The cargo aircraft has been key to the deployment of U.S. forces around the world. With no new production, "stop work" orders will be issued to suppliers in 2009. Restoring a rate of 12 per year would cost $3 billion annually.

Accelerate attack submarine production. The U.S. fleet of attack submarines will shrink from about 80 boats to approximately 35, too few to counter the rapid increase in Chinese submarine production and meet the Navy's own stated global requirements. Expanding production to three boats per year would not only restore an adequate force, but better utilize excess U.S. submarine-building capacity.

Build more Littoral Combat Ships. The Navy's fleet of surface combatants is also too small, both for traditional missions like antisubmarine warfare and the demands of irregular warfare such as anti-piracy patrols. The LCS is an effective and relatively inexpensive solution to these multiple requirements. Building three per year, to be split competitively between several shipyards, might cost $1 billion per year.

Tom Donnelly is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.