In anticipation of today’s Senate confirmation hearing for Defense secretary nominee Leon Panetta, a list of ten questions on the future of U.S. defense spending priorities was jointly released by the American Enterprise Institute, the Foreign Policy Initiative, and the Heritage Foundation earlier this week. Here’s the full text:
(1) Outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said on May 24, 2011: “I have long believed, and I still do, that the defense budget, however large it may be, is not the cause of this country’s fiscal woes.”
(2) The bipartisan Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) Independent Panel -- chaired by former Defense Secretary William Perry and former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley -- concluded that “the Department of Defense now faces the urgent need to recapitalize large parts of the force. Although this is a long-standing problem, we believe the Department needs to come to grips with this requirement…. Meeting the crucial requirements of modernization will require a substantial and immediate additional investment that is sustained through the long term.”
(3) Secretary Gates stated in a speech on May 24, 2011 that “a smaller military, no matter how superb, will be able to go to fewer places and be able to do fewer things.”
(4) Secretary Gates has stated that ill-conceived cuts to defense spending could increase America’s vulnerability in a “complex and unpredictable security environment” and, in the same spirit, that “the ultimate guarantee against the success of aggressors, dictators, and terrorists in the 21st century, as in the 20th, is hard power -- the size, strength, and global reach of the United States military.”
(5) The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, recommended on June 2, 2011 that when implementing President Obama’s plan to cut $400 billion from security spending, savings should be identified in military pay and benefits before making cuts to “force structure” (i.e. weapons programs, equipment and the number of personnel in uniform).
(6) As a chief architect of the defense budget drawdown in the 1990s, you oversaw major reductions in military procurement spending (including a 13.4% decline in FY 1994):
(7) Rising Threats: China and Iran
China has tripled its military’s budget over the past 15 years, putting at risk our military’s long-standing ability to operate decisively and safely in Northeast Asia.
The International Atomic Energy Agency reports that Iran is working on a likely nuclear weapons program. Iran’s missile program also demonstrates increasing proficiency and range.
(8) U.S. Air Force
Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz has stated that the present fleet of 187 F-22 fighters creates a high risk for the U.S. military in meeting its operational demands.
(9) U.S. Navy
The U.S. Navy has the fewest number of ships since America’s entrance into World War I. Yet the Navy is being tasked with arguably more responsibilities than ever before. Our fleet is undoubtedly the finest ever put to the seas, but quantity has a quality all of its own. As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mullen has said, “You are what you buy.”
(10) U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps
Current budget plans -- even prior to the latest announced defense cuts -- were premised upon a complete withdrawal from Iraq and a dramatic drawdown in Afghanistan by 2014. They did not anticipate the prospect of a continued, residual presence in Iraq nor the possibility of a requirement for maintaining a sizeable force in Afghanistan. And, the plans were made before the events of the “Arab Spring,” including the conflict in Libya. The current budget plans, and current realities, make it all but impossible to achieve adequate “dwell times” (or rest at home for reset, training and time off) between rotations for combat and support units, and will necessitate continued heavy deployments of the National Guard and Reserves.