Rarely before have we seen a bleaker picture for U.S. defense spending
THE MIL & AERO BLOG, 8 Aug. 2012. The news isn't good these days for the U.S. defense budget . Prospects are gloomy for Congress to head-off automatic deep military budget cuts by the 1 Jan. sequestration deadline; the Senate adjourned for recess without bringing the 2013 defense appropriation to a vote; and studies show that as many as 2.14 million Americans in all 50 states could lose their jobs if sequestration hits.
Sequestration is a fancy name for automatic defense cuts of half a trillion dollars over the next decade. These cuts will begin in less than five months if Congress can't agree to more controlled reductions in military spending.
It appears increasingly likely that this Congress will let sequestration happen. I never believed this could happen until now. Every member of Congress today is more concerned with the November elections than with heading off potential economic disaster at the Pentagon.
Allowing the automatic cuts to happen, moreover, gives everyone on Capitol Hill the political cover he or she needs to shirk responsibility for the automatic cuts and their results when these cuts take place. This in the election season is a political gift that no one in Congress can resist.
The bad news doesn't stop there. As the Senate skipped out on its collective responsibility to approve a fiscal 2013 Pentagon spending bill prospects dimmed that any defense appropriation has a change of getting through Congress perhaps until after the November elections -- perhaps even later.
Some in Congress say this continuing resolution will ensure stability in the Pentagon. What it actually means is anything but.
The Pentagon has money for half a year, not for a full year. That means no one will risk starting new programs, and the only contracts to be let will be for the short term. With sequestration looming, moreover, U.S. defense companies are making plans to cut their work forces. Stability? I don't think so.
"Program managers are unable to initiate any new programs, procurement accounts are frozen, military bases will probably issue only short-term contracts, and training hours will be affected," say officials of the Association of the U.S. Army in a recent legislative update.
Automatic and arbitrary defense cuts are looming on the horizon, the Defense Department and the defense industry are paralyzed from lack of long-term commitments and funding, no one seems willing even to acknowledge how U.S. military forces are contracting at an alarming rate.
This is the picture we face as a resurgent China gains influence in the Western Pacific, and as Iran marches ever closer to developing nuclear weapons.
MacKenzie Eaglen, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in the Wall Street Journal This week that the U.S. Air Force hasn't purchased fewer aircraft in a year since 1916, and that the U.S. Navy's 286 combat and support ships is the smallest fleet since 1916.
Can anyone remember when things were this bad for U.S. defense? I can't. We'll have national elections in early November, and I'm not sure if defense is even a major campaign issue.