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The Good and Bad News About The FY2015 Defense Budget

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This week, the DOD formally submitted to Congress its proposal of the FY2015 defense budget. The base defense budget would amount to $496 bn, and there would be a roughly $80 bn war supplemental for the final year of the Afghan war, thus bringing the total to around $580 bn, i.e. less than 4% of America’s GDP. In a few years, the war supplementals will be gone, and the base defense budget will shrink further to $493 bn, i.e. below 3% of GDP – the lowest level since before Pearl Harbor.

Already the US spends the smallest amount of money (as a share of its economy) on defense since FY1948, excluding the Clinton years when defense spending plummeted to 3.0% of GDP. Barack Obama’s budget plans would take defense spending even lower, to below 3% of GDP.

But Obama isn’t just content with cutting America’s defense spending; he’s cutting the military’s muscle as well:

  • The Navy will have to mothball half of its entire cruiser fleet – 11 vessels, several of them capable of ballistic missile defense. That’s even more than the Navy proposed to lay up previously (7). These vessels will not return to service until there is money to modernize them. The construction of new ships will also see significant cuts.
  • The Navy must also significantly cut the procurement of its crucial P-8 Poseidon and E-2D Hawkeye aircraft, the former needed to protect the US Navy against hostile submarines (esp. those of China and Iran), and the latter to provide airborne early warning, especially to the Navy’s Carrier Air Wings.
  • The Air Force will have to shed its entire fleet of over 300 A-10 Warthog aircraft. With decent armor, air-to-ground missiles, and a hefty 30mm gun spitting thousands of rounds per minute, that aircraft is ideal for close air support, which troops on the ground have always needed and appreciated. No other aircraft can provide that capability. B-52s, B-1s, F-15Es, F-16s, and F-35s are too vulnerable to damage – even to small arms fire – and too fast to ever be effective in that role. Don’t take my word for it. The father of the A-10, Pierre Sprey, who also contributed to designing the F-16, has openly said that, as much as he’s proud of the work he did on the F-16, he would NEVER claim it is useful for close air support.
  • The Air Force will also have to retire its entire fleet of U-2 spy planes, which, despite being older, can fly higher, have far more powerful aperture and more diverse sensors, and thus much better intel gathering capability, than the drones supposed to replace them (Global Hawks). It will also lose more F-15 air superiority fighters.
  • The Army will have to cancel its Ground Combat Vehicle program (intended to replace the seriously-deficient Bradley infantry fighting vehicle), and the Marines will lose the badly-needed Amphibious Combat Vehicle program, needed to replace the USMC’s Vietnam-War-era amphibious tractors.

The proposed FY2015 isn’t all bad, however:

  • It protects investment in the badly needed Long Range Strike Bomber and KC-46 Pegasus tanker, both of which are crucial to preserving the military’s ability to operate and fight globally.
  • It provides funding to buy more JASSM-ER standoff cruise missiles, which have a range of around 1,000 kilometers and can be launched by any US combat aircraft.
  • It calls for major reforms to the military’s personnel’s pay, pensions, healthcare, and benefits programs, whose costs have gone out of control, and for closure of unneeded bases.
  • It provides funding to harden some of the military’s Pacific bases; to buy more missile interceptors; and to develop a new missile defense kill vehicle and better target discrimination capabilities.

This still does not, however, outweigh the fact that the budget will, overall, weaken America’s defense, which is precisely what Barack Obama wants.

And let’s also recount what isn’t in the budget, but should be:

  • No restart of F-22 Raptor fighter production (killed by Obama in 2009), even though Russia and China have flight-tested, and are developing, a combined of THREE fifth-generation stealthy fighters that will be superior to EVERY fighter on the planet, except the F-22, when deployed later this decade.
  • No major upgrades to the F-15 fleet. Indeed, that fleet, already cut significantly by Obama, will be cut even further!
  • No major upgrades to the F-16 fleet, nor any sale of any F-16s to Taiwan.
  • No restart of the cancelled long-range air to air missile, which will leave US fighters outgunned vis-a-vis aircraft armed with the K-172 Novator.
  • No new AWACS program to replace the USAF’s old E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft.
  • No funding for any new nuclear weapons – because it doesn’t fit Obama’s fantasy of disarming the US unilaterally.
  • No significant cuts to the DOD’s bloated bureaucracy and army of contractors.
  • No funding for an East Coast missile defense site.
  • No significant funding for alternative airbases in the Pacific or for hardening America’s existing bases in the Western Pacific.
  • No funding for a new ICBM, badly needed to replace the old Minuteman III, first deployed in 1976.

In short, as many conservatives have already stated, Obama’s proposed FY2015 budget would, if enacted, be another step on the way to disarming the US unilaterally, a policy I have warned against my entire life.

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