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Defense Burden Isn’t Getting Lighter

In a great op-ed at Fox News, Mackenzie Eaglen points out the degree to which Barack Obama’s passion for underfunding the Pentagon is at odds with America’s defense obligations. In March of last year, “for the first time, according to the Pentagon’s Transportation Command chief, every combatant commander had a priority one mission requiring the help of the Air Force,” she notes. Even with an administration whose first foreign-policy priority is to curtail intervention abroad, air power was maxed out.

And, in historical terms, it didn’t take much: Leading from behind in Libya, the surge in Afghanistan, support in Japan after the tsunami, and air support for Obama’s trip to South America. We did it all and we did it well but unless you believe in the end of humanitarian disaster and international conflict, America’s defense load is never going to lighten to the point that the Obama budget envisions. Instead, we’ll just be unable to carry it.

The administration’s unprecedented defense cuts mean an unprecedented handicap for the U.S. Air Force, the hardest hit of all the armed services. “Today’s Air Force faces serious challenges: a rapidly shrinking size of its inventory and the slow loss of its cutting-edge capabilities,” Eaglen writes. And Obama’s much-vaunted Asian pivot will be DOA at this rate. “As the Obama administration looks increasingly to the Pacific, it is failing to ensure that it will have enough resources for its new strategy. At a time when the U.S. military desperately needs next-generation technologies to meet the challenges posed by proliferating precision munitions and anti-access and denial capabilities, the administration has repeatedly chosen to delay, reduce, or even kill most of the military’s high-tech modernization programs.”

Forget the sci-fi weapons. Conventional resources are disappearing. In the Vietnam era, we had over 500 B-2 bombers. Today we have 20.

You don’t have to be a warmonger to do math.

We’re entering an age of disorienting global chaos. At the same time the Obama administration is enforcing unprecedented defense cuts.  The volatility in Iran, the Arab world, Russia, and North Korea isn’t going to abate because Americans want it to. And those are just the places we can currently imagine erupting.  The harder challenges are going to come from corners and parties we’ve not been paying attention to. We could be in for a day that makes March 2011 look like a beach vacation. When America can’t rise to it, we’ll find ourselves in a different world.



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