Last week, President Obama told the latest graduates of the Air Force Academy that, despite massive cuts in defense spending being made by his administration, “We will maintain our military superiority in all areas – air, land, sea, space and cyber.”
This fits the meme being pushed by Team Obama as the campaign heats up. It is of a piece with the contention that the President has been so extraordinarily successful a Commander-in-Chief as to be unassailable politically with regard to his stewardship of national security and foreign policy.
As with his commitment to the newly minted Air Force officers, in the immortalwords of Ira Gershwin, this narrative “ain’t necessarily so.”
Let’s start with the promise of military superiority. Only someone completely oblivious – or indifferent – to what it takes to achieve and maintain superiority could make such a statement under present, and foreseeable, circumstances. The fact of the matter is that the nearly $800 billion already excised from the Pentagon budgets over the next ten years have already translated into the evisceration of virtually every military modernization program previously on the books. Research and development accounts crucial to the next generation of weapons are being similarly savaged.
As a result, we will be lucky to be competitive with future adversaries who are busily upgrading their forces, often in ways specifically designed to counter such advantages as we do have. “Superiority” will, in important respects, likely be out of the question.
That is especially true if the defense budget is beset with yet the next $500 billion in cuts ordered by existing statute to start in January 2013. You might not know this trainwreck is upon us from the lack of disclosure about the impact of such reductions in Defense Department planning documents. [(You can get a sense of the effects, however, from the Center for Security Policy’s “Defense Breakdown Reports” at www.FortheCommonDefense.org).] The Pentagon understandably worries about disclosing in advance ways in which this magnitude of harm would be accommodated lest a blueprint for making it so be provided.
As of this writing, unless some deus ex machina materializes like in a Greek drama too complicated to be resolved by mere mortals, the armed forces will not be spared from what the Joint Chiefs Chairman has called “catastrophe.”
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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