--Capabilities: Even before the election, leading Democrats in the House and Senate were prognosticating a "transformation" in U.S. defense capabilities. The two most recent Democratic presidents made similar promises. When Jimmy Carter came to office, he all but eliminated our human intelligence capabilities and ordered an across-the-board reduction of 15 percent in everything from ships to planes to "end strength" -- the number of soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines in the services.
Bill Clinton did the same thing, only bigger. Half the Army's divisions disappeared, along with scores of ships and combat air wings. He also introduced the "don't ask, don't tell" policy to allow gays to serve in the armed forces.
The net effect of both presidents' cuts of capabilities was to embolden America's adversaries. Arguably, American troops still are paying in blood for the cost cutting done during the Carter and Clinton administrations. That may well be happening again, in an ever-more dangerous world.
--Cost Cutting: When the moving vans roll up to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in January, it will be the first time since Richard Nixon took over from Lyndon Johnson that our nation has changed its commander in chief while at war. Yet leaks from the Obama transition team and Capitol Hill indicate that cuts in defense spending are a top priority.
Pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq would "save" $10 billion per month. Further "savings" can be found by cutting production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the F-22 Raptor, Virginia-class nuclear attack submarines, the V-22 Osprey and the DDG-1000 destroyer. Converting the national missile defense system back to a basic research program, eliminating two Air Force fighter wings, and putting a naval carrier strike group in mothballs would "save" hundreds of billions more. Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Service Committee, has called for a 25 percent reduction in the Pentagon's budget -- about $150 billion -- and said, "We don't need all these fancy new weapons."
Any of these cuts will have the effect of seriously reducing U.S. defense capabilities. One parochial example: The V-22 Osprey is programmed to replace all of the U.S. Marines' 40-year-old CH-46 helicopters. Without the Osprey, Marines will have to walk to the next gunfight.
In his first remarks as president-elect, Obama promised defeat to "those who would tear the world down." If that's what he really wants to do, prudence dictates that he ought not start by tearing apart our nation's defenses.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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