While all branches of the armed forces have been affected, the latest examples of damage have come to the Navy and the Marines. Marine aviation has recently experienced a rise in “Class A Mishaps,” which are incidents that cause death or result in more than $2 million in aircraft damage. House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry pointed out at a hearing last year that the rate for the Marine aviation community has “been increasing significantly.”
The Wall Street Journal recently noted that:
Marine aviation has recently experienced a rise in ‘Class A Mishaps,’ which are incidents that carry a body count or result in more than $2 million in aircraft damage. House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) pointed out at a hearing last year that the accident rate for the Marine aviation community has ‘been increasing significantly’… One hypothesis that deserves to be examined is a combination of old equipment and the fact that pilot hours have been reduced in recent years because of funding cuts. Planes like the F/A-18 are stretching past their lifetimes.
In March, Lieutenant General Jon Davis, Deputy Commandant for Aviation; Rear Admiral Dewolfe Miller III, Director Air Warfare, and Rear Admiral Michael Moran, Program Executive Officer, Tactical Aircraft, testified before Congress about the decline in naval aviation. They noted:
An unclassified study by the Mitre organization found that the:
Through 2009, the Department’s Strike Fighter force was relatively healthy. Several events transpired since 2009, however, which drove our current Strike Fighter inventory shortfall. The Budget Control Act of 2011 started multiple years of reduced military funding and F-35B/C fielding plans were delayed. As a result, the [Navy] decided to extend the life of legacy F/A-18A-Ds … Sequestration led to furlough and a hiring freeze of a skilled government civilian artisan workforce at aviation depots, significantly impacting depot throughput and fleet readiness along with other factors such as high utilization rates, lack of aircraft procurement, and lack of spare parts. Throughout this period, the operational demand for Naval Aviation forces remained high and accelerated the consumption of existing fleet aircraft. In essence, consumption of aircraft exceeded new and re-work production capacity of aircraft causing an increasing shortfall … years of underfunding cannot be corrected in one budget year and will require stable, predictable funding over multiple years to achieve positive results. This shortfall will take time and likely require several years to correct …
Navy’s budget is insufficient to fund required force levels. The Navy’s budget is insufficient to develop, procure, operate, and sustain all the forces need to meet the revised defeat / hold scenario force structure. In addition, budget instability forces the Navy to make acquisition decisions that undermine affordability initiatives … for the last four years, the Navy has been operating under reduced top-lines and significant shortfalls. There will likely continue to be increasing pressure on the procurement accounts, which in turn threatens the near-term health of the defense industrial base.
Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, Adm. William F. Moran painted a dismal picture of a Navy that has been strained to the limit. Moran told committee members the ongoing demand for U.S. Naval forces far exceeds its long-term supply. And, he added, the Navy is the smallest it’s been in 99 years, making it urgent to “adequately fund, fix and maintain the fleet we do have.” The U.S. Navy has never been busier in a world of global threats, Admiral Moran said. While the Navy is getting the job done, the unrelenting pace, inadequate resources, and small size are taking their toll.
The House Armed Service Committee noted, following the vote:
Today, we have too many planes that cannot fly, too many ships that cannot sail, too many Soldiers who cannot deploy, while too many threats are gathering. We have come to a key decision point. For six years, we have been just getting by—cutting resources as the world becomes more dangerous, asking more and more of those who serve, and putting off the tough choices. The Chairman and members of the committee believe that we cannot keep piling missions on our service members without ensuring they have all they need to succeed.
Experts outside of Congress have concurred that significant work must be done to rebuild the U.S. military after so many years of being shortchanged by Obama. An analysis by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) states that:
To confront rising threats in Eastern Europe, East Asia, and the Middle East, America needs to adopt a three-theater force-sizing construct …
Even though President Trump called for a $54 billion increase, that figure is seen as inadequate to make up for the prior administration’s neglect. AEI notes:
The diminished and increasingly challenged U.S. Navy will have to wait another year before the President fulfills his campaign pledge to increase its size from the current 276 vessels to 350. In 1990, the Navy operated almost 600 ships.According to Bloomberg, The biggest difference in the Trump budget from Obama’s approach is increased funding for the Army to add 26,000 active-duty troops to keep force levels at 476,000, as directed by Congress this year, instead of dropping to 450,000 as had been planned.Abroad, Trump’s controversial drive to push NATO members to increase their moribund defense spending has had success. In 2017, twenty-five Allies will increase defense spending in real terms, according to NATO.Even non-NATO nations within Europe have awakened to the vastly increased threat from Putin. Sweden, according to RT, will upgrade its air defense system.
President Trump’s defense budget would repair, not rebuild, the military. Worse, it lacks the investments necessary to allow a robust rebuilding effort to begin a year from now. The request represents a more muscular status quo at best. This budget continues a favored Washington tradition of investing in the immediate and long term while shortchanging the next three to 15 years. This “barbell” investment strategy emphasizes the conflicts of today and the wars of the distant future, while discounting the long bar of the medium term, wherein most strategic and military risk lies.
Bloomberg News reports that President Trump’s first full-year military budget would delay increases in major weapons systems while committing additional funds into troop readiness and precision munitions, including additional Tomahawk cruise missiles. Readiness, including training, maintenance, and resupply of needed munitions was significantly and adversely affected during the Obama Administration.
Russian missile systems stationed in the nearby exclave of Kaliningrad make this a necessity. U.S.-made Patriot systems are among the options for the major overhaul.
The Swedish government has also re-introduced conscription, noting:
The security environment in Europe and in Sweden’s vicinity has deteriorated and the all-volunteer recruitment hasn’t provided the Armed Forces with enough trained personnel. The re-activating of the conscription is needed for military readiness.