Compromising Defense Deep defense cuts would be “extraordinarily difficult and very high risk” - Gen. Martin Dempsey, Army chief of staff and President Obama’s nominee to serve as the nation’s chief military officer.
$439 billion $175 billion $281 billion
Decimating U.S. National Defense over the Next 10 Years Defense cuts already enacted Defense cuts enacted immediately by Budget Control Act **conservatively estimated** Defense cuts imposed by failure of Joint Committee recommendations **conservatively estimated** TOTAL
The U.S. has a shrinking force. • • • •
In 1990, the U.S. had a 546-ship Navy; today we have 285. The U.S. had 76 Army brigades in 1990; today we have 45. Two decades ago the Air Force had twice as many fighter squadrons and bombers as today. China now has more ships in their Navy than the U.S. has in its Navy.
The U.S. has an aging force. • •
Navy ships and light attack vehicles, on average, were built 20 years ago. Bombers average 34 years in age. Our tankers are nearly 50 years old.
The U.S. has a strained force. • • • • • • • •
In the last four years inspection failures for Navy ships have nearly tripled. 1 in 5 ships inspected is either unfit for combat or severely degraded. A majority of the Navy’s deployed aircraft are unable to accomplish all of their assigned missions. We already have a $367 million in needed repairs to our ships. Marine Corps stockpiles of critical equipment such as radios, small arms and generators face severe shortages. Over a third of Active Army units do not have sufficient personnel to perform their missions. Army needs $25 billion to reset its force right now. Marines need $12 billion to reset its force right now.
Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution empowers Congress to: "Provide for the common Defense… To raise and support Armies … To provide and maintain a Navy."
Our nation’s top brass have said our military cannot sustain deep defense cuts. Some components of the Air Force “are right at the ragged edge.” Proposed cuts would result in a "fundamental restructure of what it is our nation expects from our Air Force." General Philip Breedlove, Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force Deep cuts would lead to “fundamental changes” in the capability of our Marine Corps. General Joseph Dunford, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps The Army cannot meet all of the current, validated needs of commanders on the ground. General Peter Chiarelli, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army “I can’t see how we can sustain this pace of operations indefinitely and meet our readiness standards.” To meet unconstrained combatant commander demands, “I'd need, doing some analysis, about 400 ships. I have 285 ships today.” Admiral Jonathan Greenert, Vice Chief of Naval Operations This rare public outcry from our nation’s top military brass ought to chill the fervor of those poised to bring significant cutbacks to our nation’s military strength. A defense budget in decline will undermine our ability to project power, strengthen our adversaries, and weaken our alliances.
Before decimating national defense, we must ask the following critical questions:
1. What are the threats we face? 2. What resources do Combatant Commanders need to protect against those threats? 3. What do those resources cost and how can we obtain them efficiently? 4. What can we afford and what are the risks to our nation if we do not supply those resources?
Compiled by Congressman J. Randy Forbes forbes.house.gov
Deep defense cuts would be “extraordinarily difficult and very high risk” - Gen. Martin Dempsey, Army chief of staff and President Obama’s nominee to serve as the nation’s chief military officer.
STATUS of OUR ARMED FORCES TODAY We cannot take the strength of our Armed Forces for granted. They have been engaged in persistent conflict for the last decade and are certainly the most battle-tested, best trained and best equipped force in the world today. Despite this, there are a number of challenges that face our military due to ten years of war and increasingly constrained resources. When asked about their current ability to meet the needs of our nation’s commanders in the field the second-in-command of each service noted that they are able to provide ready forces to the commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, outside of CENTCOM, our services have acknowledged they have great challenges in meeting the needs of other Combatant Commanders: General Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps: “Currently, we are not able to meet all the forward presence requirements of the other combatant commanders, in the Pacific Command, in the Southern Command, European Command, and Africa Command. Also, in the case of another major contingency operation, the United States Marine Corps would not, right now, be able to meet the timelines of the combatant commanders in response to another major contingency operation should it occur simultaneously with current operations in Afghanistan.”
“Currently, we are not able to meet all the forward presence requirements of the other combatant commanders, in the Pacific Command, in the Southern Command, European Command, and Africa Command.”
General Joseph F. Dunford Jr. General Phillip M. Breedlove, Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Force: “I will tell you that some of our low-density, highdemand requirements, personnel recovery, ISR, and a few are right at the ragged edge. And as we continue to be challenged by new tasks around North Africa and other places, we are right at the limit of supporting CENTCOM in those lowdensity, high-demand assets. Similarly, once you get outside of CENTCOM, we would have some risk. And those risks fall in these familiar areas, personnel recovery, ISR, some of our intel assets, limited demand, are being pretty much consumed by the CENTCOM fight.”
General Peter W. Chiarelli, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army: “No, we cannot meet all the other COCOM commander's validated demands...We work hard to meet them. We are not able to meet them all.” Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, Vice Chief of Naval Operations: “We meet that plan right now...we're on the edge right now. There are some aspects of my fleet response plan, my covenant to provide rotational forces forward, that I -- I find that I'm concerned about some of those trends...and unconstrained combatant commanders demand, I'd need, doing some analysis, about 400 ships. I have 285 ships today.”
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Add on to these frank assessments the facts from the Department of Defense Quarterly Readiness Report to Congress, which indicates an increasingly strained force. In the last four years inspection failures for Navy ships have nearly tripled, rising from roughly 8% to 24%. Currently, 1 in 5 ships inspected is either unsatisfactory or unfit for combat. Nearly one-half of the Navy’s currently deployed aircraft are not fully combat ready. Marine Corps stockpiles of critical equipment such as radios, small arms and generators face severe shortages. One in three Active Army units do not have sufficient personnel to perform its missions; an even higher percentage of units in the Reserve face the same challenges. Some will assume that we have arrived at this point due solely to the ongoing conflicts. This simply is not the case. Over the last two decades our force has gotten smaller: In 1990, the U.S. had a 546-ship Navy; today we have 285. The U.S. had 76 Army brigades in 1990; today we have 45. Two decades ago the Air Force had twice as many fighter squadrons and strategic bombers as today.
And the equipment that force is using has aged. Navy ships and light attack vehicles, on average, were built 20 years ago; strategic bombers average 34 years in age. Our Air Force tankers are nearly 50 years old.
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OUTLOOK for the FUTURE of NATIONAL DEFENSE In January, after announcing Pentagon plans to re-align $154 billion in defense spending over five years and cut an additional $78 billion, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen said that “any significant additional budget cuts can almost only be met…through substantial reductions in force structure” which goes “against the national security requirements that we see in the world we're living in.” Yet despite these observations of our highest military leaders, we see a number of significant proposals to cut national defense: President Obama has directed an additional cut of $400 billion dollars to defense over the next 10-12 years. Since he made his FY 2011 budget request to Congress, he has already put policies in place to cut defense by $439 billion over the next decade. The initial details of the “Gang of Six” proposal revealed $886 billion in security cuts over 10 years. Additionally, the proposal would require significant, and un-explored, changes to military retirement and other benefits that our men and women in uniform have earned. Senator Reid has offered a proposal that would result in $868 billion in defense cuts over 10 years when viewed against the President’s FY11 budget request. This is in addition to $1 trillion in phony savings from winding down the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee we heard from top military leaders on the potential impact of these proposals. Here are some of the responses when they were asked how their respective services would respond to cuts ranging from $400 billion to $1 trillion over the next decade. General Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps: “We would start to have to make some fundamental changes in the capability of the Marine Corps.” General Phillip M. Breedlove, Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force: “We would have to go into a fundamental restructure of what it is our nation expects from our Air Force.”
“We would have to go into a fundamental restructure of what it is our nation expects from our Air Force.” General Phillip M. Breedlove Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force
General Peter W. Chiarelli, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army: “You’re reaching an area there that I think would definitely we’d have to look very, very hard at our strategy; what we can and cannot do.” Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, Vice Chief of Naval Operations: “If we have a reduction of the kind that was passed around here-$400 billion or $886 billion-without a comprehensive strategic review, a fundamental look at what we are asking our forces to do, we won’t be able to meet the Global Force Management Plan today. It will exacerbate our readiness trends. And if we have to go to a reduction in force structure, I am concerned about our industrial base.” As indicated by their statements these leaders made it clear that, given the mandate to produce cuts of this magnitude, they would have to revisit force structure and capabilities in order to avoid a hollow force. On May 24th, 2011, as he was preparing to leave the Pentagon, Former Secretary of Defense Gates expressed a similar sentiment: “I am determined that we not repeat the mistakes of the past, where the budget targets were met mostly by taking a percentage off the top of everything, the simplest and most politically expedient approach both inside the Pentagon and outside of it. That kind of “salami-slicing” approach preserves overhead and maintains force structure on paper, but results in a hollowing-out of the force from a lack of proper training, maintenance and equipment – and manpower. That’s what happened in the 1970s – a disastrous period for our military – and to a lesser extent during the late 1990s.” ……
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THE PROPER APPROACH for DEFENSE PLANNING Building a military to defend our national interests is a challenging task. As we consider our deficit, federal spending, and the impact on our defense budget, we should be asking four questions.
1. What are the threats we face? While the Cold War was marked by the existence of one formidable competitor, the post-Cold War world unleashed a range of new threats creating a complex security environment for which the United States must contend. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen, described the scope of these challenges in 2008: “We're living in extremely challenging times. I was standing not too long ago outside the Pentagon with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and I asked him if in his 40-some years experience he'd ever seen so much going on. His comment was that he hadn't ever seen anything close-not as busy, not as intense, not as many issues, not as varied. And certainly, in my almost four decades of service that's the case.” The Chairman's comments mirror those made by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in his recent confirmation hearing, when he said that we live in a time of, “Historic change...Unlike the Cold War when we had one main adversary, we face a multitude of challenges ... dangerous enemies spread out across the world….We face insurgents and militants who cross borders to conduct attacks. We face the proliferation of dangerous weapons in the hands of terrorist, in the hands of rogue nations...We are no longer in the Cold War. This is more like the blizzard war – a blizzard of challenges that draws speed and intensity from terrorism, from rapidly developing technologies and the rising number of powers on the world stage.” Since the end of the Cold War each administration has generated security and defense strategy documents, including the National Security Strategy and Quadrennial Defense Review. Surprising to many, across administrations, Republican and Democrat, there has remained a strikingly similar recognition of the threats to our national security. During the “This is more like the blizzard war –a Bush administration, for instance, the 2006 QDR observed a range of blizzard of challenges that draws speed challenges, including, “[I]rregular warfare (conflicts in which enemy combatants are not regular military forces of nation-states); catastrophic terrorism employing weapons of mass destruction (WMD); and disruptive threats to the United States’ ability to maintain its qualitative edge and to project power.” Similarly, just last year President Obama's 2010 QDR found that,
and intensity from terrorism, from rapidly developing technologies and the rising number of powers on the world stage.” Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta
“In the mid- to long term, U.S. military forces must plan and prepare to prevail in a broad range of operations that may occur in multiple theaters in overlapping time frames. This includes maintaining the ability to prevail against two capable nation-state aggressors, but we must take seriously the need to plan for the broadest possible range of operations—from homeland defense and defense support to civil authorities, to deterrence and preparedness missions—occurring in multiple and unpredictable combinations.”
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Finally, the bipartisan Independent Panel that assessed the findings of the 2010 QDR also identified, “[F]ive key global trends face the nation as it seeks to sustain its role as the leader of an international system that protects the interests outlined above: a. Radical Islamist extremism and the threat of terrorism; b. The rise of new global great powers in Asia; c. Continued struggle for power in the Persian Gulf and the greater Middle East; d. An accelerating global competition for resources; e. Persistent problems from failed and failing states.” While Washington’s politics scene is often marked by infighting and disagreement, one thing that both political parties have generally seen eye-to-eye on for the past two decades is the range of threats facing our national security.
2. What resources do COCOM’s need to protect against those threats? Although most information regarding Combatant Commander requirements is classified, it is clear from the testimony of the Vice Chiefs on July 26, 2011 that right now each service is struggling to meet the demands of the COCOMs outside of Central Command. For instance, Admiral Greenert testified that the COCOMs ask for 16 attack submarines on a daily basis, but the Navy is only able to provide them with ten. As for the future, General Dempsey recently testified that he believed “the strategy is appropriate for the threats we face today, although I am alert to concerns that it might be under-resourced over the mid- to long-term.”
3. What do those resources cost and how can we obtain them efficiently? While some have talked about “efficiency” savings at the Pentagon lately as a means to justify further spending cuts, real savings and efficiencies come from a clear strategy, stable budgets, a healthy industrial base, and a clear and transparent view of how our tax dollars are being used. Today we struggle to conduct defense planning over the longterm as planning documents often transform into budget exercises designed to justify political decisions. The QDR Independent Panel found that: “The natural tendency of bureaucracy is to plan short term, operate from the top down, think within existing parameters, and affirm the correctness of existing plans and programs of record. That is exactly what happened to the QDR process. Instead of unconstrained, long term analysis by planners who were encouraged to challenge preexisting thinking, the QDRs became explanations and justifications, often with marginal changes, of established decisions and plans.” General Dunford echoed these views in his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee: “I think if we had a clear strategy with predictability, with resources that would be available, we would be more efficient.” Compounding this dilemma further is our inconsistent and unpredictable budget cycle. General Breedlove testified that “Any stability in these kind of budgets is helpful. In fact, when we look at how we buy in space and other large procurement programs, the ability to put stability into a purchasing program allows the subcontractors and others to predict and count on and then produce in good quantity. So stability in budget is always helpful as we plan for these types of things.”
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Spending efficiencies are also negatively impacted when industrial base capacity is subject to unpredictable work cycles. Speaking broadly about reductions in naval force structure, Admiral Greenert testified that “if we have to go to a reduction of force structure, I'm concerned about the industrial base. You're familiar with it, and you know that it's a fragile item.” Admiral Greenert also raised his concerns about the impact to the costs of aircraft carrier procurement if the procurement cycle is extended beyond five years: “We find that when you go beyond that, you have an overhead cost, you have a labor cost increase, and you lose the skill, the proficiency of the workers. So that's kind of about in the sweet spot. So we would prefer not to do that. That's not the best way to – to build an aircraft carrier, if you have that option.” Finally, an efficient defense budget requires having good access to information. Congress needs to give DOD the necessary resources and authority to make sure they are financially accountable to the taxpayer.
4. What can we afford and what are the risks to our nation if we do not supply those resources? In the tumultuous world that we live in, we will certainly have to prioritize how we spend our defense dollars and will have to make tough choices in the process. Once we have answered the first three questions we can enter that discussion with a clear picture on which to base our decisions. At the end of the day, we will have given all we can in defense of the country and have a clear understanding of the shortfalls and threats to our security that we may face. The consequences of failing to have this understanding up front are startling. When confronted with the question of how the Navy could account for the risk associated with the threats we face while at the same time constrained in funds for building ships, Admiral Greenert stated: “You can't change a threat. You can determine what you view to be in your -- your vital interests, your national interests. Threats are certainly a part of that equation.” This is a prime example of marginalizing the threats we face to justify a pre-determined course of action. Admiral Greenert has suggested that because you can’t change a threat you should redefine what is in the best interests of America. This is clearly not the best way to defend our nation. We all know that defense didn’t create the fiscal sinkhole we find ourselves in. Gutting the defense budget to pay other bills also won’t get us out of it. Yet this is exactly what the President proposes. Take for example his comments at a Twitter Town Hall in early July: “The nice thing about the defense budget is it's so big, it's so huge, that, you know, a one percent reduction is the equivalent of the education budget. I’m exaggerating. But it's so big that you can make relatively modest changes to defense that end up giving you a lot of headroom to fund things like basic research or student loans or things like that.”
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THE WRONG WAY to PROVIDE for the COMMON DEFENSE These four questions are fundamental to providing for the common defense of our country. Unfortunately, the Administration and many in Congress are working only on the first part of the last question: What can we afford? Take for example the President’s speech on debt and the deficit in April 2011. In a fact sheet released after the speech, the White House specified that the President wants to hold defense spending increases below the inflation level, and save $400 billion between now and 2023. To support his mandate he then stated in the speech “We need to not only eliminate waste and improve efficiency and effectiveness, but conduct a fundamental review of America’s missions, capabilities, and our role in a changing world.” How can we honestly evaluate our role in world and what our national interests are when the order has already been issued to cut a specific and substantial amount? To make matters worse, only a few short months after saying that “I will make specific decisions about spending after [the comprehensive review] is complete,” the President endorsed Senator Harry Reid’s increased debt-ceiling proposal that would indiscriminately cut defense by $868 billion over the next decade. According to a statement from the White House, the plan proposed by Senator Reid “is a reasonable approach that should receive the support of both parties, and we hope the House Republicans will agree to this plan.”
CONCLUSION Make no mistake: we must look for ways to reduce the federal debt. And the Department of Defense must be audited and held accountable for the tax dollars they spend. But defense spending is not what put us in our fiscal sinkhole, and gutting our national military strength to pay the bills will not get us out of it. A defense budget in decline will undermine our ability to project power, strengthen our adversaries, and weaken our alliances. We must answer an important question: Are we ready to accept the risks that will come with the dismantling of our national military power? While our Armed Forces are charged with defending our nation, it is the responsibility of Congress to provide them with the resources to accomplish the tasks we set for them. Our men and women in uniform have always diligently confronted the tasks we have put before them. It is time for Congress to do its job and provide adequately for the common defense.
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A defense cuts primer for Members of Congress