Last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered another $50 to 60 billion more be cut from the Pentagon’s five-year defense budget plan, with new replacements for worn-out war equipment on the chopping block. The move is no surprise and preparation for a zero-growth defense budget by the Obama Administration through 2014.
One more procurement holiday, coming right up?
With the nation currently fighting two wars, it’s difficult to see which is more troubling: that the Obama Administration, in the absence of a national security strategy or new Pentagon review, is recommending a flat defense budget for the next five years, or that the Defense Secretary is going along with these plans.
Heritage research shows that President Obama’s purportedly “flat” defense budget is in actuality a declining budget, beginning with 3.81 percent of GDP in 2010 but dropping to 3.01 percent by 2019. Considering that research and development for new weapons programs is taking the brunt of the blow, the United States is staring at a repeat of the 1990’s Clinton procurement holiday from which the military still hasn’t recovered.
Now in 2009, after seven years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, personnel and essential equipment have suffered tremendous strain. The Obama Administration celebrates its victory over cutting seven F-22s from the defense budget, but in 2008 the Air Force had to ground over 300 F-15s in response to an incident where one of the aged fighters “broke in half” during a training exercise. Never mind that the F-22 was supposed to replace those legacy fighters, we’ve still got the F-35. Right?
Already over a trillion dollars, the F-35 program is $38 billion over budget and 27 months behind schedule according to the GAO. And now, Pentagon leaders may decide to make cuts to that program, as well. So after killing the F-22 on the grounds that the F-35 is the silver bullet solution, now we’re eyeing the F-35 for future cuts? What exactly are America’s airmen and women supposed to use, paper planes?
The solution is simple. Heritage has advocated that President Obama commit to spending four percent of the nation’s GDP on core defense programs—excluding funding for Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Obama has already promised three percent of GDP to ‘science,’ so defense would hardly be a stretch. Protecting Americans is the first job of the federal government. A commitment to a larger defense budget will ensure that the military can buy enough next-generation equipment to fight and win for the next 40 years.