By Ralph Peters
The looming budget sequestration imposes almost $50 billion in cuts on the Defense budget this year. It’s a terrible idea — and I’m for it.
This hatchet job trims not just fat, but muscle and bone, too. It’s going to be ugly. But as I’ve watched the Defense Department pull shameful stunts and listened to congressional blather attempting to block sequestration, this defense hawk has become one irate taxpayer.
The last straw came earlier this month when our Navy ostentatiously cancelled the deployment of the supercarrier USS Harry S Truman to the Persian Gulf, crying poverty. That’s like Donald Trump claiming he can’t afford a cab.
The Navy could have cut back other, less-sensitive deployments or acquisition programs. But the Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chose to embarrass the White House and pressure Congress. He should have been fired.
Did the admiral even think of the message he sent to Iran?
Dear admirals and generals: It’s your job to protect our country, not just your budgets.
As for Congress, its members agreed to this sequestration. The terms weren’t secret. Now panicked members act as if they’ve been innocent dupes.
Won’t wash. You voted for it. Now suck up the consequences.
To get a sense of the scare tactics rampant on the Hill, consider “What Sequestration Really Means,” from the House Armed Services Committee. It has all the integrity of a drunken teenager in a backseat with a cheerleader.
The paper makes four bogus claims about what “reductions at this level would mean”:
The smallest ground force since before World War II. We’re going to have that anyway, because our troops’ real friends on the Hill would fit in an aircraft lavatory. Congressmen love photo ops with soldiers, but when it comes budget time they’ll always sacrifice grunts to preserve home-district defense-contractor jobs, no matter how wasteful. Congress is going to slash troops whatever happens.
The smallest Navy since before World War II. It’s also a much more expensive Navy, with ships costing up to $4.5-billion raw from the shipyard. The Navy decided that fewer, more-expensive ships are better, with supercarriers our maritime-strategy centerpiece.
In fact, our Navy is too small. Want a bigger one? Buy cheaper, smaller, faster ships. The next revolutionary shock in naval warfare is going to come when a second-rate power, such as Iran or North Korea, sinks one of our supercarriers.
The smallest tactical fighter force in the history of the Air Force. Again, this is a choice. Despite possessing incontestable air dominance over every other air force on earth, the “fighter pilot mafia” within our Air Force keeps pushing for extravagant hi-tech fighters. That means fewer airplanes.
Do some basic math. During the Korean War, our top fighter was the F-86D Sabre. It cost under $400,000 per plane. In 2013 dollars, that’s under $4 million. Our second-newest fighter, the F-22 — so troubled it hasn’t been sent on one combat mission — costs $200 million a copy (with R&D and downstream costs included, $350 million). So: For one F-22, you could buy 50 F-86Ds.
It gets worse: The F-22 requires 60 hours of maintenance for every flight hour; the F-86D needed five or fewer. So those 50 F-86Ds could fly 600 sorties to that single F-22’s one. Is the problem-plagued F-22 really 600 times better than the old Sabre?
And our newest fighter, the equally troubled F-35, has an estimated life-cycle cost of up to $1.5 trillion. Want to guess where to start saving?
Of course, we don’t want our pilots flying 1950s aircraft (Oops: We are still flying the B-52s, which actually work).
The fat years are over. Our military needs to make hard choices, but refuses. Leaner really could be meaner — if Congress stopped protecting incompetent contractors.
The smallest civilian workforce in the history of the Defense Department. Why is it smaller? Because Congress went in for an orgy of outsourcing that raped the defense budget—while providing inferior services (the waste during the Iraq War was stomach-turning).
The true problem is that Congress has been giving the defense industry an endless supply of blank checks, with no real accountability — while CEOs wrap themselves in the flag on Capitol Hill. Patriots? In our recent wars, not one defense-industry CEO volunteered to be a dollar-a-year man as captains of industry did in World War II.
Sequestration will do serious harm. But our corrupt system has already done far worse. It’s time for a reckoning.
Ralph Peters is a retired Army officer and former enlisted man.