Dan Gilmore / March 8, 2016

Navy SEALs Without Rifles

“Money is not reaching the people it needs to reach.”

If you’re in the rare class of elite American warriors, the Special Forces that drilled Osama bin Laden, the forces that are called out whenever the United States needs a fast, deadly strike team, your weapon is an extension of your arm. Yet according to Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Marine veteran, the Navy SEALs are facing a weapons shortage. They don’t have enough ammunition to both practice and go on missions. When one Navy SEAL returns from deployment, he hands his rifle off to another SEAL shipping out. An unfamiliar weapon, deadly circumstances. What could go wrong?

Recently, the number of missions the U.S. military hands to Special Operations has grown. In the last decade, the ranks of these elite warriors — whether they be SEALs, Green Berets, Rangers or Air Force combat controllers — have swelled from 33,600 soldiers to 56,000. And yet, SEALs cannot get the arms they need to effectively do their jobs. Could it be an example of just how severely Washington slashed the budget last year, that the very soldiers on the front lines on the war against terrorism can no longer do their jobs? Unlikely, said Hunter: “There is so much wasteful spending. Money is not reaching the people it needs to reach.”

One SEAL who talked with Hunter said the military bureaucracy has shortchanged its elite warriors, dulled the tip of the spear. A reliable rifle doesn’t cost that much, especially when you take into consideration the money Washington burns every time a jet takes off to bomb the Islamic State. One of the military’s top brass, Army Gen. Joseph Votel at the U.S. Special Operations Command, said the SEALs’ perceived weapon shortage is because the guns are actually are going to the gunsmith for maintenance.

Military bureaucracy, like any bureaucracy, can make the mistake of putting its own self-preservation ahead of the people it purportedly serves. It was a military bureaucracy that doomed soldiers in the Vietnam War by outfitting them with corrosion and jam-prone M-16s. We’re sure America’s elite warriors know the difference between handing a gun to a fellow SEAL and shipping that gun out for repairs.

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