A devastating report by the Heritage Foundation reveals yet another arena where the Obama administration, with the blessings of the Democrat Party, is fundamentally transforming the United States of America. “The U.S. military may be weaker than you think,” the report states. “All but one branch of America’s military and nuclear forces are currently operating at ‘marginal’ strength levels.”
The Heritage Foundation’s conclusions are strikingly at odds with the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, which maintains the U.S. can still fight two major conflicts simultaneously. Yet that same report highlights the reality that beginning in FY2012 the Department of Defense began absorbing the “significant impacts” of the $487 billion, ten-year spending cut instituted by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). “Sequestration” was the bit where Republicans abided drastic cuts in military spending in exchange for cuts in discretionary spending — even Democrats managed to keep budget-busting programs such as Social Security and Medicaid largely exempt. The BCA also included the requirement that the military cut its budget by $50 billion on an annual basis. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 provided a temporary respite from sequestration, but barring any actions by Congress, “annual sequestration cuts are set to resume in FY2016,” the report warns.
Thus, Heritage maintains the military’s two-front capability is rapidly becoming a pipe dream. After taking a detailed look at the military’s units and weapons on a region by region basis, they conclude that the “current U.S. military force is adequate to meeting the demands of a single major regional conflict while also attending to various presence and engagement activities. Clearly, this is what the military is doing now and has done for the past two decades, but it would be very hard-pressed to do more and certainly would be ill-equipped to handle two, near-simultaneous major regional contingencies.”
Heritage cites the “consistent decline in funding” that has led to essential maintenance being deferred, fewer units being cycled through deployment “more often and for longer periods,” and the extended use of aging equipment even as that equipment’s programmed replacements remain “problematic,” as the primary reasons for the decline. Former Marine Corps officer and strategic planner Dakota Wood illuminated the implications. “The U.S. military is rapidly approaching a one-war-capable force,” he warned. “So [it is] able to handle a major war and then having just a bit of residual capability to handle other minor crises that might pop up. … But it is a far cry from being a two-war force.”
The statistics present a devastating indictment of the American left’s “guns for butter” mentality. That would be the mentality that engendered nearly $16 trillion in spending for the so-called War on Poverty between 1965 and 2008 (measured in 2008 dollars). That sum represents more than twice the amount of military spending, not on conflicts and everything else during the same prime frame, but military spending from the American Revolution through 2013.
Hence, while the Army has traditionally committed 21 brigade combat teams to a single war, only 21 additional brigades remain if a second major conflict arises, with none left in strategic reserve. And even that total might be undercut, per the Army’s 2013 announcement that it would reduce its total to 33 brigades. The Navy, which would need 346 ships to carry out two large campaigns, has only 284 ships in its entire fleet. This shortage led to the embarrassing revelation that the Marine Corps is exploring the idea of deploying its forces on foreign vessels if it needs to respond quickly to crises in Europe and western Africa. Adding insult to injury, the Navy announced it would be pulling its lone aircraft carrier, the Theodore Roosevelt, out of the Persian gulf in the fall. “As a result of meeting increased [combatant commander] demand in previous years, sequestration’s impact on our shipyards, and having a force structure of 10 (rather than 11) carriers, the Navy is not scheduled to provide a continuous carrier presence in some operating regions in fiscal year 2016,” said Navy spokesman Cmdr. William Marks.
Armed Services Committee member Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) put such cuts in proper perspective. “Allowing the continued atrophy of the Navy-Marine Corps team’s amphibious capacity is simply not an option given the national security challenges facing the United States and its allies,” he said in an email statement.
Moreover, the troop cuts occurring over the last five years have been equally absurd. In 2010, there were nearly 570,000 soldiers in the U.S. Army. That total has been whittled down to just over 490,000, representing a decrease of 13.5 percent. Nonetheless, last week Defense officials announced an additional cut of 40,000 troops over the next two years, bringing that number down to 450,000. That total represents the lowest number of active duty soldiers since before America entered the World War II, and Army’s smallest size since 9/11. “These are not cuts the Army wants to make, these are cuts required by the budget environment in which we operate,” said Army vice chief of staff Gen. Daniel Allyn.
But that’s only part of the story. “This 40,000 soldier cut … will only get us to the program force, it does not deal with the continued threat of sequestration,” he added. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno warned that if troops levels were reduced to 420,000, America could not cary out all of its global commitments.
As the Obama administration has made abundantly clear, reducing global commitments take precedence over maintaining military strength. His pie-in-the-progressive-sky decision to remove all American troops, as he put it, from a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government,” in 2011 led directly to the rise of ISIS, a “JV team” that has flourished, even as that flourishing puts the lie to Obama’s insistence he would “degrade and destroy” this band of ruthless and barbaric Islamist savages. That promise has now morphed into a “generational struggle” against a “nimble” and opportunistic" army the president still refuses to attribute to Islam.
This calculated impotence, allowing ISIS to maintain a heavily promoted reputation for military prowess, has a price. “We have investigations of people in various stages of radicalizing in all 50 states,” said FBI Director James Comey in February.
Regardless, Obama remains on schedule to make the same mistake in Afghanistan, reducing the current level of 9,800 troops at 21 bases around the country, to an embassy presence in the city of Kabul by the end of next year. In an op-ed for the Washington Post, retired Army Gen. David Petraeus and senior Brookings Institution fellow Michael O'Hanlon emphasize the folly of such thinking. “We can schedule an end to our role in that nation’s conflict, but we cannot schedule an end to the war there or an end to the threat from al-Qaeda, the Islamic State or other extremist elements of the global jihad,” they write.
Global jihad is only part of the equation. As Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey explains, in addition to non-state actors like ISIS and al Qaeda, state actors such as China, Russia and Iran can be added to the list of threats America faces. “For the first time in my career, they are both manifesting themselves simultaneously,” he warned. “This is not a time to be withdrawing from the world.”
Russian ambitions could include reclaiming Georgia, Crimea, Ukraine, and the Baltic states in an effort to build a modern-day Soviet Union. China, when it’s not busy hacking U.S. government data bases with impunity, remains at at work in the Pacific. Its rapidly expanding military prowess is being used to threaten Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines, as Obama’s much vaunted “pivot to Asia” proved as substantive as his “red line” in Syria. As for Iran, apart from being given the keys to the nuclear bomb kingdom in perhaps the worst diplomatic failure in modern American history, the world’s foremost sponsor of state terror remains busy at work actively subverting Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen in its effort to realize a Shi'ite-dominated Middle East empire. And last but not least, ISIS is intent on reprising 9/11 — or worse.
The common denominator/enabler of these global threats is a president and his leftist allies, whose twisted worldview was best expressed by Obama himself. “Ideologies are not defeated with guns, they are defeated by better ideas and more attractive and more compelling vision,” he said at a July 6 press conference following a meeting with military leaders at the Pentagon. Obama was referring specifically to ISIS. But there is little doubt this odious combination of arrogance that presumes the turn of a clever phrase can “enlighten” power-hungry thugs, coupled with a historical ignorance that can gloss over the millions of deaths it took to subdue the Nazis, can be applied to any adversarial world leader. From the “reset” with Russia to a “deal” with apocalyptic-minded Iranian mullahs and everything in between, there is little doubt in leftist precincts that we are on the verge of “peace in our time.” Thus the old saw known as a “peacetime dividend” must be pursed with vigor.
As a result, despite efforts by Congressional Republicans to prop up military spending, Obama has threatened to veto any spending that lifts sequestration for the military, unless the spending caps are also lifted for the rest of the government. “Ultimately the president will not allow Republican leadership to get away with these games,” House Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) said in May. “I’m confident the president will insist on an economy that works for all Americans.”
In short, America’s national security will be held hostage to the welfare state. In the process, the left will achieve its traitorous goal of sabotaging America’s military capabilities from within, providing leeway and encouragement to our enemies. When our nation pays its next price for such fecklessness, it will be worth remembering who got us there.
Originally published at FrontPage Magazine.