Monday, March 19, 2007

Massive Spending and Broken Branches (of the military)

As Congress takes up the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, they are confronting the largest defense budget as percentage of all expenditures since World War II.

This massive spending increase comes at the same time top military commanders make grim predictions about manpower, materiel and readiness. In spite of all that additional spending, our military is strained nearly to the breaking point after five years of desert warfare, and four years of fighting on two fronts.

Army Gen. Bantz Craddock of the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) told a house committee last week that he is skeptical that the United States could mount a response to a new crisis in Europe "I'm skeptical that we have adequate forces available."

Troops who come back from Iraq get little or no down-time. They instead almost immediately start preparing for their next deployment. Readiness suffers because training is not happening. "We're not doing amphibious training, we're not doing mountain-warfare training, or other training that would be needed in another type of contingency," Gen. James Conway, the Marine commandant, testified in February before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The Navy and the Air Force are voicing similar concerns, even though those branches have born less of the burden, troops-wise. "We are currently meeting our wartime requirements, but our future dominance is at risk," Air Force Gen. John Corley testified at the same hearing. Some of the Air Force’s C-130 cargo planes "can no longer deploy to combat because we have literally flown the wings off of them," he said. "The center wing boxes are cracked."

The Navy has dispatched thousands of Medics, Seabee units and detonation experts to support coalition ground forces in Iraq, and the top Navy brass worries that the sailors are being used up. (The highly-technical Navy and Air Force spend a lot more money training their enlisted personnel than the Army and Marines spend training infantry.) Admiral Robert Willard, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, told members of congress last week that the medical deployments have “stressed our ability to provide health care" to sailors at home.

It isn’t the dire prediction that retired General and former Secretary of State Colin Powell that “the Army is about broken.” – but then, Powell was not an active-duty flag-rank when he made his statements before congress.

Given that commanders always display an upbeat attitude about the state of their own service when they parade before congressional committees, open declarations of concern are more than a little noteworthy.

House Armed Services Committee chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO-04) last week ordered two congressional investigations be undertaken; one on the effects of the war in Iraq on military equipment and the other on the recent reports that soldiers are being redeployed to combat zones after sustaining performance-impairing injuries.

I can not think of a more appropriate time to undertake those vital investigations ordered by Chairman Skelton than four years into a vanity war that is the root cause of the destruction tearing at our military – a professional force that took 35 years to create in the wake of Vietnam is now teetering on the brink of destruction after being used like toy soldiers pursuing the follies of a fool.

[Cross-Posted from Watching Those We Chose]

1 comment:

opit said...

Ahem. Orwellian terminology : the United States can not be deemed to have had a Defence budget for a looong time ...... now a War Budget is a different matter.