You may have noticed in the news this last week that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has made his budget recommendation to Congress. Not an unusual event, it happens every year. What you may not have noticed was that it was about a 10 percent reduction from last year's budget. Again not a bad idea if it will reduce our federal tax burdens, a big concern of everyone on this eve of tax paying day. Upon reflection, though, one may realize that any savings in defense is hugely offset by the Obama Administration's increase in social spending.
SecDef Gates' budget cuts four programs that I consider gravely important to our future. The production of the 10 year old F-22 will be ended with a vastly reduced number of required airframes produced. The F-22 is currently the best, bar none, fighter in the world. Other nations, specifically Russia and China are currently in the design process of attempting to build a fighter that will compete with our fifth-generation F-22. The goal is air dominance, and without it, we will not be able to meet known threats.
The combat search and rescue program, known as DSAR-X will be canceled. At present, the Air Force has the only dedicated search and rescue aircraft with crews trained to do rescue for any of our armed forces in a combat situation. The present SAR helicopters have always been barely up to the task and are nearing the end of their feasible operational life. Lives depend on a quick response, and yes, other services have equipment that can be drawn into a rescue operation but we are talking days instead of a few hours, or minutes, response. Time wasted getting their act together translates into lives lost and I have a tender spot in my heart for aircrew on the ground in enemy territory!
The follow-on bomber program is to be canceled. That leaves us with 50-plus-year-old B-52s to soldier on into the future. How many of us use 1964 model cars for a daily driver? Yet that is the year of manufacture of our newest Buffs. The B-2 is capable, but production was capped at something like 20 airframes and those came into service about 15 years ago. That leaves us with the B-1 which President Jimmy Carter canceled but was wisely resurrected by President Reagan -- how many years ago?
It is ironic that the decision to reduce the Missile Defense Agency program by $1.4 billion was announced the same week North Korea launched their first long range intercontinental missile. I've never understood the mindset that somehow figures that a good missile defense is somehow an aggressive act. Rogue nations like North Korea or Iran can try and fail many times to launch a nuclear missile at us, but we must be able to destroy every single one that might come our way. Reducing missile defense numbers can hardly be helpful.
I was told, and it was recently confirmed in an HUMAN EVENTS interview with former Vice Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen Thomas G. McInerney, that SecDef Gates required an unprecedented signed gag order of all who participated in a recent 2009 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). The QRD is the U.S. Defense Department's four-year strategy planning exercise -- yet to be released. Each participant had to sign that they would not reveal any of the proceedings leading to decisions that will shape the makeup of our military services, until after the release of the president's budget.
Yes the leading generals in this country understand that the Military is always subservient to our civilian leadership (SecDef Gates). Yet I see leadership lacking in our present administration, management (or manipulation yes) but not the kind of leadership that thinking men want to follow. It is my opinion that there comes a time to stand up for what is right and if that stand is not accepted then resign. We call it integrity. Gen. Westmorland should have resigned when the Vietnam War was being mismanaged by Johnson and McNamara, yet he did not. Gen. McInerney stated that he would not have signed such a statement and I think that our present chief of staff should have made an equally courageous stand. Didn't happen!
I guess that sometimes we can be too successful! Since the beginning of World War II, no American soldier, sailor or marine has fought on a battlefield that was not free of an enemy's ability to bring airpower against it. In modern day war planning, any ground action is formulated under the assumption that the US Air Force will protect the ground forces from enemy air attack. The F-22 is the only aircraft that can live in the combat environment of Russia's newest anti-air missiles. Only one of our present-day bombers or fighters, including the new F-35, can survive an enemy equipped with the latest air defenses yet it is the F-22 that gets canceled. Go figure!
Probably forever the different branches of the Military have been jousting among each other for advantage at the public trough. The Army wants more men, more glamorous armor and most of all support in all things from air. The Navy loves her hugely expensive Aircraft Carrier task forces which include their own airpower, limited because of having to operate off a very short though portable airfield. The Navy, too, has her own ground forces, our awesome Marines. The Air Force is tasked with providing cargo aircraft to supply their own needs plus those of the Army and somewhat for the Navy. At the moment, though, the Army has SecDef's ear and he is force-shaping the military to conform to the Army's vision, which sees airpower as totally existing to support the Army on the battle field. The Army, of course, demands the Air Force provide for their insatiable appetite for transportation and recently all the reconnaissance and 24-7 surveillance of the battle field with intelligence delivered real time down to the squad level. In the end, though, while the senior service leaders are elbowing for position, the troops on the cutting edge of battle work seamlessly together. In combat it is "them or us," airman, soldier, sailor, Marine we unite as brothers to proudly represent the United States of America!
The problem, I believe, is that few of our leaders understand air power. SecDef Gates comes from the intelligence community, which has been dysfunctionally organized for as long as I can remember. President Obama and his secretary of state, Mrs. Bill Clinton, really have not had time to demonstrate how they want to shape or react to the constantly evolving world situation. I can only hope that they don't adopt the way of President Lyndon Johnson, Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara that deliberately limited action in Vietnam so that China and Russia wouldn't be upset and somehow react against us. I was involved in that war and don't want to return to the acrimonious civil unrest that a no-win attitude produced in the late '60s.
Time will tell, and hopefully my world will survive with the freedom we have known in our lifetimes. I have huge faith in the resilient people of this country but little respect for our current political leaders!
That is the way I see it.