We need more funding for education in the United States, not less. The arts are at the foundation of our soul and need financial support from our Government, not less. There are diseases that will only be conquered with more financial support from our Government, not less. And diplomacy is the string that connects the world. And you can, at this point, add your own items of concern to the list that need the government’s financial attention. The President wants to slash all non-military expenditures in favor of building up an armed America. Part of that is wrong; the other part needs examination.
Notwithstanding Trumps attempt to set a new tone with Russia, history has taught us that men like Putin are not on the same wavelength as democratic philosophies, ideas and values. Putin will wait for the most opportune moment to strike a blow to our wellbeing both domestically and internationally. To think otherwise is to be naïve. Russia is not our friend; has never been. Russia is not our partner on the world stage. And I am not a hawk.
I do believe in being prepared to meet all challenges both domestically and abroad. Whether that challenge is an unknown disease from Africa or a military strike from a potential adversary.
This bring me to a security issue without a political agenda…namely without embracing President Trumps’ unhinged military and world view. How prepared is the United States’ military to defend (notice I used the word: defend—not the grabbing of oil fields that do not belong to the U.S.) American interests domestically and abroad? “I’m signing an executive action to begin a great rebuilding of the armed services of the United States, developing a plan for new planes, new ships, new resources and new tools for our men and women in uniform, and I’m very proud to be doing that,”
The scrutiny must lie in the assessment of each branch of our military, separately. This examination is not how well there is integration of our military services but to examine each component of the whole. My thought is: you are as strong as your weakest link. The same is true of our military.
The “U.S. Armed Forces” consists of the five armed service branches: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy. There are two general categories of military people: active duty (full-time soldiers and sailors) and reserve & guard forces (usually work a civilian job, but can be called to full-time military duty), The President of the United States is the Commander in Chief, who is responsible for all final decisions concerning our armed services. The Secretary of the Department of Defense (DoD) has control, subject to the President’s approval, over each branch of the military – except the Coast Guard, which is under the helm of the Department of Homeland Security. And, what I never realized until writing this piece, is that with over 2 million civilian and military employees, the DoD is the world’s largest “company.”
The Navy: The Navy measures its strength or capacity to undertake a mission interestingly enough not by the number of sailors but by counting the number of ships—“the fleet”. On reflection it is clear and most importantly, in assessing the necessities for the Navy we just do not merely count ships because the obvious is that “not all ships are counted equally”. The Navy focuses mainly on the size of its “battle force,” which is composed of ships considered to be directly related to its combat missions. Fascinating is the reality that when you examine “where the fleet is normally stationed at any given moment”, the majority of our ships (not sailors) are at anchor in the continental U.S. (CONUS) to undergo routine maintenance. This time at home also provides the navy time for training and to provide for time at home for their crews.
However, given the reality of our present needs and that of our national security, there requires our core naval power to be at their stations in regions around the world. This requires that the navy have as many ships forward at sea/deployed as possible, and creates a delicate balance in its operational demands (getting the ships in fighting readiness and sailor with “shore leave”) and the necessity of forward command posts.
The Navy, not the President, presently assess its readiness as it pertains to providing global presence as “strong. Namely, to maintain its ability to forward deploy a third of its fleet and “stave off immediate readiness challenges”. And there is the crux of the dilemma— without further recapitalization and without more hulls entering the fleet, this level of readiness cannot be sustained.
We do not need a Navy to take on the world at the expense of all else. But we do need a Navy, when we view what appears to be an ongoing upward trend of military engagement around the world, to have an increase in a “capacity or readiness funding”. If not, the Navy’s overall score could degrade in the near future. Trump told an audience that our Navy is now “the smallest it’s been since World War I.” This is a misleading statement. The U.S. Navy may be smaller than it has been for 100 years, but its power — relative to the navies of the rest of the world — is still enormous, even after being worn down by the past decade and a half of constant engagement in conflicts.
The Army: In March of 2016, top U.S. military leaders warned Congress that years of combat combined with budget cuts and personnel reductions have left the Services stretched so thin that they may not be able to adequately respond to an unexpected crisis. The admissions take place amidst growing uncertainty about a constrained defense budget and increasing global instability. That was a year ago.
The Marines–– The Marines have informed a congressional committee that if they were called upon today to respond to an unexpected crisis, they might not be ready to deter a potential major conflict and could incur more casualties because of their short fall in preparedness. “I worry about the capability and the capacity to win in a major fight somewhere else right now,” the marines reported, citing a lack of training and equipment. To further complicate their preparedness, the Marines are most risk because of fewer training opportunities with their best equipment which has been deployed with their forces overseas. The picture doesn’t get better when it was revealed, in their report to Congress, that their communication, intelligence and aviation units are the hardest hit at the same moment that roughly 80 percent of Marine aviation units lack the amount of ready aircraft that they need for training and to respond to an emergency.
The Airforce has a different spin on its readiness: They do not discount the need for additional funds—“money is helpful for readiness”, but it is the number of men and women who fill their ranks that provides the “worrisome” issue in their equation. And because the Airforce personal is stretched so thin that Air Force describes itself as “so small”, caused by the extended deployment of troops and the lack of material to execute the necessary training. This is especially true as new equipment is placed on the flight line. The Secretary of the Airforce said just one year ago “if you go into a high-end conflict with a great power and you’re not sufficiently ready, history teaches me, you lose more lives and it’s a prolonged conflict. And it’s very worrisome.”
When you look at the armed services as a whole, it is the Navy that has a more unique role in our national defense. The peace-time Army and Marines have a much smaller contained role in peacetime. We do not need either the Army or the Marines to be stationed or present—a show of force– in many parts of the world. The Navy’s role in peacetime is to be “present” around the globe, and that is the driving force behind the idea of “ship counting”. But during conflict, the navy must be—the expectation—is to be able to fight and win. In this sense, ship counting is not the benchmark. What is necessary is strike groups of carriers, amphibious ships, submarines and support ships that are necessary to ensure success.
What is a given in any discussion, at a time when entities come with hat-in-hand looking for funds to satisfy their own budget demands, is some puffing and hand-wringing in an attempt to increase the urgency of their burdens. Taking the previous sentence as true and reviewing the demands of our armed forces, the picture that they paint does not require or demand that we discount their needs with a slashing sword. Their requests are modest when placed against the framework proposed by President Trump.
No President within my memory or research, who sought funds for massive military expenditure, did so at the expense of our non-military, national or international commitments. The framework of Trumps budget envisions massive cuts across the government’s civilian spending while increasing spending on the military by an additional 10 percent or 54 billion additional dollars. What is hard fact at this moment is that this country spends more on its military then the next seven largest military complexes combined.
Trumps budgetary demands make no sense. They make no sense militarily. They make no sense when reviewing the protection necessary for all of the other needs of our society. This makes no sense in defining the position of the United States as a leading world power. And by itself, his military budget demands will not “Make America Great Again”. To contrary, they will weaken our internal social structure and fracture our international relations.
We must have enough troops of all description. We must have enough equipment of all description to support the military at war. We must have enough ships to permit us to win any conflict–anywhere. We are not and should not be a military empire.