Budget Principles Are Not Worth Dead Soldiers

When Donald Trump was running for president he promised to end the sequestration caps on military spending and rebuild a depleted America military strained to the limit to meet the threats of radical Islamic terrorism, a rising China, a resurgent Russia, a lunatic North Kora, and a fanatical Iran. That $150 billion Obama released to Iran was roughly equivalent to the money lost to sequestration and Obama budget cuts, money that otherwise would have gone to military modernization to meet, among other threats, that of Iran.

In a budget deal with the Democrats, President Trump has kept both promises, yet so-called budget hawks who slept during eight years of Obama bemoan the “debt bomb” Trump ha allegedly dropped, not bothering to worry about deterring the nuclear bomb North Korea is preparing to drop. Defense is in the Constitution and is not a discretionary budget item, but rather a national security necessity. It should not be held hostage to Republican budget principles, Democratic open border desires, or anything else. Once again, critics of the deal need to remember that the Republicans in fact do not control the Senate but in the current configuration the Senate is controlled by nine Democrats and unless they have 60 votes in their back pocket, they should just rig for silent running.

As the military gasped for budgetary air during an endless series of continuing resolutions, our young men and women were increasingly dying in training accidents. In fact, they were four times more likely in 2017 to die in a training accident than in combat:

On Wednesday, fifteen US Marines were injured after their amphibious landing vehicle caught fire in California. The day prior, a service member was killed during an aerial medical evacuation exercise in Texas.

For some lawmakers, this is a disturbing trend that needs to be addressed at once.

“Over the past three years, in total 185 men and women in uniform have been killed in non-combat accidents,” Republican Sen. John McCain said Wednesday. “During the same period, 44 service members were killed in combat. Bottom line is this: I want all of my colleagues to concentrate on what I’m about to say: we are killing more of our own people in training than our enemies are in combat.”                                                                                                          

2017 has been a bad year for military accidents, ranging from Marine aircraft falling out of the sky to naval ship collisions and other mishaps. The military’s safety woes continue to pile up as the year draws to a close.

“In the past few months, we have seen far too many reports of death and injury to service members due to accidents during training,” McCain added in a written statement released today. “Four times as many service members died during routine training in the last three years than in combat.”

Defense Secretary James Mattis recently told the House Armed Services Committee it was a waste of time outlining defense strategies without a budget to fund them:

"It is not lost on me that as I testify before you this morning, we are again on the verge of a government shutdown or, at best, another damaging continuing resolution," Mattis said in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee.

"I regret that without sustained, predictable appropriations, my presence here today wastes your time, because no strategy can survive without the funding necessary to resource it. We all know America can afford survival," he said…

"To advance the security of our nation, these troops are putting themselves in harm's way, in effect signing a blank check payable to the American people with their lives," Mattis said. "They do so despite Congress' abrogation of its Constitutional responsibility to provide stable funding."

It was not hyperbole when GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump said that under President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the U.S. military had been “reduced to rubble” and left floundering without a coherent strategy or meaningful capability to win wars. It is a fait accompli, engineered by our commander-in-chief to reduce America’s global footprint, an America he has profusely apologized for, and one he blames for all the world’s ills.

Almost as soon as he took office, President Obama began a military purge not dissimilar to those routinely conducted by third-world despots, with the goal of eliminating voices that might oppose his withdrawing of America from the world stage. As Investor’s Business Daily editorialized, President Obama sacked 197 high-ranking officers in just five years, voices opposed to his unilateral disarmament.

One of those purged was, ironically, Gen. James Mattis. Retired four-star general and Fox News Analyst Jack Keane, architect of the Iraq surge that produced the victory Obama threw away, recently spoke on “Kilmeade and Friends” about Obama’s ongoing purge of the military of officers who oppose his isolationist and defeatist policies

It’s also a fact that a number of our general officers, not all of them but a number of them, were asked to leave before what would normally be accepted as the routine tenure for that particular position, and General Mattis is a case in point who had very strong views on Iran. Most of us agree with those views but I know the administration did not agree with them. General Flynn, who you know very well and had on your show, was an outspoken proponent for understand radical Islam, how dangerous this particular threat was and was trying to communicate that, he was not able to server out his full tenure. So yes, that’s another fact that we can substantiate, that there were generals who did leave earlier than what their tenure would be and the characteristic they all shared together is they did disagree with the administration on various points.”

General Mattis is an old-school warrior known for his colorful rhetoric and his commitment both to his men and to his mission. He, along with other generals like David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal,  did have a problem with Obama’s quest for a substitute for victory in Iraq and Afghanistan: As the New York Post reported:

Lost in the inaugural hullabaloo was Tuesday’s news that President Obama has relieved Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, the colorful and highly decorated Marine who’s been in charge of the crucial US Central Command, which oversees the various wars in the Middle East, since 2010….

But why? Could it be that, as Obama prepares to cede Afghanistan back to the Taliban, the last thing he needs is an obstreperous general gumming up the surrender?

For an administration whose relationship with the military is, to put it mildly, fraught with tension, Mattis is yet another wall trophy, to go alongside the heads of Gen. Stanley McChrystal (fired in 2010 as the commander of the US forces in Afghanistan) and David Petraeus, who left CentCom to be buried alive at the CIA (and later resigned over the Paula Broadwell sex scandal).

Officially, the administration offers a nothing-to-see-here explanation for Mattis’ departure, noting that his tenure in the crucial job was about average for the post.

Maybe. But politics is at play here as well. The brusque Mattis apparently fell afoul of National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, an Obama apparatchik. Why? Because Mattis says things the Obama team doesn’t want to hear, especially about what might well become the next theater of operations -- Iran.

After eight years of Barack Hussein Obama as commander-in-chief, the U.S. military is once again gasping for air and the only thing that is collapsing is our ability to resist rearming old enemies like China and Russia, rogue states like Iran and North Korea, and terrorist groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaida. That much was made clear as top officials from all the branches of the military spoke out before Congress about the once-feared “arsenal of democracy” rusting away into oblivion:

For decades, the F/A-18 Hornet has been the Navy’s front-line combat jet -- taking off from aircraft carriers around the globe to enforce no-fly zones, carry out strikes and even engage in the occasional dogfight.

But the Navy’s ability to use these planes is now greatly hindered as more than 60 percent of the jets are out of service. That number is even worse for the Marine Corps, where 74 percent of its F-18s -- some of the oldest in service -- are not ready for combat operations….

“Our long-term readiness continues its insidious decline,” Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Moran testified Wednesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee.”

As China builds military bases on man-made islands in the South China Sea, the staggering decline in U.S. naval readiness was made clear when a group of Navy captains testified earlier before an unusual joint hearing of the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower and readiness subcommittees. This sad state of affairs is accomplishing what the Imperial Japanese Navy could not -- defeat the U.S. Navy and leave the seas increasingly open to hostile adversaries and leaving us increasingly unable to come to the aid of our remaining allies. As the Navy captains testified:

About every three months or so we would get a new schedule” for the submarine USS Albany, said Capt. Gregory McRae, deputy commander of Submarine Squadron Six. “Today, we are looking at a 43-month overhaul for a maintenance period that was supposed to last 28 months.”

“Cannibalization” -- pulling scarce spare parts off one ship or plane to fix another about to deploy -- is now routine, the captains testified. For example, the USS Normandy has served as an organ donor for 13 different “mission critical” components over the last 45 days, crippling the anti-aircraft cruiser‘s radar. “I could not possibly surge right now” for an emergency deployment, testified Normandy skipper Capt. Scott Robertson.

Naval air forces are in similar straits. Four of the Navy’s 10 carrier air wings are fully manned and equipped, but those four are the ones either deployed or about to deploy, said Capt. Randy Stearns. Getting one of the other six wings ready to go in an emergency would take six to 12 months, “three times as long” as when he was a young officer, Stearns said: “As of today, we don’t have that surge capacity.”

Carrier Air Wing One will not have the funds or parts to fly at all for four months, Stearns testified. That will save $9 million to $13 million in the short run, but they’ll never get those months of training back, said Stearns. In the long term, “it’s going to take me three times the amount and three times the cost to get them back up to speed.”

Compounding this crisis is the Budget Control Act, “We’ve never caught up” on the maintenance and training cancelled in 2013, said Capt. Stearns. Last year’s budget deal loosened the BCA caps for fiscal year 2016 but kept them $18 billion tighter for 2017.

Not only the Navy is affected. The Army, Air Force, and Marines are all in precarious states, the vice chiefs testified:

Gen. Daniel Allyn, the Army's vice chief of staff, said that only three of the Army's more than 50 brigade combat teams have all the troops, training and equipment needed to fight at a moment's notice.

And the Marine Corps, which wants an additional $4.2 billion added to its 2017 budget, warned that the "nation's force in readiness" will have to continue shifting money intended for new weapons to pay current bills.

The Air Force is the branch of the military that arguably is in the most dire straits, with aircraft numbers falling from 8,600 in 1991 to 5,500 today. There are 55 fighter squadrons, down from 134, and less than 50 percent of its combat forces are “sufficiently ready for a highly contested fight against peer adversaries,” Air Force Vice Chief Gen. Stephen W. Wilson said in reference to countries like Russia and China.

President Obama left an Army that as it is cannot meet its military readiness requirements according to retired Army Major Gen. Bob Scales, who noted the hypocrisy of President Obama’s tribute to Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg at the 2014 State of the Union address:

Gen. Bob Scales, a retired U.S. Army major general and former commandant of the U.S. Army War College who is now a military analyst for Fox News, told Greta Van Susteren the day after the State of the Union of the sad state of U.S. military preparedness and expressed a fear it would lead to more Cory Remsburgs.

"Yeah, it broke my heart," Scales said. "This great guy, Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg, think of this, Greta: 10 tours in Iraq and Afghanistan in 10 years. What does that say about the overcommitment of our Army? And here is a president who uses him as an icon for the State of the Union.

"And yet the very service that he comes from, the Army, has 85% of its brigades not combat-ready. It does not have one single developmental program for a combat system at all. Zero."

As Investor’s Business Daily editorialized in 2014, President Obama’s reckless disregard for military readiness has put America’s readiness and national security in dire peril:

We have noted administration plans to cut U.S. troop levels to pre-World War II levels. Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno, the former top U.S. general in Iraq, testified last September before the House Armed Services Committee that "these reductions will put at substantial risk our ability to conduct even one sustained major combat operation."

Writing in the New York Times, Steve Cohen, a former director of the U.S. Naval Institute, noted that the days of President Ronald Reagan's 600-ship Navy, which helped stymie Soviet expansionism and win the Cold War, is no more than a fond memory.

"With the U.S. Navy arguably at its smallest since 1917, we don't have many ships that are actually at sea," Cohen says. "Only 35% of the Navy's entire fleet is deployed, fewer than 100 ships."

U.S. air power has also been a target of the Obama administration. In June of last year, David A. Deptula, a retired Air Force three-star general and senior military scholar at the Air Force Academy, warned that "in the Air Force alone, more than 30 squadrons are now grounded, along with air crews and maintenance and training personnel."

President Trump was right when he said during the 2016 campaign President Obama had reduced the U.S. military to rubble. Trump pledged to eliminate the defense sequestration and reinitiate a policy of peace through strength. It comes not a moment too soon as our adversaries rush o fill the military and strategic vacuum President Obama left behind. The greatest social service a government can perform for its people is to keep them alive and free. So let us sharpen our swords. Beating them into plowshares will just have to wait.

Daniel John Sobieski is a freelance writer whose pieces have appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, Human Events, Reason Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times among other publications.               

When Donald Trump was running for president he promised to end the sequestration caps on military spending and rebuild a depleted America military strained to the limit to meet the threats of radical Islamic terrorism, a rising China, a resurgent Russia, a lunatic North Kora, and a fanatical Iran. That $150 billion Obama released to Iran was roughly equivalent to the money lost to sequestration and Obama budget cuts, money that otherwise would have gone to military modernization to meet, among other threats, that of Iran.

In a budget deal with the Democrats, President Trump has kept both promises, yet so-called budget hawks who slept during eight years of Obama bemoan the “debt bomb” Trump ha allegedly dropped, not bothering to worry about deterring the nuclear bomb North Korea is preparing to drop. Defense is in the Constitution and is not a discretionary budget item, but rather a national security necessity. It should not be held hostage to Republican budget principles, Democratic open border desires, or anything else. Once again, critics of the deal need to remember that the Republicans in fact do not control the Senate but in the current configuration the Senate is controlled by nine Democrats and unless they have 60 votes in their back pocket, they should just rig for silent running.

As the military gasped for budgetary air during an endless series of continuing resolutions, our young men and women were increasingly dying in training accidents. In fact, they were four times more likely in 2017 to die in a training accident than in combat:

On Wednesday, fifteen US Marines were injured after their amphibious landing vehicle caught fire in California. The day prior, a service member was killed during an aerial medical evacuation exercise in Texas.

For some lawmakers, this is a disturbing trend that needs to be addressed at once.

“Over the past three years, in total 185 men and women in uniform have been killed in non-combat accidents,” Republican Sen. John McCain said Wednesday. “During the same period, 44 service members were killed in combat. Bottom line is this: I want all of my colleagues to concentrate on what I’m about to say: we are killing more of our own people in training than our enemies are in combat.”                                                                                                          

2017 has been a bad year for military accidents, ranging from Marine aircraft falling out of the sky to naval ship collisions and other mishaps. The military’s safety woes continue to pile up as the year draws to a close.

“In the past few months, we have seen far too many reports of death and injury to service members due to accidents during training,” McCain added in a written statement released today. “Four times as many service members died during routine training in the last three years than in combat.”

Defense Secretary James Mattis recently told the House Armed Services Committee it was a waste of time outlining defense strategies without a budget to fund them:

"It is not lost on me that as I testify before you this morning, we are again on the verge of a government shutdown or, at best, another damaging continuing resolution," Mattis said in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee.

"I regret that without sustained, predictable appropriations, my presence here today wastes your time, because no strategy can survive without the funding necessary to resource it. We all know America can afford survival," he said…

"To advance the security of our nation, these troops are putting themselves in harm's way, in effect signing a blank check payable to the American people with their lives," Mattis said. "They do so despite Congress' abrogation of its Constitutional responsibility to provide stable funding."

It was not hyperbole when GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump said that under President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the U.S. military had been “reduced to rubble” and left floundering without a coherent strategy or meaningful capability to win wars. It is a fait accompli, engineered by our commander-in-chief to reduce America’s global footprint, an America he has profusely apologized for, and one he blames for all the world’s ills.

Almost as soon as he took office, President Obama began a military purge not dissimilar to those routinely conducted by third-world despots, with the goal of eliminating voices that might oppose his withdrawing of America from the world stage. As Investor’s Business Daily editorialized, President Obama sacked 197 high-ranking officers in just five years, voices opposed to his unilateral disarmament.

One of those purged was, ironically, Gen. James Mattis. Retired four-star general and Fox News Analyst Jack Keane, architect of the Iraq surge that produced the victory Obama threw away, recently spoke on “Kilmeade and Friends” about Obama’s ongoing purge of the military of officers who oppose his isolationist and defeatist policies

It’s also a fact that a number of our general officers, not all of them but a number of them, were asked to leave before what would normally be accepted as the routine tenure for that particular position, and General Mattis is a case in point who had very strong views on Iran. Most of us agree with those views but I know the administration did not agree with them. General Flynn, who you know very well and had on your show, was an outspoken proponent for understand radical Islam, how dangerous this particular threat was and was trying to communicate that, he was not able to server out his full tenure. So yes, that’s another fact that we can substantiate, that there were generals who did leave earlier than what their tenure would be and the characteristic they all shared together is they did disagree with the administration on various points.”

General Mattis is an old-school warrior known for his colorful rhetoric and his commitment both to his men and to his mission. He, along with other generals like David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal,  did have a problem with Obama’s quest for a substitute for victory in Iraq and Afghanistan: As the New York Post reported:

Lost in the inaugural hullabaloo was Tuesday’s news that President Obama has relieved Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, the colorful and highly decorated Marine who’s been in charge of the crucial US Central Command, which oversees the various wars in the Middle East, since 2010….

But why? Could it be that, as Obama prepares to cede Afghanistan back to the Taliban, the last thing he needs is an obstreperous general gumming up the surrender?

For an administration whose relationship with the military is, to put it mildly, fraught with tension, Mattis is yet another wall trophy, to go alongside the heads of Gen. Stanley McChrystal (fired in 2010 as the commander of the US forces in Afghanistan) and David Petraeus, who left CentCom to be buried alive at the CIA (and later resigned over the Paula Broadwell sex scandal).

Officially, the administration offers a nothing-to-see-here explanation for Mattis’ departure, noting that his tenure in the crucial job was about average for the post.

Maybe. But politics is at play here as well. The brusque Mattis apparently fell afoul of National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, an Obama apparatchik. Why? Because Mattis says things the Obama team doesn’t want to hear, especially about what might well become the next theater of operations -- Iran.

After eight years of Barack Hussein Obama as commander-in-chief, the U.S. military is once again gasping for air and the only thing that is collapsing is our ability to resist rearming old enemies like China and Russia, rogue states like Iran and North Korea, and terrorist groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaida. That much was made clear as top officials from all the branches of the military spoke out before Congress about the once-feared “arsenal of democracy” rusting away into oblivion:

For decades, the F/A-18 Hornet has been the Navy’s front-line combat jet -- taking off from aircraft carriers around the globe to enforce no-fly zones, carry out strikes and even engage in the occasional dogfight.

But the Navy’s ability to use these planes is now greatly hindered as more than 60 percent of the jets are out of service. That number is even worse for the Marine Corps, where 74 percent of its F-18s -- some of the oldest in service -- are not ready for combat operations….

“Our long-term readiness continues its insidious decline,” Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Moran testified Wednesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee.”

As China builds military bases on man-made islands in the South China Sea, the staggering decline in U.S. naval readiness was made clear when a group of Navy captains testified earlier before an unusual joint hearing of the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower and readiness subcommittees. This sad state of affairs is accomplishing what the Imperial Japanese Navy could not -- defeat the U.S. Navy and leave the seas increasingly open to hostile adversaries and leaving us increasingly unable to come to the aid of our remaining allies. As the Navy captains testified:

About every three months or so we would get a new schedule” for the submarine USS Albany, said Capt. Gregory McRae, deputy commander of Submarine Squadron Six. “Today, we are looking at a 43-month overhaul for a maintenance period that was supposed to last 28 months.”

“Cannibalization” -- pulling scarce spare parts off one ship or plane to fix another about to deploy -- is now routine, the captains testified. For example, the USS Normandy has served as an organ donor for 13 different “mission critical” components over the last 45 days, crippling the anti-aircraft cruiser‘s radar. “I could not possibly surge right now” for an emergency deployment, testified Normandy skipper Capt. Scott Robertson.

Naval air forces are in similar straits. Four of the Navy’s 10 carrier air wings are fully manned and equipped, but those four are the ones either deployed or about to deploy, said Capt. Randy Stearns. Getting one of the other six wings ready to go in an emergency would take six to 12 months, “three times as long” as when he was a young officer, Stearns said: “As of today, we don’t have that surge capacity.”

Carrier Air Wing One will not have the funds or parts to fly at all for four months, Stearns testified. That will save $9 million to $13 million in the short run, but they’ll never get those months of training back, said Stearns. In the long term, “it’s going to take me three times the amount and three times the cost to get them back up to speed.”

Compounding this crisis is the Budget Control Act, “We’ve never caught up” on the maintenance and training cancelled in 2013, said Capt. Stearns. Last year’s budget deal loosened the BCA caps for fiscal year 2016 but kept them $18 billion tighter for 2017.

Not only the Navy is affected. The Army, Air Force, and Marines are all in precarious states, the vice chiefs testified:

Gen. Daniel Allyn, the Army's vice chief of staff, said that only three of the Army's more than 50 brigade combat teams have all the troops, training and equipment needed to fight at a moment's notice.

And the Marine Corps, which wants an additional $4.2 billion added to its 2017 budget, warned that the "nation's force in readiness" will have to continue shifting money intended for new weapons to pay current bills.

The Air Force is the branch of the military that arguably is in the most dire straits, with aircraft numbers falling from 8,600 in 1991 to 5,500 today. There are 55 fighter squadrons, down from 134, and less than 50 percent of its combat forces are “sufficiently ready for a highly contested fight against peer adversaries,” Air Force Vice Chief Gen. Stephen W. Wilson said in reference to countries like Russia and China.

President Obama left an Army that as it is cannot meet its military readiness requirements according to retired Army Major Gen. Bob Scales, who noted the hypocrisy of President Obama’s tribute to Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg at the 2014 State of the Union address:

Gen. Bob Scales, a retired U.S. Army major general and former commandant of the U.S. Army War College who is now a military analyst for Fox News, told Greta Van Susteren the day after the State of the Union of the sad state of U.S. military preparedness and expressed a fear it would lead to more Cory Remsburgs.

"Yeah, it broke my heart," Scales said. "This great guy, Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg, think of this, Greta: 10 tours in Iraq and Afghanistan in 10 years. What does that say about the overcommitment of our Army? And here is a president who uses him as an icon for the State of the Union.

"And yet the very service that he comes from, the Army, has 85% of its brigades not combat-ready. It does not have one single developmental program for a combat system at all. Zero."

As Investor’s Business Daily editorialized in 2014, President Obama’s reckless disregard for military readiness has put America’s readiness and national security in dire peril:

We have noted administration plans to cut U.S. troop levels to pre-World War II levels. Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno, the former top U.S. general in Iraq, testified last September before the House Armed Services Committee that "these reductions will put at substantial risk our ability to conduct even one sustained major combat operation."

Writing in the New York Times, Steve Cohen, a former director of the U.S. Naval Institute, noted that the days of President Ronald Reagan's 600-ship Navy, which helped stymie Soviet expansionism and win the Cold War, is no more than a fond memory.

"With the U.S. Navy arguably at its smallest since 1917, we don't have many ships that are actually at sea," Cohen says. "Only 35% of the Navy's entire fleet is deployed, fewer than 100 ships."

U.S. air power has also been a target of the Obama administration. In June of last year, David A. Deptula, a retired Air Force three-star general and senior military scholar at the Air Force Academy, warned that "in the Air Force alone, more than 30 squadrons are now grounded, along with air crews and maintenance and training personnel."

President Trump was right when he said during the 2016 campaign President Obama had reduced the U.S. military to rubble. Trump pledged to eliminate the defense sequestration and reinitiate a policy of peace through strength. It comes not a moment too soon as our adversaries rush o fill the military and strategic vacuum President Obama left behind. The greatest social service a government can perform for its people is to keep them alive and free. So let us sharpen our swords. Beating them into plowshares will just have to wait.

Daniel John Sobieski is a freelance writer whose pieces have appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, Human Events, Reason Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times among other publications.