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13-08-11 11:49 PM

Now not the time to cut defense
Now not the time to ce
ut defens
By REP. DUNCAN HUNTER | 8/5/11 12:31 AM EDT
With so much funding for the Defense Department now on the chopping block particularly the potential for $600 billion in cuts under the debt limit agreement Americas ability s to defend itself and confront emerging threats is at serious risk.

These cuts come when each service is already facing heavy operational requirements, with three wars and significant readiness gaps.

The signs of nearly a decade of combat and aging inventory are evident in each branch. Today, for example, barely half the Air Force fighter aircraft units are fully mission-capable, and that branch is likely to face an 800-jet shortfall in the next few years.

In fact, an F-15 fighter jet recently broke in half because of fatigue crack. Fuselage cracks also routinely plague the aging inventory of A-10 aircraft.

For the Marine Corps, its amphibious vehicles are more than 35 years old and can no longer fulfill their expeditionary mission. The Navy is well below the minimum number of ships required to sustain its readiness capabilities.

Each of these examples underscores why now is not the time to cut defense spending. We are a nation at war fighting on multiple fronts. Significant reset burdens are not going away, and new threats continue to emerge. Its crucial that our military stay ready which is near impossible with an anemic defense budget.

In 2009, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned against the historical precedent of major defense cuts at the conclusion of the nations wars. Even so, two years later, at the insistence of the Obama administration, Gates engineered $180 billion in cuts sold as efficiencies. Now, attention is being given to even larger cuts, thanks to the debt limit compromise.

Defense spending is not the reason for our more than $14 trillion in national debt. Nor should it be identified as a primary revenue source to relieve the nations fiscal troubles. There is indeed room for efficiency but cutting for the sake of cutting is a dangerous proposition.

We cannot repeat the mistakes of the 1970s and 90s, and legislate across-the-board cuts that hollow out the force. The latest cuts, made during the 90s, included slashing a third of the Armys end strength, which left us ill-prepared to deal with the unforeseen attacks of 9/11.

Still, the Obama administration and some in Congress are calling for indiscriminate cuts proposing everything from eliminating the MV-22 (currently used successfully by the Marine Corps and Special Operation Forces in Afghanistan) to cancelling the F-35 program. The F-35 loss is of most concern, given its role as the militarys next generation fighter. It was to replace many of our aging aircraft and fill in the gap on fighter jets that the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps will soon face


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