Magazine article National Defense

Impending Collision between Military Needs and Resources

Magazine article National Defense

Impending Collision between Military Needs and Resources

Article excerpt

* The latest release of the federal budget request to Congress and the submission of the military services' "unfunded requirements" lists are clear indicators of the serious fiscal problems the nation must confront. They also hint at an ominous financial outlook for the armed services.

Starting at the top, one notes that out-year budget projections for the entire federal government continue to increase. The projection is that the federal budget on average will rise approximately $500 billion each year. The fiscal year 2007 forecast projected a budget of $2.6 trillion by 2011. By fiscal 2008, the projection is for a $3.1 trillion budget in 2011.

Looking at the various accounts, one notes unexplainable anomalies. For example Medicare budgets are dropping from fiscal 2007 to 2008; interest on the debt also is shown to be decreasing; but there is a huge jump in the totals for Social Security and other assistance programs. Most accounts, except for defense, show large growth out to fiscal year 2012. Given the soaring projections for health care and Social Security, it is difficult to see how defense can maintain its claim on the modest growth projected for it in the federal budget.

Looking inside the defense budget, one sees a similar pattern. Annual projected increases for defense average $20 billion to $30 billion. Though the fiscal 2009 request is only a slight increase from last year's projection, we are facing war supplementals of approximately $200 billion on top of that. A deeper look inside the defense budget shows the Air Force and Navy to be fairly level, while the Army shows significant growth, which reflects both its recap/reset needs and its planned expansion.

The unfunded requirements lists from the services are less than $5 billion for each service except the Air Force which comes in at a very large $18.7 billion.

To put all this in perspective, both the Air Force and the Army have expressed a need for an additional $20 billion per year on top of their existing base budgets. The Navy and the Marines could express similar needs. The recent disintegration of an Air Force F-15 while in flight and the subsequent grounding of the fleet highlight the difficulties of operating old equipment. These events validate all services' claims for the absolute necessity of well-planned and continuous modernization programs.

And never have we seen the pileup of modernization programs such as we see now--several new Navy ships and fighter jet programs; the Army's Future Combat Systems; new vehicles for the Army and the Marines; and several huge programs for the Air Force (airlift, refueling, fighters, rescue helicopter, new bomber, space). …

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