The budget President Bush sent to Congress this week has very
little detail on defense spending. The true military expense list
will come a few months from now after the administration has
figured out how many wars it wants to be prepared to fight and how
to fight them.
But the one sure thing is that Bush & Co. believe strongly - as
do many outside experts - that military readiness needs
Gear is wearing out. Pilots aren't getting enough flying time.
It's getting harder to recruit new soldiers due to low pay,
inadequate housing, and other "quality of life" issues. Overseas
units are so involved with "peacekeeping" that some are failing to
meet actual war-fighting standards because they miss training
exercises back in the states.
"Readiness is in jeopardy - both now and in the future - because
of aging, overused equipment, rapidly increasing costs and
shortages of spare parts, and operational funding," warns Senator
John Warner (R) of Virginia, Armed Services Committee chairman.
Meanwhile, the post-cold-war military cutbacks enacted over the
past decade (by Republicans as well as Democrats) are putting an
added strain on the armed services. Army divisions are down to 10
from 18. Air Force fighter wings have been cut from 36 to 20. And
the Navy's fleet, which once stood at nearly 600 ships, is down to
little more than half that. In all, there are 700,000 fewer active-
duty soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines in uniform.
At the same time, US military planning continues to be based on
the ability to fight two "major theater wars." And all of this is
happening at a time when new threats and contingencies need to be
planned for in a single-superpower world where military readiness
could be more important than ever.
"Cold war readiness standards no longer suffice as measures of
our capability to meet today's operational requirements," says Army
Chief of Staff Erik Shinseki. "Our soldiers believe that the Army
is too small for the missions it's asked to perform and under-
resourced for the operational tempo it executes."
Pressure from all sides
Bush is under pressure from left and right. Hawks are pushing for
a bigger defense budget. Doves say closing more superfluous
military bases and killing extravagant and redundant big-ticket
weapons could free up money for spare parts and training. Other
experts say overseas commitments could be adjusted to assure a more-
prepared and better-equipped fighting force.
What's a commander in chief to do - especially one who, during
the recent presidential campaign, promised the troops that "help is
on the way?"
For starters, Bush's $311 billion Defense Department budget for
fiscal year 2002 includes a $1. …