'Keeper of the Flame'; Rep. Buck McKeon Leads the Fight to Preserve American Might

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 4, 2011 | Go to article overview

'Keeper of the Flame'; Rep. Buck McKeon Leads the Fight to Preserve American Might


Byline: Frank Gaffney Jr., THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The United States is teetering on the precipice of disaster. It not only confronts an increasingly dangerous world, it is engaged in defense budget cuts that, predictably, will make the world more so. Worse yet, legislators are actively contemplating steps that would not just hollow out our military but eviscerate it - an irresistible invitation to aggression by freedom's foes.

At the moment, no one has taken a more prominent, informed and vociferous role in opposing such self-inflicted wounds than the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Howard P. Buck McKeon. Under the leadership of the California Republican, that panel has done more than any other to lay out the dire implications of the national security spending reductions already in the pipeline and those in prospect.

Notably, in a recently released report titled Future Cuts Transform a Superpower Into a Regional Power, Mr. McKeon's staff wrote, We believe potential cuts to the military pose a serious threat that would break the back of our armed forces while slowing our economic recovery and doing little to resolve our debt crisis.

The report illuminates myriad ways in which the finest military in the history of the world could be rendered in the immediate future ill-equipped, inadequately trained, insufficiently manned and inappropriate to emerging international conditions.

For instance, we have very old and, in some cases, obsolescent weapon systems - armored vehicles, ships, aircraft, missiles and nuclear weapons. Their modernization and associated research and development is going over the side.

At the same time, the troops responsible for wielding such arms in order to keep the rest of us safe and free are being asked to sacrifice as never before, with some performing their fourth, fifth or sixth combat tours. These servicemen are nonetheless being told they will have to do so with less training, even older gear, fewer funds to maintain it, and the likelihood that the pensions, medical care and other benefits they have earned will be savaged.

This is, as Mr. McKeon has warned, the way to break the military. His staff even anticipates that the return of conscription may be required to fill the ranks if the all-volunteer force simply cannot withstand such buffeting.

Mr. McKeon's committee has gone on point to try to stave off this looming disaster. Its members have used legislative initiatives, oversight hearings, public statements and official correspondence to rouse the public. The chairman even has produced a video called Providing for the Common Defense.

The good news? There is little doubt that the American people are disinterested in such a weakening of their national security, to say nothing of running the attendant risks.

For example, a recent national opinion survey of likely general election voters done for Secure America Now by Democratic political strategists Pat Caddell and Joe Trippi and Republican pollster John McLaughlin established a stunning fact: 96 percent of Americans consider national security to be important when considering candidates for the presidency, with 67 percent saying it is very important. …

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