‘Enough, Is Enough:’ USAF Secretary Deborah James Says Budget Cuts, Non-Stop War Have Threatened U.S. Air Superiority — Leaving Fleet Smaller/Weaker, Than Ever Before
“The USAF has a quarter of the number of fighter squadrons it did 25 years ago; and, two-thirds of the active duty airmen, a drop that threatens USAF air superiority,” defense officials told lawmakers on Friday, London’s TheDailyMailOnline reports this morning.
“Enough is enough,” USAF Secretary Deborah James told the House Armed Services Committee on Friday, and vigorously defended a Pentagon budget request that exceeds federal spending caps. “Given the state of the world — the number one thing we have to do is…….stop downsizing.” But, members of the Defense Appropriations Sub Committee said POTUS Obama’s 2016 base budget of $534B exceeded spending caps; and, would have to be cut — with $10B of those cuts coming from the USAF budget proposal.
USAF officials testified that “the force is older, and smaller than it has ever been, and after 14 years of continuous warfare….is being stretched to the breaking point.” “When we deployed to OPERATION DESERT STORM in 1990, our Air Force had 188 fighter squadrons in the inventory. This budget will take us to 49,” said General Mark Welsh, the USAF Chief-of-Staff. “There were 511,000 active duty airmen during DESERT STORM. We have 200,000 fewer today.” Secretary James said that “Air Force planes had an average age of 27 years; and Gen. Welsh said modernizing the fleet was imperative.” “The option of not modernizing — isn’t really an option at all,” Gen. Welsh added, warning that “the USAF will fall behind the technology curve; and, joint forces…without the full breath of air, space, and cyber power…..will lose.” Secretary James said if the USAF had to cut another $10B, it would reduce purchases of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter by 14, as well as cancel work on a fuel-efficient engine, and reduce the number of reconnaissance aircraft in the service.”
Is America Repeating The Mistakes Of Great Britain In The Interwar Years Between WWI – WWII, And Allowing Our Military Might And Combat Capability To Wither And Decline?
There is a better way to portray the dangerous state of the USAF than highlighting the numbers. Numbers hardly ever really tell the entire story. But, even in this case the decline in numbers of fighter aircraft and airmen is pretty stark. But, critics would argue that what the numbers don’t reflect, is the substantial upgrade and enhancement of the capabilities and performance of our fighters, bombers, reconnaissance aircraft and so on — and they would be right, There is also the advent of the use of drones in virtually all aspects of the USAF mission — and, this use and employment of drones isn’t going away.
Having said all that,America is really at a crossroads and tipping point with respect to our Armed Forces and their combat capability going forward. In many ways, the current situation with respect to the U.S. military, reminds me of Great Britain’s strategic mistake in not keeping an upgrading its armed forces in the interwar years between WWI and WWII. By the time WWI ended, the United Kingdom had become strategically overstretched, was suffering from war exhaustion, and was facing a serious financial woes, among other issues burdening the Kingdom. Confronted with a host of difficult choices, Britain’s top leadership made the strategic mistake of allowing their combat capability and military might to atrophy and wither after WWI — so much so — that by the time Hitler’s Third Reich began its blitzkrieg across Europe in the late 1930’s — Britain was unable to adequately confront, stop and defeat Nazi Germany. Indeed, Winston Churchill had to come to the United States, ‘hat in hand;’ and, needed the U.S. military’s combat capability to come to Great Britain’s rescue — in order to ultimately defeat Hitler’s Third Reich.
Now, the United States appears to be following a similar path the United Kingdom did between WWI and WWII, except this time — will there be anyone to bail the United States out?, — should China, and/or, Russia, etc. begin to ‘march’ across the Pacific, in China;s case; or, across eastern Europe in the case of Russia?
The U.S. has already done away with the strategic premise that our military should be able to prosecute two wars at the same time — if required to do so — and, it is clear that we are substantially downsizing and at least under our current POTUS, are no longer predisposed to be in a leadership position on the global stage. ‘Leading from behind, or not at all,’ appears to be our default position, as war exhaustion, and retrenchment reign. But, there is an inconvenient, and time-honored historical axiom, the adversary gets a vote; and, as Plato once said, “The Only Men Whom Have Seem The Last War, Are Those Whom Are Already Dead.”
“Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum” “If You Want Peace, Prepare For War”
If we (the United States) continue down the path we’re on with respect to our Armed Forces and their military might, we will almost certainly find ourselves in a similar situation Great Britain did at the outbreak of WWII, except, there may not be anyone there — to bail us and the West out?
Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus, commonly referred to as Vegetius, was a writer of the later Roman empire (late 4th century), according to Wikipedia. One of his time-honored pieces of wisdom was, “Igitur qui desderat pacem, praeparet bellum.” “If you want peace, prepare for war.” We must not lose sight of this axiom; and, ignore it, at our own demise. V/R, RCP