“Further budget cuts will erode our security and put the country back on a path leading to another ill-equipped and ill-prepared military — as in 2001. It was unacceptable then, and it’s unacceptable now.”
In a Washington Post op-ed published Sunday, former Navy Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England warned that further cuts to defense would dangerously erode military readiness. England recounted how years of budget cuts left the military ill-equipped and ill-prepared for war just months before the 9/11 attacks.
“The Navy did not have enough funding to steam ships or to fly airplanes for the rest of the fiscal year. Submarines were being deployed with many of their cruise-missile tubes empty. Warships could not deploy until test and repair equipment was transferred from ships returning to port. The Navy’s deferred maintenance account was billions of dollars in the red. Sailor and Marine Corps housing and bases were, literally, a mess. Military salaries were low, housing allowances below rental costs and medical facilities needed upgrades.
“The Army and Air Force were in similar straits. Ammunition stocks were dismally low and precision weapons a luxury. The peace dividends of the 1990s had left the military ill-equipped and ill-prepared for conflict — hardly a situation to be repeated in today’s uncertain and troublesome world. And hardly a way to treat our valiant warriors and their families.”
After a supplemental was passed in 2001 to address some of these startling deficiencies, the defense budget was $423 billion adjusted for inflation. The Pentagon is requesting $525 billion for FY2013.
“Yes, that $102 billion delta is still a lot of money, but military salaries and benefits have increased almost 90 percent during this interval — roughly 30 percent more than inflation — and now consume a third of the budget. Of course, the 2001 readiness supplemental didn’t fix any of the underlying problems. The poor state of military readiness resulted from years of budget cuts, and it took years of budget increases after 2001 to undo the short-sightedness of the 1990s.”
Now our military is tasked with confronting a wide array of uniquely complex threats around the world. That will take the kind of money added since 2001. As England concludes:
“The base defense budget, somewhat over 3 percent of our gross domestic product, isn’t the problem and can’t be the solution.”