Last week, the Obama administration succeeded in killing the F-22 Raptor program, ending production of the fastest, longest-range, stealthiest, most survivable strike fighter in the world.
Obama’s stated reasoning was that we haven’t used the F-22 in Iraq and Afghanistan. Well, we haven’t used nuclear submarines, ICBMs, or strategic missile defense in Iraq and Afghanistan either. Does this mean we should cancel those programs as well?
Whether politicians choose to understand it or not, the purpose of strategic military systems is to deter strategic threats. And if we have learned anything since the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is just how rapidly the world can change.
Obama has also stated his intention to cut deeply into missile defense, just as North Korea and Iran are becoming more belligerent to the U.S. and our allies and are test firing missiles of increasing range. Is this not a predictable threat? And if U.S. missile defense were not a serious deterrent, why is Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin so emphatic in his opposition to it?
It is also important to note that it is not just America’s strategic systems and capabilities that are being diminished by the Obama administration. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) revealed last week that shortages in the Navy and Marine Corps strike fighters are far worse than was earlier predicted. Instead of a shortfall of 125 fighters, we now are facing a shortage of a least 300 fighters. That’s about six aircraft carriers worth of strike fighters.
No one can seriously claim that the F-18 Hornets and Super Hornets are not being used in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, CRS found that the principal reason for worsening F-18 shortages is the wear and tear these top line fighters are getting from operations in those theatres. Yet there are no serious plans to ramp up F-18 production to fill the gap, and the Navy’s version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is not expected to be operational for another six years.
Another vital military capability slated for cuts is the Future Combat Systems program. This program offers our soldiers integrated communications command and control systems that give them far greater intelligence and significant new tactical advantages over the enemies they face. These are systems soldiers and military experts refer to as force multipliers, meaning they allow one U.S. soldier to overcome the capabilities of many enemy soldiers. Again, this is not a system built to suit some mythical threat. It is specifically designed for U.S. troops outnumbered by the enemy — exactly the situation we are facing in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Whether it comes to dealing effectively with current threats, or deterring strategic aggression over the time horizon, theses defense cuts are a bad idea.