Op-ed: Cutting defense funds is irresponsible in this uncertain world
The massive cuts to the U.S. military's 2015 budget announced by Defense Secretary Hagel are irresponsible and put the safety and security of our citizens at risk. The first role of any government is to maintain the safety and security of its citizens.
The right to free speech, to have a job, to go to the church of your choice are all threatened if a government cannot protect its people.
Under the proposed budget, the Army would be reduced to the lowest level since before World War II, the Navy would mothball 11 cruisers in return for two new destroyers and two attack submarines, and the Air Force would retire its entire fleet of A-10 Warthog fighters in favor of new F-35s. Such drastic cuts appear to be more of an effort to reduce the budget than an effort to meet the service requirements of the armed services in a new environment.
Can anyone really imagine the U.S. Army, the foremost defender of liberty in the world, reduced to its pre-World War II levels? We were woefully unprepared then and we will be unprepared now if these cuts are made.
While Utah will undoubtedly benefit from the arrival of 72 F-35 Lightning II fighters in 2015, we can't depend only on high-tech weaponry to protect us in the years ahead. We need to maintain a balance of fifth-generation aircrafts and modern ships and still maintain the ground troops necessary to fight a conventional conflict somewhere in the world if necessary. We must modernize our current capabilities to counter the threat of an emerging China and a revitalized Russia.
As Acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning said "Even if you modernize ... a fourth-generation fleet, when it goes against a Chinese or Russian fifth-generation aircraft, it's dead before you even know an adversary is in the air."
But we also need to size our army units to be able to respond to the demands that we have routinely seen over the last 30 years. Let's freeze our forces at their current level to retrain and re-equip, and not be in such a desperate hurry to downsize before we know what might happen. Secretary Hagel admits that under the proposed budget,
There will be gaps in training and maintenance for even the significantly smaller Army and Air Force. We need to size today's Army and Air Force to meet our realistic global combat needs without regular use of our reserves or National Guard. These citizen soldiers have been routinely deployed year in and year out because our regular service units were insufficient to meet the needs of even smaller conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan.
With all the uncertainty in the world, let's slow down and make sure that we strategically have what we need to protect ourselves in the future. The events of the past week show how fast the world situation can change. We need to size, equip, train and maintain our regular Army, Navy and Air Force to be ready to meet any challenge, anywhere in the world, anytime.
It is only through strength that we can remain a free people, and the hopes of all people around the world who yearn to be free depend on this strength.
Bob Fuehr is a former director of the Utah Division of Economic Development and a candidate for the Republican 4th District congressional nomination.