Washington Times: The Growing Divide in Military Readiness

By:  Sen. Jim Inhofe
Washington Times

Throughout my time representing Oklahoma in Washington, I’ve advocated for a strong and well-resourced national defense as the foundation of our security, economic prosperity and the backbone of our global leadership. Today, however, this force is at risk.  

As a result of President Obama’s reckless fiscal priorities, our nation’s armed forces have endured a steep and damaging drop in capabilities and readiness. Our military leaders now warn of being unable to protect our interests and citizens around the world.   His administration has reduced our naval fleet to historically low levels, eliminated hundreds of Air Force combat aircraft, imposed devastating cuts in funds to train military units and repair equipment, and is in the process of cutting more than 100,000 military personnel from the ranks. 

There is no end in sight. The Defense Department will start a new fiscal year in two weeks with no guidance, no budget, and the harsh reality of another round of sequestration. We have been told that over the next three years much of the$150 billion in sequester cuts will be taken from accounts used to train and equip our forces, further degrading our military’s ability to fight.   

The White House ignores this in their talking points because the results are alarming and the risks are grave.  For the first time since the Clinton Administration, our military leaders use the term “hollow” to define their forces’ future. Like a tree that rots from the inside out, the outside may still look strong, but eventually the tree will fall without warning. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs warned in February that we are on a path where the force may become “so degraded and so unready,” it would be “immoral to use the force.” I believe we are already there.

This faith is sacred to me. Our nation relies on a small part of our population to volunteer for military service. When these brave men and women are ordered into harm’s way, they will salute with courage and accomplish the mission with professionalism and overwhelming effectiveness. In return, they rightfully expect that a supportive nation will provide them with the best technology, equipment and training in order to reduce the risk to their lives. Unfortunately, this faith is being threatened by the growing divide between what our nation expects from our military and the resources being provided. 

In 1983, President Reagan stated “What seems to have been lost in all this debate is the simple truth of how a defense budget is arrived at. It isn’t done by deciding to spend a certain number of dollars. Those loud voices that are occasionally heard charging that the Government is trying to solve a security problem by throwing money at it are nothing more than noise based on ignorance. We start by considering what must be done to maintain peace and review all the possible threats against our security. Then a strategy for strengthening peace and defending against those threats must be agreed upon. And, finally, our defense establishment must be evaluated to see what is necessary to protect against any or all of the potential threats. The cost of achieving these ends is totaled up, and the result is the budget for national defense.”

This is not the case today under President Obama.  This administration has not updated or released a National Security Strategy since 2010 nor has it presented a coherent strategy for our military to meet our current and emerging national security threats.  Instead, this 

administration continues to gut funding for our military under the misguided belief that the “tide of war is receding” despite the growing range of threats and instability festering under its watch. Further, as sequestration continues to erode our military, the Commander-in-Chief has failed to present even one reasonable compromise for federal spending cuts to replace the defense sequester.  Any risk we ask our military members to endure while indiscriminately reducing resources and training will directly result in a greater risk to their lives on the battlefield. This is immoral. If we expect the men and women of our military to go to foreign lands and protect our national security, we have an obligation to ensure we are working every day to support and equip them.    

Instead, the President appears content to play an amateurish political game of chicken with our national security by sacrificing our military’s capabilities for more domestic spending and more government programs. Defense budgets are being driven down at the same time our service members are being asked to endure increased risks as a result of President Obama’s failed foreign policy.

As Congress considers the overall spending of the federal government in the months ahead, we must remember and preserve the faith and commitment we have established with our military.