Obama Defense Budget – "From Supremacy to Adequacy"

Mr. President, I come to the Senate Floor today to speak out of great concern that we are heading down a dangerous road leading to the gutting of our military and settling for ‘adequacy' versus ‘supremacy.'

I first made my concerns known in a YouTube video posted from Afghanistan immediately following the announcement by the Obama administration.

My concerns drew an interesting reaction from the left. Not only did they say I was wrong to say that there were proposed cuts to the budget, they actually said the Obama administration proposed to increase the budget. I must confess it is a rare day when liberals actually claim to support increasing our nation's military. MSNBC was so outraged with my video that three of their primetime hosts took aim at my comments from Afghanistan in the very same night.

MSNBC host Ed Schultz featured my video as part of his regular feature "psycho talk" called my concerns "absolutely false" and said I was joining "Cheney and Giuliani to "make the case that America is less safe with President Obama."

Keith Olbermann said I should "do the math" and his guest, Speaker Pelosi, said my criticism of the Obama defense budget was simply "desperation" and that we are going to spend more on defense in FY10 than we did in FY09.

Not to be left out, Rachel Maddow repeated the same talking points and said once again the budget was actually going to increase. Then, she brought on guest Eugene Robinson, associate editor and columnist for the Washington Post who actually went as far as to say I was "making stuff up" and "lying."

The next day, CNN's Rich Sanchez, claiming that he was doing a "fact check" called my words "ridiculous," and brought on a liberal think tank policy wonk, who Sanchez repeatedly referred to as "moderate" to defend his claims.

The problem is the left is focused on ONE number...ONE piece of military spending when we need to look the total Defense Budget - what DoD actually spends on all its operations and how that money is used to maintain our military capabilities. In actuality, thanks to the Obama administration, overall defense spending has been cut by $10.7B in FY09 and will be cut again in FY10 based on projected inflation and potential use of what is being called "Overseas Contingency Funds." Perhaps this is the new term for our Global War on Terror.

We have reached a crossroads where we will choose to either invest in the modernization and readiness of our military or mistakenly ‘kick the can down the road' once more. Based on the projected defense budget for the next ten years, it looks like this administration is taking us down a path that leads to a weaker military that is poorly equipped.

Secretary Gates plan is intended to "reshape the priorities of America's defense establishment" and "profoundly reform how the DoD does business." However, the effects of the programs and systems he intends to cut will severely affect the ongoing effort to re-build and modernize our military. This plan comes at time in our nation's history when we've dramatically increased our domestic spending by trillions of dollars, under the umbrella of ‘emergency bailouts' and ‘stimulus packages.'

Defense spending, along with infrastructure investment and tax cuts, have a greater financial impact on the economy than anything else the government can do. There isn't a more ‘shovel-ready' and economically stimulative sector than defense.  Sadly, this President is on track to grow this country's obligations to 22% of our GDP while he shrinks defense spending in relation to GDP to 3.01% in 2019.

During the Clinton administration in the ‘90s, we took a holiday from procuring new weapons and modernizing the aging weapons systems. Many of us here in the Senate and in the House repeatedly spoke on the floor during the 1990s, warning about the dangers of the massive cuts in personal and procurement that were taking shape.

With very few exceptions, our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines have been using those same weapon systems while fighting a two-fronted War on Terror for 8 years. Weapons and weapon systems designed and produced during the Cold War...weapons and weapon systems used repeatedly over the past two decades around the globe...weapons and weapon systems still in use today.

We have been unsuccessfully trying to get past a bow wave created in the 1990s when the military budget was cut $412 billion dollars and acquisition programs and research and development were pushed to the right...delayed. The cost of kicking our military modernization down the road is a two fold increase in our cost to modernize...an increase cost to develop and field new weapons and weapon systems and an increase cost to operate and maintain our aging equipment. It also is forcing the military to accept more risk as they decide how operate with less equipment, how to fight with equipment increasingly difficult to maintain, and what to do when weapons systems reach the end of their service life without an operational replacement.

The major combat systems that our troops use today are those developed and procured during the 1980s...in some cased the 1950s.

The Reagan administration was handed a military that was a hollow force in many respects - low morale, low pay, outdated equipment, and unable to maintain the equipment it possessed. Ronald Reagan expanded the military budget, increased troops size, re-energized weapons procurement, and revived our intelligence capabilities...returning this country to its superpower status. He guaranteed the superiority of the U.S. military's weapons systems and capabilities through long term investment and ensuring that our troops were provided with the most advanced equipment available.

As Secretary Gates said in January 2009, our military must be prepared for a ‘full spectrum' of operations, including the type of combat we're facing in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as large scale threats that we face from places like North Korea and Iran.

By the way, I don't blame Sec Gates for all this...he is doing the best he can with the numbers the Obama White House gave him.

Far too often we have learned the hard lesson that we don't have a ‘crystal ball' precisely predict what types of national security threats this nation will face. During a hearing to the House Armed Services Committee 17 years ago, I was told by a panel member that we would no longer need ground forces in the future. After seven years engaged in the War on Terror, we know he was wrong.

The strategic environment has become increasingly complex, dynamic, lethal and uncertain. Today, our military is fighting with equipment that is decades old and a force structure that is 40% less than what it was in the 1980s.  The Air Force has 2,500 fewer aircraft, the Navy cut its fleet size in half, and the Army reduced its force to half the number of divisions it had during the first Gulf War.  For the past 17 years, our military has been asked to do more with much less and much older equipment and it is taking a toll on our troops. Unfortunately, what took less than a decade to field in the ‘80s will now take us multiple decades to field. Case in point is the KC-X which will take up to 30 years to replace our already 40 plus year old KC-135s.

The United States must build and sustain military capabilities required to respond to possible future threats across the spectrum of conflict and there are numerous potential threats that could impact our national security. The next war will not be like the past one or even the one we are in now - history has taught us this hard lesson. The next war also does not mean the one we may have to fight 5 to 10 years from now - what we begin to acquire today...the decisions we make today on this Senate floor set the stage for our military for the next 40 years. Does anyone want to hazard a guess on what the world will be like in even 20 years?

In Feb 09, a Marine general wrote to one of his young Marines: "You say the next conflict will be a guerrilla conflict. I say, it depends. In my lifetime, we have been in 5 big fights and a bunch of little ones. In only one of those 5 big ones (Desert Storm) had we prepared for the type of war we wound up having to fight. It is one thing to say that a certain type of fight is more or less likely; it is quite another to say it is certain to be one or the other. In war, the only thing certain is uncertainty. He goes on to say, "It may be that nobody can beat us in a conventional fight today, but what we buy today is what we will have to fight with in 2020. Furthermore, advertising that our focus of effort is on the low-to-mid intensity fights of the future reduces the deterrence that powerful conventional capabilities demonstrate to traditional state actors. Non-state actors, guerrillas, terrorists are not likely to be deterred by our capabilities. Nation-states are. We had better well have the capability to fight the guerrilla and the nation-state, regardless of which of these is more or less likely."

We weren't able to predict the fall of the Soviet Union, the rapid growth of ballistic missile capability of North Korea, or the rise in asymmetric warfare that we are currently engaged in. It doesn't matter how great our military leaders or intelligence are, our strategic thinking will always be imperfect. In order to provide stability, America must be able to deter or defeat any threat be it an insurgency or a challenge from a near-peer competitor. We can no longer afford to fool ourselves that we are still sending our sons and daughters out with the best equipment available. 

We are at that crossroads where we need to invest in the supremacy of our defense systems now for the military we need to have 20-30 years from now. But here is the deal...the decision we have to make is:

Do we want to send our troops into battle with equipment inferior to that of our potential adversaries?

If defending America is our #1 priority, then the answer is no. Unfortunately, defending America is not the Obama administration's top priority.

Doing the Math

So let's do the math.

As I stated earlier, we need to look at total Defense Budget - what DoD actually spends on all its operations. This includes National Defense Funds including DoD funds, DOE funds for nuclear ships and weapons, and other defense-related such selective service system, plus the wartime supplemental.

First, there is a net loss in defense spending in 2009 of $10.7B. President Bush increased the total defense budget in 2009 by $37.2B. He also approved $65.9B in supplemental funds for the first part of FY09.

President Obama's supplemental request of $75.5B for defense needs fund an increase of 21K troops in Afghanistan, an increase in operations in Afghanistan, continued operations in Iraq, and the beginning of a withdrawal from Iraq.

The GAO report on the cost of Iraq withdrawal said it will be a "massive and expensive effort" and that costs would more often increase in the near term.  It went on to say that the cost of equipment repairs, replacements, closing and turning over 283 military installations in Iraq and moving troops and equipment home "will likely be significant." Unfortunately, defense spending actually decreases in 2009 by $10.7B due to Obama's decrease total supplemental request from $189B to $141B.

Let's compare 2009 to 2010 where I have been accused of not being able to do math. Defense spending does increase from 2009 to 2010 by $14.9B but, according to President Obama's letter to Speaker Pelosi on April 9th, there will be no more supplementals. That would mean DoD would have to fund all wartime operations to the tune of $100B dollars plus. However, President Obama does fence off $130B for "Overseas Contingency Funds" which could be used for getting out of Iraq and increased operations in Afghanistan. Even adding the entire $130B to defense spending, which is never the case with supplemental funding; the overall increase in defense spending for 2010 is $3.5B. If we estimate 2% inflation for cost growth of just the defense budget, defense spending actually decreases by $7.3B. Now add in the accelerated growth of the Army and Marine Corps - a 65K and 22K increase respectively - at a cost of approximately $13B to cover pay and health care costs and you start to see the beginnings of how our military modernization gets gutted.  DoD has ‘must pays' - personnel, operations and maintenance, ongoing wartime and contingencies operations. With a zero supplemental fund, the money to pay for these ‘must pays' will be taken from the base Defense budget and the areas that are always hit are research and development and acquisition.

Just look at what is being cut or postponed in FY10 - Future Combat System, missile defense, F-22s, C-17s, combat search and rescue, next generation bomber, and an aircraft carrier which will actually decommissioned as early as 2010.

And it doesn't stop in 2010.

As we look at the projected Defense Budget through 2019, we see a decreasing defense budget compared to GDP starting at 3.81% in 2010 and ending at 3.01% in 2019. Historic defense spending as a percentage of GDP has been:

- 3% during the Clinton drawdown, 

- 4.6% during the Gulf War,

- 6% during the Reagan buildup,

- 8.9% during the Vietnam War,

- 11.7% during the Korean War,

- 34.5% during World War II.

When compared to a sustained annual defense investment of 4% of the GDP to recapitalize and modernize our military, the 10 year proposed Obama defense budget is $1.3 trillion in the red. The one thing the Obama defense budget guarantees is that the oldest military in the history of our nation will get even older and more expensive to maintain and operate. Ships and Naval aircraft currently average 18 yrs old and Marine Corps aircraft average over 21 yrs old. Refueling tankers are over 44 yrs old; Air Force fighter aircraft 19 yrs old; special operations aircraft over 27 yrs old; and bomber aircraft over 33 yrs old. In order to keep 40 year old KC-135s in the air, the DoD had to reprogram almost $3B from the KC-X to repair the KC-135 fleet.


The Army's current fleet of combat vehicles was developed and procured 30-60 years ago and are aging at an increasingly rapid rate. The M1 Abrams tank, developed in the 1970s and fielded in the 1980s, is currently on its third update and is being used extensively on the battlefield. The M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle, also developed over 25 years ago, is on its third significant modification and has been crucial in defending our troops against IED and RPG threats in Iraq. Both of these combat proven vehicles continue to undergo fleet-wide reset programs because of their rate of use in the War on Terror.The oldest combat vehicle in the Army inventory is the M109A6 "Paladin" howitzer.  Over 19K artillery rounds were shot from Paladins in Iraq in 2008 and over 27K were shot in 2007.  Despite some "parochial" criticism in the media and in this Congress, the fact remains that the U.S. Army is using a system developed over 50 years ago and fielded as the Vietnam War began. Our artillery Soldiers are using this system that has a chassis design that is a half-century old and slated to undergo its 7th modification called the Paladin Integrated Management (PIM), just to keep these vehicles running.

Let me say at this point I believe the defense budget should, at the very least, the very least, continue to the PIM program at $10M. We should keep FCS on track but don't dump the PIM with the FCS program. Even with the implementation of the PIM update, the Army expects to keep the Paladin in use until 2060 - that is 100 years on the battlefield. Our Army is long overdue a thorough and comprehensive modernization program instead of throwing billions of dollars towards updating and maintain decades old vehicle platforms. The proposed defense budget would cancel the manned vehicle portion of the FCS modernization program intended to replace the Paladin, Abrams and Bradley over the next 25 years.

FCS vehicles would bring improved armor, a state of the art communications network and an 80% common chassis among all 8 vehicles. As the replacement for the Paladin, the NLOS-C has been tested and is scheduled to begin production in 2010. Though this program has struggled through its acquisition process since 2002, re-launching and re-bidding this program will only waste more taxpayer money and add years to Army modernization that is already long overdue.

Air Force

For nearly two decades, our U.S. Air Force has dominated the skies and ensured our air superiority around the world and in any potential conflict. However, a recent GAO study stated that Air Sovereignty Alert operations - the post-9/11 operations that protect our homeland - are at risk due to aging aircraft and insufficient procurement. The Air Force grounded 259 of its 441 F-15 Eagles from November 2007 to January 2008 while it looked into the breakup of an F-15C over Missouri. Last May, the service parked all 500 of its T-38 Talon training jets, which turned 50 this year, after an investigation into a fatal crash found cracks in a lever that moves the wing flaps. Last October, the Air Force ordered more than half of its 356 A-10s fighters to stay put because of cracks inside the wings.

While we have enjoyed the benefit of the investment during the 1980s of the F-15,  F-16, A-10 and the F-117, the F-117 has been retired and the Air Force will retire 137 F-15s, 177 F-16s, and nine A-10s in 2010...over 300 aircraft. Despite all of the above, President Obama is shutting down the F-22, the only 5th generation fighter aircraft in production today, after building only 187 aircraft. This is being done at a time when Sec Gates told reporter that intelligence he's seen indicate a Russian fifth-generation fighter could become operational about 2016 and previous estimates by the Pentagon on China's J-12 fifth-generation fighter could begin fielding around 2020.

Increasing the number of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters is not a substitute for adequately fielding the F-22.  First, the F-35 line will not begin full rate production until around 2015. Second, the F-22 and the F-35 were designed to complement each other.  Although both are multi-role, the F-22 is optimized for air dominance with ability to rapidly penetrate enemy defenses, striking target on the ground as well as destroying targets in the air. The FY10 budget also terminates research and development of the Next Generation Bomber which leave only 18 stealthy B-2 bombers in the fleet and ensures the continued life of the 40 plus year old B-52.


At a time when the U.S. Navy is being called on to project a presence in more parts of the world than ever before, Sec Gates has recommended that that Navy shrink its carrier fleet to 10 aircraft carriers by 2012 and delay the acquisition of other portions of its fleet. This reduction of aircraft carriers goes further below the previous QDR number of 12 carriers required for "Moderate Risk."

In the last three weeks, we've seen how relevant and important a Navy is while watching several counter pirate/terrorist operations off the coast of Africa and maritime patrols in the Pacific tracking the North Korea missile launch. Meanwhile, Russian and Chinese submarines continues to be a threat to our forces with China operating over 60 submarines while quietly acquiring and deploying quieter subs. Since the 1990s, China has been unilaterally hedging its maritime power to exclude the U.S. Navy from the Taiwan Strait and along China's coast. China, Japan, Australia, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Singapore, Bangladesh and South and North Korea either now has or are planning to acquire submarines to compete with ours. In all, the Navy would be left with less than 300 ships as the threat to our Navy continue to increase. 

Missile Defense

On Feb. 3rd, Iran launched a satellite on the 30th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, demonstrating the key technologies of propulsion, staging and guidance to deliver a weapon of mass destruction globally. Two weeks ago, North Korea furthered their missile and nuclear development by launching a Taepodong 2 missile in to the South China Sea, despite widespread international condemnation.

Despite this, the administration has recommended at 16% cut to the Missile Defense budget by $1.4B. This type of aggressive posturing, similar to Iran's aggressive missile and nuclear development, illustrates why an integrated Missile Defense system is so important. President Obama himself said that North Korea's missile launch showed "the need for action, not just here at the U.N. Security Council, but in our determination to prevent the spread of these weapons."

As we've learned time and again with Iran and North Korea, words are not enough.  Our only true defense is an effective defensive capability to shoot down these missiles as the go in to and come out of the atmosphere.

An effective missile defense system is multi-layered and capable of sensing, tracking and intercepting a threatening missile at is varying stages of launch. By delaying the decision to place a missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland, Iran has been given the opportunity to increase its ballistic missile capability and ultimately threaten Western Europe. Relegating the Airborne Laser program to a research project, termination of the Multiple Kill Vehicle, halting the continued deployment of missile interceptors in the United States, and forgoing the opportunity to put radar and missile interceptors in Europe, do not equate to building an adequate defense against the rogue nation missile threats we face.


I agree with the President and Secretary Gates that we must reform our defense acquisition processes.Too much money and time has been wasted in trying to procure weapons and equipment for our troops.Overall budget delays and overruns are staggering - overall we are 8 years late on projects and 150% over budget - these results are completely unacceptable. However, acquisition reform should be done in conjunction with, not in lieu of, modernizing and properly equipping our armed forces to dominate across the ‘full spectrum of warfare'.

I've stated many times in this chamber that the greatest trust placed upon Congress by the American people is to provide for their security by maintaining a strong national defense. We can avoid this far too frequent debate on the defense budget by ensuring a minimum level of funding for our military. Programming from a known minimum budget for the out years will translate to less reprogramming and more stability for thousands of businesses throughout the United States at decreased costs.

In order to provide this stability, Congress needs to guarantee a "not less than baseline" in defense funding, enabling the Pentagon to execute sustained multiyear program investments. By establishing a minimum defense base budget of 4%, this country can achieve two critical needs - national security and economic growth. Congress must provide the Department of Defense with the certainty and stability that comes with a long-term defense-spending plan.Our national security is the price we pay if we do not get this right.  

Many have been quick to criticize that some members of Congress are ‘fighting the last war' to benefit their constituency-nothing could be further from the truth. We need to have a force that is prepared to counter, deter and engage across the full spectrum of warfare. As the Congress considers the administration's budget recommendations in the coming weeks, we must ask several key questions:

Are the forces being provided to our commanders in the field postured to counter the full spectrum of threats both in the near and far term?

Are we providing our troops the best and most capable equipment available?  

We are not today.

Are we acquiring enough of these systems to meet the requirements stated in our National Security Strategy?

Does it make sense to continue to extend the life of 20 to 40 plus year old equipment that costs more to maintain and operate, and operate at a lower combat readiness and effectiveness rates?

Can we afford to "kick the can down the road" again and not adequately modernize our fighting force to ensure we are fully prepared to defend the nation?

The Obama budget of social welfare will triple the public debt in 10 years. We have already spent almost $2 trillion. The $700B for the Bank Bailout, that we now know was Tim Geithner's plan, was simply thrown away. The October 2008 vote gave $700B to an unelected bureaucrat to spend with no restrictions or accountability. Yet, all we need is an additional $28B for defense in FY10 to adequately fund our military.

My fellow Oklahoman Congressman Tom Cole said it best, "Throughout his campaign and during his short tenure as President, he has made it clear that he believes his charm and eloquence are adequate substitutes for a strong military.  That will not work."