The running joke in the military is that the Marines get the Army’s old equipment. Should the congressional supercommittee fail to come to an agreement on federal spending, our nation’s military will see cuts of up to $1.2 trillion phased in over a decade on top of over $489 billion in cuts that are currently being made — and the Marines will continue conducting their missions with the Army’s hand-me-downs … indefinitely.
When I went into combat in Baghdad with the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division, the only new equipment I had were the tires on my humvees and my boots. My unit’s humvees were almost twenty years old, some of the first off of the assembly line, the .50 caliber machine guns assigned to us had been in and out of the maintenance shop for at least a month before my unit was deployed, and our radios would only transmit a few miles. I’d hate to see what the Marines had to work with.
After ten years at war, the men and women of our military are still using the same types of equipment developed for and during the Cold War. Recent reporting showed that in 2008 an Air Force captain had flown the same plane his father flew thirty years prior. America’s air and bomber fleets (F-15s, 16s, 18s, B-1s, 2s, and 52s) are Cold War remnants — the beleaguered F-35 is the only new fighter to escape post Cold War era cuts. The F-22 fighter, the Seawolf Class sub, and the Army’s Comanche helicopter have all been shelved.
America’s Navy is also treading water. The Trident ballistic missile and Los Angeles Class attack submarines, Aegis-equipped destroyers and cruisers, and Nimitz Class aircraft carriers are becoming old technology, fast. The USS Enterprise, America’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, has been sailing the seas since JFK was president and is set for decommissioning in 2013. The Navy currently reports that only half of its deployed aircraft are ready for combat.
The Army and Marine Corps are still flying and driving equipment developed to fight a war against the Soviet Union on the Fulda Gap. Our soldiers and Marines continue using variants of the Abrams Tank, Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and Blackhawk helicopter. These technologies and weapons platforms have served us well; I’ve personally seen them in action, bringing the fight to the enemy, but we cannot settle for these systems to defend us against future threats.
The budget constraints America faces are very real and American voters have been crystal clear in demanding that the entire federal budget should be put on the table for debate. Since Barack Obama has been commander-in-chief, $489 billion in cuts have been made to our defense forces. These cuts are forcing the Pentagon to find efficiencies, cut waste, and eliminate fraud and abuse. The cuts also go deep, down to the proverbial bone. The next round of cuts will force an amputation — $1.2 trillion dollars in cuts will force us to cut capabilities.
Enacting deeper cuts at this point will have a devastating impact on the ability of our forces to defend the homeland and will constitute a breach of faith with our commitment to America’s warrior class. Former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld famously stated that we go to war with the Army we have. Is this the Army we want to go war with — a Cold War–era force defending America from the threats of the 21st century?
Our troops are not asking for gold plated equipment — armor will suffice.
— Joel Arends is a veteran of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. He currently serves as a captain in the Army Reserve and as chairman of Veterans for a Strong America.