At a time when China wants to start invading its neighbors, and Russia already has, the idea of increased military spending shouldn’t be controversial, but apparently it is.
Drawing ire from both sides of the aisle, the Biden administration recently presented a budget plan asking for a record $835 billion in defense spending, including $170 billion for weapons procurement and $145 billion for R&D.
Populist Republicans want to atone for War on Terror-era excesses.
Woke Democrats want to finish the Obama-era’s reckless disarmament while sensible, more establishment Democrats, understand the need for a strong military.
Both the populists and the far-left Democrats are misguided.
While the former won’t accomplish anything, and the latter will only accomplish human misery. We need to arm for the conflicts of today.
But any strategic application of American hard power needs to recognize the long-term importance of soft, financial power. If the government spends itself into the ground, it can’t continue to protect us and our interests.
The Pentagon needs to spend its budget wisely — that means no TGI Fridays in Kandahar or wasteful attempts to politicize our armed forces.
While cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI) will help decide the fate of the 21st century, the world is not so different from the 20th century that naval and air power can be neglected.
Those twin powers meet at the aircraft carrier, most powerful piece of military hardware on the planet. Of the world’s 46, America has 20 carriers, while China has three and landlocked Russia but one.
That might seem like overkill, but it’s the reason there has never been a World War III.
America’s overwhelming sea dominance has brought unprecedented peace, stability, and prosperity to the world, while enriching Americans at home with international trade.
"In geopolitical terms, the United States is a maritime power," Robert Kaplan wrote, "operating from the greatest of the island satellites of the Eurasian supercontinent, whose mission is to defend a free trading order from which we ourselves benefit."
However, there are conflicts on that supercontinent which exceed the grasp of even our Navy’s long reach.
For that, America must ensure our fighters can stay in the air on prolonged missions away from carriers or airfields.
The Air Force is also working to modernize its refueling tankers — the giant planes that top fighter jets off midflight. (There is an awesome video showing how it’s done here.)
Although the military is developing the Next-Generation Air Refueling System (NGAS), the Pentagon — in the interim — they are debating how best to carry out refueling missions in the interim.
The question is whether to keep using the KC-46 Pegasus until the 2040s — when NGAS craft are ready to fly — or move to an interim bridge tanker.
If the military choses an interim, the move will cost more over the long term because of the new costs of assimilating a new aircraft into the Air Force and the possibility of contracting with Airbus, a multi-national contractor that does business with Russia despite international sanctions.
Every conflict America won was because of air superiority, those where we’ve lost have been because air superiority didn’t matter.
Our defense budgets must be tailored around these priorities, which can only happen if cooler, bipartisan heads prevail.
The right defense spending and the right technology can maintain US air dominance.
The Pentagon has sent Abrams tanks and Patriot missile defense systems to Ukraine.
We are going to need to replace these military tools to protect the homeland.
CNN reports, "the U.S. still intends to send 31 M1-A1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine" with each tank costing the taxpayer about $10 million.
A Patriot missile defense system costs even more at about $1 billion per battery.
This does not include all the other military aid sent to Ukraine and all of these exported Pentagon military hardware is an increased cost that will take money from other programs necessitating a higher top line budget number for the Pentagon for next year.
The robust American economy created the engine for our military power, which created a world so stable everyone could do business with us.
Nobody wants to see the world carved up by Beijing and Moscow — even most people in China and Russia don’t want that.
And should China invade Taiwan, the ensuing worldwide depression will make any budget discussion somewhat moot.
Jared Whitley is a longtime politico who has worked in the U.S. Congress, White House and defense industry. He is an award-winning writer, having won best blogger in the state from the Utah Society of Professional Journalists (2018) and best columnist from Best of the West (2016). He earned his MBA from Hult International Business School in Dubai. Read Jared Whitley's reports — More Here.
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