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By Brahma Chellaney
Beijing's creeping aggression signals a challenge to U.S. presence in the Asian Pacific
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Topic - Winslow T. Wheeler
The Pentagon's intense public relations campaign is designed to sell Congress and the public on how the first year of "sequester" budget cuts is leaving the U.S. military unable to train or deploy overseas. Public warnings generally have garnered media sympathy, but there have been signs in recent weeks of a backlash from the Washington press corps.
The U.S. armed services, widely recognized as the world's most ready and mobile military, is painting a picture of itself as a stagnant force trapped at home under automatic spending cuts just three weeks away.
Sailors and Marines serving on aircraft carriers can expect long deployments for the next few years because of ongoing crises in the Middle East and a shrinking number of carriers available for duty.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the white whale of the Defense Department — a stealth jet designed to work for all branches of the armed forces — but at a total cost of $1.5 trillion, it's also a program that analysts say is an epic boondoggle that neither President Obama nor his GOP challenger, Mitt Romney, has a realistic plan to get under control.
In a time of deep deficits and tight budgets, President Obama says the Defense Department cannot be entirely spared the scalpel. But Mitt Romney, his likely opponent in November's election, says the U.S. must spend more on the Pentagon now because it will pay off with a stronger economy in the long run.
House Republicans have added more than a half-billion dollars to the defense budget, even as Pentagon officials are struggling to meet their target of cutting spending by $487 billion over the next decade.
Despite a near-consensus on Capitol Hill on the need to cut spending, about a fifth of the federal budget has been placed entirely off limits: the Defense Department, which is so awash in cash that even its auditors have a tough time telling where all the money is going.
In addition, the Navy's plans to redirect attention and assets to the Asia-Pacific region, in accordance with a new defense strategy, likely will overstretch maintenance resources and overstress personnel, he said.
'Something is going to give'