- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 25, 2005

President Bush set forth a global vision of a world without tyranny in his Inaugural address. Earlier, in her Senate confirmation hearing, Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice had listed six countries which were “outposts of tyranny.”

Four of the outposts (Cuba, Burma, North Korea, Iran) have strong ties to China. Yet, it has been widely reported the Pentagon will eliminate, cut back or delay a number of major weapons programs under orders from the Office of Management of Budget to bring down the federal deficit. So the question is: Can the Bush administration muster resources needed to support its ambitious and progressive foreign policy?

The Navy and Air Force will take the biggest hits, centered on the high-end capabilities that give the U.S. its global advantage. The Navy will lose an aircraft carrier, dropping from 12 to 11 in the fleet. The LPD-17 amphibious assault ship planned for 2008 is to be canceled. Two of the new DD(X) destroyers will be dropped as production is pushed back. Nuclear submarine construction will be cut to one per year. Instead of submarines, the Navy is instructed to find some other way to assure “undersea superiority” — preferably something that is free.

The Navy has fallen to 290 ships, from 357 ships in 1994. Testimony before Congress by top admirals has identified a need for at least 350 ships (with 15 carriers) to cover U.S. global requirements. Current shipbuilding rates are the lowest since the isolationist days of the Depression era.

The Air Force wanted 318 F/A-22 Raptor air superiority stealth fighter-bombers but will now get less than half as many. So far, 72 F/A-22s have been ordered, with another 82 planned by 2007. But the Pentagon calls for ending orders in 2008.

It seems we will repeat the mistake made with the F/A-117 stealth fighter and B-2 stealth bomber. Large sums were spent to design the most advanced warplanes in the world, but only a handful were built. Yet American strategy depends on air superiority, which field commanders have taken for granted since World War II. How can the continued decline in air strength be justified? Can America no longer afford cutting-edge programs?

Procurement of missiles and ammunition for all the services will be reduced. The Iraq war has shown once again that peacetime planning always underestimates the needs of combat. U.S. ammunition plants have been operating round-the-clock, with orders from Canada and Israel added to meet demands. Will the Pentagon go back to the pre-September 11 practice of not funding adequate ammunition stockpiles?

The Army does not suffer the same big cuts as the other services: The cuts it suffered during the 1990s have already created a deployment crisis. Maintaining 150,000 troops in Iraq and 10,000 in Afghanistan should be no problem. The United States deployed 500,000 in the Korean, Vietnam and Gulf wars. But the Army was larger then. It had 18 regular combat divisions in 1991, but only 10 now.

When Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was asked about the lack of armor in Iraq at the now famous session with National Guardsmen, he answered that “the country goes to war with the Army it has at the time, not the Army it might want in the future.” True enough, but it has been more than three years since September 11. Nothing has been done to increase the downsized Army inherited from the Clinton administration.

The plight of the Army is the most dramatic example of how the Bush administration has failed to put adequate resources behind its policies, thereby risking failures.

Military spending, even including the supplemental requests for combat operations, is only 41/2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), which is not much different than a decade ago when the country was at peace. Spending on nondefense programs consumes more than 3 times as much of the budget. Even so, total federal spending as a share of the economy is lower now than in the 1990s.

Revenue is lacking. In 2004, OMB estimates tax revenues were only 15.7 percent of GDP, the lowest since 1950.

Ironically, when Mr. Bush started his tax-cut marathon, the liberals complained about loss of funds for future social programs. Now the cuts threaten to weaken defense in a dangerous world that can expect new challenges.

The cuts don’t kick in until 2007-2008, after the presumed end of the Iraq war. Weapon programs are not being cut to fund the war but because of fiscal anemia for the rest of this decade.

The only possible conclusion is that, rhetoric aside, the White House intends America to withdraw from overseas commitments after the Iraq war ends.

The United States is a large and rich country, which gives it the ability to shape world events in accordance with its interests and values. But it must be willing to mobilize resources behind its objectives. These new budget proposals indicate the Bush administration is not willing to do so.

William R. Hawkins is senior fellow for National Security Studies at the U.S. Business and Industry Council.

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