- - Monday, November 10, 2014

The deaths of five American soldiers — including two Green Berets — in a “friendly fire” incident in June in Afghanistan have been blamed, in part, on budget cuts. Military officials and lawmakers say the sequestration austerity left pre-deployment training underfunded and forced the A-10 Warthog, the Pentagon’s best close air-support plane, into retirement.

In the Warthog’s place, a B-1B bomber was used to support U.S. troops in the disastrous mission in Zabul province. The bomber crew dropped their bombs from so high above that they were unable to see the friendlies below. This was the worst friendly-fire incident of the war, and left a lot of accusations in its wake. Lack of money at the Department of Defense is not a credible explanation.

The Pentagon spares no expense for “sensitivity training” or advancing the administration’s politically correct agenda, such as a readiness plan released last month to reassure everyone that global warming poses “immediate risks to U.S. national security” and listed all the expensive steps the department has been taking to control the weather.

The special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction recently raised concerns about why a fleet of 16 C-27J military transport planes for the Afghan air force were bought at a cost of $468 million and barely used before being scrapped, with taxpayers recovering a mere $32,000 from the sale of the scrap metal.

That $468 million could have paid for a great deal of air-support training, and so could the $20 billion in earmarks stuffed into Defense appropriations by the House and Senate this summer. Among the programs that the Pentagon didn’t ask for, but Congress gave the department anyway, are $120 million for breast cancer research, $64 million to study prostate cancer and $10 million to investigate ovarian cancer. Worthy endeavors, to be sure, but off-topic for the military. Congress earmarked $278 million in defense spending toward anti-drug efforts, $10 million for historically black colleges and $3 million to fill vending machines at military bases with healthier snacks.

According to the Office of Management and Budget, the sequestration will trim an additional 4 percent from next year’s defense budget, compared to a 0.06 percent reduction in nondefense spending. This is an indiscriminate cut that hit defense disproportionately. It’s a terrible way of setting the nation’s priorities, but the Defense Department nevertheless could find more opportunities for belt-tightening. Blaming a tragic combat accident on cuts is like the lament of the man who blows his paycheck on wine, women, gambling and then song, and blames it on his boss for not paying him enough to pay the rent.

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