Defense Budget Time Bomb Explodes:

The Rising Cost of Low Readiness Comes Home to Roost
... and our Troops are Paying the Price

December 18, 2004

Comment #531

The author of the attached op-ed, a liberal columnist, is one of the few op-ed writers in Versailles on the Potomac to have actually served in the military.

Some might say that Mark Shields in not fair comparing Iraq to WWII, which was an all out war. Well, consider a comparison of our adventure in Iraq to Vietnam, which was also a "limited" war.

During Vietnam, the defense budget reached a peak of $439 billion (in inflation-adjusted FY 2005 dollars). This budget supported about 550,000 troops in Vietnam, but it also kept hundreds of thousands of other troops forward deployed in Europe, Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Okinawa, and Guam; it funded a rotation in base in US to support these forward deployments, and funded hundreds of nuclear warheads on alert in missile silos, submarines at sea, and airplanes in the air.

Now compare this commitment to that of Iraq: To support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States will have a larger budget than at the peak Vietnam year, even if one removes the effects of inflation. The FY 2005 budget will reach between $480 and $500 billion (in comparable FY 2005 dollars), once you factor in the $80-$100 billion supplemental now in preparation, yet our military is only about one-third the size of that fielded during Vietnam. Weapons are projected to age even faster than during the Clinton Administration as the Bush Administration contemplates more cutbacks in future production (e.g., Joint Strike Fighter). Our forces are clearly overstretched by a deployment of only 150,000 troops deployed to Iraq and about 15,000 deployed to Afghanistan, as evidenced by the coercive personnel retention policies, like "stop-loss." Militarily, America's forces are stretched too thin in Iraq, where they are showing signs of getting bogged down in a self-protection mode much like the Turks did in the Middle East during WWI.

And while basic needs of the fighting troops are not being met in a war of choicearmor plate being the most infamousthe courtiers of Versailles on the Potomac are merrily throwing money at all sorts of cold-war inspired weapons (e.g., new attack submarines, ballistic missile defense, the F-22 and Joint Strike Fighters, the V-22 Tilt Rotor, etc.) that can not possibly alleviate the situation for American troops enmeshed in a real Fourth Generation War.

Now if this situation strikes you as inexplicable, I suggest you read (or re-read) Threads 1-4 ... alternatively, you could un-subscribe to DNI and put your brain to sleep in the comfortable echo chamber of patriotic mush oozing out of those brain-dead big mouths on talk radio and cable TV who, unlike Shields, have never inconvenienced themselves serving in uniform.

Our 'Best Equipped' Army? Baloney!

By Mark Shields
Washington Post [op-ed]
Saturday, December 18, 2004; Page A27

In the three years immediately after Pearl Harbor, the United States, a nation of 132 million people with a gross domestic product of less than $100 billion, produced the following to win World War II:

  • 296,429 aircraft

  • 102,351 tanks

  • 87,620 warships

  • 372,431 artillery pieces

  • 2,455,694 trucks

Compare those heroic achievements with the current dismal supply record as the U.S. war in Iraq is fast approaching its third year and the United States, now a nation of nearly 300 million with defense spending in excess of half a trillion dollars:

  • Only 5,910 of the 19,584 Humvees that U.S. troops in Iraq depend on are protected with factory-installed armor.

  • More than 8,000 of the 9,128 medium and heavyweight trucks transporting soldiers and supplies in that war zone are without armor.


"A [radio] jammer [to protect US military vehicles from attack] costs about $10,000, and it probably costs about $10,000 to bury a dead GI. I believe Americans would rather spend the $10,000 to prevent the GI's funeral being held." [Representative] Gene Taylor [D-Miss.] is right. Every American has a moral obligation to make certain that the nation's troops truly are the world's "best equipped."

Chuck Spinney

"A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." - James Madison, from a letter to W.T. Barry, August 4, 1822

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