Our country usually goes through periods in which our military readiness is less than what we should have if a need for protection arises. We rise to the crisis by appropriating more money to close the gaps for critical military purposes.
We live in a different world today with more needs for protection. There is more balance among countries in military power, with more countries with nuclear weapons. The military striking power has a longer reach by more countries today. America, for a number of reasons, is not the most loved country in the world. In fact, we may have more enemies than ever before, or at least countries that are not as friendly as they once were.
Military needs are different today than in the past, but we haven’t reached the point where no ground troops are needed. A lesson in that is in Afghanistan where the terrain is such that to reach some enemies ground troops have to sniff them out — search and destroy in very difficult places.
We see cause for worry, especially after reading what John Lehman has written. In a commentary in The Wall Street Journal titled “More Bureaucrats, Fewer Jets and Ships,” Mr. Lehman, former secretary of the Navy and a member of the 9/11 commission, wrote about the state of our military today. More than half of our active-duty servicemen and women serve in offices on staffs. During President Reagan’s era, we had 20 Army divisions. Today we have 10-division equivalents.
That’s not all. We have a 280-ship Navy where we once had 600. The Air Force has half the number of fighter planes and bombers it had 30 years ago. Lehman wrote that apologists for the shrinkage “argue that today’s ships and aircraft are far more capable than those of the 1980s and 1990s. That is as true as you can keep your health insurance.”
Our Air Force fighter planes today average 28 years old!
We do rank at the top compared to other countries in our defense bureaucracy though and it has doubled in size compared to decades ago. There are more than 1.5 million full-time civilian employees in the Defense Department. The growth has resulted from executive orders and reform initiatives from Congress, Lehman wrote.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says he’s going to cut the bureaucracy. Good luck!
America’s military defense program should be put in sharper focus by Congress and the White House.