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Honor Our Veterans by Providing for the Common Defense

The Heritage Foundation honors Americas men and women who died in military service. And there is no better way to do that than to push for adequate support for our armed services. The preamble of the constitution clearly gives the federal government the responsibility to provide for the common defense. But that goal cannot be reached without proper defense spending and investments.

Military Shrinking

Today’s military is roughly half the size it was in the early 1990s. The Army has gone from 18 divisions during Desert Storm to 10; the Air Force has gone from 37 tactical air wings to 20; and the Navy has gone from 568 ships in the late 1980s to a fleet of only 276 today.

Missile Defense Defunded

Iran has successfully launched a long-range missile capable of hitting Israel and other countries in the Middle East, even as Tehran has continued to engage in diplomatic duplicity. And countries like North Korea, China, and Russia have reportedly worked to achieve electromagnetic pulse capabilities. It only makes sense that if our enemies have ballistic missile programs, we should have missile defense technologies. Yet, at the request of President Obama and Defense Secretary Gates, Congress has reduced missile defense funding and pulled out of the third site in Poland. The presidents pursuit of a sea-based ballistic missile defense program is promising, but, at present, only 20 Navy ships have been modified for BMD capabilities. Navy officials hope to outfit 67 ships, and theyll need additional funding to do that. See The Heritage Foundations documentary called 33 Minutes on the urgent call to protect America.

Equipment Aging

Much of the militarys equipment is old and increasingly unreliable, and its technological edge is at risk.

  • The average age of Air Force aircraft in 1973 was just nine years. The average aircraft today is 24 years old, while aircraft modernization funding has faced shortfalls of up to $20 billion in recent years. The Air Force acquisition budget is 30 percent short of the amount necessary to fund equipment purchases and upgrades.
  • The Pentagon purchased an average of 238 Air Force fighters and five tanker aircraft each year from 19751990, compared to only 28 from 1991 to 2000.
  • This dramatic reduction in our fighter force is happening at the same time F-15s are falling out of the sky because they’ve been patched up so many times.
  • The Joint Strike Fighter plane will constitute 90 percent of all U.S. fighters in 2035. Because it is a single-engine plane, unless there is an alternate engine available, an engine error could lead to a system-wide grounding of every aircraft until the problem is identified and fixed. Yet, Congress has questioned whether to continue to fund an alternate engine for the JSF.
  • The Navy faces a substantial shortfall in fighter aircraft inventories and budgetary obstacles to its 30-year shipbuilding plan.
  • Poor readiness reports even led the Navy to pause the entire worldwide U.S. surface fleet in 2008.

After the Cold War ended, the Clinton Administration believed an era of peace was at hand. Consequently, the President and Congress cut both the size of the military and the funding for modernization far below what was necessary to sustain American capabilities. While President George W. Bush increased spending on the military, it was not enough to remedy the shortfalls of the 1990s, particularly with ongoing operations overseas since 2001. As a result, the military’s capital inventory has become largely outdated.

The impact of collective decisions made over the past 15 years and the operations tempo of U.S. forces abroad means that today America is in danger of losing vital core security capabilities without increased investment. This includes the potential loss of core defense capabilities such as air dominance, maritime control, space control, and projecting power to distant regions.

In order to honor our military heroes and provide for the common defense of America, we must devote the resources we need to the military.

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