U.S. military leaders have repeatedly stated that China’s violent attack on Taiwan, and therefore our response to it, is a short-term challenge. Given the long time for planning, programming, construction and reliable combat power in the field, problem from 2027 it really is one of today. Alarm bells must ring in Congress as the president’s latest defense budget reduces preparedness.

Given that continued support for Ukraine strains some key US military supplies and ammunition, everyone should be concerned that the battle with China will be require even more and faster. What is this Pentagon team like? tormented by the “next war” from overly biased dollars for research and development to prepare for future wars to buy from today’s hotlines, the result is the erosion of our few remaining competitive advantages.

For fiscal 2023, the administration requested $ 119.4 billion for preparedness, compared to the $ 109 billion request for fiscal 2022. The increase of 9.84% is a decrease in real terms. To match purchasing power in 2019 (before the pandemic) with the 2.2% inflation estimates used by the Pentagon and the White House to advertise a “record” budget, the military will have to invest $ 133.84 billion. That would still be just a flat budget in today’s inflation.

The military, navy and air force face a difference of $ 26 billion between what the budget request gives them after adjusting for inflation and the levels of funding they will need to maintain purchasing power at 2019

In 2013, such comprehensive cuts came in the form of sequestration or self-imposed spending freezes, which disproportionately harmed the military due to the inaction of debt reduction politicians. Uniform leaders describes the sharp cuts as “the greatest challenge to military readiness.” The result is not a “difficult but necessary choice”, but rather a devastating early decommissioning and retirementtogether with extended deployments and hazardous work environments for troops.

The administration is shooting itself in the foot, not maintaining the readiness of the systems themselves, which seek to modernize. By overuse of systems and facilities without adequate maintenance, they will not be prepared for upgrades once they become available. In other words, a lack of sustainability slows down the implementation of innovation.

For example, the last budget request only funded the maintenance of air defense weapons systems at 85% of the requirements. In the last four years, arms maintenance dollars have fallen and failed to reach 2019 levels.

To develop future capabilities that provide long-term readiness, the military needs well-trained, well-informed fighters who have the capacity to integrate modernized systems into sustainable arsenals. Instead, budget cuts come at a time when the operational pace of forces continues to increase as capacity investment declines.

Non-partisan Government Accountability Office clearly stated in last year’s report that “nearly two decades of conflict have worsened military readiness at a time when the National Defense Strategy calls for readiness to compete with the great powers.” The administration offers NDS who supports this call, while creating a budget that further degrades the US military, ignoring the realities that the Pentagon leadership appears to be I admit: US competition with China.

At the same time, as preparedness and endurance dwindle, Pentagon reports assessing the People’s Liberation Army and Navy confirm that China has developed and has the world’s largest navy, many of the most modern missile systems and more troops. from the US in to harness them.

Given that we are overwhelmed by the number of ships and troops, the remaining American advantage over China’s defense forces is the confidence and capabilities of our military and their weapons systems. American fighters are the best trained and battle-tested people on earth. For air force pilots alone, the US military has an average of 2.5 times more flight training hours per year than their Chinese counterparts. Unfortunately, the Biden administration’s budget proposal does not fully take this advantage into account.

Decreased readiness means reduced training. In order to specifically improve the advantage of the Air Force pilot, this ratio is quickly equalized. Flight training hours – which keep pilots prepared and ready for battle – have been steadily declining over the past five fiscal years. In 2019, the Air Force had an average of 1.45 million hours of in-flight training on their respective aircraft; today, training is nearly 25 percent lower, with 1.12 million hours requested in President Joe Biden’s request for fiscal year 23. This request reduces 24,000 hours in just one year.

Two years ago, said then-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper: “The bottom line is that every part of the standby lifecycle is vital to preparing and enabling our men and women in uniform to successfully fulfill their mission. The question we need to answer is this: If we are called to fight tonight, are we ready? His answer in 2020 was yes. With the proposed preparedness levels for 23 FYs failing to halt the downward trend, the answer may soon be no.

So what does Congress need to do to change the tide? Invest $ 142.4 billion in readiness for fiscal year 23, a figure that adjusts realistic inflation rates and adds 3% real growth that will allow services to take small steps toward resuming readiness levels. Targeted investments should include the resumption of air force flight training and maintenance of the aircraft themselves, reducing the increasing pace of naval operations to maintain readiness and prevent seafarers’ fatigue, and improving the base and recovery of ammunition stockpiles. the army to provide a day – for combat readiness.

Modernization efforts must not come at the cost of our deterrence today. While Russia is approaching NATO borders and China has repeatedly demonstrated its aggression against Taiwan, the United States cannot afford to leave readiness priorities underfunded. Failing to take full account of realistic inflation forecasts and match pre-pandemic preparedness investments, the White House is openly taking more risks at a time of heightened global security challenges. To meet and overcome these challenges, Congress must also meet $ 142 billion in this budget cycle and continue its growing readiness in the critical years ahead.

Mackenzie Iglen is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. She served as a staff member on the National Defense Strategy Committee authorized by Congress. She has also served in both houses of Congress, the Pentagon and the Joint Staff.


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