For months now, America’s defense leaders have been asking the nation’s lawmakers to provide consistent and stable funding for the country’s defensive infrastructure.  America, which boasts the largest military on the face of the globe and has conducted continuous combat operations in multiple theaters while maintaining a stabilizing presence in nearly every corner of the planet, has faced a number of budgetary limitations in recent years.  Sequestration, or spending caps aimed at reigning in the costs of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan put into place under the Obama administration, is perhaps the more commonly addressed of those challenges, but the government’s inability to pass consistent budgets have also significantly hampered readiness.

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan was the latest of America’s senior military leaders to try to impart this fiscal imperative, this time speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California.

I will say, a couple of the Department’s behaviors strike me as abnormal.” Shanahan said, pulling from his thirty years in the private sector to draw comparisons.  “First, operating without a budget is not normal. Doing so every year for nine years is really not normal. Next, airplanes are meant to fly. A service with a significant number of its airplanes grounded and awaiting maintenance is not normal.”

“Part of my job as a leader is guarding against the normalization of abnormal behaviors within the Department. A high level of performance is not only expected of our military, it is essential for America’s security, no matter the constraints.”

According to reports from February of this year, a whopping 2/3 of the U.S. Navy’s F/A 18 strike fighters were not operational throughout the past fiscal year due to budgetary constraints preventing them from receiving the necessary repairs and maintenance required to be air worthy.  America’s fleet of hornets are not at all abnormal under the current financial restraints, particularly while the Defense Department operates under continuing resolution, as law makers prepare to put yet another defense bill to vote, hopefully later this month.

Shanahan drew parallels between the current budgetary situation and that of the United States leading up to World War II, where politics once again stood in the way of readiness.

Today, artificial constraints still hold our national defense hostage, from budget stresses, like continuing resolutions and Budget Control Act caps to disagreements in Congress that affect timely decision-making,” he said.  “We cannot rely on a crisis to be the catalyst for solutions. The cost of global conflict is simply too high, and we value our men and women in uniform far too much.”

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The Deputy Secretary compared the nation’s defensive infrastructure to an elastic, to demonstrate both the military’s ability to regroup and return to previous levels of readiness, but offering a warning about just how far it can stretch.

The Department of Defense has its limits to elasticity. Excessive pressure in the form of budgetary instability has the potential to permanently distort our Department’s character and lessen our lethality.”

He then went on to emphasize that ensuring the military is ready to win wars doesn’t necessarily mandate that we fight them, but rather, military strength can help prevent conflict, by offering the nation’s diplomats strength and authority at the deliberation table.

After all, we must remember – the Department’s primary purpose is to be as lethal as possible, ensuring our diplomats continue to speak from a position of strength. This is only possible when enemies know with certainty that we are ready to fight and win our wars, and allies know that America stands steady alongside them. A stable budget is essential for this.”

“I close with General Washington’s wisdom: “To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.” This belief drives us and will continue to drive us in all we do.”

 

Image courtesy of the Dept. of Defense