At the beginning of this month, five incidents involving U.S. military aircraft over the span of just one week prompted questions about the status of the readiness of the American military. The aircraft involved were as diverse as the incidents that downed them, but some trends appeared to be apparent: primarily that many of these incidents, as well as a number of others, could have been avoided through either improved maintenance or training — both troubled endeavors that can be directly tied to budgetary issues.
Since Defense Secretary James Mattis was appointed, readiness has been at the forefront of his efforts, but this year saw yet another delayed budget approval, forcing the American military apparatus to operate without a functional budget for months on end, and delaying new maintenance or training initiatives from being put into place. The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act was signed into law by President Trump in December for a fiscal year that began on November 1st – marking the 9th consecutive year lawmakers have failed to fund the military, despite ongoing combat operations, until long after it was required of them.
The rest of this month has continued to be troubling one for U.S. military aircraft, with five more incidents that have put American military personnel at risk. Although one of these incidents can be chalked up to little more than bad luck, the others are more troubling. When looking at these crashes individually, one can be tempted to attribute elements of each to coincidence, but as the aircraft begin to pile up, it becomes increasingly dangerous to assume that all of these crashes are isolated incidents with no underlying trends contributing to them.
An Air Force F-16 crashes near Lake Havasu on Tuesday