Saturday, August 20, 2011

Budget Cuts Could Hurt Navy, National Security

The United States is running out of money. We all know that the nation faces a debt and deficit crisis. I am not going to discuss why that is, or try to blame anyone. There is plenty of blame to go around but it is basically the fault of our system. It is easy for Congress and the President to see worthy causes and programs (or unworthy ones that bring political advantage) and commit millions, even billions, of dollars to them without being required to figure out where the money is coming from. Everybody in Washington has been doing it for years and the current crisis is what happens when you can just borrow more money and put off worrying about it, leaving it to the next group to be elected to deal with.

Nevertheless, we have now come to a point where Washington is being forced to face the issue and no one knows how that will finally resolve itself. One serious effect it will have will be the reduction in the Pentagon’s budget. Faced with a need to reducing it’s spending, the Pentagon must make some hard choices. Cut pay and benefits for our service members? Cut the overall number of troops and sailors? Cut the purchase of supplies and equipment? Cut Weapons research? Cut the numbers of planes, tanks, vehicles and ships? No matter where they cut, it will hurt our National Defense –and the wrong decisions could put the lives of our service members at serious risk.

For the Navy there is a temptation to look at the big spending programs first, such as the new Aircraft Carrier, John F. Kennedy, currently under construction. Just delaying this multibillion dollar program could save the Navy a huge amount of money in this and next year’s budgets. On paper, the idea looks like an easy and viable way to show cost cutting and save other programs from some of the cuts.

Unfortunately the reality is a little different. First of all, delaying the construction (stopping and starting) will add enormously to the overall cost, maybe as much as 30%, which still comes from our tax dollars in the future. Secondly it would cause the shipbuilders and the manufactures across the country (who are counting on their contracts as an important part of their operations) to reduce labor. That means at least 20,000 jobs in the next year. Some companies, dependent almost entirely on supplying manpower and or material to the Navy, will be forced out of business entirely.

The third problem is that it delays the deployment of a vital piece of our National Defense –not just one up to date, carrier capable of employing new and sophisticated weapons systems and aircraft (vitally important by itself), but possibly of an entire battle group. Tell me that is something to take lightly.

In times like these, when faced with such serious budget and spending problems, hard decisions will have to be made. Programs will have to be cut, reduced or delayed. There is no alternative. But, the temptation to take the easiest path and simply cut huge numbers all at once just to make the numbers look better on this and next years budgets, is great indeed. Let’s hope the bean-counters in Congress and the Pentagon can see beyond the beans and take the consequences into serious consideration before deciding.

In this case, the easy path is clearly not the best path. What saves money now can cost more money later, destroy businesses, cost jobs, hurt our National Security and possibly even cost lives.

Live Long and Prosper.....

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