Senator Roger Wicker, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote an op-ed this week about what is needed to re-build America’s shrinking military forces.
Wicker touts the increase in defense spending placed in the recent omnibus bill as “a small but positive sign that the Administration and lawmakers are willing to make the tough decisions needed to resolve gaps in our military’s readiness. The focus should be on making investments that are cost-effective for taxpayers and beneficial to warfighters.”
The budget boost is a start “in reversing the damage caused by years of defense cuts. The strain these cuts have put on our military has had a compounding effect, forcing fewer troops to cover more operations with old equipment. The wear and tear on this equipment requires frequent and costly maintenance, diverting funds from efforts to modernize,” he writes.
Indeed, as Wicker admits, our military has diminished considerably – “our naval fleet reached its smallest size since World War I. The number of soldiers in the Army was reduced to levels not seen since before World War II, and the Air Force has never been smaller. In terms of readiness, these drawdowns have consequences that linger far beyond one administration. Today, our Air Force faces a shortfall of 1,500 pilots, and only a fraction of our Army brigades are combat-ready.”
Yet Wicker pledges to us that he is “committed to reversing this downward spiral. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I work with my colleagues each year to put together a defense authorization bill that addresses our military priorities and outlines the resources that are necessary to meet them. As chairman of the Subcommittee on Seapower, I am particularly involved in ensuring that the men and women of our Navy and Marine Corps are equipped to face today’s emerging threats.”
But we can ask two crucial questions about this most important issue: Why has our military been diminished? Why didn’t Wicker and the Republicans do anything about it before?
Democrats, like Clinton and Obama, always slash defense funds, in many cases catastrophically so, while boosting their favored programs like welfare and entitlements. When Republicans are in charge, at least since Reagan, they have done next to nothing to reverse course.
During eight years of Bill Clinton, defense cuts amounted to roughly a third of US military force. The Navy took an especially hard hit, as active ships fell from 454 in 1993 to 341 by 2000.
Ben Shapiro wrote of the Obama cuts a few years ago, “Historically speaking, they’re incredibly large. In 2011, the defense budget represented 4.7% of total gross domestic product; this year’s percentage will be 2.7%. In real dollars, US defense spending is set to plummet from $705.6 in 2011 billion to $496 billion. That represents a budget cut of approximately 30%.” So another third gone.
Yet to hear liberals continually scream about defense, you’d think it constituted the bulk of federal spending but it doesn’t, especially when compared to leftwing budget priorities. According to a 2011 report by then-Senator Jeff Sessions, utilizing data from the Congressional Research Service, the 80-plus federal welfare programs cost taxpayers more than a trillion dollars per year, more than was spent on Social Security, Medicare, and national defense combined.
Democrats boost welfare and slash defense. Yet when Republicans take control of the government, they don’t slash welfare and boost defense, they allow Democratic priorities to prevail. And that’s the problem.
But even when Republicans only had control of Congress and not the White House, they still failed to act. The Constitution gives Congress two strong powers over national defense: The power to declare war and the power to make all rules and regulations for the military. Yet Republicans in Congress act as if they have no powers at all. But that’s just not true. They just don’t have the courage to act.
And even with control of Congress and the the White House, they failed. Why did Republicans under Bush, when Wicker was in the House, not rebuild the military, as Bush promised to do in the campaign of 2000?
This became especially important after 9/11 when war came. Why did we not spend money on increasing the size of our military forces during the two-front War on Terror to make sure the wear and tear inflicted during Iraq and Afghanistan was adequately dealt with?
Does anyone remember hearing Roger Wicker raise his voice at all on those issues? If he was so concerned, why did he not put forward a bill to that effect? Or at least attach amendments to a favorable administration bill during Democratic administrations?
If Wicker and Thad Cochran are so good at their jobs, and so vitally important Senators, why has this become an issue?
In Roger Wicker’s more than two decades in Congress, Republicans have controlled the House 18 out of 22 years and the Senate 14 out of 22. Our military should never face shortages, wear and tear on equipment, or a lack of military readiness.
Much of the blame must fall on Congress, as the appropriators, and on those members like Senator Wicker who serve on the Armed Service Committee. This is as much their failure as any Democrat.