Here is a very brief history of the US military:
1976: “Team B” report concludes that we are woefully underprepared to fight the Soviet Union and that we need an enormous defense buildup.
2001: After 9/11, military concludes that we are too focused on old-fashioned war against Russia and China. We need an enormous defense buildup focused on counterinsurgency, especially in the Middle East.
2018: NDSC report says we have been too focused on terrorism and counterinsurgency in the Middle East. We are dangerously vulnerable to great power attacks and need an enormous defense buildup focused on Russia and China.
Back and forth, back and forth. But perhaps you noticed the common thread here: the words “enormous defense buildup” in all three. Somehow, we always need an enormous defense buildup. In particular, a new report from the National Defense Strategy Commission says we are facing a “crisis” in our military posture and we need the following:
The United States and its NATO allies must rebuild military force capacity and capability in Europe…. U.S. military posture in the Middle East should not become dramatically smaller…. The Army will need more armor, long-range fires, engineering and air-defensive units, as well as additional air-defense and logistical forces…. The Navy must expand its submarine fleet and dramatically recapitalize and expand its military sealift forces…. The Air Force will need more stealthy long-range fighters and bombers, tankers, lift capacity, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms…. The United States must maintain the Marine Corps at no less than its current size…. It is urgently necessary to modernize the U.S. nuclear triad and much of the supporting infrastructure…. DOD should invest in a robust R&D program to anticipate future threats, operate effectively from space, and enhance resiliency…. DOD must ensure a substantial, sustainable, and rapidly scalable supply of preferred weapons such as Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER), Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), and a longer-range High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM)…. DOD must invest in a more resilient and secure logistics and transportation infrastructure…. Congress should eliminate the final two years of caps under the BCA.
Whew! That’s quite a shopping list. But how are we going to pay for it? I draw your attention especially to Recommendation 31:
Defense spending, and discretionary spending more broadly, are not primary drivers of the federal deficit. Recommendation: Congress should look to the entire federal budget, especially entitlements, as well as taxes, to set the nation on a more stable financial footing.
Translation for ordinary people: We should cut Social Security, Medicare, and the social safety net in order to pay for a massive increase in the defense budget. This is despite the fact that we have:
- 11 carrier strike groups compared to 1 each for China and Russia
- 12,000 aircraft compared to about 4,000 each for China and Russia.
- 14 nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines compared to 13 for Russia and 4 for China.
- 51 nuclear-powered attack submarines compared to 22 for Russia and 5 for China
- Several hundred fifth-generation stealth fighters compared to approximately none for Russia and China
- 84 Aegis guided missile destroyers and cruisers compared to about a dozen for Russia and 30 for China
- About 6,000 nuclear missiles compared to 6,000 for Russia and 300 for China.
And so on. But we still need more. Ever, ever more.