Aug 05

It’s hard to watch or read the news and not be reminded of the struggling economy. Mentioned almost as often as the troubled economy is the massive and rising deficit. Next year, America’s debt will continue its meteoric rise and top billions. I do not know economics, so I don’t claim to be able to cure all our budget ills. Instead, I humbly submit one solution to simply lower our tremendous deficit: eliminate overseas military bases in Europe and Japan. These holdovers from a previous military era do not keep us safe or help our economy.
The military could trim their budget in many ways, but none as easy as bringing our troops home from European bases. Sure the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are exorbitantly expensive, but it will take years to extricate from those countries. Sure we waste millions on defense procurement, but, as the battle for the F-22 shows, the spending culture of the Pentagon will not be fixed over night.

Meanwhile, millions of dollars support our troops to live overseas. Stationing thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen overseas is expensive. The Army has three brigades forward deployed to Europe, each manned with several thousand soldiers with thousands more in support. The government pays to shipping American food to Europe, pays to subsidize gas to American prices, pays to ship Soldier’s cars and furniture, and pays thousands of landlords rent every month. Instead of giving welfare to Italy, England and Germany, we should invest this money in America.
National security aficionados need not worry about US security either. Thousands of forward deployed troops did not prevent 9/11 nor did they stop the attacks in Madrid or London. They did not even contribute significantly to the invasions of Afghanistan or Iraq. True, the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team jumped into Iraq, but airborne operations can originate from across the planet, say a base in North Carolina instead. (C-130 combat aircraft can fly non-stop around the world with mid-air refueling) Further, if we are willing to deploy our soldiers from Germany and Italy to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq, then clearly the security situation does not require their presence.

Forward deployed troops do not make America safer nor significantly advance our national security agenda; we should save the money and bring them home.

Jul 27

(Though we try not to chase current events here at On V, we do believe in being active participants in our democracy. As California residents, we were shocked when we found out that both of our Senators voted in favor of continuing production of the F-22 Raptor. For background on the subject, click here.)

Senator Feinstein, Senator Boxer,

We are writing you today to express our dismay at your recent vote in support of adding twelve additional F-22 Raptor fighter jets, in other words, voting to waste nearly 1.7 billion on planes our country doesn’t need. The F-22 Raptor has never run a combat mission in support of ground troops in Afghanistan or Iraq. It hasn't flown a single mission in support of the Global War on Terror. Not one.

For a plane without a job, the costs are staggering: it costs over a hundred thirty million dollars just to build one; the Air Force spent 65 billion dollars researching and building the F-22; it costs $44,000 to fly it for one hour and in regular maintenance, the plane requires thirty hours (or 34 to some estimates) for one hour of flight time.

A diverse group of politicians and Generals -- including Senator John McCain, Defense Secretary Gates, USAF Secretary Donley and his Chief of Staff General Schwartz--have all argued to end the program. As Secretary Gates said, "The F-22, to be blunt, does not make much sense in the spectrum of conflict."

By spectrum of conflict, the Secretary of Defense means the two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Afghanistan and Iraq, A-10 Warthogs, F-16 fighter-bombers and AC 130 gunships run all the combat air missions. Instead of spending 1.7 billion dollars on twelve jets, why not build ten or twenty more AC-130 gunships to support our troops at night? Why not use that money to equip more battalions with Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected vehicles? Why not spend it on stronger roads to keep our troops and the Afghanistan National Security Forces safe from IEDs?

Secretary Gates attempts to change the culture of military acquisitions will make our nation safer and save our nation money. We understand that Lockheed Martin and Boeing have vital roles in our California economy, but we mustn’t let California’s economic needs trump our national security. The military must transform to face our current conflict by cutting the waste rampant in it’s budget.

We are extremely displeased you don’t support this effort, and hope you vote in the future to cut the pork from our military budget.

(We forwarded this letter to our Senators and recommend you do the same if your Congressperson supported the F-22 Raptor.)