National Insecurity

Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Poster Collection, UK 2771a, Hoover Institution Archives.
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Hoover Institution Archives

It is inevitable that U.S. naval, air, and ground strength will be downsized in the years ahead. The only real question is by how much—by $1 trillion or so from planned spending levels if sequestration remains in effect, or by “only” $500 billion or so if it is repealed. Carrier groups, fighter winters, and especially infantry will be especially hard-hit by these cuts since these are all expensive investments, whether in materiel or personnel. Unless sequestration is repealed, for example, the Navy will not have the money to retrofit the U.S.S. George Washington and the total number of aircraft carriers will fall to 10 even though current requirements call for 12 to 15. Likewise the Army, under sequestration, will fall from a wartime high of 570,000 active-duty soldiers to as few as 420,000, even though army leaders have testified that a bare minimum of 450,000 is necessary. The Air Force, too, will face similar cutbacks; indeed it has already been forced to cut back purchases of both the F-22 and F-35 to considerably below planned levels. It is possible to argue that in the long-term, different kinds of ships and aircraft can make up for these losses, especially if we utilize unmanned platforms more heavily, but in the short-term (meaning the next decade), there is no real alternative to aircraft carriers and fighter wings for projecting U.S. power. And no technology on the horizon will offer any conceivable alternative to old fashioned “ground pounders”—infantrymen standing on street corners with rifles will be as necessary to enforce our will on enemies in the future as in the past. By neglecting to preserve our capacity to field such forces, the U.S. risks being unable to fulfill the bare minimum requirements of its national security strategy.