Procurement: February 6, 2001

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New President Bush faces a budgetary train wreck due to a decade of under-spending on defense. Ammunition stockpiles are low (ships go to sea for operational deployments with only three quarters of a standard load of ammunition), years of maintenance on equipment and buildings was never done (and will cost much more to catch up on now), and the $60 billion which Pentagon leaders (appointed by Clinton) declared adequate for fast modernization has now been found (by those same officials) to be not only inadequate (requiring an increase of $100 billion per year) but that we are in fact behind schedule and need many more billions to catch up. These amounts are, of course, financially and politically impossible. The US has 15,682 military aircraft, and (based on service lives which vary from type to type) must buy 578 per year to keep that size of force. The Clinton Administration in fact funded 148 new planes per year, leaving the US with an unpurchased backlog of 3,000 aircraft. Mass obsolescence over the next decade will leave the US in 2010 with only 8,421 military aircraft. The Air Force has bluntly told Congress that it, alone, needs an extra $25 billion a year. The Navy has 304 ships (which many analysts agree is about 100 ships too small) and in theory needs to buy eight ships per year (and refurbish a few more) to stay even. The Clinton Administration has been buying six ships a year and has scheduled production to slow to four ships per year under its current budget projections. Under those projections, the US will have 89 warships in 2020. The Navy wants at least $20 billion a year more than it has received under Clinton. The Army and Marines also want billions, and the missile defense system could easily add $5 to $10 billion a year to defense projections now in place. The US currently spends 2.5% of its gross national product on defense. Some analyses say that we need to be spending 4%. Defense spending was 6% during the Reagan years, but that was on a substantially smaller economy.Stephen V Cole

 


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