We have the finest fighting force in the world. Our men and women in uniform volunteer to carry out the most important function of government: providing a national defense. They have been giving us their best, but Washington has failed to reciprocate.
This one-sided relationship has undoubtedly taken a toll on our nation’s troops, as our military has fallen victim to extensive budget cuts.
President Barack Obama, like the Carter and Clinton administrations, has gutted our military with slashing budget cuts, spending tax dollars on liberal social programs rather than on defense funding.
Now, as a result, our men and women in uniform unnecessarily risk their lives every day by using outdated weapon systems in desperate need of modernization.
Asking our troops to continue using outdated weapon systems that were developed and procured during the 1980s — and in some cases the 1950s — is unconscionable. It makes as much sense as asking our police to patrol the streets in a 1950s Ford and fight crime with 1980s technology.
The severity of these cuts to our defense modernization program threatens our nation’s ability to keep up with countries such as China, Russia, Iran and North Korea, that continue to build their military and weapon systems. That is not a strategic position that favors our national security interests.
In the words of President Ronald Reagan, “We maintain the peace though our strength; weakness only invites aggression.”
To remain a credible and viable deterrent, America must sustain a stable ship and aircraft procurement plan and develop new weapon systems such as the F-35, the Army Ground Combat Vehicle and the Paladin Integrated Management Howitzer. These are just some of the integral weapon systems that are in desperate need of modernization in order for our armed forces to deter and defeat any threat against our nation and our allies.
Despite these warnings, the Department of Defense remains on the chopping block now that the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction has failed to come up with a bill that would negate the need for hundreds of billions of dollars in automatic cuts to military spending beginning in 2013.
The potential repercussions of this inaction are devastating and we cannot let it happen.
Cutting modernization programs will only further jeopardize the members of our armed forces. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey share my concern that deep cuts to the Department of Defense represent an unacceptable risk to our troops and overall national security.
Cost-saving measures can be found by eliminating waste and redundancies in how the department makes future purchases. Streamlining the defense acquisition process can save funds on the back end without cutting funds that our troops need on the front lines.
This is the only acceptable solution that will assist the Department of Defense for years to come without putting our servicemen and servicewomen at more risk.
Defense spending did not get us into our current fiscal crisis. Years of living without a balanced budget, endless bailouts, failed stimulus programs and borrowing from future generations to pay for runaway social spending is to blame.
We already ask our nation’s fighting forces to pay a heavy price to defend our freedom. It is morally wrong for us to ask them to pay an even higher price to get us out of a mess they didn’t create.
Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.) is the No. 2 Republican on the Armed Services Committee.