Adapt Military to Changing World

Posted May 16, 2008 at 11:14am

History teaches us that the United States achieves peace through military strength. But can our country afford the military’s plans? No. During my 16 years on the House Armed Services Committee, Congress has helped the services’ proposals become more realistic. That effort is reflected in the fiscal 2009 national Defense authorization bill that the full House is set to vote on.

On May 13, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warned: “I have noticed … the propensity of much of the defense establishment to be in favor of what might be needed in a future conflict. I believe the risk is far greater if we were to fail in Iraq. That is the war we are in. That is the war we must win.”

It took too long to recognize that roadside bombs and suicide attacks are, as Secretary Gates noted, “the weapons of choice for America’s most dangerous and likely adversaries.” That is why the House recommends an additional $2.6 billion to purchase more mine-resistant, armor-protected vehicles.

The most important challenge in the 21st century is energy, especially America’s dependence on imported oil. The U.S. has only 2 percent of the world’s known oil reserves. We consume 25 percent of the oil produced worldwide and import close to 60 percent of the oil we use — twice as much as during the Arab oil embargo of 1973.

The U.S. paid the equivalent of 4.6 percent of the defense budget for oil in 1973. The $600 billion the U.S. now pays for imported oil is equivalent to the entire defense budget. With oil at $125 per barrel, the world is spending $4 trillion. The money is going to Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Iran as well as Russia. Ninety-six percent of world oil reserves are now owned by countries; 78 percent by OPEC nations. China is scouring the planet to acquire oil assets and rapidly expanding its military capability. America has the only blue-water navy capable of protecting international shipping lanes and choke points through which most oil is shipped.

Without a concerted effort to reduce the oil intensity of our military and our economy, our national security and economic prosperity are at risk. The House bill includes a key recommendation of the 2008 report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Energy Strategy: “More Fight, Less Fuel.” Including the fully burdened cost of fuel will now be required in the development of new equipment and weapons.

Nuclear propulsion for large naval combatants is the right choice with rising fuel costs and the vulnerabilities of fossil-fuel refueling. Last year, Congress required the Navy to include integrated nuclear propulsion for the next-generation cruiser. This year, the House bill recommends that future classes of amphibious assault vessels be nuclear.

With the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, our military’s requirements have expanded since the Cold War. We must maintain sufficient force structure and capabilities to meet current and future challenges that lie ahead. The House bill authorizes an increase of 7,000 for the Army and 5,000 for Marine Corps and a 3.9 percent pay raise for all members of the armed forces.

Programs that are working should be expanded. We need more, not fewer submarines because they are disruptive technologies. More attack submarines are needed to maintain America’s blue-water navy superiority and capabilities to meet future challenges, such as those posed by a rising China and a re-emergent Russia. The House added $722 million to build an additional Virginia class submarine in 2011. I hope appropriators follow suit and reward the steady and impressive reductions of 1 million man hours for each submarine now under construction.

We must be prepared for asymmetrical attacks and the potential that a more formidable foe than al-Qaida may engage in more effective attacks against us. The House bill includes an amendment I offered to continue the work of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack. With the proliferation of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology, EMP is the ultimate terrorist weapon that could destroy our society.

The bill includes measures to control the costs of other programs.

It includes a cost cap adjusted for inflation for the Littoral Combat Ship. The House bill reduces funding but supports the president’s request for two LCS vessels.

The House bill would not allow the Navy to terminate the LPD-17 amphibious assault ship production line. It makes absolutely no sense to shut down a production line when we know that we will have to build more.

The House bill slows the pace of the DDG-1000 destroyer. It provides the Navy with the flexibility to re-evaluate its options and reduce risk for the next-generation cruiser. These are prudent steps to prevent anticipated cost overruns for the first two DDG-1000 ships from crippling the Navy’s shipbuilding budget and drastically reducing the potential to meet the Navy’s 30-year 313 fleet size.

The $13.5 billion Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle amphibious armored vehicle was conceived decades before IEDs became the largest source of casualties to American forces. Responding to concerns by Subcommittee on Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Chairman Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) and me, the Marine Corps has made design changes to the EFV that will improve its survivability by 50 percent. The program will be reviewed by the Defense Acquisition Board in late May, which will determine if the current design should go forward with a new prototype. The House $40 million reduction will support the program.

The House bill recommends the fourth consecutive year of cuts to the Army’s Future Combat Systems program. 2009 will be critical to the secretary of Defense deciding whether to continue the FCS program as planned, restructure the program or terminate the program.

To institutionalize the lessons learned about contingency contracting from Iraq, the House bill acts on Gansler Commission recommendations to enable the Army to have a deployable contingency contracting corps.

Congress is continuing the commitment that transformed our tiny fledgling nation into the world’s beacon of democracy and a superpower. John Paul Jones’ challenge is echoed by every man and woman who volunteers to serve in our military and to the families who sacrifice to support them and pray for their safe return. “Give me a fast ship, for I intend to go in harm’s way.”

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) is ranking member of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Expeditionary Forces.