It took a Twitter town hall to learn how the President really thinks about defense. Not only does Obama want to gut defense as part of his debt deal (a proposal that simply won’t work)—on top of that, he wants to use the Pentagon budget as his personal ATM to fund more stimulus spending. According to Obama, the Pentagon budget is “so big that you can make relatively modest changes to defense that end up giving you a lot of headroom to fund things like basic research or student loans or things like that.”
What the President left out is the impact his “modest changes” are having on our men and women in the Armed Forces. The poster child for stupid defense budgeting is the F–35: how the Administration has stretched out, exaggerated the costs of, and played politics with funding for the military’s next-generation fighter aircraft. Today’s air forces are the oldest in the history of U.S. air forces. Replacing old airframes and ensuring the U.S. maintains its superiority over potential adversaries is a national security priority.
Yet Obama has done little to show he takes the challenge of modernizing the air fleets seriously. Particularly troubling is his penchant to let the Pentagon slow-roll the fielding of the F–35B (the vertical takeoff and landing version of the fighter for the Marine Corps). The answer may be, as one defense analyst notes, “Put the Obama Administration on Probation, Not The F–35B.”
Today, the Marines are stuck with aging airframes that have limited capabilities and are expensive to operate—a double problem. In contrast, the “B is a winner on both counts. The impact on the fleet is significant. The Marines go from three to one aircraft; and it gets a new aircraft with significant reductions in cost of maintenance.”
The fate of the F–35 is a case study in the President’s penny-wise, pound-foolish approach to defense spending.