FUBAR is military jargon for “fouled up beyond all recognition.” Kabar is the knife Marines carry. As things stand with sequestration, servicemen and women who protect our nation’s security stand to receive far more of the former and fewer of the latter.
The Syrian imbroglio has, for the moment, obscured the ongoing security threats to American forces, interests, and ideals in the Pacific. But the leaders who represent those threats are mindful of the dizzying array of contradictory U.S. statements, crossed redlines, and reticence to fulfill declarations of intent in the Middle East.
North Korea and China could be emboldened by perceptions of an American public weary of war, an intensely divided U.S. Congress, and U.S. allies even more reluctant than usual to participate in military action.
Beyond this, the Obama Administration’s calls for military action in Syria highlight that the U.S. military will continue to be called on to implement political objectives despite suffering massive budget cuts of $480 billion even prior to additional sequestration-mandated cuts. If ordered to take the hill, American servicemen and women will of course do so. Their military leaders can’t refuse even if their forces have been reduced, their training cut, and procurement to replace worn-out weapons deferred.
Claims that U.S. forces in the Pacific will be immune from duties elsewhere or budget cuts simply don’t hold water. Despite an increase of 100,000 ground troops during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, U.S. soldiers and Marines were removed from Asia to serve in those wars.
Pacific Command forces are already being impacted by funding shortfalls. One in three U.S. Air Force combat aircraft worldwide are already grounded, and two Navy ships in the Pacific—a submarine and a guided missile destroyer—can’t leave port because of a lack of funding.
The U.S. Marine Corps fares no better. Though Marines rely on their Kabar combat knives and rifles, they need transport to get to the battle. The Marine Corps has stated that, in order to meet Combatant Commander requirements, it needs 38 amphibious ships, yet the budget provides for only 28. Marine Commandant James Amos warned that defense cuts could “translate into increased loss of personnel and materiel, and ultimately places mission accomplishment at risk.”
On September 25 at 1:30 p.m., the Heritage Foundation hosts an event “What Asia Pivot? Defense Budget Cuts Undermine U.S. Interests in the Pacific” to address these issues. Panelists include former Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter, Professor Bernard Cole of the National War College, and Professor James Auer of Vanderbilt University.