Facing deep cuts to defense spending, the U.S. Army must keep some of its most elite paratroopers on the ground. This marks an entry on a growing list of readiness concerns the U.S. military is dealing with.
The Obama Administration ordered these cuts in its 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance, a plan detailing the development and restructuring of the military through 2020. Under this plan, more paratrooper units will be slashed to meet the reduced maximum requirement of 49,000 parachute positions.
“You have to make the best use of resources across the Army to make sure we’re using tax dollars as best we can,” said Jim Hinnant, a former 1st lieutenant and paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg and spokesman for U.S. Army Forces Command.
This is just one example of how combat readiness across the military has been hindered by defense budget cuts. The Heritage Foundation has highlighted some of the other, more salient examples, including the fact that only 200 U.S. soldiers were made available for a major NATO exercise—a contribution equal to Estonia’s—and that the U.S. Navy does not have a single combat ship available in Latin America.
According to a Heritage paper by retired Army colonel Richard Dunn, “Failure to maintain an appropriate balance among these dimensions during the current period of budgetary uncertainty will significantly degrade America’s ability to respond to threats to its interests.”
Congress has plenty of room to make cuts to inefficient government programs and bloated entitlement spending that would offset the negative impact of further defense cuts under sequestration.
Leaving some of the military’s most decorated and most respected combat units out of the fight is a shame, but allowing combat readiness across all the service branches to deteriorate threatens U.S. national security. Members of Congress should exercise the forethought necessary to maintain a robust national defense while also finding ways to cut government inefficiencies and avoid adding to the already swollen federal debt.
Clark Irvine is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.