I learned this morning that yesterday a C-2 aircraft off the U.S. Ronald Reagan crashed with 11 service members aboard. Fortunately 8 passengers have been rescued and are safely aboard the carrier. This of course does not decrease our concern for the 3 still missing or their families. Unfortunately this is not the only incident to hit our military this year, things have been especially bad for our Navy, and in the Pacific.
As a nation we ask for more from our military than from any other group. The very least we owe them in return, is to provide them with the resources to do their jobs effectively and safely. This simply is not happening !
The cause of the latest crash is still under investigation, and that investigation needs to be complete and deliberate, not fast. However if you look at such incidents they nearly always come down to two things. Maintenance and Readiness.
Maintenance: One of the biggest challenges here is the ridiculous age of the Navy’s capital ships and planes. Granted the Reagan is a newer carriers. Yet the plane may well not be. Even if both were among the newest we have, they still have to be maintained. Doing so requires both spare parts and trained personnel. Both require money, there is no substitute !
Readiness: For our military to do the job we ask, the way we ask, they must train,train, train. This requires fuel, ammunition and other consumable items in very large quantities. This again requires money.
The counter arguments,
We spend more than other countries already: Partly true and partly not. Yes in dollars and cents we spend way more. However if you look at it from a perspective of how many more people, and how many more places around the world we protect we do not. We spend more, because we are responsible for more.
Why can’t we just cut waste in the existing Defense Budget ? Fair question. In fact the defense budget is too large and too complicated for me to argue that there is not waste there somewhere. Neither can we just reallocate money from elsewhere in the budget, and here’s why. The proposed fiscal 2018 Defense Budget is for a total of about $574 billion. Out of that $223.3 billion goes for Operations and Maintenance. Maintenance is one of the issues we are discussing. Operations includes not only keeping us safe, but fuel, ammunition, etc. required to maintain readiness, our other concern.
Another $141.6 billion goes directly to personnel (both military and civilian.) Many in the 7th Fleet where most of this year’s incidents occurred, do not possess the proper certifications for the jobs they are being asked to do. This alone is unsafe. A large reason this is happening is military personnel have been reduced since sequestration. Watch standers at too many posts are have been working longer than normal shifts. This naturally and predictably leaves less time for the qualification/certification process. Today’s Navy requires a higher degree of skill than ever before. Maintaining ships and aircraft that are serving well beyond their designed lifetime, requires mechanics with the training and experience to keep them serving safely. Spare parts must be quickly available when and where they are needed, or readiness goes down hill. All of which requires many times more money than simply “scrubbing” the current defense budget will provide.
Sequestration is one of the worst things to happen to our military, especially the Navy in our lifetime. We as a nation at war must do better. The safety of those we call on to defend us demands it !