The president’s budget doesn’t match U.S. commitments
War was in the background of President Biden’s trip to Asia last week. He redeployed U.S. forces to Somalia before he left. He signed into law $40 billion in financial and military assistance to Ukraine during his visit to South Korea. Then, in Japan, a reporter asked Biden if he was prepared to “get involved militarily to defend Taiwan.” Biden’s answer was succinct. “Yes,” he said.
Forget the clumsy White House reaction to Biden’s moment of lucidity. Leave aside the question of whether the United States should move from a policy of strategic ambiguity, where our response to a Chinese invasion of Taiwan is left undefined, to a policy of strategic clarity where we let China know the direct consequences of such an attack.
Consider instead the following: Does the Pentagon have the resources to defend democracies from autocrats in two hemispheres?
Afraid not. The Pentagon ditched the “two-front” war preparedness strategy under Barack Obama. Meanwhile U.S. defense spending as a percentage of the economy has been in decline for decades. Biden has shown little interest in changing its downward course. Indeed, the one place where he’s been reluctant to spend money is national defense.
Biden’s fiscal year 2022 request of $715 billion was too small even for the Democratic Congress. It ended up authorizing $728.5 billion. Biden’s fiscal year 2023 request is for $773 billion. Maybe that seems like a hefty sum. It’s not. Biden’s defense budget is meager compared with the tasks the president has set out.
Why? Part of the reason is inflation. The Biden budget request paints a rosy—and inaccurate—scenario. My American Enterprise Institute colleague Mackenzie Eaglen has run the numbers. She begins with the $773 billion marked for the Pentagon. “Using a more honest 7.46 percent CPI [Consumer Price Index] estimate (the FY22 average so far) for military personnel raises the topline to $794.5 billion needed next year,” she writes.
That still isn’t enough, however. “$846 billion in FY 2023 is a more realistic down payment on matching defense investments against national security threats,” Eaglen concludes, “and should be the starting point as Congress builds a more accurate defense budget.” In other words, Eaglen recommends a 9 percent increase in the Biden administration’s topline before Congress and its appropriators become involved. Her proposal makes sense. It’s necessary. And it won’t happen.
It won’t happen for several reasons. The first is inertia. None of the threats we encountered or fear we might encounter in the post-Cold War world have provoked the people’s representatives to increase defense spending to Reagan-era levels. The political willpower doesn’t exist. Entitlements and interest on the debt act as additional constraints. We’ve muddled through for 30 years, this thinking goes. No need to stop now.
The second brake on defense spending is the Progressive bias against hard power. By the 2024 election, America will have been governed by presidents skeptical of defense spending and the military for 12 of the past 16 years. Such leadership has an effect not only on materiel but also on the culture of the national security establishment. Progressives under Obama and Biden see the Pentagon more as a vehicle for social policy and geopolitical featherbedding than as an instrument of deterrence and the national interest. Left-wing taboos against nuclear weapons, nuclear power, oil and gas, and the warrior mindset take precedent over military readiness and lethality. The president overrules the secretary of defense and joint chiefs. America grows weaker even as its leader calls for greater global activism.
Noninterventionism and restraint on the foreign policy right creates a bipartisan reluctance to spend more on defense. President Trump increased defense spending, but not by enough. His administration was filled with skeptics of American engagement and foreign intervention who wanted to reduce not only the Pentagon’s budget but also its influence throughout the world. Republican voices in Congress promote an “America First” foreign policy that would constrict U.S. deployments, aid, and partnerships.
About a quarter of the House GOP and a fifth of the Senate GOP, for example, voted against the latest aid package to Ukraine. Granted, this batch of aid seemed designed to split conservatives, who have a longstanding aversion to unconditional economic assistance. The vote stands as a warning for both liberal and conservative internationalists, nonetheless. The bipartisan consensus over Ukraine may not survive a prolonged war of attrition.
You correct a mismatch between resources and commitments by increasing resources or decreasing commitments. President Biden resists increasing resources for national defense, while powerful elements of both left and right work to reduce American commitments. Neither strategy makes America safer. Someone needs to make the case for a major U.S. defense buildup in response to the challenges of China, Russia, and Iran. And they need to do it soon.
According to Matthew 12:36, Jesus said: “And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself.” The absolutely unjustified, illegal and genocidal war of the Russian Federation against the sovereign state of Ukraine cannot hide the former’s uncompromising war with itself. Indeed, present-day Russia is being thoroughly devastated by all the accumulated evil demons of a millennium which have been born from the enduring despotism as well as the inherent barbarism of the violently uncivilized and uncultured core mentality of the Russian people. Moreover, the reality of the West’s enduring superiority over Russia’s historically underdeveloped state of affairs is again materialized in the former’s impressive unity against the antediluvian hatred of the Russian political elite toward the rest of the world. Literally, Russia’s abominable past is killing the present post-Soviet regime of President Putin. For this reason alone, the dead soldiers and civilians have more power over the despotic regime of the Kremlin than all of Russia’s nuclear arsenal with its awe-inspiring destructive powers.
Clearly, the disintegration of President Putin’s despotic regime was evident on May 9, 2022, by the scaled down parade and by his lackluster speech about the war and the purported heroism of his Potamkin military. This military might still achieve partial victories in the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine, but the costs of the war have further sharpened the deepening chasm between the West and Russia, between Russia and Ukraine, and between Russia and the rest of the world. The increased insubordination and brutality of military commanders and their soldiers, the use of illegal methods as killers in uniform have become heroes for the majority of Russians, and the pusillanimous cowardice of the badly trained conscripts, all point to the diminishing control of the President and his close circle over the mainstay of the regime.
In the economy, the burgeoning effects of the sanctions, the uncertainties of the duration and final outcome of the war, combined with the growing unemployment, will certainly lead to the loss of credibility of the regime. Judging by President Putin’s victory day speech, he and his administration are badly divided and even clueless about how to extricate themselves from their self-inflicted misery. Granted that there has been no shortage of able bureaucrats in the Central Bank of Russia and the ministries responsible for the economy, but they do not have the political power to change the ossified and obsolete parts of the existing corrupt structures. In this manner, President Putin and his entourage can only rely on the bastions of the regime, the collection of various police forces and the faltering military. Facing humiliation in the battlefield and marching toward an economic as well as financial abyss, President Putin’s despotic regime will be incapable of embracing reality in a constructive way. The power of reason will be defeated by the fear of collapse that, in turn, will prevent developing a strategy which could enable Russia to change course and finally begin progressing toward a normal political harmonization.
Where does all this leave President Putin and Russia? It leaves both in a bottomless vacuum filled with innumerable crises. It leaves him personally in an unenviable position of becoming the prisoner of his own fantasies and illusions. It leaves him, if the war does not go his way, in desperate denial and even nihilism. It leaves him no choice but to increase oppression by new concentration camps, inhumane prison conditions and execution squads against everybody who even slightly expresses doubts about his narcissistic as well as delusional course of Russia.
Himself possessed by the demons of the past, namely, the never existent greatness of Tsarist Russia, the misleadingly fallacious strength of the former Soviet Union and the foul semi-Christian doctrines of the official Russian Orthodox Church, President Putin does not comprehend his country’s actual place and importance regionally and globally.
Aiming at destroying the entire European political system in order to restore the so-called Soviet Empire, President Putin has signed his and his country’s death warrant. Surely, Ukraine is going to turn into Russia’s greatest disaster, because President Putin and his comrades do not have the wherewithal to make genuine peace. By stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the sovereignty of the formerly Soviet Republics, every illegal Russian military invasion will be nothing but a truce, by which every fleeting victory will only feed the Kremlin’s growing paranoia. In the twenty second year of his despotism, the 69-year-old president and his small group of like-minded advisors have lived too long in their own cocoons; not being able to grasp the ubiquitous depravity of the monster that their predecessors and they have created. Imprisoned in their own lies and deceptions, President Putin and his comrades will remain ruthless manipulators of their nuclear prowess without any redeeming principles.
Thus, devoid of the gift of seeing clearly the realities of the world, their lives will continue to be uncompromisingly hellish. In order to prevent the total breakdown of the international order and to accelerate the demise of this wicked despotism, all states must remain firmly united in their uncompromising resolve to stop once and for all this cancerous growth from destroying the world.
The U.S. Air Force now has 57 new, high tech refueling tankers with more in the proverbial pipeline to replace its aging fleet of Eisenhower-era tankers. While tankers don’t generally capture the headlines, without a capable tanker to do mid-air refueling, the reach of our military’s bombers, fighters, and reconnaissance planes are cut dramatically. Simply put, tankers allow America’s warfighters to stay in the air and on target longer and without making extra trips back to the home base to refuel. And the KC-46 is operating right now refueling military aircraft over Poland and Germany that are protecting NATO as war wages nearby in Ukraine. The modernized KC-46 tankers are the most capable on the planet, and are more fuel efficient and can deliver fuel to every single aircraft in our arsenal. That means they are better for the taxpayer, the environment, and the warfighter.
Our nation’s military leaders estimate that we will need about 480 tankers to entirely replace America’s aging fleet and meet our defensive needs. As with all military equipment, many years or even decades from now, we will likely replace the KC-46 tanker, just as we are now doing. However, for the fights of today and the generation to come, the KC-46 is the world’s most capable and robust tanker. It’s also cost-effective at a time when budgets are being spread thin.
Given what has happened in recent years, it is clear that we have a lot of pressing national security budgetary needs. We will need to expand our missile defense and deterrence capabilities and make sure we have the tools to deter Chinese and Russian aggression as well as deter rogue states like North Korea and Iran. In times like these, we can’t afford to waste billions of dollars to buy a less advanced foreign tanker, let alone the years of development and testing it will take to upgrade it to the capability of an aircraft we already own. Doing that would simply divert money from other pressing needs which would have the impact of endangering our nation — not protecting it.
Development of military hardware is an expensive and time consuming process. And adding a whole host of changes and upgrades to bring a foreign tanker up to U.S. military standards would be a major development program with all the same risks of the unknown and the unproven. If the Pentagon starts down that path on another tanker today, it likely won’t roll off the assembly line for close to a decade. By that time, the Air Force will be looking to next generation tankers that are unmanned, stealthy, and able to fly places a wide body aircraft never will. In the meantime, if the Pentagon wants new technology or capability built into the new KC-46, that can easily be done. l
Some Pentagon officials want to pursue a relationship with Airbus. That would be a mistake. Even as Russia wages war against Ukraine, threatens expanded war against the Western world, and even threatens nuclear escalation, Airbus continues to buy titanium from Russia. In contrast, U.S.-based Boeing has announced that it is ceasing Russian titanium buys.
But that’s not the only reason the U.S. should be wary of entering into business with Airbus. The company has a long history of scandal and corruption. In the United Kingdom, for example, investigations have exposed massive bribery scandals. French investigations have also uncovered evidence of corruption. Additionally, Airbus has paid billions in fines because it has engaged in bribery schemes around the globe.
Moreover, Airbus has cost Americans thousands of high-paying aerospace jobs by violating trade laws and trade agreements. It doesn’t make sense defensively or economically to outsource our high tech capabilities and make our nation more dependent upon unreliable and untrustworthy trading partners.
“Buy American” is a mantra being repeated far and wide by the White House and others, from newsrooms to manufacturers. It’s merits can be debated, but the reality is that it makes no sense at all to choose to make ourselves dependent upon other nations for the things we absolutely must have to survive in a dangerous world. For example, missile defense technology and national security technology must be 100% American.
The KC-46 tanker is the most capable in the world. It is new and in the coming years if it needs updates, it can be achieved at a minimal cost. There is simply no real benefit to our war fighters, our taxpayers, or our nation to start developing a foreign tanker, especially given the current global environment.
The U.S. has a lot of work to do in other areas of national security to ensure that Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran pose no serious danger to our nation. When you consider all the facts, it becomes clear we need a new tanker built by Airbus like we need a gasoline powered turtleneck sweater.
Congressional GOP urges Pentagon to ditch radical politics in training materials
Troubled by an influx of critical race theory into the military, a coalition of veterans and congressional Republicans are demanding the Pentagon stop placating left-wing activists and focus on national defense.
A July 2020 film by the United States Air Force Academy football team endorsing Black Lives Matter and “antiracism” education prompted retired Lt. Gen. Rod Bishop to speak out against the school’s administrators. Military academies, the 34-year Air Force veteran said, should remain politically neutral, particularly at a time when Black Lives Matter protests have led to riots and violence throughout major cities across the country.
“Rather than e pluribus unum, rather than teamwork, rather than cohesion, we’re being taught an ideology which seeks to divide us based on the color of our skin,” Bishop told the Washington Free Beacon. “I’ve flown into combat zones. It didn’t matter if my copilot was black or not. How are we better for teaching all the elements of critical race theory?”
Bishop’s complaints were ignored by academy leadership. They heard similar stories from veterans at other schools and bases. Cadets spoke about running into books by Malcolm X and other radicals in a new “Diversity and Inclusion Reading Room” at the school, which did not return a request for comment. That experience led Bishop and Scott to start an advocacy group called Stand Together Against Racism and Radicalism in the Services. In under a year, STARRS boasts a membership into the hundreds, including dozens of officers and retired military officials.
“There’s a culture of fear within the military now,” Bishop said. “On the one hand, it’s okay to cheer on Black Lives Matter [on a military base], but if you speak out against this Marxist ideology you’ll be relieved of your duties. Ask yourself, ‘Is this what China and Russia are concerned about?'”
Many Republicans in Congress share similar objections to the injection of radical ideologies into the armed forces. On Wednesday, 30 of them called on Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to “take action to fight back against the creeping left-wing extremism in the U.S. military.” Republicans in the House and Senate expressed alarm at the firing of U.S. Space Force Lt. Colonel Matthew Lohmeier, who criticized the “neo-Marxist” agenda infiltrating the military. House Republicans are demanding the military change course from its focus on diversity. With a growing threat from China, they argue, the military must remain focused on winning wars rather than appeasing fringe left-wing activists.
“The military’s long history of standing above politics has made it one of the most respected institutions in America and enabled our armed forces to both defend the Homeland and serve as one of the bulwarks of our constitutional order,” wrote Rep. Matt Rosendale (R., Mont.). “That legacy is now in jeopardy.”
The Pentagon did not respond to a request for comment.
Announcements from senior Biden administration officials about new programs to crack down on right-wing extremism within its ranks have sparked outrage from Republicans. During his confirmation hearings in January, Austin told the Senate that the Pentagon’s job is to “keep America safe from our enemies. But we can’t do that if some of those enemies lie within our own ranks.”
Rep. Randy Weber (R., Texas), who signed the letter to Austin, said the imposition of critical race theory from top military brass is more damaging than the social media posts of individual soldiers. He called on other members of the military and the public to speak out and pressure the Pentagon.
“Patriotic Americans cannot stand idly by watching the politicization of our armed forces. George Washington—first a general, then a president—relinquished his commission before entering office,” Weber wrote. “A truly visionary leader, he recognized the perils of a politically-biased military. Our men and women in uniform are not lab rats in a social science experiment.”
A few years back, the Pentagon committed to an important upgrade of our military’s heavy-lift helicopter, the CH-47F Chinook. That was a smart decision as it kept costs under control while upgrading – in impressive ways – a proven and battle-tested workhorse.
While the helicopter’s distinctive look on the outside hasn’t changed, it is so much more advanced on the inside, with a list of new systems and capabilities that will keep it relevant for the next 40 years.
As the most capable heavy-lift helicopter on the planet, special operators who fly the most dangerous and demanding missions in the Army swear by the Chinook and trust their lives in it.
But over the years, the United States military has developed important weapons systems needed by our warfighters that are heavier than the old Chinook’s lift capacity. These new systems and equipment may need to be lifted into, or out of, battle space – one of the helicopter’s primary duties – so an updated version was planned and engineered.
The result was an effectively brand-new helicopter that will be able to do it all. It can fly farther, faster, higher and in more adverse weather all while lifting more than ever before (10 tons of supplies and equipment) — all at a comparatively low cost.
Simply stated, these upgrades cost a fraction of starting over and developing a new heavy lift helicopter from scratch and they give the U.S. military a new Chinook that can serve its needs for decades to come.
While the special operations variant is being updated, the Army’s variant also needs the same support.
If we don’t update the Army’s Chinook fleet, the military won’t be able to rapidly deploy new equipment to our warfighters and they will have to operate with lower ceilings and lower lift capacity.
Imagine being pinned down and needing support and not being able to get the tools you need because we chose not to update and upgrade our heavy lift helicopter. It makes no sense to tie the hands of future battle commanders or to endanger the lives of soldiers on the front lines by skipping this upgrade.
Yet, it appears that is precisely what the Pentagon is planning to do. Despite having planned to update the Chinook and having a path that is both financially supportable and makes the helicopter an impressive tool for another four decades, the Pentagon has zeroed out the Chinook upgrade program and appears poised to just use the aging fleet for another 40 years. That isn’t practical, realistic or wise.
Our fighting men and women deserve better than this and the American taxpayers deserve better as well. It also is dangerous to simply shut down the production of a platform that will be needed for the next 40 years.
Not only will thousands of high paying high tech manufacturing jobs be killed in the process, but the taxpayer will pay through the nose when the problems created by this shortsighted decision eventually need to be resolved.
Simply put, if the Pentagon opts to start over and develop a new heavy lift helicopter from scratch, the military could have another budget busting project on its hands that doesn’t outperform the upgraded Chinook.
On top of that, it would leave our troops in a real fix for another decade or longer while that development takes place.
Furthermore, if the military eventually opts to re-start the production of the Chinook and fire-up the production lines after having closed them down, it will have needlessly delayed the upgrades to our warfighters and added substantial costs to the taxpayer. Perhaps the Pentagon is trying to save a few bucks in the near term, but that will most likely guarantee significant costs down the road on a future fix for this temporary, shortsighted policy.
Congress has typically been very supportive of the Pentagon’s Chinook upgrade plans and is actually demonstrating rare bipartisan support for continuing the modernization program. For now, it appears it will take legislative action to make sure that the Chinook gets the planned upgrades that our warfighters need and that the American taxpayer deserves, absent any change in policy from the Pentagon.
Historically, the U.S. is almost always wrong in predicting where the next conflict will be. Our military needs a helicopter that can effectively operate across the spectrum of battlefield requirements now – not 10 or 15 years from now.
With China acting increasingly provocative, and Russia attempting to regain its prior military status, now is not the time to skip on upgrading America’s heavy lift helicopter. The Army needs to make the rational, reasonable, and cost-effective decision.
It appears that the belief in widespread dishonesty among American youth has become an excuse to lower standards for the presumed gradual ‘development’ of more recently joined cadets.
On March 7, 1945, Lt. Karl Timmermann joined a small group of scouts on a rise overlooking the Rhine River and saw that the bridge at Remagen was yet standing. Heroically, he immediately radioed back to his higher headquarters what he had seen.
He had to know what the subsequent orders would be—lead his men into the jaws of death, seize the bridge, and open a path into the heart of Germany. Later that day, he would earn the Distinguished Service Cross for taking that bridge in the face of fierce German resistance
Timmermann was not a West Pointer, but his character and integrity reflected the epitome of the West Point motto: Duty, Honor, Country. He would say later that he only did what was expected of him. He was right.
So too should we expect all West Pointers—indeed, the entire officer corps—to do what is expected of them. Yet cheating scandals at West Point increasingly meet not this unflinching expectation, but excuses and accommodations.
The West Point honor code, the essential character-building element of the Academy’s rigorous four-year program, is clear and straightforward: A cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do. It is a code that has existed for decades, held sacrosanct by not only cadets but also the cadre that leads them, and the officer corps in which they will eventually serve.
Or is it? The last seven decades have seen three major instances of cheating rings: a football team-centered academic scandal in 1950-‘51, an engineering one in 1976-‘77, and a Plebe (freshman) math one in 2020. The traditional sanction for such behavior was expulsion, but of the three noted above the first was partially overlooked, the second resulted in a year-long dismissal for those involved (of whom most returned to graduate a year late), and the latest—under a system “reformed” in 1977 and again in 2002 giving more discretion to the superintendent of West Point—is yet to be determined.
In late December when the latest scandal broke, USA Today summarized it this way:
More than 70 cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point were accused of cheating on a math exam, the worst academic scandal since the 1970s at the Army’s premier training ground for officers.
Fifty-eight cadets admitted cheating on the exam, which was administered remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of them have been enrolled in a rehabilitation program and will be on probation for the remainder of their time at the academy. Others resigned, and some face hearings that could result in their expulsion.
The academy’s original statement in response expressed its “disappointment,” a comment often rendered to misbehaving children by a parent. A subsequent letter from the superintendent promised to deal with the matter thoroughly and pledged devotion to a strong honor system.
I trust West Point will do so, but even in that letter, the superintendent cited the default position toward honor violations (and other egregious violations of character and discipline) as the “developmental model.” That model assumes cadets in their early years have not yet had enough time to consider the import of the honor code and its centrality to a cadet’s and an officer’s character. They must, therefore, be educated for the first two years (and perhaps beyond) to ultimately come to terms with it.
Indeed, the letter pointed out that all cadets had been sent home over COVID-19 in March 2020. Although classes continued via electronics, it said, the Plebes who cheated in May (they had entered West Point the preceding July) had been denied the onsite mentoring that would have forestalled it.
Having been given his post the day before, Timmermann had one day to come to terms with his responsibility as a company commander in combat. No one assumed he would need more time. When chosen to command, he was expected to perform, and he did.
West Point still recruits young men and women of talent and character to lead American soldiers in defense of the country. But it now has become a mantra at the academy to point out that society today does not imbue the high standards of integrity for those recruited.
“Eighty percent of high school students today admit to cheating” is a statement often heard at the academy, whose alma mater for more than a century now includes the words “may Honor be e’er untarned.” It appears that the belief in widespread dishonesty among American youth has become an excuse to lower standards to buy time for the presumed gradual “development” of more recently joined cadets to take hold.
Is that not the bigotry of lowered expectations? Is it not an insult to those recruited today—a cohort of young people more reflecting the diversity of the nation—to assume that they do not know at the outset the difference between lying and telling the truth, nor recognize that copying an illicitly obtained answer to an exam question is cheating, nor understand that lack of integrity away from West Point is no less damning than a similar failing at the academy?
Indeed, the final part of the West Point Honor Code (“or tolerate those who do”) is no doubt the most difficult part to comply with. It is one thing to maintain your own integrity, another to report a peer who cheats.
But without that final clause, honor becomes a solitary experience, not an organizational coda. If West Point tolerates those who cheat, it violates its own honor system. What does that teach the cadets it seeks to develop—that words describing an ideal may have a nice ring to them, but it is not necessary to abide by them?
Those who decry contemporary American society perhaps assume that generations ago we were peopled by plaster saints and that it would be impossible to maintain once widespread and impeccable value sets. In my view, citizens of quality remain in abundance. West Point can recruit from the best of those and expect the best from them.
Standards there can be reasonably enforced (and expulsion need not be the only sanction) and thereby maintained. These apply not only to honor, but to matters of discipline, professionalism, and the traditions of commitment to the nation and selfless service. Some of the long-term adherence to all of these has occasionally slipped as well, an indication that if we lower expectations and thereby relax standards, we can expect standards to erode.
To maintain high standards, West Point will need the backing of the Army and its political leadership, as well as the support of the American public, who expect the best of those it pays to put through the four demanding years at the academy. It is the latter whose sons and daughters will be led by its graduates and their peers in the officer corps.
As retired Col. Lewis Sorley, a West Point graduate, wrote in his excellent book, “Honor Bright,” on the history and traditions of the West Point honor system: “As the Military Academy moves through the 21st century, the Honor Code remains as it has always been, a precious thing, fragile, entirely dependent on each new cohort of cadets to adopt it, make it their own, fiercely protect it, and march forward in its service. That this process shall continue in perpetuity is the heart-felt hope and dream of all those—proud and grateful members of the Long Gray Line—who have shared the privilege of living by its inspiring standard.”
China has a plan to overtake the USA with a fused effort that combines trade with military expansion, as described in a new Pentagon report. It shows how China’s vaunted “One Belt, One Road” plan to build infrastructure worldwide is used for military advantage along with economic benefits.
Many signs show that China’s plan to overtake the U.S. is working. Sadly, most American media ignore this. Also sad is that some U.S. businesses would let China expand within our own borders, pushing out American companies from delivering goods domestically.
China’s navy is now larger than America’s, reports our Department of Defense. And China’s fleet of merchant vessels is larger by far.
The Chinese economy has grown to become second only to the U.S.—and it’s gaining on us. Some reports say China has already passed us in productivity. Other studies show China conducts significantly more world trade than America.
A Financial Times survey found that “China rules the waves.” Forbes reports that the United States has become “ridiculously dependent” on goods from China. The American Enterprise Institute pronounces “We’re too dependent on China for too many critical goods.”
A new report by the Center for International and Strategic Studies finds China “[dominates] the entire global maritime supply chain, [controls] the world’s second-largest shipping fleet . . . and [constructs] over a third of the world’s vessels” while also “producing 96% of the world’s shipping containers . . . and own[s] seven of the ten busiest ports in the world.”
China for years has been on what Forbes describes as a “seaport shopping spree . . . buying up the world’s ports” on every continent save Antarctica. The rationale is explained in the Pentagon’s brand-new paper, “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China.” It paints a fascinating picture of how China’s worldwide “One Belt, One Road” initiative is being used not only to benefit China’s seagoing trade, but also to establish footholds with great military value.
The new Defense Department report explains the dual nature of One Belt, One Road, which seeks to “fuse” trade and military purposes: “cultivating talent and blending military and civilian expertise and knowledge; building military requirements into civilian infrastructure and leveraging civilian construction for military purposes; and leveraging civilian service and logistics capabilities for military purposes.”
Estimates are that China is spending at least $150-billion each year on acquiring civil-military footholds at major chokepoints of world trade. Then they can attempt to deny passage by other nations, much as they now seek to do in the South China Sea.
So why would anybody invite China to expand its control into the domestic waters of the United States? Just as other nations have been paid handsomely to let China take over their shipping facilities, some American businesses believe they can save money by letting other countries (including government-subsidized Chinese entities) to transport goods between destinations within the United States.
Current U.S. law, known as the Jones Act, prohibits shipping goods or passengers between American ports (or along our rivers and canals) unless the vessel is built, owned and crewed by Americans. Those pushing to repeal the Jones Act would allow China to expand its power grab to extend into America’s borders.
And the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, recently pronounced China as a greater national security threat to the United States than any other nation, including working to influence and interfere in our elections.
The Frontiers of Freedom Foundation has a free paper online that explains the details of China’s plans to rule the waves. Even though major media refuse to sound the alarm about China’s ambitions, Americans can wake each other up and should start doing just that.
Twitter, the social media giant that dominates online chatter, suspended Friday the account of the pro-ballot integrity group “True the Vote,” after alleging the group’s tweets about military ballots and voting deadlines violated the platform’s rules.
True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht responded angrily to the move, the latest in a series of actions by the media platform that have some accusing it of trying to stifle debate and the free flow of information during the election season to the detriment of conservative candidates and activists.
Twitter temporarily suspended the group’s account, according to a statement from Engelbrecht, after a Sept. 15 post that encouraged citizens and potential voters to confirm their counties were following the rules for mailing out ballots to members of the military serving in other states and overseas.
Twitter and other social media sites have in recent months announced new policies to protect against tampering by foreign nationals and security agencies seeking to affect the 2020 election. The increased supervision of posts began after congressional investigating committees and an inquiry overseen by former FBI Director Robert Mueller all concluded the Russians had penetrated U.S. social media platforms with misleading messages during the 2016 campaign. No evidence was ever produced, however, that demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow in these activities as many Democrats charged then and still maintain was the case.
Advocates for the military have for some time complained that ballots for local, state, and federal elections are often not mailed out early enough for soldiers, sailors, and Marines serving overseas to receive them, fill them out, and return them in time for them to be counted. Effectively, they say, this leaves America’s troops in the field – many of whom are presumed to vote Republican – disenfranchised.
“True the Vote, an election integrity advocacy organization, was sending out information of public interest regarding deadlines for our military voters, pursuant to the ‘Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment’ Act, federal law, which requires states to send absentee ballots to UOCAVA voters at least 45 days before federal elections,” Englebrecht said, adding that information “in no way” violated Twitter’s terms of service.
The now-controversial tweet was “retweeted” by President Donald J. Trump two days after it was initially posted, an act Engelbrecht suggested in a statement might have provoked the ire of Trump opponents inside Twitter supervising what goes up on the platform while searching for electoral disinformation.
True the Vote is appealing the sanction and said it fully expects to have its access to the site restored in short order. Officials at Twitter could not be reached for comment.
The Pentagon is wisely examining future risks of missile attack and making plans to prevent them. These plans will take at least 10 years to develop — maybe even longer, as everything often does not go as planned. In the meantime, we have our current generation Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) protecting America. While waiting for the next generation missile defense to be developed, we must keep our current generation defenses up-to-date and fully capable.
This is where there is troubling news. To afford the next generation system, the Pentagon is planning to use the funding for updates and improvements to our current GMD system to pay for the development of a future system — effectively limiting our defenses and placing America a greater risk over the next 10 years.
Our enemies are pursuing more capable missiles — greater range, greater speed, greater maneuverability to avoid interception, the ability to deploy better decoys and the ability to jam defensive technologies to effectively blind them. So it is very risky to forgo improvements to our current defenses while we work on a future system that won’t be ready for at least 10 years!
I wholeheartedly endorse the need to develop a next generation missile defense system. But the idea of leaving us exposed to a devastating missile attack in just a few short years and then leaving us even more exposed for the balance of the next decade is completely insane. The Pentagon is effectively saying that it will trust in the goodwill of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, and in the kindness of the Communist Chinese dictator, Xi Jinping — who actively hid the truth from the rest of the world and lied about COVID, making the pandemic more deadly and the economic impact devastating. Imagine the insanity of trusting in the goodwill of the Iranian Mullahs? Even Russia, while no longer our chief geopolitical rival, still poses a significant risk.
We must always outpace the evolving threats. Thomas Jefferson wisely warned Americans that the price of liberty is “eternal vigilance.” And George Washington counseled that “to be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.” These words should ring loudly in our ears. To fail to be vigilant on something as important as nuclear missile attack is worse than stupid, it is suicidal!
Our layered missile defense includes elements that protect our troops around the globe wherever they may be, and the vast American homeland. GMD defends America’s vast homeland. Patriot, Aegis and THAAD are designed to protect American warfighters, bases and ships from missile attack. Their coverage zone is far too small to effectively protect the vast US homeland.
For example, Aegis as impressive as it is, defends an area that is 14 times smaller than GMD, based on material recently presented by VADM Jon Hill, Director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. And THAAD’s area defended is less than half that of Aegis and neither gives a second shot intercept opportunity.
To defend the vast American homeland, we have GMD. And that is the system the Pentagon wants to significantly upgrade in about 10 years. Eventually, the plan is for GMD to employ the Next Generation Interceptor (NGI). But neglecting our current GMD system — killing off all upgrades, zeroing out all improvements, and refusing to increase the number of interceptors we have available will only benefit our enemies and place Americans at risk until the day the new system is available — at least 10 years from now.
Without the ability to test the system and keep our defenses sharp, we would simply be hoping for good results. Hope isn’t a serious strategy when it comes to intercontinental ballistic missiles.
To be blunt, leaving the current system without incremental upgrades for the next 10 years while announcing a major system upgrade that will hopefully be ready in 10 years, sounds like an invitation to attack before the new system is in place and while the current system has grown outdated and less capable. We shouldn’t be sending that sort of invitation to the world’s dictators.
The President and many in Congress on both sides of the aisle want to upgrade our current defenses and also develop the needed next generation defense. Americans of all political stripes should want to prevent America from suffering a devastating nuclear missile attack.
We need Congress to provide sufficient funding for missile defense so that we can keep our current defenses strong, and so that we can develop even better future defenses to meet the growing risks. To do less than this is reckless and courting disaster. And those who are willing to recklessly court disaster should never again be trusted to serve the American people.
Generally, when we think of multibillion-dollar military contracts, we think of advanced weapon systems or other cutting-edge technologies. However, a recent Pentagon contract that is intended to overhaul how the military moves service members’ household belongings has hit the news. In an attempt to both save taxpayer money and provide a streamlined, more reliable, and higher quality moving experience for military families, the Pentagon recently requested proposals to revamp and privatize these moving services for America’s military families. The initial contract is valued at more than $7 billion, and with future options and extensions, could exceed $20 billion.
The contract process has been marred with serious misfires. The problem is that the Pentagon originally awarded the Global Household Goods Contract to American Roll-On Roll-Off Carrier Group (ARC) under questionable circumstances. ARC’s capacity to actually perform the contract is doubtful. ARC’s bid was more than $2 billion higher than competitors who actually have experience and a real track record.
Another problem was that ARC’s proposal incorrectly listed Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics AS as its parent company. The listed parent company pleaded guilty to bid-rigging and price-fixing only four years ago and faced a fine of $100 million. On top of that, the Department of Justice indicted three former and current executives in the matter.
It turns out that ARC’s parent company is actually Wallenius Wilhelmsen ASA which didn’t plead guilty to bid-rigging or price-fixing. However, Wallenius Wilhelmsen ASA is the parent company of both ARC and the convicted company, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics AS, so there is a real and formal corporate genealogical relationship between the ARC and the bid-rigging and price-fixing company.
The contract award was challenged or protested on these and other grounds (a total of nine specific grounds). Normally, protests take up to four months to review, but the Pentagon’s TRANSCOM took only two weeks to review its original decision before reinstating it. TRANSCOM only looked at the bid-rigging and price-fixing conviction issue and ignored all the other issues. TRANSCOM’s review was focused more on technicalities than real-life concerns.
Bid-rigging and price-fixing issue aside, the formal protests of the contract award to ARC included eight other grounds any one of which would be sufficient to overturn the contract award. As previously mentioned, ARC’s bid was more than $2 billion higher than other bids, which were found to be both responsive and technically solid. Why would the Pentagon be willing to pay an extra $2 billion for nothing?
It gets worse. Not only is ARC’s bid $2 billion higher than its competitors, but ARC doesn’t have the capacity to deal with the massive number of moves that will happen in 2021 due to the 2020 military moves that were postponed and disrupted by COVID-19. ARC has less than 100 employees to oversee all military moves and related subcontractors. Moreover, ARC does not have any experience in military moves, so ARC can’t seriously argue that they have state of the art experience that will allow them to get the job done with so few people.
This contract is a once in a generation chance to reorganize the military’s moving system to create better accountability and in the end better results for America’s military families, all while saving money. However, it seems unlikely to turn out well if the new moving contract is to be administered by a company with a corporate genealogy that includes bid-rigging and price-fixing. Moreover, ARC’s large team of subcontractors includes a large number with a questionable performance history. If the goal is to reduce costs and improve moving experiences, this seems a poor way to accomplish the stated goals.
The Pentagon has made a big mistake in awarding this contract to ARC. If the goal is to improve quality, streamline processes, and reduce costs, you don’t select a company with zero experience that lacks the capacity to deal with the significant number of military moves that occur every year, and that has bid-rigging and price-fixing convictions with $100 million fines in its corporate family tree. On top of all of that, you don’t overpay by $2 billion.
It is time for the Pentagon to get this right and not dig in its institutional heels in defense of its original misjudgment.
Are they fomenting revolution?
There have recently been calls from retired senior officers for active commanders to disobey a presidential order to use federal troops to assist local law enforcement in establishing law and order in some of America’s cities should such an order be given.
The first such call came from James Mattis, Trump’s one time Secretary of Defense, who is also a retired Marine Corps General. He was followed by retired General John Kelly, former Trump Chief of Staff, and Admiral Michael Mullen, Obama Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and several others.
The Hoover Institute’s Victor Davis Hanson wrote a detailed critique of the remarks of several of the most prominent retired senior officers for the National Review (June 2020) which began with this statement:
“In a time of crisis, their synchronized chorus of complaints, falsehoods, and partisan appeals to resistance threaten the very constitutional order they claim to revere.” (ibid)
The first point Hanson makes is that these outbursts violate the Universal Code of Military Justice, “Article 88 of the UCMJ makes it a crime to voice ‘contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or the Governor or legislature of any State.” (ibid)
Penalties are spelled out in AR 27-10 of the code: “Retired members of a regular component of the Armed Forces who are entitled to pay are subject to the UCMJ (See Art. 2(a) (4), UCMJ.) They may be tried by courts martial for offences committed while in a retired status.” (ibid)
Hanson proceeds to demonstrate conclusively – case by case – how each of the accused has convicted himself by false, contemptuous and/or treasonous public statements. Hanson’s list of violators is impressive: in addition to those mentioned above are Generals Michael Hayden, John Allen, James Clapper, Martin Dempsey, Barry McCaffrey, and Admiral William McRaven. (ibid)
What should be done about these offenders will be discussed below.
First, there are other major issues to be considered beginning with the United States Constitution, Section 2, which clearly states:
“The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States. . .. “
This statement has always been interpreted literally, meaning that the authority of the President over the military forces of the country has never been challenged. All the following Presidents are among those who have called up the military to assist in the maintenance of law and order: Washington, Madison, Lincoln, Cleveland, Hoover, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and George H.W. Bush.
There is a very good reason why the Founders stipulated that the military should be under civilian control. That reasoning starts with the historical fact that “whoever has the guns controls the people”. The Founders were acutely aware of this fact. Had not the colonists been armed; they could never have prevailed against the British in their War of Independence. (The same logic applies to the 2ndAmendment guaranteeing the right to bear arms.)
Since the military has the guns, it is vitally necessary that control of those weapons reside in the civilian authority. The alternative can be seen in the many countries in Latin America and the Middle East which are in effect governed directly or with the consent of the Army. Recent examples are Egypt and Venezuela.
To argue against that fundamental organization of the American government is to promote treason. This is why the UCMJ provides for trial by a court martial of any member of the military, active or retired, who advocates the usurpation of the authority of the President over the military. “Political neutrality” means that the military follow the orders of whoever is President without regard to his or her party or policies.
I suspect there is another reason for this bias against this particular President. He is adamantly opposed to the “endless wars” which have dominated America’s foreign policy since 1948 when Truman committed us to Korean independence. These officers have grown up with that policy as a sacred dogma: “America is the policeman of the world”, the “savior of world order”, the “last hope of mankind”, the “bastion of freedom”. These men have dedicated a good portion of their lives to the upholding of that doctrine and seen comrades in arms killed or maimed in its defense.
Now, along comes this civilian who sees things very differently. He sees wars as engines of destruction – of lives, of national wealth, of families, and international commerce. He seeks radical reforms of America’s alliances and trade, and thus introduces a whole new world to these aging warriors. They seehim as the “engine of destruction”, the destroyer of all they have worked for and profited from all their lives. Internationalism gone, close allies downgraded, in some cases alienated. It is just too much. So, they resort to the pen and TV. They believe they serve a sacred cause.
But that cause is neither sacred nor worthy of their efforts. It is the age-old drama of resistance to a new day, to the arrival of a new era. One could sympathize with their plight but for one thing: they are making life more difficult for their successors.
The active senior commanders have admired these very men all their lives, and now their heroes are advocating disobedience to presidential orders, allocating to the active force the authority to decide which of the President’s orders should be obeyed and which should be refused. An agonizing dilemma: obedience or treason!
As a civilian, I am appalled at the behavior of some of our most distinguished retired officers. It is my contention that this treasonous behavior must be stopped before we end up as a banana republic. One way to stop it would be to convene a court martial against one or more of the offenders. That should reinforce the lesson that this nonsense is dangerous to the republic which they have all fought to preserve, but which they are now seeking to destroy because of their own egos.
That is a bridge too far!
By Defense News•
Those who plan for our nation’s defense are often under pressure because of questionable spending decisions made in the past. Money wasted or misspent by lawmakers in Washington increases pressure to slash funding needed for our nation’s defense. Our war fighters should never lack the tools they need because national leaders make poor decisions. Our leaders must ensure our military has what it needs to defend America today, tomorrow and for generations to come.
Our war fighters are expected to defend us against current risks and dangers, and at the same time be prepared for future perils and upgrade our defensive capabilities. But when budgets are tight, we pit current security needs against future security needs. That is dangerous.
We see this playing out now with our nation’s military aircraft. We have a shortage of wings and reduced readiness because for decades we have been using up planes faster than we’ve been replacing them. Next year’s budget reveals that the Pentagon is planning to add zero F-18s to replace older planes that can no longer fly. Thus, the plane shortage will simply get worse while we wait for at least a decade for a new plane to be developed and roll off production lines. And it may be a lot longer because challenges and delays in high-tech development are difficult to predict.
Moreover, as planes get older, they cost more to operate and eventually become unsafe to fly without a major overhaul, which can be staggeringly expensive. Because we’ve allowed our fighter fleet to age, we are at a point where immediate action is necessary. Deciding to buy fewer F-18s than our Navy needs means that the current shortage of wings will only get worse. It will also weaken our capabilities for at least a decade. This is simply too great a risk!
Imagine that you wanted to upgrade your health insurance. Would you cancel your current policy to “save” money so that in 10 years you could afford a more robust health plan? Of course not. The risk exposure would be too great. Similarly, forcing the military to endure aircraft shortages for a decade creates unacceptable risks to our nation’s security.
Our military must continue developing effective and modernized tools for our war fighters. Our adversaries are working overtime to surpass us, and we cannot permit that to happen. But we also cannot afford to leave a 10-year gap in aerial defense and create a large window of opportunity for adversarial nations to seize on our weaknesses.
China has been frantically building a blue water navy that is larger than our own. They have nuclear submarines and missile technology, and have bragged of their future capacity to attack and defeat the United States. Suspending procurement of the aircraft we need over the next decade makes us increasingly vulnerable. There is simply no way to justify that, no matter how bleak the Pentagon’s ledger.
Our enemies are dedicated to finding and exploiting any weakness in our defenses. By forgoing new F-18s, we are shining a spotlight on a significant weakness. This is irresponsible and dangerous. China’s leadership is surely cheering that budget plan in Beijing.
The F-18 isn’t simply a time-tested and proven fighter. The current F-18 has incorporated some of the most advanced technologies — more rapidly in some cases than our latest high-tech F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The F-18’s new, low-drag, conformal fuel tanks allow it to fly faster, farther, stay on target longer and sustain a heavier payload, including an impressive array of advanced weapons. It employs next-generation radars, electronic warfare technology, jammers, and computing power and data availability to improve situational awareness and give war fighters the advantage in every confrontation.
Its long-range counter-stealth capability allows it to see the enemy while remaining virtually invisible. As heavyweight boxing legend Muhammad Ali said of rival George Foreman: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hand can’t hit what his eyes can’t see.”
Most importantly, the F-18’s airframe has been improved to almost double its serviceable lifetime at 10,000 hours — making it both mission- and cost-effective.
Simultaneously investing in the F-18 Super Hornet while developing next-generation aircraft is the only way to ensure security now and in the future. It sends a clear message to our adversaries that not only are we strong today, but we’re committed to strengthening our defense for generations to come. Continuing procurement of the F-18 also helps to keep defense budgets under control, allowing our pilots to perform missions and train at lower taxpayer cost.
By cutting funding for the F-18, the Pentagon is gambling with national security. Congress and the administration need to step up and ensure that our military is sufficiently equipped to keep America strong today and long into the future. Anything less is unacceptable.
Technologies such as the Electromagnetic Launch System (EMALS) support the U.S. military
With the nation’s attention largely focused on the coronavirus, less noticed are threats to our national safety and security that are both long-running and evolving throughout the world — on land, sea, air, and increasingly in cyber and outer space. Losing sight of these threats would be a grave mistake.
Now more than ever, our nation’s leaders must double down on strengthening our military and embracing innovation to protect America and project power when necessary in an unstable, dangerous world. To do so effectively, it is critical that we invest in and equip our men and women in uniform with the most technologically advanced tools and weapons of war available.
Make no mistake, global competitors like China and Russia and rogue states like Iran and North Korea are working diligently to enhance their military capabilities in the hopes of eroding America’s competitive edge.
Fortunately, President Trump has made re-establishing our military strength and global position in the world a national priority after years of neglect during the Obama administration. He has insisted that while the Department of Defense pursues and invests in next-generation technologies, it must do so with taxpayers’ money in mind. And with a defense-wide review underway, expect even more fiscally-minded reforms to materialize over the next several years.
For example, the Ford-class aircraft carriers currently under production are poised to significantly expand our military capabilities, improve the quality of onboard life for our deployed sailors — and exploit the benefits of cutting-edge technologies. The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), the first of the Ford-class, returned to sea in January and has now completed aircraft compatibility testing, flight deck certification, and other critical milestones in making the carrier battle-ready.
Mr. Trump has paid keen attention to these new carriers — and he has continuously addressed costs associated with their production. In fact, earlier this year, the Trump administration doubled down on its commitment to the Ford-class by convening the “Make Ford Ready” summit to ensure CVN-78 meets its cost targets moving forward.
These modern carriers are equipped with the latest technologies that ensure our troops will be able to protect our nation at a moment’s notice, whether in the Strait of Hormuz or the South China Sea. They are faster, more lethal, more durable and more technologically advanced than any other carrier ever put to sea by any country. And one key advantage which will improve performance, save money and protect American lives (or take the enemy’s when needed) is the carrier’s electromagnetic launch system technology, which was conceived, developed and produced here in the U.S.
The Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System — EMALS — had its initial skeptics, Mr. Trump among them. But its subsequent performance has spoken for itself. Because the system replaces old, steam-based catapult systems developed in the 1950s, the carriers are able to launch the full complement of planes in the Navy’s air wing. This includes the critically important lightweight and heavyweight drones that are increasingly being used in reconnaissance and battlefield operations. And unlike incumbent catapult systems, EMALS is designed to accommodate future aircraft that come into production in the years ahead.
By replacing the complex and large system of steam pipes on the carriers, this new catapult system delivers a 25 percent reduction in the number of crew members needed to operate and maintain the system. The Navy has estimated this will amount to almost $4 billion in savings from operating costs over the ship’s expected 50-year lifespan. And in line with Mr. Trump’s commitment to establishing greater cost discipline for large DOD contracts, more cost savings have been realized through the negotiation of multiple ship production contracts for EMALS.
The second and third Ford-class carriers are already seeing 16 percent to 27 percent production cost savings respectively. Manufacturing, supply chains, production schedules and jobs are becoming stabilized. As the current crisis has put in stark relief, reliable supply chains are critical, and negotiated, multi-carrier contract buys ensure the stability of U.S. jobs and equipment. For taxpayers, this means significant cost savings without compromising our ability to deliver the most modern equipment available to support our warfighters.
Predictably, however, our competitors are now racing to develop similar technologies. For example, China has reportedly commissioned its own electromagnetic catapult system for its aircraft carriers to allow them to launch more advanced planes and other weaponry. Yet, with America’s new carrier class moving further into subsequent production phases, and our allies wanting to benefit from U.S. military innovations like EMALS, we now have a huge advantage that the United States can and should fully embrace to ensure our military supremacy. Any global competitor seeking similar technologies with ill intent will not go unchecked.
These types of cutting-edge and innovative investments are critical in rebuilding our nation’s military. They also are firmly aligned with Mr. Trump’s commitment to ensure that our military professionals receive far more technology at less long-term cost to taxpayers. Our nation cannot afford to fall behind.
It is typical for pundits to criticize the Jones Act claiming that it harms American consumers or benefits others — some even outlandishly claim it benefits Russian President Vladimir Putin. These hypercritical pundits all seem to either overlook or completely ignore a number of critically important facts. In a fact free world, one can come to any conclusion — even silly ones. But when facts and sound reasoning matter, the conclusions must stand up to scrutiny.
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (also known as the Jones Act) was passed in the aftermath of World War I to ensure that America had a viable merchant marine that could provide support to our navy and military in times of war or national emergency. It was also intended to ensure that we had a viable ship-building and ship repairing capability — again to support our military. In a world where many foreign nations heavily subsidize their shipping industries as well as their ship building and repairing industries, we must not allow ourselves to become dependent upon other nations to maintain our naval strength.
Contrary to the view that the Jones Act is favored by despots like Vladimir Putin, the act has significant national security benefits for the U.S. Consider the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul Selva, who said, “I am an ardent Supporter of the Jones Act. It supports a viable ship building industry, cuts costs and produces 2,500 qualified mariners. Why would I tamper with that?” Likewise, Former Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zunkunft has said, “You take the Jones Act away, the first thing to go is these shipyards and then the mariners… If we don’t have a U.S. fleet or U.S. shipyard to constitute that fleet how do we prevail?” The military understands that the Jones Act is critically important to our national security.
History teaches an important lesson. In 1812, Napoleon left France with an army of about 700,000 soldiers. Napoleon’s army easily pushed through western Russia and made it all the way to Moscow. But as Napoleon’s supply lines became attenuated, his army lacked the ability to feed and supply itself. Napoleon, despite having the world’s greatest army, was defeated because he couldn’t supply his troops. When he returned to France six months later, his army had only 27,000 soldiers who could defend France and the balance of power in Europe was radically altered for a century.
The lesson we must learn from this is obvious — we may have the best technology and the best trained military on the planet, but if we cannot properly supply them, we too could meet with disaster. The Jones Act is an important part of our military’s ability to supply itself.
In a world in which China and Russia are expanding their naval capabilities, the need for the Jones Act is all the greater. Putin would like a weaker America, not a strong America – with a functioning domestic shipping industry to support our nation’s military strength.
The Jones Act also has a significant impact on homeland security. It limits foreign flagged ships and foreign crewed ships from sailing around America’s inland waterways. Dr. Joan Mileski, head of the Maritime Administration Department at Texas A&M, said, “If we totally lifted the Jones Act, any foreign-flagged ship — with an entirely unknown crew — could go anywhere on our waterways, including up the Mississippi River.” Obviously, this would make our defenses very porous.
Since 9/11/2001, our homeland security approach has been to place most of our security resources and assets at our coasts and at the ports that have the most traffic. But few assets and resources are used along the more than 25,000 miles of navigable inland waterways in the United States. There we rely upon the Jones Act to provide security. American flagged and American crewed ships are trained and keep a watchful eye for signs of terrorism and are thus an important part of our nation’s homeland security layered defense.
Our southern border is 1,989 miles long. The U.S. has more than 25,000 miles of navigable waters. Without the Jones Act, we’ve just made both sides of every river a possible entry point. Michael Herbert, Chief of the Customs & Border Protection’s Jones Act Division of Enforcement has said: “We use the Jones Act as a virtual wall. Without the Jones Act in place, our inland waterways would be inundated with foreign flagged vessels.”
The truth is the Jones Act is more important today than even when it was first passed. Today, it not only provides America with trained and skilled mariners and a viable ship building and ship repairing capability to support our military and Navy, but it also protects us from terrorists and other nefarious international bad actors.
Imagine if Chinese government owned ships could operate freely up and down the Mississippi River and remain there throughout the year. They would use that access to spy and intercept even civilian communications.
Adam Smith, the father of free market economics, in his seminal work — The Wealth of Nations — strongly supported and defended the British Navigation Act, which was a cabotage law much like America’s Merchant Marine Act. His rationale included, “The defense of Great Britain, for example, depends very much on the number of its sailors and shipping.”
The Jones Act protects America. This is a verifiable fact. Any alleged costs are amorphous and difficult to verify or prove. But what is not difficult to prove is that America’s security is benefited and protected by the Jones Act. The world is a dangerous place, filled with adversaries that will be all too happy if the Jones Act is weakened. It is time tested and proven.