Defense companies come in different shapes and sizes yet share a common commitment to protect the warfighter. While this commitment has remained firm through the years, the way to achieve it is changing. Political gridlock, constrained government spending, and increasingly sophisticated—and shifting—military threats have challenged traditional thinking. How the defense industry confronts this change will directly impact its ability to produce best-in-class solutions.
Two weeks ago, in the U.S. House of Representatives, two important events took place. First, in a strong, bipartisan vote of 400-20 the House voted to further apply sanctions on Iran in a bid to increase pressure on the regime amid its continued attempt to acquire a nuclear weapons capability. Secondly, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, led by the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere which I chair, held a hearing on the recently released State Department Report on Iran’s activities in the Americas.
Military base closure is on the political agenda again, because the U.S. military budget is dropping sharply, from over $713 billion in fiscal year 2011 to around $513 billion in fiscal 2017, and all three services plan large force reductions. In response, Defense Secretary Hagel has called for another base closure and realignment commission (BRAC) round, but recently, two congressional sub-committees voted to prohibit the Defense Department from even planning for another BRAC. And even if there were another BRAC, it would probably close fewer bases than in previous rounds, as states and local communities have learned how to game the BRAC system, and have worked to “BRAC-proof” their bases. Alabama, Illinois, Mississippi, and Virginia already have projects underway to preserve their bases from future closure. BRAC critics argue that none of the previous five BRACs reached their targeted closure goals, and the promised savings from bases realigned as “joint bases” in the 2005 BRAC have not materialized either. Another BRAC is highly unlikely, for all these reasons.
National Security Administration whistleblower Edward Snowden fits the mold too well. By coming forward to journalist Glenn Greenwald and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, Snowden creates news and commands attention from Obama Administration, Congress, European Union, trading partners and citizens across the globe.
On October 12, 2000, al Qaeda attacked the USS Cole in an Osama bin Laden-inspired plot. It was a deadly lesson in the importance of providing commanders with the intelligence and equipment necessary to safeguard their forces. As the folly of sequestration is proving, the national security of our nation is a casualty to the ongoing budget wars in Washington. While the immediate impact of sequestration has proven to be muted, the real danger lies in its potential to increase the United States' vulnerability to attack. Despite the investment of billions of taxpayer dollars, critical programs in development are being frozen in place or defunded at key milestones. All of this is being done with no prioritization based on our future operational requirements.
This is no way to defend a nation.