GORDON: America goes to war and the military gets the axe

J.D. Gordon

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Now that America has gone to war in Syria and Iraq, adding to the 13-year war in Afghanistan, our warfighters need the right tools to get the job done. President Obama is right to strike radical Islam-inspired terror groups that want to kill as many as Americans as possible until Israel ceases to exist and U.S. influence is driven out of the Middle East. Ironically, though, he is swinging his battle ax both ways. Instead of supporting the warfighters who are struggling to prevent more attacks on the homeland and on Americans overseas, the White House is taking away their top tools by slashing several key defense systems without near-term replacements as part of the current $1 trillion in defense cuts spanning this decade. First on the chopping block is the Tomahawk. The U.S. Navy’s strike weapon of choice and mission-essential element of every war since Desert Storm is destined for the trash heap. That’s despite its continued precision in hitting command-and-control centers, radar or anti-aircraft missiles with a 1,000-pound warhead from more than 800 miles away. It’s a cruise missile that goes in first, so that pilots following them don’t get shot out of the sky. In the one-day mission against the Islamic State and Khorasan targets in Syria last month, our forces launched 47 Tomahawks, allowing all the pilots from the U.S. and Arab coalition partners to return alive. In the Libyan war of 2011, the Navy fired more than 200 Tomahawks, stopping Moammar Gadhafi’s ability to defend his regime from U.S. and NATO fighter jets and bombers. Yet, despite the Navy’s reasonable plan to buy 980 Tomahawks over the next five years, the president’s budget for 2015 only included 100, and none afterward. A replacement cruise-missile system — the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile, which began in 2009 is beset by typical cost overruns for new systems and not surprisingly, won’t be ready for years. Alarmed by the prospect of axing Tomahawk without an operational replacement, Congress stepped in to restore Tomahawk funding for 2015. However, the program remains very much in doubt. Second, despite the threat from intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), Mr. Obama has slashed the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system, which can shoot them down. According to Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the fiscal 2008 GMD budget of $2 billion has been reduced to roughly $1 billion from 2010 to 2015. What’s worse, even though Ground-Based Midcourse Defense interceptors in both Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenburg Air Base, Calif., can stop a North Korean ICBM attack, Mr. Obama refuses to build a similar site along to East Coast to prevent a future Iranian ICBM threat and has routinely failed to fund upgrades to the system that would increase reliability. Third, the Air Force’s A-10 Thunderbolt, known as the “Tankbuster” for its decisive role in protecting ground troops during Desert Storm, is being shelved with no replacement. Earlier this year, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno made his case before the Senate about the importance of the A-10, noting that the F-16 fighter cannot provide the same type of close air support and that the troops “believe” in the A-10. “They can see it, they can hear it,” he said. Why is the White House putting America’s homeland and our troops overseas at such risk? Perhaps it’s because in the faculty lounge where many of the president’s advisers formulated their worldviews, U.S. power is often viewed as the problem. If only America was weaker, we wouldn’t pose such a threat to real or potential adversaries and, thus, would be less likely to be attacked. Too bad ruthless dictators, tyrants and terror groups didn’t get that memo. It’s also too bad for global freedom also, which diminishes each day that U.S. power and influence fades. It’s well past time for the White House to better match national security missions with the right capabilities to get the job done. Americans deserve no less. Our lives depend on it.