Brent Scowcroft Center Senior Adviser Harlan Ullman writes for the Washington Examiner on the challenges facing the US military:
Here is a stunning paradox: The United States has the most competent and capable military in the world. But that military faces the very real likelihood of collapsing into a hollow, far less capable force. The reasons are hidden in plain sight.
No. 1 is the budget. The fiscal 2015 defense budget requested by the White House totals about $700 billion. However, that level is economically unsustainable for the long term, even as the United States faces a new enemy in the Islamic State. Moreover, sequestration will cut $50 billion a year from defense for 10 years.
The second reason for real worry is the soaring cost for pay, allowances, healthcare, retirees and the gamut of weapons and supporting systems. Unchecked, these costs will increase as much as 40 percent by decade’s end.
If these uncontrolled costs continue, a combination of stunning reductions in force levels, procurement and readiness must follow. When interest rates rise (as eventually they must), that will create massive pressure to cut discretionary spending, of which defense takes the lion’s share. Given this accelerating mismatch between budget and cost growth, how might these inevitable realities be handled?