This year, The Heritage Foundation participates again in the 15th annual Space and Missile Defense Conference in Huntsville, Alabama.
After the first official day, it is clear that many of the participants from the defense industry, as well as private citizens, share concerns about impacts of sequestration, which would slash about half a trillion dollars from the defense budget over the next nine years.
Defense would bear as much as 43 percent of total sequestration cuts, even though it makes up only about 11 percent of total federal spending. This is in addition to about $407 billion in cuts resulting from the spending caps mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
Across the military, readiness issues are already apparent. Air Force fighter jets are generations apart from the pilots flying them. The Navy deploys ships that are barely able to sail. Members of the Army have had to tape body armor to their SUVs because they are not properly protected.
America at Risk: Dave Deptula on the Military’s Aging Aviation Force
Dave Deptula, a retired three-star general, has witnessed this “geriatric aviation force” firsthand. He earned his wings and flew an F-15 for the first time in 1977. Thirty years later, another Deptula boarded the aircraft. His son flew the same F-15 at Kadena Air Force Base in Japan.
The Wall Street Journal documented the amazing father-son story last fall to illustrate the challenges facing the aging force. The elder Deptula recounted for The Heritage Foundation how fiscal constraints have hampered the military’s modernization and recapitalization strategy for the aging aviation force.
America at Risk: Kerry Kachejian on the Importance of Military Readiness
Rebuilding Iraq during the raging insurgency was no easy task. It required ingenuity, courage and innovative ways to get the job done—sometimes with equipment that offered little protection from the car bombs and rocket attacks launched by America’s enemies.
Kachejian told his harrowing story in a book called “SUVs Suck In Combat.” It chronicles some of the war stories that Americans never heard about the readiness challenges facing our military. The Heritage Foundation chose to profile him as part of Protect America Month, which showcases why we must commit to protecting the United States in an increasingly dangerous world.
As the conference in Huntsville makes apparent, many small companies work on innovative solutions to advance U.S. and allied missile defense programs and keep pace with today’s complex challenges. Their work includes everything from software to solutions for situational awareness, unmanned systems, and missile defense test solutions. These companies, often working in partnerships with their larger counterparts or the government, give the U.S. a technological edge that helps it maintain the best defense capability in the world. These companies, however, will be hit hardest if Congress and the President allow sequestration to take effect.
It is an honor for us to be a part of the Space and Missile Defense Conference in Huntsville. It is clear that American people are interested in fixing the country’s fiscal situation and put the country on a path to prosperity. The Heritage Foundation’s Saving the American Dream Plan offers the opportunity to do just that. It is time for Congress to act.