Navy And Air Force Need Renewal

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates is a tremendous improvement over his predecessor. His openness and obvious respect for those in uniform, his willingness to listen and his willingness to speak the truth are most welcome.

Nevertheless, I have a deep concern with his policy decisions about where the rebuilding of our military should go over the next few years. He has said plainly that he wants a much stronger ability to conduct the kind of warfare in which we are engaged in both Afghanistan and Iraq — light forces, special operations, more and better surveillance assets — with much less funding for building up our conventional capabilities — heavy armored large formations, highly sophisticated and numerous air assets. I believe your Monday Page One article “Hope for Boeing pact lies with GAO” is correct in saying that Air Force Gen. T. Michael Moseley was retired as chief of staff of the Air Force partly because he fought so hard to upset the limits on force structure set by Mr. Gates.

I believe it is a strategic mistake for us to downsize those heavy forces, betting that our future needs for military action won´t require the kind of absolute superiority in capabilities and numbers that we possess now. We shouldn´t bet the lives of future warriors who may have to face a militant and aggressive major power with modern, numerous and capable weapon systems. If we have downsized and weakened our military when the time comes to face that future threat, there will be no way to recover before we suffer tremendous losses. I don´t want to see the rebuilding of our military limited to just a strength increase of the Army and Marines but a failure to recapitalize the Air Force and Navy. We need to realize that the Navy and Air Force have been at war continuously for the past 17 years, and their systems urgently require renewal and upgrading in full strength not limited by fiscal restraints. The dollars saved by putting fiscal limits on what we spend for defense represent a terrible failure to recognize what is important. Mr. Gates needs to rethink his strategic objectives and refocus his policy guidance.

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