New Iranian stockpiles highlight need for U.S. military reform

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Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

America is disturbed by the news that international inspectors have found newly enriched uranium stockpiles in Iran and that the Trump administration had explored response options.  It is a sobering reminder that global affairs are often as volatile and unsteady as the domestic battles we wage here at home.

Although always a last resort, it is imperative to American national security that we have prepared defenses should military escalation be required. That’s what makes the domestic instability of the last nine months so worrying. It has left our Armed Forces more vulnerable to foreign aggression.

Election-based political theater and budgetary restraints from the global recession have left military brass, diplomats, and department budgets strained just when global instability begins to explode. War in Eurasia, revolt in Lebanon, and unrest in Peru are only a handful of the issues that currently complicate America’s foreign relations.

In a time like this, the Department of Defense needs stable leadership and adequate funding in case efforts by the State Department fail. Unfortunately, they have received quite the opposite.

What started as the occasional change in high command under Obama has snowballed into complete chaos in the current administration’s final days. Esper, Kerbs, Kernan, and more were all let go in the span of a week. It’s been like this for some time. Changing out leadership every year brings an unprecedented level of instability to our critical defense agencies, but sadly has become the bipartisan norm.

Anyone who understands military strategy knows that trusted leadership is necessary to ensure successful operations and high morale amongst the troops. With instability now entering its second decade, is it any wonder that our troop morale is continuing to crater?

Not only do our troops not have the management and control they need, but appropriators have also failed to supply them with the adequate equipment and supplies they need to carry out some of the most basic military functions and operations. This problem stems from the Armed Forces’ misused funds and out-of-order budgetary priorities.

Take, for instance, the military’s outdated Humvees, which the government continues to decline to replace. Beyond their inability to handle modern weaponry, they can’t even handle bumpy roads. The vehicles are plagued with safety problems, including but not limited to high rollover rates and even poor seatbelts. How can the government ask our men and women in uniform to make the ultimate sacrifice when it doesn’t even give them the most basic tools and levels of protection they require?

As our men and women continue to lack adequate equipment support, the military continues to overspend on contractors. While frequently-cited, eye popping examples like $4.6 million in crab leg spending often garner most of the attention, the most recurring examples of poor procurement policy often get a pass.

For example, as a retired Air Force colonel, I was disheartened to see a massive contracting mistake my former service branch recently made in conjunction with the Space Force. It gave a contractor $310 million to launch Air Force satellites even though it charged nearly twice as much as the Air Force’s other contract recipient.

Days ago, SpaceX — the contractor in question — stated that the only reason it cost so much is that it added a subsidy to its proposal. It tacked on fees in part to make up for funds it didn’t receive in a past failed contract bid, even though the company admitted that it provided a non-competitive offering for that said past contract.

As tensions continue to escalate abroad and the military begins to exhaust more of its allocated budget at a faster pace than usual, the DoD can no longer afford for these egregious abuses of military resources to go unchallenged. It must get its spending priorities straight and ensure that excessive pork doesn’t preclude our men and women in uniform from receiving the care and support they need and deserve.

These next few weeks in Washington will become critical for righting the ship. With the election over, it’s time for officials — including Congress, the DOD, the current White House, and the incoming one’s transition team — to gather themselves and address longstanding, bipartisan issues with military leadership and spending.

Global instability will not suddenly vanish because of a new administration or vaccine. Our need for a strong defense transcends elections and individual crises.

At present, we are unprepared for a serious threat, which may be the greatest threat of all. Let’s correct this problem while we still can.

Col. Terry Thompson
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