After eight long years of Barack Obama decimating the military, President Trump is proudly beginning the process of rebuilding the nation’s armed forces and defense capabilities.
As the president signed the omnibus spending bill Friday that avoided another partial government shutdown and funded the government through the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30, Defense Secretary James Mattis, hailed the measure as “the largest military budget in history, reversing many years of decline and unpredictable funding.”
At the White House Trump explained why such a spending boost was necessary as he reflected on the serious damage that the previous president did to national security and military preparedness.
For the last eight years, deep defense cuts have undermined our national security, hallowed our — and they just — if you look at what’s taken out, they’ve hallowed our readiness as a military unit, and put America at really grave risk.
My highest duty is to keep America safe. Nothing more important. The omnibus bill reverses this dangerous defense [trend]. As crazy as it’s been, as difficult as it’s been, as much opposition to the military as we’ve had from the Democrats — and it has been tremendous. I try to explain to them, you know, the military is for Republicans and Democrats and everybody else. It’s for everybody. But we have tremendous opposition to creating, really, what will be the far — by far, the strongest military that we’ve ever had.
Trump said at the press conference that he was signing the massive pork-laden spending bill that contains “a lot of things that I’m unhappy about” because of “national security.”
But I say to Congress: I will never sign another bill like this again. I’m not going to do it again. Nobody read it. It’s only hours old. Some people don’t even know what is in — $1.3 trillion — it’s the second largest ever.
The bill contains an impressive $700 billion in military expenditures, about $3 billion of which will go to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. Trump rattled off a list of other line items, $1.8 billion for 24 FA-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft fighter jets, $1.7 billion for 10 P-8, $1.1 billion for 56 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, $1.1 billion to upgrade 85 Abrams tanks, and $705 million “for the cooperative programs that we’re working with Israel and others on various missile defense systems.”
“We’re spending a lot of money on missile defense,” Trump added. “We have a lot of offense that’s been recently installed. We’re spending tremendous money on missile defense.”
Ramping up spending after Obama’s assaults on the military is critical, defense analysts say.
Obama did lasting damage to the military, according to Thomas C. Donnelly of the American Enterprise Institute who after Obama left office inventoried the damage the 44th president did.
Obama attempted to end U.S. involvement in the Middle East by unilaterally pulling out of Iraq, carrying out a fake surge in Afghanistan, and ignoring the Syrian civil war, Donnelly writes. Obama let Russia annex Crimea and China artificially create islands in the South China Sea.
Aided by the Clintons, Obama helped Russia gets its hands on huge U.S. uranium reserves. Obama told outgoing then-Russian president Dmitry Medvedev in 2012 to pass the message on to Vladimir Putin to ease up on the missile defense issue until after that year’s approaching election when Obama would “have more flexibility.”
Obama also limited any future president’s ability to use the military overseas by curtailing its resources.
Comparing the five-year defense plan Obama left Trump with, with the plan Obama was left with at the end of George W. Bush’s presidency, the Department of Defense “has lost more than $250 billion in purchasing power.”
In his first year in office, Obama ordered then–Defense Secretary Robert Gates to slice off $300 billion from Pentagon programs, “which had the effect of eliminating several of the major weapons-acquisitions projects that had survived Donald Rumsfeld’s attempt to ‘transform’ the force by ‘skipping a generation of weapons systems.’”
Gates halted the production of the F-22, limiting it to 187 planes instead of the 750 the Air Force originally wanted and scuttled another $80 billion in spending, which Obama transferred to non-defense programs, Donnelly writes.
In 2011 Obama chopped another $400 billion from the DoD budget without even telling Gates in advance, which led to the so-called sequestration or Budget Control Act (BCA) that capped defense spending for years but left entitlement spending intact. The move led to long-term spending on Pentagon programs by almost $1 trillion from fiscal 2009 to 2023, he writes.
President Obama slashed Army and Marines personnel and gutted the ships and airplanes of the Navy and Air Force. The reduced force is not as well prepared as its predecessors.
“During the Cold War, the units of the Army and Air Force were always about 90 percent ready in terms of personnel, equipment, and training,” but nowadays readiness is down to about 60 percent or less, he writes.
This also means that the military’s ability to do anything more challenging than routine operations, such as keeping sea lanes open, is severely limited. It is no coincidence that in his 2012 “defense guidance,” Obama lowered the standard by which we determine the optimal size of our forces. Since the years prior to World War II, and as befits a global power, we have maintained the capacity to conduct two large-scale campaigns at once. Obama lowered the bar to just one war at a time.
Obama’s cockamamie social engineering schemes devastated the military’s morale, something his successor aims to turn around.
Trump’s presser came after his announcement Thursday that U.S. Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster (active) would soon be replaced by former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton as national security advisor. Bolton’s appointment is an unalloyed good that will benefit U.S. national security.
McMaster replaced Mike Flynn, also a lieutenant general in the Army (retired) in February 2017 after just 24 days in the post, the briefest such tenure on record. McMaster was a disaster at the National Security Council where he spent his time protecting Obama holdovers and purging competent professionals attuned to the threat that Islamofascism, including the brutal totalitarian theocracy in Iran, poses to the United States.
With Bolton at Trump’s side and ramped up defense spending, America may well be on its way to having its greatness restored.
This article by Matthew Vadum first appeared March 26, 2018, at FrontPageMag.