Mullen: U.S. Military Needs Larger Slice Of GNP To Modernize

Mullen: U.S. Military Needs Larger Slice Of GNP To Modernize
November 29th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Mullen: U.S. Military Needs Larger Slice Of GNP To Modernize

Mullen: U.S. Military Needs Larger Slice Of GNP To Modernize
November 28, 2007 By John T. Bennett
The U.S. military will need to increase its slice of the nation’s gross national product by nearly one percentage point in coming years to replace aging platforms — or weapons procurement accounts will suffer, said U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Michael Mullen.
The Pentagon’s annual baseline budget — excluding the emergency war supplementals that have funded operations in Iraq and Afghanistan — currently accounts for about 3.3 percent of the gross national product. To properly replace many aging platforms and finance ever-swelling personnel costs as the military gets bigger, however, will require that figure to grow to 4 percent, Mullen said during a Nov. 27 meeting with Defense News editors and reporters.
“I worry about the contraction of the budget in the world we’re living in right now,” he said. “We’ve got to look at our appetite around the world. Then the military owes to this to the civilian leadership, to say, ‘This is what we need to execute the national military strategy’ — and make no bones that, whatever that is, to include this recapitalization challenge. That’s got to happen in all the services.”
Uniformed and civilian brass must exercise “responsible leadership” by “striking a balance” between rising personnel costs and recapitalization and modernization efforts, the four-star said. “The sky is not the limit.”
Mullen doubts the defense budget will continue to grow as it has since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America. And if the Pentagon’s yearly topline shrinks “tremendously” in coming years, he warned, defense officials will have no choice but to trim procurement “because that’s the only account where there’s significant flexibility.”
The chairman said that scenario worries him because the military needs to replace ground platforms worn down in Iraq and Afghanistan and an aging air fleet.
“We are at a time where we are recapitalizing … across the board those things that we bought in the 1980s,” Mullen said.
He noted that the Air Force temporarily grounded its F-15 fleet after a C-model plane crashed earlier this month.
“That airplane was built in the 1980s,” he said. “That’s a long time for any high-performance airplane.”
Mullen expressed concern at the state of the aging Air Force fleet.
“It’s very important for the leadership, the entirety of the leadership — that’s the military leadership, the civilian leadership, the leadership on the Hill — to figure the best way through so we can recapitalize the Air Force,” he said.
He noted that the Pentagon, particularly the Air Force, is prohibited by law from retiring certain aging airframes, which drains money that might be used to buy new aircraft. Mullen said he has asked Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley to report to him about “how we got here,” referring to the overall state of the Air Force fleet.
Mullen said the surge in Iraq has produced its top aim, stability on the ground. That was supposed to lead to political reconciliation among Iraq’s major religious sects, which has not happened. Mullen urged Iraqi leaders to seize the moment, uphold their end of the bargain, and hammer out the political pacts needed to allow Iraq to function as a cohesive nation.
Mullen said winning the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan is his top priority, but he stressed that the entire military must be constantly thinking about what comes afterward. The U.S. military has “assumed some strategic risk” by keeping so many ground troops in Iraq, and to a lesser extent, Afghanistan. The Pentagon would face a major challenge if it was forced to send ground forces into another theater, but the immediate likelihood of that was “pretty low,” he said.
Mullen has also set up a panel to create a new Middle East strategy that looks beyond Iraq and Afghanistan. The panel will look at what the American military can do to promote stability in the region, and how those efforts mesh with the nation’s “elements of soft power,” he said.
It was largely prompted by Iran’s rise in the region, particularly Tehran’s actions during the 2006 Israeli clash with Hezbollah in Lebanon, he said. Despite saber-rattling for many months on both sides, the four-star stressed he believes war with Iran “is avoidable.”

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