Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Letting the Air Force Languish

By Alan Caruba

In the long ago era of the 1940s one of my classmates was youngster who grew up to become an Air Force General. Considering that I grew up to become an itinerant scribbler, I confess to being more than a little impressed. He remains my friend today and recently he sent me some statistics that made me wonder about the priorities of those in Congress and the White House.

Gathered by Michael M. Dunn, CEO of the Air Force Association, here are a few facts that are just ever so scary.

Said Dunn, “When I entered the United States Air Force in 1972, the average age of a USAF aircraft was about 8 years old. Today it is approaching 25 years old.”

The Air Force’s top procurement priority is the KC-X, a replacement for the KC-135 tanker. The oldest KC-135 flying today was delivered in November 1957.

The active duty Air Force today presently has 333,000 people. It is smaller than the Army Air Corps was on December 7, 1941 (354,000).

The President’s budget request in FY08 for the Department of Defense was $459 billion. By comparison, the request for the Department of Health and Human Services was $700 billion.

The President’s defense budget request amounts to 3.2% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). During the Reagan build-up that lead to the collapse of the Soviet Union the nation spent 8% of GDP. During WWII, the nation spent almost 40% of GDP. In the year prior to WWII, the defense budget was 1.7% of GDP. These numbers make it clear, Dunn, points out, “When we are unprepared, it costs us more in the end.”

Much like the run-up to WWII, the world has become increasingly more dangerous. The entire Middle East is experiencing extreme destabilization. The Russians keep threatening, obliquely, to cut off vital energy supplies to Europe. Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan dictator, keeps trying to drum up trouble for the U.S.

For the United States to have an ancient fleet of aircraft and fewer people than the day before WWII is an ominous problem that needs to be aggressively addressed.

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