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Rise Of Democrats To Power Fans False Arguments Against BMD, Analyst Says

By | February 12, 2007

      The installation of Democratic leadership in Congress means that some opponents of ballistic missile defense (BMD) have gained expanded leverage and clout, a leading analyst said.

      Baker Spring, research fellow in national security policy with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank, made the assertion in an update of a paper on missile defense that he authored in September.

      According to Spring, proponents of a strong, multi-layered BMD shield against increasing threats have been lulled into a false sense of security, erroneously assuming that all is well because the threat of missile attacks is so clear.

      This is a major misstep, a misapprehension of the challenge still being posed to an adequate missile shield, Spring argues.

      The reality here is that the United States at this point has but a meager missile defense capability, a reality made worse by a rising threat of enemy states proceeding apace to acquire ever more missile expertise, he noted.

      At this point, a false confidence only worsens the situation, he stated.

      “The danger is compounded by a misguided percep-tion held by some missile defense proponents in Con-gress that the debate over missile defense is all but won,” Spring cautioned. There is ample evidence to counter this wrongly cheery outlook, he continued.

      “The outcome of the [fall] congres-sional election should have shattered this mispercep-tion,” Spring asserted. “Longstanding missile defense opponents — such as the new Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) — are now in positions of power.”

      It is time for supporters of a robust BMD capability to awaken to the danger, and begin to grasp just how far U.S. forces are from mounting a truly adequate shield against missile attacks, he asserted.

      Spring provides the wakeup call by updating the paper he wrote in the fall, pointing out the fallacies in arguments against missile defense systems, and reasons why a BMD shield is needed, urgently, now.

      The paper that is entitled “The Still Enduring Features of the Debate Over Missile Defense” can be read in entirety at on the Web.

      Defense Budget Drop Seen Likely

      Separately, Spring in another paper foresees a likely sharp drop in funding for defense programs in coming years.

      President Bush’s $647.1 billion defense budget proposal for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2008, is adequate to support the military, but in later years it envisions a precipitous plunge in military outlays that would imperil long-overdue weapons procurement modernization programs, according to Spring.

      He sees a looming $400 billion gap in defense funding over the next several years of the Bush budget plan.

      The United States cannot afford to repeat a mistake in its history by failing to fund much-needed weapons procurement programs, even though the government may be facing fiscal strains of deficits and costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Spring argues.

      “The idea of a [1990s-style] peace dividend poses a risk to national security because the federal government has been ignoring the need to develop and build the next generation of weapons and equipment since the early 1990s,” Spring argued.

      “During the 1990s, the vast majority of that era’s peace dividend came from modernization programs. In the current decade, modernization funding has been crowded out by immediate demands to fund military operations, including … those [in] Afghanistan and Iraq.”

      For example, the Air Force F-22A Raptor fighter aircraft, the best on Earth, has been cut from a buy of 277 to 183, even though the Air Force requirement is for 381; the Navy DDG 1000 next-generation stealth destroyer program has been attacked by some who would end it after just two ships are built; the F-35 Joint Strike Figher Lightning II program has been cut by hundreds of planes; the Future Combat Systems Army modernization program has been assailed by lawmakers; the C-17 transport plane at timesprogram has seemed on the edge of termination; the current-year Missile Defense Agency budget may be cut by roughly $500 million; and the purchase of new aerial refueling tanker planes has been deferred for years.

      But defense isn’t a frill, some optional item that is nice to have but unnecessary, Spring emphasized. And national defense isn’t unaffordable, either.

      Rather, the nation in fact can afford to finance an adequate national defense, Spring observed.

      In the fiscal 2008 defense budget, he continued, the Bush plan for defense spending envisions an appropriate level of outlays, considering the size of the U.S. economy, the largest on the planet.

      The Bush funding plan for defense programs “means that national defense programs, in terms of budget authority, will absorb over 4.4 percent of [gross domestic product, or U.S. output of goods and services] in fiscal year 2008,” Spring observed.

      “If Congress votes to support the Bush administration’s request, it means that the resources required to meet the defense needs of the U.S. in fiscal year 2008 will be available.”

      To provide an adequate national defense, however, something like that commitment of U.S. resources would have to continue in future years, he stated.

      “In general terms, the U.S. government will need to devote no less than 4 percent of GDP to defense on a sustained basis to meet the nation’s defense requirements,” according to Spring.

      But in future years, the Bush military budget falls far short of the mark, he continued.

      The Bush budget “reveals that defense requests will drop significantly in fiscal years 2009 and 2010 and then level off in fiscal years 2011 and 2012,” Spring warned.

      “This means that absent future supplemental appropriations, the budget authority for defense will fall to 3.2 percent of GDP by the end of the budget period in 2012. This translates into roughly a $400 billion defense budget gap covering fiscal years 2009 through 2012.”

      If supplemental defense appropriations total at least $100 billion a year through 2012, that would cover the gap. But Spring asks whether it is reasonable to assume that such supplemental funding would in fact materialize.

      It is not a safe assumption, he asserts.

      Spring’s paper that is entitled “An Adequate Defense Budget That Must Be Sustained into the Future” may be read in entirety at on the Web.

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