NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Military Decline Puts U.S. In A Bind

April 21, 1999

Defense officials are scrambling to pull together the resources needed to sustain our operations in Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, they are bumping up against severe limits resulting from the drastic deterioration of U.S. military capability during the Clinton Administration. In just fiscal year 1998 alone the Defense Department lost the following assets:

  • Aircraft. The number of combat aircraft fell 434 or 4.8 percent. Sixty-two airlift planes were also retired, and 857 other aircraft. In total, 1,353 planes were taken from service, reducing the number of aircraft available by 6.6 percent.
  • Ships. More than 10 percent of all submarines were decommissioned, reducing the total to 123 from 137 the year before. Ten support ships were lost and 684 small boats. Overall, U.S. ship strength was reduced 16 percent.
  • Combat vehicles. The number of tanks were reduced 827 or 7.6 percent. Other combat vehicles fell 6,360 or 14.5 percent. Overall, available combat vehicles declined by 13.1 percent.

Adjusted for inflation, defense spending has fallen every year of the Clinton Administration thus far, from $298.4 billion in 1992 to $236.6 billion last year (in 1992 dollars). Many items needed to sustain combat operations are in short supply.

The Pentagon has already asked for an additional $4 billion this year to pay for the Yugoslavia operation. But any escalation will increase this cost quickly. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the air campaign at current levels costs $1 billion per month to sustain. If ground troops are introduced, it will cost $300 million month per division to keep them supplied. Even with a negotiated settlement, a force of 4,000 peacekeeping troops, consistent with the Rambouillet agreement, would cost $50 million per month.

Source: Bruce Bartlett, senior fellow, National Center for Policy Analysis, April 21, 1999.


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