Analysts predict that equipment shortages in the military may become a source for debate in the upcoming 2008 Presidential election.
As America enters its fifth year in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a growing need to replace “worn out” equipment, according to Brad Curran, Senior Industry Analyst for Frost and Sullivan. Both the need for new equipment and calls to expand the number of military personnel have led to increased projected spending in the Department of Defense budget for 2008. Analysts at Frost and Sullivan assert that spending is expected to be the highest it has been since World War II.
“The question is going to be—Where is the money going to come from?” Curran said.
Frontrunners on both sides of the Presidential campaign have expressed plans to increase military strength and numbers, despite differing views on where that strength will be used.
On the Democratic side, Barack Obama plans to give troops “new equipment armor, training and skills” and Hillary Clinton has stated she will replenish American power by “rebuilding our military and developing a much broader arsenal of tools.” John Edwards’ website has a plan for a review of waste and abuse in weapons spending, but at the same time states that he will “double the budget for recruiting” and “implement new training for future military leadership.” Increased numbers, equipment and training means increased spending.
Republican candidates are also in favor of building up the military and its budget. John McCain may be a strong advocate of fiscal discipline, but his plan to bolster troop numbers and ensure the military is “properly postured” will likely lead to larger costs. Likewise, Mike Huckabee has clearly stated, “I will expand the army and increase the defense budget,” and Mitt Romney wants to “strengthen our military by increasing the size of [it] by 100,000 troops and dedicating at least four percent of our gross domestic product to defense.”
While promises for a stronger military abound, finding the money to fund equipment and training will not be easy, especially if the economy goes into recession. Curran asserts that presidential candidates will have to make tough decisions if the contest for funds between military branches becomes more of a dilemma. Money may be taken from the Air Force and Navy to finance the Army and Marines. A telling sign will be an effort by the Defense Department and all branches of the military to level out their budgets on February 4th at the Pentagon.
Already, new weapons programs for the Air Force and Navy have been put on hold in order to ensure that the Army and Marines are well-equipped first. The deferment comes despite President Bush’s original budget request to pump $38.7 billion into shipbuilding and $33.8 billion into new aircraft equipment.
The current projected spending budget shows that the highest funding will go to the Army at $23.8 billion with $12 billion being spent on armored vehicles alone, according to the Department of Defense budget analysis.
Though certain classes of ships and many transport, tanker and fighter aircraft may soon need serious investments, the cost is too exorbitant at this time, according to Curran.
“You can take the money from an airplane or a ship and finance almost an entire brigade of the Army,” Curran stated. “Candidates will have to ask themselves, ‘Do we need another aircraft carrier or do we need to replenish the ground forces?’”