F.R. Duplantier reporting Behind The Headlines
Week of:
May 7, 2000
Will We Pay the Price for Freedom?

F.R. Duplantier

by: F.R. Duplantier

"How much will it cost for the United States to be a great power in the 21st century and are the American people able and willing to pay those costs?"

"The United States enters the new millennium with arguably the world's most capable military," observed Jeffrey Ranney of the Center for Strategic and International Studies during testimony before the House Armed Services Committee early this year. "Although it is nearly 40 percent smaller in overall size than at the end of the Cold War, the U.S. military is capable in principle of the global power projection that is a hallmark of a true superpower," Ranney affirmed. "In the 1990s, U.S. military forces enjoyed a number of operational successes and demonstrated a number of astonishing technical achievements. . . ."

Despite this seemingly rosy assessment, Jeffrey Ranney is not sanguine about the future of the U.S. military. The co-author of a new book called Averting the Defense Train Wreck in the New Millennium, Ranney warned the House Armed Services Committee that this year "may well mark the high point of U.S. military power in the post-Cold War period. For the past decade," he explained, "the American people have enjoyed a substantial peace dividend in the form of reduced defense spending. Notwithstanding this, there is little public awareness today that the Department of Defense and Congress face an imminent crisis in defense regarding resources. This crisis is large," Ranney emphasized. "This crisis is growing. This crisis is profound. This crisis is already underway, yet the American public has been told very little."

Ranney argued that "the equipment assigned to our armed forces is reaching the end of its designed operational life -- almost at once -- and must be replaced if military capability is to be retained." He charged that "the basis for manning our armed forces -- the All-Volunteer Force concept -- is in danger of collapsing as qualified men and women are choosing not to enter into military service, and current service men and women are choosing to leave service." Ranney claimed that "annual budget levels projected in the President's military spending plans are well below what is needed to support fully the current military force."

Without increased defense spending, Ranney predicted, "the United States will face a de facto demobilization and, with it, a diminished capacity to shape and influence world events and to safeguard and protect U.S. national interests in the future. More important, lack of funds will inevitably limit our ability to provide America's soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen with the equipment and training they will require to defeat future adversaries," he emphasized. "The consequence could be more than simply a diminution of U.S. influence abroad. The result of underfunding," Ranney warned, "could well be measured in American lives."

Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng affirmed that fearful forecast, in an essay published in a recent issue of the Washington Times. "Today, the Chinese communists, especially the elements within the hard-line faction and the military, believe they can resist any American attack," declared Wei. "More important," he added, "they believe that they can win a limited conventional war."

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