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March 2017

Weighing Aspirations, Trump Argues for Increased Defense Spending : Herbert London

Dr. Herbert I. London is the President of the London Center for Policy Research and is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He has written or contributed to 30 books and as a social critic, his work has been published in many prominent publications.

The post-Cold War ‘military industrial complex’ isn’t applicable to today’s terrorist enemies

During President Trump’s recent address to Congress, he said we must add $54 billion of spending to the defense budget in order to bolster the nation’s defense capabilities. Considering the $1 trillion in defense sequestration during the Obama years, this number may be relatively modest. The problem is making an assessment of what’s adequate and necessary.
Defense spending in the age of advanced military hardware is an exercise in reading tea leaves. The number of variables in any equation often overwhelms the serious analyst.
Take the F-35 as an example. The head of the program said that the cost of the aircraft will be reduced to $85 million by 2018. But that number has significance only if seen against a backdrop of lifetime use. An aircraft with an 8,000 to 10,000 flight hour cycle is more expensive than one with a 5,000 hour life.
Then, there’s the question of mission. An aircraft designed to perform a single mission—e.g. the A-10 Warthog—is cheaper to build than an aircraft capable of multiple missions. However, single mission planes will necessitate a larger than anticipated force and arguably a budget increase.
In today’s environment, it’s also appropriate to ask whether the aircraft is manned or unmanned. Perhaps it’s wise to spend more on anti-air weapons and less on fighters and interceptors. Could stand-off platforms be less expensive in the long term than fighters and interceptors? Could stand-off weapons render Russian and Chinese airplanes irrelevant?