6 More Items on Our Christmas National Defense Wish List

COMMENTARY Defense

6 More Items on Our Christmas National Defense Wish List

Dec 16th, 2021 6 min read
Soldiers practice exiting CH-47 Chinook helicopters during Swift Response in Bulgaria, May 11, 2021. Maj. Robert Fellingham / U.S. Army

Last week, we presented the first half of The Heritage Foundation’s defense center’s Christmas wish list, which you can read here

We noted that as we get closer to the holidays and start to finalize the Christmas shopping and decorating for the parties, it’s easy to forget the numerous threats our country faces.

Russia continues its military modernization and massive buildup of forces on the border with Ukraine, and China’s military only grows larger, more sophisticated, and increasingly belligerent to its neighbors. Countries like Iran and North Korea have robust missile programs that threaten the United States and regional allies. North Korea continues to manufacture nuclear weapons and Iran hopes to do so soon.

This Christmas season, Heritage’s defense team put together a slightly unorthodox Christmas wish list of things we would like to see in the new year to make America a safer place in the world. Here is part two.

8) Winning Wars, Not Wokeism

A 2022 national defense strategy should focus on winning wars outside U.S. borders rather than the culture wars being fought within them.

Barrels of ink—real and digital—have been spilt in point-counterpoint arguments over domestic sociopolitical issues being imposed on the military, including identity politics, wokeism, critical race theory, extremism, women in combat-occupational specialties, transgender and transsexual individuals serving in the military, the appointment of diversity-equity-inclusion commissars, and other cultural and social debates that have roiled the nation of late.

These political agenda items have stoked division and enmity within the military ranks and the broader citizenry interested in military affairs.

Of concern, a recent poll by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute found, “The number of Americans who say they have a great deal of trust and confidence in the military has fallen by 14 percentage points (from 70% to 56%) since 2018.

Presumably the purpose of the U.S. military is to defeat enemy forces in battle. The better it is at doing that, the greater its deterrent value as perceived by competitors and reassurance value in the eyes of allies and partners.

When military service priorities include the objective of ensuring the demographic profile of the military reflects that of America or that representational quotas are met irrespective of the impact on warfighting effectiveness, it becomes clear that the realities of war are of lesser importance.

—Dakota Wood, senior defense fellow

9) A More Modern Army

An Army modernization programwhich, when unveiled in President Joe Biden’s fiscal year 2023 budget request, allows the service to maintain the needed momentum to replace its legacy platforms and systems which were largely fielded in the early 1980s. Army soldiers largely operate platforms—helicopters, tanks and fighting vehicles that were built in the early 1980s and have been incrementally modernized since then. That would be like taking a 1982 Ford Escort—the most popular car in America that year—and hoping to keep it up to date with new accessories and repairs.

The Army has devised a sweeping modernization plan to bring it up to the present, but there are now significant doubts if the Biden administration’s budget request—typically submitted in February—will contain enough funding for the Army to execute its plan. We will continue to advocate on the Army’s behalf.

—Tom Spoehr, director of the Center for National Defense

10) A Readier and More Capable Air Force

I hope forbetter Air Force readiness and recapitalization. TheAir Force should keep its aircraft to at least 80% fighter mission capability rates and have robust aircrew sortie and flight hour levels sufficient to mobilize. The Air Force should deploy and employ 300 fully mission capable fighters and 60 fully mission capable bombers from forward operating and warfighting locations with wartime-manning levels within 15 days of notification.

This capacity equates to half the numbers required to fight a major regional conflict and should be sufficient to halt an aggressive move by a peer competitor while the remaining force structure is generated.

I hope to see an Air Force recapitalization and modernization program that stops acquiring more expensive and less capable fourth generation fighters and, instead, acquires 25% more capacity comprised of fifth-generation fighters, combat capable bombers, and tanker aircrafts.

—John “JV” Venable, senior fellow for aerospace warfare

11) More Visibility Into Defense Supply Chains

Tanks, fighter jets, and submarines are all complex systems, with thousands upon thousands of components. The networks of suppliers that manufacture these components are complex and obscure.

To ensure defense supply chains can dependably produce vital end items, the Department of Defense must have visibility into those supply chains. In that regard, the Department of Defense should initiate a pilot project with a program of its choosing.

Perhaps it could be the Army’s Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, the Navy’s Virginia-class submarine, or the Air Force’s MQ-9 Reaper drone—aiming to achieve full supply chain visibility for that program within a certain timeline. This would provide valuable insights for broader efforts toward defense supply chain visibility across the Department of Defense.

—Maiya Clark, research associate for the defense industrial base

12) A Larger and More Capable Cyber Mission Force

133 Cyber Mission Force teams make up the backbone of U.S. Cyber Command and are responsible for both offensive and defensive cyber operations for the military. Some of these teams focus on countering threats to critical infrastructure, others focus on supporting U.S. military missions abroad, and others defend the Department of Defense from cyber threats to name a few of the missions they perform.

This past year, the commander of U.S. Cyber Command indicated that the force is too small to meet all its mission demands.

In addition, the Government Accountability Office has found issues with the training and readiness of the Cyber Mission Force. If the U.S. is going to compete in an increasingly dangerous cyber world, then its cyber forces need to be the best in the world and sufficiently sized to meet the growing demands. Cyber is not an area where we can afford to fall behind.

—James Di Pane, policy analyst for military cyber

13) More Timely Budgets

We have seen cascading delays in fiscal year 2022, which began Oct. 1. It started with Biden’s historically late budget request which did not arrive to Congress until May 28—the latest in the last 30 years.

Some delay was expected from a newly seated administration, but by waiting so long to submit its budget, the administration demonstrated a lack of priority towards the fundamental business of governing and pushed back the whole process.

Congress was delayed in their ability to start assessing the request and doing its own budgetary work. Congress hasn’t even begun to discuss the 2022 appropriations. Further, as the Christmas trees are being decorated, the Senate on Wednesday finally passed the National Defense Authorization Act, legislation that was completed in Committee months ago.

So, at the turn of the fiscal year, the Pentagon is without a new authorization nor appropriation and is now operating under a continuing resolution. As of Dec. 4, the federal government is on its second continuing resolution for the year. It would be good to see this cycle of delays be broken in the New Year.

—Fred Bartels, senior policy analyst for defense budgeting

In the 2022 Index of U.S. Military Strength, we assessed the military as only marginally capable of defending the United States and its core interests. America faces a number of growing threats, and unfortunately our military has not seen the investment or attention needed to give them the tools to counter the actions of the adversaries who seek to impose their will on their neighbors.

We know we are asking for a lot. As Kris Kringle said in the classic film “Miracle on 34th Street,” “Just because every child can’t get his wish that doesn’t mean there isn’t a Santa Claus.”

This holiday season, the Heritage defense team has its hopes set on a bountiful assortment of presents under tree. Merry Christmas!

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal