EDITORIAL: Atrophy of armed forces should be issue in next election

During the third presidential debate in 2012, Mitt Romney attacked the Obama administration for advocating cuts to the military when some aspects of the U.S. armed forces are out of date or undermanned.

“Our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917,” said Romney. “The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We’re now at 285.”

Obama shot back something like this: “I think Gov. Romney maybe has not spent enough time looking at how our military works. We also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our military has changed. There are these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines. ... The question is not a game of Battleship, where we’re counting ships, it’s what are our capabilities.”

Who won the debate can be argued, but Obama won the election. In light of the news three years later, though, it appears Romney was correct, if not as glib as the president.

The U.S. may have enough big aircraft carriers and submarines (although that too may be debatable), but there obviously is a shortage of the amphibious vessels the Navy uses to deploy Marines to respond to global crises around the world, including incidents such as attacks on U.S. embassies.

USA Today reports that the Marine Corps, faced with a shortage of the type of assault ships they use to get troops, helicopters and other equipment to hot spots, is exploring a plan to use foreign ships.

The newspaper quotes Brig. Gen. Norman Cooling, deputy commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe Africa, as saying the measure is a stopgap way to deploy Marines aboard ships overseas until more American vessels are available. The Marines have been working with Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom and other close allies to determine the suitability of foreign ships for U.S. personnel, the report said. The units would be for limited operations and not major amphibious assaults.

The Navy has 30 amphibious ships but says it needs 38, and because of budget constraints it won’t reach that level until 2028.

That’s unacceptable. Depending on foreign ships to carry our troops doesn’t seem like a good option.

We agree with Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., a member of the House Armed Services Committee, who says: “Allowing the continued atrophy of the Navy-Marine Corps team’s amphibious capacity is simply not an option given national security challenges facing the United States and its allies.”

Foreign policy and military preparedness should be a major issue in next year’s presidential election.

Let’s hope glib doesn’t carry the day over accuracy.

07/01/2015 - 2:59pm