By Perry Diaz
When President Donald J. Trump unveiled his proposal to increase military spending by $54 billion for next year during his address before a joint session of Congress, one of the things military planners thought about was: How does it compare to Russia’s or China’s military budgets? The U.S. is already spending a whopping $600 billion a year on her military. That’s more money than the next seven biggest defense spending combined, including Russia and China. Indeed, Trump’s proposed increase would be 80% of Russia’s entire military budget. That’s awesome!
Describing his budget proposal as “a public safety and national security budget,” Trump would reduce the budgets for foreign aid and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by the same amount; thus, making no real increases to the overall national budget. But it would certainly make a lot of countries currently receiving aid from Uncle Sam unhappy.
But what gains would an increase in military spending be for the U.S.? Isn’t the current level of spending enough to safeguard America? While it can be argued that the current U.S. military expenditures would suffice for now, there is no guarantee that it would be in a few years. And for sure, the U.S. would lose her military advantage in 10 years if nothing were done to keep pace with Russia and China.
There is a big “black hole” in the U.S. future defense planning, which makes her vulnerable to surprise enemy attacks, in particular, submarine attacks and hypersonic ballistic missiles. At the rate Russia and China are building stealth submarines capable of launching nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, the U.S. might find her open to such attacks within a decade.
Currently, the U.S.’s fleet of 14 ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) – known as “boomers” — is enough to counter any attack with devastating nuclear power. Each submarine carries 24 Trident missiles and each missile can carry up to 14 warheads. Together, the 14 Ohio-class subs carry approximately 50% of the total U.S. active inventory of strategic thermonuclear warheads.
However, the fleet of aging Ohio-class nuclear submarines, would be headed for the graveyard in a decade and the new Columbia-class replacement submarines wouldn’t be able to keep up with the planned decommissioning of the Ohio subs.
The first Columbia-class submarine is scheduled to begin construction in 2021 and enter service in 2031 with a life span of 50 years. The question is: Would the U.S. be able to maintain her naval superiority in terms of quality to compensate for the anticipated decrease in submarine fleet size?
Prompt Global Strike
Trump’s defense planners must have thought about this potential problem. Playing catch-up with Russia and China, Pentagon’s think tank strategists are busy designing ways to counter the enemy’s attack plans, which would most likely happen as an all-out “first strike” nuclear assault.
The U.S. is currently developing Prompt Global Strike (PGS), a system that can deliver a precision-guided conventional weapon airstrike anywhere in the world within one hour, in a similar manner to a nuclear Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). Such a weapon would allow the U.S. to respond far more swiftly to rapidly emerging threats than is possible with conventional forces. A PGS system could also be useful during a nuclear conflict, potentially replacing the use of nuclear weapons against 30% of targets. The PGS program encompasses numerous established and emerging technologies, including conventional surface-launched missiles and air- and submarine-launched hypersonic missiles, although no specific PGS system has yet been finalized. [Source: Wikipedia]
What makes PGS dangerous is that war can be waged and won without the use of nuclear weapons; thus, sparing the world from nuclear holocaust. And since the U.S. is the only superpower that is far ahead in developing PGS, it makes the Russian and Chinese leaders nervous. And this makes PGS a more effective deterrent than MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction), which guarantees global nuclear annihilation.
Trump’s proposed $54-billion defense budget augmentation would seem to fit into what PGS is supposed to achieve. The main thrust is in building a 350-ship Navy, which increases the battle force of 272 warships in service today. However, this buildup doesn’t surpass what the U.S. had in 1998 when the Navy had 12 carriers, 30 cruisers, 53 destroyers, 40 frigates, and 70 nuclear submarines. In 2003, the Navy broke through the 300-ship mark to it present size of 272 ships today, which includes 10 carriers, 22 cruisers, 62 destroyers, no frigates and 54 nuclear submarines. In 2011, the defense budget was cut by nearly $80 billion due to the sequester provisions of the Budget Control Act.
Having said that, one wonders how does Trump’s awesome war budget fit into Uncle Sam’s geopolitical playbook? Would it enhance U.S. commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)? Would it increase the viability of the rebalance strategy, which is to move 60% of America’s naval assets to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region? Would the U.S. be able to assert her supremacy in the South China Sea and the Western Pacific waters? Would the U.S. be able to rein in North Korea and denuclearize the Korean Peninsula? There is a lot more questions to ask, but for now these are just for starters. And there are no answers yet.
However, while Trump is busy concocting how he’s going to deal with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping, American special forces are busy operating under the radar doing what they do best: penetrate hostile territory.
Meanwhile, the USS Carl Vinzon carrier strike group began patrolling in the South China, which is aimed at ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight in one of the busiest waterways. Based in Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan, the Carl Vinzon is part of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, which is responsible for patrolling the vast Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
Indeed, with more than 150 bases in foreign countries around the world, there is no doubt in anybody’s mind that the U.S. would continue to exert her worldwide influence for a long time to come.