Friday, August 22, 2008

Shrinking Target (Ltr to the Ed)

I am a retired Limited Duty Officer in the US Navy. I started out as a boot seaman and worked my way up the enlisted and officer ranks for over 30 years to Lieutenant Commander so I have at least a vague idea about military matters. I have grave concerns regarding the seemingly insatiable desire to close military facilities, most particularly naval facilities, worldwide. Enough is by God enough!

Pearl Harbor was wiped out in two hours crippling the Pacific Fleet for months. By the grace of God, the carriers were out. Had they been in port, the disaster would have been magnified many times over. We are putting our defense eggs in fewer and fewer baskets making us vulnerable again. Is there no one in this administration who has read the history of this nation? Who are the brilliant strategists who are making it possible for a few radical terrorists with dirty bombs to critically cripple or even destroy the entire Navy's surface fighting and resupply capability in seconds? This is stupidity at the esoteric level and an invitation to disaster. Take out San Francisco, San Diego, Norfolk, and Jacksonville and our naval capabilities would be grievously harmed. Add Charleston, SC, Kings Bay, GA, and Seattle, WA and the situation becomes critical. That is just seven terrorists and seven weapons.

To think that terrorists will not have this type of weapon in the near future and will not use them is ludicrous. To hope that they could not smuggle in and deploy something as small as those things could be is shear folly. We seemingly can't even prevent ten million illegal aliens from entering the country. To believe that the terror organizations can not and do not think on a scale that grand is dangerous to this nation. Most anyone with average intelligence knows they are cunning, calculating, capable, driven by intense hatred for this country, and, above all, they are patient. They are also vulnerable to manipulation by our strongest potential adversaries.

To believe our self inflicted naval support vulnerabilities are minimized by the fact that other civilian ports are available does in no way take into account the incredibly monumental logistics problems associated with moving millions of tons of material and ammunition to ports not normally used by our Navy, or equipped to handle their peculiar needs. We should be disbursing our forces more to be a harder target, not consolidating and becoming easy pickings for any rogue nation with a pair of tramp steamers and a few cruise missiles available from a number of unfriendly sources.

China effectively owns significant real estate at both ends of the Panama Canal. I think that makes Jacksonville, Kings Bay, and San Diego easy targets today. Who, with any degree of certainty, knows China's capability or their national disposition tomorrow? This continued consolidation, downsizing, and underfunding of the military is an insanity that opens the door for a less peaceful country instead of our own citizens to decide who will rule this nation and have dominion over our future generations. Ronald Reagan said it best when he said that America has never been attacked when it was strong. He was right then and he is right now.

I know that the Department of Defense is a costly branch, but I also know that the second best defense is unacceptable to the American people. I wonder how much more national safety our tax dollars would have bought had not 27 billion dollars been spent on pork barrel projects, a closed border perhaps? I wonder how many soldiers and Marines would be alive today if they had been equipped with body armor and armored Hum Vs that money could have funded? Civilian organizations are taking up donations to properly equip our fighting men! To me, this smacks of malfeasance laid right at the feet of those in the House and Senate.

I think the $1.2 million in federal grant funds spent on a fertilizer center in this state alone could have prevented a lot of needless bloodshed. How could elected federal representatives from this state have signed off on a budget that included something like that while men and women are dying in battle to protect our freedoms? Pork may be an ancient and venerated method of buying the allegiance of the electorate with their own money, but it is self serving politics and I think it beneath the dignity of an American statesman if there are any left.

The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States specifically mentions "providing for the common defense," and Section 8, Clause 13 requires Congress to "Provide and maintain a Navy." I do not think for one instant the founding fathers of this nation meant the Navy to be anything short of the best we could afford and I think the constitutional terminology includes the shore infrastructure to maintain it. I think Congress has failed miserably the American people and our fighting men and women from all branches of the military in this respect. I think it is almost criminal that we have to muster the reserves to put a couple of hundred thousand pairs of ill equipped boots on the ground in Iraq. To me, that is a failure to provide for the defense and a disgrace to this nation. You should all be ashamed, $27 billion dollars worth.

I admit I am far, far removed from the conference rooms where intelligence reports are read and strategy is formulated, but I do know that even the dumbest corporal will not let his men group together so they can all be taken out easily.

Bill Fortner

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