WASHINGTON – Amid the rising threat of the Islamic State jihadist group and increased cooperation between Russia and China, military experts are warning the Obama administration’s $1 trillion cut in defense spending will put U.S. military forces at a serious technological disadvantage.
In the past, U.S. technology has acted as a force multiplier, giving American fighting forces a distinct advantage in combat situations.
The concern arises not only as the radical Sunni Islamic State, or ISIS, threatens American interests in Syria, Iraq and possibly beyond. It also comes as Russia and communist China are increasing their defense spending for technological development.
In addition to increased economic cooperation, Russia and China have shown a closer cooperation with their militaries, with Moscow beginning to sell its cutting-edge technology to the Chinese, especially in new generation fighter aircraft.
In addition, Moscow and Beijing are showing closer cooperation in counter-terrorism cooperation. Russia recently dispatched some 800 Russian troops and 12 fighter aircraft as part of a multinational counter-terrorism drill in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
The drill is being conducted under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, or SCO, which includes China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. It is the fifth such exercise aimed at countering terrorism, separatism and extremism.
In addition to China and Russia, the SCO, established in 2001, is comprised of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as permanent members. Afghanistan, India, Mongolia, Iran and Pakistan are observers, while Belarus, Turkey and Sri Lanka are dialogue partners.
Both Russia and China have increased their space exploration as a way to develop new technologies, much as the U.S. did with its space program, which also is seeing similar cutbacks.
The U.S. has had to rely on Russian rockets to launch satellites into space and to send astronauts to the International Space Station. However, the Ukraine crisis in which the West, including the U.S., has imposed sanctions on Russia for its role in occupying and annexing portions of Ukraine has seen Moscow halt any further space cooperation with the U.S.
The cuts also come at a critical time when the U.S. military must replenish their fighting capabilities after more than a decade of continuous war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The loss of a long-held technical advantage would be a body blow to the U.S. military,” according to analysts of the open intelligence Langley intelligence Group Network, or Lignet.
The technologies that would be affected include robotics for specialized combat duties, development of next-generation navigation and reconnaissance systems, unmanned mini-submarines and faster helicopters, the analysts said.
Also in jeopardy is development of “global strike capabilities,” giving troops the ability to attack targets with non-nuclear munitions with pinpoint accuracy anywhere in the world in one hour or less, the analysts said.
The technological advantage has afforded U.S. fighting forces a critical edge in combat since the first Gulf War in 1990. However, more than a decade of war has changed all that.
“Times are changing,” the analysts said. “After more than a decade of war, perennial federal budget deficits and a foreign policy notable for its reticence rather than vision, the U.S. defense budget for the next five to 10 years is likely to contract significantly” with a projected $1 trillion in cuts.
The analysts further pointed out the “obvious consequence” would be in significant reductions in armed forces personnel and comparable reductions in major equipment, including ships, aircraft and tanks.
“Shortfalls in defense spending will ripple across all branches of the armed services,” the analysts said. “What is less obvious are the effects of spending cuts on the military’s ability to maintain its technological edge.”
Already, cuts are being seen in the ranks at the captain level in which many still on the battlefield are receiving pink slips even before they return. Yet, they are expected to sacrifice their lives knowing there will be no job waiting for them once their deployment in the war zone has ended.
The cuts, too, are occurring as the U.S. once again appears to be ramping up to assist the Iraqi government in an effort to protect existing U.S. assets in Iraq around Irbil, which effectively has become surrounded by jihadist fighters from the Islamic State jihadist group, formerly ISIS.
In all, there are more than 1,000 U.S. military personnel, contractors and diplomats in Iraq, including in Baghdad itself, to protect the U.S. Embassy and the airport from ISIS attacks.
In addition, the cuts already are having an impact on training staffs, especially for the Army. Many of the facilities are going through their fourth consecutive round of cuts, with pink slips going out to contractors and Defense Department civilians.
“The cuts are so bad, that they’re talking about activating a reserve unit to come in and fill the trainer slots, which would probably work OK if this was an infantry operation,” one source told WND.
“So people having no Military Occupational Specialty experience and/or never been instructors are going to fill instructor billets,” he said. “I’m not sure what could go wrong.”
The source added that General Dynamics has lost 50 percent of its remaining Human Intelligence contract personnel, and unmanned aerial vehicle training also has been hit hard.
“Next year should be quite the mess,” he said. “It will be interesting seeing the quality of training and what the graduates are like."
Such cuts also have had a dramatic impact on the local economies, with a decline of some 33 percent in many of the businesses in towns that support the military.
There are “lots of boarded up and empty buildings on the main drag (with) car sales down,” he said.