ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–Former U.S. Senator Jim Talent says the budget cuts proposed by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel would leave the U.S. less prepared to face growing threats to national security.
Talent, a Fellow with the Heritage Foundation and a member of the National Defense Panel, says the U.S. faces military challenges from a growing number of potential enemies .
“We’re not OK,” Talent said, “The force is already smaller than it was in the 1990s, and that was before the Chinese became a peer competitor, the War on Terror, the Iranian nuclear program, the North Korean nuclear program, the Arab spring . The list goes on and on.”
Of particular concern to Talent is the growing size and capabilities of the Chinese Navy.
“By 2020, the Chinese will have somewhere between 300 and 350 modern ships in their navy,” Talent said, “which would give them a navy they can concentrate in the eastern and south China seas substantially bigger than our entire navy. In addition the ships are stuffed with anti-ship missiles; they’re going to have 1500 fighters; they can attack our space architecture.”
A longtime supporter of Boeing Defense Systems, Talent says the overall trend toward smaller defense budgets does not bode well for the St. Louis defense economy.
“I’m really concerned because, of course, Boeing builds the finest tactical fighter in the world. But when the overall military budget shrinks to a certain point, it’s going to affect Boeing’s future prospects.”
Absent from the overview presented by Secretary Hagel was any mention of the F-18 Super Hornet made by Boeing. Hagel did assert his plan to continue building the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter made by Boeing rival Lockheed Martin.
Talent speculates that Hagel’s emphasis on high-tech weapons signals a committment to continue ordering the Boeing-made, precision missiles and weapons.
Boeing had no comment on Hagel’s announcement, releasing a statement that said it was too early to speculate on what the proposed budget could mean for Boeing weapon systems.
U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill released a statement on Hagel’s plan:
“While we’ve watched other military aircraft suffer setbacks, the Super Hornet has been battle-tested, and remains one of the most reliable, capable, and cost-effective fighter planes in the world,” McCaskill said,
“I plan to take a hard look at the Pentagon s budget request over the coming weeks, and ensure that decisions are being made based on maintaining the strongest and smartest national security.”
U.S. Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri and Boeing Machinist Union President Gordon King did not return our calls seeking comment.