Washington's woes worry senior war-fighters about America's might


Senior military leaders, such as retired Adm. John Harvey, believe that Washington’s growing dysfunction is a threat to America’s military might. (Navy photo)

Sailors and their families have grown accustomed to Washington, D.C., showdowns. But this latest one may be the gravest, as the shuttered American government lurches closer to a possible default on its national debt – now about 12 hours away.

A default imperils the government’s ability to pay its bills, including military pay and veterans’ benefits. Economists believe it will throw the world economy into a crisis, as the U.S. is the world’s largest economy and holds the largest debt. And long term it would likely diminish the military’s size and power, as the nation would no longer be able to borrow as much to maintain its armed forces.

Three weeks ago, before the latest showdown, Navy Times spoke to multiple military experts about perceptions that the U.S. Navy may lose its superiority over other fleets in coming years and decades. Our cover story (free for subscribers and Prime members) reported that most analysts dismissed those concerns based on the size and technological advantages that U.S. forces had over all other potential adversaries.

So, what did worry them when it came to America maintaining military superiority?

xxxxxxx (Navy Times staff photo)

Retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis said continued military strength relies on “a robust American economic revival.” (Navy Times staff photo)

This, from retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, former head of U.S. Central Command who oversaw two wars and the world’s most unsettled reason:

“Two things: One, the need for an adapted strategy recognizing our reduced means. And the other is America’s ability to govern itself and to put itself back on a fiscally sustainable footing. We’re on a fiscally unsustainable path right now. The economy’s always been the engine for our national security. There’s no way that that our military power will not erode if a robust American economic revival is not part of the cards. And the dysfunction in Washington right now shows a country unable to govern itself — and that is worth more than 10 battleships to us.”

Mattis, now a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, said the above in a Sept. 26 interview — days before the shutdown.

“The example that America knows how to govern itself is one of the compelling aspects of our national security,” Mattis continued, “And right now, we are not demonstrating that.”

Another symptom of Washington’s dysfunction are the massive “sequestration” cuts, observers say, indiscriminately reducing Pentagon spending by nearly half a trillion dollars over a decade. One former Navy fleet commander said the scale of these cuts was manageable, but that the across-the-board nature of these cuts robs the Navy’s leadership of the ability to set priorities.

From retired Adm. John Harvey, former head of Fleet Forces Command:

“The method we’re going to, the sequestration and the [continuing resolution], ties their hands as to where you go and make your choices. You don’t get to make choices, and that’s the danger. It’s not that we have tough circumstances. It’s that we don’t get to make the choices necessary to deal with those circumstances.”

Harvey said the Navy is accustomed to evolution as priorities and technology and funding fluctuate. But this setup is something altogether different — and possibly dangerous. He continued:

“Ten years from now the Navy’s going to look pretty different. But that’s happened every 10 years. We go through these cycles and our Navy knows how to deal with these cycles and they’re painful sometimes and there’s winners and there’s losers. Ships evolve, planes evolve. But we come out of these things with a Navy that is global, deployable, powerful, sustainable. Because we’ve been able to make choices and to muster the political will to make those choices and make them stick.”

But now, Harvey said, “we’ve defaulted out of choices into mindless cutting. And that leads you to potentially very bad outcomes at the wrong time.”


About Author


  1. A liberal will never have the right to say anything about what is going on in Washington. Because, if it wasn’t for Obama, they wouldn’t be allowed in the military to begin with. Unless they are willing to bite the hand that got them in.

  2. Stephen…a liberal, or a conservative, or a Satanist or a Christian, has the right to say anything they freaking want at any time about what’s going on. It’s called the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and it protects everyone, regardless of their stance on the political spectrum. And liberals have been in the military well before Obama. Not taking a position either for or against liberal vs. conservative. Just need to point out facts.

  3. I’ll be waiting with baited breath for the military-industrial complex crowd.

    I don’t discount MICC but I think there are too many times it’s used in vain or egghead self-gratification and the potential threats from Russia and China and non-assymetrical wars leave us swinging in the wind; there is no time to play catch up, the “come as you are war” is likely around the corner.

    Look at what it took to rebuild from Clinton’s “Peace Dividend” force for OIF/OEF (leaving separate the question of should we have engaged in OIF).

    The only clear national leadership now is implementing “social justice”,”equality” for social deviants and reshaping our military into something that more closely resembles something from the USSR or is it USSA, the lines begin to blur.

    Semper Fi.


  4. Concerned Citizen-Enough Drama please! on

    “United We Stand”, but “Divided We Fall” sounds like a strategic move to ruin our country because we are more divided as a country despite having a “nobel peace-prized” leader. Laws are being passed (the ones the president and his allies choice to pass, anyways) quietly and quickly undermining our freedom, our military intelligence/training has been “brainwashed and scrubbed”, Obama care is more headache that is it palliative, the debt ceiling is constantly being strained and the value of the dollar is quickly dropping while printing money we do not have. In the mean time, diversions and egos are rampant in Washington. Pray that this country wakes and the strong and the brave continue to serve to bring light and truth. In the mean time, be prepared for come what may. Obviously, big government is part of the problem so do not rely on the government. Leave the rest to God+ and do pray for the leadership or lack of leadership.

  5. Stephen, I’ve read your comment several times, and with each time I grow more confused. What the hell is your point? Please elaborate further.

  6. Pingback: One Quote From A Legendary Marine General Perfectly Captures The Risk From Political Gridlock | Lord of the Net

  7. Stephen, Is there some sort of political litmus test that is given at the recruiting office or MEPS that has been implemented since I retired from the navy in 1993 to keep liberals out of uniform? I think “The Gunny” is dead on, isn’t that in the oath we take when we enlist and/or reenlist? To protect and defend, (the last I checked the 1st amendment had not been repealed) am I right? Stephen, if you were ever in uniform yourself, shame on you for forgetting what the oath meant. If not, the following often repeated quote of my deceased father the decorated Korean war vet applies: constitutional rights and money are very much alike, “we all have them but only some of us have earned them”.

Leave A Reply