I confess up front to being a budget hawk. I basically believe that as long as the Pentagon is still buying two manned fighter planes after the unmanned revolution, there is more than enough money going to the Defense Department—because if money were really tight, one or both of those programs would be cancelled, and the military services would be undercutting each other's budgets to increase the funding available for their priorities. As long as adaptation to obvious next-generation platforms (like unmanned aerial fighters) remains this slow and the services placidly accept their budget shares, the topline is adequate.
But even I am now nervous about the widening gap between America’s military obligations and the resourcing we are committing. What’s worsening the situation is that the Trump administration is both expanding requirements and contracting spending.
Since taking office, President Trump and his defense secretary have approved an increase in both forces and operational tempo in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria; committed to an enduring presence in Iraq after the defeat of ISIS; are considering an imminent increase of at least 4,000 troops to Afghanistan as part of the advise and assist mission to Afghan National Security Forces; are reviewing an Afghan war strategy that could make weightier demands of long duration to that country; have increased the military assets assigned to deter and if necessary engage North Korea; are providing greater intelligence and special-operations support to allied operations in Yemen; and are pushing back assertively on Iranian naval activity. Those are non-trivial expansions of demand to place on an already over-stretched force.