In what is sure to excite everyone from war-mongering hawks to peace-loving hippies, the U.S. may have just developed a bomb that will end all threats and get our troops back on American soil.
When I first heard that taxpayer-financed R&D dollars at the Pentagon have resulted in the creation of a bomb that can be launched from any point on the planet to target any other spot on Earth – within an HOUR – my testosterone started pumping. I’m no military strategist, but add the fact that the target will not even hear the missile coming and one term comes to mind: “game changer.”
The new Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW) project has created flying bombs capable of traveling up to 16,000 miles per hour, nearly 21 times the speed of sound, are fully maneuverable, and able to hit the other side of the planet more than 12,000 miles away in the time it takes to get Chinese takeout. No, this is not a Sci-Fi Channel movie preview.
Lookout al-Qaeda: the only sounds you’re going to hear are the footsteps of your approaching 72 virgins.
But, with a price tag that has already hit $240 million this year ($69 million just on the recent AHW test), according to the Congressional Research Service, and a Defense budget that is expected to see drastic cuts in the near future, many are wondering whether or not we can afford these kinds of investments.
In reality, we can’t afford not to.
Although China and Russia aren’t considered enemies, they aren’t exactly staunch allies either. Both continue to demonstrate just how badly they want to become dominant military superpowers. Chinese defense spending has increased more than 10% each year over the last 20 years and is now expected to be close to $150 billion this year. With that money they have managed to create their own stealth fighter jet, an aircraft carrier, an advanced naval fleet and and anti-ship missiles, all of which are threatening U.S. dominance in the Pacific.
Since 2000, Russia has more than doubled its defense spending, with plans to increase it by another 60% by 2013. Russia further plans to update its military by investing more than $650 billion over the next decade. Forget gold – I’m going to invest in Russian defense contractors.
Both countries’ spending pales in comparison to the U.S.’s yearly defense budget of nearly $700 billion, but the difference is where the money is spent. As the U.S. defense budget has been targeted for cuts within programs designed to modernize and advance our fighting capabilities, China and Russia are spending the bulk of their dollars on doing the opposite.
Most consider worldwide stability dependent upon the U.S.’s military superiority over other countries. But what if our investments in military spending were spent more wisely, giving us a strategic advantage that doesn’t inherently create a fiscal and economic disadvantage?
Clearly that is the intent of the AHW program. With the capability of accurately destroying enemy targets from safe locations back in the U.S., the need to maintain high troop levels across the globe can be reduced. Even Cindy Sheehan and George W. Bush can agree on the benefits of this strategy.
I hear over and over the argument made that we need to outspend our enemies, no matter the cost. At a time when our debt has reached more than $15 trillion, our military is spread thin in conflicts around the world, and the so-called “super committee” can’t get its act together, we have to make a choice between our national defense and our national economy.
In reality, however, the answer is not what we spend, but how we spend it. The new AHW program may not be the be all and end all, but developments like this will help us maintain military dominance, decrease unnecessary spending in conflict theaters around the world, and is one of our last hopes for actually bringing our troops home without risking national security.
If nothing else, at least the U.S. can continue to brag that we have the biggest and baddest guns in the world. As a member of the military, with thousands of my brothers and sisters overseas fighting enemies who wish they could say the same, that’s good enough for me. (Cue patriotic song of your choice).
Justin Vélez-Hagan is Senior Contributing Writer and Commentator for Politic365.com. He is also the National Executive Director of The National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce, an international developer of senior living facilities and a reservist in the U.S. Air Force. He can be reached at Justin@Politic365.com.