Lots of pundits have been talking/blogging/pontificating on the President’s promise to veto the NDAA.
The justification offered up by President Obama is that it puts 38 Billion into a slush fund that violates the “spirit” of the budget control act. He’s correct of course, but the budget control act was a particularly crappy bit of legislation that took “10% off the top” and didn’t take into account any of the smarter ways to spend less money such as changing the active/reserve force structure more aggressively.
So vetoing the NDAA will score political points for the President, provide some defense related sideshow headlines not related to Russia or Syria, and generally make life miserable for the bean counters in the Pentagon who have to keep things going, including real world operations across the globe.
In the grand scheme of things getting 81 Strykers into Europe with 30mm cannon systems is an inherently political act in the first place. The disparity of forces between Russia and NATO along Russia’s western border would consider 81 more cannons of any type to be an insignificant rounding error. But since war is an inherently political act, even the equipping of forces to be a slightly more effective speed bump has political consequences.
Other programs will of course be affected, and with the recent elections in Canada the F-35 program will probably get more scrutiny. The Liberal party has a valid point, what does Canada need a first strike capability for? The question whether to equip military forces for expeditionary (offensive) operations or for homeland defense is a valid one, and the F-35 has never been a good fit for Canada. Other arctic countries like Norway, Sweden, and Finland have operated single engine fighter aircraft for decades, but mainly in a “point defense” role because of proximity to Russia. Comparing any of the Scandinavian countries maritime responsibilities in NATO to Canada is a bit tricky.
Although I find it ironic that at least one pundit claimed that keeping other jet fighter (F/A-18 and Rafale specifically) production lines open would hurt the F-35 program because it would offer free market options to consumers. I would say that if your product cannot compete on the free market, that’s your fault and not the market’s fault.
Another point to bring up, about Canada and NATO, is that the alliance plans to fight as an alliance. The fact that Greece doesn’t have a stealth fighter doesn’t mean Greece gets kicked out of the club. So NATO members as a whole have to question the very purpose of their military, and ask whether equipping them with expeditionary focused capabilities will make it easier for a politician to request to use them in an expeditionary manner. The US and Canada are sitting pretty on another continent, but Bulgaria and Romania are intimately connected to Moscow geographically and economically, even if they seek to distance themselves politically.
So in itself, the NDAA veto is just a blip on the screen. But it is an indicator of trouble under the waters, and is not coming at a good time for a less than united alliance.