“When I take a look at capabilities, putting Marines from the ocean to the land,
it’s a basic requirement. And, to me, that’s a principal thing that I’m not flexible
on. I’m not willing to give that up. And if the Marine Corps does not have a
good way to do it — and I’m open minded, I don’t care if they want to take
them by submarine or they want to take them by Batmobile, I don’t care.”
So, what’s happened? Well, entitlements have gone
from 2. 5 percent of GDP in 1965, where defense was at
7. 8 percent. Now defense spending is down to 4 something percent, so it’s been cut a significant percentage.
Entitlements, if you just do Medicare, Medicaid and
Social Security, now it’s 9. 9 percent. But you add those
other things, you’re coming up pretty close to 18 percent
because the numbers are about equivalent. You’ve gone
from 2. 5 percent to somewhat well over 10 percent.
That’s a four times growth in entitlements, to the point
where the entitlements are eating the entire budget.
You can’t fix the problem with raising taxes. That 18
percent is just going to chug along there, probably. And
you can’t fix the problem with cutting defense, not that
you don’t look for places that you can save money. …
I want to do everything we can to spend money
wisely and I’m sure there’s a lot of waste in Pentagon
spending, but when I take a look at capabilities, putting Marines from the ocean to the land, it’s a basic
requirement. And, to me, that’s a principal thing that
I’m not flexible on. I’m not willing to give that up. And
if the Marine Corps does not have a good way to do it
— and I’m open minded, I don’t care if they want to
take them by submarine or they want to take them by
Batmobile, I don’t care.
I’m not wedded to the EFV. I just want to know how
you’re going to do it. In our world, when you have to
fight a fight, when the people on the shore with missiles that can reach out a long way, and the Navy is
going to be a little goosey about getting themselves
inside the line-of-sight at 12 miles, how are you going
to get people from there over to here and have enough
flexibility and speed that you can travel that shoreline,
that you’ve got some chance to kick a door down
where there’s not too big a door? That’s non-negotiable
to me, because we have that requirement.
The Navy has long sought a minimum-sized fleet
of 313 ships. Do you think that’s achievable?
AKIN: Are you talking about politically? Sure. If we
have the will to do it, it’s achievable. The big question
is whether or not the American public will elect people
who will cut entitlements. That’s the question. That’s
the bottom line. It’s not putting it in very nice political
context, but if you allow entitlements to grow, there
won’t be a Navy at all. Really, it’s that simple.
What concerns do you have about the future of
the shipbuilding sector of the defense industry?
With Northrop Grumman pulling out of shipbuilding, how does the United States retain that
capability and expertise even as orders decline?
AKIN: The thing that’s sustained us in the different
wars that we’ve had is because we had an industrial
base. That’s absolutely essential to winning conflicts.
And our industrial base is becoming thinner and thinner, so I’m extremely concerned about that.
Unfortunately, the solution to that is the very thing
we’ve been pushing politically for years, but we don’t
have the political power to make it work. That is ( 1)
cut taxes, ( 2) cut red tape, ( 3) make sure there is certainty and create a playing field without so much government spending and so much regulation that free
enterprise can produce a product at a competitive price
in America. But what’s happening is that we bury our
companies in taxes, in government regulations, in
uncertainties and it becomes far cheaper to build product overseas, and then we lose our industrial base. And
once that’s lost it’s not so fast to get it back.
Gates has proposed increasing the F/A- 18 Super
Hornet program by 41 aircraft as a hedge
against the F- 35 program slipping further. What
is your take on the prospects for the F- 35, particularly the F-35B short-takeoff/vertical-landing
(STOVL) version for the Marine Corps?
AKIN: I have tried strenuously not to throw any rocks
at the JSF program for several reasons. One, there is
already enough animosity between Boeing and
Lockheed and I don’t need to add to the mix. The second thing is that, being an engineer, I’m aware that
when you design complicated systems it’s always tough
to do that. No matter who you have doing that, it
doesn’t surprise me that it’s complicated because I’ve
tried to put my Buick engine inside my MG and I know
what that’s like. Things you’re not expecting are going