According to the Washington Times, the U. S. military under Obama has shed so many troops and weapons that it is “only marginally able” to defend the nation.  At least one Republican presidential nominee, Ted Cruz, has laid out detailed plans for rebuilding our nation’s military, and a recent revelation about Navy SEALs starkly illustrates exactly how important this goal actually is.

SEALs who’ve met with Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA) have confided that the Navy is so short of combat rifles that SEALs have to share them, rotating rifles amongst returning and deploying teams.

CBS News reports:

Navy SEAL teams don’t have enough combat rifles to go around, even as these highly trained forces are relied on more than ever to carry out counterterrorism operations and other secretive missions, according to SEALs who have confided in Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.

After SEALs return from a deployment, their rifles are given to other commandos who are shipping out, said Hunter, a former Marine who served three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. This weapons carousel undercuts the “train like you fight” ethos of the U.S. special operations forces, they said.

According to Hunter, money is not the problem, and citing one reason for the problem, a SEAL explains that the slow-moving bureaucracy can take as long four years to approve new combat rifle purchases.

CBS News continues:

The problem isn’t a lack of money, according to Hunter. Congress has frequently boosted the budgets of special operations forces in the years since the 9/11 attacks, he said. Rifles also are among the least expensive items the military buys, leading Hunter to question the priorities of Naval Special Warfare Command, the Coronado, California, organization that oversees the SEALs.

“There is so much wasteful spending,” he said. “Money is not reaching the people it needs to reach.”

Combat rifles can cost up to several thousand dollars depending upon the type of weapon and quality of the sights and other attachments. But the M-4 carbine, the standard combat rifle used by the military branches, cost less than $1,000 each when bought in bulk, according to Defense Department budget documents.

. . . . One of the SEALs who contacted Hunter blamed a slow, penny-pinching bureaucracy that rarely seeks input from the service members who use the gear, according to a brief excerpt of his comments that the congressman’s office provided to The Associated Press.

Delays of as long as three to four years paralyze the acquisition system, the SEAL said. Once an item has finally been approved for purchase, new and better gear may be available, triggering the same lengthy screening process to see if it’s worth getting instead.

Watch the report:

Strangely, ammunition is also in short supply for our Navy SEALs.  It’s strange because there have been reports for years that executive agencies like the Social Security Administration and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been buying ammunition in massive quantities.  Representative Jeff Duncan (R-SC) has posted on his website about why these agencies need ammo, particularly hollow points, but it’s not clear why we can’t afford ammunition for our nation’s elite special forces, those tasked with keeping this nation safe, rather than for Social Security fraud cases or for the U. S. Fisheries department who apparently need to stop fish-related crime.  The United States Post Office, too, has bought an awful lot ammo for reasons that are not entirely clear.  Granted, the monies for these executive agencies and the Pentagon are dispersed separately and via different means, but it’s hard to reconcile a law enforcement agent from the Post Office having access to ammunition when our SEALs do not.

SEALs who “train as they fight,” with live ammunition, have been unable to meet the standards of SEAL training because they are short on live ammunition.  According to CBS News, “Ammunition also is in short supply for training, the SEAL said, because the bulk of it is being used for combat missions.”

The Navy Times reveals that operators are using their own money to purchase parts of their own gear, including helmets and night-vision and laser attachments.

Hunter’s questioning comes a week after he invited a former active-duty operator and current reservist Lt. Cmdr. Sean Matson, who owns a military gear company, to Capitol Hill to discuss these readiness woes, as reported by Stars and Stripes.

Matson said that, as an example, he had to put up $900 of his own money to buy a high-quality ballistic helmet when the Navy dragged its heels on upgrading his kit.

Hunter blames the issue on the command’s supply chain, for not issuing the gear the SEALs have asked for quickly enough to make a difference.

“There are also reports of a lack of optics, night vision and laser attachments,” Joe Kasper, Hunter’s chief of staff, told Navy Times. “All this has happened while the [Operations and Maintenance] budget for Navy Special Warfare has increased.  So there are obviously some trade-offs being made, but they’re occurring at the expense of operators and their firepower — and those are the absolute worst trade-offs to make.”

One of the problems cited by Hunter and reported in the Navy Times is that special operators calibrate their weapons for their own personal use and requirements; handing off their weapon to another operator means it must be recalibrated for that man.

Hunter’s questioning follows a Feb. 17 letter his office sent to Losey and NSW, arguing it’s a problem that some SEALs say they’re under-trained -equipped despite their millions of dollars in recent budget boosts.

“More concerning, it is my understanding that there aren’t enough weapons for SEAL teams — let alone an individual operator — to have their own weapons,” Hunter wrote. “As it currently stands, following a deployment, a SEAL will have his weapon taken from him, which has been fine-tuned to certain specifications, and given to a different operator to use. This means that SEALs standing by to deploy are waiting for different teams to come back stateside just so they can use their weapons.”

Fox News reports:

Sharing rifles may seem inconsequential. It’s not. The weapons, which are outfitted with telescopic targeting sights and laser pointers, are fine-tuned to individual specifications and become intensely personal pieces of gear.

“They want their rifles,” Hunter said. “It’s their lifeline. So let them keep their guns until they’re assigned desk jobs at the Pentagon.”

Hear, hear!