Some people have hailed the 1990s as an era of a “peace dividend” and balanced budgets while praising President Clinton and House Speaker Gingrich for the defense spending cuts they orchestrated.
The 1990s was a dismal era. During that period, the Bush Administration and the Clinton Administration wrecked the US military, making it decrepit and impotent. A few examples:
1) “The AH-64 played roles in the Balkans during separate conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s. During these deployments the Apache encountered problems such as deficiencies in training, night vision equipment, fuel tanks, and survivability. On 27 April 1999 an Apache crashed during training in Albania due to a failure with the tail rotor, causing the entire fleet in the Balkans to be grounded in December 2000. Major General Dick Cody, commanding officer of the 101st Airborne at the time, wrote a strongly worded memo to the US Army Chief of Staff about the failures in training and equipment.” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AH-64_Apache
2) The USAF’s fighterplane fleet, like the rest of the military, decayed. The GS website says this about the defense cuts of the 1990s:
“The readiness of America’s Armed Forces generally deteriorated throughout the 1990s. During this time, combat readiness of the Air Force fighter aircraft declined in varying degrees. One indicator of aircraft combat readiness, the mission capable (MC) rate, is used to identify the percentage of aircraft able to perform their primary wartime missions. The not mission capable (NMC) rate shows the converse. From fiscal year (FY) 1991 through fall 2001, the aggregate Air Force aircraft total not mission capable rate for maintenance (TNMCM) for all aircraft steadily increased from 7.6 percent to 18.1 percent while total not mission capable rate for supply (TNMCS) increased from 5.5 percent in FY86 to 13.4 percent in FY01.
The F-16 “sustainment crisis” in the late 1990s resulted from an inadequate life-cycle sustainment strategy, which negatively affected aircraft readiness. Preliminary analysis obtained from AFLMA’s TNMCM study of the F-16 block 42 aircraft revealed the total man-hours expended on TCTOs increased 120 percent from FY95 to FY99 and the man-hours per TCTO event increased 69 percent, indicating TCTOs may be becoming more manpower intensive and technically challenging. The analysis also indicated that low manning and fewer experienced technicians contributed to increases in man-hours required to complete them.
As a system’s cumulative operating time increases, the probability of its failure tends to increase, decreasing the system’s potential reliability. Reliability also decreases when the conditions under which the system was designed to operate change. Many of these aircraft are at critical points in their life cycles. For example, by 2001 many F-16s had reached 2,400 hours flying time, a significant point in an 8,000-hour service life. As these aircraft age and operating conditions changed, the reliability of systems and components decreases, and failures occur more often, which increased maintenance costs. Increased failures affect aircraft maintainability, requiring more maintenance and often increasing repair times when more hard breaks occur. In the case of the F-16, operational usage had been more severe than design usage (eight times more), resulting in the acceleration of its airframe service life at a rate that may not let it reach its expected overall service life.
The mission-capable rate for Air Force Reserve F-16s increased from 69.7% in fiscal 2001 to 76.3% during the first three months of fiscal 2002, despite Operation Noble Eagle flight activity.
In the late 1990s, the Air Force Reserve Component [ARC] recognized there was no follow-on replacement for the F-16 and reduced the annual flying-hour program in ANG and AFRC squadrons to 210 airframe hours per year. This number is a generalization with some fighter squadrons flying more to support spinup training and actual overseas AEF deployment rotations of Northern and Southern Watch. However, in 2002 and 2003, the aircraft were flown an average 300 hours per aircraft, way beyond their programmed 210 flying hours used in support of contingencies at home and abroad. Fiscal year (FY) 2002 saw ANG and AFRC aircraft heavily taxed in support of Operation Noble Eagle. Combat air patrol flying conditions were favorable to slow the effect of upper and wing-support bulkhead cracking caused by excessive wing root bending movement. FY03 saw continued support for Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and excessive use of F-16C aircraft supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. These contingencies resulted in additional stress on the bulkheads and airframes alike. This was caused by excessive munition loads and heavy landings to deliver the payload during combat in support of close air support and air interdiction missions.
Simple calculation of 210 airframe and flying hours per year would mean the fleet would be able to support missions for another 19 years. At 300 airframe and flying hours, that number is reduced to 13 years or a 32- percent reduction. These numbers are actual flight hours. To receive a true meaning of the impact on the airframe, one needs to calculate using equivalent flight hours. Equivalent flight hours are the actual accounting of structural degradation that is determined from damage index data stored in the individual aircraft-tracking database, which is part of the aircraft structural integrity program.” (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/aircraft/f-16-life.htm)