Since World War 2, America has been the world's leading superpower, but in just a few years, while President Obama is still in office, the nation could lose its top ranking.

The Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development is one of a number of international think tanks that sees China overtaking the U.S. in global economic influence by the end of 2016.

The rise in China's military spending should also concern the Pentagon and this administration, especially in light of the deep sequestration cuts looming in America's defense budget. China's defense spending has risen from about $20 billion in 2002 to at least $120 billion in 2011. When one considers the percentage of GDP, Russia, the other world superpower, may also surpass the U.S. in defense spending in just two years.

"You've seen double-digit increases in Chinese defense spending for more than 15 years now," said Jim Thomas, with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. "And that really should not only give pause to the United States, but it really should be a source of concern for the countries in the region as well."

The sequestration set to take effect would mean almost $500 billion in Pentagon cuts over 10 years. In a recent address at Georgetown University, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned that the $46 billion in reduced spending for this year alone would result in "a serious disruption in defense programs and a sharp decline in our military readiness."

As a result of sequester, Panetta said America will turn into a second-rate power in the world.

Others argue that the defense cuts will put our troops in jeopardy, leave the nation vulnerable and project an image of global weakness. In just one example, the USS Truman was slated to deploy next month to the Persian Gulf but that deployment was canceled.

With an American defense budget totaling $695.7 billion, there is obvious bloating. According to The American Conservative, pork barrel spending and Washington corruption are responsible for much of the waste.

During World War 2, contracts were awarded to the most efficient or cost effective companies. Today, many weapons contracts are political bargaining chips, going to congressional districts with the most influential congressmen and best lobbyists. In return, congressmen are given donations for their political campaigns from the same companies.

The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, America's newest stealth fighter aircraft, had 1,000 suppliers in 44 states. The F-35, another multi-role fighter with a price tag of about $300 million per plane, has 1,300 suppliers in 45 states in key congressional districts.

Suppliers having plum contracts can stick the Pentagon with outrageous costs for things they might not even need. In one example, an oil pan cost the Pentagon $17,000.

Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn blames sequestration on the lack of leadership in Washington, from the president on down, for failing to recognize what the problem is. He reminds us that while the U.S. considers cuts in defense, our adversaries including China and Russia continue to build their military.

What should disgust every citizen is when America's defense readiness is put at risk by a president and congressmen who are driven by politics rather than the sound judgment and common sense it takes to keep America first.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com [1]