More than a dozen United States servicemen have died in six separate aviation accidents over the past three weeks. Seven died just last week.
The accidents are becoming more commonplace, and according to a new study from the Military Times, there’s a reason for that: Defense budget cuts that came under former President Barack Obama’s command.
What did the study find?
The study concluded that from 2013 to 2017, military aviation accidents rose 40 percent while doubling for Navy and Marine F/A-18 pilots, the Times reported.
The accidents resulted in the deaths of 133 military personnel.
And, according to the Times, the accidents and deaths are directly tied to “massive” defense budget cuts in 2013. Making matters worse are “non-stop" deployments, reductions in pilot training time and an “exodus” of flight service crews.
Retired Air Force Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle told the Times: "We are reaping the benefits — or the tragedies — that we got into back in sequestration."
He added that the increase is "actually a lagging indicator. By the time you’re having accidents, and the accident rates are increasing, then you’ve already gone down a path."
The 2013 budget sequestration eliminated 7.8 percent from the military's budget, cutting it to $640 billion from $690 billion in 2012.
Chuck Hagel, who was defense secretary when the cuts were made, told the Times he isn't surprised by the increase in aviation accidents, blaming the sharp increase on inadequate readiness.
"We stopped training, for months. Of course, all of that affected readiness. It’s had an impact on every part of our defense enterprise. And that means, surely, accidents," he said.
What is the Pentagon saying under Trump's command?
Joint Staff director Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said last week at a weekly Pentagon briefing:
I would reject "wave" and "crisis." Those are mishaps that occurred. We’re going to look at each one in turn. Each one is tragic. We regret each one. We’ll look at them carefully. I’m certainly not prepared to say that it’s a wave of mishaps or some form of crisis.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary James Mattis, in a memo last year obtained by the Military Times, cautioned against communicating a message of weakness.
"While it can be tempting during budget season to publicly highlight readiness problems, we have to remember that our adversaries watch the news, too," Mattis reportedly said. "Communicating that we are broken, or not ready to fight, invites miscalculation."
What has Trump done since becoming president?
During his campaign, the president promised to increase defense spending levels back to what they were during the early Obama years — and he's followed through on that promise.