Slate’s Fred Kaplan has some ideas on how to cut defense spending without cutting back on actual defense. I’ll bullet point his suggestions:
Sorry, but I’m gonna have to disagree w/ you AND Fred Kaplan for the most part on your first coupla program-kills.
First, I’d venture the following: Kaplan is, for the most part, opposed to most defense spending. In particular, he’s opposed to new programs. If you go back and follow his prescriptions, methinks you’d have had us fight the first Gulf War w/ M-60 tanks and F-4s.
Second, he’s DEFINITELY anti-nuclear. So, D-5′s been a hobby-horse the whole time, because of their “first strike” potential (they’re VERY accurate). The older C-4 is much less accurate—”more stable” in the parlance of arms controllers because that meant they would bust cities and not enemy point targets.
Now, these days, whose CITIES would we want to bust, and whose point targets (think: deep, underground shelters holding, say, nuclear reprocessing facilities) might we want to be able to take-out?
Third, he’d have us not increase defense spending enough. And that’s AFTER a ten year or so procurement “holiday,” when we told the services “Wait up, give us time, and you’ll get what you need, LATER.” Well, it’s later, folks.
As for killing the fighter programs:
The problems w/ that are manifold. First, the F-15 line is closed (pretty sure that applies to F-15E, too). So, unless you’re gonna pay butt-loads o’ cash to restart the line, you’re pretty much financially in the same boat, if you’re going to build new aircraft (as opposed to modernizing old airframes). And the F-15, while a fine plane, is nearly thirty years old in design.
You can argue “Hey, nobody’s got anything close.” Well, kinda. The Su-27 isn’t bad, and the Su-37 (iirc) is pretty much an F-15E. Remembering that we don’t want to fight fair, we wanna club baby seals, letting “them” (French, Russians, Chinese) catch up, or even get close, is a bad idea.
F-35? Cancel that and you cripple the British carrier air wings (which are desperately awaiting an AV-8 follow-on, aka F-35). And the F-16 is a twenty year old design (iirc). Lots of new stealth technology, etc., that you can add, but it’s applique, not built-in.
Yeah, the AH-64D is probably a dog, and the Comanche (which hasn’t really gone into production) are probably the easier programs to kill. It’ll be interesting, however, to read the after-action reports on WHY Apaches went down.
Interestingly, however, he never mentions Stryker, the wheeled Army vehicle of the future. If Iraq showed us much, it’s that you’re gonna want stuff that can survive RPG hits and keep on going.
So, I’m not sure just how many programs are out there that we can “safely” cut. Kaplan would cut pretty much anything and everything he could. Don’t cotton much to that line, m’self.
Stephen, you support Army spending? I knew I liked you for a reason.
Dean, you’re dead on: the Stryker is where it’s at. Better kills, better protection, fewer casualties, hard to beat.
If only the Arrow/Green Pine system had gotten tested, the Japanese and South Koreans would be buying up production runs by the billions of Dollars… Yen… whatever South Korea uses?
With regard to military procurement, I’d like to cite an important fact or two:
1. The average warplane is more than twenty-five years old. In fact, the youngest B-52, which is still the mainstay of our air power, is 41 years old — and the Pentagon expects to keep B-52s commissioned until 2050.
2. Military goods get much rougher use than commercial ones do. This applies especially to aircraft, and most especially to naval aircraft, whose every landing is a crash landing. Moreover, whereas commercial pilots are almost always “old gray heads” with twenty or more years’ experience behind the yoke, military pilots are young, come to their tasks with no prior experience, and tend to cycle out far more rapidly than commercial pilots. The same could be said of the people who maintain commercial equipment, vis-a-vis those who maintain military gear.
3. Everything wears out, including missiles and nuclear warheads. In fact, the ongoing deterioration to uselessness of our nuclear deterrent is one of the thorniest problems the U.S. military currently faces. Part of the problem is that the missiles themselves wear out just standing around. I know that’s less than obvious. Another part is that nuclear materials degrade over time, and maintaining them is so difficult, costly and hazardous that it’s almost inevitably skimped on.
4. The ultimate argument for having a powerful military came from someone who ought to know, a certain Douglas MacArthur: “Wars are caused by undefended wealth.” We possess about 30% of the world’s wealth. That makes for a very inviting target, and justifies a lot of defending.
5. More of the cost of running the U.S. defense establishment goes to paying the salaries of bureaucrats than to buying weapons or paying our men at arms. Some of those bureaucrats are needed; others may not be. But reducing their numbers has always been politically more difficult than reducing procurement budgets, because the bureaucrats are protected by Civil Service rules and one of the most powerful unions in history.
So I tend to take an indulgent view of weapons procurement spending.
What part of North Korea can hit L.A. or Seattle does Kaplan not understand?
Please don’t cancel the F-22. I live near the plant that’s building them and am a member of the Lockheed credit union. (yes, you may call me or my congressman Porky Pig)
And, if you’ll allow me a testosterone moment, is the A-10 not the most badass aircraft ever invented?
That’s all I got to say, I’m just not up for dishing out hard core analysis today.
Said with a smile, of course. You know why.
The F-16 design isn’t twenty years old. It’s closer to thirty years old. The first production F-16 flew in December 1976; the prototype rollout was three years prior to that. Still, IOC wasn’t reached until 1980, but the design is much older than that.
It’s certainly true that our aircraft are getting old. But so what? Who is it we can’t whip the snot out of in three weeks? Much better to “skip a generation” and fund R&D instead.
We’re able to replace more and more manned aircraft with drunes and missiles. Let’s continue that trend. The pilot is now the biggest impediment to improving our airpower, not to mention a human asset that’s being put at risk.
First, I’m a B-52 pilot and I fly the most bad-ass plane ever made! (A-10 is close second). Now to your critique of defense spending.
F-22 will be the mainstay of our air-to-air defense for decades. F-15 has competitors who can lower are kill ratio down to unacceptable levels (Dean is totally correct – the idea IS to club baby seals – if we lose so goes your freedoms, what kind of margin are YOU willing to give our enemies). F-22 will probably keep a nice 10+ to 1 ratio for a long time to come. Stretch out costs a lot more than running the factories round the clock (I worked $ in pentagon).
Both F-16 and F-15 are at/near their useful operational life. They are approaching the maintenance cost curve that goes vertical. Both F-22 and F-35 will lower costs AND give greater operational utility. The B-52 was built with sliderules and got lucky to be grossly overdesigned and electrically overpowered. It is the cheapest plane in the inventory to modify and add weapons to and carries the greatest range of weaponry (from JDAMs, sea mines, dumb bombs, CALCM, LGBs, and the bottled sunshine).
Dean is correct about the D-5. I just can’t comment on it…
The US Army helicopter fleet is in much the same way as the fighters. They are old and need replacing and the cost of buying Apaches is about the same as the new aircraft (especially true once the R&D cost have been spent – see B-2 Bomber).
As for missile defense. Stop one scud from impacting ANY US city would justify all the millions spent on it. And I don’t buy the argument that we could use that money to help others and make them like us – thus negating the need. McArthur was right.
Lastly, the US defense budget as a % of GDP is almost insignificant and is just a small part of the US federal budget. Unfortuanately for the military its budget is considered 100% discretionary, unlike Social Security. If you want to really save money you need to shorten production runs – not lengthen.
That’s my two cents
The one thing you all seem to be forgetting is that if the F22 and the F35 (JSF) are cancelled, Lockheed Martin (the last fighter jet manufacturer in the country) would be bankrupt in about five years. Then there wouldn’t be anyone left to build you jets when you need them. Boeing is done with fighter jets. BAE isnt’ nearly large enough to handle the production of hundreds of figher jets all by themselves. No one is.
Not that I’m advocating the procution of multi-million dollar planes just to keep a company in business. But it should at least be a concern that there is only one company left making these planes.
I agree with much of what you say, but to say that Defense spending is “just a small part of the US federal budget” is just, well, not right. It is easily the largest discretionary expenditure in the budget. For FY 2002, it was $348.6 billion, or 17.3% of the entire federal budget. And that doesn’t count veterans’ benefits, intelligence, or anything other than just the on-the-books budget for DOD. See the OMB figures.
As for the size of the defense budget, can you think of another federal program that we, as U.S. citizens, get a better return on? Today we discovered that overall worldwide terrorists attacks were the lowest in 30 years (granted, I have no idea how they are defining those attacks). Also, the existense of our military is one of the biggest examples of foreign aid in the history of the world. How many U.S. allies defer defense spending in favor of social programs because of the American military shield? Lastly, I read after the Afghan campaign that the U.S. military, as a % of GDP, was half what it was under Reagan. That’s impressive.
And I’m not trying to minimize the importance of watching the size of the budget and individual expenditures. Lord knows, defense procurement is as corrupt and ineffecient as any other government process. And my local economy is greatly impacted by the jobs maintained by the F-22 which has made costs overuns standard operating procedure. These are all important critiques which one would hope our elected officials would take seriously. But still, our military provides a fantastic return. You know, the arsenal of democracy and all that.
I’m certainly no expert on munitions, but I agree with the idea that shorter production runs of any goods are the better way to go as a general rule of thumb.
I realize we are the only major super power around now, but our military strength since WWII has been tied directly to innovative economic strength. Like any major company, start cutting R& D and you’re in trouble.
It is arrogant to think the U.S. is especially gifted militarily without its vastly superior weapons and training. The civilian population has a much lower tolerance for casualties and is unable to stomach a drawn out war.
With respect to the number of Apache helicopters lost in combat, Aviation Week is reporting that the problem may be due more to the Army’s tactical usage than to the helicopter itself. The Marines had a far lower loss rate with their older Cobras.
Although a USAF vet, I have to agree with the previous post that suggested giving the A-10s to the Army. But then, the Airdales have always given short shift to Close Air.
Keep the f-35, replace all the f-16′s and f-18′s and harriers. Get rid of the apache, replace with a new contract for A-10′s. Develop the cancelled 2 seat A-10 scout version.
Find a replacement for the long in the tooth f-14, possibly an navalized version of the f-22. Navy could use some strealth aircraft on those decks.
keep missle defense. make it mobile ( think aegis cruisers) has anyone noticed that the partriot seemed to work pretty well this time?
Develop heavy lift aircraft and I mean heavy HEAVY lift. Im talking ground effects aircraft like the ekranoplan.Boeing is working on the “Pelican” proposal. We need to move a divison of men and materials anywhee in the world in 72 hours ready to fight to 60 days, at a moments notice and kep them supplied.
I have zero expertise in this area, but it seems to me that U.S. miltary doctrine revolves around absolute, total, dominance in the air, so forgoing the F-22 and F-35 seems to be a bad idea. The rest of the world may be way behind, but is not completely populated with dunces. There are smart, motivated, people out there who wish to do this nation harm, and air superirority is not an area where suprises can be tolerated. The only caveat I would add is that the first nation that effectively fields fully capable unmanned combat aircraft IS going to have air superiority, so it had better be the United States that gets there first.
frank’s point about true heavy lift capability seems to be where the obvious weakness is in current U.S. capabilities. It just takes too damn long to insure that the U.S. is ” the firstest with the mostest”.
I, too have very limited expertise in this area, but I do agree that total air superiority is an important standard to maintain, and I also agree we desperately need to work on the heavy lift capacity. The job of getting men and materiel from point A to point B is a dull subject, but second only to air power in how decisive it is on the battlefield. With better lift capacities, we might have been able to do this sooner and not stall at the UN so dang long.
On the general point of total spending, I agree, no cuts simply redirections within to where it does the most good. The 90′s saw only the defense budget take real cuts (as opposed to the scaling back of increases passed off as cuts). but this is the only truly essential part of the US budget.
The Army can’t have fixed-wings rule has got to go. Give them A-10s and reserve choppers for moving troops.
The heavy-lift aircraft we have now are about as big as practical and bigger than can fit into most airfields. If we want more airlift, we should buy more planes, not new ones. If we want to move tanks, buy fast ships.
And however we get the money for it we need a whole division of military police. Between peacekeeping and occupation duties there’s plenty of work for them.
I hope it’s not terribly old news that the A-10 is getting a body lift, of sorts. New avionics, dontcha know. So it’ll be able to do much, much more.
Not dead yet. Not dead by a long shot.
I’m afraid I REALLY have to disagree with you on the issue of MPs and peacekeeping.
The US military is so effective for precisely the same reasons that we don’t do peacekeeping well.
What are the rules-of-engagement for peacekeeping? Generally speaking:
Minimal use of force.
Breaking few things.
Forebearance, even in the face of being shot at.
You really want a piece of the US military to be accustomed THAT kind of ROE?
Any MP or other unit that is trained and raised to fight w/ those ROEs will be useless in wartime. And unless you’re prepared to disband one of the ten regular divisions or three USMC divisions to do this, it means removing real combat troops from the line.
We don’t do peacekeeping all that well (notice we tend to spend an awful lot of time on force protection, which kinda defeats the purpose). That’s in part, of course, b/c bad guys from al-Qaeda to Mohammed Aideed figger that a dead American is worth a dozen dead Pakistanis or Fijians.
TO: Stephen Green
RE: A10s for the Army
The Army should get the A10s and the personnel and money that are required for them.
This almost happened in the early 90s when the AF first started whining about having to maintain them to a Congressional panel during budgetary talks. The Army came on next and simply stated that if the AF didn’t want them, then the Army, which needed them, would be happy to take them off their hands.
The AF back-peddled quickly.
Looks like it’s time to make it final.
P.S. JAATs Joint Air Attack Teams [A10s and AH64s playing tag-team on a target] work best.
> You really want a piece of the US military to be accustomed THAT kind of ROE?
Yes. Go read http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/2001/10/langewiesche.htm on how hard it is to switch units between war and peacekeeping. We have those responsibilities, we need to have units that can carry them out, and we also need to have the troops who can handle occupation duty in Baghdad as their specialty instead of winging it. We may need more in Iraq, and there’ll probably be another country or three we have to supply occupation forces for before WWIV is over.
Ideally we’d add a division to force to provide the MPs, but whether we convert a division or add one or arm the Peace Corps we’re going to need people who can do those functions. There’s a lot more work for them now than there used to be.
I remember reading the press coverage during the Clinton Administration about how “vital” peacekeeping was, and how units were never reduced in readiness, despite doing peacekeeping.
Folks I knew who tracked Army readiness (and let’s face it, it really IS an Army mission) also said, universally, that the press coverage was complete and utter bulls**t.
Units without NCOs or spare parts for certain key equipment, because they’d been stripped to support other units off to Haiti and Bosnia. Units that couldn’t deploy EXCEPT for a war (meaning, no shows of force) because their personnel had run up against their non-wartime deployments, doing all sorts of peacekeeping operations. Oh, and maintaining readiness for little things like Afghanistan and Iraq, while supporting (3:1 rule) deployments to every nitnoid country and place that a UN mission could be applied to.
Well, if we’re going to have another country or three, then let’s keep priorities straight and first things first. That means combat forces, not units who will get themselves killed if they wind up going to a real war zone.
RE: Readiness & the Clinton Administration
“…how units were never reduced in readiness, despite doing peacekeeping.” — Dean citing the CA
During that period I was part of a group that planned, coordinated, executed and evaluated readiness in a 14-state region.
It sucked, materially. And without the ability to roll the tanks, tracks and trucks, you don’t get much useful training.
I suspect part of the drawn-out approach to Iraq was to allow for more training time for the troops. That activity in Afghanistan, especially with the 10th “We Don’t Do…” Mountain division was an interesting eye-opener. A glimpse into what the Army had become.
P.S. The 10th should come home to Colorado, Fort Carson and Camp Hale and do mountains right.
P.P.S. Leadville could use the boost in business.
Re the A-10: if the AF doesn’t want them, and the Army can’t have fixed-wing, why not let the Marines try them out? I seem to recall close air support being something they’re good at, and the A-10 is built for it.
I was an MP, and half of our combat training was done with “peacekeeping” in mind. The MP Corps is the 3rd most used MOS in the Army. SF is #1, and Combat Engineers are #2, the last time I checked. I don’t know if an entire division of MP’s would be a good thing, however. I won’t take up bandwidth over the matter, however.
Let the Army take over the A-10′s, if the AF doesn’t want them. They’re well suited to Army use. This doesn’t negate the need for the Apaches, but it makes the Army less reliant on them for every problem.
Missle defence….. what more can I say except that it’s already proven it’s use in the Middle East. Improving it will be a good thing. Killing it? Bad. Very bad.
It’s begging the question. How many programs need cutting if you restore the defence budget to Reagan-era levels? That should be the aim-point. Screw prescription drugs.
when you fall asleep tonite you will have your answer
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