As voters go to the polls today, we’ve turned our thoughts to Sequestration and the impact on Defense budgets.
Defense sequestration is widely view as a disaster for national defense and for employment. Sequestration requires a cut of $500bn over 10 years, or $50bn a year. Spending for FY2013 is $902.3bn, according to government figures, excluding the Afghan war. A $50bn cut would be 5.5%.
We certainly acknowledge the adverse impact of cutting $50bn from next year’s budget, but we can’t help but wonder if there isn’t 5% that is “fat.” Parochially, Boeing’s KC-46A tanker is on the hit list for cuts. Given the difficulty it took in getting to this contract and the pressing need to replace the KC-135, we would hope this program would survive.
But we’re thinking on a higher plain.
We’ve been reading a biography of Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency, and his battles with the defense machine—keeping it in check—are pretty well known to students of Ike and his famous last address as president in which he warned of the growing influence of the Military Industrial Complex. This President, a 5-Star General who led the Crusade in Europe, the mightiest Armed Forces in the world, became frustrated with the growing power of the defense interests.
Since then, we’ve had several Secretaries of Defense (McNamara, Cheney, Rumsfeld) and Presidents who wanted to reform the Pentagon. Each failed.
There is a saying that the Generals (and Admirals) want to fight the last war. There’s probably a lot of truth to this. There are some visionaries who recognize that we’re not going to have aircraft carrier-to-aircraft carrier battles nor great ground wars between super-powers.
Wars today are dominated by drones and smart bombs—and cybersecurity. Do we truly need a Navy that is larger than that of 1917, as Mitt Romney suggested during the final presidential debate? If we’re not going to be the world’s policeman (another discussion entirely), the answer is probably not. But what kind of Navy do we need in any event?
Clearly, aircraft carrier battle groups are the most visible means of projecting foreign policy strength. They also bring US power within reach of many areas where we don’t have foreign military bases.
But do we need, as reported in one study, 630 foreign military bases (900 if you count those associated with the Iraq and Afghan wars) in 38 countries? To be sure, there are plenty with fewer than a dozen personnel that act as liaisons. But surely some consolidation seems in order.
So much of our military action now is covert. For this we need submarines to undertake missions and as delivery vehicles for Special Forces. Some argue we should begin building advanced, Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) diesel-electric subs to augment the nuclear fleet. They’re cheaper and they can operate more easily in shallow water. The problem is they still can only cruise submerged at crawling speed and given the vast distances from US bases in Hawaii and the Mainland, it takes forever for these subs to get anywhere. Certainly they could be stationed at advanced bases like Guam, but in an armed conflict with China, their first battle plan is Anti-Access, Access Denied (A2AD). Guam would be an early target, and so would Taiwan and Japan. While theory certainly suggests a role for AIP subs, practicalities suggest otherwise.
There is still a need for an air force. We need to replace the remaining 50 or so Boeing B-52s, all the B-1s and the B-2s. But with what and how many are truly needed for those limited number of missions beyond the range or payload of drones that are cheaper, more mobile and piloted from a remote station eliminating personnel risk?
Unmanned aerial vehicles come under criticism for indiscriminate casualties. Well, pardon us. War is messy and these UAVs and drones allow for pinpoint bombing that beats the hell out of carpet bombing from B-52s as recently as the Iraq War in 2001. So how many bombers are truly needed?
Do we really need a whiz-bang fighter with all the Star Wars gadgets? The air defenses of Afghanistan and Iraq and even Iran certainly aren’t as sophisticated as Russia or even China. Are we building a military to fight terrorists or for the last war?
How many ground troops do we truly need? It certainly was true we woefully under-manned the 2010 Iraq war and the long-running Afghan war. President George W. Bush and SecDef Rumsfeld tried to do both on the cheap. But the nature of warfare’s changing face is clear in the casualty count. In Afghanistan, the longest-running war in US history, we’ve lost the fewest number of servicemen (and women). High tech wars have changed how we fight. How many soldiers and Marines do we really need?
These are highly philosophical, strategic think-topics. But since the Pentagon, and Members of Congress, and Mitt Romney seem more interested in fighting the last war, perhaps Sequestration will force decisions to be made to focus on the next war.
In this, Sequestration might actually have long term beneficial effects despite the short-term gain.
Alas, even with the Gridlock-driven, power-mad Republicans and Democrats in Congress famous for doing nothing rather than the Peoples’ business, we think Sequestration won’t happen.
But maybe it should.
I think the major criticism with the UAVs and drones is how they are used, not that their bombs/missiles have collateral damage.
This how is closely related to where. They are currently deployed in countries the US has not declared war on (Yemen, Pakistan, …) and this creates a very difficult situation ethically, to say the least…
The US says it is in a war with terror and therefore have the right to strike anywhere. Problem is, that is a behavior that is not regulated in any of the international treaties on how to fight wars, and what if the reverse happend? Using the same arguments the US uses.
What if nation X said they are also in a war on terror (but not quite the same terrorists) and decided to use drones to kill a key figure, who happened to be a US citizen living in the US? Would there be nation wide outrage in the US? You bet…
But, and here comes the thing, that would be doing the exact same thing to the US that the US does to some other individual/nation. So why should the US be entitled to complain…? Personally, I think it is not, because I do not believe some nations has more rights than others. And if you do something to another, be prepared to suck it up if some did the same to you. Now, are you?
Without being very versed in international relations etc, this “where and how” is at the center of the criticism against drones/AUVs.
The answer to all your questions,Scott, is yes, we need to maintane defense spending at its current levels.. As in 1917, we live in an increasingly dangerous world. We have the continuing fight with Islamic Extremist (Terrorists) but abroad and here at home. The terror attack at Fort Hood a few years ago, brought that home, again. The terror attack that murdered and raped our Ambassador to Lybia proves, again, that we must be allowed to defend ourselves anywhere in the world.
I have not even touched on the threats of China, Russia, North Korea, or Iran. Why? Because once those threats are removed, either through diplomancy or military action, some other country(s) will fill in their place. It is what I call the King of the World syndrome. Some two bit dictator will always try to emerge as the King of the World……for life.
You say, and I agree with you, you hope the KC-46 doesn’t take a big hit under sequestration. But if we have no new bombers, fighters, recce, and command and control airplanes, who will the new tankers refuel? Drones? No drones are not the full answer, they are only part of what needs to be a wide array of defense options. Fewer Navy warships? How are we going to protect our sea going trade and keep the shipping lanes open? We have help with our allies doing that now, from the UK, Germany, France, Japan, and a few others. But most of those countries are also cutting defense spending, too. The Royal Navy needs both CVFs currently under construction, but there are those UK politicians who would rather spend monies on social progras rather than defense. After all that keeps these politicians in office. The UK politicians are far from alone in that respect. The US politicians probably lead the world in that spending catagory, and for the same reasons. In the US, politicians are only defense hawks for defense contractors in their districts, or home state. Just look at your own state of Washington’s US Senate race. Both candidates are saying the same thing about protecting Boeing. But, come January, when the winner of that election is finally sworn into the Congress, they will forget all about Boeing, as Senator Patty Murray did when she was reelected in 2010.
Don’t get me wrong, Scott. I am not blindly supporting all of the current defense weapons programs. I have serious problems with the F-35, and that airplane will be built right down the street from me here in Fort Worth, at the LM plant. I also have problems with the lightly armed LCS program. Let’s get real on that, a 57mm main gun to fight in the littorials against shore based artillary up to 155mm guns? That brings up a WTF were they thinking? I also have doubts about a $250K general purpose vehicle to replace the Hummer.
Serious thought must be given when spending the taxpayer’s money on military weapons programs. This cosy relationship between defense contractors and DOD, which allows retiring military officers to go to work for the company they want to sell weapons to has got to stop. Retired USAF Gen. Light (SP) selecting the KC-45 in the 2008 KC-X compitition, then going to work for EADS-NA after he retired in 2010 only shows that relationship is too close. Boeing did this, too back in 2003, but it was a defense official and not a military officer. LM, GD, NG, and others have also done it.
Perhaps what we need is a third party to manage these defense procurment programs that are in the billions to hundreds of billions of dollars? Don’t let DOD, or the contractors manage them.
It is hard to believe that we live in the same world 😉
Dumbness is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results.
Now then look at the US sitting in a rising storm of blowback from worldwide military preemption and clandestine intervention over at least 6 decades.
Actually that’s the definition of insanity.
I fear the only effect of introducing a third party in the mayor defense contracts is to corrupt a new set of players and further muddle the waters and create opportunity for misbehavior.
On your assumption of needing a strong military to keep at bay the next “two bit dictator” at bay. Try to turn that reasoning around and look at how the US uses it’s overwhelming military force. You kill innocents in Afghanistan and instigate and support rebellion in the middle east. The first is never intentional, but it does happen. The second may stem from pure and good motivations – bringing democracy, justice and pace- but brings horror and despair to the locals…
In both cases, the US is being a bully. Doing what it thinks is good and right with too little regard for the local sentiments and effects. A “we know best approach”, which apparently doesn’t work as intended.
Maybe there is a better answer than military might?
and if you’re going to complain about something bad happening to someone stationed in a dangerous area… Than just looks silly and childish.
“Military-Industrial-Congressional” complex. Ike left out the last part. Today, the members of Congress for the most part send other people’s kids off to fight and die, while the chattering classes is busy parroting the warmongering and the scourge of faux patriotism coming from the stakeholders in the military, industrial, congressional complex. Mitt Romney, for example, has been talking about the need to expand US military spending, and how “we” need to do this, and “we” need to do that. He’s never been in the military. His five sons have never been in the military. True, they’ve been on a mission from the church of LDS. Isn’t there a certain privilege that comes with being able to say “we”. Given their life’s experiences, I’m not sure if they they’re entitled to use that term.
The Permanent Militarization of America
Why We Fight
John F. Kennedy at American University – Part One
Why we fight puts a painfull perspective on the last decade. Painfull because the source are so credible and the message so unpopular. I guess most people hit the stop button within 5 minutes and start up a typical TopGun like movie (we rightfully take revenge with awesome weapons) to forget. http://www.mintpress.net/dangerous-liaison-the-ties-that-bind-hollywood-and-the-pentagon/
Here some facts brought to you by one of those heavily disliked Europeans:
In my view, since Bush folly and 2008 financial crisis, the US of A are losing ground inside as well as abroad (as a consequence).
– 46.7 million of US citizens are living on food stamps now, with rapidly increasing costs to the public for the SNAP program ($75 billion in 2011 and rising).
– Close to one fourth of US citizens theoretically being part of the workforce are out of employment now.
– The US trade deficit since a long time is constantly around $50 billion per month, causing stealthy divestment from the US economy of around $600 billion per annum.
– The Fed is buying now over 70% of debt issuances issued by the Treasury, due to lack of interest by foreign investors.
– US infrastructure is (not only since Katrina, Irene and Sandy) over wide areas constantly and inevitably crumbling into a state of overt disfunction, due to lack of maintenance.
– The US are experiencing the second year in a row of a devastating drought causing an increasing risk for truly endangering food shortages.
– The US are locking up by far the highest proportion of their people in prisons (750 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants) due to a completely crazy judicial system.
– The US army is increasingly dependent on Asian microelectronics products to only keep their arsenal in service, not to mention development of new military gear and apparel.
In my view, the US have no other option anymore, than radically reduce their truly mindboggling defense expenditures (which are higher than the sum of all other countries), if they do not want to sacrifice the lower and no-income part of their society into death and devastation, if the don’t want to end on a developing country level of infrastructure and if they don’t want to go bankrupt for not being able anymore to serve their debt.
– More and more young Americans are crushed to death by their debt acquired to pay their tuition fees. They get more and more educated with less and less hope to once find a job where they can use their skills and which is enabling them to only serve their debt. This debt bubble will burst sooner or later, with terrible results as the sum of that debts is even higher than US defense expenditures.
Evin, while you are correct in many of your observations. Your analysis is a little off. However, it was not the Bush economy of 4+ years ago that put the US in the dire financial situation we have today. This is the Obama economy. It was he who has put people out of work by the millions. It was he who increasd the food stamp roles by 40%. It was he who added some $5T-$6T to our national debt. It was he who squandered a nearly $1T on ‘green’ energy (many of those companies who received this stimulus money have failed). I could go on and on. But the bottom line is it was also Obama who put the US Military Forces in the position they are in today. Hopefully today we will begin to see the end of this nightmare.
OK, Everyone, getting into Bush v Obama is not what this post is about. Get back to Sequestration or I’ll close comments.
I’m not particularly interested in getting into a political debate here – partly because I know that we’re probably going to find that our (KCT’s and my own) opinions are diametrically opposed to each other in a lot of areas.
I will say this, though: I sincerely believe that blame-shifting based on partisan bias is not going to achieve anything. It’s easy to say it’s all Obama’s fault (never mind that he’s only been in office for less than 3 years and 10 months), as it is easy to blame the US’s current situation on Bush (who has served very well as an easy scapegoat for so many things).
In actuality I would say that the whole thing is a bit more complex, particularly if you try to figure out what caused the whole financial and economical meltdown to begin with. The roots for these can be found in decisions by presidents and congress led by both political parties over a number of years. As I said – I think trying to solely blame either totally misses the point.
However, given the situation the US is in, it does not occur to me as a fantastic idea if somebody tells me that they want to spend an annual average of about 200 billion more on military than Obama does over the next 10 years. Particularly considering that the expensive efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan have ended (or are nearing their end), which consequently opens a lot of room for cost savings and frees up money for other purposes.
How are the youth in EU doing then? In Spain 50% of the youth are unemployed, what future do they have? Eu will probably fall apart, the people don´t want it only corrupt politicians for their personal financial gain. Barrosso the old communist in charge..
A very short note to just say I fully agree with Scott’s analysis in the original article.
Irrespective of the fact that the next US president is of course free to draw up a defense budget completely to their own liking.
Actually Evin, most Americans don’t think one way or another about Europeans. Other than time to take vacations to somewhere new, to see antiquities or marvel at the folly of democratic socialism we don’t think of Europe much at all. As for your “facts”, I think you have been reading too much NY TImes and other left leaning US press. Unemployment in Europe is far worse than in the US and the majority of your other “facts” are easily solved by the government adopting business friendly policies to get the economy going again rather than the current policy of “freebies” for votes and the unions.
So you think a third Bush43 term would have been the perfect fix for America’s woes?
The POTUS can only serve two 4 year terms, per the XXII Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. President Bush had already served for two full terms..
Section 1. No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.
Section 2. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission to the States by the Congress.
The US Congress passed the amendment on March 21, 1947. It was ratified by the requisite number of states on February 27, 1951. Only 36 states had to approve the amendment by March 21, 1954. At the time, the United States had 48 states, as Alaska and Hawaii would not become US sates until 1959 and 1960 respectively.
A known limitation that is irrelevant to the question.
Those tax policies of J.F. Kennedy, Reagan, Bush43, and I might add Chancelor Schröder’s “Agenda 2010″, all of which engendered economic prosperity, along with complete U.S. tax code overhaul would be the fix to the current economic malaise.
I would think that you would be well aware of the folly and problems that pandering to the electorate has caused the EU in Greece, Spain, etc, especially since Germany is trying to put some discipline into the EU economic system.
Re cutting defense budget in the coming decade, in Western Europe many countries have cut their defense by close to 50% since 1990. Ending decades long activities, removing assets that were a given for decades, halving fte’s. 5% is a laugh. We weren’t run over by evil doers who hate us. Maybe we give them little reason to hate us, by not telling them we are the greatest nation on earth and they should do it our way. Respect does a lot.
IMO the republican party, traditionally boosting higher defense budgets regardless of anything, (if there’s no danger you have to be ready anyway) has to re-invent itself. This morning I heard an analyst saying that if the young US generation (15-35 yrs) would all have been allowed to vote, the Republicans would have been nowhere. This generation is more open minded, objective and less scared then the more traditional, white eldery republican voters.
More moderate Republicans folks like Romney, Powell, McCain, Bloomberg already move the party from within. The traditional conservative voters are giving in versus more liberal multicultural open pragmatists. And so will probably be the 2016 republican candidate.
Defending the mighty political-industrial-media complex with fearmongering, flagwaving, awesome weapons show-offs and ever new enemies won’t attract majorities like in the past.
It will become less suicidal to say US defense spending is totally over the top. And no longer something to be proud of. The Eisenhower speech in one of the videos above is very impressive knowing the coldwar fifties background, with its McCarthyism. It probably was a step to far accusing him of being a commie..
The US will adjust like they have in the past (how many black/immigrant presidents got (re)elected in Europe..)
You weren’t run over in Europe because you still had the luxury of the US protection by way of our Defense umbrella that protects all of Europe. You want an example, look at the Missile Defense shield to be put in Eastern Europe. The only reason that Europe could cut their defense spending 50% is because big Uncle Sam was there to back you up. If not, you and the rest of Europe would be in far worse shape.
That view is to be expected with a mind full of “war” vocabulary.
That defense “shield” as you call it is more a danger to peace than anything else.
Without German Ostpolitik Reagans shenanigans would have
blown up into a full scale nuclear war… And that barely sentient president wouldn’t even have understood what happened..
US should withdraw 100% from EU and quit NATO. That way they would save a lot of money and EU would be able to feel how much defence they actually need.
Why should american taxpayers pay for the defence of EU? Its mostly those former USSR nations that ask for US to stay. I am sure Germany and France would step up to the plate and make us all feel secure and calm. The super wealthy and successful EU would stand strong, our Chancellor Mr Rompuy strikes fear in any that dares mess with us, loved by all of us who got to elect him.
How long have the military ceremonies at sporting events been around? I remember seeing the first one back around 1994 or so. No fighters, but an army or marine guard for the flag ceremony.
Just a thought — the “last war” is now Iraq and Afghanistan. One should not assume that the next war will mirror these two conflicts. What is the next war?
“The department has not requested C-17s, built by Boeing, since the fiscal 2007 budget, yet Congress has added them every year since, spending about $1.25 billion on C-17s “that we don’t want or need,” said Mr. McCord, who was a 21-year staff member of the Senate Armed Services Committee before his current appointment.”
I often wonder where the opposition is in cases like this. In Europa there would always be oppositions parties having a ball on stuff like this. Governments would fall.
In a one party system with two right wings that is just not something one would dissent on.
Pork is good for everyone, no vegans around 😉
There is nothing the government ever does right w.r.t spending money wisely.
It can’t control costs of military programs.
It can’t control costs of “common good” programs and/or their effectiveness (education, etc.)
It can’t cut military programs in a way to minimize diminishing of defence capabilities.
U-mode for an aviation forum
US Navy got the same problem as US Air Force – just a few expensive F22 or Virginia Class subs. For price of on atomic sub Navy could get about 4 or 5 AIP subs. A Virginia Class sub has a crew of 125 while a Type 214 sub needs just a crew of 27. A sub isn’t “stationed” at a base like an aircraft. A sub’s home port isn’t the place to stay during an emerging conflict. The place then is somewhere near the enemy to collect information and to spread fear. Even a fast sub can’t be at two places at once.
Type 214 and similar craft imho provide mostly defensive capabilities.
Nothing the US would be interested in.
Diesels don’t work for US strategic doctrine. For Europeans and countries that don’t do anything but littoral defense they work. When you are never more than 1 or 2 weeks at sea a Diesel can make sense, but that isn’t how the US Navy operates. Our submarines are routinely at sea for 3 months or more, submerged the entire time. There is no Diesel that can do that, AIP or not. The US Navy is about power projection, so we don’t HAVE to do coastal defense. We fight you in YOUR back yard, so you don’t get anywhere near ours. You can’t do that with a diesel.
Uwe, the best defense is a good offense.
I shot him in the back from a distance because I covetted his wife 😉
Beginning with Reagan every republican presidency kicked of a significant increase
in public debt without doing anything for the economy.
The Cost Of War
Beginning with Reagan every republican presidency kicked of a significant increase
in public debt without doing anything for the economy.
Not true Uwe. After getting out of the Carter recession the Reagan years of the economy were very good. The Clinton years were great economic booms and the debt was low as a result of that and the Republican budget. Also Bush 43’s economy after coming out of the Clinton Dot Com crash was so good that it set records for revenue in 2005 and 2006 due to the good economy. I agree that the Republicans borrowed too much but Obama left them all in the dust with almost $5Trillion in 4 years.
By the way there is another Wiki cart that shows less debt to GDP ratio. Wiki is changeable you know. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_debt
Other charts? sure, different keyhole view ( just showing data 1995 onwards )
Compare Bush to the (acoholic) captain that ran aground the Exxon Valdez: When it ran aground it was still looking like a cheap affair. Fixing the aftermath broke all records though.
Obama is a firefighter working against the still very busy arsonists.
So, I beg you to reconsider your position.
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