In another manifestation of Obama’s continuing move to the right, his latest stunt has been to out-Republican the Republicans as a defender of the Pentagon. The GOP, which is out to cut $100 billion more from Obama’s version, has targeted the Department of Defense for $15 billion from an initial request of over $500 billion. From a statement released by the Administration:
The bill proposes cuts that would sharply undermine core government functions and investments key to economic growth and job creation and would reduce funding for the Department of Defense to a level that would leave the department without the resources and flexibility needed to meet vital military requirements….If the president is presented with a bill that undermines critical priorities or national security through funding levels or restrictions, contains earmarks or curtails the drivers of long-term economic growth and job creation while continuing to burden future generations with deficits, the president will veto the bill.
Contrast this stand-fast position on the military budget with Obama’s willingness to throw pretty much anyone else under the bus. John Walker provided a pithy illustration of the guns v. everything else tradeoff in a mock letter to low income Americans. Key section:
So, despite your problems, you are going to be “asked” to sacrifice. Your president is planning to cut $2.6 billion from Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps people afford keeping their homes warm during the winter, despite the fact that due to the economic downturn the number of poor people needing help has increased significantly.
As a result of your going without heat next winter, we will be able to afford almost one whole week of fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which cost about $468 million a day. Although when you add in the many hidden costs like increased long-term veteran’s health care due to the conflicts, your sacrifice is probably only really going to cover maybe half a week.
Before we get into pesky questions like, “So tell me how we think we are going to accomplish anything positive in Afghanistan?”, consider some key examples from a paper presented this month at the Center for Defense Information entitled Evaluating Weapons: Sorting the Good from the Bad (hat tip reader Crocodile Chuck). I suggest you read the paper in its entirely, but it depicts a defense apparatus preoccupied with expensive new toys and bureaucratic perquisites over operational effectiveness. Some key extracts (boldface ex headings ours):
RULE 1: Weapons are not the most important ingredient in winning wars. People come first; ideas are second and hardware is only third….
RULE 2: Not all weapons are equally important in war. Their importance is unrelated to their cost.…
That is exactly why in 1963 the theater commander, General Westmoreland, reviewing the remarkable firefight successes of units combat testing a remarkably light and reliable new automatic rifle, the commercially-produced AR-15, immediately demanded that the AR-15 replace the M-14 throughout Vietnam over the violent objections of the entire U.S. Army ordnance bureaucracy, all die-hard defenders of the M-14 they had spawned. Fearing Army-wide replacement of their pet, the small arms bureaucrats delivered to Westmoreland in late 1964 a “militarized,” heavier, less effective version of the AR-15, the infamous early M-16A1, which they deliberately furnished with a powder that would make it jam in combat.3 As a result, young GIs died with jammed M-16s in their hands. It took three years and a brutally incisive congressional investigation4 to force the Army bureaucracy to fix the M-16 they had sabotaged.
Other examples of crucially important, cheap and therefore neglected systems spring quickly to mind. Acquiring a better five ton truck has far more impact than C-5 or C-17 airlifters on the mobility and sustenance of our troops in battle but doesn’t receive one-hundredth as much congressional or public attention. Similarly, our troops have no squad radio that is effective in jungles, woods and cities. Such a $250 walkie-talkie would do more for winning firefights and saving GI lives than the elaborate, $15 billion JTRS digital do everything command and control radio network that is the Defense Department’s current infatuation….
Victory at sea is equally unrelated to weapons cost. By the end of 1914, 28 diminutive German submarines, each one-fortieth the cost of a battleship, had wrested control of the seas from the 47 mighty battleships, 195 cruisers and 200 destroyers of the Royal Navy. The battleship had become irrelevant forever though the obstinacy of hidebound admirals and the corrupting power of lucrative procurement budgets kept the battleship in full tilt production for 30
And in its carrier reincarnation, the battleship is still soaking up the lion’s share of the U.S. Navy budget to this day. The preoccupation with $14 billion carriers
escorted by $1 to $3 billion destroyers has led to virtually complete Navy neglect of strategically essential coast control capabilities like $175 million minesweepers, $60 million coastal patrol ships, $35 million fast missile-torpedo boats and $4 million riverine-estuarine warfare boats. In the 1991 Gulf War, the Navy’s perennially inadequate minesweeping forces made it too dangerous to launch a 17,000 Marine amphibious assault that General Schwarzkopf had planned. Recently, in the Indian Ocean, the U.S. Navy’s utter lack of coastal patrol and fast attack boats left our merchant ships mostly unprotected against pirates in rubber skiffs. As a result, we witnessed the ludicrous scene of using a $1 billion destroyer to subdue four rifle-armed pirates in a 25-foot inflatable…
Similarly, real air-to-air combat is separated by a chasm from the technologist’s dangerously beguiling dream of beyond-visual-range (BVR) combat: push a button, launch a missile at a blip on the scope at 25 miles, then watch the blip disappear without ever having laid eyes on the target. That concept of combat, oblivious to the inconvenient details of real air-to-air fights, leads to huge, cumbersome fighters loaded down with tons and tons of heavy stealth skins, massive radars and missiles, and failure-ridden electronics of unmanageable complexity. The most recent fighter built in pursuit of the BVR combat delusion, the F-22, has a $355 million sticker price and costs $47,000 per hour to fly, making it impossible to fly the hours necessary to train pilots adequately (people first!) and impossible to buy enough fighters to influence any seriously contested air war.
Yves here. I’m beginning to wonder about all those scenes in action movies with missiles and high tech weapons performing miraculous hits. Is some of the DoD budget also going to product positioning? Back to the presentation:
In fighters, the effect of high cost and the associated burden of high maintenance downtime are equally obvious. The F-22 costs 10 times as much as an early model F-16 fighter and, due to its huge maintenance load, can fly only half as many sorties per day. Thus, for equal investment, the F-22 delivers only one-twentieth as many airplanes over enemy territory as the F-16 a crippling disadvantage, no matter whether the F-22’s stealth and weapons work or don’t work…
Though vastly harder to implement than any outsider can conceive, honest and realistic effectiveness testing of weapons is feasible. But the inherent military bureaucratic obstacles have grown so insurmountable that I know only two examples of truly combat-representative testing, uninfluenced by the procurement bureaucracy: the uniquely brilliant and realistic 1965-1966 SAWS M-14 vs. M-16 vs. AK-47 field test and the A-10 Armament Directorate’s Lot Acceptance Verification Program (LAVP) for 30 mm rounds, a superb 1978 airborne firing lethality test against 300 fully functional Soviet and U.S. tank targets that inspired the Live Fire Testing Program mandated by the Congress. Since 1978 there have been essentially no similarly realistic effectiveness tests.
The presentation admittedly does not seek to estimate how much waste is taking place (and a fully efficient bureaucracy of the scale of the DoD is an unattainable goal) but the numbers contained in the presentation give reason to think the total is significant.
This admittedly dated exchange between Donald Rumsfeld and Cynthia McKinney also shows that the Pentagon was unable to account for well over $1 trillion dollars over multiple budgetary cycles. Presumably, most if not all of the missing dough was for black ops, but mystery expenditures of this sort call the very notion of a defense budget into question:
Even though the defense now accounts for a smaller portion of government spending than in Dwight Eisenhower’s era, his concerns about the power and lack of accountability of the military-industrial complex are still very much with us.