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Cut Defense? Yes We Can!

October 13, 2008

I have often been an advocate for a smarter, as opposed to bigger defense budget. Democrats far too often cut spending without any concern to what capabilities we are losing, while Republicans throw money at almost any Big Ticket program whether it is vital to our security or not. Now it looks like the current World Economic Crisis might force Western Nations, specifically the United States to face some realities. From Reuters:

Whoever wins next month’s U.S. presidential election could find it hard politically to make cuts that undermine the operations in Afghanistan or Iraq, but the crisis may provide an incentive to finish the campaigns there earlier than foreseen.
“I don’t think people are going to be transparent about that. It’s not a winning political argument to say that in order to bail out Wall Street bankers we’d rather accept defeat in an ongoing war,” said Stephen Biddle, Senior Fellow for Defense Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.
“What is likelier is that other parts of the defense program not as immediately and directly connected with an ongoing war are going to have a lot more pressure put on them.”
The United States spends more on defense than the rest of the world put together — with a base budget of some $500 billion submitted for the coming year — and a total of $12 billion a month in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The U.S. Navy’s top uniformed officer, Admiral Gary Roughead, said last month the financial crisis would not lead to a “gutting” of the U.S. defense budget but would increase pressure to review big weapons program.

This is where I think massive savings might be found, in high priced weapons programs that have little relevance for modern war. Most are symptoms of the rampant “Next-war-itis” so prevalent in the Pentagon that is breaking our defense budget.  Such equipment which are funded for years have no place in the Middle East counter-insurgency wars we most often fight. Here are some current spending programs by service we could safely cut immediately:

  1. Navy-cancel USS Gerald Ford class carriers. Savings-$13 billion
  2. Army-cancel Future Combat System. Savings-$200-$300 billion!
  3. Air Force, Navy, Marines- cancel Joint Strike Fighter. Savings $200 billion.

These are just some off the top of my head. With less funds on hand the services would be forced into purchasing arms which we are already using to win our Middle Eastern wars, and perhaps some less costly additions:

  1. Army-Stryker armored cars to replace tanks and Bradley vehicles
  2. Navy-Small corvette vessels to replace battleships and carriers in the littoral role. Attack subs to manage the Blue Water role of the latter, like the cost-effective Tango Bravo.
  3. Air Force-Increased dependence on combat UAVs and off the shelf manned planes like F-16s to replace war-weary equipment.

Why do I think all these cuts make for a smarter Defense Budget? Because of the power of precision weapons. Such advanced equipment in which America mostly has a monopoly that can drop a bomb down a smokestack, or hit a moving vehicles, or allow warships only seconds to react before it strikes them, are the new Strategic Weapons. They will allow the US Military to transform into a lighter, cheaper, and more mobile counter-insurgency force, with more than enough ability to defeat conventional forces as well.

Later this week, I will go into detail on how a new Hybrid Military might look.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. charbookguy permalink
    October 15, 2008 12:30 pm

    Old style tanks, fighter jets, and supercarriers are no longer the answer. Even if they were we can no longer afford them in significant numbers to matter in the type of conventional wars some are advocating. We can afford are stockpiling new century weapons such as smart bombs and missiles, light armored vehicles, and UAVs in abundance and I say lets continue this process.

  2. Gerry permalink
    October 14, 2008 10:36 pm

    Disagree to a degree. You say ‘the new precision weapons are the new stratigic weapons weaning us off the crippling Military industrial complex”. 1st. The military industrial complex was first used by Eisenhower during a time when military expenditures took up a large portion of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) . 38% during WWII, 11% during the Korean war, and 7% during Vietnam. The current amount of expenditures on the military is 4% of GDP, including the wars in Iraq and Afganistan. During the same period spending on entitlement programs have increased 10 fold. Where once they were half of what was spent on the military, they now are four times what we spend on the military. Thats all well and good, and I have no big problem with that. But the “military industrial complex” as Eisenhower spoke of no longer exists. 2nd. The US leads in technology and weapons by far. No Other nation is capable of taking the US on and winning. Neither China or Russia. Yet , China and Russia as well as India are developing new weapons that can do significant damage to our Navy, Air Force, and army. This is not a time to relax and savor our lead until it is lost. It is a time to continue our overwhelming superiority in weapons so that our future is secured for our country. The US is no longer capable of enduring high casualties in any war. A military action that causes 20-30,000 US casualties in six months will be enough for the American people to call it quits. Not a good thing going into the future.

  3. charbookguy permalink
    October 14, 2008 11:56 am

    Gerry, I couldn’t disagree more. If we constantly kept the economy on a war-footing as you suggest, we will be like North Korea or Stalin’s Russia after the “Great Patriotic War”. Eisenhower cut defense effectively I think, only perhaps his priorities were wrong neglecting the troops in favor of deterrence forces in the Air Force and Navy, also ignoring the likelihood of conventional war in favor of warfare on the cheap with the bomb.

    As someone said, unconventional is the new conventional as I submit in 2 new posts this week. Today, some Republicans and Dems want to return to the Eisenhower doctrine of conventional deterrence, but I am in favor of a New New Look, based on precision weapons, whose awesome capabilities were are just beginning to understand, as in Iraq. And unlike the “bomb” precision munitions have been and are being used in combat. They are the new strategic, weaning us off the crippling Military Industrial Complex.

    But some in Washington can’t let go.

  4. Gerry permalink
    October 13, 2008 11:11 pm

    “Cut defense, yes we can.” Is foolish at best. It will be politically correct in the near future at the cost of capability. Every politician will be calling for it, as historically at the end of every conflict they do . However defense spending, including the wars in Iraq and Afganistan are historicall low at 4% of GDP. The Russians are developing new cruise missles, the Chinese more Nukes etc etc. No one knows what or where the next war will be. Whether it will be terrorists or conventional as in Taiwan, North Korea or Iran. History shows wars are often in places a few years earlier were never expected. It is best to be well armed for any eventuality. The same people calling for a decrease in defense will be screaming because so many troops are dieing due to lack of quality equipment later. Seen it too often and it is a way to lose quickly in a country no longer accustomed to massive casualties.

  5. charbookguy permalink
    October 13, 2008 2:07 pm

    I fear that both Mrs. D and Ken are on the money. The Left far too often use the military for social experimentation as well, rather than concern themselves with what is best for national security.

    I would hope that either candidate will keep the excellent Gates, who more than anyone in high office is closest to getting the new warfare right.

  6. October 13, 2008 11:06 am

    I must disagree with your claim that “Democrats far too often cut spending without any concern to what capabilities we are losing.”
    It appears to me that Democrats far too often cut spending knowing precisely what capabilities we are losing; they do so intentionally, to hamstring a program while being able to claim that they supported it.

  7. Mrs. Davis permalink
    October 13, 2008 10:52 am

    People are the problem, not platforms. We need to get rid of the bureaucrats in the DoD and Armed Forces who have built their careers around these systems. But as long as Congress treats DoD as a candy store for constituents instead of the front line of our nation’s defence, we are going to have a leadership problem. That’s why there is no Navy or AF Petraeus and no real strategic thinking.

    But Barack is just going to get us a boatload of Clinton quality flag rank officers. I shudder.


  1. Breaking:$500 Billion Defense Cuts Possible « New Wars

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