Cut Defense? Yes We Can!
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:
- Navy-cancel USS Gerald Ford class carriers. Savings-$13 billion
- Army-cancel Future Combat System. Savings-$200-$300 billion!
- 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:
- Army-Stryker armored cars to replace tanks and Bradley vehicles
- 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.
- 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.