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Dueling Democrat Defense Alternatives Pt. 1

December 15, 2008

Recently 2 liberal think tanks issued reports on how future US Defense Policy as well as its composition should be shaped. I must admit that both have merit outside “business as usual” of buying anything the Pentagon asks for. Considering we now have a Democrat majority in Congress as well as in control of the White House, some if not quite a few of these proposals will see the light of day. For the first posting we present this by Lawrence Korb and Company at the Center for American Progress titled Building a Military for the 21st Century New Realities, New Priorities (followed by my commentary):

Budget recommendations

Ground forces recommendations (Army and Marines)

  • Continue increasing the size of U.S. ground forces without lowering standards. Also, enlarge the recruiting pool by dropping the ban on women serving in ground combat units and repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.
  • Slow down Future Combat Systems and cut the program’s procurement, research, and design budgets by a third over the next four years.
  • Move forward slowly on the Brigade Combat Team model, but carefully review the operations of the Maneuver Enhancement Brigades and determine whether more are needed.
  • Maintain funding for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle at the current level, allowing for development and testing, but delay production in favor of purchasing M-ATV armored vehicles for Afghanistan.

Naval forces recommendations

  • Cancel the Zumwalt-class DDG-1000 destroyer and build two Arleigh Burke-class DDG-51 destroyers a year for the next four years.
  • Keep SSN-774 attack submarine production steady at one per year instead of ramping up to two per year in FY 2013.
  • Move forward with current plans for the Littoral Combat Ship.
  • Deploy the Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) aircraft carrier but delay the construction of the CVN-79 aircraft carrier for five years.
  • Cancel the LPD-26 amphibious ship and move forward with the Maritime Prepositioning Force (Future).

Air forces recommendations (Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines)

  • End production of the F-22 Raptor immediately at 183 planes.
  • Continue development of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, but do not start full-scale production until flight tests have been completed.
  • Buy F-16 Block 60 fighters, two wings of MQ-9 Reaper drones, and 69 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets to make up for the anticipated gap in fighter aircraft.
  • Cancel the MV-22 Osprey and substitute cheaper helicopters while continuing production of the CV-22.
  • Build more C-17 cargo aircraft.
  • Move forward on the KC-X.
  • Substitute MQ-1C Warrior drones for Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters.
  • Move forward on the new long-range bomber.

Missile defense recommendations

  • Cancel unproven missile defense programs.
  • Halt deployment of the ground-based missile defense system until it has proven itself in realistic operational tests.
  • Continue work and testing on lower-risk missile defense systems.
  • Stop deployment of the missiles and radars in Poland and the Czech Republic until the system has been adequately tested.

These recommendations would save the Department of Defense $38.6 billion over the next four years.

Concerning ground forces, we find it interesting that there is a call for increase troops strength, since the administration is planning to downsize our overseas commitments as soon as possible. Usually after a war you downsize manpower, and garner the savings for equipment replacement. But whatever. Future Combat is also a sad spectacle of waste and we would continue buying Stryker vehicles as our tank of the future. As for the Hummer replacement, we think this vehicle got a premature bum rap in Iraq, and seeing it is doubtful we will fight another such major insurgency anytime soon, we might could put this off with more purchases of existing types.

For Naval Forces, certainly cancel the over-priced and over-sized Zumwalt, but also delay any planned new DDG-51s. How many battleships do we need considering there are 60 in service of building, with the first only about 20 years old? Savings should go toward building a true littoral fleet, experimenting with mothership type vessels to replace the costly and little-used amphibious fleet, plus more submarines. We think 2 per year is a bare minimum to maintain 50 in service, though 75 attack subs would be welcome. I would also delay any new carrier for another decade including the Ford class, and see about reducing the cost of LCS by making it more austere.

I appreciate the USAF proposals the most here. Yes, cancel practically every one of these 5th Gen fighters, buy off-the-shelf F-16s and increase use of UCAVs. An A-10 replacement should be put on the fast track, with armed drones not out of the question if feasible.  Certainly I would replace the entire 180 plane fleet of our well-used and battleworn C-17s with a like number, as well as replace ancient C-130s with the J model or older new build models if necessary.

As for missile defense, I have thought long and hard about whether we need this capability or not, and I have come to the conclusion that once again the Pentagon is gearing a horribly expensive and complicated technology toward a minor  Third World threat. I believe if we must have missile defense it should be based in the US at the most sensitive targets, perhaps our capital city?

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