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A Smaller and Smarter Defense

May 6, 2009

Here is a pre-2010 budget article from last month, we thought interesting enough to summarize key points closely aligning with New Wars’ idea of Military Reform. From the American Conservative and opening with a direct quote we applaud, here is Commander Jeff Huber, USN retired with Sticker Shock and Awe:

The time-honored adage says that generals always plan for the last war. American generals, taking things a step further, always plan for the last World War.”

  1. Though American defense spending is low in percentages (roughly 4% of the GDP), it is high in dollar value, at more than half total world spending.
  2. The ‘new manned bomber’ should be an unmanned aerial vehicle (apparently Sec. Gates agrees since the manned bomber was put off in the new budget).
  3. The planned purchase of 2,458 F-35 joint strike fighters is insupportable and unneeded (Sec. Gates DOES NOT agree in the new budget).
  4. The same missile, radar identification and communication gear in the $338 million F-22 Raptor can be embedded in the $20 million F-16 (Raptor production is shut down in the 2010 budget).
  5. Ballistic Missile Defense is a dead end, particularly the SM-3 missile which can be easily foiled by countermeasures ($700 million is added in the budget for missile defense).
  6. The $8.1 billion Ford class carrier costs much more than the older Nimitz class with little increase in capability. Updated Nimitz’s would be more than adequate (new carriers will be built in 5 yr cycles).
  7. Aircraft carriers are only needed to deter China, with 3-4 in service sufficient, or no more than 7 total in commission (10 are planned for the foreseeable future).
  8. “The ‘Triple H’ airwing–Hornets, Hawkeyes, and Helicopters–will be sufficiently capable as long as we have carriers”. (Carriers will also get the newer F-35C in the new budget)
  9. Unmanned Combat Air Systems (UCAS) are not needed on carrier decks, since they possess sufficient range for land bases. The USAF should also consider such platforms for their long-range strike plans.
  10.  Carriers need an upgraded point defense system to defend against short range threats such as suicide boats, but also the ominous and supersonic SSN-22 Sunburn anti-ship missile.

A good read though I disagree with the attitude that if we ignore Islamic Terrorism in the Third World, it will go away. For my own views on the 2010 budget, here are the links:

Highlights of the 2010 Defense Budget

What Defense Cuts?

Bob Gates’ Navy

Why the Army’s FCS was Gutted

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Burleson permalink
    May 6, 2009 9:49 am

    Oh, I agree, and have stated if we cut spending in half it would do us no harm, and might actually help. When you have to make do with spartan funds, it is easy to set priorities, an example being Israel always and Britain around the Falklands War.

    Currently we spend the bulk of funding on gold-plated weapons which, when war actually arrives, are more of a liability than a help. We plan for the giant conventional battles, even though if we have them, most likely it would lead to a nuclear exchange. Then we get into these Third World conflicts which our high tech weaponry is mostly wasted, and cheap off the shelf arms would do the most good, without bankrupting the budget.

  2. May 6, 2009 7:10 am

    “Though American defense spending is low in percentages (roughly 4% of the GDP)”

    It’s neither roughly 4% (the real military expenditures are closer to 5% – especially due to the supplementals) nor is it low in %.

    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2034rank.html

    Only 27 (or 173) states spent more % in 2005/06 – and many of them are actually in crisis zones. Many others who have to live threatened in crisis zones spend much less %.

    Example: Japan Taiwan, South Korea – 0.8 to 2.7 % (then).
    UK: 2.4, France 2.6

    A normal spending for an industrialized country far away from conflict hot spots would be about 2%.

    Americans have become accustomed to several strange and entirely abnormal attitudes – they took the wrong turn in foreign policy and national security matters decades ago and still don’t see it.

    A military budget of about 5% GDP is excessive waste for a country that cannot pay its bills in international trade without huge net lending.
    Military expenditures are consumption and don’t push the economy more than paying the money as welfare would do (the research is mostly not applicable for civilian purposes but draws many engineers away from the civilian R&D).

    You’re allied with the majority of military power of all other countries, with two nuclear powers, your sea trade is difficult to block due to long coastlines with two oceans and your long distance from all possible enemies and nobody is gonna invade your country due to its geographic remoteness.
    A normal military spending with these circumstances and the relatively large economy would be like 0.5-1% GDP.

    All else is not for defense – it’s for offense (and thus waste as there’s no way how offensive capability could pay for itself at this scale).

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