Ending the Defense Buffet
Excellent list at National Defense Magazine detailing how out of sync Pentagon weapons’ programs are with the times within this past decade. One example:
2004 Troops Confront Rumsfeld Over Lack of Armor
At a December town hall meeting in Kuwait, a soldier put Secretary Rumsfeld on the spot when he asked why troops had to dig through local landfills for pieces of rusted scrap metal to up-armor their vehicles. “Why don’t we have those resources readily available to us?” the soldier asked amid raucous applause from the crowd.
The secretary’s reply was memorable, and spoke volumes about the Pentagon’s dysfunctional ways of procuring equipment. “As you know, you go to war with the army you have,” Rumsfeld said.
Adding insult to injury, Rumsfeld reminded the soldier of the cruel facts of war. “You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up. And you can have an up-armored humvee and it can be blown up.”
Subsequent to that exchange, outrage about the lack of armor set off a furious scramble in the Army to ramp up production. The episode also came to epitomize the disconnect between the weapons-acquisition process at the Pentagon and the real needs of troops in the field — an issue that still is being debated.
Here are 3 main forces which are striving to end production of traditional platforms such as large warships, superfighters, ect.
- We can’t afford them. All monies are going to the troops in the Afghan Surge.
- They are too vulnerable. Smart technology and advanced sensors on guided weapons have placed at risk our strategy of placing all our hopes in too few systems (like the 5 Battleships).
- There are cheaper, equally effective alternatives. Numerous small platforms, reasonably priced and bought off the shelf have been empowered by the same technology that is making excessively large and complicated, and declining numbers of traditional platforms obsolete. Examples include MRAPs, UAVs, and Strykers.
When the new Secretary Robert Gates came to the Defense Dept. in 2006, he came with a mandate that the Pentagon must “Build as It Fights”. More from National Defense:
Programs that were regarded as “too big to fail” got the axe. Gates’ decisions marked a critical turning point. They signaled that the Pentagon could no longer afford to fund expensive hardware that was not relevant to the crises the military now faces.
This new view concerning platforms, which have been consistently updated to fight our wars since the last century, is not a popular one. Still, it seems clearer that the problems we have building planes, warships, and tanks are not budgetary, but signs of obsolescence. There is only so much you can do with a ship, like an aircraft carrier, which began life as a 20,000 ton vessel carrying 100 warplanes, to today’s hundred thousand ton ships where we struggle to get 70 warplanes of a 1970s design on her giant decks.
Meanwhile, the troops lack body armor, and must plead to receive armored vehicles and helicopters. The air force planes used in ground support average 20, 30, even 50 years in age (the B-52), while new-build planes like the F-22 are sent to airshows. We can only hope sanity will soon return. The signs are now favorable.