The “Big Freeze” in Defense
Lawrence J. Korb, writing in Think Progress, thinks President Obama’s spending freeze proposal during the State of the Union address, should also include Defense Spending:
Rather than exclude these accounts from the freeze for fear of appearing weak on defense, the president should mandate that the baseline defense budget also be frozen.
Indeed, freezing the base defense budget at its current level of about $532 billion would not hinder the Pentagon’s ability to conduct the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq because they will be funded separately through a $160 billion supplemental. Moreover, freezing defense spending would force the Pentagon to make the hard choices it has avoided over the past decade.
I love the last line, since it completely explains why some of the services have avoided reform. Isn’t it obscene that we have two military budgets, one for fighting today’s ways, thus allowing the other to be somehow exempt and keep last century programs on life support? This is why we are stretched everywhere, and probably why the War on Terror has become The Long War. Because we didn’t ask for total commitments from the services as in the World Wars, we are fighting with only part of our strength. This gives branches of the Air Force and Navy carte blanch to keep spending as usual.
But Korb insists a Freeze would lead to cuts in unneeded weapons, and provides the following list which we will comment on in detail:
–Cut missile defense, while maintaining funding for its continued research and development. Saves about $6 billion. (I agree. An extremely expensive answer to a low tech problem)
–Keep the Virginia-class attack submarine production steady at one per year instead of ramping up to two per year in FY 2011. Saves about $2 billion (I agree and actively seek conventional subs to restore numbers to this essential force)
–Cancel the Zumwalt-class DDG-1000 at two ships. Saves about $1 billion (Why wait? Cancel them all on the slips!)
–Cancel the MV-22 Osprey and substitute cheaper helicopters while continuing production of the CV-22. Saves about $2 billion (This idea being about 2 decades overdue)
–Cancel the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program. Saves about $294 million (With JHSV we have fast ships that can go near to shore and offload armed vehicles)
–Cut the FY 2011 F-35 purchase to twenty, slow down production of the aircraft, cancel the alternate engine program, and replace the cut planes with drones. Saves about $4 billion (Bye-Bye Joint Strike Fighter. Hello Super Hornet and combat drones)
–Cut FY 2011 funding for the Army’s Future Combat Systems by one third. Saves about $763 million (Scrap the vehicles, buy off the shelf)
–Continue offensive space-based weapons development at a low rate. Saves about $100 million (From Star Wars to Star Trek?)
–Reduce the U.S. nuclear arsenal to 600 deployed warheads and 400 in reserve. Saves about $13 billion (Move the deterrent to sea)
The Navy could cancel the CVN-79 aircraft carrier, terminate the building of littoral combat ships and [LPD-17]-class amphibious vessels, stop production of exorbitantly expensive DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class destroyers, and terminate production of SSN-774 Virginia-class submarines. The Navy has little relevance to the war on terror and, with existing equipment, has crushing dominance over any other fleet in the world.
I do not think the “Navy has little relevance to the war on terror”, I believe it has made itself irrelevant because it isn’t wholeheartedly in the fight. That leads back to the second military budget at the top of this post. If the military was forced to fight the war on a single budget, not just supplementals, then you not only get a combined effort, but you get military equipment built to fight current wars, not past wars, or the wars we want. Plus we get the savings which are coming anyway.
Finally, back in 2008, I wrote the following:
I believe the US can safely endure a “weapons holiday” with a freeze on building Big Ships, while bolstering our littoral fleet to fight pirate insurgents.
Currently, no nation on earth is building weapons as we have today in our Navy. Though some might be building carriers, none are of the size, carry as many planes, or possess the expertise to fly naval airpower from large decks as we possess in a single one of our 11 nuclear powered warships. In quality or numbers no other nation has anything like the Burke class destroyer, the exception being Japan which has 4 such ships, and South Korea 1-2, both our allies! America has 60, plus 22 equally capable older Ticonderoga class cruisers.
My point is, we can safely stop building these magnificent monuments to our technical prowess and shipbuilding expertise, beef up ship numbers will smaller, less, expensive vessels, making the Navy more relevant to current conflicts, and less expensive to operate. Worn out crews would spend more time at home, because you wouldn’t be sending a carrier manned with 5000 sailors out for every little crisis. As the old Victorian Navy would do, just “send a gunboat” and we would possess them in many hundreds, giving rogue states, pirates, and terrorist smugglers no leeway or rest anywhere on the high seas.