The Sustainable Defense Task Force Cuts
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and others in Congress plus leading defense experts have combined to recommend major cuts in the weapons systems for the US Defense Department. I am not surprised and New Wars has been warning that the military should learn to live within its means for some time. The splendid budgets of the last century is finally giving way to reality, as Third World powers nowhere near as immaculately equipped as Western militaries have arisen to change on a near equal basis.
We are near bankruptcy trying to contend with the forces of insurgency by deploying basically two militaries, one for the type of conventional warfare we are used to from the Cold War and the World Wars, to one in which the lowly infantryman and patrol boat is more important than a stealth bomber or trillion dollar missile defense program. For this cause its seems someone in Washington is getting the message that change is upon us, and a new way of warfare where high technology may not always be the answer. In fact, the tech very rarely compares to the right training and the will to take the fight to America’s enemies. Realistically, this has always been our strength, less about weapons, more about who we are as a people.
The following from a paper aptly titled Debt, Deficits, & Defense: A Way Forward, includes 14 proposed cuts:
- Reduce the US nuclear arsenal.
- Limit the planned modernization of the nuclear weapons infrastructure and reduce research activities.
- Selectively curtail missile defense & space spending.
- Reduce US military presence in Europe and Asia by one-third and cut military end strength accordingly.
- Rollback the size of US ground forces as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down.
- Reduce US Navy battle fleet from current 286 ships to 230.
- Only retire two Navy aircraft carriers and two naval air wings.
- Retire two US Air Force tactical fighter wings; Reduce F-35 fighter procurement by 220 aircraft.
- US Air Force Joint Strike Fighter cancellation or delay.
- US Navy Joint Strike Fighter cancellation or delay.
- End procurement of MV-22 Osprey and field alternatives.
- Delay procurement of the KC-X Aerial Refueling Tanker for five years; In the interim, retain and upgrade some existing tankers.
- Terminate the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle; field alternatives.
- Reduce base budget spending on R&D by $5 billion annually, including classified expenditures.
The study goes on to reveal that the above cuts would eliminate $138.7 billion from the Pentagon budget from 2011-2020. Space and time forbids me to comment on each proposal individually but I would like to touch on several which are of interest to New Wars and its readership.
- Nuclear cuts-This is a good idea. I would further propose doing away with the land based deterrent altogether and depending wholly on the Trident ballistic missile fleet. These should probably total a minimum of 12 boats.
- Cut Missile Defense-Another idea I support. A very expensive answer to a comparatively low tech problem. Almost any rogue nation can obtain ballistic missiles, and an arms race using First World weapons against Third World technology can only hasten our bankruptcy. Technically it rarely works very well, and I think MAD is the best options of two evils. Plus, it is mainly a “feel good weapon”, since it doesn’t work too well, it at least makes you feel like you are doing something to counter the rain of projectiles falling on you from space.
- A 230 ship navy-A very interesting proposal and not unexpected, even under current budgets. Here specifically is the fleet we will have after the knife:
- 9 aircraft carriers with 8 air wings,
- 7 strategic ballistic missile subs,
- 4 guided-missile subs,
- 37 attack subs,
- 85 large surface combat ships,
- 25 littoral combat ships,
- 27 amphibious combat ships,
- 36 logistics and support ships.
A few other quotes in this proposal stood out that echoes my own ideas on how we can get by with fewer high end warships–“Our present capacity to oppose the power of other nations at sea far outstrips the requirement.” In terms of conventional capability, we continue to invest in overkill. Against low tech forces, especially littoral attack craft and submarines we have been under-investing, as we consistently point out. This type of sea control as proven in past and present wars requires large numbers of cheap but good warships–corvettes.
Also this concerning forward deployment of ships–“Typically, between 105 and 125 ships are on deployment continuously… But the link between generalized “presence” and specific outcomes is too tenuous to warrant the cost.” Again I propose small warships, motherships and SSKs should replace our high end warships in forward basing, which would fulfill this presence mission at much less cost, allowing the conventional battlefleet to rest and train until required in war or crisis. This would entail drastically fewer large ships, probably less than the proposals here.