Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 9, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

THE FUTURE OF NATIONAL SECURITY....Anyone who has experience with a big bureaucracy knows that budget authority is the #1 indicator of what their organization's real priorities are. That's especially true in the federal government, where spin is a way of life and hard spending plans are virtually the only way to figure out what the boss considers really important.

So if that's the case, just how seriously does the Bush administration take the future threat from global terrorism? The answer, judging from its recently released Quadrennial Defense Review, is not very. To be sure, it contains lots of fine words about "long wars" and post-9/11 priorities, but when you look at where the money is going, virtually nothing has changed. As far as the 2006 QDR is concerned, we're not fighting al-Qaeda, we're still fighting the Cold War.

This is one reason to like the "progressive" QDR on offer from the Center for American Progress: it demonstrates its seriousness by making hard budget choices. You have to read the full report for the details, but here, as they say, is the bottom line:

I don't like everything about the CAP plan its proposal for a unified national security budget is probably good, for example, but even though it's primarily a DoD blueprint I wish it had spent more time discussing deeper peacekeeping and nation building strategies as a way of preventing terrorist attacks. Still, it's far superior to the official Pentagon plan, which might as well have been drafted 20 years ago. In contrast, CAP's plan eliminates half a dozen obsolete weapons platforms that we no longer need and uses that money instead for what we do need: more special forces, more peacekeeping divisions, more civil affairs, and more money for homeland security.

This is the kind of plan Democrats ought to be proposing as an alternative to the unserious approach to terrorism on offer from the Bush administration. Unfortunately, what prevents this is the same iron triangle that prevents Republicans from doing it: military officers whose careers are built on championing specific weapons platforms, defense contractors whose livelihoods depend on these platforms, and members of congress who are more afraid of losing a few jobs in their districts than they are of al-Qaeda.

But it's a missed opportunity if we don't take advantage of the release of the administration's QDR to champion an alternative. Donald Rumsfeld's final, tired draft is essentially an admission of failure, an acknowledgement that Republicans don't have the guts or the muscle to make difficult changes to the military even when they control every branch of the government. But as Lorelei Kelly says:

The information support system for liberals who want to talk about national security is serious and it's growing. Try the Foreign Policy Leadership Council, the Security Policy Working Group and the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

Read up! We need to get started on this while Rove is preoccupied with the Energizer Bunny (training it to do an interpretive dance when it runs into the constitution, no doubt).

Good advice.

Kevin Drum 2:37 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (78)

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Comments

You have to wonder why national Dems are so frightened of this. Is it because they are going to be attacked as "weak on defense"? Because, I hate to point this out, but they are already. So why not make some goddamn lemonade with these lemons?

Clearly, I'm just too simple to be a politician...

Posted by: craigie on February 9, 2006 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

The Hair Farce is so eager to keep the F-22 - The World's Best Interceptor For Fighting The Red Air Force Over Germany When The Warsaw Pact Attacks NATO - that they want to drop the F-117 and half the B-52s, both of which have performed well in the current threat environment, and the A-10 (which they never wanted since it was designed to support ground troops, a job they hate). They claim the F-22 can replace all. This is like their attempt ten years ago to replace the A-10 with the F-16. According to Defense News, they even came up with some electronic something-or-other to hang on the F-22 that they claim could "find" IEDs in Iraq. The F-22 in fact is too expensive to use in combat, since they couldn't afford to replace any losses.

But hey, if the "perfumed princes of Versailles-on-the-Potomac" (as my old friend the late David Hackworth used to call them) can't keep the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Complex - aka corporate socialism - working, how will they ever get those cushy "consultancies" with defense contractors after they retire? And how would the pinstriped pimps of Boeing/Lockheed/Northrop ever continue to by all those Congresscritters?

The same is true for the Navy's submarine and destroyer programs. All of these are weapons looking for a mission, which is why the Hair Farce and the National Boating Society are pushing for a war with China. They have to have some justification for the bazillions in welfare.

Posted by: TCinLA on February 9, 2006 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

I would advocate deeper and broader cuts than these, but it is a start. 10,000 F/A-22 Raptors, 50,000 Ospreys, 100 submarines and all the space-based technology we can buy isn't going to do to one damn thing to stop 19 suicidal men from flying jets into our skyscrapers. In Iraq, we are fighting shoeless 15 year olds with WWII vintage rifles and hand grenades duct-taped together with a blasting cap. These weapon systems are as worthless as a bubble gum machine in a lockjaw ward.

This budget is a Cold War dinosaur that Dems should attack head-on as being wasteful, unnecessary, anachronistic and a giveaway to defense contractors.

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on February 9, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Air force fighter jocks WANT to fly Warthogs.

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 9, 2006 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

The priority? Corporate profits. Specifically the military-industrial complex. How else can one explain the ridiculous push for a non-working missile defense system that's such a bad idea they had to rig all of the tests? And they've gone ahead with all of the money to build it so our tax dollars can be fed into corporate coffers.

The Iraq War isn't really about oil, but about war profiteering. Ultimately that's what the PNAC goal isput the US on a permanent war footing ("empire") so the taxing powers of the government can be used to funnel money into companies like Halliburton.

The Bush government is turning our country into something out of Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat universe.

Posted by: puppethead on February 9, 2006 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

In other countries, as Alec Baldwin pointed out, people would swarm into the streets with pitchforks and burning torches. We hear this stuff and shrug.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on February 9, 2006 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

I tend to think that we don't need both the F-22 and JSF...the LCS is a good thing and probably slows down the need for the DD(X) (which is aimed at China ultimately).

with that said, cutting the V-22? what are they smoking? it has obvious benefits in counterterrorism operations.

as for doubling the special forces that'd be nice...but the only way to do that would be to sharply cut the qualifications necessary, i.e., they wouldn't be special anymore.

Posted by: Nathan on February 9, 2006 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

Assuming that the V-22 is actually able to get airborne without crashing. Big target for handheld SAMs as well.

Posted by: Wombat on February 9, 2006 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

What I'd like to see the Democrats propose is an increase in the base Army salary, at the cost of a few of these ridiculous pork barrel projects.

Currently there are half a million active duty Army personnel, and 700,000 army reserve and national guard. (Exercise for the reader: the numbers for the other branches of the Armed Services).

The average Army sergeant makes $24,000 a year; with benefits added in, $36,000.

For the $12 billion earmarked for the F/A-12 Raptor alone, you could raise the salaries of all 1.2 million men by $10,000 a year.

Not by pay grade, not by rank, but across the board.

That may be overly optimistic, but an additional four or even five thousand a year would not only reward people who get some of the crappiest pay for one of the most difficult and important jobs out there, it would be a good political move for a party that the right-wing speakerbox keeps repeating "doesn't support the troops". Yeah, you assholes cheer them on (and stab them in the back) when you send them to get shot at; we Democrats will give them enough body armor, and money for their families to pay the rent.

Posted by: S Ra on February 9, 2006 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

wombat: true, but it's better than the helicopters it replaces. as for the F-22 v. the JSF, we need one of them..for various reasons I'd say the JSF.

S Ra: although I would support an across-the-board pay raise, I'll point out that you underestimate the benefits for troops with families...

Posted by: Nathan on February 9, 2006 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

with that said, cutting the V-22? what are they smoking? Posted by: Nathan

Oh, I'd guess they're getting rid of it probably because it's a complete piece of crap that spends as much time grounded as it does flying. That's why, moron.

Posted by: Jeff II on February 9, 2006 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

The V-22 is worthless. F/A-22 needs to go.

C-130s are, however, very necessary and are underrated, go-anywhere, workhorses compared to the very expensive C-17s.

Everyone complains about the Air Force, until they need something blow'd up real good. Or supplies air dropped.

Posted by: ChrisS on February 9, 2006 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

Either terrorism is the "greatest threat ever" or it is not. Either the Defense budget reflects this belief or it does not. And clearly it does not.

Republicans must be attacked at their perceived strength. Defense, security, etc. Take it to the hoop hard. Many leading Democrats only want the easy lay up.

Anyway, I believe there is something fundamentally wrong with a country that spends more for defense than most of the rest of the world combined, unless it wants to fight the rest of the world that is.

BushIsMyPersonalSavior

Posted by: Bush Rules on February 9, 2006 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

'the PNAC goal isput the US on a permanent war footing ("empire") so the taxing powers of the government can be used to funnel money into companies like Halliburton.
--puppethead

That is the very definition of fascism - the confluence of state and corporate power. We are living in it right now!

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on February 9, 2006 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II/Chris:

vortex ring state has been dealt with.

um, so, how would you insert a special forces team or some Marines 400 miles inland as quickly as possible? surely, you're not so obtuse that you can't see the advantages of the V-22.

Posted by: Nathan on February 9, 2006 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

C-130s are, however, very necessary and are underrated, go-anywhere, workhorses compared to the very expensive C-17s.

Threads like these always turn into flame/defend-your-least/most-favorite-weapon-system. I like them as much as anyone else. In this particular case, while I have no strong feelings either way about the C-17, by all accounts Lockheed managed to make a significant step backward with the C-130J. If memory serves, the always-enterprising Newt Gingrich, then representing the district where it was manufactured, foisted a squadron of the things on an Air Force that never asked for them.

Posted by: sglover on February 9, 2006 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

DD(X) is Snowe's and Collins' reason for living. They lost Brunswick NAS and almost lost Portsmouth. They lose DD(X) and they either pull a Jeffords, or retire -- and there's two more Dem. Senators.

Add Thad Cochran and Trent Lott.

I think you'll see it survive near any round of cuts.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on February 9, 2006 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

The real future of "national security" is going to have everything to do with dealing with the consequences of anthropogenic climate change, and nothing to do with terrorism.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 9, 2006 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

And all of these weapons systems will be pretty useless when there is not enough oil left to fuel them.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 9, 2006 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

Puppethead:Not only knowing that the Iraqi war is not about oil (which is a "pipe" dream..ha ha..), but war profiteering, but also mentioning The Stainless Steel Rat in the same post?

Impressive.

Posted by: Karmakin on February 9, 2006 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

slgover:

agreed...the point of the C-17, expensive as it may be, is that it can land places that other transport planes can't.

Posted by: Nathan on February 9, 2006 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

DD(X) is Snowe's and Collins' reason for living. They lost Brunswick NAS and almost lost Portsmouth. They lose DD(X) and they either pull a Jeffords, or retire -- and there's two more Dem. Senators.

Unfortunately, all the white elephants (F-22, DD-X, etc.) have strong constituencies -- since they're about jobs and profits at least as much as they are about "security".

Posted by: sglover on February 9, 2006 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

vortex ring state has been dealt with.

Ya. Right.
No confidence

Posted by: Jeff II on February 9, 2006 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

I just downloaded the document. Not sure I agree with all the weapons cuts (C-130s?) but will check it out.

At the very least, some big points to the authors for actually putting a viable alternative on the table instead of just bitching about the current plans.

Cuts will be easier said than done. I remember the fun Rumsfeld had trying to kill the Crusader gun.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 9, 2006 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

Great article about about Stephen Cambone at,

http://www.counterpunch.org/stclair02072006.html

"In addition, SRS benefited from Cambone's transfer to the spying wing of the Pentagon. An SRS subsidiary called Torch Concepts was hired by the Pentagon to conduct a data mining foray into passenger records of JetBlue airlines. Bart Edsall, SRS's vice-president, described the work Torch did this way: "the company got a contract from the Pentagon to work with the Army to ferret information out of data streams [in an effort to detect] abnormal behavior of secretive people".

Posted by: cld on February 9, 2006 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

Just partway into it, but I highly urge everyone to read the whole paper. The chart just touches on some of the items.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 9, 2006 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

I just downloaded the document. Not sure I agree with all the weapons cuts (C-130s?) but will check it out.

The C-130J, tbrosz. A more expensive, less capable version of the venerable airlifter.

Posted by: sglover on February 9, 2006 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

While the Osprey would be a big savings, a large number of our deaths in active duty are in helicopter crashes...

...And this program is specifically designed to lower or eliminate that chance of death.

(Yes, I know the Osprey so far has been more danerous, but that's why it costs so much)

Same with the development of the Joint Strike Fighter - the idea is to lower costs associated with keeping the planes in the air. This aircraft already is alot cheaper to buy - and support - than any previous aircraft. It's the hybrid engine for the military.

There definitely needs to be a focus on Special Forces and Peacekeeping forces, however.

Posted by: Crissa on February 9, 2006 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

surely, you're not so obtuse that you can't see the advantages of the V-22.

I can see the advantages of super-powerful robots like the terminator. That doesn't make than any less of an expensive pipe dream.

And my robots haven't killed a dozen or so marines yet.


C-17s were supposed to be able to airlift an Abrams anywhere it needed to go. However, I don't think that many of the plane's purported "land anywhere with anything" characteristics were ever tested to make full use. Of course, I've been out of the airlifting dept. since 2000, so I might be out of date. And I'm not up to speed on 130-Js, so I defer to other's better judgement. My philosphy is that small and dependable outweighs higher-tech hybrids.

Posted by: ChrisS on February 9, 2006 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

*wombat: true, but it's better than the helicopters it replaces. as for the F-22 v. the JSF, we need one of them..for various reasons I'd say the JSF.*

I'd say the oposite. The F-22 is built it's ready to go and it's fly away cost is only getting cheaper. The JSF hasn't even flown yet (though it will very soon), and it's price is balooning rapidly. I wouldn't be surprised if it cost nearly as much as a Raptor by the time it hits IOC (initial operating capability). While all the talk about the F-22 being designed to fight Russian superfighters is partially true, what it doesn't take into account is the fact that the atributes that allow it to do that also fit well with fighting the type of small wars we've been fighting. It's much faster and longer ranged then the JSF which means it can be launched from bases farther away from the target and get to them faster (which means less reliance on reprehensible dictatorships for basing rights and the ability to fly more missions). It's much stealthier (which means it's much safer up against the newer generation of Super Surface to air missile that the Russians and Chinese are selling dirt cheap to everyone). And of course it also has the advantage of being adle to dominate the air to air arena just in case someone does decide to try to contest us there (with the exception of the first Gulf War where the IrAF made a concious decision not to fight us in the air we haven't faced anything more than a token Air force in the past 20 years). The JSF seems to be little more than a stealthy F-16 that costs twice as much. It doesn't really bring any new capabilities other than stealth and it would hamper us with most of the same force issues we have today.

I hadn't heard about the AF trying to kill the A-10 (recently) and last I heard it's finally getting upgraded. I did hear about the F-22 taking over for the F-117 which is an unqualified good thing, the Raptor is faster stealthier and longer ranged, it will be able to do things the F-117 can only dream about.

Posted by: Nied on February 9, 2006 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

It sounds decent; though, from the summary, I think I've got some beefs with the details. I'd probably put the C-130J and V-22 back in (which still leaves some savings -- if I had to save more, I'd probably halve each of the first two expansion items, which while necessary in the long-term, probably don't need done at the level suggested over a five year period -- and I'm particularly skeptical that special forces can be doubled over five years, effectively.) It seems to shortchange rapid-deployment logistical capability, overcompensating for the shortcomings in fighting the Iraq war, which I'd argue is precisely the kind of war that the US is least likely to need to fight, and therefore something that the force shouldn't be overly tuned to do.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 9, 2006 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

My favorite is a nose mounted laser in a 747 that is supposed shoot down incoming missles. I don't think they have gotten the laser to power up yet.

Posted by: Neo on February 9, 2006 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

It sounds decent; though, from the summary, I think I've got some beefs with the details. Posted by: cmdicely

What do you know? You're a girl.

Posted by: Jeff II on February 9, 2006 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Mostly good ideas, but some crazy ones too.

Buy more B-2's? WTF? Every time there's a war they drag those things out just to show that they can fly. But the maintenance is horrendous, and the cost is absurd.

By contrast canning the Virginia class subs is a very bad idea. Reduce the cost of them by not insisting that they be built both at Electric Boat and Newport News (a major reason they're more expensive than the Seawolf class, though they were supposed to be cheaper).

Kill the Virginia class and we'll have no new sub programs, which means we'll lose the technology and know-how to build subs. Technologies like this are something that you can't just keep on the shelf.

In addition, or perhaps alternatively, build some non-nuclear subs. They're a fraction of the price, and while they lack the endurance of the nukes, they're unbeatable for coastal work. In exercises they've "sunk" major US ships and even nuclear subs.

Don't put everything into fighting terrorism, because not planning for the next war is almost as bad as fighting the last one.

Posted by: alex on February 9, 2006 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK
What do you know? You're a girl.

My wife would be surprised to learn that.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 9, 2006 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely: My wife would be surprised to learn that.

This is a liberal blog - no need to be embarassed about such tings.

Posted by: alex on February 9, 2006 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

Nied: I'd say the oposite. The F-22 is built it's ready to go and it's fly away cost is only getting cheaper.

What's the Navy supposed to fly?

Posted by: alex on February 9, 2006 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK
What's the Navy supposed to fly?

If the Navy was supposed to fly, it would be called the "Air Force". :)

Posted by: cmdicely on February 9, 2006 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

A question for those reading the whole report. Does it really suggest, as the graph says, completely eliminating our nuclear force? I'm all for the basic idea of a Democratic military budget favoring army growth over weapons research, but eliminating nukes is too reminiscent of the whole 60's "Let's have a Department of Peace" mentality. Eliminating our nuclear weapons is not an even remotely realistic step at this, or any currently forseeable, time. That sort of absurd suggestion is indicative of why many independents are wary of voting for a Democrat for President on national security grounds, and why the mostly unfair and exaggerated 'hippie peacenik' stereotype persists. Were it not for that stereotype, Kerry would probably have won.

Again, I like the overall approach, but it does list 'Nuclear Forces' in the 'Eliminated Systems' column. If this is accurate...more realism, please.

Posted by: ChiSoxfan in LA on February 9, 2006 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely: If the Navy was supposed to fly, it would be called the "Air Force".

If the air force knew how to fly, they wouldn't need 5000' runways.

Posted by: alex on February 9, 2006 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

What do you know? You're a girl.

My wife would be surprised to learn that.
Posted by: cmdicely

You mean you haven't told her? I hope she doesn't post here. Maybe "Al" is short for Alice?

Posted by: Jeff II on February 9, 2006 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

The C-130J, tbrosz. A more expensive, less capable version of the venerable airlifter.

Yeah, got that now, thanks. My brother flew C-5s during the Gulf War. Now THOSE are maintenance hogs.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 9, 2006 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK
Does it really suggest, as the graph says, completely eliminating our nuclear force?

No. The plan proposes reducing to a 600 deployed + 400 reserve warhead arsenal, and eliminating the proposed nuclear bunker buster program and pursuing a "reliable replacement warhead" program that doesn't involve nuclear testing.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 9, 2006 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

No, it suggests reducing the nuclear force by retaining 600 warheads deployed on Minutemen, Tridents, and aircraft, developing the "reliable replacement warhead", and getting rid of everything else - notably, the nuclear bunker buster program that the Rethugs get a hard-on over.

Posted by: Robert Merkel on February 9, 2006 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks cmdicely for providing the details. I withdraw my rant...

Posted by: ChiSoxfan in LA on February 9, 2006 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

Actually... The JSF has flown; they required the bidders to make several working copies before getting the contract.

Replacing older airplanes with it is not a bad idea, as it can be repaired in far fewer steps. That's the idea!

Now, buying B-2s?

Posted by: Crissa on February 9, 2006 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

I don't pretend to understand the details of this budget. But if what you're saying is, it doesn't treat the "war on terror" as being as important as other potential threats -- nuclear proliferation, say, or the possiblity that the Chinese might become militarily aggressive -- well, that strikes me as being pretty much right. The point being that the admin's hot rhetoric doesn't match it's budgetary reality because its rhetoric is bullshit.

Posted by: larry birnbaum on February 9, 2006 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, buying more B-2s seems pretty foolish. It seems like the B-2s, B-1s, and B-52s all have pretty much the same mission nowadays. Seems like we could build a whole squadron of non-stealth heavy bombers for the price of one B-2. I mean, 12 billion dollars for three freaking airplanes? I'm not saying we should spend that money on healthcare or anything crazy like that, but that's like a whole carrier battle group, for christ's sake.

Posted by: mjk on February 9, 2006 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, let's eliminate the F/A-22. It's only the most maneuverable, fastest, most deadly plane in any air force. After all, it's only the pilots who will be put at risk if they don't have every advantage possible.

And people wonder why the Left isn't trusted in matters military?

Posted by: Birkel on February 9, 2006 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

Birkel -- yeah, those guys driving those F-15C's are just getting shot down left and right.

Posted by: mjk on February 9, 2006 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

Damn straight Birkel, let's get rid of that pinko commie bastard Rep Jerry Lewis (R-CA) from Redlands, CA. Damnable Lewis wants to cut the F-22 - Heck, Birkel, why don't you start a fund to oust the guy?

Posted by: thethirdPaul on February 9, 2006 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

As someone who has been intensely involved with fighting a war, I would suggest that you Yanks seriously consider building one hundred Habbakuks. An unsinkable Habbakuk could work wonders for you.

Cheers

Posted by: Winston Churchill on February 9, 2006 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

As far as I'm concerned the military does more good as a full employment project, doling out pork to economically depressed areas, than it would radically re-organized to fight a threat that poses a tiny risk to my personal safety.

Who cares about some plan cooked up by some idiot think-tank wonk? I am so completely unconcerned about terrorism; protect me against drunk drivers and my own propensity to smoke cigarettes. Then I'd feel a lot more secure. I'm just amazed that anybody thinks Democrats can score political points by offering their own mental masturbations about military policy.

Posted by: Matt D on February 9, 2006 at 7:32 PM | PERMALINK

Winston Churchill: Habbakuks

Yes, great fun on the History Channel last night. But wasn't it Canucks building them? Sure they have lots of ice, but who can trust them these days. Besides, lately we've been fighting in warmer climes.

P.S. Say hi to Uncle Joe for me.

Posted by: FDR on February 9, 2006 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK

Not bad.

More troops, less defense pork, existing B2's with Nukes (as a new WMD state deterrant). Which means of course that without missile defense, they are betting on Mutually Assured Destruction as a deterrant to WMD proliferation.......

I'm against that but its too abstract a point to base an attack on.

Gee, you guys might actually have a defense strategy if you weren't too busy calling the troops torturers.

By the way, if recruting is impossible because of Iraq, how do you actually expect to recruit 86,000 troops.


Posted by: McA on February 9, 2006 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK
By the way, if recruting is impossible because of Iraq, how do you actually expect to recruit 86,000 troops.

Who said it was impossible? Clearly, its more expensive than previously, and the standards have had to be relaxed, but its certainly not impossible.

As there is considerable money budgetted for the expansion, the fact that recruitment takes money has not, I think, been ignored.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 9, 2006 at 8:01 PM | PERMALINK

Mjk: Russian, Chinese, Indian, and even Iranian aircraft technology is not standing still. And the nature of aerial combat is apparently changing. With modern short-range missiles, if you're "within visual range" of an enemy aircraft, you can fire a missile at it. You don't have to manoeuver to get behind its engines or anything any more, and the odds you'll shoot it down. They can be strapped onto just about anything that flies, and it basically evens the score between the current generation American planes and a MiG-21 or F-5 like the Iranians fly.

Then you've got surface to air missiles. The latest Russian systems, which have been licensed to the Chinese and have been widely exported, stand a pretty fair chance of shooting current-generation fighters out of the sky.

For that reason, F-15C's over, say, Iran, may not be as invincible as they were against Serbia and Iraq. That's why the USAF wants F-22's and JSF. Whether they actually need the F-22 is another question, but as I understand it it's actually much stealthier than the JSF, which will be rather handy in getting around these threats.

As to restarting B-2 production, what kind of dope is this guy smoking? Why the hell would you risk a multi-billion dollar aircraft when you could get high-risk missions done with cruise missiles? It'd be much cheaper to make the AGM-86 (the cruise missile they launch from the B-52) stealthier and longer range than to build more B-2's. The thing is a hangover from the Cold War.

Posted by: Robert Merkel on February 9, 2006 at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK

The military's supposed to always be planning to fight the last war.

It's nice to see that civilian kbbutzniks have the same problem.

Let's think about this based on likely missions.

Here's my list of likely missions for the future military:

  1. Surgical strike to eliminate nuclear capability in Iran, Venezuela, or similar country

  • Surgical strike to eliminate nuclear capability in North Korea or Pakistan (both substantially harder nuts to crack)
  • War and/or peace keeping in the Caucasus or the Stans, possibly including head to head confrontation with Russia
  • Invasion and occupation of Iran
  • Total war on the Korean Penninsula
  • War with China in the Taiwan Straits
  • Land / Naval war with China over all of SEA, North Asia, and the Pacific with bombing and possibly land operations in mainland China
  • If you think in those terms the proposed budget is criminally negligent.

    It guts our efforts to maintain a technological edge that will allow us to defeat enemies that outnumber us while taking acceptable casualties while pumping cash and men into areas like Special Forces and peacekeeping, which are unlikely to need the manpower for most likely missions and doubling Homeland Defense without any clear idea of what the new missions are that you would want the military to execute with that extra money.

    We'd feel pretty stupid if we followed this budget and then had to fight a Pacific war with China in 2015 without the next generation of subs, destroyers, heavy lift transport planes, VTOL aircraft, fighter aircraft, and space based weapons systems.

    Posted by: Michael Friedman on February 9, 2006 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

    Jesus Christ. I'm totally with Matt D. (And Merkel and Friedman).

    George Bush is trying to cause the US to self-immoliate by assuming an imperial stance with far too little to work with.

    And the CPA says: 'Damn it, you're self-immoliating fast enough. We really need to add some plastic explosive to the mix! And we need to invade even more countries!'

    That's not soft of defense (if only). That's psychotic on defense.

    ash
    ['Ok, 30 posts now to roll up on TPM.']

    Posted by: ash on February 9, 2006 at 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

    Apologies for interrupting this hardware festival...

    Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. [...] Is there no other way the world may live?
    •Dwight David Eisenhower

    Posted by: Ike on February 10, 2006 at 1:47 AM | PERMALINK

    Thank you Ike, for a little bit of wisdom in a sea of madness.

    When a presumably liberal blog turns into a wonkish debate about the pluses and minuses of proposed weapons systems, we are in deep, deep trouble in this country.

    In my view, we should slash the Pentagon's budget by 75-90% and sue for peace with Iran, N. Korea, etc. and focus on real problems like global climate change. By selling arms all over the world (we also helped the Shah of Iran build the first nuclear reactor in Iran, that worked out well, didn't it?), we are planting the seeds of future conflicts, death and degradation.

    When supposedly intelligent people turn out to be enamored of weapons of death (did you not get to play enough "Army man" when you were young?), and get a boner talking about the merits of this fighter vs. that missile, we are headed for the downward spiral of death and destruction.

    I give up on this blog......

    Posted by: Stephen Kriz on February 10, 2006 at 6:57 AM | PERMALINK

    Stephen, if you do that, within a couple of years Eastern Europe arms itself to the teeth with nukes to ensure the Russians stay away. Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea do the same, with China as the bogeyman. Who knows what happens in South East Asia, but there'd be an arms race and Australia at a minimum would be sorely tempted to get nuclear weapons without Uncle Sam as guarantor.

    Oh, and then there's the Middle East.

    How long before one of those powder kegs goes off?

    Look, it would be nice to plan for a world in which Pax Americana could be replaced with more global efforts, backed with global force when necessary. But simply picking up your bat and ball and going home straight away sounds like a really stupid idea, both in terms of narrow American interests and the broader American interest in a better world.

    Given that, wonkish discussions on how the US can best provide that service to itself and the world aren't some kind of deriliction of the idea of a more peaceful world. It's an unfortunate reflection of the imperfect world in which we live.

    In any case, until some of these tensions are actually resolved you've got Buckley's chance of convincing the American public that disarming is the right thing to do.

    Posted by: Robert Merkel on February 10, 2006 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

    The US dismantled most of its armed forces after World War I. Stephen Kriz would have you believe World War II never happend and that another major war could never happen again.

    Posted by: james on February 10, 2006 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK
    Whether they actually need the F-22 is another question, but as I understand it it's actually much stealthier than the JSF, which will be rather handy in getting around these threats.

    My understanding is that, other than in short-runway capability, the F-22 is more capable than the JSF in most respects. And its more ready. Problem with deciding to drop the JSF is it leaves the Navy (and Marines, IIRC) essentially missing an entire generation of tactical aircraft, because, unlike the Air Force, they had all the eggs in the JSF basket.

    And, certainly, we don't need either the F-22 or JSF particularly badly to meet current threats. Bbut the F-15, F-16, and other current fighters aren't going to be adequate for the next 20 years, either. The F-22 is the culmination of a program that began in, as I recall, the mid 1980s, the F-35 of a program begun in 1993 (that replaced two earlier developmental programs.) Modern fighters aren't developed overnight -- so, the question is, will the aging fighters the US has now be adequate for another couple decades.

    Now, the answer may be "yes", but that's the thought process that has to accompany any thought of cancelling those programs, particularly without an immediate developmental replacement.

    Posted by: cmdicely on February 10, 2006 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

    For the love of God, please some national democrat, aggressively publicize this.

    It's no brainer to sell the policy that Special Forces > Fancy Weapons Systems. All you have to do is invoke 9/11. Let's see how the other side feels about having all their arguments about rising global threats trumped by references to 9/11.

    And it's exactly the sort of argument that can make a dem look good on national security: "Me weak on national security? I'm the on who wants to expand the army. I'm the one who wants to give more funds to Homeland securty. I'm the one who ensure that our troops have the materials they need when they need them."

    It probably won't sell to Kos and friends, but this is *exactly* what the doctor ordered on National Security.

    Posted by: TWAndrews on February 10, 2006 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

    Look, it would be nice to plan for a world in which Pax Americana could be replaced with more global efforts, backed with global force when necessary. But simply picking up your bat and ball and going home straight away sounds like a really stupid idea, both in terms of narrow American interests and the broader American interest in a better world.
    Robert Merkel

    Thanks for the straw man. You forgot to mention that the US, with its enormous military outlays - have you seen the projected budget figures? - is now, in most of the world's view, the chief obstacle to any hope of that nicer world. Promoters of (or those simply resigned to) that Pax Americana never fail to underestimate the enormous influence of American policy on the direction of history. As they perceive it, we're neutral in these matters, reacting to external threats as needed while hoping for a better world.

    The US dismantled most of its armed forces after World War I. Stephen Kriz would have you believe World War II never happend and that another major war could never happen again.

    james

    ...and James would have us buy his 'appeasement' analogy without the barest attempt to relate the isolationist atmosphere of 1919-1939 to the radically different world of today. Next, he'll be announcing all the new, official Hitler-wanna-bes and the impending threat they represent.

    Posted by: Ike on February 10, 2006 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

    We have to cut the Pentagon budget. If you don't they will threaten national security by alarming everyone, wasting tons of fossil fuel, blowing the American family budget, and just general havoc. So cut.

    CATO agrees:

    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2006-02/10/content_519098.htm

    While we are at it, can we cut everything else? How about a 30% across the board cut phased in over three years?

    Dems propose it, along with a tax attack on the rich. Waddya say? Wanna give up some programs in favor of economic egalitarianism? Are all Dem big programs sacrosanct?


    Posted by: Matt on February 10, 2006 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

    Interested in the real relationship of the United States to the rest of the world?

    Read this.

    Does it make you want to order more Virginia class subs and F-22s?

    People's Republic of China, military budget 2005 (Rand Corp. estimate): $42 - 51 billion

    Posted by: Ike on February 10, 2006 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

    ' Stephen Kriz would have you believe World War II never happend and that another major war could never happen again.
    -- James

    I don't get your point about WWII, if there is a point to get. As to whether it will ever happen again, of course it will. The U.S. is ensuring that it will be happen again, by proliferating arms throughout the world:

    "
    Since 1990, the United States has exported more than $152 billion worth of weapons to states around the world. Many of these sales have been to repressive and/or unstable governments."

    from http://www.fas.org/asmp/profiles/

    We sold Saddam Hussein many of the weapons he fired back at us. The same will be true in Saudi Arabia, Colombia, Angola and a host of other countries that will eventually go off the reservation and we will have to go to war against to put down.

    If we were truly a Christian nation, we would unilaterally disarm.

    Violence begets violence.

    Posted by: Stephen Kriz on February 10, 2006 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

    "My understanding is that, other than in short-runway capability, the F-22 is more capable than the JSF in most respects. And its more ready. Problem with deciding to drop the JSF is it leaves the Navy (and Marines, IIRC) essentially missing an entire generation of tactical aircraft, because, unlike the Air Force, they had all the eggs in the JSF basket.

    And, certainly, we don't need either the F-22 or JSF particularly badly to meet current threats. But the F-15, F-16, and other current fighters aren't going to be adequate for the next 20 years, either. The F-22 is the culmination of a program that began in, as I recall, the mid 1980s, the F-35 of a program begun in 1993 (that replaced two earlier developmental programs.) Modern fighters aren't developed overnight -- so, the question is, will the aging fighters the US has now be adequate for another couple decades.

    Now, the answer may be "yes", but that's the thought process that has to accompany any thought of cancelling those programs, particularly without an immediate developmental replacement."

    A bigger concern with simply keeping what we have is that planes (at least fighter planes) don't last forever. Years of making hard maneuvers in both training missions and actual combat wear down an airframe to the point where in extreme cases the plane can simply fall apart. Even under the best conditions these old airframes need a far greater amount of maintenance than new aircraft, which ends up costing lots of money. That's partly why the Navy is replacing it's F-14 Tomcats with the arguably lower performance Super Hornet. The Super Hornet needs about a third of the maintenance of the Tomcat and is thus less expensive to operate and more readily available to perform missions. So we can cut both the F-22 and the JSF but we'd see that money disappear over the next few years into the force sustainment budget.

    I'm still in favor of either cutting or killing the JSF. Either kill it outright and have the Navy and Marines buy more Super Hornets and UCAVs or kill all but the Navy version and have the Air Force and Marines purchase it as well (it worked quite well for both the F-4 and the A-7).

    Posted by: Nied on February 10, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

    I still like the idea of buying into the Sukhoi airframe series, supplying our own avionics and engines.

    I cannot think of anything that would drop the cost of fighter jets and make them available to anyone, then to have Russia mass produce those airframes by the thousands. Just let the Russians go wild, offering their Sukhoi, crate ready, fighter frames in a whole series; all with standardized engine and cockpit compartments.

    Then kit bash the things. Standard electric units, standard avionics packages, multiple competitors. Then just open up the market, worlwide, international agreement. Jet figher kitbashing, the new hot rods. I mean, ZOOM, can you just imagine! Why fuck around?

    Then we just compete with secret weapons packages, you know, get the 1,000 top scientists and have them secretly develop nasty things to shoot out of these jets. How can anyone doubt this strategy?


    Posted by: Matt on February 10, 2006 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK
    I cannot think of anything that would drop the cost of fighter jets and make them available to anyone, then to have Russia mass produce those airframes by the thousands.

    Dropping the cost and making them available to everyone is not a benefit. Getting them cheaper is a benefit. Our allies getting them cheaper is a benefit. Our enemies getting them cheaper -- not so much.


    Posted by: cmdicely on February 10, 2006 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

    For all the talk about how old the F-15's & F-16's are, I don't see anything about the disparity in training and institutional culture that separates the American military from most or all of its (supposed) adversaries. Look, tomorrow's Saddam can load himself to the gills with Eurofighters, the latest Russian offerings, whatever -- if his pilots aren't competent, and his maintenance and repair infrastructure is paper-thin, his shiny arsenal is nothing but a toy collection.

    When you take this into account (ignoring it is opting to write off the entire history of aerial warfare), the F-22 & JSF are even bigger white elephants. And the fact remains that the "threat" that these things are supposed to counter is mainly one ginned up by folks who stand to gain.

    Posted by: sglover on February 10, 2006 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

    "For all the talk about how old the F-15's & F-16's are, I don't see anything about the disparity in training and institutional culture that separates the American military from most or all of its (supposed) adversaries. Look, tomorrow's Saddam can load himself to the gills with Eurofighters, the latest Russian offerings, whatever -- if his pilots aren't competent, and his maintenance and repair infrastructure is paper-thin, his shiny arsenal is nothing but a toy collection.

    When you take this into account (ignoring it is opting to write off the entire history of aerial warfare), the F-22 & JSF are even bigger white elephants. And the fact remains that the "threat" that these things are supposed to counter is mainly one ginned up by folks who stand to gain."

    Good point, though it doesn't necessarily argue against buying good equipment. There are threats that have trained quite often even if their equipment isn't top of the line. The backbone of the Iranian Air Force are 70's era F-4s suplemented with upgraded F-14s and brand new Mig-29s, but they train rigorously and could exact a heavy toll if we were to engage them. And lets not forget that there are other threats to air superiority besides other fighters. The Saddam of the future could chose to ring his borders with Russian S-300 SAMs supplement those with a few squadrons of cheap FC-1s or J-10s from China and have an air defence network that would require very little in the way of training or maintenance but be capable of repelling most of our current aircraft.

    Posted by: Nied on February 10, 2006 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

    sglover has it right.

    Given an even technology playing field, we should come out way on top. We are investing a ton of dough in airframe capability that is nearly going to be duplicated by the Russians.

    Who we gonna fight? The Chinese? Hey, overwhelm them with four times the number of fighter jets, use our carriers, long range targeting, advanced weapons. Al Queda? We are just using the model airplanes for them anyway.

    We are dicking around, like we did with the shuttle, and end up using Russian technology anyway. So, buy Russian, I say. Most of the wars are asymmetrical anyway, the jets used mainly for air to land targeting.

    We force the world economy to adapt a single airframe technology, soret of the AK-47 of jet fighter airframes. Then if anyone wants to play, fine, we beat them with numbers and advanced weapons. Lower our cost and we take a minor risk of some future massive dogfight.

    Posted by: Matt on February 10, 2006 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

    Stephen Kriz - Your position of US mass disarmament was attempted after World War I. The occurrence and nature of World War II, demonstrated that this choice was incorrect. Mass disarmament going forward would require the abandonment of allies and a reliance on the good will of others. Given that there is a major war every 10-20 years it seems unlikely that the good will of others can be relied upon.

    sglover During the Korean War the US had a major technical disadvantage in the area of Jet fighters. Superior training was not enough to overcome this and it cost the lives of many US armed personnel. It is also considered a major factor in the failure of the UN forces to hold off the Chinese counter attack (no bomber cover). The vast majority of countries can not afford to train their pilots to the same level as the US, however these fighters are not being developed with those nations in mind.

    Posted by: james on February 10, 2006 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

    Matt: Given an even technology playing field, we should come out way on top.

    That's clever. Give up one of our key military advantages - superior technology - because we ought to be able to win anyway.

    We are investing a ton of dough in airframe capability that is nearly going to be duplicated by the Russians.

    How's Russian stealth technology?

    Whatever, Russia is surely a reliable ally and supplier and we can count on them not to play games by cutting off a supply of spare parts or something. Maybe China has some good stuff we can buy too.

    Oh, and the fact that once you stop developing a technology like sophisticated airframes, you loose it, doesn't matter. It's a new global era, right?

    Posted by: alex on February 10, 2006 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK

    "Oh, and the fact that once you stop developing a technology like sophisticated airframes, you loose it, doesn't matter."

    Look at the Chinese strategy. They spend 1/10 what we do on military technology. They have chosen to buy into an existing airframe techmology, and focus on long rang weapon capacity against the American carriers.

    They get their airframes, equip them and put them into service at 1/5 of the cost we do, but they get 85% of the capability. That is all they need, for if the issue was dog fighting carrier pilots, they would simple triple their purchase of Sukhoi fighters, and still beat us.

    We are pouring billions to get that last 15% or performance, and the last major dogfight in the world was 20 years ago between the Israelis and the Syrians (biggest jet fighter clash in history, actually)

    Who is going to win? The Chinese. They are gonna take $20 billion to develop long range signal detection and attack against American carriers.

    Conservatives make the same mistake with military technology that liberals make with medical technology, try to hide and protect the stuff from the open market.

    Why are we trying to win that last 15% of performance? Most of our battles are won with training, signal detection, targeting and stand off weapons.

    Fighter airframe technology has reached the limits of pilot physiology. If you are not careful, even todays generation of fighters can black you out. Everything I can see into the future is all going to be targeting and stand off weaponry; or close ground support.

    Posted by: Matt on February 11, 2006 at 7:48 AM | PERMALINK




     

     

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