|
Your donations keep RPGWatch running!
RPGWatch Forums » General Forums » Politics, Religion & other Controversies » Trends in US Defense Spending: Is America Reshaping Itself?

Default Trends in US Defense Spending: Is America Reshaping Itself?

April 17th, 2009, 19:13
This issue is intriguing for me in that it's gotten such relatively little press compared to what I see as it's major shift in perspective about our military goals. Here's a link to a few articles covering the subject as reference:

US Defense Dept Transcript of Gates' Budget Recommendations

A War Fighter's Budget; Mike Gerson, Washington Post
Gates Takes Aim at Military Pork, TIME Magazine

In a nutshell, and to the best of my understanding, Sec. Gates' budget aims to remove obsolete weapons systems investment in Cold War type weapons set-ups, unrealistic and huge programs like the Army Future Combat System, expensive show units like the Marine One helicopters, and instead use military funding to focus on the types of wars/conflicts we're actually engaged in in the current climate, including investment in intelligence and more specialized personnel equipment. The focus is toward smaller, localized engagements rather than a vast military panoply of superweapons and huge numbers to impress or deter an equally large militarized opponent. He also proposes increased investment in veteran's care and support for an all volunteer army.

To me this whole package seems a welcome departure from the entrenched Pentagon spending mentality and indicates that we may be capable of adapting in a realistic way to real world conditions. I'd be interested to hear from those with more grasp of this area on any flaws or weaknesses that may exist, or whether this goes far enough in the right direction.

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
magerette is offline

magerette

magerette's Avatar
Hedgewitch

#1

Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 7,929

Default 

April 17th, 2009, 19:22
Originally Posted by magerette View Post
This issue is intriguing for me in that it's gotten such relatively little press compared to what I see as it's major shift in perspective about our military goals. Here's a link to a few articles covering the subject as reference:

US Defense Dept Transcript of Gates' Budget Recommendations

A War Fighter's Budget; Mike Gerson, Washington Post
Gates Takes Aim at Military Pork, TIME Magazine

In a nutshell, and to the best of my understanding, Sec. Gates' budget aims to remove obsolete weapons systems investment in Cold War type weapons set-ups, unrealistic and huge programs like the Army Future Combat System, expensive show units like the Marine One helicopters, and instead use military funding to focus on the types of wars/conflicts we're actually engaged in in the current climate, including investment in intelligence and more specialized personnel equipment. The focus is toward smaller, localized engagements rather than a vast military panoply of superweapons and huge numbers to impress or deter an equally large militarized opponent. He also proposes increased investment in veteran's care and support for an all volunteer army.

To me this whole package seems a welcome departure from the entrenched Pentagon spending mentality and indicates that we may be capable of adapting in a realistic way to real world conditions. I'd be interested to hear from those with more grasp of this area on any flaws or weaknesses that may exist, or whether this goes far enough in the right direction.
I'm pretty much 100% in favor with these budget changes. The F-22 Raptors are all but useless for us. We're something like two generations of fighter planes ahead of everyone else already. I think we need to keep R&D going as a precautionary measure (which Gates' speech clearly states that we will), but if we ever got in a large-scale war against another major power we could pretty easily do a crash-production of these things similar to WW2.

Missile Defense is almost a joke. I don't know enough about it to really make an educated guess but I don't think there's any way we can ever really protect ourselves from a concentrated missile attack. There are a lot of really weird DARPA projects that I hope won't get the axe, like bionic limbs amongst other things. Irregular warfare is where it's going to be at for the foreseeable future, though, and I'm glad this budget reflects that.
Rithrandil is offline

Rithrandil

I bent my wookie

#2

Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: VA
Posts: 2,299

Default 

April 17th, 2009, 20:05
Didn't read those yet (will, though), but… does the budget also do away with the automatic balancing between the branches of the service? You know, the mechanism that ensures that whenever the Army gets a bunch of new helicopters, the Navy gets a new destroyer, the Air Force gets a new strategic bomber or two, and the Marines get a bunch of new Ospreys, or whatever the Marine boondoggle du jour happens to be. 'Cuz IMO that's the biggest single cause of the terrible value for money you're getting for your military spending.
Prime Junta is offline

Prime Junta

RPGCodex' Little BRO

#3

Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 8,540

Default 

April 18th, 2009, 00:57
Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
Didn't read those yet (will, though), but… does the budget also do away with the automatic balancing between the branches of the service? You know, the mechanism that ensures that whenever the Army gets a bunch of new helicopters, the Navy gets a new destroyer, the Air Force gets a new strategic bomber or two, and the Marines get a bunch of new Ospreys, or whatever the Marine boondoggle du jour happens to be. 'Cuz IMO that's the biggest single cause of the terrible value for money you're getting for your military spending.
Don't see that ever changing. I think the problem is more the redundancy factor. One of my profs in college was a retired one-star and he always complained about how every branch of the service decided they all need to have anti-biohazard services, etc etc etc, instead of just combining them all into some sort of Joint service group and saving a lot of money that way.
Rithrandil is offline

Rithrandil

I bent my wookie

#4

Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: VA
Posts: 2,299

Default 

April 18th, 2009, 01:08
One of the first video games I ever owned was a Raptor simulator, and boy did that thing rock! I don't care if it was just a game, and I don't care if real Raptors are a big waste of money. The world is a better place with F-22's in it.

They may be death machines, but they're beautiful!

Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on. But it don't snow here. It stays pretty green. I'm going to make a lot of money, then I'm going to quit this crazy scene. — [Joni Mitchell]
Squeek is offline

Squeek

Squeek's Avatar
connoisseur of tidbits

#5

Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Orange County, California
Posts: 1,807

Default 

April 18th, 2009, 01:23
Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
Didn't read those yet (will, though), but… does the budget also do away with the automatic balancing between the branches of the service? You know, the mechanism that ensures that whenever the Army gets a bunch of new helicopters, the Navy gets a new destroyer, the Air Force gets a new strategic bomber or two, and the Marines get a bunch of new Ospreys, or whatever the Marine boondoggle du jour happens to be. 'Cuz IMO that's the biggest single cause of the terrible value for money you're getting for your military spending.
I can't find anything in his statement specific to that—here's the portion where he talks about what he thinks we need to do to start the reform in procurement:

Spoiler – procurement reform

The Time article talks about another one of the problems trying to reduce or even just update and focus our military spending: it's all politically based and one of the biggest sources of pork there is:
Gates has been saying for months that the time has come for a "strategic reshaping" of the way the U.S. military is spending $600 billion a year — a tab that doesn't even include the cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now he's going public with the 2010 budget proposal he drafted in secret before formally sending it to the White House and the Office of Management and Budget. It's a ploy designed to build momentum for Gates' plan before it can be sabotaged by defense contractors and lawmakers (who often come from districts that benefit from building particular big-ticket items), with behind-the-scenes help from the military.

"If even a few of the Gates cuts are serious, a pork-crazed Congress will go nuts," says Winslow Wheeler, who spent 30 years working on defense issues for members of both parties on Capitol Hill. "The big challenge will then become making any serious decisions stick."

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
magerette is offline

magerette

magerette's Avatar
Hedgewitch

#6

Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 7,929

Default 

April 18th, 2009, 04:20
Originally Posted by Squeek View Post
One of the first video games I ever owned was a Raptor simulator, and boy did that thing rock! I don't care if it was just a game, and I don't care if real Raptors are a big waste of money. The world is a better place with F-22's in it.

They may be death machines, but they're beautiful!
They may, but it's not like that you presently need a thousand of them.
vanedor is offline

vanedor

Sentinel

#7

Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Quebec city
Posts: 462

Default 

April 18th, 2009, 04:27
discretionary spending period

"A strong president, means having the strength to resist the temptation of taking all that power isn't yours" - Ron Paul

"If you think the problems we create are bad, just wait until you see our solutions",- Government
mudsling3 is offline

mudsling3

mudsling3's Avatar
Sentinel

#8

Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 560

Default 

April 19th, 2009, 09:07
I only skimmed through the top article, I'm much too tired to read the whole thing but I'd say it sounds like the voice of reason for the most part.

I'm all for fixing the way the Navy buys equipment. To be fair it has tried to move in the right direction… The Virginia class subs are designed to use Off-The-Shelf technology which is great because as it is, on say for example my boat, an LA class, we pay insane amounts of money for our parts. Mainly, I'd say it's because it is proprietary equipment (circuit boards and whatnot) designed in the Cold War. It's old so nobody is going out of their way to make it. Supply and Demand is not in our favor here.

I'm not sure if this rambling will make any sense but the point I'm getting at is that we have systems, roughly 11 billion years old, that require a handful of circuit cards (10-40K each) when we could have a laptop do the same thing much better.
Korplem is offline

Korplem

Korplem's Avatar
Shipwreck

#9

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Pearl Harbor, HI
Posts: 813

Default 

April 19th, 2009, 09:18
Thanks for casting your eye over it, Korplem. There's a bunch in there about modernizing the tech. Also about getting better intelligence, which I think was one of the things that got gutted in the nineties. I'm just a peacenik civilian, but i thought it all made a lot of sense.

Now it just has to pass our insane Congress.

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
magerette is offline

magerette

magerette's Avatar
Hedgewitch

#10

Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 7,929

Default 

April 20th, 2009, 14:26
Sounds like a massive step in the right direction, yet again Obama shows himself willing to actually think about entrenched stupidity, I hope he has the political capital to push it through.

I'd imagine he does, the US can't possibly feel good about its military prowess with the current defence spending after the way the last couple of wars have gone.
Benedict is offline

Benedict

SasqWatch

#11

Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: London
Posts: 2,348

Default 

April 20th, 2009, 14:45
With the relative lack of outcry from the military hoi polloi, I get the feeling even they are grudgingly admitting that they need to change the way they spend money. A few years in a sandbox, and the promise of several more in a mountainous sandbox, do wonders for priorities, I expect.

Sorry. No pearls of wisdom in this oyster.
Dallas Cowboys: Division Champs! / / Detroit Red Wings: Another rollercoaster season?
dteowner is offline

dteowner

dteowner's Avatar
Shoegazer

#12

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Indiana, USA
Posts: 11,388

Default 

April 20th, 2009, 14:47
A lot of this is stuff they've known about for a while - or the need to recognize the fact that security does not necessarily equal defense. As Gates' hinted at/said in his speech, a lot of the problem will come from congress - few of them are going to be willing to lose development projects that give their districts a lot of money.
Rithrandil is offline

Rithrandil

I bent my wookie

#13

Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: VA
Posts: 2,299

Default 

April 20th, 2009, 20:35
I came across this article, about a new guided missile that's about two feet long and costs about five grand, and is made largely from off-the-shelf parts: [ http://www.latimes.com/news/printedi…tory?track=rss ]

I'm fairly certain that this sort of thing is a highly fieldable weapon for the kinds of wars that are being fought today. However, it shows something else — namely, that if tech has come far enough to make guided missiles from off-the-shelf parts at five grand a pop, it means that pretty much anyone who sets their mind on it can have one. That's very bad news for conventional armies.

The military realities would shift big-time if, for example, Hamas got even relatively limited anti-aircraft or anti-armor capability this way, or managed to improve the accuracy of their rockets so that they'd actually hit something every once in a while.
Prime Junta is offline

Prime Junta

RPGCodex' Little BRO

#14

Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 8,540

Default 

April 21st, 2009, 09:54
That's a somewhat frightening concept. Not so cheap if used as mentioned here on aircraft, because you also have to have the aircraft, but if they could be adjusted to launch from truck beds or whatever—and knowing the ingenuity of humans when it comes to figuring out great ways to kill each other, I'm sure it could—it could indeed proliferate like crazy.

One tends to think in terms of the mushroom cloud or the pandemic caused by a bio-attack as the big horror story in modern warfare, and the traditional ground army as obsolete, but a ground army with a resource like this might actually make the cheapest weapon system on earth—human beings—equally devastating.

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
magerette is offline

magerette

magerette's Avatar
Hedgewitch

#15

Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 7,929

Default 

April 21st, 2009, 09:59
Originally Posted by magerette View Post
That's a somewhat frightening concept. Not so cheap if used as mentioned here on aircraft, because you also have to have the aircraft, but if they could be adjusted to launch from truck beds or whatever—and knowing the ingenuity of humans when it comes to figuring out great ways to kill each other, I'm sure it could—it could indeed proliferate like crazy.
Actually, the drone launch is a mod — it's originally designed to be ground-launched.

One tends to think in terms of the mushroom cloud or the pandemic caused by a bio-attack as the big horror story in modern warfare, and the traditional ground army as obsolete, but a ground army with a resource like this might actually make the cheapest weapon system on earth—human beings—equally devastating.
The Kalashnikov and the RPG-7 have already done wonders to democratize warfare. This is yet another step. Those things will be very easy to hide and smuggle, too, being so small. I'm sure it's only a matter of time until Chinese or North Korean knockoffs appear on the black market, even if you don't get a cottage industry building them in garages.
Prime Junta is offline

Prime Junta

RPGCodex' Little BRO

#16

Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 8,540

Default 

April 21st, 2009, 14:54
Wouldn't that usher in a new era of carpet bombing? It's going to be too dicey to get within range for surgical strikes, so the alternative is to bomb the crap out of them from 30,000 feet since those rockets probably won't be sophisticated enough to take out a B1/B2.

Sorry. No pearls of wisdom in this oyster.
Dallas Cowboys: Division Champs! / / Detroit Red Wings: Another rollercoaster season?
dteowner is offline

dteowner

dteowner's Avatar
Shoegazer

#17

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Indiana, USA
Posts: 11,388

Default 

April 21st, 2009, 15:00
Originally Posted by dteowner View Post
Wouldn't that usher in a new era of carpet bombing? It's going to be too dicey to get within range for surgical strikes, so the alternative is to bomb the crap out of them from 30,000 feet since those rockets probably won't be sophisticated enough to take out a B1/B2.
That'd do a lot of infrastructure damage and kill a lot of civilians, but they wouldn't do much for the kinds of conflicts currently being fought. Which isn't to say that they wouldn't be tried. (I doubt the rocket would be good enough to take out even an F-16 doing a fast low-level run, btw; it could pose a significant threat to helicopters, though.)
Prime Junta is offline

Prime Junta

RPGCodex' Little BRO

#18

Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 8,540

Default 

April 21st, 2009, 15:38
For the F-16, my point is that it wouldn't be worth the risk. As you say, gunships are right out. First time you get one of those into a troop transport, that will be the end of infantry (in a political environment). That doesn't leave much beyond carpet bombing.

As you say, the collateral damage will be massive and the effectiveness will only be as good as your "kill em all" rate, which means you throw a few more bombs per square mile. That's the crux of my question, I guess. It seems the only politically palatable response (from our side) if these rockets really proliferate is to load up the B1/B2's.

Am I missing something?

Sorry. No pearls of wisdom in this oyster.
Dallas Cowboys: Division Champs! / / Detroit Red Wings: Another rollercoaster season?
dteowner is offline

dteowner

dteowner's Avatar
Shoegazer

#19

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Indiana, USA
Posts: 11,388

Default 

April 21st, 2009, 16:13
Originally Posted by dteowner View Post
For the F-16, my point is that it wouldn't be worth the risk. As you say, gunships are right out. First time you get one of those into a troop transport, that will be the end of infantry (in a political environment). That doesn't leave much beyond carpet bombing.

As you say, the collateral damage will be massive and the effectiveness will only be as good as your "kill em all" rate, which means you throw a few more bombs per square mile. That's the crux of my question, I guess. It seems the only politically palatable response (from our side) if these rockets really proliferate is to load up the B1/B2's.

Am I missing something?
Yep — the fact that there are no front lines anymore in the wars currently being fought. Friendlies and hostiles coexist in the same space. You can't carpet-bomb because you end up wiping out the friendlies along with the hostiles. Also, the fact that bombers and artillery make for fantastic support units but they won't win any wars all by themselves. (OK, they might, in truly exceptional circumstances, but not as a general rule.)

To elaborate a bit, consider the 2006 Israeli attack on Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The only really unusual feature was that the Hezb fighters didn't run and hide and then start doing hit-and-run attacks, the way guerrilla armies usually operate. Instead, they stay put in their tunnels and bunkers, and inflicted enough damage on the IDF that the assault became politically unsustainable. Now, I'm quite certain that had the IDF kept at it, they would eventually have overrun the Hezb's positions and eliminated their organized, conventional-style resistance — they're superior in numbers and equipment, at least equal in training, and not far short in motivation. But then what? They would have held a strip of land in South Lebanon, they'd be dealing with a civilian population that's (a) massively pissed off and (b) in desperate need of aid that Israel is obligated to provide — which means that Hezb resistance would have restarted quickly, in the traditional guerrilla hit-and-run style that they know so well. The Hezb would have relocated their C&C to Bekaa, or Beirut, or Damascus, or freakin' Tehran, and Israel would've been stuck managing *another* bloody, messy, expensive, demoralizing, politically costly occupation. That's a no-win.

The only thing that would change this picture for them is if genocide and ethnic cleansing become acceptable tactics again. If the IDF would have lined up all military-age Shi'ite men from the area they control in front of trenches and shot them, then expelled all the women, elderly, and children, and finished off by formally annexing the territory, the post-invasion military picture would have changed drastically. But they can't do that — it's just not acceptable. Not yet, at least: the Gaza assault's "the boss has gone crazy" strategy is a big step in that direction.

So, you're both wrong and possibly, in the long run, right: wrong in that carpet-bombing or similar tactics by themselves won't make much of a difference even should the irregulars be equipped with this type of missile, but possibly right in that as these developments make life for the regular army more difficult, tactics are going to get tougher, and ethnic cleansing may eventually be back on the menu.

That, of course, won't solve anything either — it'll simply displace and disperse the conflict into new areas. In our hypothetical Israel vs. Hezb situation, we'd just have the Hezb continuing combat over the new border, as well as performing terrorist attacks on Israeli and Israeli-allied interests all over the world. The fundamental dynamics of counterinsurgency warfare haven't really changed since Julius Caesar; the only thing that has varied over time are the power relations between regulars and irregulars. From the gunpowder empires to roughly the middle of the last century evolution favored the regulars; since then, irregulars have been closing the gap.

It's not the first time technological changes have caused fundamental shifts in power relations, of course. The invention of the stirrup shifted the balance radically in favor of professional, regular forces; the longbowman shifted it right back to peasant levies and irregulars. Artillery, followed by inventions like barbed wire and the machine gun shifted the balance back to regulars. Cheap, light rockets are the new longbows; gunships, tanks, and navies are the new armored knights they're damaging. Who knows, perhaps the 2006 Lebanon war will be known to future military historians as the modern parallel for the battle of Agincourt.

This has some quite interesting geostrategic implications. For one thing, it'll raise the cost of "imperial" use of power — non-state actors like the Hezb already possess weapons that pose a threat to "imperial" super-weapons like surface warships (they significantly damaged an Israeli gunboat in 2006). This sort of evolution is one of the factors that drove decolonialization — we had some really nasty wars during the process, but the irregulars ended up winning (more or less). I think this pattern is going to continue, largely because (with the almost sole exception of Israel/Palestine) the irregulars generally just care more about it. If the USA withdrew from Iraq and Afghanistan tomorrow, your life would go on as normal — you'd have some upside (less cost in blood and treasure), and some downside (potential threats to national security), but your existence or your way of life would not be under imminent threat. OTOH the people fighting you there would find their situation completely altered — they'd be poised to take over the country again, which is the one thing they really want to do.

So, on balance, no, I don't think we (meaning Americans or Euros) will find ourselves resorting to genocide or ethnic cleansing in response to the increased capabilities of insurgent forces; instead, I think we'll go home and declare victory. Israel, OTOH, might, because (rightly or wrongly) they feel they are facing an existential threat. Time will tell.
Prime Junta is offline

Prime Junta

RPGCodex' Little BRO

#20

Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 8,540
RPGWatch Forums » General Forums » Politics, Religion & other Controversies » Trends in US Defense Spending: Is America Reshaping Itself?
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT +2. The time now is 03:03.
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Copyright by RPGWatch