Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Ragged Ede

Air Force is flying "at the ragged edge." The Marine Corps is not equipped to handle a contingency if it were to arise in the Pacific theater. And, the Army doesn't even have enough resources to fulfill some of its "most basic needs," warned Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), House Armed Services Committee chairman.

Yet a newly formed committee has until Thanksgiving to come up with $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion in savings or an automatic cut will kick in that will decimate the US military, said McKeon. "Fifty percent of the mandatory cuts associated with the [automatic] trigger are from the Defense Department. Fifty percent. That's a deeply unbalanced number with defense accounting for less than 20 percent of federal spending,"

While I admire the Congressman's frankness, he doesn't list some big ticket programs that could be a huge step in reducing DoD spending.  The F-35 is the most expensive acquisition program in the history of the U.S. armed forces.  According to the Daily Tech, the program is pegged at somewhere in the $380 billion range and the costs keep moving upward.  

The tanker replacement program to find a new air refueler will cost at least $25 billion just in the first phase.  There has already been on very costly scandal involved in finding a replacement tanker.  I have no reason to believe this version won't have cost overruns as well.

Why am I picking on the USAF?  Because the F-35 and KC-46 programs are a legacy from the days when manned aircraft were how we fought air wars.  The 21st Century has shown us the efficiencies of unmanned aerial vehicles.  They cost less to operate than manned aircraft, they can remain on station for much longer periods of time, they don't risk the lives of pilots, they can operate from the most austere locations, and they don't require air refueling.

Instead of looking to cut manned aircraft programs (while increasing drones), Secretary of Defense Panetta wants to restructure military retirements.

In contrast to what both the Secretary Clinton and Panetta have said about China, Rep McKeon said the Pentagon's recent report to Congress on China's growing military was "face whitening."  The report "outlined a country that is emboldened with a new-found military might and drunk with economic power," said Rep. Buck McKeon, "For the first time in history, Beijing believes that they can achieve military parity with the United States." 

China has the production capacity to far out produce the US military industrial complex.    Trying to match their capacity is a game we will lose.  Ah but we have the technological advantage some may argue.

In our pursuit of reducing costs, we have outsourced much of technology to overseas companies.  The risks of this practice are only now being realized by cyber analysts who point out malicious hardware and codes could be built into our cellphones and other electronic equipment.  Our imagined technological advantaged could be zeroed out by the push of a button.

The US has been at war for ten years and both the troops and the civilians are growing tired.  China on the other hand hasn't had to devout serious amounts of resources to a war since World War II.  

The Obama Administration needs to realize the rest of the world is not impressed with us.  We have lost whatever competitive edge we enjoyed.   The drop in the S&P bond rating and squabbling over the budget have show just how tenuous our economy is to the rest of the world.

If the military gets hacked down to pre-9/11 levels, we won't have the time to ramp back up if we are attacked.  Reducing the budgets needs to include a plan that recognizes that our next conflict could be the last.

No comments: