Archive for the 'Department of Defense' Category



Concerning Declarations Of War And Tech Ninjas

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 8 months ago

For more than a decade now we have been engaged in what we have called a global war on terror, which is an awful name for it since we cannot war against a tactic.  We have actually been engaged in a war with militant Islam, but since we don’t want to speak truth, we make up slogans that hide the truth.

Congress voted in both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom to give the President the authority to use force to effect our desired ends in those campaigns.  Call it what you will, these were declarations of war, albeit against a country in one case, and against a transnational religious insurgency in another case.  Actually, since Salafists of various stripes and other Islamic religious fanatics crossed the Jordanian and Syrian border to fight the U.S. in Iraq, at some 80 – 100 per month at the height of it, we have fought a transnational religious insurgency in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  In both cases the use of force was authorized by Congress.

But in any case, I have repeatedly called on the reader to study the first chapter of Robert Kaplan’s book Imperial Grunts, the chapter being entitled “Injun Country.”  It might disavow the reader of the notion that America was conceived or raised in military isolationism.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I have also pointed out that from the very inception of the U.S. Marine Corps, before the effective date of the declaration of independence, the continental congress knew exactly what they were doing.  The model they followed was the British Marines, and the British Marines functioned as an imperial force.  This design was intentional from the beginning, whether the colonists (or readers today) knew it or not.

Daniel Trombly writing at Slouching Towards Columbia, does an outstanding job of filling in the details for us.  His post will be repeated at length.

The Constitution is not explicit that any kind of warfare must be validated by a Congressional declaration of war. Madison was quite clear that in a case where the United States was defending itself from attack, no declaration of war was necessary. This has been a decision constantly reaffirmed throughout American history, and the debates surrounding the drafting of that portion of the Constitution clearly reveal that the founders saw a distinction between declaring and making war, and explicitly did not require a Congressional declaration for America to make war, only to begin one where no hostile act had initiated it. In other words, beyond continued Congressional approval for whatever financing of the war effort is necessary, there is no requirement for a formal declaration of war for the United States to prosecute one should the war occur in reaction to the commencement of war by a hostile force.

The notion that drones are responsible for the “short-circuiting” of America’s process for going to war is illusory – particularly when the idealized version of warfare Singer describes was never the historical norm for the United States. Very few American wars have been fought with a formal declaration of war, including two of America’s earliest overseas conflicts.

Indeed, America’s flirtation with undeclared wars with broad Congressional mandates is obvious from the very historical existence of the phrase “Quasi-War,” describing US hostilities with France under the Adams administration. There, the US found it sufficient to pass a Congressional measure authorizing naval action against French ships. Lest anyone chalk this up to a mere outlying tendency in US politics, Adams’s political foe, Jefferson, continued and indeed expanded the trend significantly under his own administration.

Thomas Jefferson was eager to prosecute a war against the Barbary pirates, which had amorphous links to recognized political authorities. Yet Jefferson did not seek and Congress did not require a formal declaration of war against an enemy considered to be both hostis humani generis (hostile to all mankind, as most seafaring nations considered pirates) and engaged already in persistent hostilities against American civilian vessels. Congress passed a relatively broad mandate for military force, and Thomas Jefferson’s military proceeded to wage an undeclared war with amorphous boundaries against Islamic unconventional actors, along with the help of private mercenary armies. One can make arguments about why America should not prosecute undeclared wars, fight non-state actors alone, or use privately contracted military forces, but any appeal to the founding fathers is unconvincing at best and a cynical ploy at worst.

To blame drones for the trend of undeclared wars that has existed since America’s earliest years is grossly historically inaccurate. Not only does it completely fail to explain America’s participation in the Quasi-War, Barbary Wars, Indian Wars, and the several formally undeclared wars of the 20th century after World War II, it also fails to explain the conflicts which the United States has begun since drones existed. It is quite difficult to say there are any ongoing military campaigns which began or persist solely because of “risk free” drones. The broad authorization for use of military force which began the War on Terror and its “undeclared” nature has very little to do with drone technology, and more to do with the fact that the United States has never formally declared war on a non-state actor in its history. Even in areas frequently identified with drone warfare, such as the Horn of Africa, Yemen, and Pakistan, non-drone US interference has occurred at varying levels of frequency during the War on Terror.

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As uncomfortable as it might make foreign policy commentators (sometimes myself included), the founders always recognized a difference between military operations involving sustained use of land forces and those involving a primarily maritime or over-the-horizon force. This distinction is quite evident in the American Constitution, which as any sea power booster will tell you, stipulates that while an army should only be raised temporarily, Congress must provide and maintain a navy. This distinction has carried throughout American history (Even in the case of the Posse Comitatus Act, only the US Army and Air Force are specifically excluded from intervening in domestic affairs. The United States Navy and Marine Corps are actually only excluded under an internal Department of Defense directive). The American imperative to keep sea lanes flowing freely and protect the sovereign rights of American vessels and citizens overseas has been a much stronger push for American military involvement than drones have been or ever will be.

Daniel focuses on the use of UAVs in his article, and I am completely uninterested in UAVs.  But his prose is on point concerning the use of military power throughout the nation’s history.  More specifically concerning drones, the policy makers and strategists seem to be under the magical spell of the tech ninja warriors who believe that we can engage in push-button war and win.

Drones were useful when engaging non-state actors who had little financing or technology.  As we have seen recently with Iran, nominal technology can shoot drones out of the air.  Pilots will always be needed to fly fighters, warriors will always need to put boots on the ground, and ships will always need to support troops closer than the 20 mile “beyond the horizon” that they want to avoid.  There is no answer to the costliness of war, and gutting defense spending to pay for entitlements won’t supply either with enough funding.  The cost for war-making won’t go away, and the appetite for entitlements only grows with more spending like an obscene addiction.

I have pointed out before that progressives have always wanted to make war differently, that they claim to support equality of the genders (in the face of biological evidence to the contrary), and that they claim to be neo-isolationist concerning the use of American military power.  But progressives don’t tell you everything.  They’re lying in most, if not all cases.

They also want to increase the size of special operations, and it is well known that the SEALs, Rangers, Delta and Force Recon don’t accept females – and for good reason.  But that doesn’t stop the progressives.  They want more of the same, they just want war to be clinical, rapid and clean.  It’s good enough to ensure that females are in the general purpose forces so that they progressives can claim to be morally superior.  The reality of females carrying a 120 pound kit like Marine infantry or Rangers isn’t discussed.  Since special operations is always under a cloak of secrecy, word of their work doesn’t usually get out.  The progressives like it that way.  They want to engage in war, they just don’t want the public to know about it, or Congress to get involved other than funding the war-making.  OPSEC and all of that, you know.  Shhhh …

This has always been true.  It is true now, and we see that the size of special operations is going to increase while the size of the so-called general purpose forces will decrease by some 15%.  In fact, they want virtual permanent deployment for some special operations.

The Pentagon is rushing to send a large floating base for commando teams to the Middle East as tensions rise with Iran, al-Qaeda in Yemen and Somali pirates, among other threats.

In response to requests from U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, the Navy is converting an aging warship it had planned to decommission into a makeshift staging base for the commandos. Unofficially dubbed a “mothership,” the floating base could accommodate smaller high-speed boats and helicopters commonly used by Navy SEALs, procurement documents show.

Special Operations forces are a key part of the Obama administration’s strategy to make the military leaner and more agile as the Pentagon confronts at least $487 billion in spending cuts over the next decade.

Lt. Cmdr. Mike Kafka, a spokesman for the Navy’s Fleet Forces Command, declined to elaborate on the floating base’s purpose or to say where, exactly, it will be deployed in the Middle East. Other Navy officials acknowledged that they were moving with unusual haste to complete the conversion and send the mothership to the region by early summer.

They have even taken one of the assets of the U.S. Marine Corps, an amphibious assault dock.  All the while, as the Marines continue to imagine that they will ever do a large scale, sea-based forcible entry again, they sink deeper into complete irrelevance in the twenty first century.  Visions of Iwo Jima dance in the heads of Marine Corps planners, while the real fight – the one the Marines should be leading – goes to what has effectively become another (secretive) branch of the service, SOCOM.

American history is replete with examples of warfighting without a formal declaration of war.  But the main focus has usually been the U.S. Marine Corps.  The strategic planners of the Marine Corps have lost their way, and continue to send Force Recon Marines into SOCOM rather than develop and enhance their own capabilities to conduct such operations.  They have even retired the only remaining asset in their air fleet that is capable of inserting Marines by fast-roping.  The V-22 cannot do that.  But when the final story is told, we will not be safer for creating another branch of the service, or for gutting military spending in favor of the tech ninja paradigm.  We will regret it.

Prior:

Expeditionary Warfare Category

Abolish SOCOM

“Stoopid” Talk About Cutting Defense Spending

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 9 months ago

In Herschel Smith’s recent post, “What Defense Cuts Can and Can’t Accomplish,” he noted in response to President Obama’s announced cuts to Defense that such cuts were cover to make room for ruinous entitlements spending and ensured a future military that will not be prepared to meet America’s defense needs.

To tag team on that post somewhat, I would like to address two, typical fallacies indulged in by those calling for cuts to Defense spending.   The first is the idea that the Pentagon budget is so massive and so stuffed with waste and fraud that any budget increase would almost be immoral.   The second notion is that Defense spending is indistinguishable from any, other Federal spending and, so, sacrifices must be made.   I offer this in the context of the ongoing Republican nomination season where an amazing number of candidates are espousing the same kind of cuts.   Furthermore, I am amazed as I travel the internet and read comments by alleged conservatives that call for deep-sixing much of the Pentagon budget.  So, to all those would-be candidates and fellow conservatives who are tempted by the low-hanging Pentagon budget, I say, “No good can come of it.”

And here’s why:

No Federal function will ever be free of waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement.   Live with it.

Conservatives must take it as almost axiomatic that the military, being part of the federal government, is inherently inefficient, wasteful, bass-ackwards, and prone to all the wrong priorities.   Herschel’s post detailing the problems with various weapon systems is on point.

That said, the U.S. military is, nonetheless, widely recognized the world over as the best-functioning part of the national government we have.  It is, in many cases, the only thing that does, actually work even half the time.  When any, significant natural disaster occurs anywhere on the planet and rapid response is required to prevent massive loss of life, who is the one doing the heavy lifting in terms of humanitarian relief?  The U.S. military which has the advantage of being everywhere on the planet (or at least within carrier distance) and organized to deliver critical logistics in short order.  For all its many, many faults, the U.S. military still gets the job done in far less time and in far better fashion than any, other alternative known to mankind at this point.

Money will be wasted by the federal government just as a teenager will blow at least some part of that $20 bill you give them on a Big Mac and fries.  There is simply no way around it.  Yes, fraud/waste/abuse must be rooted out as far as possible and contracting must be improved blah blah blah, but there is no way this side of Paradise to put as many people in the field, all around the globe with as many types of weapons/units/vehicles et al without substantial waste.  I am sick of Obama or any GOP candidate who puffs and preens about reducing waste at the Pentagon as if that is going to solve our national spending addiction.  All of the waste and fraud at the Pentagon in a year is still a pittance compared to the entire, federal budget.   The problem is in the very budgeting and spending process.   Raging about government waste is performance art.   Worse, when it comes to government and waste, the two are too often synonymous.

Perhaps a better way of viewing Defense spending is to liken it to a huge pipeline.   The U.S. government is like a huge pipe with lots of spigots and also a bunch of holes, leaks and cracks: water is going to leak out all over the place.   Amazingly enough, however, due to the sheer volume and force, enough water will still manages to get through.   Tightening down the spigot called the U.S. military does not save any, actual water.   That water will just flow to other spigots like welfare, “green energy,” public employee unions, TSA harpies, bridges to nowhere and genius programs like “Fast and Furious.”   To actually save water in this illustration, the entire plumbing system has to be re-engineered.

Some Federal functions are more legitimate than others.  Prioritizing is key.

President Obama and the other Defense cutters act as if every federal undertaking is on an equal footing much as a family may decide to spend less on expensive orange juice and shift those dollars to cereal instead.   For those of us who continue to believe that we live in a constitutional republic, however, the U.S. military in one of the very few legitimate functions that the federal government performs under the U.S. Constitution.  Rather than starting the discussion about budget cuts with the one department that is actually in the U.S. Constitution, how about talking first about real, immediate cuts to the plethora of departments, agencies, programs and funding that are completely outside of any Constitutional mandate.  Entitlements are the place to start, not the military.

Like Obama, John Huntsman is particularly annoying in this regard.   Worse yet, to hear Huntsman talk about Defense spending, the U.S. can treat it like putting off a leaky roof:  we can put off needed spending for some period of time, hoping that the roof will not collapse, and someday get the repairs done.   As Herschel’s post pointed out, this has been done with shocking frequency since the 1930′s and has always ended in disaster and tragic losses of life.  As night follows day you can rest assured that a major violent international event will follow our budget cuts to defense.  That’s not scaremongering, it is just history.  Sure, we can try ramping up like we did all those other times, but history may be less forgiving this time around.

As this Heritage Foundation paper aptly states, quoting Secretary of Defense Robert Gates:

After each war-driven boom, the defense budget has experienced an extended period of decline. In May 2007, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates explained:

Five s to times over the past 90 years—after the First and Second World Wars, Korea, Vietnam and most recently after the Cold War— the United States has slashed defense spending or disarmed outright in the mistaken belief that the nature of man or the behavior of nations had changed with the end of each of the wars, or that somehow we would not face threatour homeland or would not need to take a leadership role abroad.[6]

Time and again, policymakers have tended to neglect defense absent immediate, manifest threats to U.S. interests, and Americans and their military personnel have repeatedly paid the price of being less prepared.

Common sense dictates that the Pentagon should take advantage of peacetime lulls to replace damaged or destroyed equipment, to modernize legacy systems, and to purchase next-generation replacements to avoid predictable shortfalls in future force structure. Yet most Administrations have failed to do so.

The Heritage Foundation paper is well worth reading in its entirety and provides valuable citations and data that emphasize the follies of U.S. Defense spending practices for the past 90 years.   The papers leads to the conclusion that the combat forces of the U.S. military are increasingly being hollowed out by decades of short-sighted cuts, binge spending and misallocations, with increasing shares of the budget going toward entitlement-like benefits and mushrooming bureaucracies.

Conclusion

The United States is playing not only with fire but a can of gasoline nearby.  Any one of a dozen international hot spots could ignite in the next years and the combat arms of the military are increasingly made to get by with aging equipment and insufficient numbers of soldiers and marines.   In a bitterly comic twist, Democrats like Obama, who only 3 short years ago were complaining that President Bush was wearing out the U.S. military, are now cutting funds needed to re-build it.   More shocking is that this defense-cutting contagion seems to have spread to conservatives.  We seem to be watching our leaders flinging lighted matches at the gas can with little, apparent alarm.

What Defense Cuts Can and Can’t Accomplish

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 9 months ago

Obama has rolled out his plan for defense cuts.  He appeared at the Pentagon with such notables as Generals Odierno and Amos.  This is extremely bad form, and this tactic was used to make it appear that the military agrees with or is setting national defense policy, specifically, the Obama administration policy.  It isn’t the business of the military to agree or disagree with its civilian leadership on national defense policy.

To the point, the revised policy includes things such as a so-called rebalancing towards the Asia-Pacific region.  It also will place higher emphasis on drones and cyberwarfare, and will markedly decrease the size of the Army and Marine Corps.  This shift in policy is supposed to align with an increased concern over saber-rattling by China and increased growth of its military.

There has also been a large amount of posturing over the wasteful spending at the Pentagon.  At Foreign Affairs Lawrence Korb has penned an article entitled Why Panetta’s Pentagon Cuts Are Easier Than You Think.  Any review of my advocacy will show that I have opposed ridiculous programs as well.  I’ve called for the end of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle and counseled the Marine Corps to focus its energies on forcible entry based on more rapid and aggressive airborne assault (such as with helicopters and V-22 Ospreys).  I have advocated the end of the highly wasteful F-35 program, as well as more F-16s and F-22s (both of which outperform the F-35).  I have advocated against the Army Future Combat Systems, and other wasteful programs.

Furthermore, my own advocacy for the far east has been to cut Japan loose from our umbrella of nuclear protection, as well as for South Korea.  Nothing would slow China’s military advances more than having to worry over a nuclear Japan.  But my advocacy has also been for staying the course in both Iraq and Afghanistan, for strengthening our infantry, both Army and Marines, and for replacing and upgrading infantry equipment.  An entirely new armory of rifles and automatic arms will be needed to replace the aging actions of older firearms in order to keep our infantry well-supplied.  Future policy has also pointed towards a reduction in the number of aircraft carrier groups, while I have argued for steady or increasing carrier availability as one of the most effective elements of force projection.

But this – the current Obama administration actions – is more than re-apportionment and redistribution of resources to ensure wiser spending.  Make no mistake about it.  Approximately one and a half years ago, the CATO institute produced a study entitled Sustainable Defense Task Force, and it wasn’t the only such study.  The unspoken presupposition of these efforts was the need to find money for entitlement spending.  They saw it coming, and they prepared the think tank papers and studies to show that it was necessary.

But Glen Tschirgi has pointed out that entitlements will consume all tax revenues by the year 2049.  Defense cuts won’t do the job.  Mark Steyn has argued that Ron Paul suffers from the same illusion that grips the left.

Like many chaps round these parts, my general line on Ron Paul was that, as much as I think he’s out of his gourd on Iran et al, he performs a useful role in the GOP line-up talking up the virtues of constitutional conservatism. But this Weekly Standard piece by John McCormack suggests Paul is a humbug even on his core domestic turf: The entitlement state is the single biggest deformation to the Founders’ republic, and it downgrades not only America’s finances but its citizenry. Yet Paul has no serious proposal for dealing with it, and indeed promises voters that we won’t have to as long as we cut “overseas spending”.

This is hooey. As I point out in my book, well before the end of this decade interest payments on the debt will consume more of the federal budget than military spending. So you could abolish the Pentagon, sell off the fleet to Beijing and the nukes to Tehran and Khartoum and anybody else who wants ‘em, and we’d still be heading off the cliff. If a candidate isn’t talking about entitlement transformation, he’s unserious.

And, before the Ronulans start jeering “Neocon!”, I part company with many friends on the right who argue that defense spending can’t be cut. I wrote a cover story for NR a couple of months back arguing that the military’s bloated size (and budget) is increasingly an impediment to its effectiveness: When you’re responsible for 43 per cent of global military expenditure, it’s hardly surprising that you start acting like the world’s most lavishly funded transnational-outreach non-profit rather than the sharp end of America’s national interest. In Afghanistan, the problem is not that we haven’t spent enough money but that so much of it has been utterly wasted – and mostly in predictable ways. I am in favor of a leaner, meaner military, with the emphasis on both adjectives.

But Ron Paul, with his breezy indifference to the entitlement question, is peddling the same illusion Obama sold a gullible electorate in 2008 – that, if only America retreats from “Bush’s wars”, life can go on, and we’ll be fat and happy with literally not a care in the world. Big Government parochialism is an appealing fantasy because it suggests America’s fortunes can be restored without pain. But they can’t – and when Ron Paul tells you otherwise he’s talking hogwash.

The illusion is that cuts to defense spending can save our economic system from collapse.  The administration talks of two wars ending, and the wars of the last decades “coming to an end.”  Coming to an end indeed.  While I have argued endlessly for better and smarter logistics, the difficulty facing the logisticians now is getting troops and materiel out of Afghanistan rather than into it.  And with waning political support for the campaign, it would be easy to argue for complete withdrawal, even immediately.  If the campaign won’t be taken seriously and run to its completion with an outcome that we can live with, I argue (herein) for such withdrawal.  America apparently isn’t prepared to encounter militant Islam on our own terms.  Very well.  Then we’ll do it on their terms, and it will be more painful.

The wars of the “last decade” won’t go away.  The enemy gets a vote on our fate fate as well.  And Robert Scales outlines the downside of defense cuts.

Harry Truman seeking to never repeat the costs of World War II reduced the Army from 8 million soldiers to fewer than half a million. Without the intervention of Congress, he would have eliminated the Marine Corps entirely. The result was the evisceration of both land services in Korea, a war Truman never intended to fight.

With Dwight Eisenhower came the “New Look” strategy that sought to reduce the Army and Marine Corps again to allow the creation of a nuclear delivery force built around the Strategic Air Command. Along came Vietnam, a war that Eisenhower, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson never wanted to fight. But by 1970 our professional Army broke apart and was replaced by a body of amateurs. The result was defeat and 58,000 dead.

After Vietnam, the Nixon administration broke the Army again. I know. I was there to see the drug addiction, murders in the barracks and chronic indiscipline, caused mainly by a dispirited noncommissioned corps that voted with its feet and left. Then came Jimmy Carter’s unique form of neglect that led to the “hollow Army” of the late ’70s, an Army that failed so miserably in its attempt to rescue the American hostages in Iran.

The only exception to this very sad story was the Reagan years, when the land services received enough funding to equip and train themselves to fight so well in Operation Desert Storm. Then tragedy again as the Clinton administration reduced the ground services, intending to rely on “transformation,” a program that paid for more ships and planes by reducing the Army from 16 divisions to 10. In the George W. Bush administration, Donald Rumsfeld continued a policy that sought to exploit information technology to replace the human component in war. Had it not been for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Army would have gone down to fewer than eight divisions.

So, here we go again. The Obama administration will reduce its long-service, professional land force to pay for something called “Air Sea Battle,” a strategy that seeks to buy more ships and planes in order to confront China with technology rather than people. This strategy shows a degree of a-historicism that exceeds that of any post-World War II administration. So much for remembering “the lessons of the past.”

I’m in good company in my advocacy for good men and materiel.  Drones are slow and lumbering, and our national fascination with them will come to a timely end when they see service against states that can easily shoot them out of the air (such as recently with Iran).  They are no replacement for the Air Force flying manned fighters, GPS is no real replacement for the ability to read maps and use a compass, red dot optics is no replacement for knowing how to use iron sights, and heavy reliance on logistics is no replacement for training in the ability to use the land for survival.  The human element in warfare cannot be replaced by technology.

From Cato Institute

We will suffer some future hardships from lack of intelligent and wise funding of our military.  Defense cuts can exacerbate those hardships.  But what defense cuts cannot possibly do is be anything other than a very short-lived and dangerous bank account for survival until we deal with what will be the true root cause of our economic demise: the entitlement state.

Preparing for Defense Budget Cuts

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 2 months ago

Regular readers know that I have always been a proponent of wise defense spending, and cutting where there is no reasonably feasible return on investment (Brian Stewart at NRO’s Corner has similar views).  For example, I have strongly opposed the Marine Corps Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, and advocated abandonment of the Marine Corps vision of sea-based forcible entry modeled after 60-year old warfare doctrine.  Instead, I have recommended that the Marine Corps focus on air-based forcible entry, even if from sea-based Amphibious Assault Docks.  Rapid response and smaller unit operations, modeled after Special Operations Forces, should be at least one new focus of the Corps.  And the Congress appears to have cut funding for the EFV.

But this is a far cry from advocating serious slashing of the Pentagon’s budget across the board.  Yet the Pentagon is preparing for such cuts as part of the current financial maelstrom.

After doubling in size during George W. Bush’s presidency, the Pentagon is about to go on a diet for the first time since 1998. Whether that means two years of skipping dessert or a 10-year crash diet depends on how Washington’s debt-ceiling deal plays out between now and December.

Two Californians will be central to the outcome.

One is House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a liberal San Francisco Democrat who helped engineer a provision in the debt deal that exposes the Pentagon to nearly $1 trillion in cuts over the next decade.

The other is Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, a former Democratic congressman from Monterey who warned in his maiden press conference Thursday that such cuts are “completely unacceptable.”

Underlying the fight is the question of whether the U.S. military should remain the world’s global police force or downsize to a less-ambitious posture that reflects a diminished financial capacity.

“The defense budget is going to be cut, whatever happens with this particular law,” said Michael Mandelbaum, a foreign policy expert at Johns Hopkins University and author of “The Frugal Superpower.” The nation’s deficit problem, he said, is “so large that … in circumstances in which Americans pay more to the government and get less, they are not going to be as generous as they have been in the past in funding foreign and security policy.”

The debt deal lays out two rounds of defense cuts. The first is a $350 billion reduction in “security” spending over 10 years, only two years of which is locked in. The Obama administration had proposed those cuts in April as part of a general belt-tightening at the Pentagon.

But the second round could be much more severe. Viewed by Democrats as a way to force Republicans to accept the need for higher tax revenue, this round could force the Pentagon to share $1.2 trillion in 10-year spending cuts equally with domestic spending on such things as highways and education. These cuts could take $600 billion from the military, about a 10 to 15 percent reduction, depending on what is measured.

The cuts would take effect automatically if a new bipartisan super-committee in Congress fails to devise – or Congress fails to pass – an alternative plan that trims Medicare and other entitlement programs and raises tax revenue.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has indeed warned against sweeping defense cuts, but he is Obama’s man in this post, and the warnings are likely part of a larger strategy to increase taxes, with Panetta’s warnings being the catalyst to force Congressional Republicans to “increase revenue” rather than allow a diminution of national security.

But there is another possibility, and it is that we actually adopt a radically different paradigm for our international behavior.  Support for this approach can be found among Democrats, but finds unlikely support from the Tea Party.

A 12-member bipartisan Congressional committee has until November 23rd to figure out how exactly to trim the debt by some $1.5 trillion dollars over 10 years. Then, they have a matter of weeks to sell that plan to both houses of Congress.

If no agreement is reached, automatic cuts kick in: $600 billion from the military and $600 billion from domestic programs. Both Democrats and Republicans shudder at this arrangement. But how does the Tea Party feel about steep cuts to national defense?

The Tea Party doesn’t have a central spokesman or organizing body; it’s a loose coalition of people united by beliefs in spending cuts, lower taxes, and smaller government. To try and gauge the mood of Tea Party supporters, I spoke with three people, in different parts of the country, who subscribe to their uniting principles.

“We really need across the board cuts. And nothing can be a sacred cow, nothing can be off limits. And that’s going to include defense,” said Chris Littleton of Cincinnati, co-founder of the group The Ohio Liberty Council.

Littleton said the defense budget has become bloated. (It’s come close to doubling since September 11th, 2001.) Littleton argued that’s because the military has lost sight of its Constitutional mission.

“It does not include being the world’s police, being the world’s peacemaker, or trying to advance our culture or causes around the world as a singular purpose. It’s for common defense,” said Litleton. “And so if we are not directly threatened, and we are not involved in an altercation, that we need to defend ourselves (from), then we can absolutely scale back our operations from throughout the world. So I’d be for both domestic and foreign military installations brought back, trimmed down, and hopefully many of them even eliminated.”

Support for a smaller military runs counter to what many conservative Republicans espouse. But Tea Party supporter Jason Rink – executive director of The Foundation for a Free Society in Austin, Texas – argued that’s because Republicans haven’t been acting like real conservatives.

“Traditional conservatives, they believed we should have a humble foreign policy, they believed that we shouldn’t police the world, they believed that we shouldn’t get into foreign wars, and that our defense spending needed to be something that we addressed and we were modest about,” said Rink.

But if we fail to stop Iran’s increased hegemony in the Middle East, if we fail to prevent Iran from going nuclear, if our military power and resolve isn’t sufficient to prevent Russia from invading Georgia again, if we relinquish the Pacific to growing Chinese Naval provocations, if we fail to deal a decisive blow to the Taliban and al-Qaeda aligned fighters in the AfPak region, there will be war.  Israel cannot allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.  Eastern Europe is looking to the U.S. for direction, and our abandonment of a missile defense shield was indication that we aren’t serious about their security, much less entry into NATO.  Russia is back up to their dirty tricks, and is poised to conduct yet another assault into Ossetia, and the Chinese still want Formosa.

As for homeland security, I have already describe a fairly simply assault on infrastructure that we cannot absorb.  Like it or not, America has benefited from the defense doctrine of fighting our battles away from the homeland rather than allowing the threat to land on our own shores before we confront it.  Troops are currently deployed in more than 100 countries, and while it may be a tantalizing prospect to withdraw from the entire world and focus inward, we should be careful what we advocate.  It will be much more difficult to recreate that military presence and deterrent that it was to dismantle it, regardless of how much money we throw at the problems once they have become obvious.

Cuts are coming.  That which cannot continue, won’t.  That which cannot be sustained will fall by the wayside.  The question is whether America will address the growing entitlement state, however painful, or retreat from the world, also painful, just in a completely different ways, and perhaps permanently.

See also:

Rapidly Collapsing Foreign Policy III

Rapidly Collapsing Foreign Policy II

Rapidly Collapsing Foreign Policy

Gates Indicts NATO While U.S. Stands in the Dock

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 4 months ago

A fascinating speech by outgoing Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, on June 10 in Berlin at the Security and Defense Agenda think tank.

From this AP article:

BRUSSELS (AP) – America’s military alliance with Europe – the cornerstone of U.S. security policy for six decades – faces a “dim, if not dismal” future, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday in a blunt valedictory address.

In his final policy speech as Pentagon chief, Gates questioned the viability of NATO, saying its members’ penny-pinching and lack of political will could hasten the end of U.S. support. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed in 1949 as a U.S.-led bulwark against Soviet aggression, but in the post-Cold War era it has struggled to find a purpose.

“Future U.S. political leaders – those for whom the Cold War was not the formative experience that it was for me – may not consider the return on America’s investment in NATO worth the cost,” he told a European think tank on the final day of an 11-day overseas journey.

The Washington Post summarized it this way:

BERLIN — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates rebuked some of America’s staunchest allies Friday, saying the United States has a “dwindling appetite” to serve as the heavyweight partner in the military order that has underpinned the U.S. relationship with Europe since the end of World War II.

In an unusually stinging speech, made on his valedictory visit to Europe before he retires at the end of the month, Gates condemned European defense cuts and said the United States is tired of engaging in combat missions for those who “don’t want to share the risks and the costs.”

“The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress, and in the American body politic writ large, to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources … to be serious and capable partners in their own defense,” he said in an address to a think tank in Brussels.

There are several points worth noting in Gates’ speech. The most obvious one is aptly noted in both articles: European members of NATO have been starving their defense budgets for years and it is finally becoming painfully, no, embarrassingly clear to everyone by the Afghanistan and Libya campaigns. The AP story notes the contrast between the “mightiest military alliance in history” and the patent failure of this alliance to bring about any kind of victory against a third-rate, tin-pot dictator in Libya:

To illustrate his concerns about Europe’s lack of appetite for defense, Gates noted the difficulty NATO has encountered in carrying out an air campaign in Libya.

“The mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country, yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S., once more, to make up the difference,” he said.

Is it any wonder that the Taliban have adopted a strategy of attrition? The only, credible military force in the field seems to be the U.S., the Canadians and the British and the latter, two have already indicated that they will be pulling out of Afghanistan entirely in the near future.

Add to this the assessment by Gates that, while all NATO member countries voted in favor of intervention in Libya, fewer than half those members have made any contribution toward the effort.

On a political level, the problem of alliance purpose in Libya is even more troubling, he said.

“While every alliance member voted for the Libya mission, less than half have participated, and fewer than a third have been willing to participate in the strike mission,” he said. “Frankly, many of those allies sitting on the sidelines do so not because they do not want to participate, but simply because they can’t. The military capabilities simply aren’t there.”

Afghanistan is another example of NATO falling short despite a determined effort, Gates said.

He recalled the history of NATO’s involvement in the Afghan war – and the mistaken impression some allied governments held of what it would require of them.

“I suspect many allies assumed that the mission would be primarily peacekeeping, reconstruction and development assistance – more akin to the Balkans,” he said, referring to NATO peacekeeping efforts there since the late 1990s. “Instead, NATO found itself in a tough fight against a determined and resurgent Taliban returning in force from its sanctuaries in Pakistan.”

So, to sum up what we have learned from Secretary Gates, the chasm between the military and political capabilities of the U.S. and its NATO allies has become so large that, for all practical purposes, NATO has become a toothless organization that cannot even fight a meager enemy like Qaddafi for any length of time without substantial help from the U.S. and cannot be counted on to supply meaningful levels of troops in hot zones like Afghanistan. And despite the strong punch delivered by Gates, at least some in Europe, according to The Washington Post are glad that it is being delivered:

[Jonathan]Eyal, of London’s Royal United Services Institute, said the speech would be “very welcome” in Britain and France, however, because “privately this is what officials have articulated for years.” Gates “identified the key problem, which remains Germany,” he said. “You can argue that there are many countries that do not contribute their fair share, but most of the others don’t matter, and smaller ones would likely fall into line if Germany did.”

Eyal said: “It’s a shame politicians say what they think only when they are about to depart, but the Europeans needed this cold shower, and if it’s up to Gates to administer it, so be it.”

The speech amounted to “an outburst of frustration that is bigger than bottom line of defense cuts,” he said. “It’s about the lethargic way the Europeans walk on the world stage,” lacking a sense of urgency and thinking that “at the end of the day the Americans will always be there and do Europe’s bidding.”

But the speech “hasn’t caused a great rift,” Eyal said. “Deep down, there is no one in Europe that doesn’t think that what Gates said is absolutely the truth. No one argues he’s exaggerating problem. It’s not a rift. It’s worse. It’s an act of indifference.” The missing reaction in Europe, he said, is to reconsider burden-sharing and “how the Europeans can contribute more to the common pot.”

All this is very well and needed to be said. But I cannot help but speculate that perhaps Gates had more than just the Europeans in mind when he made these statements.

Could it be that Gates was placing a shot across the bow of those in the U.S. (both in and outside of the Obama Administration) calling for reductions in U.S. military spending? Looking at Gates’ remarks as a rebuke to U.S. policymakers makes equal sense.

How did Europe become so militarily defenseless? It happened as an irresistible, default choice when European capitals opted for heavy social spending at a time of declining birthrates and economic productivity.

This is the very same choice that is facing the U.S. today. The U.S. Congress is at this very moment locked in a bitter struggle against an inescapable reality: there is simply not enough money coming into the U.S. Treasury to fund the present, enormous welfare entitlements and a robust military. The decision must be made and it must be made now to either gut our military or seriously reform the welfare state as we know it. In all likelihood, given the rate at which the budget deficit is growing (due in large part to a terrible compromise on the 2011 Budget and less-than-expected revenues from a stalling economy), the markets and foreign lenders will not be content to wait until the 2012 elections for a responsible plan to control the deficit.

So, whatever satisfaction we get, whatever approval we may have for Secretary Gates’ jabs at NATO members for their pathetic military budgets, the U.S. seems to be taking the very same road as Europe. There are already too many in Congress and in the political class class who gladly concede that the Defense budget should be subjected to deep cuts in order to preserve our welfare state. Here is a typical example from Rep. Barney Frank and Rep. Ron Paul. While this is expected from Democrats, even “conservatives” have been making similar noises. See this piece on Haley Barbour for example.

This is not to say that any cuts to the Defense budget are out of the question. The Captain’s Journal has long advocated smarter spending, as with the proposed, new landing craft for the Marines. Savings can certainly be found in better management and prioritizing. In light of Gates’ speech, it is worth re-examining the costs of keeping troops stationed in Europe versus the benefits of having troops pre-deployed close to the Middle East and to Russia. But, in the end, these savings will never amount to enough to reduce the Federal deficit in any meaningful way or balance the Federal budget.

The only way to do that is to either gut Defense or gut Entitlements.

I do not believe that the U.S. can make moderate cuts to both for the simple reason that the trajectory of Entitlement spending is such that it will eat up the entire Federal tax revenues by 2049. As shown in this chart from The Heritage Foundation (click to enlarge):

The U.S. faces now the very same choices that the Europeans faced some 50 years ago: guns or butter; continue funding social spending or provide for a credible military. We simply cannot do both and, as noted above, it is no longer possible to delay the decision. If we elect to cut Defense spending (and it will mean significant cuts) there should be no illusion about the results. We will soon be in the same position as Britain and France, sharing aircraft carriers; we will be unable to protect any national interest beyond our borders for any real length of time; we will be consigned to watching as thugs and fanatics remake the world into one of their liking. And you can be sure that such a world will not be to our liking. Unlike the Europeans, however, there will be no United States to come to the rescue.

The only answer, in the end, is to radically alter the welfare society that we have become.   Even if we were to gut Defense spending, that would be merely a sacrificial lamb to the ever-growing appetite of entitlements.  For proof we need only look to Europe to see that their decades of sacrificing Defense for social benefits has left them now facing the stark reality that there is nothing left to cut except the social spending.  But any attempt to do so results in riots and anarchy by a people too long accustomed to pampering and privilege.    God forbid that the U.S. reaches that stage of decay.
(more…)

Marine Corps to Secretary Gates: We’re Relevant!

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 8 months ago

From NPR:

The “Soldiers of the Sea” have been fighting on land for a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan.The Corps’ amphibious troop carrier has just been canceled; its new fighter jet was postponed.

And the Marine Corps itself is finishing up its own review, asking this basic question: What should the Marine Corps look like in the 21st Century?

The Marine Corps has made a name for itself storming beaches: Barbary Coast and Veracruz, Iwo Jima and Inchon.

“For many years now, its core mission has been forcible entry, meaning going ashore in the face of hostile fire to claim enemy beaches and then push inland quickly before defenders regain their balance,” says defense analyst Loren Thompson. He says those days may be over.

That’s because Defense Secretary Robert Gates has done something that pirates in the 19th century and Japanese troops in World War II couldn’t do — he has the Marine Corps reeling.

Gates stopped the Marines from going ahead with their Joint Strike Fighter, a stealthy warplane. And he canceled the Marines’ amphibious troop carrier, known as the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle or EFV.

“The EFV, originally conceived during the Reagan administration, has already consumed more than $3 billion to develop, and will cost another $12 billion to build, all for a fleet with the capacity to put 4,000 troops ashore,” he said.

That’s a lot of money to get a few thousand Marines on the beach. So the Marines will update their decades-old amphibious troop carrier instead.

The cuts and delays to the Marine Corps’ budget are symbolic of a larger debate about the role of the Marine Corps in future warfare. Many potential adversaries have sophisticated long-range missiles that could strike the Marines in their landing craft long before they reach the shores.

So Gates already has said it’s unlikely the Marines will be hitting the beaches like they did at Iwo Jima.

And Thompson says that raises questions about the relevance of the Marines.

“If the Marine Corps is no longer going to do opposed landing on enemy beaches in the face of hostile fire, then its role will be significantly diminished in the future,” he says.

The Marines publicly dismiss talk they’re becoming less relevant, and say that attacking enemy beaches is just one of their jobs. Their senior officer, Gen. James Amos, said recently they’ve been busier than ever.

“Since 9/11, U.S. amphibious forces have responded to crises and contingencies at least 50 times, a response rate more than double during the entire period of the Cold War,” Amos says.

That includes everything, from Marines fighting Taliban fighters 10 years ago, to helping Pakistanis caught up in massive flooding last fall.

The ability for Marines to float offshore and quickly respond offers any president a way to influence events, says retired Marine Gen. Chuck Krulak.

“They can remain over the horizon, they can come on to the horizon and be seen and increase the pressure, or they can come ashore,” he says.

And the Marines’ physical presence, Krulak argues, cannot be replaced by high-tech weapons.

“A B-2 bomber flying at 60,000 feet is not present, it’s nothing more than contrails in the skies,” he says.

The Marines may argue they’re irreplaceable. But Gates has suggested cutting their numbers — not just their weapons. Gates wants to reduce the Corps by some 15,000 to 20,000 in the coming years.

Defense analyst Gordon Adams says that’s a higher proportion than the cuts Gates has called for in the Army.

“My view would be that the Army deserves to be significantly cut rather than the Marine Corps,” Adams says.

Adams worked on Pentagon budgets in the Clinton administration and thinks Gates’ cuts are ill conceived.

“His decisions have by and large been driven largely by technology, costs and efficiency,” Adams says.

But not by strategy, he adds. Adams says the Marines are more agile than the Army and cost less. They can handle a range of missions — everything from delivering humanitarian assistance to training foreign militaries to fighting insurgents.

The Marines have no trouble speaking for themselves. In the coming weeks, they’ll outline to Gates why they’re still relevant.

Regular readers know that I oppose humanitarian missions for the U.S. Marines.  Not that I oppose humanitarian missions.  I oppose humanitarian missions for the Marines.  You don’t design and build the most effective and violent fighting force on earth and send it on humanitarian missions.  That we have done that before in recent history is a sign that the Marines are looking for a mission.

And the lack of opposed landing in the grand strategy doesn’t in the least diminish the relevance of the U.S. Marine Corps.  Let me tell you what does diminish the relevance of the USMC.  Reliance on gadgets, doohickeys and thing-a-ma-bobs.  You know – electronically controlled, electrically powered crap that needs heavy generators which then need to be moved by massive flotillas to site by logistics engineers months in advance of operations in order to supply the necessary power – or, crap that needs high tech solar panels to operate in the field because massive generators can’t be moved there.

Lack of ability to get water from their surroundings diminishes the relevance of the USMC.

Goulding, a retired marine, flew over the mountainous Kahukus Training Range twice in a helicopter during the exercise. “There is water everywhere in the Kahukus,” he pointed out, but the marines had to rely on drinking water supplied from the ship.

From backpacking, hiking and camping, I and each of my four children know how to purify water from our surroundings.  I and each of my four children know how to climb and rappel.  I and each of my four children know how to make decisions on the fly, not waiting on specific commands but relying on broad mission goals to guide our actions.  And only one among my four children is a Marine.

Long times to deploy troops diminishes the relevance of the USMC.  Reliance on the future needs for large scale amphibious assault landings diminishes the relevance of the USMC.  The overly expensive Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle diminishes the relevance of the USMC.

Let me tell you what ensures the relevance of the USMC.  Short notice deployments.  Pressing responsibility and authority down in the chain of command.  Making efficient and effective use of their surroundings.  Distributed operations.  And again, distributed operations, with reliance on chain of command pressed down in the organization.  Training exercises to make sure that the USCM is still capable of forcible entry without long deployments of MEUs assuming that such entry will be called upon against a near peer state.  Forcible entry based on another premise than AAV or EFV or LCACs, namely, air-based forcible entry and fast roping.  Landing behind the beach head, securing land, and then allowing the Navy to transport heavy equipment while the Marines fight.

Being called upon to secure people, free hostages, raid locations, kill enemy on short notice, and all other manner of short term operations, and being called upon to do this in lieu of SOCOM, and outside the SOCOM chain of command, which has now usurped the authority of the branch chains of command.  Less reliance on Force Recon and SOF and SOCOM.  Ensuring rifleman skills superior to those of the other branches.  At one time in our history, the USMC was the branch capable of projecting power – large and small – on foreign shores at a moment’s notice.  Now, SOCOM chain of command and SOF operators have taken this mantle.  Admit it.  It’s the truth.

The USMC can pound their chest and train for large scale forcible entry, go on large nine months MEUs where there is no enemy to engage and where the President doesn’t call on them to conduct operations, and the USMC can become irrelevant.  Or, the USMC can embrace a new vision, a vision other than that of 60-year-old large scale amphibious assault landings with water-borne craft susceptible to land-based rockets.

It’s up to them.  I think the Marines are more versatile and capable than the Army, and I choose the later.  Let’s see what the Marines choose.  They may be readying themselves for 21st century irrelevance.

Prior:

Will the USMC Become a Second Land Army?

The Best Way to Ensure That the Marines Become Irrelevant

The Future of the Marine Corps

G-RAMM, the EFV and the Fundamental Paradox of the Marine Corps Vision

Gates on a Nuclear Iran

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 11 months ago

From Reuters:

Sanctions against Iran are biting hard and triggering divisions among its leadership, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Tuesday, as he argued against a military strike over Tehran’s nuclear program.

Iran has agreed to meet with a representative of the six big powers for the first time in more than a year over its uranium enrichment drive, but diplomats and analysts see little chance of a breakthrough in the long-running dispute.

Gates said he saw little choice, however, to pursuing a political strategy that includes sanctions and renewed his concerns that a military strike would only delay Iranian nuclear capabilities by two or three years.

He added that sanctions “have really bitten much harder than (Iranian leadership) anticipated,” and suggested Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was increasingly at odds with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“We even have some evidence that Khamenei, now, (is) beginning to wonder if Ahmadinejad is lying to him about the impact of the sanctions on the economy. And whether he’s getting the straight scoop in terms of how much trouble the economy really is in,” Gates told the Wall Street Journal CEO Council in Washington.

[ ... ]

Although he acknowledged on Tuesday that Iranian leaders “are still intent on acquiring nuclear weapons,” he said military action was not a long-term answer.

“A military solution, as far as I’m concerned … it will bring together a divided nation. It will make them absolutely committed to obtaining nuclear weapons. And they will just go deeper and more covert,” Gates said.

“The only long-term solution in avoiding an Iranian nuclear weapons capability is for the Iranians to decide it’s not in their interest. Everything else is a short-term solution.”

Oh goodness.  Gates has bought into the notion that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons because they seek a deterrent to aggression against Iran.  Convincing Iran to relinquish its pursuit of nuclear weapons is synonymous with convincing them that no one intends Iran harm.  Military action only pushes they into the very decision point we wish to avoid.  Or so the narrative goes.

It’s the same mistake made by most of the secular, post-modernist Western elite who sees things mainly through Western, secular eyes.  It’s all about self preservation viz. Darwin, and upon being assured that they are safe, and since there is no such thing as real evil in the world and no absolute against which to measure such a thing as right or wrong, there is only the pragmatic.  The Iranian rulers will be pragmatic and see the error of their pursuit and act in the defense of themselves and their own people.  Altruistically, of course.  It’s all about diplomacy.  It just means saying the right things.

Except the world and mankind don’t work that way, and objective evil does in fact exist.  Seeing things through eschatological eyes is uncomfortable to the Western secularists, but absolutely necessary in order to understand the radical Mullahs, who believe that:

“We do not worship Iran. We worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world.”

To be sure, military action is undesirable.  There is always another way, involving covert operations, intelligence warfare, fomenting an internal Iranian insurgency, and catalyzing regime change.  But with eyes through which the Western secularists see the problem, this will never occur.  This virtually ensures war with Iran, sooner or later.  Our own desire to avoid confrontation is at least a contributing cause to such an exigency.

This is the second awful decision Gates has made within a week.  Does this set the expectations for the remainder of his  tenure?  Will it be two per week?

Gates Pushing for Lame Duck Ratification of START Treaty?

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 11 months ago

Mr. Obama has stated that we wants the lame duck Congress to ratify the START treaty.  A commenter at NRO’s Corner observes:

The Russian Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee just today revoked its previous ratification of START, citing amendments made by our Senate stipulating that the treaty does not cover missile defense systems or ballistic missiles with conventional warheads.

Hopefully this will increase the likelihood that the treaty is not ratified, but regardless, it shows how unacceptably sweeping, burdensome, and one-sided the Russians intend and expect it to be on our systems.

Then again, given the horrible panic that besets this administration, it’s entirely possible that this lame duck Congress will undo the stipulations they have placed on the treaty.  Frank Gaffney weighs in with his own views of START.  John Bolton also has salient points.  Suffice it to say that the case is clear and simple.  Nuclear weapons have contributed more to the safety and health of the public and general peace among nations than anything in the second half of the twentieth century.  Without them, hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of people would have died in wars of all types.

But now Secretary Gates has hopped on the band wagon.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters Gates joined Obama and Clinton in urging the Senate to approve the treaty during the lame-duck session, but denied that the appeal was being made “because of some political calculus that it may stand a better chance of passage during that time.”

“I think we’re advancing it at this time and pushing for ratification because we need this and we need it sooner than later,” he added.

No political calculus.  Right.  The most damning part of Gates’ participation in this defense debacle is that his counsel directly and profoundly contradicts the counsel of his own Department of Defense when applying the best military analysis to the circumstances.

This is a sad sellout.  I am very disappointed in Secretary Gates, and I simply cannot understand why he would be taking such a dangerous position.  I would resign before jumping in bed with START.  But I am not Secretary of Defense, and Mr. Gates will answer for his own actions.  To whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48).

Prior:

An Aging Nuclear Weapons Stockpile

Sounding the Nuclear Alarm

Obama Reverses Nuclear Weapons Rhetoric

America Burns, Government Chases Baseball

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 1 month ago

Roger Clemens is scheduled to be arraigned in federal court.  He will likely enter a not guilty plea.  I would too, as the government’s case probably has a fatal flaw.  In other news, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff doesn’t seem to be very interested, and is talking about other things.

The national debt is the single biggest threat to national security, according to Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Tax payers will be paying around $600 billion in interest on the national debt by 2012, the chairman told students and local leaders in Detroit.

“That’s one year’s worth of defense budget,” he said, adding that the Pentagon needs to cut back on spending.

“We’re going to have to do that if it’s going to survive at all,” Mullen said, “and do it in a way that is predictable.”

I can only say I sure am glad that this administration has its focus on the right things and my best interests at heart.

G-RAMM, the EFV and the Fundamental Paradox of the Marine Corps Vision

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 2 months ago

The U.S. Marine Corps is retooling itself after years of land battle in Iraq and Afghanistan.  They want to go back to their sea-based roots with the Navy.  Undersecretary Bob Work has made a case for more capability in distributed operations, a lighter expeditionary unit, strong coupling with the Navy, and the continuing viability of forcible entry based on amphibious capabilities.

I have been a staunch defender of the military in light of demand for budgetary cuts.  In light of the difficulties associated with startup of the shipbuilding industry in America again, I have advocated staying the course.  There are many admirable aspects of Bob Work’s vision such as distributed operations (a strength long ago recognized and given legitimacy in the Small Wars Manual), and there is truth to the notion that forcible entry is not a dead concept.  It will be employed in the future in the interest of national security.  This is as safe a bet as any that can be made.

But what isn’t as clear is that the Marine Corps needs the equipment is says in order to pull off this mission.  As I have said previously:

I do not now and have never advocated that the Marine Corps jettison completely their notion of littoral readiness and expeditionary warfare capabilities, but I have strongly advocated more support for the missions we have at hand.

Finally, it occurs to me that the debate is unnecessary.  While Conway has famously said that the Corps is getting too heavy, his program relies on the extremely heavy Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, that behemoth that is being designed and tested because we want forcible entry capabilities – against who, I frankly don’t know.

If it is a failing state or near failing state, no one needs the capabilities of the EFV.  If it is a legitimate near peer enemy or second world state, then the casualties sustained from an actual land invasion would be enormous.  Giving the enemy a chance to mine a beach, build bunkers, arm its army with missiles, and deploy air power, an infantry battalion would be dead within minutes.  1000 Marines – dead, along with the sinking of an Amphibious Assault Dock and its associated EFVs.

No one has yet given me a legitimate enemy who needs to be attacked by an EFV.  On the other hand, I have strongly recommended the retooling of the expeditionary concept to rely much more heavily on air power and the air-ground task force concept.  It would save money, create a lighter and more mobile Marine Corps (with Amphibious Assault Docks ferrying around more helicopters rather than LCACs), and better enable the Marines to perform multiple missions.  I have also recommended an entirely new generation of Marine Corps helicopters.

The EFV is designed for a near peer state (or close to it), and its presupposition is active enemy fire while ferrying troops ashore while providing covering fire.  It is a reversion to 65-year old amphibious warfare doctrine with updated equipment.  But if the state upon which we intend to conduct forcible entry is capable of rocket fire against navy vessels (positioned 25 miles offshore over the horizon in order to increase the likelihood of survival), the EFVs will become deadly transport vehicles for Marines.  If the nation-state is in fact not capable of such opposing fire, then the EFV is not needed.

The Marine Corps is digging in though, and Secretary Gates may be equivocating on the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.  Bob Work aptly defends the vision in a response to a Small Wars Journal commentary by Robert Haddick.  Robert argues that the Marine Corps failed to give adequate weight to the musings of Gates when he “wondered how opposed amphibious assaults will be viable when adversaries possess precision munitions, known as “G-RAMM” – guided rockets, artillery, mortars, and missiles.”  Work responds in part:

In an anti-access environment where the enemy has a capable battle network capable of firing salvos of guided weapons, the initial phase of any theater entry operation will require achieving air, sea, undersea, and overall battle network superiority. This will mean this type of operation will be deliberate and take some time to develop. This does not mean “damn the G-RAMM, full speed ahead.” It means, “take your time, roll the G-RAMM threat back, and then land at a time and place of your own choosing.” No 10-day landings in this environment.

Once ashore, the primary threat to the lodgment will come from G-RAMM “counter-attacks” and hybrid warriors who most likely will hide amongst the people. This will require the Marines to concentrate on establishing an inner G-RAMM perimeter designed to keep guided rockets, mortars, and artillery suppressed/out of range. The joint force, especially the defending Navy battle network, will concentrate on defeating the longer range-G-RAMM threat.

This response, interesting and important though it is, lays the paradox out for us in all of its color.  “Roll the G-RAMM threat back … land at a time and place of your own choosing … establishing an inner G-RAMM perimeter designed to keep guided rockets, mortars, and artillery suppressed/out of range.”  Forcible entry under heavy fires from combined arms is either in the plans or it is not.  If it is in the plans, then the EFV is designed to be used against a near peer or sizable nation-state with a uniformed army and capable of such a defense.  This is unfathomable.  Use of a couple of BLTs and supporting equipment is not nearly enough to effect success under these circumstances.  The mission would be suicidal.  It’s unfathomable precisely because we’re smarter than that.

If on the other hand the location upon which we intend to do forcible entry is not a developed nation-state capable of employing such combined arms, then the EFV is not necessary, and may even be an impediment to efficient operations give its amphibious-based design.  Large scale amphibious assaults against near peer states or secondary powers are not likely, and history may have recorded the last such assaults more than 50 years ago.  The EFV, designed for an assault that isn’t likely to happen, is a vehicle in search of a mission.

On the other hand, there is virtue in becoming lighter.  While also defending the Osprey V-22, I have argued strongly against retiring the helicopter fleet, and also for development of a new, more capable Marine Corps helicopter fleet (a wiser expenditure of money than the EFV).  While some have speculated that the Phrog is finished, I have argued that it is capable of delivery of Marines by fast-roping, something the V-22 can’t handle, and thus it should be maintained and even upgraded if necessary.

A lighter Marine Corps should be coupled with a faster moving Marine Corps, one that won’t have to lumber on shore in heavy vehicles.  Helicopter delivery of Marines inland to secure the perimeter in situations of hybrid warfare, while relying on the Navy to deliver the heavier equipment later if it is deemed that it is needed, would support both a retooled Marine Corps and the needs of the 21st century.

The current Marine Corps vision tries to do it all.  Consequently, the President and Congress are having to rely more heavily than ever on Special Operations Forces to do the role of rapid response and deployment, forcible entry of small teams conducting distributed operations, interdiction, and mission support where the most valuable commodity is ease of ingress and egress, lightness, and mission-specific tooling and weapons employment.

This is a role that the Marine Corps should be filling.  The vision obviously has had a great deal of work put into it, but it suffers from being all things to all people under all circumstances.  The Marine Corps cannot accomplish miracles.  But it can be the best at the mission given to it.  The need of the hour is for clarity and focus of the mission statement.


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