Free Markets, Free People

Defense Analyst: “We’re in a technological race with ourselves”

Reading through a NY Times story about defense cuts led me to one of the most, oh I don’t know, stupid statements it has been my misfortune to read in a while (one of the joys of being a blogger is I don’t have to dress up my comments – stupid is stupid).

And apparently it passes for penetrating analysis.  The thrust of the story, or at least the claim made in the story, is that the Pentagon has made no plans for the sequestration cuts mandated by the failure of the Supercommittee.

To be clear, DoD is working on the first $450 billion in cuts mandated by the Obama Administration.  Those will already cut deeply into its capabilities over the next few decades. 

This new round of cuts will go beyond “fat” and cut into muscle and bone.  An idea of where cuts will have to be made is provided by some defense analysts:

They laid out the possibility of cutbacks to most weapons programs, a further reduction in the size of the Army, large layoffs among the Defense Department’s 700,000 civilian employees and reduced military training time — such as on aircraft like the F-22 advanced jet fighter, which flies at Mach 2 and costs $18,000 an hour to operate, mostly because of the price of fuel.

Other possibilities include cutting the number of aircraft carriers to 10 from 11 — the United States still has more than any other country — as well as increased fees for the military’s generous health care system, changes in military retirement, base closings around the country and delayed maintenance on ships and buildings.

And that brings us to a statement I find difficulty characterizing as anything but stupid.  Perhaps to be less provocative, I ought to characterize it as woefully uninformed.  I’ll emphasize it for you:

Right now, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most expensive weapons program in history, is the top target for cuts. (The Pentagon plans to spend nearly $400 billion buying 2,500 of the stealth jets through 2035.) Other potential targets include the Army’s planned ground combat vehicle and a “next-generation” long-range bomber under development by the Air Force.

As a result, the military industry is already in full alarm. “The Pentagon has been cutting weapons programs by hundreds of billions of dollars for three years now,” said Loren B. Thompson, a consultant to military contractors. “There’s not much left to kill that won’t affect the military’s safety or success.”

Other analysts argued that the United States had such overwhelming military superiority globally that it could easily withstand the cuts, even to the point of eliminating the Joint Strike Fighter. “We have airplanes coming out of our ears,” said Gordon Adams, who oversaw military budgets in the Clinton White House. “We’re in a technological race with ourselves.” Nonetheless, he said, the automatic cuts make life difficult for Pentagon budget planners and are “a terrible way to manage defense.”

No … we’re not in a “technological race with ourselves”.   And yes, we have lots of airplanes.   Worn out airplanes two or three decades old that have been to war for a decade.  

Right now the Russians are developing a very good 5th generation fighter, the T-50 (also known as the PAK FA).  The Chinese 5th generation aircraft is the J-20.  We, on the other hand stopped a planned buy of F-22s at 180 out of 2,000.   And now we’re talking about cutting the F-35 (a buy of 2400 and supposedly the fighter to fill the gap left by the curtailment of the F-22 buy) as well?  That’s national defense suicide.

If we cut the JSF, in 10 years we’ll have the same 4th generation aircraft we have now as our front line of defense against the newest generation of fighters that you can bet both Russia and China will export.  Ours will be technologically inferior. 

Yes, we enjoy a technological edge now.  But that is because we’ve always made its maintenance a national security priority.  What Gordon Adams is trying to do is wave away the need to maintain that edge with an absurdly simplistic and utterly incorrect “we’re in a technological race with ourselves”.

What we do now will effect our national security for decades to come.  These fighters are planned to be the front line of defense for about 40 years.   And while an F/A 18 is a hot jet in 2011, it will not be a hot jet in 2031 when refined and technologically superior T-50 and J-20 aircraft will command any airspace in which they fly.

For those who don’t understand what that means, it means no close air support for troops on the ground.  It means an enemy having air superiority over a battlefield (or at least air parity) and making our ground troops vulnerable to air attack for the first time since the Korean War.

It means we’ll have lost the technological race that is required to maintain air dominance and will be hard pressed to catch up anytime soon.

The old term “penny wise and pound foolish” comes to mind.  We’re about to validate that saying.   And the lack of leadership from this administration in outlining priorities concerning national defense and our future is terrifying.   Instead of making national defense a priority, this administration would spend elsewhere.

The technological edge we’ve maintained over the decades is a perishable thing.   There are other countries out there actively trying to steal it from us.

And we have so-called defense analysts like Gordon Adams making stupid – yes there’s that word again – statements like “we’re in a technological race with ourselves”.

We make further cuts, such as those demanded by sequestration, at our peril.  One of the primary functions of government, as outlined in our Constitution, is to provide for the national defense.  It should be one of, if not the primary focus of any national government.  To say we’re playing with fire with deeper cuts than those already contemplated is an understatement.  If you’re comfortable with your grandson or granddaughter flying 40 year old jets in the near future against technologically superior enemies who we are getting ready to abandon the field too in 2011, then you’ll be happy to support cutting defense to the bone now.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

6 Responses to Defense Analyst: “We’re in a technological race with ourselves”

  • This is where Ron Paul loses the election. The Left won’t vote for him period. And, a good chuck of swing voters and the Right won’t vote for him based on this kind of gutting of the Military, either. Although the Left wants these cuts, they’ll lie about it during the election and the Media won’t question it.

  • “We’re in a technological race with ourselves.”

    This is just a dogmatic pronouncement of your average doctrinaire Collectivist puke.

    There is no existential threat to the U.S. It is all a fiction created by the military-industrial complex. Every nation BUT us really wants peaceful co-existence. We are the danger…the REAL terror state.

    You can see how this works, right?

    But, Pearl Harbor…

  • I am going to go out on a limb here and say that:
    (1) I don’t believe that the cuts in defense are as doom and gloom as some have said. A lot of those cuts are only cuts to projected increases.
    (2) Our nation has a huge bloated military right now and after drawing down in Iraq and Afghanistan we don’t need it to be so big.
    (3) our military procurement is as big a mess as it has ever been and crooked to the core. It needs a complete overhaul.
    (4) Since our nation is out of money now would be a good time to have that big discussion about just exactly what our commitments should be going forward because we cannot continue to spend on our huge foreign hegemony anymore
    (5) Yes Virginia there really is a MIC, and there really are people who make a lot of money on the war machine. Those people lied to us for decades about the real capabilities of the Old Soviet Union and they are lying right now about China and other threats.

    .
    It isn’t that I don’t thin those threats exist, or that we shouldn’t have the worlds best military. But we already spend something like 42% of all the worlds military spending. It is a bit much.

    • @kyle8

    • @kyle8 You are NOT going out on a limb. We’ve heard for DECADES about either the Russians, or now the Chinese, will invade us tomorrow if we don’t spend billions on the latest gold plated weapons systems, and how our navy, for example, has to constantly patrol the world. Both of these mentalities are a result of the MIC.

      We don’t need to waste billions on the F-35, for example, when we could recapitalise with large numbers of F-15 Silent Eagles, plus reopen the F-22 line (and that is quite possible!).

      I see the same shrill warnings about this J-20 as back in the 70′s about the Backfire, the Tupolev 22M1-M3. The TU-22M1-M3 turned out to be nothing more than a moderately ranged tactical bomber, or as the Russians call it, a Raketsnosets, or rocket carrier. The birds had severe range limitations when carrying any sort of useful warload. Yet according to the alarmists the Russians would build thousands of them and invade the US the next day. The Russians built a little over 300 of them.

      I see the same alarmists screaming about this J-20. And the PAK-FA. Looking at both birds, and based on recent history, it’ll be a surprise if the Russians build more than 100 of these things, given their economic troubles, and decay of their industrial base.

      The Chinese are good at copies, and I’m thinking there are some Russian engineers involved with the J-20, as the design has a similiarity to the Mig 1.44 prototype. The Chinese PLAAF still uses heavily scripted, tightly controlled training for pilots, little initiative is allowed of pilots, so just how well will the PLAAF perform using these rigid controls?

      In response to option (3), you are correct, and it needs to be totally demolished and redone.

      In response to (4), we need to stop basing 50,000 army troops in Europe, just as an example. Why are all those troops there?

      We need to stop with this mentality that our Navy needs to patrol the world 24×7. That is a large driver into the size of the fleet, since we MUST have ships in every frakkin ocean 24x7x365. No. We. Don’t. It is not necessary, and we can no longer afford it.

      Before we cut ANY combat unit I would start with the bloated headquarters and associated units. We have too many generals/admirals, too many HQ units, each with THOUSANDS of staffers that would be better used as trigger pullers. We need to change any and all paper pushing jobs to civilian contractors.

      The historian Kennedy said it best, all the way back in 1987 – we are suffering from imperial overstretch. As you noted in (4), it is far past time to have a realistic, serious discussion on just exactly what capabilities the military needs, what we can afford to pay for, and how we match that up. That’ll most likely mean sacred cows like the F-35 getting canned, and fewer carriers, but maybe someone will get smart and send all the A-10′s to the USMC, for example, and change the USAF into a Air Defense and Strategic/Long Range Bombing service. *shrug* But I doubt it.