Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: February 2011

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Pure joy? Seeing Ms. Pelosi rendered "irrelevant"

There are those that are important and those that are irrelevant, and, in terms of the budget, it is delightful to see the minority leader of the House of Representatives in the irrelevant category:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is showing no enthusiasm for the new proposal from Republicans to avoid a government shutdown, putting her at odds with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Pelosi said in a statement that the GOP’s plan for a two-week spending bill cuts funding for critical programs.

“Republicans want to cut an additional $4 billion, which includes stripping support for some pressing educational challenges without redirecting these critical resources to meet the educational needs of our children,” Pelosi said in a statement. “This is not a good place to start.”

Well heck, then get the votes together to stop it. What’s that? Don’t have them?

Oh.

Well, thanks for stopping by.

~McQ


Rolling Stone’s Michael Hastings shoots at but misses another general

A little investigative reporting for you.

Apparently, after the article he wrote about Gen. Stanley McChrystal was instrumental in seeing McChrystal relieved of command in Afghanistan, Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone believed he had carved out a niche for himself. Going after the brass in war zones.

However his latest attempt, in which he accuses LTG William Caldwell, the general in charge of the NATO training mission in Afghanistan, of an effort to use “PsyOps” (Psychological Operations) against visiting US Senators misfired badly. For anyone who read the piece and has spent any time at all in the services the picture that formed immediately in the mind, given Hasting’s source, was “disgruntled officer”. And, as it turns out, that’s pretty much on the mark.

Hastings apparently took the word of LTC Michael Holmes as the premise and theme of his article. In fact he sets it up with a quote from Holmes:

“My job in psy-ops is to play with people’s heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave,” says Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes, the leader of the IO unit, who received an official reprimand after bucking orders. “I’m prohibited from doing that to our own people. When you ask me to try to use these skills on senators and congressman, you’re crossing a line.”

Except LTC Holmes job wasn’t “in psy-ops” (Psychological Operations) nor is LTC Holmes trained in PsyOps. That is a very specific Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) that requires school training. The place in which PsyOps is taught is the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Ft. Bragg, NC. According to Special Operations Command, the Special Warfare School has never heard of LTC Michael Holmes.

Hastings also implies that Holmes received an official reprimand for “bucking orders” associated with the claim he was to use “psy-ops” on Senators. In fact he was instead cited for numerous violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) that included ignoring orders not to go off post in civilian clothes, surrendering his weapon to civilians in civilian restaurants, conflict of interest and telling falsehoods to superiors, among others. The reprimand Holmes received had little if anything to do with the reason implied by Hastings.

When asked by his immediate supervisor, a Colonel, whether LTC Holmes had permission to leave post in civilian clothes, Holmes told his his boss that the former Chief of Staff of the US’s Afghan Training Mission had given he and MAJ Laural Levine permission to wear civilian clothes off post. However, when contacted by the officer who conducted the Command’s AR 15-6 investigation into the matter, the former Chief of Staff, in a sworn statement, denied ever giving anyone blanket permission to wear civilian clothes or dine off post. For one thing, he didn’t have the authority to do such a thing. The former Chief of Staff stated that any such permission would have to be given by a general officer as required by the two different command policies. In this case that permission would have had to come from LTG Caldwell. No such permission was ever given. By claiming that the Chief of Staff had given them permission when that wasn’t the case, Holmes and Levine were in violation of Article 107 of the UCMJ – making a false official statement.

Another officer who was invited to go out with LTC Holmes and his subordinate, MAJ Levine, gave a sworn statement that Holmes said that he and Levine routinely went off post to restaurants in civilian clothes for social purposes not official business, that they surrendered their weapons at the Afghan civilian establishments and that they drank alcohol. All of those activities are in direct contravention of standing orders and policies in Afghanistan. The officer who gave the sworn statement declined the invitation to go with them.

The conflict of interest charge came about when Holmes and Levine decided they could use their experience in strategic communications to start a civilian business. On its face, there’s nothing wrong with that if you wait until you’re in a civilian capacity to do so. But when you use duty time and DoD assets to promote your business, or misrepresent your duty as something other than it is, that raises definite ethical problems. Holmes and Levine did both of these things. And as such were in violation of numerous parts of the Joint Ethics Regulations.

For instance, they used their DoD positions for their own personal gain, namely to pass off their work in training Afghans from the Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Defense as work done on behalf of their company SyzygyLogos LLC. On the company’s Facebook page, in an entry dated April 8th, 2010, you’ll see pictures of Holmes, in civilian dress, under a post title which says, “SyzygyLogos LLC, A Strategic Communications Firm – Images from our training sessions with the Afghan Government.”

That was clearly done with the intent to generate business for their private company. Additionally they listed either the US Government or the Afghan MoI and MoD as their “current clients”. All of this activity violated UCMJ article 92 (Failure to obey an order or regulation – i.e. the ethics regulation). Both the article 92 and 107 violations also lead to a third UCMJ charge for LTC Holmes, violation of article 133 (conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman).

As to the implication Hastings has in his article that the punitive action was taken because Holmes and Levine thought the use “psy-ops” on US Senators was illegal, it is obviously false. Neither were cited for anything to do with what the general had allegedly asked nor did they “buck orders” related to that situation other than to ask for legal clarification. Additionally, in a Wall Street Journal article by Julian Barnes, it is clear that LTG Caldwell had determined that PsyOps was inappropriate for a training command:

Several officers said that almost immediately after taking command, Gen. Caldwell determined it was inappropriate for a training command to try engage in information operations or try to influence any audiences with deception or other psychological operations techniques.

Military officers said that following that decision, Lt. Col. Holmes was reassigned to a strategic communications team that was tasked, in part, prepare the command for visits by congressional delegations.

Another officer who worked with Holmes and under Caldwell said that what Holmes was asked to do was anything but inappropriate:

Col. Holmes said he was asked to prepare background briefings on how to persuade congressional delegations on the importance of the training mission. But asking an officer trained in information operations to do the job of a public affairs officer is improper and illegal, Lt. Col. Holmes said.

“What they wanted me to do is figure out what we had to say to a congressional delegation or think tank group to get them to agree with us,” he said. “Honestly this is pretty innocuous stuff. If I was a public affairs officer, it wouldn’t be that bad.”

Lt. Col. Holmes compared the request to asking a CIA officer to investigate a criminal in the U.S. It would be illegal for the intelligence officer to do tasks that are perfectly appropriate for a regular police officer.

But a military officer who served with Lt. Col. Holmes and under Gen. Caldwell said the accusation is baseless, and that the officer was specifically told not to use information operations techniques. The officer declined to allow his name to be used because the command in Afghanistan has asked people not to discuss the case.

“I don’t know of any regulation that would say someone trained in info ops or psy-ops couldn’t put together a briefing packet,” said the officer who served with Lt. Col. Holmes. “There wasn’t any subliminal messages here. It was just look at what issues a lawmaker was championing so we can get our message out.”

Or, in other words, Holmes was asked to gather information about incoming visitors that would be useful for his commanding general in preparation for their visit. It is a task every general officer command would task subordinates to do for their boss. Apparently Holmes resisted this for reasons other than those given to Hastings.

Holmes superior stated in a sworn statement for the 15-6 investigation that he had a hard time getting either Holmes or Levine to do other duties beyond teaching STRATCOM (Strategic Communications) to Afghans. Reviewing their ethics violations, the reason becomes pretty clear. Doing what the general asked interfered with their “company” business.

Hastings either never checked out Holmes’ background and was unaware of the nature of charges against him or preferred to use Holmes version of the truth as his basis for the article because he liked what he heard. And his apparent unfamiliarity with the role of the NATO Training Command is also evident in passages like these:

According to experts on intelligence policy, asking a psy-ops team to direct its expertise against visiting dignitaries would be like the president asking the CIA to put together background dossiers on congressional opponents. Holmes was even expected to sit in on Caldwell’s meetings with the senators and take notes, without divulging his background. “Putting your propaganda people in a room with senators doesn’t look good,” says John Pike, a leading military analyst. “It doesn’t pass the smell test. Any decent propaganda operator would tell you that.”

At a minimum, the use of the IO team against U.S. senators was a misuse of vital resources designed to combat the enemy; it cost American taxpayers roughly $6 million to deploy Holmes and his team in Afghanistan for a year. But Caldwell seemed more eager to advance his own career than to defeat the Taliban. “We called it Operation Fourth Star,” says Holmes.

First, it wasn’t a “psy-ops” team, it was an Information Operations team. And they weren’t “propaganda people”, they were trainers and instructors. As the Barnes article notes, early on “Gen. Caldwell determined it was inappropriate for a training command to try engage in information operations or try to influence any audiences with deception or other psychological operations techniques.”

PsyOps are for use with operational units engaged with the enemy. Caldwell understood that wasn’t his command’s mission and changed the section’s mission to the more mundane of roles of information operations and strategic communications. Holmes was on the STRATCOM side. But none of that precludes a general officer from assigning other duties to his staff officers in addition to their primary duties. All staff officers fulfill a myriad of extra duties in addition to their primary functions on any staff. And that appears to be what happened here. Holmes, for fairly obvious reasons, resisted that.

Secondly, Caldwell’s mission was to train Afghan allies, not “defeat the Taliban”. That again is a job for operational units, not a training unit. The fact that Hastings accepted the Holmes quote above at face value and even tried to expand on it is indicative of his lack of knowledge about the role of Caldwell’s command. It is certainly a sensational quote, but to the knowledgeable, it is utter nonsense.

In short Hastings was gulled by Holmes. If anyone was a victim of “psy-ops” here, it was Michael Hastings. His lack of knowledge about the command plus an apparent desire to put another general officer notch in his journalistic belt left him open to a sob story from a disgruntled officer that may have sounded good to him, but appears to have little or no basis in fact. A story from an officer who had already been reprimanded for making a false official statement.

LTG Caldwell is being investigated now on the basis of these charges by Hastings and Holmes. Most people knowledgeable of the situation expect absolutely nothing to come of it. When Holmes questioned the legality of the directive issued by the command, the command’s Staff Judge Advocate (military lawyer) was asked to look into the legality of the directive. The SJA issued an opinion finding the directive to be legal.

Holmes received a General Officer Memorandum Reprimand for his violations of orders and policy and making a false official statement. Many consider that to have been lenient given his rank and what he did. When you reach the rank of field grade officer, you’re expected to understand how the system operates and to comply with both orders and policy. Willfully ignoring such orders and policy and then making false statements about it are serious offenses to the good order and discipline of the Army. LTC Holmes, as it turns out, got off lightly.

~McQ


Kristof reflects the left’s naiveté on democracy in Middle East and Africa

Nicholas Kristof manages to roll up all the naiveté of the left into one article in which he explains why he thinks those who don’t think democracy will be the final outcome of the unrest we’re seeing in North Africa and the Middle East are selling the people there short.  He’s pretty sure all those who’ve said that democracy  most likely won’t be the product have got it wrong.  Because he’s looked into the eyes of those who’ve protested the authoritarian governments there and, well, let him tell you:

I don’t think so. Moreover, this line of thinking seems to me insulting to the unfree world. In Egypt and Bahrain in recent weeks, I’ve been humbled by the lionhearted men and women I’ve seen defying tear gas or bullets for freedom that we take for granted. How can we say that these people are unready for a democracy that they are prepared to die for?

Well, sir, because they haven’t any tradition of democracy nor do they have any democratic institutions ready to ensure the outcome of the turmoil is democracy … that’s how.

There have been thousands … millions even … of “lionhearted men and women” who’ve braved tear gas or bullets in the name of freedom, only to end up suffering under authoritarian or totalitarian regimes.  Take the way back machine to Hungary in 1956 for instance, when a scenario much like this played out there ultimately to be crushed brutally by oppressive communism.

It certainly isn’t for the lack of wanting to see something like democracy flourish in the Middle East and North Africa.  Heck, that would be wonderful.  But it is an appreciation for history and an analysis of that history that ends up pointing out that probability – because of conditions beyond the protesters control – doesn’t bode well for a democratic outcome.

Kristof’s premise is many in the West think Arabs, Chinese, etc. are “unfit for democracy”.   Not at all. In fact, he misses the point completely.

It has nothing to do with the fitness or unfitness of any people.  I’m of the opinion that all people yearn for freedom and, if introduced into a democratic system, would flourish (and millions have, emigrating to free countries).

It isn’t their fitness or unfitness that’s in question, it’s the fitness or unfitness of the culture in the country or region in which they live.  Does it indeed support the principles of freedom and liberty, does it allow equal access for all, does it indeed allow all to participate equally and finally, does it contrive to protect the rights of the individual over the power of the state?

Look at the present regimes in the area and history of the countries in the area and you tell me.  For the most part the cultures in many of them don’t support the principles that underlie a democratic society.  That’s obviously not to say that can’t change, but the question is what is the likelihood, given the specific country’s culture and history, that it will change?

That is where the examination has to take place – not in the hopes and aspirations of a relatively few “lionhearted” people who yearn and fight for such freedom.  Is there a chance?  There’s always a chance.  Is it likely?  Well, history says no.  I’d like as much as anyone to see history proven wrong in the case of all of these countries.  But like Egypt, where the real power behind the throne – the military – is still in charge of the government they’ve essentially run for 50 years, it appears unlikely that the essential pillars of a democratic society will be allowed to be erected and strengthened.  It just goes against human nature and the dominant political culture that still holds power in that country. 

Do I hope democracy is the product of these protests and revolutions.  Yes.  Do I expect it?  No.  And the reasons given are why.  What the US should be preparing for is the probable outcome while working to encourage the hoped for outcome.  Unfortunately, I don’t see it doing either.

~McQ


Duke Snider dead at age 84

I’m not one to memorialize the dead usually, although some are significant in history and my life.  And it may seem strange to choose a former baseball player when I do decide to do so.  But Duke Snider was one of my  all time baseball heroes as a kid.  This was back in the era of 3 major league teams in New York and rivalries that simply were  unmatched.  I caught the fever early and young, and Duke Snider was one of those I most admired:

Duke Snider, the Hall of Fame center fielder renowned for his home run drives and superb defensive play in the Brooklyn Dodgers’ glory years, died Sunday in Escondido, Calif. He was 84.

From 1949, his first full season, until 1957, the period generally considered the golden age of New York baseball — the last time the city’s fans were divided into three camps, and when at least one New York team played in the World Series each October — Snider was a colossus, one of three roaming the center fields of New York.

The others, of course, were Willie Mays of the New York Giants and Mickey Mantle of the Yankees, and the three became symbols of their teams, as the city’s fans argued over who was best: Willie, Mickey or the Duke?

History has since settled Snider in third place, but at the time, he had a good case to make. The Dodgers, known fondly as Dem Bums and immortalized by the writer Roger Kahn as “The Boys of Summer,” won six National League pennants during Snider’s 11 seasons in Brooklyn.

It was the era of Mays, Mantle and Snider and history may have put Snider in 3rd place, but not to an impressionable young kid he helped fall in love with the game of baseball. 

Rest in Peace, Duke.

~McQ


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 27 Feb 11

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the demonstrations by public employee unions in Wisconsin, and the state of the economy.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Trumka: Raise gas taxes to create jobs

If ever there was an example of the complete cluelessness much of the left commonly displays when it comes to economic matters, the AFL-CIO’s (and Obama advisor) Richard Trumka provides it:

What’s the best way to get Americans back to work?

Raise taxes, according to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. Specifically, he wants to raise the federal gas tax as a means to fund infrastructure spending. "We need a dedicated source of revenue to create infrastructure in this country," he tells Aaron Task in the accompanying clip.

"We need to create jobs. The best way to do that is through infrastructure development." Simply maintaining the existing infrastructure in this country will cost $2.2 trillion over five years, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. That doesn’t include Obama’s objective of high-speed rails and green energy projects.

So, to sum up, raise one of the most regressive taxes there is (it hits the poor the hardest at the gas pump because they end up having to pay a larger portion of their disposable income for gasoline) and declare this will help "create jobs".

What it will actually do, if that were to occur, is create more union jobs. And if the poor have to cut back on food or shelter, well, you know, a few eggs have to be cracked to make an omelet.   The key to economic recovery, per Trumka, is government created jobs with money taken from taxpayers who just might have a much different priority for it.  It calls for another “new revenue stream”.  And he has no qualms at all laying claim to your dollars to fund his nonsense.

Trumka didn’t say specifically how much he would raise the gas tax, but mentioned he’s shown the President a $256 billion plan to improve infrastructure.  If every billion spent on infrastructure creates 35,000 jobs, as he claims, this package would create close to 9 million jobs over the next five years. 

The idea would also improve America’s fiscal and competitive future, says Trumka. "There’s also a downstream effect, you put people back to work, they pay taxes, they don’t use services, they’re contributing, other jobs are created along the way as well," he explains.

Fantasy.  A) it is, as usual, the left’s answer to everything – tax and spend.  Someone tell Mr. Trumka that it is precisely that mindset that the majority of Americans have rejected.   B) it assumes something not in evidence.  We just spent over $800 billion on “infrastructure” – look around you, did you see the unemployment rate dip significantly or go up?  C) after the stimulus was spent there has apparently been no down-stream effect for jobs, service use is up and tax revenue is down.

If Trumka’s solution had any credibility, unemployment would be down below 8% (that was the promise, remember – spend the money on infrastructure and see jobs created) and we’d be riding the recovery train.  We have a million little signs up everywhere in America right now touting infrastructure projects – and the unemployment rate?

In fact, what Trumka is doing is asking for more to be spent on a plan that has already failed miserably and expecting different results.  Isn’t that the definition of “insanity”?

That’s precisely what this plan is – insane.  Government has wasted trillions on nonsense like this.  The solution to this isn’t government creating jobs.  It is private industry doing so.  That requires low taxes and a stable business atmosphere where government hasn’t declared war on business and corporations.  That requires less government, not more – something the Richard Trumkas and Barack Obamas of the world can’t quite seem to get through their heads.  In their world, government is always the answer.   Unfortunately, we’re living in their world right now.

Happy with it?

Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?

~McQ


Meanwhile in Egypt, part II …

More “surprises”:

Tens of thousands of protesters returned Friday to Tahrir Square, the site of demonstrations that led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak two weeks ago, to keep up the pressure on Egypt’s military-led transitional government.

But by early Saturday, the military made it clear there would be limits to further dissent as soldiers and plainclothes security officers moved into the square, beating protesters and tearing down their tents, witnesses said.

Let freedom ring.

~McQ


Meanwhile in Egypt …

A “surprising” development:

For the second time in as many days, Egyptian armed force stormed the 5th century old St. Bishoy monastery in Wadi el-Natroun, 110 kilometers from Cairo. Live ammunition was fired, wounding two monks and six Coptic monastery workers. Several sources confirmed the army’s use of RPG ammunition. Four people have been arrested including three monks and a Coptic lawyer who was at the monastery investigating yesterday’s army attack.

Monk Aksios Ava Bishoy told activist Nader Shoukry of Freecopts the armed forces stormed the main entrance gate to the monastery in the morning using five tanks, armored vehicles and a bulldozer to demolish the fence built by the monastery last month to protect themselves and the monastery from the lawlessness which prevailed in Egypt during the January 25 Uprising.

"When we tried to address them, the army fired live bullets, wounding Father Feltaows in the leg and Father Barnabas in the abdomen," said Monk Ava Bishoy. "Six Coptic workers in the monastery were also injured, some with serious injuries to the chest."

The injured were rushed to the nearby Sadat Hospital, the ones in serious condition were transferred to the Anglo-Egyptian Hospital in Cairo.

Father Hemanot Ava Bishoy said the army fired live ammunition and RPGs continuously for 30 minutes, which hit part of the ancient fence inside the monastery. "The army was shocked to see the monks standing there praying ‘Lord have mercy’ without running away. This is what really upset them," he said. "As the soldiers were demolishing the gate and the fence they were chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ and ‘Victory, Victory’."

He also added that the army prevented the monastery’s car from taking the injured to hospital.

Says the Army:

The Egyptian Armed Forces issued a statement on their Facebook page denying that any attack took place on St. Bishoy Monastery in Wady el-Natroun, "Reflecting our belief in the freedom and chastity of places of worship of all Egyptians." The statement went on to say that the army just demolished some fences built on State property and that it has no intention of demolishing the monastery itself (video of army shooting at Monastery).

Heh … yeah the spring of peace, love and moon ponies the gullible expected to come out of all of this is off to a roaring start, no?  Fence demolition, Egyptian style – done with RPGs, machine guns and tanks all while pumping sunshine up your posterior and denying what is on video.

Sounds like a "new day" in Egypt to me … you?

~McQ


Eco-Fail

The mantra amongst the warmist community is that if we don’t curb our carbon emissions drastically, the planet will warm severely and wreak all sorts of havoc. While the actual science doesn’t support that notion, the levers of power around the world are encouraged to heed the warmists’ warnings by curbing freedom and subsidizing things like the “green economy.” The London suburb community known as Muswell Hill took some initiative in that regard and built The Living Ark:

The LivingARK is a zero-carbon cabin designed to facilitate education on low carbon building technologies and raise awareness of climate change. It will be used to showcase sustainability not only to Muswell Hill Primary School pupils but to other local schools, community groups and residents. There are educational information boards both inside and outside the ARK which will explain the concept of a zero-carbon building and will also cover wider ranging topics such as sustainable transport, food-growing and an explanation of climate change.

Presumably, it’s called an Ark in reference to the massive flooding that’s supposed to happen thanks to Anthropogenic Global Warming. Ironically, its designed to prevent such a catastrophe from happening in the first place. Unfortunately, the designers forgot that England doesn’t get a whole lot of sun:

Eco-campaigners who built a classroom powered by the sun believed they were paving the way for the future.

Instead they have been taught a valuable lesson – there is not enough sun in North London to sufficiently heat their building.

[...]

It boasts laudable green credentials and is made from sustainable wood, sheep’s wool and soil. The roof is made of mud and grass and it has its own ‘rain pod’ and solar panels.

But there is snag – its solar panels only provide enough energy to power a few lightbulbs.

As a result the classroom is bitterly cold and uninhabitable for lessons.

Oops. And at a cost of just over $40,000, and rather expensive “oops.”

Local councillors, at Labour run Haringey council, who were behind the initiative, opened it with great fanfare in December as a beacon of their climate change policy.

But today a local parent at the 419-pupil school said teachers weren’t allowing pupils into the classroom because it was too cold.

‘What is the point of a classroom that can’t be used when it’s a bit cold outside? My kids have been told it’s too cold for them to use as nobody can figure out how to heat it,’ said the parent, who did not want to be named.

‘This is just an expensive piece of hollowed out wood and no use to anyone. We are living in Britain, not the Caribbean.’

The ‘waste’ of money comes as councils across the country are facing a severe shortage of school places.

By 2018 they will need to find an additional 500,000 primary places due to a population surge.

Once again cold, hard reality smacks down attempts to wish a fantasy world into existence. Maybe they, and the rest of the warmist cult, should pay a little more attention to that science stuff that nanny-staters are always claiming to be so fond of.


More F-22s at the expense of the F35? No thanks

I’m sympathetic with the argument – even in this era of austerity – that DoD made a mistake by stopping the production of the F-22 Raptor.  It is the premier air superiority fighter in the world (5th generation stealth).  It was designed to keep our edge in air superiority/air dominance that we’ve enjoyed for 56 years or since the Korean war (no soldier or Marine on the ground has been killed in that time frame by enemy air).

But in a recent WSJ article (subscription), Michael Auslin attempts to make the case that F-22 production ought to be revived (I agree) and paid for by cutting F-35s (I disagree).  Yes,  I think we need more F-22s.  We’ve manufactured about 180 to replace a fleet of 4th generation air superiority fighters than number 800.  Not exactly a number that is able to give us the flexibility we need to do all the missions those 800 allowed us.

So Auslin’s arguments that we need more F-22s make sense.

What doesn’t make sense are his arguments that F-35s should be cut to do so.  He gives three reasons why the F-22 should be funded via cuts in F-35s:

• The emergence of foreign challengers. Russia and China are steadily developing heavy, twin- engine aircraft with stealth capabilities. Based on their size and potential capabilities, the smaller, single-engine F-35 probably will not have the speed or power to compete.

The Chinese ostentatiously first test-flew their J-20 prototype last month during Mr. Gates’s visit to Beijing. Western analysts are still debating the plane’s capabilities. Some believe it will serve as a supersonic fighter-bomber, given its large size (more than 20% bigger than the F-22 itself). Whatever the ultimate capabilities of the J-20 or the Russian PAK-FA turn out to be, we can expect more surprises in their development. The U.S. government apparently did not know about two new Chinese nuclear submarine models until they were revealed on the Internet several years ago.

Here’s a dirty little secret – speed and power aren’t what will determine who wins future battles between 5th generation fighters. As missile and radar technology have advanced over the years, those type fights have taken place at longer and longer range – to include over the horizon attacks. What will determine who will win those type fights is the range, reliability and speed of the missiles and the ability of the radar systems on board to detect the enemy before he detects you.

It really doesn’t matter how many engines an aircraft has or how fast it can go, a manned aircraft cannot outrun a missile. If the F-35 has the better missiles and the better and longer range detection capability, it should do just fine.

• Sophisticated air defenses are a growing threat to American fighters. Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, among others, are developing and fielding integrated air-defense systems, including interlinked radar sites and advanced surface-to-air missiles such as the S-400. The lower operational ceiling of the F-35 (around 40,000 feet) and its subsonic cruising speed means it will be at much higher risk in attempting to penetrate such heavily defended airspace.

The F-22 was designed precisely to fight and survive in such environments—as attested by its 60,000-foot operational ceiling and supercruise (cruising at plus-mach speeds without afterburners) ability.

This is simply not accurate. Air superiority fighters do not take out enemy air defenses and the operational ceiling or speed has little if anything to do with any ability to accomplish that mission. The military has a doctrine which is called Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) which requires strikes on enemy air defense sites before we introduce air superiority platforms such as the F-22 into the conflicted air space.

Aircraft of choice? Multi-role fighters. Presently the Airforce uses the F-16, a multi-role single engine fighter with HARM missiles. The Navy and Marine Corps use the F/A 18, a multi-role fighter. The F-35 is perfect for the role … not the F-22.

• F-35 delays and cost overruns. The JSF program has run into numerous delays and cost increases, with the unit price of each plane nearing $100 million. In early January, Mr. Gates put the F-35B program on hold for two years, as its vertical take-off-and-landing capabilities ran into significant development problems. Many industry observers question whether the F-35 will reach initial operating capability before the end of this decade. And given the rising costs of the plane, the likelihood of further procurement cuts is very real, putting the F-35 potentially on the same death-spiral as the F-22.

Again, not really accurate. The F-35 is well on its way to reaching "initial operating capability" before the end of the decade. The A and C variants (The Airforce and Navy) are on target and ahead in their flight testing programs. The B variant (the STVOL Marine Corps version) is the one that has given the most problems, but it appears the problems are known, understood and not show stoppers.

Look, the F-35 is a developmental aircraft. That means they’re taking something from concept to reality based on capabilities the customer (in this case DoD) has asked for. That means you design, test, refine, retest, fix and finally deploy the product. It’s a long and laborious process that, as you might imagine, costs money. However, the F-35 cost model is based on consistent and predictable increases in production rates to maintain program affordability. If the current production projections are maintained, the average unit cost of the Conventional Take Off and Landing variant (the Airforce model) will be about $65M (in 2010 dollars). That’s about the same cost as a fully mission equipped 4th generation F-16 costs today.

What Auslin wants to do is cut the production rate of F-35s (in favor of more F-22s) which would make the cost problem he quotes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

I think Auslin is right about needing more F-22s. I don’t disagree in the least.  Even in these days of austerity, I think closing down the production line for these aircraft is a strategic mistake. We many not need 800 of them, but we need more than the number we’ve now produced.

However, I think doing so at the expense of the F-35 would be a bigger mistake. Both aircraft are vital to our ability to dominate the battlefield of the future, both in the air and on the ground. Like it or not, our potential enemies are going to build and field 5th generation fighters that we may meet someday in combat. Both of these aircraft will be vital to our effort then. What we don’t need is cannibalizing capability on one side to pay for it on the other. We can be sure those building rival 5th generation fighter aircraft certainly won’t.

~McQ

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