12/23/2005: Learn from experience? Not in the Pentagon....
Do the Pentagon chiefs pay any attention to the lessons they say they've learned? Judging from reports coming out of the Defense Department's current budget and policy reviews, the answer can only be: No.We don't have enough troops (and can't bring ourselves to spend enough money properly to equip the ones we do have), but we can cut back on badly needed manpower in order to buy more shiny new toys....
One lesson of the Iraq war, accepted by nearly everyone now, is that the U.S. military, especially the Army, doesn't have enough troops to occupy a country for very long while fighting off insurgents and trying to establish order.
And yet, according to a story by Tom Bowman in the Dec. 21 Baltimore Sun, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is planning to cut the Army's forces by 34,000 troops. That would entail eliminating one active-duty brigade and six National Guard brigades. (The latter aren't trivial; nearly half the U.S. combat units in Iraq come from the National Guard.)
Budget pressures are forcing Rumsfeld to cut Pentagon spending by $32 billion over the next five years. But why is he taking his biggest whacks against the tokens of combat power—boots on the ground—that are, by his own admission, most vital? The Sun reports:The manpower cuts stem from a decision by top Army leaders to sacrifice troop strength in order to provide money for new weapons systems and other new equipment, said defense officials, who requested anonymity.
Actually, what's worse is that defense spending has been seriously skewed for a while:
The problem isn't entirely with the Army brass. It's with the whole back-scratching collusion that the three services—Army, Navy, and Air Force—devised decades ago to stave off their natural tendencies toward explosive internecine rivalry.Not only that, we can't find enough common sense in Washington to shitcan a program that doesn't work (and probably never will), in order to free up some badly needed cash:
Trace the military budget back a quarter-century. You will find that each and every year, no matter what kinds of threats we were or weren't facing, the money has been divvied up in the same way—35 percent to the Air Force, 35 percent to the Navy, and 30 percent to the Army. In no year, at least since the mid-1980s, has this formula varied by more than 1 percent. (The figures do not include costs related to the war in Iraq or Afghanistan, which come out of budget supplementals.)
Far more than the other services, the Army spends a huge share of its budget—about 40 percent—on personnel. If the Army were to sacrifice its new high-priced weapons (for instance, the elaborate $150 billion Future Combat Systems program) to preserve or expand manpower, it wouldn't have much of a procurement account left.
Nearly all the big-ticket items belong to the Air Force and the Navy. These services aren't experiencing much of a manpower crunch. (Few pilots or sea crews are being killed in Iraq or Afghanistan now.) And, because of the budget-divvying accord, they can't be called on to slash their planes, ships, or submarines to keep the Army flush with soldiers. [emphasis supplied --LRC]
How about Bush's much-cherished, but utterly unworkable, missile-defense program (fully funded by Congress at $8.8 billion): What would be wrong with transferring, say, $5 billion of that sum to buy extra armor for the troops or fund more tangible homeland security efforts?With leadership like this, who needs enemies?
Len on 12.23.05 @ 07:57 AM CST