Thursday, September 15, 2011

Join the Debate

One of the outcomes of the recent deficit reduction legislations will be cuts in Defense Spending. AOL Defense has some thought provoking articles. What's your take on:

Coming Cuts May Put Services At Each Others Throats

Defense Industry Comes Out Swinging: Don't Cut Us!

That's just two articles addressing the looming cuts. More can be found at this link.

Are our military services ill structured and inappropriately expensive for the future? What roles and missions do you think are valid, and what services fill those roles?

The Smoking Lamp is lit!


  1. Defence as member of alliances:

    # An active army to form the competence core and training centre for voluntary army reserves. Overall strength a bit below total EU ground power strength.

    # A navy with focus on killing ships and getting supplies through a moderate-strength blockade. Plus: Ability to keep waters clean on the own coast (mines, subs - can be delegated to paramilitary coast guard).

    # An air force that's deployable and able to harness the civilian air transport capacities in an emergency. Overall AF strength should be comparable to aggregate EU air power and 70% solution hardware should be replaced in moderate cycles instead of 90% hardware replaced in long cycles.

    Anything on top of that isn't for true defence even in wider contexts (looking beyond Mexico and Canada).

  2. it seems that our military forces are structured more in terms of maximum possible capabilities instead of actual threats. What are the threats to the US? Surely, they exist, but are any of a military nature?

  3. seydlitz-

    I think there is a more fundamental question in the debate. Are we looking at a budget process which simply says that dollars drive the train, so "do the best you can with $XXX billion", or are we looking at a process which is looking at determining what we want and need to be capable of militarily in support of long term national interest (if there is such a notion in the US), and then doing so at the least cost.

    I wonder if our thinking has been so skewed by the PWOT that it is difficult to make decisions projected into the future. At the risk of sounding like Mr Rumsnamara, can we determine what capabilities we may be capable of in a given reaction time once the need for that capability appears on the horizon?

    But, I would guess, the real question is "what are our long term geopolitical objectives"? Do we even know who we are?

  4. Al-

    For me the first question is about threats, since that is what "defense" as in "defense budget" is all about. Then we come to "interests", and as Swen brings up with his first statement, interests have to be reconciled with alliance partners, if we form our defense strategy around an alliance system.

    The second question would be I guess how exactly would military power connect with maintenance of accepted national interests . . . I no longer assume a direct connection.

  5. Budgets serve as a limit on what is possible and that limit is shrinking and will shrink further. For a long time we've been able to have both guns and butter in almost unlimited quantity. We simply can't afford that anymore. The CBO director lays out our choices really well here and here. The days of having our cake and eating are almost over.

    The defense establishment understands that they are going to get a haircut, so what we're seeing are actions to try to ensure they are cut as little as possible. Additionally, factions within defense are already jockeying within the national security establishment to protect their turf. For example, have you seen this letter from Gen. Amos to Secretary Panetta? That's only the most recent. I think it's more likely any national security strategy will come from whoever wins the coming budget fight and not strictly from unbiased strategic analysis. I think the Army will fare the worst and suspect they'll get the short end of the stick.

    But, I would guess, the real question is "what are our long term geopolitical objectives"? Do we even know who we are?

    Personally, I think that's been the problem since 1991. We are coasting along while the neocons and other factions fight over the wheel of the ship of state.

    I think we need to reexamine all of our alliance relationships. At this point I think they are, for us, less about defending allies than constraining them. Europe doesn't need us for defense, but we somehow think we are the glue holding things together there and without us they will go back to fighting each other. Some food for thought on that.

    A big reason we are still in Korea is to keep South Korea from going nuclear. Same with Japan. I'm not sure about what we should or shouldn't do, except to say that the status quo can't continue.

  6. "Are our military services ill structured and inappropriately expensive for the future?"

    The future. I think if you solve that question you go a long way to solving the rest.

    Sven gives us one future; a fairly defensive U.S., whose military power is concentrated around the North American continent and who relies on alliances for what "power projection" it needs.

    I'm not so sure that the alternative - the existing global "forward positioning" has as much to do with the PWOT as it does the lack of any real reassessment of defense structure since the end of the Cold War. I think Andy nails it; we're coasting. We have a ton of overseas commitments that still really function because of our perception that in the face of the Soviet threat to be weak anywhere was to be weak everywhere. We've just slid the Islamic groups into the big black spot where the USSR used to be.

    And the other huge reality is that few entities have ever chosen to shrink themselves. Money, size = power, and few humans, or human polities, have very voluntarily relinquished power. So of course, all the services AND the defense industries AND the congresscritters who have either or both in their districts will fight this, using the usual patriotic and/or fright rhetoric to fight dirty if they can't win the fight on merits.

    I would say that in a sensible world we could do without many of our overseas posts. Without peer competitors or any really likely peer foes both the USN and USAF are likely to continue to dominate the rest of the world for some time with existing systems or even a reduction to the levels Sven proposes at the top. Reduce the current Army deployments and a somewhat smaller force would likely be adequate for the next several decades.

    But I fear that to be willing to accept even these modest reductions while we work through some sort of genuinely searching analysis of present and future realistic threats (and note that Islamic boogeymen under the collective bed are not one of them are NOT one) would take more hard-headedness than either the U.S. public or the U.S. government has shown...well, since I've been old enough to pay attention.

    So I'm afraid that the decision will be made based not so much on any military needs but on the usual political broth of ambition, distraction, uglification, and derision...

  7. One last thought; I would hesitate to endorse Andy's caution without caveat. I suspect that the status quo - or at least a shell of it - is likely to continue for some time. There is nothing in history so common as the "hollowing" of a formidable military whose reputation and position allows it to avoid confronting change until the change rises and overwhelms them. From Imperial Rome to Napoleonic Prussia to the British Empire in 1914 to the Soviets in the Nineties...a power, especially a Great Power, that remains undefeated in war is MORE likely to cling to an unaffordable and unservicable past than it is to voluntarily reconstruct itself. In fact, I have a hard time coming up with a historical parallel for one that did...Byzantium, perhaps...but the opposite is as common as dirt.

  8. Good point on hollowing chief.

  9. I guess the question is whether "The Budget" is the whole "5 paragraph OPORD" or is it one paragraph or an annex to same? If just a paragraph, is the budget the "Mission" paragraph or "Administration and Logistics" paragraph?

    I'm not arguing for one or the other, just posing the question. Is a budget a plan to support reaching an objective, or is it the objective itself?

    I have no doubt that the DOD feels it must continue to receive top dollar, but to achieve what national strategic interests?

  10. Al-

    Been thinking about your last comment. This is the basic problem, in that we have been pursuing a capacities-based defense policy since about 1992 (Cheney's Defense Planning Guidance of 1992) which allowed for massive defense budgets without a peer competitor (threat). The assumption was that military power was necessary to protect/achieve US strategic interests, which was more or less acceptable at the time.

    Since 2001 however we have seen where US military power can be used contrary to US interests, actually create a negative dynamic that saps US power and compromises US interests over the long run.

    What precludes us from formulating a coherent defense policy are three things. First, we have lost the ability to think "strategically" that is in terms of military aim/military means/other appropriate sources of power to achieve policy objectives.

    Second, the dysfunctions of our political culture/structures of power preclude us from understanding the gravity of the situation our lack of strategic understanding has created. Arguments pointing out that we have lost in both Iraq and Afghanistan strategically are deemed "unpatriotic".

    Finally, our cultural inclination to see war/military action/strategy as something akin to an industrial process.

  11. Al – ”Are our military services ill structured and inappropriately expensive for the future? What roles and missions do you think are valid, and what services fill those roles?”

    I’ll try just one of those Al. Inappropriately expensive, for sure, but what to cut is the monster under the bed. My two cents and you all probably won’t like it. Neither will Congress.

    Short term:
    1] In new acquisition take the same large percentage from all services.
    2] In personnel bring the Army and Marine Corps back to pre-9/11 levels, then take an equal percentage from all services and take a double of that percentage from the DoD bureaucrats.

    Long term:
    3] Cutback hard on promotions to General and Admiral. We have hundreds of two-stars and a few three-stars now doing the job of Colonels, and most have Lieutenant Colonels or Majors getting their coffee for them.
    4] Let’s do a BRAC on overseas US bases. No reason our tax dollars should be enriching Germans, Japanese, Koreans, Eastern Europeans, Arabs and many others. If they want us there for their defense they should pay total costs for those bases and troops. Some may need to be retained for strategic reasons, OK, but justify it.
    5] Continue to cut new acquisition. Spend some of that recaptured acquisition money on reforming the system. We cannot afford gold-plated specifications that meet every conceivable threat. Yes, we should build based on our perceived threats as Seydlitz mentioned, but we cannot go overboard with that. We also need acquisition officers with the educational background that match their counterparts in industry. I have seen the AF and Navy do it in many cases, so the Army and Marines need to get more EE, ME, Aeronautical Engineering, and Software Engineering grads from top level schools like MIT, Stanford, or CalTech. And then get some field grades into Masters programs in those same schools.
    6] Rethink the M part of O&M. Do we need systems that require 30 hours of maintenance time for every hour of ops time? No, and that by the way is not 30 manhours of maintenance time, more like 300 manhours and more in many cases.

    I like Svenn's points also.

  12. Mike-

    There are a couple of procurement disconnects right now. The Corps passed on spending money on replacing their F-18 Hornets temporarily with Super Hornets, expecting the F-35 to fill the role of the Harrier and F-18. With delays and whatnot in the F-35, the Corps has begun overflying the original airframe life cycle of their old F-18s, as well as their Harriers. That is driving their "M" through the roof. I don't know what the answer is, but cancelling the F-35 is going to cause a serious problem, if that is part of the budget ax.

    I do think we have gone overboard with sexy technology, but hey, sexy sells. I would find it hard to imagine even the most rabid spending cutter accepting the loss of defense dollars in their district. Lost jobs are lost votes, even if the jobs are producing questionably expensive hardware. Better to let the guy in a coma die.

    I do think we have committed serious hardware overkill. The Humvee costs $65 - 145,000, based on whether it is "plain" or "uparmored". Do we need Humvees for every job the $5,000 Jeep once performed? Meanwhile, we've finally wrapped up 10 years of wrangling to order replacements for the Air Force's aging refuelers! We haven't a clue about managing procurement.

  13. Aviator opened a wedge into what MHO is the central problem with military procurement. Why purchase a $65,000 vehicle to do what a WW2 jeep did as well or better?

    Joseph Tainter argued that societies decline when their accumulated sophistication imposes more overhead that can be supported. Like religion, bureaucracy and class distinctions, technology also tends toward unsupportable sophistication.

    The temptation is make things better by making them more complicated and more efficient. Complexity requires a long and vulnerable support chain to provide the parts and skilled technicians needed to keep the device functioning. And efficiency is almost always purchased by narrowing the operational environment.

    I would imagine that the primary mission in Afghanistan centers around building roads, transporting fuel and other, sometimes heroic, efforts to keep their machines running. The Army, or much of it anyway, has become machine tenders in the same way that the Mayas devoted themselves to the maintenance of their priesthood. Of course, there comes a limit to that sort of misplaced effort, however shrouded in concepts such as "divinely ordained" or "technological progress." Although the record is sketchy, it seems that the Mayas simply walked off from their sacred city complexes, which today are still being uncovered from the jungle growth.

  14. I think one good way to look at the bigger strategic "question" is to look around and see what the "most dangerous (potential) enemy course of action might be.

    Since I'm a soccer fan, let's divide the world into FIFA zones and try and suss out the most likely problems over the next 20 years and a realistic U.S. defense-needs sort of prospectus.

    CONCACAF (North American and the Caribbean): I think the most likely hazard, both in magnitude and probability, is a total or partial collapse of Mexico into failed statedom.

    Something bad is likely to happen in Cuba when Castro pops his clogs, but, really, even assuming we SHOULD intervene the force involved seems pretty minimal.

    Other than that there's the usual instability in Latin America, but what has armed intervention gotten us there, historically? The Banana Wars in the Twenties and Thirties didn't really solve anything long-term. The '89 Panama invasion kicked out a nasty guy, but he was a nasty guy we'd bankrolled for a long time - hard to see that as anything but a wash.

    And I think the problem with trying to see a Mexico-failed-state as a truly large-demand military threat is that our history there makes Iraq look like a cakewalk. Hard to see how intervening militarily with large conventional forces really does anything more helpful than it did in Somalia, Iraq, or A-stan. This isn't the Balkans where we can find and back a local proxy. Go in with clenched fists and every Mexican will stop fighting each other and fight us.

    CONMEBOL (South America): Really difficult to even see a credible threat here. The only significant regional powers there are Brazil and Argentina, and I don't see a genuine reason for us to find them on the other side of a rifle. The usual drug problems, but I see that as a domestic policy issue at best, a small-scale FID/SOF mission at worst.

    EUFA (Europe and European Russia): The only real potential for significant conflict I see here is a resurgent Russia, and, frankly, I'd argue that it's time for the Euro nations to start standing up both politically and militarily and dealing with that issue. I see the US as a general support reinforcing role at best. And I think it's difficult to emphasize how deteriorated the old Soviet war machine is; it's just not the global power it was. I think Europe is perhaps the most single significant place for mike's BRAC to hit hard. We still have a relatively large number of facilities there relative to the actual geopolitical threat level.

    I just don't see the Balkans as something the Euros shouldn't be able to handle. I'm not saying they CAN, I'm saying that they should, and that our continuing to play centerforward for them there isn't good either for us or for them. We really need to make our participation in NATO more diplomatic and contributory and less of a command posture.

    CAF (Africa, and the western Middle East): Lots of local hotsposts here, but...really - do we WANT to be the global cop in this low-rent neighborhood? ISTM that there's a huge downside here, and very little upside. Africa and Asia are, I think, poorly served by our tendency to "lead-with-our-fist" geopolitically. The other issue here is that the African nations, like the Europeans, aren't well served having the U.S. as a helicopter parent every time some damn thing falls apart. I can see the need for a State-led cadre of civil/military consultants to help out when we're requested. But I think Libya should be a cautionary tale; we need to start being more cautious and more intransigent about formal diplomatic niceties (and less eager to start jumping in and administering our own solutions) prior to getting into these local messes...


  15. CAF (continued): So I see Africa, and in particular North Africa and the Suez corridor, as a place where we might end up committing a fairly significant expeditionary force...but I can't see that as anything we need anything like the forces we're committing there now. Do we really need a fleet in the Med, for example?

    I mean, I think the presence of the Sixth Fleet is a real good news-bad news deal; the good news is that it enables us to jump quickly into a Mediterranean trouble spot, while the bad news is...that it enables us to jump in quickly to a Med. trouble spot. Unless you think that our job SHOULD be managing politics in the Med...why shouldn't this be a local deal, or, at most, a regional issue before the U.S. gets involved? IMO a permanent fleet and permanent ground forces (at places like Vincenza) encourage the "Washington Rules" mentality.

    AFC (Asia): I think we've done a ton of damage to ourselves here getting involved in local fights. A lot of the stuff we're calling "Islamic terrorism" seems to me to be local bunfights where one side decides to call for help from the islamists and our immediate reaction is to jump in on the other side.

    The only real power players in South Asia are India and (possibly) Iran, and they're both really no more than regional powers and don't look to be more in the short term and even the medium term. And India is a fairly reliable partner.

    Iran? Who knows, but ISTM that there's nothing there that calls for a large land force. Assuming we don't try to muck around with their nominal control of the Shia government in Iraq, why would they want to try us on? And what would we gain from any sort of invasion and occupation there?

    China. There's a possible peer competitor, but I'd guess that's a generation away, and so making defense cuts now - especially in the more exotic procurement items (stuff like the MRAPS, littoral combat ships, F-35's) - doesn't seem to make us scary vulnerable. As Al pointed out, these cuts may complicate things down the road, but that's an internal issue, not a threat-analysis one.

    In general China seems to be a blue-water issue for us alone (as opposed to getting involved in potential Chinese aggrandizement to the south and southwest, where we'd need to work with the Indians and the smaller nations of SE Asia) there's some serious questions about naval force issues there. But I do see some pretty hyperactive drumbeating about "scary yellow Red carriers" that I think is way overblown, and an indication that the USN is worried that the Chinese are NOT in reality the force-multiplier that they're being touted as...


  16. AFC (Asia - con't):
    Korea: another potential flashpoint, more from a "North Korea does something stupid and South Korea goes nuclear out of fear" sort of thing than a resumption of the Korean War. Still, a potential driver for U.S. military needs.

    OFC (the central and western Pacific): Just don't see anything much here. The Philippines are a mess, but the PI has been a mess through much of the last half of the Twentieth Century and they haven't produced a significant need for U.S. military force.


    Just doesn't seem to be that much out there if the U.S. doesn't WANT to be involved in these local pissing matches. Possible collisions with Russia in their near abroad (but that begs the question of why we'd need or want to get involved in those - I thought that much of the buildup and reaction to the Russia-Georgia was pretty poorly thought out; if we were giving the Georgians winks that we'd back their play we were nuts. China? That seems like a very chancy business to build a defense strategy around. Internal weakness, historical continental focus makes China's "most dangerous course" - aggrandizement to the east and southeast - seem unlikely.

    Seems to me that we could go a lot leaner militarily if we a) stopped getting all fired up about intervening in everybody's local/regional bunfights and b) got a grip about our paranoia about Muslims under everybody's beds.

    But...that's assuming that we WANT to be a lot leaner.

    Is there a national consensus for that?

    If there is, I sure don't see it.

  17. There's this four-year defence review, right?

    Maybe all it takes to turn the nonsense down is to steer one such review towards acknowledging that there's little demand for huge military expenses since there's no Soviet Union out there?

    So far these reviews have been quite close to wish lists afaik, and haven't been honest assessments anyway (being clearly steered by certain interests).

    Take away that argument that you need this and that and blablabla - and you might end up with a political climate in which the majority (which doesn't like wasteful spending on the military) begins to become louder than the hawks and special interests?

    The classic time for cutting mil expenses is after a war. The 1945-1949 period even proved that it's legally possible to force all officer to either accept a setback by two ranks or be forced out.
    THAT would cut the fat real quick.

  18. Sven: I think the problem is that the QDR is now predominantly driven by the services themselves along with the agencies that most benefit from a continued alarmism about scary bad enemies (currently Islamic and possible Red Chinese since the Sovs are out of business).

    Doubt that we will ever see a genuinely critical QDR...

  19. And let's not let the Congresscritters off the hook. They loves them some defense spending.

  20. I'll repeat a few points I've made before:

    1. I think we can move much of the Army and Air Force into the reserves where they should train in preparation for a big, conventional war. I simply don't think a large conventional force day-to-day once Afghanistan winds down.

    2. The Navy and Marines should be our expeditionary forces. The Army and Air Force have tried to become expeditionary, but I don't think it's worked out well and is also unnecessary - again, once Afghanistan winds down.

    3. I don't buy into the "red scare" for China either, but I'd point out a couple of things. First of all, there is a long history of us humans believing that war was not likely against some opponent only to be proven wrong. I think our economic relationship with China is cause for worry. Secondly, China is focusing its military build-up on capabilities which are specifically aimed at US capabilities. China doesn't need, for example, an anti-carrier ballistic missile for anyone but the US. Same with their ASAT capabilities. Does that mean we need to shit our pants about China? No, but it does mean that I think we need to hedge a little, keep a close eye on them since it's apparent they are doing the same and more. We need to ensure that the capabilities China is developing won't be a groin kick in any conflict with them.

    For the most part I think any potential conflict with China will mean adequate Naval and air power since it seems pretty unlikely we could invade China even if we thought that might be a good idea. If we need to defend somewhere from a Chinese invasion, well that's what the reserves are for.

    4. We need to separate the budgets for research and procurement. Currently we buy capabilities where technology does not yet exist (hello F-22 and future combat systems). As we have seen, the actual cost to invent then engineer and integrate these new technologies into usable systems is orders of magnitude higher than what was originally assumed. Instead, we should have a pot of money for research where the services can identify what technologies they would like in the future and then the research agency would work to bring those technologies to the point where they can actually be used. The other half of that is that we should only buy weapons once the technology is sufficiently mature to actually make reasonable cost estimates.

    Of course, I'm not King, so none of that is likely to happen for the time being. But I keep coming back to our budget crisis. We can't have our cake and eat it too for much longer - austerity in the federal budget is coming whether we like it or not.

  21. I'll second Andy in re: where the money SHOULD go in the case of China, especially in that the potentially most dangerous "enemy course of action" would be an expansionist China interested in the South China Sea littoral.

    Practically, that would mean a strong Navy and a strong Marine Corps.

    One thing I would do if I were king, though, is try and force the USN to think outside the aircraft carrier box. IMO the biggest "advantage" the PLAN has is that it has no naval tradition; it can invent itself from the keel up. Ad I think if it goes all-in on submersibles it might give us more than a little trouble in the cramped waters off the PI, the Spratleys, and Taiwan.

    Mind you, I'm still not sold on China as the "future peer competitor". I think it has really serious internal problems that would be exacerbated by the stress of war, and I think that the present Chinese government is no more likely than historical ones to look outside the Middle Kingdom in a warlike fashion; "Let others make war; you, happy China, trade."

    But Andy also points out the other historical truth; nations, like individuals, often make foolish choices at odds with their own best interests. And a Politburo convinced that foreign adventuring would help distract the Chinese people from internal troubles might spell real problems for its neighbors and those - like the U.S. - allied with them...

  22. BTW, re: Andy's suggestion to move much of the USA/USAF into the Reserve Compnenet...another thing I'd do IIWK (if I were king) would be to formally reduce the RC's annual active service commitment to no more than, say, 45 days per year, and then demand that the USA draw up a manning roster that placed every single pair of boots it felt it needed to cover it's "little war" needs in the AC, and then defend that end-strength request.

    jim over at Ranger Against War has a nice dreary little post ( talking about the problems the current "Active Duty Guard" is facing. Grim reading, but I saw it starting in the very same unit (41 SIB, ORARNG) right before I retired. The past decade has strip-mined the RC units of anyone not un- or underemployed or nondeployable. It's virtually impossible to be a "traditional" (i.e. 1945-2003 type) Guardsman or Reservist. When you employer knows you're going to be gone for a year-and-a-half every five or six years or so...why would they promote you? Or even hire you in the first place, especially in the current economy where there are five people hammering on the door to do his/her job?

    This endless "war" has ground the RC down, and promises to continue to do so unless the Army is formally forced to stop...

  23. Andy- The Navy and Marines should be our expeditionary forces. The Army and Air Force have tried to become expeditionary, but I don't think it's worked out well and is also unnecessary - again, once Afghanistan winds down

    Roger that. That is what they have kept their eye on since WWII, even while fighting many other than expeditionary battles. It's a "core competency", as the jargon goes, for them, and they know it and know it well. As an Marine NCO, I learned more about the conduct of expeditionary operations than was discussed or practiced in the following 29 years in the Army. There is a teamwork between the Corps and Navy that the Army and USAF lack, and that the Army would need massive retraining to develop with the Navy.

    GEN Amos was spot on in his comments to SecDef.

    Haven't commented on a role and structure for the Army or USAF yet, as it's difficult to define one for them. That hurts, following 29 years in the Army.

  24. As Chief's, listing of the whole geo-strategic situation implies: no actual military threats . . . China?

    Yet to be convinced . . .


    Why not first reform our drug laws? Or is it that we can't ask those questions? But then, from a European/Australian/Canadian/East/South Asian perspective?

    One sees it quite differently . . . right?

  25. Al: I think the USAF/USA have a role in a potential future conventional ground war...but my question would be...where?

    The only real likely places I can see would be at the periphery of the two other large continental powers; China, and Russia.

    But China has shown no interest in continental expansion since Tibet. It exercises a fair degree of control over its neighbors through sheer intimidation and economic power. I agree, seydlitz; I'm not convinced that it represents a genuine imminent threat...

    Mexico's problems aren't really drug-created, they're just drug-exacerbated. Groups like the Zetas gain power from the money they get from the drugs, but without the drugs they'd still be a problem for Mexico. Reforming our drug policies wouldn't hurt, but, honestly, Mexico is not all that far from failed-statehood.

    But...that still doesn't really make it a military problem. There may be solutions to Mexico's problems, but they probably aren't military ones or the sheer number of soldiers and semi-solders that have wandered around the place since Cortez's time should have stumbled on a solution.

    No, I think the solution has to be political, social, and economic, and it HAS to come from inside Mexico.

  26. Chief-

    There is definitely a "conventional" and SOF role for the Army. The question is "How Large?" to meet reality.

    Complicating the Army/AF force structure size is the NG, and the "dependence" of 50 states on this primarily federally funded militia to meet state emergency response needs. The USMCR and USNR are significantly smaller segments of the total Marine and Navy force than the ARNG and USAR are of the Army force. The Navy dept is carrying a much smaller "overhead" in reserve "obligations". But then, they are "expeditionary" in nature, and would not need more force structure unless we were in a national mobilization. In short, the Navy/Marine active/reserve force is consistent with who they say they are and what it is they are prepared to do. - which is quite consistent with today and the foreseeable tomorrow.

    The Army, however, in it's active/guard/reserve structure, remains a major land war force with SOF as the topping. The RC alone has a personnel count in the neighborhood of three Theater Armies! What I wonder is how to structure them for near term immediate initiation of "protracted land operations" of the modest size we might possibly encounter, put the next level of follow-on or expansion in the RC, a bit of cadre for the remote major mobilization, and move on. In other words, a serious "re-think".

  27. Chief-

    I have been interested in the impact of the constant RC mobilizations in the "type" of people who would remain in the RC. It's hard to imagine large numbers of people with serious family commitments or careers putting their civilian survival at risk. It's one thing to face the rigors of never ending deployments when you are a "lifer", and will gain career benefit from the disruption. Or to "go off to war" ala Desert Storm, in response to a singular emergency. The current creation of an "Operational Reserve" with the next callup(s) being already scheduled, is a radical change.

    Has the Guard become a "employer of last resort" for a fair number of marginally employable people? Back in the 1976- 1990 time frame, the people managing the personnel in the IRR had a pool of folks they called "Tour Babies". Reservists who were constantly on the lookout for 90 day or longer active duty tours. They would do special projects, or serve as seasonal staff at bases where RC summer training required temporary additional support personnel. Some of the summer help were school teachers, but many were unemployed or marginally employed, looking to earn a living. Perhaps the folks you are referring to are the modern equivalent of those Tour Babies? If so, what will they do when things slow down and they are not competitive in the job market?

  28. FDChief-

    Isn't Mexico's main problem that it borders the US? Historically our interest has been in a weak central government there in order to get what we wanted. The Zetas would still be a problem without the drugs now, but would there have been any Zetas without the illegal drug market?

    Columbia was almost destroyed by the drug wars which have been going on there for about 30 years now.

    The reality is that we don't really care what the effect of our domestic policies are, we don't care how many societies are destroyed by our own failed polices both foreign and domestic. A problem comes up and we grasp for the military or para-military solution . . . our current force structure reflects our pathologies, not the reality of the threats we face or supporting national interests.

  29. Al: Re: the RC...I can tell you what I saw in the early Oughts just before I retired from the ARNG. And that is that the Guard has become a place for the very young (college kids looking for money, unemployed "tour babies"), lifers hooked on RA time, and nondeployables.

    I think you'd be surprised how many of the "traditional" man-day soldiers in the Guard are nondeployable for a variety of medical or personal (or legal) reasons, but there are more than the NG would like to admit. In Oregon, one of the first state guards to deploy a brigade to Iraq...and then A-stan...and then Iraq again, we had to:

    1. Rape the entire state for bodies to fill two maneuver battalions, and
    2. Send many of the same people back again.

    Right now many of the units in state have had to reduce one of more elements to cadre status. My old battery in 2/218FA? Gone. One of the three infantry battalions? Gone.

    So the answer to your question about "how to structure them for near term immediate initiation of "protracted land operations"" is that right now, we couldn't. Those units are tapped out; they're done and dusted, the guys are either effectively RA (the Tour Babies) or undeployable.

    And what will happen to them, well...jim links to an article about the 41SIB Guardsmen who are now in Oregon again, and of those now still in and awaiting their next overseas tour, 50% or more are unemployed.

  30. "would there have been any Zetas without the illegal drug market?"

    I think so. 100 years ago they would have been Villistas, or Carranzistas, or 150 years ago they would have been I said; the Zetas are a problem because they have drug money, but the Zetas are not a problem BECAUSE of drug money. Mexico has enormous internal problems, has ever since Cortez, and the Zetas are as much a symptom of that as the cause of it.

    But I will agree on the larger point that our national force structure - along with many of the other facets of our national identity - reflects what we believe is true rather than what IS true.

    So with our drug laws; we (most of us, the majority, electorally speaking, anyway) believe that drugs are vice and sin, rather than humans altering their heads as they've done since the first Ramapthecus found a peyote button. So the primary effect we WANT from our laws is not actually the reduction or even cessation of the problems associated with drug use but the punishment of sinners and evil people who use drugs.

    That's idiotic, but, hey...we're only human.

  31. "That's idiotic, but, hey...we're only human."

    Monkeys learn from their mistakes, as I suspect pigs do to some relatively impressive degree . . . which puts us where exactly? We are not talking about the entire human race but rather a cultural/historical/dysfunctional portion of it . . . which happens unfortunately to be our own . . .

  32. But monkeys and pigs tend to be immune to things like religious obsessions, psychosis, groupthink, wishful/magical thinking, and self-delusion.

    Humans throughout history, OTOH, have let all these things and more influence their making of critical decisions.

    So I'm not surprised that we would choose to make stupid choices about recreational mind-alteration, something that along with sex has always been way up there on the list of things that people have all sorts of effed-up prejudices about.