Wednesday, November 26, 2014

It's a Sequestration and Not a Decimation

The Pentagon is again complaining that sequestration will cripple the military, especially the lack of flexibility in spending what is appropriated. Let's start with that partial solution, shall we?

This is interesting from the Pentagon:

Sequestration would literally render it impossible for us to execute the defense strategy that President Obama signed out in 2012.

It takes another $500 billion over 10 years out of our budget. We already had signed up to $487 billion, so it's another $500 billion on top of that.

But worse, it requires -- it would require -- because of the lack of flexibility that you have to deal with it, it would require drastic cuts, mostly in readiness accounts.

And so you're -- you would be, through sequestration, literally making it impossible for the military, each of the services, to do that which they are required to do to execute the -- the strategy.

It would predominantly hit hardest modernization, maintenance and operations accounts. This is the money that we used -- you know, it's the money used to actually, you know, keep the car moving and keep the gas in it and keep the people trained and how to -- how to drive. [emphasis added]

I'm somewhat skeptical that sequestration is really the cause of defense funding problems. I suspect that without sequestration, defense spending would have taken a hit anyway as a responsibly ending our wars peace dividend.

And spending should go up over time--remember that like any bureaucracy the Department of Defense defines "cuts" as reductions in future spending increases:

The main problem other than the inflexibility problem to cope with readiness issues is that we need additional funding for war expenses rather than hanging on to those happy assumptions of 2012 about responsibly ending our wars, which are proven to be false.

So for the main defense budget, I really don't think sequestration is as bad as it is said to be (you really think defense wouldn't have taken a hit without that law?). The rest of government survived and defense can, too.

But additional funding for being ordered into action again is absolutely needed on top of the money to support the defense infrastructure.

UPDATE: Let's review why training and leadership is so important to making our military good, and not just the existence of good equipment painted green (or tan):

The American M1 Abrams tank suffered its first heavy losses in Iraq during 2014. Nearly a third of the 140 M1s Iraq had received between 2010 and 2012 have been destroyed or heavily damaged. Most of the M1 damage was done to M1s captured by ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and then attacked by American aircraft. But over a third of the M1s were destroyed or damaged by ISIL fighters. The Iraqi troops using the M1s did not, as they were taught by the Americans, use their M1s in conjunction with infantry. ...

Before 2014 no M1s had been destroyed by enemy action, but that was in large part because they were used by well-trained crews and commanders.

Yes, our M-1s are better than the Iraqi M-1s. But even our M-1s are not invulnerable from the non-frontal arc. The key is good training and using them properly.

Let me quote myself from a 1997 Land Warfare Paper that is somehow still on the web on some old server from a former ISP:

The critical advantages provided by highly trained soldiers with good morale are not easily quantifiable in peacetime. The lack of quality becomes quantifiable, indirectly, when one counts the burned-out armored vehicles of an army whose troops did not know how to use their equipment and who lacked the will to fight on in adversity.

The history of battle losses of the Abrams bears this out. In 2003, if we'd traded our M-1s for Saddam's T-72s, the outcome of the war would have been the same, with only our casualties a little higher.

So let's start with giving the military flexibility to use the money they have more wisely.

I wish AUSA, which published my paper, would put the older stuff online. Lord knows how long that server will last. And it is no longer available used from Amazon.