Monday, February 20, 2017

The Ten-Year Rule Reaches 8 With Predictable Results

How is it possible to be short of ammunition in a dangerous world?

This is really unacceptably stupid:

Shortages of bombs and other munitions have forced the U.S. military to pull weapons from headquarters in other parts of the world to sustain its 2 1/2-year-old air campaign against the Islamic State group, despite billions of dollars invested in increasing the stockpiles.

"We are concerned, worldwide, when looking at ammunition needs," Deborah James, the former head of the Air Force, said in an interview shortly before stepping down from her position last month. "We've been expending so many in the Middle East we've had to borrow in some cases from other areas."

"What we want to do is replenish," James says.

We aren't even involved in high-intensity conventional warfare against a peer-ish military. Yet we are emptying warehouses earmarked for other potential theater of war to bomb one ragged group holding ground in Syria and Iraq?


And this is even worse because America maintains stocks of ammunition that serve as the reserve for our allies who as a rule do not maintain such stocks. We had to replenish allies in the Libya War in 2011 despite the weakness of Khadaffi's surviving military in that civil war.

And ammunition is just one measure of our lack of readiness that is finally catching up with our military. (Tip to Instapundti.)

But don't say we weren't warned. This poor readiness is just one effect of the modern ten year rule we launched in 2009:

We assume no enemies will match us in the medium term. This is undoubtedly correct. But this also sounds too much like we're instituting our version of the British Ten Year Rule from 1919.

It was a perfectly reasonable rule when adopted by the British government in 1919, which stated the British would not face a war in the next ten years. The rule was formally abolished 13 years later, in 1932. But defense spending did not rebound from its post-1919 collapse, and when war broke out in 1939, the British only barely proved they'd done enough to withstand the German offensive in the opening of the war.

Certainly, we won't face such a dramatic collapse in defense spending that the British military endured in the 1920s. My worry is whether we will do any better than the British did in recognizing when our version of the ten-year rule no longer holds true. When our national debt is scheduled to skyrocket even under optimistic administration projections, will we actually ramp up our defense spending once the medium term is over in order to maintain our military superiority? Or will we just continue to act as if the medium term never ends? That's what the British did. But they had the Arsenal of Democracy to back them up when they found themselves at war without the military they needed. We don't have such a back-up source of arms.

We've just instituted the Medium Term Rule on our defense spending. The problems that will flow from this plan won't show themselves in the near term. We can coast on our past progress in building the best military in the world. But have no doubt that our military strength will erode, and this means we are accepting risks in case we have to fight a conventional war in the medium term despite our assumption that we can still win such a war.

We won't cancel the Medium Term Rule until it's too late to do any good.

We seem prepared to cancel the Medium Term Rule. I guess the question is whether it is too late to do any good.