Friday, April 08, 2005

SecDef vs. Gens Finale…My gun is bigger than your gun

Thanks for the lively discussion on Part 2. Now get ready to throw the rotten fruit for Part 3.

While all endeavors must modernize to survive, a realistic assessment of current capabilities must be balanced against a desired future condition, which should be driven by need. In the end, this will provide a guide for organization and budgeting.

In the last five years, this type of continual assessment and change has fueled a 50% growth in sales and profits for my current employer. Everything is in play all the time, and these adjustments have made us more flexible and responsive. I suggest that there is plenty of room for change in the services, and resistance to it is not driven by military necessity.

Starting point…budget. At a minimum our budget is eight times higher that that of China’s ( ). Simply put, if our current budget cannot fund the capability to defeat the Chinese, then we need to desperately need to change our uniformed leadership…this is a considerable delta above that of our most capable threat. Granted, a significant portion of the monies will go to support combat operations, but there is plenty left, after the president’s special requests, to fuel modernization, recruiting, and training.

What shrinks this budget in terms of capability, is being wedded to old strategies and ideas that may need to be re-thought. How much modernization do we NEED right now? How much delta in weapons capability do we NEED right now? How many traditionally constructed ground divisions or heavy divisions do we NEED right now? Again, the world situation may evolve over time, but these are valid questions to be asked and answered, and structural and force changes may be the key to fitting operational requirements to budget realities.

Next, arms capability. While the rest of the world may be working on modernizing, it is a physical and fiscal impossibility for them to make startling gains in the near future. For example,

“The bulk of China's air force fleet is obsolete. All but a handful of its 4,000 fighters, 400 ground-attack aircraft, and 120 bombers are based on 1950s and 1960s technology. The vast majority of these aircraft are well over a decade old, and many will reach the end of their service lives during the next 10 years and are slated to be retired with only limited numbers of replacement aircraft likely to enter the air force inventory.” Rand .

Many countries will modernize their air forces or their navies, or their ground forces, but none have a chance of modernizing all three in a manner to become anything more than a regional threat, if that. While the Chinese PLAAF may have 4000 fighters, they will die within minutes if they are launched. The multiple targeting capabilities of our gagillion Cat IV fighters will take them apart. Our navy is also capable of dismantling their naval capability within days. We may sustain some loses, but they will not be dramatic. Each of our services is more than capable of handling their direct counterpart from any country around the globe with their current capabilities. And that holds for the foreseeable future.

Black programs. I have been read into two “black” programs. Of course I will not even hint to what they were, but both were very simple derivatives of existing technologies that GREATLY enhanced the tactical capabilities of the F-18, and if they remain secret, are incredible combat multipliers that will put ANY enemy at a serious disadvantage for a considerable period. I am sure that those are not the only two such programs out there, so there are VERY likely many such programs that lend a very significant combat advantage to our forces, even if the are not widely known at this time.

Training. Few countries (all allies) are capable of training to the level that our forces train. We have the financial resources to support very intense and aggressive training programs, including; combined arms live fire training, integrated counter-air training, very aggressive air combat tactics training, constant integration into multi-service and multi-country exercises, and very realistic simulation training for all manner of training that lowers costs and expands opportunity. How much training are our enemies getting if the Chinese have to split their $50 billion between modernization, sustainment, and training for their 2.5 million men in uniform? …not much. The Rand piece clearly highlights the Chinese PLAAF training deficiencies. Anyone who has done a 2v2 against any wily ANG/AFR F-16s knows how well trained our pilots are, en masse, compared to the rest of the world. Other threats are no better.

I don’t deny that the Chinese, and others, wouldn’t like to modernize and flex their muscles, but the threat needs to be put into context. And all I am really suggesting here is that, there is considerable opportunity for the services to meet Rumsfeld’s requests to re-organize, and perhaps “change,” to meet the realities of the day …budgetary, military and geo-political…in the hope of becoming even more capable, more flexible and even, more lethal.


Mike said...

Something interesting to read with regards to China and their military capability (I know, it comes from the IHT, but still...:-p)

hat tip: EagleSpeak

Anonymous said...

I agree with Major Mike and so does VDH. See link below and scroll most of the way down. China does not seem to behave in an irrational manner and they know as well as everyone else that a war is not in anyone's best interest. Yes, they may "threaten" the region but only to see if appeasement will bear fruit. By the way, I really like this blog.

Major Mike said...

Anon. Thanks for the compliment and the link. I am a big VDH fan, and found the whole piece very interesting. Thanks again, and thanks for reading. MM

David A said...

MM. I also like this blog a lot. Some of what you wrote in these last few blogs reminds me of what I read in Gen. Franks book, American Soldier. He stated that his bigest problem in preparing for the Afgan and Iraqi wars were the service chiefs. He is a believer in a fast moving mobile joint forces that pack a lot of punch. He stats in the book that he asked Rummy to keep the service chiefs from buttin in and trying to change things at every turn. My interpritation was that they were always trying to get their piece of the pie and were not looking at the total picture.

Anonymous said...

Great series, Mike. One correction: Rumsfeld has been involved in defense leadership a lot longer than these last 4 years. For one thing, he's been SECDEF before - not to mention White House Chief of Staff, U.S. Ambassador to NATO and earlier, a U.S. Congressman.

Plus he's run - and cleaned / shaken up - 2 major corporations.

The SITREP w/ photos I posted from Tikrit shows that our lower echelon commanders are doing a great, flexible job. Change at the top is a lot harder ....

Robin Burk

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