Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Military Year in Review

Martin Sieff, over at the UPI has a good analysis. I'll pick the article apart starting with:

The feckless defense cuts of the Clinton administration while extending U.S. military commitments around the world had been followed by seven "fat" years of booming defense budgets under Republican President George W. Bush that soared to record levels after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001...

"Fat years", as he continues, which have been basically wasted as we've seen basic services neglected and weapons wearing out because of the Pentagons continued purchasing of hi-tech weaponry. Such arms are so expensive that wars come and go before they are in service, with our troops forced to soldier on with out-of-date equipment.

The year ended with 450 F-15 Eagle interceptors grounded for an indefinite period after one had crashed in Missouri, revealing serious structural wear to its fuselage's metal skeleton. There was nothing wrong with the design of one of the most successful U.S. combat aircraft of modern times, but the F-15 has been a Mach 2 super-fighter and fighter-bomber for more than three decades, and that kind of wear and tear takes its toll on even the most wonderfully designed and superlatively maintained aircraft...

I'd dearly love to see such still useful planes, if they must remain in service for decades, to be replaced with an updated model of the same aircraft (often still in production for our allies long after the US completes its orders), say, every 5 years, much as the average American will buy a new car. It is criminal, or should be, when our forces are driving planes and tanks which their grandfathers likely took to war decades earlier.

The Bush administration continued as its predecessors had done to accept the ingrained way the U.S. armed forces' senior officers chose their weapons systems. The emphasis remained on quality rather than quantity, on trusting cutting-edge technologies and superlative space-based reconnaissance and communications systems, rather than seeking to increase the scale of production runs and keep weapons simpler, and more affordable and easier to produce.

This might have been adequate for the brief, "Six Day War" strategy which the Army embraced after Vietnam, but hardly the right scenario for a conflict which might last us for decades. Some easier, and cheaper way of producing rugged, and affordable weaponry must be devised to give our troops the dominance it will need in the new Century. I mentioned earlier how desperately the Navy needed a General Petraeus to give it some sense of direction and relevance in the new century, but the whole DOD procurement process needs a major overhaul, with some late 20th Century purchasing ideas being scrapped altogether. Rather than an "Outstanding and Sparse" military, we could use some "Good and Plenty" of everything!