Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Hegelian Paradox on the Path to Deconstructionalism

It rang out through the blogosphere like the thud of a vacuum sealed bag of liposuctioned yuppy fat thrown in to an empty alleyway dumpster.

Yea, I'm talking about SECDEF Hagel's "thank you brother may I have another" auto-erotic self-flagellation exercise of a speech yesterday. No, not the SECDEF himself with the naughty bits, but the position we as a nation have put him in.

I both agree and disagree with items in his speech, and I'll get to that in a bit. Parts of it are a confused mess of contradictions, but parts of it are excellent. Like the funk your blogg'r finds himself in - this is a mixed bag that generally makes me set my jaw in frustration.

Where in actual Overseas Contingency Operations vaguely related to Man Made Disasters, we like to have our military lead from behind - whatever military classic that concept comes from - at home, by all means - we have the military lead from the front.

Before I get to the meat of it all, like I said last night - I'm in a funk. Not quite as dark as my AUG06 Strategic Funk, but almost there in a middling way. Here's why.

It has been a given for quite a while that the defense budget was destined to contract as we deal with the consequences of doubling down on the failed model of the Western Welfare State. But in a nation run by sentient beings, once that crunch was realized, the defense squeeze was to be part of a larger budgetary effort. There is no similar effort underway in other areas of the budget.

Nowhere else is anyone being asked to make tough choices. For the love of Pete - DOD actually has firm Constitutional footing as a responsibility of the Federal Government. Could we at least have the spawn that extruded from the head of Zeus reeking of Progressive penumbras and emanations take a similar level of intellectual pondering at the same time?

You could break the defense budget as a percentage of GDP down to a pathetic Belgian level, and we would still have a huge structural problem with our budget. In a nation with the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world, declining competitiveness, and its best and brightest getting rid of the passports at unprecedented rates - we are not going to tax our way out of this mess decades in the making.

From left and right the low hanging fruit of the military budget is being treated as the only fruit.

As Christine Fox said, unlike other drawdowns, there is no peace dividend here. No, all there will be is increased assumed risk. That is the rub, we all know what that means - the risk is that when the next conflict comes - and it will - that "risk" really means that young men and women will be killed at higher rates then, in order to let the salons of pampered patricians slathered in their beltway sestertii now look for ways to recycle their faded yellow ribbon magnets on the backs of their Land Rovers and Prius. There is also the additional Strategic risk from defeat when conflict comes. The Russians over a century ago learned that lesson the hard way.

There - that is my bile purge. Now to the speech; good, bad and ugly.

Let's do this in reverse order.


The first half of the speech is just plain ugly. A little bu11sh1t-bingo, a little cognitive dissonance, historical apostasy, a little contradiction thrown in for good measure. I'll just clump these scattered jewels of the chop chain for you to string together.
... adapt and reshape our defense enterprise ... unprecedented uncertainty and change. ... focus on the strategic challenges and opportunities that will define our future: new technologies, new centers of power, and a world that is growing more volatile, more unpredictable, and in some instances more threatening to the United States. ... Defending the homeland against all
Secure your 5-point harness; we are about to spin-and-puke a bit.
To close these gaps, the President’s budget will include an Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative. (to) provide an additional $26 billion for the Defense Department in Fiscal Year 2015.
... budget for Fiscal Year 2015 will also contain a new five-year defense budget plan, mapping out defense programs through 2019. Over five years, this plan projects $115 billion more in spending than sequestration levels.
The reality of reduced resources and a changing strategic environment requires us to prioritize and make difficult choices.
That is all in the same section. I've read it four times and still can't square that circle.

Silly time;
... the military must be ready and capable to respond quickly to all contingencies and decisively defeat any opponent should deterrence fail.

Accordingly, our recommendations favor a smaller and more capable force
You can do both. Seriously, who let that go? Read it again? Not in this universe, Shipmate.

Really ugly things are those bad ideas promoted in peace that are disproved at ever real conflict. USAF rings its bell;
To fund these investments, the Air Force will reduce the number of tactical air squadrons including the entire A-10 fleet. Retiring the A-10 fleet saves $3.5 billion over five years and accelerates the Air Force’s long-standing modernization plan – which called for replacing the A-10s with the more capable F-35 in the early 2020s.

The “Warthog” is a venerable platform, and this was a tough decision. But the A-10 is a 40-year-old single-purpose airplane originally designed to kill enemy tanks on a Cold War battlefield. It cannot survive or operate effectively where there are more advanced aircraft or air defenses. And as we saw in Iraq and Afghanistan, the advent of precision munitions means that many more types of aircraft can now provide effective close air support, from B-1 bombers to remotely piloted aircraft. And these aircraft can execute more than one mission.

Moreover, the A-10’s age is also making it much more difficult and costly to maintain. Significant savings are only possible through eliminating the entire fleet, because of the fixed cost of maintaining the support apparatus associated with the aircraft. Keeping a smaller number of A-10s would only delay the inevitable while forcing worse trade-offs elsewhere.
Two things. 1. The A-10 comments were being made when I was a MIDN. 2. The F-35 is a China doll that cannot get down and dirty. Again, like plowing the bean field with the Lexus.

The answer here is to do what many have called for starting in the 1990s. Begin work on a replacement for the A-10 using its exact mission requirements. Do it fast. Do it cheap. Do it sturdy. Do it well ... just like the A-10 program.


There are things here that are on their face self-contradictory. I think I know what he was trying to say - but it comes across as a hedge to far, if that is what it is.
... we are entering an era where American dominance on the seas, in the skies, and in space can no longer be taken for granted.
... and we are addressing that by what? Getting smaller? Decline is a choice, I get that - but don't complain when you are the primary agent of your own decline.
... as a consequence of large budget cuts, our future force will assume additional risks in certain areas.
You don't say.
We chose further reductions ... in order to sustain our readiness and technological superiority,
Well, that worked so well when we abused and then retired the SPRUCANS and OHP early so we could get the technological superiority of LCS and DDG-1000 ... wait ...
Launch an aggressive and ambitious effort to reduce acquisitions costs and maximize resources available to buy and build new ships.
... said every SECDEF ever. That is just funny. Please, show me the plan. Don't just say the words, operationalize it for me.
We cannot fully achieve our goals for overhead reductions without cutting unnecessary and costly infrastructure. For that reason, DoD will ask Congress for another round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) in 2017. I am mindful that Congress has not agreed to our BRAC requests of the last two years. But if Congress continues to block these requests even as they slash the overall budget, we will have to consider every tool at our disposal to reduce infrastructure.
Stupid. Once we give up our base infrastructure, we won't get it back. This is no longer a nation of 100 million souls with lots of accessible open land. We are 313+ million where you can't even dig a fish pond without a lawyer. Talk to the J4 folks about our West Coast challenges and tell me again how BRAC will make any of this (inside USA territory and possessions) is a good idea for when the next medium to large war comes (which it will). BRAC is a false economy if you look beyond your own tenure.

That being said,
In Europe, where BRAC authority is not needed, we have reduced our infrastructure by 30 percent since 2000, and a European Infrastructure Consolidation Review this spring will recommend further cuts which DoD will pursue.
Good and smart. Speaking of good.


No, I am not a perma-bear negative ninny (all the time) - there are some good things here.
Last summer I announced a 20 percent cut in DoD’s major headquarters operating budgets, which is expected to save about $5 billion in operating costs over the next five years. These efforts began in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and in the Joint Staff, but they will also include Service and Combatant Command headquarters. We are paring back contract spending, making targeted cuts in civilian personnel, ...
Rinse and repeat; yes.
In order to help keep its ship inventory ready and modern under the President’s plan, half of the Navy’s cruiser fleet – or eleven ships – will be “laid up” and placed in reduced operating status while they are modernized, and eventually returned to service with greater capability and a longer lifespan.
That is fair - but one snarky side-bar. What will the surface community do about the reduced number of CAPT Commands at sea? BMD DDG-51's move to CAPT Commands? In 3, 2, 1 ...
... the Navy’s fleet will be significantly modernized under our plan, which continues buying two destroyers and two attack submarines per year, as well as one additional Afloat Staging Base.
Defendable and sound.

OK, let me have a little fun here. I would like to officially welcome SECDEF and everyone else to the Front Porch's PLAN SALAMANDER MOD2 circa 2006. Glad to have you onboard. Everyone seems to be going Salamander! (OK, I'll stop gloating ... but shall we roll around in this stinky mess a bit? Yes, we shall.)
Regarding the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, I am concerned that the Navy is relying too heavily on the LCS to achieve its long-term goals for ship numbers. Therefore, no new contract negotiations beyond 32 ships will go forward. With this decision, the LCS line will continue beyond our five-year budget plan with no interruptions.
The LCS was designed to perform certain missions – such as mine sweeping and anti-submarine warfare – in a relatively permissive environment. But we need to closely examine whether the LCS has the protection and firepower to survive against a more advanced military adversary and emerging new technologies, especially in the Asia Pacific. If we were to build out the LCS program to 52 ships, as previously planned, it would represent one-sixth of our future 300-ship Navy. Given continued fiscal constraints, we must direct shipbuilding resources toward platforms that can operate in every region and along the full spectrum of conflict.
Additionally, at my direction, the Navy will submit alternative proposals to procure a capable and lethal small surface combatant, consistent with the capabilities of a frigate. I’ve directed the Navy to consider a completely new design, existing ship designs, and a modified LCS. These proposals are due to me later this year in time to inform next year’s budget submission.
Here you find the best part of the speech as far as proper thought goes.
The Marine Corps’ inherent agility, crisis response capabilities, and maritime focus make it well-suited to carry out many priority missions under the President’s defense strategy. Accordingly, if the President’s budget levels are sustained for the next five years, we could avoid additional reductions in end strength beyond those already planned. Today the Marines number about 190,000, and they will draw down to 182,000. If sequestration-level cuts are re-imposed in 2016 and beyond, the Marines would have to shrink further to 175,000. Under any scenario, we will devote about 900 more Marines to provide enhanced embassy security around the world.
... and yes, the following is good to quasi-good. If you are going to cut one part deeper ...
Today, there are about 520,000 active-duty soldiers, which the Army had planned to reduce to 490,000. However, the Strategic Choices and Management Review and the QDR both determined that since we are no longer sizing the force for prolonged stability operations, an Army of this size is larger than required to meet the demands of our defense strategy. Given reduced budgets, it is also larger than we can afford to modernize and keep ready. We have decided to further reduce active-duty Army end-strength to a range of 440-450,000 soldiers.
Yes, yes - I know the 1939/40 response to this. Remember though, that what is now the USAF was part of the Army at that time. Number was different when you are talking about just the ground component.

This is solid balancing as well;
The Army National Guard and Reserves will also draw down in order to maintain a balanced force. Today, the Army National Guard numbers about 355,000 soldiers and the Reserves about 205,000 soldiers. ... This five percent recommended reduction in Guard and Reserve soldiers is smaller than the 13 percent reduction in active-duty soldiers.
If you are going in this direction in the macro - then this is probably the area you can accept the most risk.

Personnel issues? Mostly in the good range. Yes, I said that.
We are also recommending a number of changes:
• We will slow the growth of tax-free housing allowances – which currently cover 100% of housing expenses – until they cover an average of 95% of housing expenses with a 5% out-of-pocket contribution. In comparison, the average out-of-pocket expenditure was 18% in the 1990s. We will also no longer reimburse for renter’s insurance.
• Over three years, we will reduce by $1 billion the annual direct subsidy provided to military commissaries, which now totals $1.4 billion. We are not shutting down commissaries. All commissaries will still get free rent and pay no taxes. They will be able to continue to provide a good deal to service members and retirees – much like our post exchanges, which do not receive direct subsidies. Overseas commissaries and those in remote locations will continue receiving direct subsidies.
• And we will simplify and modernize our TRICARE health insurance program by consolidating plans and adjusting deductibles and co-pays in ways that encourage members to use the most affordable means of care – such as military treatment facilities, preferred providers, and generic prescriptions. We will ask retirees and some active-duty family members to pay a little more in their deductibles and co-pays, but their benefits will remain affordable and generous… as they should be.
To protect the most vulnerable, under this plan medically retired service members, their families, and the survivors of service members who die on active duty would not pay the annual participation fees charged to other retirees, and would pay a smaller share of the costs for health care than other retirees.
On balance, that is fair. Going back to the start of this post - I would be happier if the civilian recipients of government largess would take an equal hit to their money-for-nothing handouts - but that is not the political universe this administration lives in. Take what you can, and the above is fair.

The next quote shows they are learning as well.
Our proposals do not include any recommended changes to military retirement benefits for those now serving in the Armed Forces. We are awaiting the results of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, which is expected to present its report in February 2015, before pursuing reforms in that area. But DoD continues to support the principle of “grandfathering” for any future changes to military retirement plans.
Yea Rep. Ryan ... you blew it. Enjoy Congress, because I think you are going to be there for awhile.

I want to quote the conclusion in whole because it is the best part of the document. On a good day, it could have been written by me. Nice.
As I weighed these recommendations, I have, as I often do, looked to the pages of American history for guidance. In doing so, an admonition by Henry Stimson stood out. Writing after World War II, Roosevelt’s Secretary of War during that time, said that Americans must “act in the world as it is, and not in the world as we wish it were.” 
Stimson knew that America’s security at home depended on sustaining our commitments abroad and investing in a strong national defense. He was a realist. This is a time for reality. This is a budget that recognizes the reality of the magnitude of our fiscal challenges, the dangerous world we live in, and the American military’s unique and indispensable role in the security of this country and in today’s volatile world. There are difficult decisions ahead. That is the reality we’re living with.

But with this reality comes opportunity. The opportunity to reshape our defense enterprise to be better prepared, positioned, and equipped to secure America’s interests in the years ahead. All of DoD’s leaders and I have every confidence that this will be accomplished.
There you go. Strange speech. First third horrible, middle was a muddle, and the last third not too bad.

A little hope for all, I guess.

Just as last decade the military went to war while the USA went to the mall; under budget stress, the military takes the hit, while the USA recharges its EBT card and hires an attorney to get guv'munt disability for their hemorrhoids.

This still has to make its way through Congress ... in an election year ... so, well; whatever.

Here, have a speech wordcloud in at 1970s'esque font, and cry the beloved country.

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