Obama Gutting the Military?

Andrew Exum has “a policy whereby when someone is criticized by name, they have the right to post a response.”  Having yesterday taken exception to a WSJ editorial by AEI’s Thomas Donnelly and Gary Schmitt arguing that Obama and Gates are “gutting the military” and received a lengthy email response from Donnelly, he reprints it today.

Not only is Exum’s “right to respond” policy very interesting, following the three links and reading the content at each will serve as an excellent primer on the defense spending and defense acquisitions debates.

As for myself, I’m more sympathetic to Exum’s position than the AEI position.  Barack Obama is most certainly not gutting the military.  Indeed, as noted previously, I think Gates’ proposed cuts are too small.  Further, as Bernard Finel points out, “the intellectual foundation of the new defense budget is the 2008 National Defense Strategy, drafted by Bush appointees and approved by the Bush White House.” We’d likely have seen similar priorities, then, in a third Bush term (were it Constitutionally permissible and electorally conceivable) or a first McCain term

I do, however, share Dave Schuler’s concern that we need to maintain a capacity to produce such wonders as the F22 in larger numbers if needed.  I predict that, once Congress gets involved, this will in fact happen.

As to the side issue of whether the combination of a martini and a steak makes for a good meal, it undoubtedly does.  However, I prefer to have the martini (or perhaps two) ahead of the meal and then switch to wine to better enjoy the complexity of the flavors.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Steve Verdon says:

    As to the side issue of whether the combination of a martini and a steak makes for a good meal, it undoubtedly does. However, I prefer to have the martini (or perhaps two) ahead of the meal and then switch to wine to better enjoy the complexity of the flavors.

    Two points. First, quite right. Second, this isn’t the side issue it is the main issue! 🙂

  2. Triumph says:

    However, I prefer to have the martini (or perhaps two) ahead of the meal and then switch to wine to better enjoy the complexity of the flavors.

    PLEASE confirm you mean a real (aka Gin) martini. I went to some supposedly high-class joint last night and ordered a martini and the waiter brought some vodka concoction.

  3. James Joyner says:

    PLEASE confirm you mean a real (aka Gin) martini. I went to some supposedly high-class joint last night and ordered a martini and the waiter brought some vodka concoction.

    I do prefer the gin variety (with a twist rather than olives or onions) but will drink what is properly called a “vodka martini” if offered one. Alas, the term “martini” — or at least the suffix “ini” — is now loosely applied to virtually anything served in a cocktail glass.

  4. Rick Almeida says:

    Two weeks ago, OMB issued its budget guidance to DOD setting the top line 051 function budget at $524 billion. This Thursday, the Obama administration released its official request of $533.7 billion for FY 2010. This is more than a 4% increase over the FY 2009 base appropriation of $513 billion (including military construction). Such an increase would be near the norm for post-9/11 base defense budget increases. Despite this boost in spending, many defense experts are calling this increase a cut.

    This is because last fall, the Bush Administration’s DOD compiled a wish list budget of $584 billion that was not formally presented to Congress or OMB, but rather a DOD view of what the Pentagon hoped to include in its FY 2010 budget. In reality, however, the defense budget has experienced exceptional growth in the past decade and the FY 2010 budget continues that trend.

    I think it is difficult to argue that a $21 billion increase is a “gutting,” so it is not surprising to me that neither the linked WSJ piece nor the authors’ rejoinder mentions the budget increase.

    Here’s the magic: President Obama’s budget calls for MORE money than OMB requested for DoD, but LESS than President Bush’s hypotehetical and entirely unofficial FY10 budget called for – hence, a cut!

    Whether or not it’s usual for a president to outline budgets for the time period after his term is unknown to me.

    But, just like voting against a tax cut is a “tax hike,” so too does voting for a smaller increase than President Bush might have wanted constitute a cut.

    By the same token, the cost of living increase to my salary for next year is less than I would have liked, so my salary has been gutted. Next stop: a tea party.

  5. Michael says:

    I do, however, share Dave Schuler’s concern that we need to maintain a capacity to produce such wonders as the F22 in larger numbers if needed.

    Why? Technology in general is good, yes, but why do we need a $100 million, super-sonic stealth interceptor?

    I predict that, once Congress gets involved, this will in fact happen.

    Well yeah, the F-22 has parts manufactured in just about everyone’s home district. It’s as much a bureaucratic feat as a technological one.

  6. Jeffrey W. Baker says:

    Technology is great, but you get more of it from shoestring budget DARPA and DOE projects than you will ever get from Lockheed et al. The only thing you are going to get from the F-22 program is more F-22s. That, by definition, does not advance the state of the art.

  7. The best chance at F-22 continuing is with some sort of foreign sale agreement. The Japanese want em.

    Ultimately, we built something close to a full set of F-22s at 183 (plus 4 more now). It is tremendously hard to come up with a credible force generation model for more F-22s assuming that you also plan to build a full run of F-35s. Personally, I’d rather see more F-22s and fewer F-35s because I don’t see the logic is putting so much of our strike capability into short-legged, small payload platforms. I’d have also accelerated rather than slowed a new bomber because I’d rather see air force fires deliverable from outside the theater given the political costs of foreign basing and the risk of attacks on forward bases.

    But look, Obama, following Bush, wants a military build for military occupation of foreign countries, and that means you don’t need a ton of F-22s and you can rely on fighters for the strike mission and you need fewer carriers and no bombers and more boots on the ground, etc.

    It is intellectually coherent in a way. What it isn’t is “change.”

  8. Dave Schuler says:

    The issue is whether we need to have companies can produce an F-22. If we do, then we need to find a way to keep them around.

    I have no opinion on whether we need F-22’s. But allowing the producers of the aircraft to fold up their tents and silently steal away is a policy: it’s a policy that says we’ll never need them in the future. Or at least never need to produce them in a timeframe shorter than it would take to start up a company to produce them from a standing start.

    The same argument applies to tanks, armored transports, submarines, and so on.

  9. Wayne says:

    Rick
    The deal is Obama has stated that he wants to go away from supplemental spending for the ongoing war. He will have to get congress to change to rules to let him legally do so to any great extent. I think doing so as much as possible is a good idea. Bush did some of that in 2009. However this does cause problems with comparing Bush’s and Obama DOD budget directly. The total DOD spending for 2009 was $654 billion. So if Obama puts a good deal of supplemental into the DOD budget he would be in fact cutting the military. Granted, Gates has said they expect to ask for close to $70 billion in supplemental for 2010 but that brings Bush 2009 to 654 compare to Obama 604. That may change.

    The end game is one has to look into the numbers to tell if Obama is cutting the military or not. Politicians are masterful at shuffling money around to give false impressions. If Obama use up many resources in our stockpile and uses normal DOD budget to conduct the ongoing war or expand into more conflicts, his DOD budget may look like more but in fact he would be gutting our military.

    http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalradar/2009/02/obama-dod-budge.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_budget_of_the_United_States

  10. But allowing the producers of the aircraft to fold up their tents and silently steal away is a policy: it’s a policy that says we’ll never need them in the future.

    But that isn’t what is happening at all. The F-35 is still fully programmed. They are refitting A-10s with precision engagement capabilities. There is a tanker deal on the horizon that will almost certainly bring Northrop back into the airframe business. There was also an increase in UAV buys. There is a ton of activity on the rotary wing side as well, despite the VH-71 and CSAR(x) cuts.

    At this point, Lockheed, Northrop, and Boeing all remain in the game as domestic players. BAE is a player.

    Same with ships. Even though we’re killing DDG-1000, the deal cut specifically keeps all the major shipyards active giving them all a slice of DDG-51 restart.

    The top priority of this budget was the shift resources to unconventional conflict, the second priority was maintaining the industrial base. I really don’t see the industrial base concerns here, except in narrow areas like that affected by Airborne Laser or the spy satellite cut, and even there, I think the tactical laser variant remains in play.

  11. If Obama use up many resources in our stockpile and uses normal DOD budget to conduct the ongoing war or expand into more conflicts, his DOD budget may look like more but in fact he would be gutting our military.

    Not if the Iraq war costs come down significantly, as is happening.

  12. Franklin says:

    Wayne-

    You have a good point, but I have a problem with using the word ‘gut’. The definition of gut is to get rid of all essential parts or destroy the essential power of. It’s difficult to argue that a budget that is roughly the same as the rest of the world’s combined budget contains only essential activities. But that’s just a ‘gut’ reaction …

  13. Bithead says:

    I do, however, share Dave Schuler’s concern that we need to maintain a capacity to produce such wonders as the F22 in larger numbers if needed. I predict that, once Congress gets involved, this will in fact happen.

    Perhaps so, but frankly I don’t know. I’ll tell you, however that there’s a danger if the F22 becomes needful from a defense perspective.

    Actually, two dangers.

    However you measure it, it’ll take time to ramp up production of the thing. Once that hurdle is crossed there’s still the issue of training flyers to deal with the new avionics and new weapons. A year of turnaround for the plane once the need becomes apparent seems to me, shall we say, optimistic at best. Obviously, getting caught short on planes and pilots capable of flying them is a real issue with ‘put it off’ plans like this.

  14. Wayne says:

    BF
    If he uses up stockpiles and normal DOD budget in Afghanistan or Darfur instead of Iraq, he is still using up resources. So my statement stands.

    Now you can try to claim that he won’t be moving the supplemental expenses to normal DOD budget since operations in Iraq are drawing down. However that dog doesn’t hunt either. Obama plans to have an increase of operations in Afghanistan and who knows what else.

  15. Wayne says:

    Franklin
    My statement was point out that it is possible to gut the military while spending a good deal of money on it. You can spend $250,000 on a Ferrari but mistreat it and run it into the ground and it may result in a car that function less than a $20,000 car that is treated will. If someone treated a Ferrari to a point where it is still functional but only at a fraction as it was before, I would say that they had gutted it. Same goes with the military. Will Obama do this? I don’t know yet.

  16. So my statement stands.

    No. Your statement was that if total military expenditures decline, it will show he has gutted the military. My argument is that if the costs of ongoing operations decline by the same amount as the total, then things are the same. If they decline, by less, then we are seeing an increase.

    Ultimately, at this point, the claim that “Obama is gutting the military” is pure, unadulterated, political hackery. He may be cutting certain programs, while increasing others, but it is just impossible to make a serious argument that he is gutting anything… unless you assume that the service-driven fantasy request that came out earlier is the appropriate baseline.

    Let me also note, that I am not a blind Obama supporter here. I really, really hate this new budget proposal. I think it makes all sorts of terrible (and premature) decisions — I’ve outlined some in this thread already. So, I am not defending Obama’s defense policy, except to the narrow extent of pushing back on the claim that he is cutting defense, when he just isn’t. Now, if later this year, he does a stealth cut and seeks to reprogram procurement accounts into O&M, then we can revisit. But that hasn’t happened at this point, and I suspect is unlikely to.

  17. Rick Almeida says:

    Thanks, Wayne – your points are well taken.

    On my way home from work, Thomas Donnelly was on Talk of the Nation, and one of the first things he was asked about was the “gutted” comment. Here is his answer, almost verbatim:

    “‘Gutted’ is a term of art that is subject to wide interpretation.”

    The merits of his op-ed aside, that is absurd.

  18. Drew says:

    Initially, at least, wine and martini observations got the biggest rise. I’ll leave the martini opinions to pros. But for those who enjoy some good wine with their steak:

    If you enjoy the luscious merlot grape and right bank Bordeaux, the 2000 Pavie Decesse is now finally rounding into shape. Expensive. But very nice.

    If adventuresome, and best with au poive, a real sleeper Chateauneuf du Pape is the 2003 Charbonnierre Brusquieres…now drinkable.

    Lastly, because it is findable in restaurants and is usually reasonably priced (and for you left bank guys) 2000 Chateau Gloria is a fine choice.

    Now, as for a topic I profess to have no real expertise in. Can someone tell me why the anti-missile budget has been cut, given what appears to be steady progress by crazy states Iran and N Korea.

    Happy quaffing…..

  19. mannning says:

    Problem is, not many people have seen the strategic and tactical rationales for the new budget in sufficient detail to criticize it effectively. It appears to be a limited adjustment that would increase our troop power for duty in places such as Afghanistan, while not going ahead with major engagement capabilities needed in a land war, say in Europe. Thus it produces perhaps a short term savings from cutting high-ticket items, which would be invested partially in more troops.

    As I have claimed before, this approach ignores the 10-year+ time frame, where a hostile nation rearms for an attack, say in Europe, where reports have the Russians in the early stages of a military resurgence.

    Or, the Chinese, who just might have ambitions to its West into the ‘stans in a decade hence, or even to take on India from several directions. The less we are able to project our power, the more these scenarios seem likely, and power projection appears to be what we lose in the out years.

    A fighter, or a bomber, or new ground fighting capability (FCS), or a new class of warships, or a new carrier group can easily require 10 years to bring into full combat capability, so what we cut or delay now can hurt us later on rather badly. We are apparently designing our response capability for the next 5 to 10 years, not the following years, and with a guns and butter policy.

    Troops, on the other hand, can be brought up to combat level in well under 2 or 3 years, or, in an emergency, within months.

    I do not think that significant modern systems can be built, produced, tested, manned, trained, and deployed in strength in such a fast time period. We had about three years from late 1941 till 1944 before we had substantial aircraft, tanks, ships, and such available for combat in quantities, and those systems were not as complex to build by far as are today’s modern systems. My guess is that today at full tilt, we might be able to meet a 6 year target for building a modernized combat ready force.

    This argues for continued design, development, test, limited production, and limited operational use of advanced systems throughout the next decade or two. We thus maintain the industrial capability to surge production of proven and effective weapons systems if and as needed.

    As for the F-22, I suspect that it will have a rival in the out years (10+) that could well challenge our ability to achieve air superiority, in Europe, for instance. Thus F-22 platform, avionics, engines, and weapons developments and upgrades would be necessary to meet the new threat. Not starting from zero, either, but from an existing base capability.

  20. Michael says:

    hostile nation rearms for an attack, say in Europe, where reports have the Russians in the early stages of a military resurgence.

    Both Britain and France have nuclear weapons, and they and the US have NATO obligations to come to the aid of nearly all Russia’s European neighbors.

    Or, the Chinese, who just might have ambitions to its West into the ‘stans in a decade hence, or even to take on India from several directions.

    Again, both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers.

    As for the F-22, I suspect that it will have a rival in the out years (10+) that could well challenge our ability to achieve air superiority, in Europe, for instance.

    I agree, but it won’t be rivaled by manned aircraft. The F-22’s actual limitations exceed those of it’s pilot at this point. You can make a plane that can turn faster than the F-22, but you can’t make a pilot that can do it, so there is little room for future improvements.

    And for $100 million, you can deploy a swarm of drones that can take out a squadron of F-22s. What can we accomplish with a super-high tech fighter/interceptor that we can’t do with a thousand cheap drones?

  21. steve says:

    First of all, we already will have 183 F-22’s. No one else has a similar plane on the drawing board.

    Secondly, have you actually looked at the FCS? All vehicles are planned to go onto a 27 ton vehicle. They are planed to be relatively lightly armored, at least compared with our M1A1’s. They are all flat bottomed. There is serious question about how they would hold up to IED’s and RPG’s. God forbid they ever face real armor.

    Steve

  22. mannning says:

    So the answer is GO NUCLEAR! Of course, it isn’t mentioned that Russia and China are also nuclear powers. You throw one or two nukes at Russia or China, and you get a firestorm. Is that the posture we want anyone to take?

    Russia, for instance has had three times the number of warheads that the US has for a long time, and undoubtedly many more than France, the UK, India or Pakistan have. The same goes for China. That is not a winning strategy; not even a survival strategy.

    I am so glad that we have people that are watching the Russian aircraft development bureaus so closely that they can make a definitive statement that there is no answer to the F-22 on the drawing board.

    By analogy, it is fairly certain that if the Russians did have such a program underway now, it would be highly classified—a black program in our terms. But, we know all about it? Doubtful.

    Besides speed, maneuverability, and stealth, there are the air-to-air missiles, and radar/guidance systems for them, to be accounted for when attempting to counter the F-22. So our SU or MIG counterpart may well be considered as merely a platform to carry a large, and lethal load of intelligent missiles into the battle volume very rapidly.

    One might even consider these missiles to be sort of equivalent to the drone swarm, but with a difference. They are carried to where the battle will take place, and initially directed to the target by a radar/guidance system on the SU or MIG.

    Even the drones must be carried to the battle, and be directed somehow in the engagement. A drone cannot hover endlessly, waiting for an F-22 to come into range, either, so a “mother ship” would have to be introduced. The mother ship could be large and slow, but if it is, it becomes a serious target for the F-22 to knock out first.

    Thus it appears that the mother ship would have to have a performance profile of the same class as the F-22, or even quite a bit better…etc. etc.

    This cloud of cheap drones ends up being merely the armament carried aboard a superfighter, our SU or MIG black program, and probably far more missile than drone at that, since they must be faster than an F-22, equipped with their own radar/guidance system, and capable of maneuvering at much higher g forces for a decent engagement time period if they are to pose any threat to an F-22.

  23. Rick Almeida says:

    Can someone tell me why the anti-missile budget has been cut, given what appears to be steady progress by crazy states Iran and N Korea.

    I hesitate to open this can of worms, but could it be at least partially because these programs have soaked up over $110 billion and have produced very few successes?

    A decent history and overview is here.

  24. Steve Hynd says:

    The market has spoken, defense stocks are up on news of Gates’ budget proposal:

    Jane’s, the pre-eminent publisher of defense periodicals, has this:

    “Major US defence stocks were raised out of the doldrums by Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ budget proposals thanks to the lifting of a degree of uncertainty and proposals that were not as dramatic as the markets expected. Fitch Ratings was among those who noted that although four of the top 10 US programmes face reductions or delays, several of the leading projects – including the F-35 and F/A-18 aircraft programmes – were to be increased. The proposal to increase intelligence and reconnaissance support by USD2 billion highlighted the new priorities of the Pentagon and threw up clear winners ranging from sensor and systems providers such as Raytheon (which closed 8.2 per cent up). Textron – which successfully divested its HR Textron unit the day before and increased its exposure to unmanned air systems through the buy of AAI Corporation – was the leader of the day, with a double-digit jump of 11.3 per cent.”

    And MarketWatch had:

    “The proposed 2010 defense budget from the Pentagon had a lot of changes, but Wall Street analysts said Tuesday there’s still plenty of funding for the country’s top military contractors. ‘Lockheed Martin had the best outcome from [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates’ budget decisions, there was also strong support for Northrop Grumman’s and General Dynamics’ shipbuilding businesses,’ said Douglas Harned, an analyst with Bernstein Research. ‘Notably, there were no indications of plans to bring budgets down significantly in 2011.'”

    Regards, Steve Hynd

  25. Tlaloc says:

    Can someone tell me why the anti-missile budget has been cut, given what appears to be steady progress by crazy states Iran and N Korea.

    Ballistic missile defense has had 20 years and over a hundred billion dollars poured into it and it has never worked worth a damn. About half the time it manages to hit a test vehicle with an active homing device inside and no counter measures. It has never had any success at hitting something remotely resembling a real target (i.e something trying not to be hit as opposed to actively helping us hit it).

    On top of that if you pay any attention to N Korea you’ll notice that their rocket program is a joke that hasn’t worked. The Iranians are doing better but still don;t have anything that can come close to hitting the US. The Russians meanwhile already have a missile that would be impossible for our BMD system to stop even if the system worked as advertised (which as before it doesn’t come close to).

    Finally- the only purpose to a BMD program is to give us first strike capability. It serves no real defensive use because everyone knows about it and there are any number of ways to attack us with nukes while not using the one and only means it would guard against, if it worked. The only use of such a system is to allow us to attack first while avoiding a retaliatory strike which currently is mostly based on ballistic weapons. That being the case BMD would only serve to heighten tensions and make an actual nuclear exchange more likely. Insane as it is MAD is all that’s kept that from happening previously.

    So yeah- there’s a host of very good reasons to stop wasting money on ballistic missile defense.

  26. Tlaloc says:

    The market has spoken, defense stocks are up on news of Gates’ budget proposal

    good evidence that this budget is nowhere near what it should be. I’d say cut the military budget by about a third and the standing military by about half. That’d be about right. Of course I’d also want to bring the military home from the 20+ countries we currently are stationed in.

  27. PrahaPartizan says:

    “…Even the drones must be carried to the battle, and be directed somehow in the engagement. A drone cannot hover endlessly, waiting for an F-22 to come into range, either, so a “mother ship” would have to be introduced. The mother ship could be large and slow, but if it is, it becomes a serious target for the F-22 to knock out first.

    Thus it appears that the mother ship would have to have a performance profile of the same class as the F-22, or even quite a bit better…etc. etc.

    This cloud of cheap drones ends up being merely the armament carried aboard a superfighter, our SU or MIG black program, and probably far more missile than drone at that, since they must be faster than an F-22, equipped with their own radar/guidance system, and capable of maneuvering at much higher g forces for a decent engagement time period if they are to pose any threat to an F-22…”

    Manning, uncrewed armed aerial vehicles can do all of those things you claim they can’t. What makes you think that a platform with sufficient loiter capability yet with superior acceleration and turn-rate can’t be built if it’s not crewed. The point of the fact is that our technology these days permits us to build an airframe capable of accepting 25+g acceleration levels, something no crewed vehicle can even approach. Once you factor in those sorts of performance levels, any crewed aircraft will lose every engagement. That’s the threat we will be facing in ten to fifteen years, not crewed aircraft. Better that we invest in the next generation of aircraft than trying to please the whims of guys who think that only they have “the right stuff.”

  28. PrahaPartizan says:

    “…Finally- the only purpose to a BMD program is to give us first strike capability. It serves no real defensive use because everyone knows about it and there are any number of ways to attack us with nukes while not using the one and only means it would guard against, if it worked. The only use of such a system is to allow us to attack first while avoiding a retaliatory strike which currently is mostly based on ballistic weapons. That being the case BMD would only serve to heighten tensions and make an actual nuclear exchange more likely. Insane as it is MAD is all that’s kept that from happening previously…”

    Tlaloc, the real issue is just whom is that BMD system aimed against. If one is to believe that it is not directed at the Russians but at potential rogue states like Iran or Pakistan (post government collapse), then the BMD does not serve the US or even Western European interests very well. If Iran could produce nuclear weapons able to fit into a missile, they would be better served by directing those weapons against the shipping through the Strait of Hormuz, thereby strangling the jugular for the industrialized economies. They could use either cruise missiles, short-range ballistic missiles or even mines to accomplish that. Mining the Strait would also cut off any US forces inside the Gulf, leaving them in a logistically precarious position. A BMD based in Europe will be real helpful for that scenario and Europe will be at even greater risk of collapse.