Pentagon Defies Congress with Budget Request
Poking the eye of the institution that passes your budget is a bold choice.
Today’s speech by Secretary of Defense Hagel previewing the new Pentagon budget has consumed most of my day. The first piece of that is out now at Defense One under the title “The Pentagon Is Picking an Unnecessary Fight With Congress.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel previewed the president’s five-year Pentagon budget request expected to be released next week and it is a shot across the bow at Congress. The proposal thumbs its nose at sequestration budget caps, insisting on another round of base closures, targeting popular acquisitions programs and the National Guard and otherwise flouting the expressed will of the legislative branch. The merits of these stances are debatable; that they presage a brutal fight with Capitol Hill is not.
The most brazen move was proposing spending that exceeds the Budget Control Act of 2011 ceiling by $115 billion over the next five years by the device of an off-the-books ”Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative” fund to promote ”readiness.”
Not only is the Pentagon defying what is in fact the law of the land, it’s baldly declaring that Congress has passed and the commander-in-chief has signed a law that is not only unintelligent but breaks faith with our men in women in uniform.
That sequestration is stupid is, of course, not a novel position. Indeed, the whole idea behind including it in the BCA was to be so painful as to force Congressional Democrats and Republicans to come together to find more targeted ways to cut the budget. The last two secretaries of defense and chairmen of the Joint Chiefs have issued dire warnings about the impact of these cuts. But to simply ignore them and dare Congress to do something about it is an act of extreme chutzpah.
Much more at the link. I assess various proposals against the likely Congressional reaction.
As hinted here and will be laid out more elsewhere, I generally like the budget. Given the realities at work, the trade-offs were mostly reasonable. And lord knows I’m not a huge fan of Congress generally much less its current incarnation. But poking the eye of the institution that passes your budget is an odd way to get things done.
I especially like how the plan calls for the elimination of the A-10, the cheapest to fly airplane in the inventory, to justify throwing more money at Lockheed-Martin for that black hole of F35 development.
I thought MORE hardware cuts and less cuts to service members would be a better way to trim the military budget.
Out of curiosity James, how would you cut the Pentagon budget?
As you say, James, the military merits are a separate debate, but politically, it’s quite brilliant. He’s forcing Congressional Republicans, in an election year, to criticize and defy the military judgement of the SecDef, while also trying to tout their traditional role as great military supporters. This year’s budget will be a huge battle, but if the gambit is successful, next year’s may be much easier…
What exactly is the way to get things done with these idiots?
James, I’m sure you understand that these WH/Pentagon “budgets” are really wish lists more than anything else. Everyone understands that Congress will pass what it wants regardless of what’s in this request. If anything, this request will simply ensure that Congress will give the DoD less discretion than it normally does. Maybe that’s intentional. Either way, IMO this is more of a somewhat wider yawn than chutzpah.
There are consequences to incompetence and obsessive partisanship and all-around assholery. The Republican Congress refuses to do its job. It refuses to govern. It wants to play games instead. It wants to score points with the yahoos rather than serve the Constitution. Well, assholery has a price. People stop treating you with deference. People stop giving a damn about your prerogatives. People start ignoring you.
This Republican Congress is contemptible, So the Pentagon treats them with contempt. Simple solution: they could start doing their goddamned jobs.
I suppose Secretary Hagel, being a politician, is…well, being a politician. I don’t pretend to be able to compete in their games, or even understand them.
OTOH and from a purely selfish perspective, I’m kinda glad I’ve got members of Congress watching my back and opposing military retiree health care cost increases, which would serve to further chip away at my retirement check of the princely sum of $20K per annum for my 20 years of service, retiring as a Chief Petty Officer in 1994. It’s not nothing, but it’s not much, either.
How about, “this Democratic Senate is contemptible?” Oh, that is not what you meant, but it takes two to tango.
And please define what “their goddamned jobs” are supposed to entail. Perhaps rubber stamping your desired outcome.
This has major implications, to the country for many years but wow, a Hollywood star and director died, stop the presses. (Yes, I like Ghostbusters, watched it many times).
OMG, some sacred cows are proposed to be thrown to the wayside (military pay, weapons systems, National Guard, A-10). Guess what, some of the proposals won’t happen. Never enter negotiations with your final position. We all know the Army is going to downsize. Meanwhile only 8 comments so far at OTB as well (vice 25 on Uganda and some USA loonies I’ve never heard of).
Meanwhile, the forgotten issue in this budget proposal is that sequestration would be way worse.
@Andy: It depends how you view the document. I wrote it yesterday morning based on the news leaks coming from the Pentagon spokesman (a rear admiral) and was viewing it as the view of the uniformed military. I think that’s actually what this is, since they clearly drove the train here. Viewed as the voice of Hagel, and Obama appointee, or even more generously as the president’s budget proposal, it’s less inflammatory.
@Boyd: Yeah, for NCOs, retiree pay just isn’t much. We pay our senior NCOs well enough but, once you take away tax-free housing and subsistence allowances and all other specialty pay and then cut what’s left in half, it’s a stipend rather than a retirement. For officers retiring at O-5 and higher, it’s a sweet deal, indeed.
@Hal_10000: It’s hard to do in the short term because of penalties written into Congress. It’s sort of like the NFL and salary cap; you can’t get out of bad contracts overnight. That’s why sequestration is such a bad idea: It forces dumb cuts now to good programs rather than smart, sustained cuts over time.
But I’d make much more substantial reforms to pay and entitlements, especially on future retirements and on TRICARE; eliminate the shadow staffs of the Services at the combatant commands; hasten the move toward retiring outdated and expensive-to-maintain manned aircraft and replacing them with UAVs; retire the oldest half of our nuclear arsenal; radically hasten the movement towards joint basing and consolidation of smaller bases and those in expensive areas like the National Capitol Region; etc. There’s a lot of money to be had without taking on much added strategic risk.
When I think of sequestration, I just have to shake my head. The Obama Administration bet that the Republicans weren’t mean or stupid enough to let sequestration happen-and they lost that bet. It’s arguable that they lost every time they bet the Republicans would not be stupid or mean enough to do X-most recently on unemployment insurance. That’s probably why they didn’t bother with usual attempts to meet the Republicans half way, but just simply put out the best proposal that they could justify, based on current reality.
Would that they had taken this realistic course since January 2009! Then we would have had better legislation, not laws watered down in vain and impossible attempts to get Republican votes. We would have had a better stimulus, a better HCR bill, and a better Fin Reg bill And there would have been no debt ceiling nonsense and no sequestration.
Oh well, it’s good that the Administration finally came to its senses. But there were a lot of lost opportunities pursuing the will-o-wisp of “reasonable bi-partisan compromise.”
Back to the topic, the Administration called for the end of sequestration long ago and the Republicans can end it any time they want. Since its military spending, I expect they’ll be happy to end it while insisting that their hands are tied with respect to social spending because its “the law.”
Well, when you have a Democratic president offering amendments to Social Security benefits over the howls of his own party, and you get nothing from Republicans in return, it’s disingenuous to pretend both sides are equally at fault.
At fault, sure, but equally? No.
Chuck Hagel is the first Secretary of defense with real wartime service to his credit.
Few in Congress know or care about what fighting a war means to soldiers and their families and I’m not sure where Obama’s heart is on the issue of fighting pointless wars but I don’t support what he’s done so far.
If this new position makes it less likely that we will continue our endless fighting in pointless, unwinnable wars, so be it.
They can’t raise military spending without raising taxes (or something similar that Democrats want). And they can’t raise taxes at all; that part of their brains has been removed.
It’s the same hostage-taking that goes on with the debt limit, but it has a much smaller body count. Therein lies the difference between Democrats and Republicans.
@Tillman: Social spending is an anathema to Conservatives. That is why the sequestration, cuts in food stamp funding and any other program that hurts those in need will always get Republican backing. I’m sure that warmongers like McCain & Graham will have plenty to say about the cuts to the military. Even though they are veterans and should know better, they are happiest when we are fighting some war somewhere be it in our best interests or not.
@cleverboots: That’s the issue though: social spending isn’t anathema to conservatives. They just have different priorities for it. You can keep funds from going to embryonic stem cell research, for example, or give subsidies to large farmers. You can spend state money to enforce drug prohibitions. You can spend state money on tax incentives* to attract large businesses.
* Whether this counts as “spending” or “forgoing tax payments” doesn’t matter much to me in this case since the outcome is the same: the state has less money.
I have friends who are Conservative Republicans who strongly object to what they call our “nanny state” which, they say, creates a culture of lazy do nothings who are dependent on the Federal Government, rather than on themselves.
Manipulate them through their stupidity, hatred, and bigotry. Do things that actually _help_ people, like the ACA, and then watch them have to backtrack and step on their own dicks when their constituents’ lives are improved. Whenever possible, ignore and/or end-run around them.
So some of your friends are ignorant hypocrites.
Good to know.
Food stamps have been cut to reduce government spending. But the Forbes 400, whose 13 richest members made more from their stocks in one year than the entire food stamp budget, includes 50 billionaires who receive farm subsidies. Walmart, which depends on public food stamp subsidies to keep its employees fed, has been forced to announce weaker revenues because so many of its customers have been impacted by the food stamp cutbacks.
Most libertarians oppose government intervention of any type, unless it’s for national defense, homeland security, surveillance, disaster relief, prison funding, the drug war, any subsidies to oil and coal and agricultural companies, bailouts and Quantitative Easing, tax subsidies that mainly benefit the rich, and anything to do with women’s bodies.
The link for that:
I agree. Most of their obstruction is based on disdain for the less fortunate but there may be some racism involved.
@C. Clavin: I hesitate to use such terminology. I am an Independent who has given up on our major political parties. I do try to understand other points of view but I do find Conservative views very hard to accept as an American who has grown up with the concept of helping our neighbors. The Conservatives I know feel that family or public charity is the answer for the have nots. They do not accept the idea that donations to charity will never be enough and our family may not be in a position to help us.
Without commenting on the merits of the Pentagon proposal (which I haven’t looked at), I’m not so sure that “picking a fight with Congress” is a bad move. Could it be that this is intended to finally force “the Sequester is stupid” to not only be generally acknowledged but acted upon? I honestly don’t know. Maybe it is a blunder.
My general desire is lower military spending, specifically on stupid weapons procurement like the F-35 (not so much interested in cutting spending by lowering benefits to vets), but I’d go gently given the macroeconomic effects of such cuts. I’d rather see flat military spending for the rest of Obama’s term than huge cuts (not that huge cuts are ever on the table).
@cleverboots: The proper response there is to enlighten them on how they are dependent on the federal government themselves, or more persuasively how their ancestors might have benefited from government largesse and given them a leg up today. Most white people (not assuming your friends are white, but demographics!) living in the west benefited from the 1862 Homestead Act.* Others gained preferential treatment during the Great Depression from government initiatives attempting to increase homeownership. You could also elaborate on what life was like before certain government programs. Social Security’s relationship to decreasing elderly poverty is fairly well understood.
Do government benefits incentivize laziness? Absolutely! In the sense that if one is comfortably fed and sheltered, they have only their drive to succeed left to urge them towards greater things. (And it is an entirely different argument whether one can be comfortably fed and sheltered on government benefits alone.) Are people poor because they are lazy? Almost certainly not!
* Freed slaves were not disqualified from meeting the requirements for claiming land, but as a population were unlikely to do so. There’s still a lot of debate over this.
I agree with you. While I know that some people milk the system, that is not the case with most of those in need. Look at the hypocrisy of Paul Ryan who’s family needed and got Federal help but who now is one of the worst penny pinchers in Congress with his efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare.
@Rob in CT: How about not getting in any more wars unless we are being threatened? Stupid unwinnable wars have bee the norm for 50 years. This has to stop. Obama has no concept of the real consequences of war. That is why we will still be in Afghanistan and Iraq to some degree forever, if it’s up to him.
The racism comes in when they appeal to poor and working class whites in Appalachia and the South. Unfortunately those whites are happy to vote in solidarity with rich whites to deny benefits that could go to blacks and browns. It fundamentally explains the hatred of Obamacare. It has less to do with the program than the perception that it takes money from hardworking “real Americans” and gives it to “those people.” It also is about hatred of the uppity black man in the White House. (I heard a Louisiana interviewee on NPR today say flatly he was against Obamacare because “he don’t vote for no black man”. Refreshing candor). I am convinced that if President Romney had implemented the exact same program, those same whites would have been in favor of it-and would have lioked it even more if they could have made the benefits white only.
Say what? By the end of 2014 the USA will be out of Iraq and Afghanistan both- because of Obama.
Spending bills come from the House. That’s where the money flow starts. The main responsibility is theirs. But is the Democratic Senate also incompetent? Yes. Because it’s held hostage by Republicans who demand supermajorities before they’ll wipe their butts.
Oldest game in the national playbook. 300 years or so, and counting.
Given the fire-breathing I hear from one of my co-workers over the incompetence of Tricare, users of the system may not mind if they simply are provided stipends to buy their own health insurance on the exchanges instead….
From what I’ve overheard of my co-worker’s conversations, Tricare bureaucrats seem to be as cluelessly incompetent as the worst of Immigration services.
@stonetools: You are deluding yourself if you think Obama will ever completely remove our presence in Afghanistan. We are still losing troops in Iraq after we were told it was over and Afghanistan will go the same way. Those two countries will continue to drain our military and our economy indefinitely.
@cleverboots: I understood that we took all of our guys out of Iraq. Seriously. Who’s still over there?
@downvoters: Alright, explain to me the contempt Democrats have for the negotiation process in actually trying to negotiate. Or if I’ve loaded the question too much, explain where I’m wrong.
You can’t just pretend that the House is doing everything right and it’s those horrible Democrats with their upper legislative chamber stomping over the will of the people. Especially not after all the rage right-wing media raised when the filibuster was amended.
@rudderpedals: All “combat troops” left Iraq in late 2011, but there are still thousands of military troops still there in support of the Embassy and the US mission.
And he’s so far managed to sidestep wars in Libya, Syria, and Iran. He**, he’s avoided more wars than W started.
@Boyd: Thanks, I didn’t realize the embassy and mission protection force was that large.
Absolutely agreed. I’ve been arguing that for a long time now.
But I was commenting specifically on this budget proposal (or rather the politics of it). We don’t budget for wars of choice (heck, didn’t Dubya & Co. keep Iraq off the budget the whole time they were running that shitshow?), so less interventionism isn’t directly relevant to this discussion.
As for Obama and Iraq & Afghanistan…
The ship of state is a supertanker. It doesn’t corner well. We’ve largely pulled out of a Iraq, but that required some theatre (the negotiations, demanding immunity for our troops, etc). Afghanistan has been worse. Obama had a chance to change course in his first term and, sadly, chose to double-down instead. This might have been a political decision (morally awful if true) or it could be that he was convinced by the generals they could salvage something from the mess. Or it could’ve been a combination of those two things. I see this as likely. Politically, pulling out early in his first term would’ve been dangerous. Add to that generals telling him to give it one more shot and all that, and he made the wrong choice. I’m not sure there are many people capable of winning a Presidential election who would have made the right choice there. He certainly gets a demerit from me for it, but I can’t really believe that Hillary would have done any different. And Romney? Please. The problem isn’t Obama specifically. It’s way bigger than that, which is what makes this so hard. If we want to chance the way the US government approaches Foreign Policy, we need a lot of changes – lots of bellicose congresscritters need to be voted out of office, for starters. Voters need to actually punish politicians who advocate for more war. I’d love to see it happen.
@Rob in CT: I would have liked to have been out of Iraq and Afghanistan sooner, like the week after Obama’s first inauguration. But I didn’t really expect him to commit political suicide to get out.
I agree with many above that Chuck Hagel’s opening bid is unsurprising, and pretty much de rigueur. I also agree that casting it as “defies Congress” rather than “passes to Republicans” misses the soul of the game.
(While I have a soft spot for the A-10, it is possible that keeping them around for the next major tank war might imply a long wait.)
(Ah, I see that drones might be the next generation of tank busters. Some worry that they might be so effective in fact, that large tanks may see falling fortunes.)
The entire battlefield is changing. We can debate robots replacing McDonald’s employees, but there’s no question that drones will be replacing a number of military specialties: clearing mines and IEDs, surveillance, anti-tank and anti-artillery, etc… It’s only a matter of time before we have drones doing door-to-door city fighting. Wait until we have independent hunter drones programmed to shoot at anything carrying an AK 47. This will reverse the few advantages of small guerrilla forces – it’s pretty hard to win when you’re made out of flesh and blood and your enemy is a machine.
The problem we’ll have is at the naval end, I suspect, where we’re floating around in giant task forces and a clever enemy can fly drones against our ships, or send in remotely-piloted Zodiacs loaded with explosives. The Iranians could surely manage that technology right now. They could send in 50 remotely-piloted small craft at no immediate risk to their people, lose dozens of such boats and still take out capital ships. We’d be defending billion dollar targets against drones that Iranians could put together from parts at at any Radio Shack. We should probably be shifting toward subs and stealth surface ships. But it may take a Pearl Harbor before we’re ready for that paradigm shift.
As I was typing, and thinking about the costs of the F35, and next generation land vehicles, I was wondering “why don’t we go all-in with drones?”
I hadn’t thought about their use against our capital ships. I’m not an expert. I don’t know if that is a problem now, or will be in 10 years.
Certainly though we can use drones in places we don’t want to invade, and hey, we don’t want to invade anywhere these days.
Careerist officers seldom like change, let alone something as drastic as going all-in with drones. The lesson the Navy took from WW2 was aircraft carriers. Fortunately we haven’t had a naval war since, so the wisdom of sticking with that approach 70 years later has not been tested. But the attack on the Cole is worth thinking seriously about.
Here’s a fictional scenario: rent an apartment within a quarter mile of a major shopping area. Buy off-the-shelf model helicopters or model planes, equip with small IEDs. It’s a lot easier to find guys to fly model planes than it is to find martyrs willing to strap on a suicide vest.
Iran can put people in the zodiacs more cheaply and easily than working out remote operation. Given the care they showed for their people in their war with Iraq, it seems the more likely gambit for them. Aside from that, even with a few dozen small craft trying to swarm to the capital ship in a carrier group I put their chances of success at near zero. They might damage some ships in the group, but that would be it. Too much fire could be put down on them and too many interceptors are in play for that to be a successful gambit. Trying it would net them a world of pain from that carrier group though.
The Hog has long since proven its utility extends far beyond tank-busting. But the Air Force has never been entirely fond of the close air support mission, and this is probably the end of the road for history’s finest and most renowned close air support platform.
The good news is the insurgents are gone, the bad news is your field is full of uranium.
@john personna: The A-10 is also an accurate bomber and the best current airborne forward air control platform.
Also, DU isn’t the only round available, there is also a high-explosive round. That’s used for “soft” targets like vehicles and personnel. Bye-bye insurgents, no uranium.
@Mikey: And the “D” in “DU” does stand for “depleted” (although the remaining levels of radioactivity is a point of contention, no ill effects from radiation exposure related to DU have ever been reported).
Are you sure?
“The chemical toxicity of depleted uranium is about a million times greater in vitro than its radiological hazard.“
I too think the A-10 has an excellent track record, and am not pleased to see it (possibly) cut while the clusterf*ck that is the F-35 marches on. Whether drones can eventually take over the A-10 role is something that strikes me as plausible but not proven. They’re slower, much more vulnerable and carry less firepower than an A-10. The upside is they are pretty cheap and if you lose one you don’t lose a pilot too.
Question that will display my ignorance: does the Army get to run its own drone force? Does the “no fixed wing aircraft” thing apply or not? If not, then I can see this working out. Maybe the drones aren’t quite as effective as A-10s, but they will be run by an organization that actually gives a sh*t about close air support…
@Rob in CT:
It strikes me that drones change the scenarios, rather than just fitting into old scenarios. At a minimum the level of intervention that can be performed without ground forces (needing close air support) has increased dramatically.
That definitely is part of this, to be sure. However, another part of this is that the Pentagon is free to submit the budget they want and the budget negotiation and reconciliation process (a normal budget process) will involve give and take, deletions, perhaps new programs, all of it is on the table.
At the risk of sounding “anti-veteran”, allow me to question how much sympathy I ought to feel here.
Let’s turn the question around. Why, exactly, should someone be paying you $20,000 per year to have once held a different job? Nobody is paying me anything at all to have once held a different job, and I can’t touch the retirement funds I managed to put away in those past jobs for decades unless I want to hand a bunch of it back in penalties. So no sympathy here for the fact that you get a fat check out of the blue every year on top of your current job’s pay.
Similarly, not much sympathy for the fact that you might now have to pay a small fraction of a typical copay or premium for your TRICARE For Life. It’s still a much better deal than anyone else is getting, and in no way an insult to your service.
That’s the problem with the framing of these issues. Cast it as taking things away from our honored veterans, and everyone is against any change. But some of these benefits are crazy generous, and need to be reconsidered — especially since they are intensely back-loaded, which makes them both fiscally irresponsible and ineffective as recruiting incentives for teenagers.
@stonetools: We will still provide training and propping up the worthless governments and don’t forget the trillions of wasted dollars spent.
Because it’s considered deferred compensation. Also, it was promised to me when I joined the military if I held up my end of the bargain. I did my part.
And part of that “deal” was the military providing for my healthcare, and that of my immediate family, for the rest of my life.
Again, I held up my end of the bargain. Now that my contribution is out of the way, it appears that some would like to change the rules to reduce the government’s contribution now that it’s due.
@rudderpedals: Training personnel and support personnel are still there. Our soldiers are still at risk even though our combat role has supposedly ended.
If even one American soldier or civilian is still there that is one too many. We should withdraw ALL American soldiers and civilians, period.
You’d leave diplomats and diplomatic security though, wouldn’t you? Of course you would.
And if this article from today is to be believed http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/iraqi-army-struggles-in-battle-against-islamist-fighters-in-anbar-province/2014/02/25/b76792d2-9b00-11e3-8112-52fdf646027b_print.html
the training mission ended in 2011. Boyd mentions thousands of our troops in Iraq. Where did the number come from?
I think this is entirely fair. I’d just like to point out that it applies equally to non-military public employees. But when that comes up (except, sometimes, police/fire, who get similar hero cred), all of a sudden pointing out that they had contracts doesn’t get it done. They’re greedy leeches and union thugs.
There is a double-standard. I don’t think you perpetuate that double-standard (you don’t post a ton, so I’m not certain), and if that’s so, great. But others do.
@Boyd: OK, let’s take those one at a time.
The purpose of deferred compensation, from the employer’s point of view, is to incentivize certain employee behaviors in a way that is financially easier on the employer than immediate compensation would be. Viewed that way, it’s crazy to try to incentivize 20-year-olds by promising to pay them some money in the distant future, and only if they decide to hang around for (literally) a lifetime. There’s no leverage there. Uncle Sam could get the same effect by paying them pennies more on the dollar at the time — and come out ahead financially in the end, both in expected expenditures and downside risk.
And, let’s face it, it is never smart to be paying large chunks of your payroll to people who are no longer working for you. When a sports team gets itself into that situation, they are (deservedly) ridiculed and chastised by their fans and the media.
Second, it was promised to you. Absolutely. We agree here; promises made to you should be kept. That means we’re going to have to grandfather any major changes. But that’s the pension; you were not promised free TRICARE for life for your entire family. You were promised access to affordable healthcare, and you’re getting it. You were also not promised that your pension would grow faster than inflation, but you’ve been getting that too. Giving you additional post-retirement benefits that you were not promised makes Uncle Sam feel good, but it’s not sustainable. (This also applies to many veterans’ benefits, which are significantly higher now than they were when you enlisted, and probably higher than when you retired.)
Every economist (and even many normal people) knows that the 20-year vesting cliff is insane, and that greatly deferred compensation has no leverage on young men, and that predictable financial obligations are better than unpredictable ones. But you have to look at the problem from scratch — what would be a sensible way to remunerate our volunteer force — to get from where we are to where we need to be.
@Rob in CT:
Excellent point, Rob.
When a state is bankrupt and cannot pay retired teachers the pensions they were promised, the teachers suck it up and tighten their belts. They have no alternative, because the state has no alternative.
When the federal government is bankrupt, it prints more money and/or borrows some more from China, and pays its retirement obligations anyway. This makes the problem worse in the long run, but it defers the pain to future generations. We can steal from our grandchildren to keep our promises to the current retirees, or we can break those promises. I don’t see any third alternative.
Boyd’s retirement should not be fair game but it is since so many other retirement promises are broken on the austerity rack. Better to reverse the trend. We should be talking about funding to restore benefits already lost.
Don’t get snookered into believing it’s unaffordable. Our grandchildren entering the workforce are facing dimmed prospects right now. There are lots of data showing the long term impact of the current job market. The long term will take care of itself (even if it means kicking the can down the road indefinitely – it can be done if we’re a growing economy).
@Rob in CT: Drones for CAS? I don’t think it’s workable, because how does the JTAC talk to the pilot? Right now it’s simple and easy single-channel UHF. If we did the CAS mission using drones, would the drone have to relay comms back to wherever it’s being piloted from? That sounds like a goat rope already, not to mention a huge potential point of failure.
The Air Force will probably want to keep the CAS mission and give it to the F-35 (whenever that thing is ready) because it provides justification for funding, certainly not because the Air Force really gives a crap about helping out the lowly grunt. I controlled my first airstrike 28 years ago and the Air Force’s level of caring was pretty much the same back then. But at least we had an aircraft built for, and dedicated to, close air support. The JTACs of the future won’t even have that.
@rudderpedals: @rudderpedals: 1. I don’t personally believe in having diplomatic personnel in every country. 2. No, I don’t believe the link is accurate. I have read & heard otherwise. The way we have set ourselves up, I believe that we will be stuck in both Iraq and Afghanistan to some degree forever thanks to the stupidity of GWB and now Obama. I am an Independent voter and I blame both Parties for the twin farces in Iraq and Afghanistan. I am an equal opportunity disliker at this point.
@cleverboots: I’m not sure how well the US is served by not having embassies in places like N Korea, Iran and Cuba. A physical presence is good policy and good marketing and there are things you can do in the place that you can’t do remotely. I agree with you about the two wars but I don’t see how absenting ourselves diplomatically makes it easier to avoid foolishness.
@rudderpedals: At the very least, we would save a great deal of money that would be better spent here by not having a physical presence in a country.
Our presence in a country seems to legitimize corrupt countries like Afghanistan. If I believed that Karzai would be a better ally if we continued our physical presence,I would be all for it. If our presence increased the willingness of the people to fight for themselves, I would continue our presence. However, I seem to recall reading that some Afghanis were hiding under trucks to avoid combat while our soldiers fought, were injured or died. Not good.
Meh, the “money printing” thing is overblown. The feds do have an out that state level governments (not being in control of their own currencies) don’t. This does not mean that out is necessarily bad. Debt to GDP over time is what matters. If you borrow to do things that result in good economic growth, it works out just fine. If you borrow and waste the money (on, say, a stupid war?) then not so much.
Devil’s in the details.
@Rob in CT:
When interest payments on your debt outpace defense spending, I think you’re way beyond “investing in growth”. That money is dead loss.
I’m not one of those “starve the beast” morons who longs to turn the US into Somalia, one tax cut at a time. But the US is rapidly approaching a debt level (relative to GDP) that very few developed countries have been able to extricate themselves from without a currency crisis — and the ones that did escape did it through a level of fiscal restraint that is politically impossible in the US at the moment. To even balance the budget at this point is almost inconceivable — every pot of money large enough to be worth going after has a rock-solid constituency fighting to preserve it.
Go to the NY Times budget breakout and click on “Types of spending”. I don’t see anything there that is both big enough and vulnerable enough to do any good. You’re looking for $900B in offsets, and the entire Discretionary total is only $1.1T.
@Mikey: Do you think the F-15E will fill the vacuum left by the A-10? What’s your take on this as a FAC?
@rudderpedals: There aren’t very many F-15Es and they aren’t a CAS aircraft by doctrine (although they have been used in that role), they’re more a deep strike and interdiction platform. The great advantage of the A-10, specifically its gun, is how close to friendlies it can be employed. It can take out enemy personnel and vehicles 50 yards away. Don’t try that with a JDAM.
Other aircraft have a gun, too, but it’s 20mm vs. 30mm and the basic ammo load is a couple hundred rounds (182 for the F-35) vs. 1300 for the A-10.
I’m pretty sure the A-10’s days are done, and I don’t doubt we’ll do the best we can with whatever combination of aircraft move in to fill the void, but there’s still a lot to be said for an aircraft that’s relatively cheap to fly and maintain and is the best at what it was built to do.
Sadly, in an Air Force commanded by fast-mover pilots, a slow, ugly airplane made to play in the mud and support the dirty grunts is never going to take priority over an F-35 that costs 20 times as much and might never get off the ground anyway.
@Mikey: Thank you. I agree with you, nothing can replace the hog’s BFG. ISTM the nub of the problem is the Army really needs the A10 but can’t have it. The Apache’s cannon can’t come close (at least it’s not a minigun) but that seems to be where the Army’s going to retain some CAS capability.
When you were in nam you have a chance to work any assault type helos? IIRC only the Marines had the Cobra
Re the F35. Definitely not a CAS airplane! You know I think the best thing about the crazy thing – if it ever goes into regular production – is that it’s going to three different users and I sure hope one of them at least comes up with the best way to integrate them. It seems too light and not stealthy enough compared to the F22 but no one asked me. On the other hand if they ever get the networking talking to the rest of the world and the 360 degree VR helmet working…
@rudderpedals: ‘Nam was before my time–I joined the Air Force in 1986, and became one of the first enlisted airmen certified to control airstrikes without the supervision of an officer in 1991. The term then was ETAC (Enlisted Terminal Attack Controller), today the E has been replaced with a J for Joint because the program for certification and control has been standardized across the services.
I’ve no doubt the Air Force leadership wants to push a lot of the CAS mission off to attack helos, but they need to retain some of it to permit the tagging of the F-35 as a “multi-role” aircraft and try to justify its ludicrous cost.