Tuesday, October 22, 2013

War and Resession

A recent article reported by the Blaze, the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Ray Odierno is not confidant that he can deploy any significant force for any type of major operations.  The long and the short of it is that sequestration hit the military a lot harder than is typically being reported in the media.  The reasons aren't as straight forward as "reduce your budget by 10% across the board, which is what the law said.  There's a couple problems here.  The first is that the President had already reduced the budget by $500 Billion over the decade.  Because of the tactical requirements in Afghanistan, while the Army and Marine Corps did tighten their belts, the ones who really took the hit was the Navy and the Air Force.  The second as it might be painfully obvious is that even though most of the country has forgotten about it, there's still this war thing going on in Afghanistan, and it's as brutal and harsh as ever.

There's one more problem, one which the military has absolutely no control over whatsoever.  The way appropriations bills are set up, the military is required by law to buy X of said weapons systems from said suppliers.  Sometimes these things are things the military desperately needs, or needed.  The C-27J Spartan was one of those airframes that was considered critical need for short take off and landing resupply of distant out of the way bases.  One problem, the Air Mobility Command felt they didn't need them so they came brand new right off the line and went directly to the Bone-yard in Davis-Monthan AFB.  One could also point to the troubled Littoral Combat Ships, which was meant to replace the aging Perry-class frigates.  I don't even want to talk about the F-35.  At this point it's pretty well documented we've just bought into a fighter that sucks at fighting. 

The complex budget calculations boil down to four simple things Systems, Training, Personnel, and Operations.  The Personnel, and Operations costs are pretty straight forward, though Personnel also includes base support, family support and healthcare.  The Systems budget is all about the various weapons systems, to include the actual hardware like ships planes and guns, it includes purchasing new weapons, and maintaining old ones.  As I said before this is not so straightforward as the Military leaders have little actual control over this budget.  Operations is also not entirely straightforward because combatant commanders tend to conduct operations based on tactical needs rather than budgetary requirements.  To get at the enemy you might have to forward deploy a company in difficult to supply areas which will raise the budget like a Saturn V going full bore.  For a lot of reasons you can't slash Systems and Operations budgets so all that's left is Personnel and Training.

In recent months we've seen anecdotal as well as full on news coverage of the Army getting rid of some of the most combat experienced troops like a hot grenade.  A lot of troops are not getting promoted because of minor infractions, or personality conflicts.  The end result is that a lot of enlisted troops aren't reenlisting, and a lot of officers are getting out rather than have to deal with more "chicken-shit." from "Big Army."  This brain drain was seen during the height of the Iraq War, as the deployment cycles became extreme, but you're seeing it more and more now that budget requirements are starting to pinch.  Who are left are some of the soldiers that perhaps you really wouldn't want in charge of combat formations. 

We're rapidly approaching the point that the Army was at in the late 70's.  While not the social pariahs that the military was until the early 80's, the issues of a draw down and the unpopularity of a war, are seriously effecting the force's ability to wage war.  We may rapidly approach the point where we simply won't be able to deploy large formations that are combat ready.  The abilities of combat troops has required the military to rely more and more on Special Operations troops.  

The emphasis on Special Operations has in the short time plugged the gap left by the flagging regular force, but that presents problems of its own.  Spec Ops are often very expensive, and the support requirements are a lot greater, and if they get into trouble, they can be isolated and slaughtered quickly.  The loss of Extortion 17 alone makes it painfully clear how vulnerable or Spec Ops troops are.  We will see more situations like this, and it will take an extreme toll on the SOCOM community, which is so small that each operator lost has a significant impact on the community as a whole.

The worst part about all of this is that there are no solutions the military can enact.  The entirety of this problem was caused and must be solved by the politicians.  That in and of itself is a terrifying reality.  The recent budget crisis showed that there is almost no functionality in Washington, in a time when the force readiness of the next decade is on the line.  We may reach a point where we simply can't go to war because our troops will get slaughtered.