Sequestration, Star Inflation and the Modern Military

While passing a DoD spending bill that would allow the sequestration-beleaguered Pentagon to fund such key programs as ten new Arleigh Burke class destroyers, new Virginia class submarines and the Joint Strike Fighter, the Senate subcommittee sharply limited the money that would put toward ramping up F-35 production in FY 2015. According to the chairman, “Aggressive overlap in designing, testing and procuring this aircraft earlier in its history got us into serious trouble, and this committee is eager to avoid a repeat of these problems.” Wisdom, they say, is a resource that becomes available after you need it.

Sequestration has also apparently given the Senate the gumption to take on some of the more ridiculous manifestations of Pentagon extravagance, in this case, star inflation. “According to a recent analysis, the US military is 30 percent smaller than it was at the end of the Cold War, but it has almost 20 percent more three- and four-star officers,” in the words of the Chairman. Funding for these positions has been reduced by $8 billion.

The Project On Government Oversight published a paper on officer inflation back in 1998 that is still worth the read- because nothing has changed, at least for the better. To quote:
“In 1945, the number of Army generals per active Army division was 14. In 1986, at the height of the Cold War, the army had 24 generals per division. Now, as we face no major threat, there are 30 generals per division. At the end of WWII there were 130 Navy ships per admiral. In 1986, at the height of the Cold War, there were 2.2 ships per admiral. Now, as we face no major threat, there is an average of only 1.6 ships per admiral.”

A more recent (2011) report from POGO highlights that even during the decade of the Iraq and Afghan wars, the percentage increase in enlisted personnel was the smallest of any rank category (under 5%), while 3 and 4 star flag officers experienced a nearly 25% increase.

The costs of star creep continue well beyond the retirement of the officers, as well.

Of course, the United States is not alone in this regard- Canada, with a force smaller than the US Marine Corps, had around one general or admiral per 1000 members as of 2012.

Some of this is understandable- after all, a high-tech, modern military does need more highly skilled people- but if you believe that explains what all those senior officers are doing, I have an island in Indonesia I’d like to sell you.

Neither, as a number of service members have pointed out, does this preponderance of highly-polished brass mean that the military as an institution, is any good at retaining talent.


Mark Collins – Out With the Internet!

Despite the slightly alarmist tone, the increasing penetration of the internet (and networked information systems of every kind) into every aspect of global infrastructure and economy does make the prospect of true cyberwarfare and cyberterrorism increasingly terrifying. Yet the real dangers may be on the side of those attempting to maintain control as much as the side of chaos- one way or another, the information universe is the high ground and the lynchpin of the modern world, despite being eminently replaceable in almost every function it fulfills. I’ll agree with Mark as far as the social impact of the web, but the article makes an interesting case- one might add that Goering’s “He who controls the skies controls the war” now has a new corollary- “He who controls the net controls the world.”
We live in a world caught in a vicious cycle of collective irrationality when it comes to new technologies- we embrace them without regard to the hidden costs of the conveniences and efficiencies for which we are so eager. My 1103 unread e-mails prove that by themselves…

Scrap Victoria-Class Subs Or Buy New Ones

Canada has wasted over ten years and enough money to have bought brand new submarines trying to fix four ex-British submarines that were stored improperly when they were decommissioned.

There is no doubt that a modern submarine force could be useful to Canada, particularly in the Arctic, but the main justification for the submarine force has always been to participate in ASW exercises with the United States. The existing submarines are an unconscionable money-pit, and much as one might like to recommend purchasing new models- U212s or Gotlands from Germany or Sweden- the submarine force at this point just isn’t worth the money.

The complete report is here.

In the News: South Korea and US strengthen Defence Plans

In response to North Korea’s recent intemperance, the US and South Korea have signed a new military plan which requires the United States to be part of the reply to any North Korean provocation, under South Korean leadership.

Meanwhile, China has reached a deal to buy 24 Su-35 fighters and 4 Lada class Air Independent Propulsion submarines from Russia. Given that the Chinese have previously copied both Russian fighters and Russian submarine technologies, we can:
1. Not hold our breath for any follow-on orders, and
2. Ask the Russian government what on earth it is thinking.

The last time Russia sold an advanced fighter to China, it was quickly copied and produced in China. Now the Chinese are no doubt buying the Su-35 to get a look at the latest refinements. The Lada buy is somewhat less explicable, given that China already has a fairly advanced fleet of conventional submarines based on Russian technology. It may indicate that China’s efforts toward air independent propulsion have hit some problems.

Canada’s Shipbuilding Program Underfunded- Big Surprise

CBC News reports that the Canadian shipbuilding strategy, supposed to deliver 15 new surface combatants, 2 replenishment vessels and sundry miscellaneous ships from domestic yards without recent military shipbuilding experience, is significantly underfunded. Among the key problems:
– The spending plan preceded generation of a rational set of requirements
– The plan did not account for military inflation rates
As a result, Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, as well as defence commentators, expect the price tag to rise drastically in an era of tight budgets.

The strategic dream of the People’s Liberation Army Navy is to extend its zone of influence out to the so-called “second island chain,” and it’s pushing hard to force settlements of territorial disputes closer to home. The fact remains that China does not have the might to take these islands by force in the face of the US and Japanese navies, and on an economic level, the region cannot afford a war. For these reasons, all this sabre rattling tends to make people cringe.

China Daily Mail

China is expanding its long-neglected fleet of supply ships and heavy-lift aircraft, bolstering its military prowess in support of missions to enforce claims over disputed territory and to defend Chinese interests abroad.

These transport workhorses are unlikely to arouse the same regional unease as the steady rollout of high performance fighters, long-range missiles or potent warships, but they are a crucial element of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) three-decade military build-up, defense analysts say.

Over time, the air and sea support will give the world’s second-largest navy greater geographical reach and will enhance the PLA’s capacity to assist troops on distant battlefields, potentially including Taiwan if Beijing were to launch a military assault to take control of the self-governing island.

China’s state-owned shipyards last year launched two 23,000-tonne type 903 replenishment ships, according to reports and photographs published on Chinese military affairs websites and blogs, with further orders in the…

View original post 1,017 more words