Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Boots On The Ground

The pressure on the Department of Defense budget is immense.  Cuts have been occurring and will continue for the foreseeable future.  That’s not in question.  The only question is what form those cuts will take.  Early retirements of ships?  Maintenance?  Training?  Troops?  Armor?  Ship to shore connectors?  The list of budget cut candidates goes on …   The only sure thing is that the very last thing the Navy will give up is new construction.  But, I digress.

There’s a broader aspect to the coming budget cuts and that is the issue of “boots on the ground”.  There’s a bit of a perfect storm coming which will cause disproportionate cuts in the land forces, meaning the Army and Marines.

  • The country is war-weary and wants no part of another “boots on the ground” war anytime soon.  No war, no need for troops, right?  So goes the emerging line of thinking, at any rate.

  • UAVs are the hot commodity right now.  The military seemingly can’t get enough of them and the political administration loves the ability to strike without using troops and with no risk of captured/killed airmen.

  • The Pacific Pivot is geared towards China and any conflict with China will be largely a naval and air power exercise – at least, it had better be.  It would be the height of folly to engage in a land war with China.

  • Manning is seen as the major component of operating and support costs, whether rightly or wrongly.  The right or wrong of it depends on how one chooses to view the issue and the assumptions one applies.  However, that’s a topic for another time.  Manning is increasingly seen as an easy way to reduce operating costs and the pressure to cut manning levels is enormous.

For these reasons, I see the Army and, to a lesser extent, the Marines absorbing the brunt of future budget cuts.  This will, on a relative basis, aid the Navy in the short to intermediate term.  I just wish the Navy had a better vision for using the monies that will be available to them!


  1. Yep, all this seems to be happening. I don't see the Navy getting any of the money the other branches are losing either.

    1. TR, the Navy won't be getting any extra money. They simply won't be cut as much as the land forces.

  2. Will someone please describe to me in GREAT detail why it would be an awful idea to engage in a land war with China?

    I know they outnumber us and can use swarm tactics to their advantage but I don't see that as being a reason to completely wall ourselves off from the possibility of engaging China division to division, corps to corps, field army to field army. To do so seems like cowardly stupidity to me.

    1. E, you've almost answered the question in your question! Our land forces would be greatly outnumbered, pure and simple. The Chinese view the individual person/soldier as totally expendable which negates much of our tactical and doctrinal advantages. Next, look at the distances involved. We would be operating at the end of a VERY long supply chain that would have to push through a VERY challenging A2/AD zone. Our supply/resupply capability would be highly susceptible to strangulation. In contrast, the Chinese would have a supply chain of conceptually zero length. Now, consider the air power environment. Our land forces would be operating with little or no air cover. There are no airbases within useful distance for us. Our air cover would be largely limited to carrier aircraft. Against that, we would be facing a numerically much larger air force operating from multiple airbases in their own backyard. They would have the overwhelming advantage in numbers and loiter time. They would also have an immense advantage in radar coverage. I can go on listing reasons but this should suffice to give you an idea why a land war in China would be incredibly stupid.

    2. We also don't have the logistical capability to pull a D-Day scale landing, which I think we would most likely need. Correct me if I am wrong, but the only place we could push into China from with any hope of success would be South Korea, after beating up NK. Unless China somehow finds themselves at war with India or Russia.


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