Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Cart Before The Horse

Consider these observations …

  • The Navy is beginning to find and define missions that the LCS can perform well and that will play to the ship’s strengths.

  • Suggestions are being floated to build armored vehicles and weapons that will fit in the MV-22 in order to better support air assaults.

  • AirSea Battle is being adapted to make better use of our existing assets.

  • Our new acquisition programs are producing weapons and systems that are shaping our strategy, doctrine, and tactics for decades to come.

  • The Marine Corps is in the process of being resized and reshaped to fit budget constraints.

  • Our nuclear deterrence doctrine has been modified to reflect the decrease in the number of SSBNs we’ll have after the replacement SSBN program is complete.

  • Torpedo capability may be removed from the design of the SSBN(X) to accommodate budget constraints.

  • The Marines are conducting studies to determine what size, shape, speed amphibious combat vehicle they need to fit within the budget.

  • JSF was designed to fit the maximum amount of technology in the airframe while still being affordable (yes, cost has become an issue but the intent is unchanged).

I could go on with an endless list but this will suffice.

These examples all seem to demonstrate an adaptive Navy/Marine force that is recognizing budget limitations and still looking for ways to make the most of what they have.  As you know, I’m highly critical of Navy leadership but these examples do show innovation and adaptability, right? 

In addition, these examples all have one thing in common – they’re all backwards!  Huh?!  Backwards?  What does that mean?  It means that the action cited is divorced from, and preceeding, what should be the rationale for the action.  The rationale should come first and the action should then logically follow.  These examples have it backward.  Let’s look a bit closer at some of them and you’ll see what I mean.

The Navy is beginning to find and define missions that the LCS can perform well and that will play to the ship’s strengths.  That’s backward.  The missions should have been the first thing and the LCS should have followed.  Put another way, the LCS should fit the missions, not the missions being forced to fit the LCS.

Suggestions are being floated to build armored vehicles and weapons that will fit in the MV-22 in order to better support air assaults.  That’s backward.  The vehicles and weapons that the Marines need to carry out their missions should be defined first and the transport should be built to fit and accommodate those items.  Instead, we built the transport first and now we’re looking at building new vehicles and weapons that will fit the transport.

AirSea Battle is being adapted to make better use of our existing assets.  That’s backward.  Strategy comes first (yes, I know ASB isn’t really a strategy but it’s what passes for one, for the time being) and procurement follows in support of the strategy.  Instead, we’re procuring with little rationale and changing the strategy to fit what we buy.

Hopefully, you get the idea and I don’t need to go through the entire list.

The theme, here, is the backwards nature of the Navy (and military, in general, to be fair).  The Navy has a consistent pattern of acting without a rational basis and then trying fit a rationale to the action, after the fact.  Ultimately, it all stems from the lack of strategy.  We have no global strategy.  We have no regional strategies (how do we want to deal with China?  Iran?  Africa?  Etc.?).  How can we be procuring weapons and systems if we don’t know what we need them to do?

Here’s an example of the problem.  In a war with China, two possible alternative strategies might be to, one, wage a roll-back campaign and eventual attack on mainland China (with or without ground troops) to secure victory or, two, to implement a long distance, stand-off strategy of blockade, eventually “starving” China of raw materials and trade to secure victory.  Either strategy could be successful but they are radically different and would require radically different force structures.  What kinds of weapons and systems should we be procuring?  Without an established strategy to guide our procurement we’re buying whatever we can get with whatever performance characteristics, regardless of whether they’ll be useful somewhere down the line. 

How will the LCS contribute to a war with China?  It’s going to be a third of our battle fleet so it had better contribute!  Do we need more carriers or less?  Do we need massive amphibious lift capability or far less than we have now?  The answer to these and a thousand similar questions is, “Who knows?”.  Without a strategy we have no idea what we need.

Look at our discussions on the hundreds of posts.  Much of it revolves around the perceived qualities and usefulness of various platforms.  It’s kind of pointless to argue about such things when we have no reference (strategy) to compare the item against.  Remember the recent post in which we documented CNO’s comment to the effect that he can’t wait to see what industry comes up with next?  That’s the ultimate in backwards!  The Navy needs to tell industry what’s needed not wait to see what industry gives them. 

We’ve got to break this cycle of procuring first and then trying to figure out what to do with it.  The sequence is strategy (rationale) first, then procurement.  C’mon Navy, get with the program.


  1. I totally agree with your statement that our process is backwards. I think the first step for the military in general is to try to address that. It seems that since the fall of the Soviet Union and a lack of a clear power for us to match up against, our military has lost the ability to define what its going to do.

    I have a buddy who thinks the entire 'littoral' movement was an attempt not to set a future strategy based on world needs, but rather more of a way to show Congress a mission in order to secure funding.

    That said, haven't we had similar situations before (although for different reasons)? I mean, the Navy we had in the early 50's and 60's had alot of all gun ships that were living in a missile world. Ditto our old WWII SS boats and Essex carriers built for another era.

    Some of the steps we come up with (trying to make something work for the LCS, for example) are backwards, but necessary at this point, until we work out what are strategy is and what we need to procure to support that strategy.

    Just like FRAM brought old DD's some ASW capability, maybe a 're-imagining' of the LCS can bring some value to that. (Mind, I'd still love to cancel it and try to make something along the lines of an FF, given the woeful state of ASW in the fleet now).

    I guess my point is that yes, lets break that cycle. But while trying to fix it, we have to spend some brain power on the things we already have (Osprey), and most likely will have (LCS), in order to make them work.

    If we define a strategy that the Osprey fits; great! If we don't, then lets build something else. But in the meantime lets find uses for the bird. AEW on smaller ships? In air refueling? Viking style ASW? Something.

    Similarly we should find *something* the LCS can do it we can't sink it. I find your commerce strategy against China in the event of a war intriguing. Going completely off the wall could we use the LCS as a commerce raider for Chinese ships outside of her Navy's reach? With SH-60's firing small AShM's and her gun she might be able to do that against an unarmed Merchie.

    1. Jim, regarding your buddy's statement, take a look at this previous post, Littoral Warfare - Is There Such A Thing?.

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    1. B.Smitty, your point about lead times as they impact the relevance of a system is correct. JSF, for example, may have had a valid rationale back on day one but it's no longer relevant. What's the solution? Well, there's many factors so there are many partial answers but one major factor and answer is complexity. JSF is taking so long because it's so complex. LCS is taking so long because the module technology is so complex. If we accept evolutionary advances rather than the Navy's current "lead ahead" fetish, we could field useful systems in much less time. Perhaps quickly enough for them to be relevant!

      Of course we have to try to get the most out of what we ALREADY have. What we don't have to do is continue to acquire systems that we know are already obsolete, like the JSF.

      I fear you're still missing the point, though. You say "We have to accept limits to our strategy and our force structure based on the tools we have available and the budget by which to buy them." That's not the right approach. We need to first set a strategy, regardless of costs or limitations, and then do our best to procure systems that will support that strategy. Yes, we may have to accept constraints due to budget but those constraints must fit within the strategic needs. Further, a coherent strategy that is constrained by budget is what we take to Congress as an excellent justification for funding! Congress loves to spend money. Give them a clear strategy and a system with a clear link to that strategy and they'll generally be quite supportive. It's when you try to foist things like the LCS on Congress that they push back.

      Finally, the main implied point is that we have to change our basic approach. If all we do is focus on trying to make the best of bad fits, all we'll ever get is bad fits. We need to stop the cycle - cancel JSF, cancel LCS, and so on, and start over with a proper approach. We'll never have a better time than now.

      Strategy, at the high level (which is what strategy is!), doesn't change quickly enough to render our acquisitions obsolete. We could see 20 years ago that China was going to be a threat. NKorea hasn't changed since the Korean War. The Iranian threat has been around for quite a while. We've known about global terrorism for far longer than 9/11. Solid strategies are long term - longer, even then our acquisition cycles.

      Our strategy towards China (we don't have one but if we did) won't significantly change over the next 20 years and yet we continue to buy LCSs. How will 52 LCSs support our China strategy? Yes, we need to stop and start over!

    2. B.Smitty, that is an excellent summary of what force structure planners and platform designers face in today's world.

      Admiral Greenert's writings concerning "Payloads over Platforms" is one type of response to these realities.

      Bryan McGrath's opinion that the Navy's traditional day-to-day maritime presence missions should be de-emphasized in favor of maintaining surge capacity for large-conflict scenarios is another type of response -- one which is also largely compatible with Admiral Greenert's philosophy of payloads over platforms.

      A past example of a rational practical response to emerging realities was Admiral Zumwalt's approach to implementing a post-Vietnam Cold War fleet design in pushing the high-low mix concept.

      Just enough of his plan was adopted to make it a workable plan in actual practice. High-low as a fleet design philosophy didn't need to be perfect as force structure plans go, it only needed to be workable.

    3. Scott, with respect, the attempt to build a totally-flexible-respond-to-everything force is the lazy man's approach to strategic thinking. We haven't got the political will and courage to make strategic decisions so we'll just build a military that's all things to all people in all situations. Aside from the lack of thinking and vision, that approach is simple not affordable. Further, I've discussed in a previous post that modularity is another way of saying sub-optimal. When we inevitably run into an enemy who builds weapons that are focused on, and optimized for, their specific combat roles we'll find our modular systems will come up well short.

      Scott, you might be interested in this previous post, Payloads Over Platforms.

  3. The great nuclear scientist Enrico Fermi once said, "We can predict almost everything, except for the future."

    If you must determine which particular needs drive which particular requirements for the particular platforms and systems you want to acquire, then you must predict what the future might hold in a variety of future scenarios which are affected by a variety of facets covering defense policy, military doctrine, and the evolution of both civilian and military technology.

    In managing the particular set of requirements that ought to apply to a particular platform or system, various interactions occur among these major facets (i.e., defense policy, military doctrine, and the evolution of both civilian and military technology) which often make it difficult to determine just which components of the requirements analysis and implementation process represent the "cart" and which components represent "the horse."

    What happens in practice when platforms and systems which meet most of their listed requirements, and which have been delivered on time and on budget, is that someone had been placed in charge who understood the full context of the environment in which the platform or system was to operate, and who made the tough decisions upfront as to which operational/performance features would be given priority over other possibly competing operational/performance features.

    When we have the right people in charge on the DOD customer side, we get something like an AEGIS or an F-18 E/F.

    When we have the wrong people in charge on the DoD customer side -- people who think that horses can be magically transformed into carts, and carts into horses, through the magic of systems analysis theory supercharged by free-market competitive forces -- then we end up with something like a DDG-1000 or an LCS.

    I would point out here that both AEGIS and the F-18 E/F were originally developed under past variants of the DOD 5000 acquisition process which were not drastically different than the one in force today -- at least if one ignores the recent impacts of the JCIDS process, anyway. (Yes, a big "if" on that score, as I cheerfully admit.)

    1. Scott, you may be overcomplicating the process? We need two levels of strategy: global political and military. At the global political level we ask ourselves how we want to interact with China (to pick an example). Do we want to be friends at all costs? Do we want to cede regional control and influence? Do we want to be ruthless economic competitors? Do we want to aggressively confront? Some mix of the choices?

      After we determine our global political strategy we need a military strategy that supports the global political strategy. Knowing our stance towards China we can easily devise a military strategy and then easily develop weapons and systems that will support that strategy. The requirements become pretty clear. It's only when we try to cover all eventualities due to the absence of a real strategy that we get into your realm of too many scenarios and too many factors. Sadly, that's where we are now.

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    3. ComNavOps, as another example of the interactions which occur among defense policy, defense politics, military doctrine, and the evolution of technology, I've said here and on other forums over the last several years that the decision to terminate F-22 production early -- well before a sufficient number of 5th generation Raptor airframes were in service so as to guarantee air superiority in a conflict with China -- was, for all practical purposes, equivalent to a decision on the part of America's senior leadership not to get into a shooting war with China.

      This would be so very simply for the fact that one cannot prevail in such a large-scale military conflict against a fully-capable adversary without the clear guarantee of air superiority which comes with having sufficient numbers of true 5th-generation fighter aircraft.

      In addition to a lack of sufficient 5th generation fighters, there are indeed other kinds of shortfalls which would have the same effect, but the lack of sufficient F-22's is the one that would become most apparent in the shortest span of time as the conflict progressed.

      OK, does this mean that not having nearly enough 5th generation air superiority fighters could, as a practical matter, become an ironclad guarantee that America's political leadership would not choose to get into a shooting war with China, separate and apart from any other factors that might be extant before such a conflict broke out?

      It is my belief that some number of F-22 opponents were well aware of the implications of shutting down Raptor production; they knew the F-35 was not a true 5th generation air superiority fighter; and they used termination of the F-22 program as one of several back-door means of preventing a conflict which they viewed as disastrous for all parties concerned, if it ever happened.

      Could shutting down F-22 production under the publicly-stated but unsupported assumption that the F-35 could handle the F-22's missions have been possible if the true development costs and schedules for both aircraft had been honestly evaluated up front in the mid-1990's, and if a properly funded long-term commitment to both of the respective programs had then been made, all the while knowing just how expensive both programs would eventually be?

      Said another way, what kinds of positive benefits for America's basic ability to prosecute a successful foreign and defense policy with respect to China and its growing military ambitions have we foregone, simply because we didn't do a proper job of technical and programmatic risk management from the very get-go for the F-22 and the F-35 programs?

    4. B.Smitty, what has happened is that we've dithered over our interactions with China from administration to administration. We have not formulated a clear national policy (geopolitical strategy).

      Our current "relations" are adversarial (they want regional control and we don't want them to have that) with an inconsistent application of largely one-sided friendship overtures. Do you really think China's attitude towards us (whatever you think that might be) will change appreciably in the next 20 years? Their core view of us hasn't changed in the last 20 so why would it change in the next 20? Will our fundamental approach to them change in the next 20 years? Yes, we'll fumble around and sway back and forth from friendly to stern with no real consistency but our fundamental policy of opposing their bid for regional hegemony won't change (I hope!). It really is as simple as that.

    5. Scott, you lost me, there. You're making a point but I'm missing it. Try again?

      Regardless, your point about F-22 production and the tie-in to a possible Chinese conflict is fascinating. I don't follow AF matters closely enough. I assumed the F-22 stoppage was a simple budget matter but you're suggesting there may have been more to it. Interesting!

      What senior leadership made that decision? Air Force? Presidential?

      What would be the benefit to such a decision? Other then peace-at-any-price extremists, who would espouse such a point of view and why? Most people would tend to say, build 'em, we'll try not to use them, but they're there if necessary.

      Tell me more!

    6. Scott, if the decision was made to terminate F-22 production so as to guarantee that we avoid a shooting war with China then our current protestations about Chinese territorial grabs are pure bluff. Of course, that supposes that the decision made back when F-22 production was terminated still holds - that the same group that made the decision still holds power or their successors do.

      It seems more like a typical short-sighted, unwise decision rather than a major geopolitical concession. I'm dubious but open-minded. Tell me more.

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    8. B.Smitty, the coalition of those who wanted the F-22 terminated is pretty much just as you have described it, but with two further observations about some of those who supported the anti F-22 coalition:

      Observation 1:

      Dealing effectively with China's growing military capabilities -- which are gradually but steadily improving in quantity and quality -- will become a horrifically expensive proposition in coming decades.

      Not just an expensive proposition, but a horrifically expensive proposition as the decades pass into the 2020's and beyond.

      I have come to believe that when the decision to cancel the F-22 was made, SECDEF Robert Gates had to know that terminating F-22 production would significantly affect our ability to prosecute a shooting war with China, if the shortage of 5th-generation air superiority fighter aircraft wasn't redressed in some other way.

      I will speculate here, as I have done on other forums, that SECDEF Gates bought the F-35 Kool-Aid hook line and sinker, as did many others, but that he also had come to his own independent conclusion that for the long-term future, keeping up with the Chinese militarily isn't a realistic proposition given where America is headed economically and politically, and so having, or not having, the F-22 in our quiver wouldn't matter that much in the long run.

      Observation 2:

      There are some very knowledgeable people on the staffs of those Congressmen and Senators on Capitol Hill who are opposed to maintaining defense spending at current levels. They had to know what the implications were for America's future military posture vis-a-vis the Chinese if we couldn't maintain air superiority in a high intensity shooting war with a capable adversary.

      Whether these people were trying to avoid a shooting war with China by limiting our ability to successfully prosecute such a future conflict; or whether they simply thought that a shooting war with China was so far out of the realm of possibility that there was no point in spending the horrific sums of money needed to match China's growing military power, the decision to end F-22 production was in direct alignment with their policy objectives.

      OK .....

      What does all this have to do with the topic of CNO's thread, putting the cart before the horse?

      For those of us who have been around the block in gaining a consensus for specifying the requirements of a large complicated technological system, the presence of contrary agendas among user groups is one of the most difficult problems to overcome, especially if there is no one in a leadership position willing to make tough decisions in balancing one user group's perception of their needs against some other user group's perception of their needs.

      This is one pathway through which horses are transformed in carts, and carts into horses, depending upon what a particular user group's agenda happens to be, hidden or otherwise.

      Prime examples of these agenda conflicts are the LCS and the DDG-1000.

      The primary customer base for those two platforms wasn't inside the USN's surface warfare community, the primary customer base was a cabal of transformationalists inside of OSD and inside the senior civilian and uniformed leadership of DoN.

      Those people controlled the requirements management process for the LCS and the DDG-1000 end-to-end, and it was those people in OSD and in the senior leadership ranks of the USN, not the Navy's surface warfare community, who decided that the transformational carts should be placed well ahead of the operational horses.

      Why is there still such a focus on transformationalism?

      It's because the nation's senior leadership in Congress and in the Executive Branch still see transformationalism as being one of the few options we have left for keeping ourselves militarily current with the Chinese in the decades beyond 2020 in the face of lower spending priorities for national defense.

    9. Scott, well written comment! Fascinating thoughts.

      "... for the long-term future, keeping up with the Chinese militarily isn't a realistic proposition given where America is headed economically and politically, and so having, or not having, the F-22 in our quiver wouldn't matter that much in the long run." - This is strikingly similar, in reverse, to the US and Soviet Cold War situation. The Soviet Union was unable to match the US arms race and collapsed for this reason and a variety of others. I would hate to think that an American leader (Gates, in your suggestion) would come to that conclusion. In interviews I've seen with Gates, he doesn't impress me as an intelligent thinker. I'd rather believe that he simply made a bad decision. There's plenty of precedent for that! I'll have to think more about this.

      There have always been peace-at-any-price people. They are naive and dangerous but generally pretty obvious. There have always been budget hawks. They are well intentioned and conceptually correct but need careful guidance. Again, I'd like to believe these kinds of reasons rather than giving up America's future.

      The premise of the post was that strategy (the horse) must first exist in order to drive the procurement, spending, and force structure decisions and actions (the cart). Transformation was a fools' gold idea that became an action (cart) that was valued in and of itself rather than being a response to a guiding strategic need. Transformation has devastated the US military - but that's another topic. I think you're seeing a lot of incompetent, poor decisions made by a bunch of incompetent leaders and you're attributing them to an underlying master plan. I think it's far more likely that it's simple incompetence. Still, you've made me stop and think. I'll continue to ponder this. In the end, though, the result is the same regardless of the reasons why. We're ill-equipped to wage an all out war with China and our ability to do so will steadily diminish as China's capabilities steadily increase.

      Do you agree with the idea that we have no hope of matching China or do you believe we can but that we're simply going about it poorly?

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    11. B.Smitty, in addition to the fact that transformation was not tied to strategy, transformation became a goal in and of itself. The fact that it's not technologically possible to skip generations just made the disaster that much more complete. However, the problem was that transformation became its own goal, divorced from strategic need.

      This is an American cultural characteristic. We're impatient and lazy. That combination leads us to want to skip generations rather than put in the hard, grinding work required to get to the end point. The irony is that we wind up putting in the hard work anyway, just at a much greater cost and much greater time. Look at the LCS' magic module technology. We attempted to leap ahead, failed utterly, and now we're putting in the time to go through all the intermediate steps but at an enormously greater cost in money and time. Same for JSF and other programs.

      So, the ill of transformation, as you put it, is not that it's not technologically feasible (it isn't!) but that it became its own goal. We wanted (and still do) transformation because it was transformation not because it supported a strategy or need. Sadly, transformation is still alive and well.

    12. I'm back from Christmas shopping. With any luck, there will be enough money left in the bank account next week for food and fuel.


      ComNavOps: "... I think you're seeing a lot of incompetent, poor decisions made by a bunch of incompetent leaders and you're attributing them to an underlying master plan ..... "

      B.Smitty: "CNO,I don't think the ills of Transformation was that it was attempted in the absence of strategy. I think the ills of Transformation is the notion that one can "leap ahead" or "skip a generation" without incurring massive programmatic risk.


      If the situation was one of simple incompetence, we would have no problem finding solutions to our many problems with DOD's approach to doing acquisition.

      There really is no transformationalist "master plan" per se. Transformationalism is one facet of a larger philosophy for managing large-scale technology acquisition projects which says that if you can get the acquisition process just right, the end product platform or system will more or less take care of itself, regardless of how ambitious are the end-point performance objectives for that platform or that system.

      Another facet of that particular brand of techno-managment philosophy says that if we ourselves as technology project managers don't really know just what it is we are supposed to deliver, or just what is the best way to go about delivering whatever it is we think we are supposed to deliver, we can depend upon "the process" filling in all those knowledge gaps for us -- some how, some way, so that we ourselves don't have to be all that concerned that we don't have any kind of deep understanding of the systems and the platforms that are to be acquired, or even of the strategic and doctrinal contexts in which those platforms and systems are to operate.

      The actual result in many cases is that that the product becomes disconnected from the process that produced it, with the result that the "process becomes the product." For other viewpoints on this topic, see:

      Carter: Pentagon’s Acquisition System Still Not ‘Responsive’


      ComNavOps: "... Do you agree with the idea that we have no hope of matching China or do you believe we can but that we're simply going about it poorly? "


      IMHO, in the long run, it will not be possible for the United States to match what China can accomplish over the next three decades in building up a broad spectrum of Chinese military capabilities UNLESS three important things happen more-or-less simultaneously:

      1) A roughly 50% increase in defense spending occurs concurrent with DOD remaking itself into a knowledgeable customer for the platforms, the systems, the products, and the services it buys. (Doing the former without the latter will no have no positive effect.)

      2) Ultimate responsibility and accountability for the success or the failure of DOD acquisition programs is placed placed into the hands a small number of people inside DOD who employ the DOD acquisition process, the DOD support staff, and the defense contractor's own internal resources as management tools for getting the job done.

      3) The DOD acquisition process must be flexibly tailorable to the particular needs of the individual platform or system that is being acquired, with responsibility for making specific process revisions being placed into the project/program director's hands early on in the project, with concurrence from OSD as to the specific process revisions being made.

      In the absence of these measures, the US will have no other choice but to rely upon a coalition of regional nations to shoulder a very substantial fraction of the defense burden the United States now carries in the western Pacific.

  4. “””(how do we want to deal with China?)”””

    In fact we have two polices covering China, one half of our government has been working toward China increasing its money, technology and power. While the other half of government is warning of China’s money, technology and power and saying we must pivot our military to the Pacific against China. Until the government gets on one page about China any action done is going to be schizophrenic

    As to putting the cart before the horse the military had earlier put strategy first but they pushed the technology too far. It was as if the New York Yankees in their best year decided that they were not going to bother with singles, doubles, triples but only go for homeruns. The Navy/Marines were pushing "over the horizon" but instead of step by step improvement in equipment they went for trying to hit a homerun. The MV-22 was oversold and the EFV was a failure. Now they are trying to pick up the pieces and use what equipment they can get to work even if it is of dubious improvement and its hard to see where they are going to get the money for all the stuff they are asking for.

    “”””Suggestions are being floated to build armored vehicles and weapons that will fit in the MV-22 in order to better support air assaults.””””

    Don’t see how a few smaller then Humvee light armored vehicles is going to be big improvement in firepower in an air assault, it might be good for a raiding party but for every vehicle carried you need one MV-22 and that takes away from your other forces. Then again I have never thought the use of the MV-22 for deep assaults was a good idea, maybe for a quick raids against weak forces but otherwise too far from support. Even if the Navy does get its 100 mile range gun working on the Zumwalts

    “”””Torpedo capability may be removed from the design of the SSBN(X) to accommodate budget constraints.”””

    Can’t understand why this sub is as big as a Ohio class yet seems to carry less.

    1. DJF,

      The problem with the V-22 and the CH-53 is that no vehicles fit inside them apart from the small john deere "gators" and ATVs.

      HMMWVs will fit in a H-47, but not a V-22 or H-53.

      Essentially, heliborne infantry in the USMC and USA are limited to the same capability as WWI infantry once they land. And there is never enough helicopters to move more than a 3rd of the troops...


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    3. No,

      HMMWVs do not fit inside the CH-53.

      This is suppossed to be fixed by the H-53K, but by then we will have moved onto the JTLV which will not fit...

      The Army as the executive agent for the HMMWV made sure it fit inside their H-47s.

      Of course there are other vehicles that fit inside the H-47 and H-53 helicopters. The problem is that they are all non-standard issue. We got rid of the Jeep (really M151) to go with the HMMWV, effectively abandoned the HMMWV to go with the MRAP, found that we still need a smaller 4x4 so bought a bunch of JD gators, and are now contemplating JLTV which will is to big to be carried internally in any helicopter.

      The strategy of utility vehicle procurement is just one example of DoD largess.


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  5. How much of the ills of transformation were brought about by a group of congresscritters drunk on the twin cocktails of lobbyist money and technological solutions that make them look good. 'An F-35 that does everything! SWEET!' while also freeing up money for their own pork projects?

    As for our relationship to China; I know a couple policy guys out of college who think that we should avoid any sort of conflict with China at all costs due to the economic damage it would cause. So If folks like that were involved I could see them not particularly care if there is much of a hollowing of the military with regard to the ability to fight a major war.

    As to China, CNO, you brough up an idea earlier about cutting off China's trade...couldn't a possible course of action be to simply explain to China that war with our allies means war with us. And war with us means that we use our Navy and Warships to sink Chinese shipping anywhere we find it? Our carriers won't be trying to force their way into an A2/AD area. We'll be destroying your merchant marine...

    Before I went there, I did a fair amount of reading, and came away with the impression that they are as addicted to foreign trade as a heroin addict is to a next hit. If it dries up and their economy goes south their internal problems get exponential pretty quickly.

    1. Jim, did your college friends study history? Appeasement never works. In the short term we might protect our economy and save some money but in the long run we'll pay a much greater price. China is in the process of economically dominating us and laying claim to the entire South and East China Seas and we are meekly going along. China makes an illegal claim to an air defense zone and our response is to tell the airlines to avoid the area? That just encourages China to make further land grabs. China is in the process of seizing islands from Japan and Philippines and we're standing aside and allowing it. This is not a political blog so I'm not going any further with this other than to reiterate that appeasement encourages aggression from the people we seek to appease.

      Regarding China's dependence on trade, why do you think China hasn't yet seized Taiwan? At the moment, China feels they're getting more from the benefits of trade than they would get from the seizure of Taiwan. That won't last. At some point, as the US grows continually weaker, China will feel they can have both. They'll seize Taiwan, announce they peace and a negotiated settlement, and the US will continue trading out of a desire to appease China and avoid economic damage. It won't be long before China will be dictating trade terms to us (actually, they pretty much already are!). China is quite content to take the long view and why not? They're already accomplishing everything they want.

  6. One thing I've never quite understood. Scott says we won't be able to match the Chinese without a 50% increase in defense spending... But according to the economist:

    Now, I realize that those numbers might be for past budgets, but they probably still aren't hugely off. We spend roughly $682 bill in defense spending to their $166 bill. Even with the sequester that means that with a 1/3 split our Navy has more money than their *military*.

    Where is it all going? Overhead (paying and feeding people)? Legacy costs (pensions, etc.)? Maintanence on old equipment?

    Or are the numbers wrong and China is using it's closed economy to hide extra spending?

    I'm just astounded when China or Russia, at a fraction of our defense spending, seem able to field killer fighters and capable frigates but we can't develop or afford either.

    Are we that horribly inefficient?

    1. Jim, one could write books about the "true" costs of military spending. Look at the raging debates about the cost of LCS or JSF. The costs depend on what factors one chooses to include. Trying to compare costs between countries is many times more difficult. Chinese military spending is skewed by artificially low labor rates and a host of other factors. One can say anything one wants to produce any conclusion. Personally, I look at what's being produced rather than the reported costs. I can't address land or air forces but China is outproducing us by quite a bit in naval forces. They're cranking out ships, weapons, etc. at a pace far greater than we are. One can debate the quality of what they're producing, perhaps, but they are on track to produce a large, diverse, modern naval force whose capabilities are growing daily. Whether they're doing that for more money or less than us is irrelevant. At the moment, we're not matching them. Can they sustain that pace? Who knows.

    2. ComNavOps correctly points out that it is not possible to use monetary figures in comparing what the Chinese spend on national defense as opposed to what we in the US spend on defense.

      The Chinese are taking a measured step-by-step approach in assembling the many parts and pieces of an industrial base which is capable of supporting any directions they want to pursue in developing and deploying advanced military equipment.

      They are not quite there yet; but in a decade or so, they will be well on their way towards having a military industrial complex which is as capable as our own in producing advanced military systems, especially if they can master the arts of systems analysis and systems integration, and to pursue those two vital arts faster and more efficiently than we can.

      The US is gradually losing its long-standing advantage in its ability to quickly respond to the kinds of technological and doctrinal improvements in warfighting systems which are gradually being acquired by potential adversaries.

      Simply put, the Chinese get a lot more for the money they spend on national defense than we do.

      In the last two decades, the Chinese have trained a massively diverse work force covering a variety of technical and industrial specialties, a work force which can be used as a recruiting base for the best and the brightest in technology, in systems analysis, and in program/project management.

      The way we do things in America, because of the massive investment in program/ project overhead that must be devoted to our system development efforts -- and which is often not recoverable if a program or project fails -- there is little or no margin for error in producing a platform or a system, either technically or managerially.

      But in China, they can afford to experiment with a variety of technical and doctrinal approaches to designing and fielding their military platforms and systems.

      If any particular approach doesn't work out in practice, the Chinese haven't got so much invested in that approach that they can't afford to call it quits and move on to something else that might work out better for them in the long run.

      Moreover, in China, the lessons they learn from every failed effort are carried forward into their next attempt; as opposed to what we do here in the US, which is to make the same mistakes over and over and over again.

      Once the Chinese are able to successfully combine their broad diversity of technical and managerial skills with the technological and operational knowledge base they are now gradually acquiring, they will have no peer in their ability to field of a variety of advanced military systems.


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