Monday, November 30, 2020

Weapon System or Jobs Program?

As we’ve so thoroughly demonstrated, our professional military has forgotten what real war is and is no longer producing weapon systems based on combat effectiveness.  Instead, other factors have become paramount in weapon system design and acquisition.  The F-35, for example, was clearly designed as a jobs program and accounting exercise rather than a truly effective combat system.  The LCS very quickly demonstrated that it was not an effective combat system and yet production continues, even today.  Why?  Jobs program.

 

Here’s an example that demonstrates that this phenomenon is not limited to the US.  Below is a graphic advertising the Franco-British Maritime Mine Counter Measures (MMCM) project.(1)  Note what system attribute is displayed with the largest typeface number.  That’s right, it’s a claim that the project will support 215 jobs.

 




The West has pretty much abandoned any pretense that it is designing combat systems.  Instead, it’s designing jobs programs or accounting projects or budget balancing exercises or public relations demonstrations.  Of course, if the project just happens to have some actual military value … well … that’s a bonus but it’s not a requirement.

 

 

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(1)Naval News website, “MMCM Program Enters Manufacture Stage with Initial Production Contract Award”, Nathan Gain, 26-Nov-2020,

https://www.navalnews.com/naval-news/2020/11/uks-mmcm-program-enters-manufacture-stage-with-initial-production-contract-award/


29 comments:

  1. One of the big changes of programs in the old days and now, I think is probably the idea of brochures itself. When you have to bring brochures out to defend it, this kinda demonstrated the program is pretty bad. Of course, this maybe the side effects of the modern world but you just don't see the same thing with other relatively well managed programs by any branches. But the idea of brochure itself is to provide information for people who don't know much about the program. Considering every recent acquisitions, I fear that our leaders might not be doing their own research.

    I couldn't also find any brochures to older defense programs so I have to wonder if they do exist. If they do, I would love to see one. That being said, wouldn't you love to see war fighting-focused and firepower types of brochures? That would be amazing to behold!

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  2. Sad, but true.

    If we ever have to fight another war against a near-peer opponent, we are in trouble. We'll be relying on older systems that actually work and watching the new toys sit pierside or go to the bottom with the loss of much of their crew.

    Why?

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    1. In case of war, sailors will sink the LCS ships pier-side and blame whoever, just to be safe.

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  3. The F-35 built-in-every-state gimmick would have been enough reason to nuke the entire program since it was an unbelievably blatant attempt at pressuring Congress.

    So, of course, it received all the money.

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    1. That is however predicable.

      The defense budge is the largest batch of regular US government discretionary funding of stuff... Science and reserch funding is flat and tiny by comparison. Infrastructure only sporadicly gets big investments and lacking long term maintenance to go with is long term job creator. Nobody seems likely to restore things like ship building cost adjustments to combat the subsidies of all the leading ship building nations, and with the depreciation of ear marks that leaves the Pentagon the biggest provider of such essentially.

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  4. Maybe, the drydocks could be self-propelled and could cruise up and down the coast, so every state could claim jobs creation. I don't see the US Navy investing in them otherwise.
    Additionally, maybe the paint used on ships should be less effective so the ships need to be painted more frequently. Imagine the brochure extolling the increase in painters and needle gun operators. Maybe Tempra paint?

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  5. If we are going to have jobs programs, let's get some useful things from the programs.
    Make some floating drydocks to take over for the land based drydocks that need to be repaired. Repair and improve the land based drydocks. Then tow the floating drydocks to Guam, Attu Island and other ports in the western pacific.

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    1. Good take, Mr. Woltman. Taken a step or twenty further, ask The Skipper, since Ford Class CVNs are not mission capable, we might just be able to flip the purpose of the Ford (and unneeded Nimitz) Class CVNs to dockside offices where the women and oh-so-tender men of US NAVAIR can play pretend aviation-sailors. They frequently refuse to deploy anyway. Also, we have a significant number of existing CVNs anyway, Nimitz class, which are so undermanned along with their airwings as to be not intended-mission capable. I'm sure our Skipper here could think of a million things you could use CVNs for besides mothballs and/or rust. Equip them with cranes, find a way to cool their reactors and they could provide all the electricity, water and fuel storage for all the various elements you'd need in ship repair, maybe even ship-breaking. They could be hospital ships, or who's to say there isn't some oil exploration-platform use they could be put too? If CVNs were re-purposed.

      Bit of a revelation to me, but since we built such a tremendous number of ships that don't fit their intended purpose, why not re-purpose them? They're platforms for lots of things that aren't war. T scrap them seems crazy.

      Whatcha think, Skip?

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  6. We send money to the Feds. They take a cut, add some strings, and the states act like its a gift from on high.

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  7. Better to say ATM of politicians and well-connected.

    Not just in Navy, recently, Army is forced take more CH-47 by Congress despite it doesn't want more.

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  8. If anyone hasn't seen it yet, the Navy is scraping USS Bonhomme Richards. Hey maybe at least, we could dismantle the ship in 7 different ports and utilize the scrap metals in 22 different states. More jobs for everyone!

    https://news.usni.org/2020/11/30/navy-will-scrap-uss-bonhomme-richard

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  9. I was going to write this morning about how much China is escalating it's punishment of Australia. But today it escalated again by state controlled media, they are threatening Australian warships with attack.

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    1. Yeah, they threaten US warships a couple of times a month. Friendly, peaceful world neighbors, aren't they?

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  10. What I was going to write was yesterday Chinese Minster for External Affairs posted a false picture of an Australian soldier slitting the throat of a baby.

    Plus 200% tarrifs on Australian wines.

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  11. At only 215 jobs, that's not much of a jobs program. But your point is well taken. As long as congress gets to push special interest components of defense spending bills, we are going to have the defense not that we need, but that lobbying money can buy.

    I don't really see a solution outside of having key political leaders (Pres, SecDef, Senate and House party leadership) who truly understand the realities and vote for the best interests of the country instead of the best interests of themselves.

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  12. Hate to beat a dead horse, but it seems to me that a lot of the problem is that we don't have a grand strategy, and without that it is impossible to know what tactics we are going to employ to implement it, or what we need to achieve those tactics.

    So what is our goal with China? To allow it to dominate? To invade and conquer it? To limit/restrict it and let internal problems tear itself down, as with the USSR? To allow it to proceed to a point and then stop it--and if so what point and how to stop it?

    We had a clearly defined approach with the Soviet Union--contain it and eventually its systems would fail. That strategy led us to some stupid moves--like Vietnam--but in the end it worked. The world had 4-5 decades of unprecedented growth and prosperity and eventually the USSR crumbled under the weight of its own systemic failures. Can we do that with China? I think yes, but by no means am I certain. But if we are to do that, we can't wait much longer.

    One big difference between China and the USSR is that we were never dependent upon the USSR for such a significant portion of our economy. We simply didn't trade with them. I don't see any way that we can shut down trade with China cold turkey, but I do think it is in our self interest to bring some stuff back from there and to farm out other stuff to nations that may be friendlier.

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    1. "We had a clearly defined approach with the Soviet Union--contain it and eventually its systems would fail."

      To be fair, I don't think that was actually our strategy. Having lived through that period, I don't recall anyone ever saying that our strategy was to contain and wait for economic collapse. The stated strategy was containment backed by a strong defense against an invasion into Europe.

      The economic collapse was a fortuitous development and, towards the end of the Cold War there was some discussion of trying to force the Soviets to match our 'Star Wars' spending but that was almost an after-the-fact rationale.

      Given that the Cold War began in 1947, or so, and lasted until the collapse in 1991, the idea of economic collapse was only valid in the last few years. The Soviet Union collapsed less from economic decline and more to internal revolutions among the alliance states as a result of Gorbachev's glasnost policies that had the unintended consequence of encouraging 'freedom' revolutions.

      Certainly, the oil market collapse in the 1980s increased the pressure on the Soviet Union that led to Gorbachev and his policies but, again, that was never an intentional aspect of our Cold War strategy, as far as I could see.

      The Soviet Union lasted fifty years and China appears to be in much better economic shape. Waiting for China to economically collapse seems like a forlorn hope especially if we aren't willing to completely sever trade ties and greatly increase the pressure on China. We would be better served to formulate a very strong defensive strategy which would serve as a much more effective deterrent than the now clearly discredited 'presence' policy which has proven utterly ineffective.

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    2. "So what is our goal with China?"

      There isn't one.

      It depends on which party controls Congress, who is POTUS, whatever the courts want, the media-induced frenzy du jour, whether there's an election approaching or not, enormously powerful foreign lobbies, etc.

      China, not being a democracy, can pick a long-term strategy and execute it, which is why they're closing the gap fast.

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    3. "To be fair, I don't think that was actually our strategy. Having lived through that period, I don't recall anyone ever saying that our strategy was to contain and wait for economic collapse. The stated strategy was containment backed by a strong defense against an invasion into Europe."

      I think our stated strategy was containment, and the economic collapse turned out to be the inevitable result. I'm not sure anybody in 1947 said, "Contain them until their economy collapses." But I'm pretty sure that along the way we figured out if the containment held the economic collapse would surely follow.

      "The Soviet Union lasted fifty years and China appears to be in much better economic shape. Waiting for China to economically collapse seems like a forlorn hope especially if we aren't willing to completely sever trade ties and greatly increase the pressure on China. We would be better served to formulate a very strong defensive strategy which would serve as a much more effective deterrent than the now clearly discredited 'presence' policy which has proven utterly ineffective."

      Agree mostly. China is clearly stronger economically than at the Soviet Union ever was, although there are some definite weak spots in their economy. And the current policy of military "presence" with growing economic dependence is clearly not working. I still think a strong containment policy on the order of NATO post-WWII would eventually force their economy to fail. Containing them for 50 years without firing a shot and seeing them ultimately collapse economically sounds to me like a huge win.

      We have two choices--let China have the first island chain, sooner or later, and defend what's left, or contest China at the first island chain. I don't see any sort of an offensive action against the Chinese mainland as viable. But they still don't have the first island chain at this point, and until they do I think there is a chance of stopping them before they do. And our problem with China gets a lot harder if they control the first island chain. But while I think there is a military element--and it has to be a lot more tangible than the occasional FONOPS--there also needs to be a significant economic element.

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    4. "I still think a strong containment policy"

      The problem is that China has learned from the Soviet Union. They are slowly annexing territory - they've annexed the entire E/S China Seas in a brilliant fait accompli - and doing it in a way that provides no means for us to 'contain' them. They have acquired bases around the world and done so legally, if not ethically. We cannot contain legal acquisitions. China is also stopping just short of actions that would provoke a direct or indirect military conflict. Again, nothing to contain.

      So, unless they opt to do something stupid, your containment strategy cannot work since there is nothing to contain. Now, if we choose to recognize the non-kinetic war that is currently happening and decide to engage, then, yes, we can bring powerful economic forces to bear but there is just about zero chance of that happening given current realities. For example, and without getting too political, Trump started to retaliate against China with some success, however, Biden will likely look to re-establish relations with China which will mean putting the US back at a disadvantage so … no containment. In fact, we'll wind up partially funding their continued expansion.

      Even with our full engagement, China isn't helpless. They have immense resources of their own and they are working diligently and quite successfully at acquiring the resources they lack internally. They are setting up long term leases and acquisitions of territory and companies to provide the resources they lack. The day is swiftly coming when even our complete engagement won't mean much to them.

      Containment might have been an option several decades ago but it no longer is in any realistic scenario. I know you strongly favor this approach but it's already far too late. They've already breached containment.

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    5. Well, they've certainly impaired containment significantly with things like their Belt and Road Initiative. But I don't see Chinese flags flying over the Philippines or Vietnam or Malaysia or Singapore or Indonesia--or even Taiwan--yet. We simply don't have any coherent strategy for dealing with them that I can ascertain.

      And any strategic approach is, of course, complicated by our multinationals' choosing to source so much of their supply chains there. Bottom line is that that is probably a greater impediment to any rational policy than anything on the military side.

      A lot of China's acquisitions in South Asia and East Africa seem to have the clear intent of giving them basing rights for a fleet to protect their inbound oil shipments (and perhaps outbound export shipments to Europe, Africa, and South America). The elephant in that room, literally, is India. If we can firm up an alliance with India, we can give China serious problems with any supply chains to or from the west.

      We have had our heads down trying to achieve a military solution in the Middle East while China has outflanked us pretty badly economically. I don't see the situation as totally lost yet, as you seem to, but I clearly think we are in the process of losing it. And I don't think our foreign policy is about to take any direction that will reverse that.

      We cannot contain legal acquisitions, true. But we can oppose them.

      China has some significant weaknesses, economically, militarily, and demographically. But without some viable strategic concept, we may end up all needing to learn Chinese.

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    6. "India"

      India could, certainly, be a key player and China, recognizing this, has already made inroads towards isolating and neutralizing India. China's legal annexation of the Sri Lanka port of Hambantota under a 99 year lease was a master stroke. Sri Lanka's relocation of their naval base to that Chinese controlled port tells us pretty much everything we need to know about Sri Lanka's alignment. China has, for all practical purposes annexed Sri Lanka or, at least, the only portion of it that matters.

      The Philippines are in the process of being slowly annexed via politics, intimidation, and emigration. Chinese vessels have maintained a continuous presence in Philippine claimed waters - again, a fait accompli that is slowly expanding. Led by President Duterte, Philippine is being slowly annexed.

      Vietnam is being intimidated with frequent military incursions into their territorial waters.

      Malaysia lies somewhere between neutral and friendly towards China, having purchased military goods from China and engaged in several major projects while occasionally accusing the US of destabilizing the region. China, has promoted cooperation along with the 'stick' of stationing warships inside Malaysia's EEZ. China is also sponsoring emigration to Malaysia to tip the population balance towards Chinese.

      Singapore is a strong supporter of China albeit with occasional clashes.

      Indonesia maintains friendly relations with China though not without the usual clashes over EEZ rights. China has invested heavily in Indonesia and financed major projects. Indonesia has an increasingly negative view of the US.

      So, none of those countries are wholly annexed yet but all are moving in that direction and all appear far more pro-Chinese than pro-American.

      "China has some significant weaknesses"

      You know, the Chinese could easily say the same about the US which has a declining military, some glaring strategic resource vulnerabilities, severe political splits among the populace, increasingly socialist leaning tendencies, and mammoth debt that is bound to cripple the country in the not too distant future. China may well believe that if they can contain the US and apply economic pressure, we'll collapse. It would be amusingly ironic if China had the same strategy in mind for us as you have for China!

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    7. Nations choose to align with US or China as they seek their own benefits. If we cannot provide enough benefits to them, there is no point to talk "American values".

      Back to navy force. US needs to be able to provide protections to allies. At the same time, China needs to prevent US from punishing nations doing businesses with her. Philippines under Duterte chooses to do businesses with China while reject US navy to use its territory. If China cannot protect Philippines, then, sooner or later, the nation will turn to US.

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    8. "Malaysia lies somewhere between neutral and friendly towards China, having purchased military goods from China and engaged in several major projects while occasionally accusing the US of destabilizing the region. China, has promoted cooperation along with the 'stick' of stationing warships inside Malaysia's EEZ. China is also sponsoring emigration to Malaysia to tip the population balance towards Chinese."


      Yes and no. The current PN coalition government will pivot towards China, despite the Malay supremacist and Islamist rhethoric it puts out, because China will turn a blind eye to its corruption and racism in exchange for basing and resources. Malaysia is in an uncomfortable position where the military is not keen on China, but the government is:

      https://www.malaysiandefence.com/keris-mixing-it-up-in-the-scs/

      It should also be noted that Malaysia's arms purchases from China were four Littoral Mission Ships, and it is still eyeing Western suppliers for its weapons needs.

      High volume of Chinese immigration to tip the population balance towards the Chinese isn't really going to work out well. The Malays are still over 75% of the population, depending on whose census figures you believe. The apartheid system in Malaysia means that anybody who isn't Malay is going to be economically and socially disadvantaged; the best these chinese immigrants can expect will be PRC enclaves in what are effectively autonomous regions granted by Muhiyiddin to China, carrying on from Najib's currying of favor with Xi. The Malaysian Chinese themselves don't like Mainlander Chinese, contrary to western ideas of a unified Chinese hivemind.

      ...as an aside, Thailand is an amusing case - as a Thai friend of mine put it, the Thai Army has pivoted away from China to be American-leaning, while the Thai Navy are now pivoting towards China.


      "Singapore is a strong supporter of China albeit with occasional clashes."

      Yes and no. Singapore's foreign policy relies on China and the United States balancing each other to maintain the status quo, but it generally favors the US more. Don't underestimate the institutional distrust and dislike of communist regimes in SEA. The problem is that Singapore doesn't see the US as a completely reliable and consistent ally, and therefore has to balance supporting the US with the risk of the US bailing, leaving China close by and very ticked off. Singapore would much rather support the US, but China is a lot closer, and US foreign policy is quite short term, given the changes in focus of each administration.

      That said, Singapore hosts a full on USN logistics presence at Changi Naval Base, something that it has not extended towards China, and regularly trains with US forces: half of the RSAF is stationed in the US for training and attending Red Flag.

      In movie terms, Singapore is that guy who wants to testify against the mob, but lives two blocks away from the mob boss.

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    9. "China may well believe that if they can contain the US and apply economic pressure, we'll collapse."

      That's pretty much what China is doing, playing the long game since the current trend strongly favors her.
      Why risk a shooting war in 2020 when the balance of power will be very different in 2040, assuming America hasn't "pulled out" by then?

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    10. " protect their inbound oil shipments"

      I note that the Myanmar-China overland oil pipeline is now operating and has a capacity of 12M tonnes/yr with a planned expansion to 22M tonnes/yr. This allows China to bypass the Malacca Strait, thus reducing its vulnerability to blockade.

      The opportunity for containment has passed.

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    11. "I note that the Myanmar-China overland oil pipeline is now operating and has a capacity of 12M tonnes/yr with a planned expansion to 22M tonnes/yr. This allows China to bypass the Malacca Strait, thus reducing its vulnerability to blockade."

      1 ton equals roughly 24 Bbl, so 22 million tons/year equals about 522 million barrels, or a little less that 1.5MMBbl/day. China currently imports around 8MMBbl/day, of which about 15% comes from Russia. With a second Russian pipeline, that would go up to around 30% (2.4MMBbl/day). So between Russia and Myanmar, about half its imports would come by pipe. But it still has to get the Myanmar imports to Myanmar. That means it avoids Malacca, but it still has to get around India. And there has to be a pretty extensive port and unloading facility in Myanmar, which would be an inviting target in wartime.

      "The opportunity for containment has passed."

      Not passed, but it has gotten more difficult and continues to get more difficult every day. China is currently badly outflanking us with economic spheres of influence, and we are doing a pretty wretched job of opposing them. Maybe we lack the will to stop them. If so, it's going to be a bad next century. If not, then it is time to get on the stick. Well past time, actually.

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    12. "So between Russia and Myanmar,"

      You're missing so many points about this but the biggest picture point is that China is steadily reducing its oil vulnerability which means it is steadily reducing the effectiveness of your war plan (setting aside my opinion of that). You need to get the war started soon or you'll lose your main strategic objective!

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  13. While boast generating jobs in 48 states, this slows down F-35's developments which cost dearly. I have experiences (civilian side) on multiple sides doing similar things. Sites fight for dominance with numerous corporate politic based teleconferences full of strifes.

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