Tag Archives: budget

US Army Leaders Give Subordinates Just Weeks to Cut Staffs, Budgets by 25 Percent

The Secretary of the Army and the Army Chief of Staff have given their staffs just weeks — until Sept. 11 — to report back with “a comprehensive set of recommendations” as to where the service can make 25 percent cuts in funding and manning levels at all Army headquarters elements at the 2-star level and above.

The “2013 Army Focus Area Review Group” plan was spelled out in an August 14 Army document obtained by Defense News.

In some of the strongest language yet about how seriously Army leadership is taking the cuts, the memo bluntly says that “Let there be no mistake, aggregate reductions WILL TAKE PLACE. The money is gone; our mission now is to determine how best to allocate these cuts while maintaining readiness. We expect Army leaders, military and civilian, to seize this opportunity

to re-shape our Army. This effort will take PRIORITY OVER ALL other Headquarters, Department of the Army activities.”

The Group is being led by Deputy Undersecretary of the Army Thomas Hawley and head of Army’s Office of Business Transformation Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr. The memo states that the group will have seven “Focus Area” teams, each tasked with developing “bold executable recommendations which will be used to balance the already directed reductions” in the budget projections from 2015-2019. The initial focus areas are:

■ Institutional Headquarters Reductions

■ Operational Headquarters Reductions

■ Operational Force Structure and Ramps

■ Readiness

■ Acquisition Work Force

■ Installation Services and Investments

■ Army C31 [sic] and Cyber

via US Army Leaders Give Subordinates Just Weeks to Cut Staffs, Budgets by 25 Percent | Defense News | defensenews.com.

I think the very first thing I’d do is close anything named even remotely like Office of Business Transformation and get rid of that 3-star slot.

On the institutional side, we’ve already seen the Armor Center and the Infantry Center consolidated to the Maneuver Center. I can think of some other arms and services that might consolidate as well.

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Now’s not the time for slash and burn

At least, not when it comes to active duty troop levels.

One of my frustrations when frequenting Milblogs with a naval or air centric theme is that in tough budget times, the authors and commentariat are quick to offer up ground forces on the budget alter. “Oh, put the bulk of ground forces in the reserves!”

Well, here’s the thing. In the almost seven decades since the end of World War II, we’ve found ourselves time and again involved in manpower intensive ground combat.

Recently, retired Admiral Gary Roughead and defense analyst Kori Schake published a paper from the Brookings institution recommending that, in effect, all the looming budget cuts in DoD should come from the Army, and that the Navy and Air Force should see their funding levels maintained.

First, thanks guys, for validating the suspicion many of us harbored that AirSea Battle wasn’t a doctrine, but political maneuvering to preserve Navy/Air Force budgets. One can hardly fault a former Chief of Naval Operations for being a tad proprietary when it comes to his service’s budget.*

But to wave your hands and pronounce that henceforth, wars will be high technology affairs with little or no need for manpower intensive operations is to ignore not just the last seven decades of history, but all of history.

Comes now Steve Metz and Douglas Lovelace, arguing that, like it or not, we still need ground troops.

It would be nice if the United States could simply opt out of all messy conflicts, but it cannot. Global connectivity means that conflict in any part of the world has cascading effects. These are most intense in neighboring states or regions as combatants, refugees, money, disorder, crime, and weapons flow back and forth, but in most cases will spread even further. The recent conflict in Libya shows this contagion effect, when there is no sustainable security following the defeat of an enemy regime. In the future, major conflicts anywhere will affect the global and American economies, increasing commodity prices, disrupting the supply of goods and services, and creating uncertainty. U.S. economic growth will depend, in part, on whether the global economy is generally stable or conflict-ridden. This will make it difficult or impossible for the United States to totally avoid major conflicts (although it does not mean the U.S. will intervene militarily in every major conflict). The profusion of global diasporas will also make it politically difficult to ignore major crises or conflicts.

Now, Metz and Lovelace are not unbiased, either. They work for the Army War College at the Strategic Studies Institute.  But they’re quite right that in spite of all our efforts to avoid messy operations on the ground, we seem to always end up there.

I’ll grant that one reason we tend to fight land wars is that in recent history, our naval power has been so overwhelming as to effectively preclude a naval war. And I do fully support the nation keeping a strong, forward naval presence throughout those areas of the world that hold our strategic interest. But the Navy has done poorly at managing the relatively strong support it has received. That’s not to say the Army has done much better, but before the Navy and the Air Force raid the Army’s budget, maybe they ought to consider which branch has born the brunt of the nation’s fighting for the past 70 years.

 

*We’d be a lot more sympathetic if his term as CNO hadn’t been such a goatrope in terms of shipbuilding.

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The Conservative Wahoo: Why the GOP is Sticking to Its Guns on Sequestration

Former George W. Bush speechwriter and current slightly-right-of-center pundit/gadfly David Frum posted a Tweet a few hours ago that referenced his article “American Hawks: Behaving Badly” in Canada’s National Post. It caught my attention, as I have recently been deluged by questions from those on the left of the seeming hypocrisy of the GOP, claiming to be pro-defense while at the same time participating in a process that will so clearly weaken the military. Seeing David Frum pick up this line of argument is not surprising to me, as he appears these days to make his bread from a continuous string of articles and appearances that can best be summed up as saying “Republicans would be much better off if they thought and acted like Democrats”.

That said, Frum (and others) raises a good point, one that has to be addressed. Why would GOP legislators be prepared to allow the sequester to continue and accelerate the ongoing hollowing of the U.S. military?

via The Conservative Wahoo: Why the GOP is Sticking to Its Guns on Sequestration.

I had planned on writing about sequestration and its impact on the DoD last night, but as it turns out, Bryan McGrath has already done that for me.

A few thoughts on the implementation. If you didn’t notice, one of the major concerns about sequestration has been that between it, and the fact that DoD is operating under a Continuing Resolution, DoD has virtually no authority to shift funds from one account to another.

This is by design. The sequestration was a compromise to avoid the fiscal cliff. As such, both sides strove to impose political costs on the other should sequestration actually come to pass. The GOP strove to minimize any possible loopholes that would render it toothless. The Democratic party strove to  make any cuts to budgets as painful to GOP interests as possible. Fully half of the sequestration cuts come from DoD, which the Dems figured the hawkish GOP would move heaven and earth to avoid, lest they be called soft on defense.

Having said that, there was some discretion in how the cuts were to be made.  While the sequester law calls for across the board cuts among all DoD accounts, it also allows the President to exempt certain accounts, provided the dollar amount exempted is made up elsewhere. For instance, the funding for personnel was, by law, to be cut by the same amount as any other. The President, however, has already signaled to Congress that he has exempted that account (otherwise, troops would either have to be summarily discharged, or go without pay). This was expected. But that dollar amount has to come from somewhere. With most of the procurement and R&D budgets already obligated during the first half of the Fiscal Year, virtually the only accounts left to raid were the various Operations and Maintenance accounts.  These are big accounts, larger than the R&D and procurement budgets, th0ugh smaller than the personnel accounts.

Worse yet, DoD, via the White House, ordered the services to assume that sequester would not be implemented. Modest savings that might have been made in the first half of the year were not to be had.

In the short term, the effects will be awful. As Esli noted, his battalion simply won’t be able to roll any tracked vehicles for the rest of the year. No training above the squad level will take place.  Having just finished a rotation at the National Training Center, the highly perishable skills they have will quickly atrophy. And indeed, the frustrations of many of the best and brightest will cause them to leave the service, in spite of the daunting civilian job market.

Worse, short term savings tend to have long term costs. The disruptions in depot level maintenance for major systems will mean the lifetimes of several platforms will be shortened. Replacement costs for those platforms will have to be paid sooner rather than later.

But as Bryan notes, for all the doom and gloom, it’s not the end of the world. The immediate impact this year is bad, but next year won’t be quite as bad.

Further, and more importantly, the GOP (and I!) see the explosive growth in government as the true threat to the United States. Our federal spending is 40% higher than it was in 2007.  Do you really feel like you’re getting 40% better government?  The effective taxation rate is currently running at about 25%, which is above the long term historical average of 20%, and history suggests it cannot long remain that high. Borrowing to fund this massive increase in government cannot go on forever.

Americans have always asked its servicemen and women to make great sacrifices in the defense of our nation. And this is one more. And it may be the most important one yet.

Because if we can’t get our obscene addiction to spending under control, there soon won’t be a Republic worth defending.

 

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Information Dissemination: Sequester Looms: Congress Adjourns, President Golfs

One might think that the language of dire pain coming out of Washington last week would have been sufficient to steel our elected officials for the hard work of figuring out how to reverse their collective rectal/cranial inversion. Instead, everyone left town (though the President is back).

For a couple of weeks now, I’ve been waving the red flag over my sense that DoD has become blatantly politicized by an Administration wishing to use it as a cudgel to achieve its broader policy goals, primarily that of additional revenue. Additionally, there can be no question that the pure joy of appearing more pro-defense than the House Republican Caucus is good for several smiles a day in the White House Press Corps briefing room. This battle is a two-fer for the White House, and in the process, they have hung the Service Chiefs out to dry–men who wittingly or unwittingly (I cannot say for sure) resisted what every bone in their body told them was the right thing to do (plan for the unthinkable).

via Information Dissemination: Sequester Looms: Congress Adjourns, President Golfs.

It’s been an open secret for months that the White House has prohibited DoD and the services from making any plans to deal with sequestration budget cuts.

As a practical matter, the only place in the DoD budget to make cuts is in the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) budget.  And since we’re about halfway through the Fiscal Year, the effect of cutting the budget by $8.6 billion is vastly amplified, because there is only about $20 billion remaining in that budget.

That raises the other disaster that is rapidly approaching the DoD-  the Continuing Resolution. The CR, which basically hands the services money, but only based on past budgets, gives the Pentagon no authority to shift money from one account to another. It’s forcing the services to go through what should be a fairly mild cash crunch wearing a straight jacket, with near catastrophic short term impacts, and deep and lingering long term impacts.

Having said that, I’m in the “let it burn” camp.

Yes, sequestration and the CR will have terrible effects on the DoD. But failure to  ever begin to reign in federal spending, somewhere, somehow, will all too soon render the country unworthy of defense.

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U.S. Army Starts Making Hard Funding Choices – Defense News

The failure of the last Congress to pass a budget is having some pretty serious consequences for the Army.

There are two ways the CR hinders Army budgeting. For its operation and maintenance accounts, the Army simply doesn’t have enough money to cover its bills. In its investment accounts, which include procurement, the service lacks the authority to shift money to the programs that need it.

To keep funding high-priority programs, such as the various efforts to help families cope with the emotional and physical effects of war, the Army will have to shift base-operations funding.

If the Army has to operate under a Continuing Resolution (CR), there’s the obvious problem that funding won’t go up, but continue at previous levels.  At a time when the federal budget has expanded at explosive rates, the DoD is being told it will be the first department to suffer. That’s the usual pattern.

And there are two flavors of CR, the 30 day variant, and the 12 month.  The Army has had to operate under a series of 30 day CRs for a while now. So basically they have no idea if they’ll have any money for more than a month. It’s hard to plan when you have no idea if you’ll have any money next month…

But the real problem isn’t the total dollar amount. The problem is the way the money is structured. The Army has separate accounts for various purposes. And under the terms of the CRs, they can’t shift money from one account to another. The article mentions funding for buying Humvees versus rebuilding some.  The Army would prefer to rebuild vehicles in the fleet rather than buy new. But because the money is in different accounts, it can’t without further Congressional authority. And the problems with contracting for new equipment aren’t just limited to the Army. When the Army can’t sign contracts for upgrades and new equipment, they also cause the contractors problems. Boeing doesn’t know when or if it will get contracts for helicopters, so it either has to pay its subcontractors with its own money, or not pay them at all. That increases costs and makes the acquisition process more expensive.

The failure of the last Congress is causing direct harm to readiness. And there likely isn’t much the new Congress can do to reverse that harm. But it can fulfill its fiduciary duty and pass a reasonable budget this year.

via U.S. Army Starts Making Hard Funding Choices – Defense News.

Via War News Updates

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What’s next for Marine Armor?

With the cancellation of the Marines Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, the Marines are faced with the challenge of what to do to replace or upgrade their existing fleet of amphibious assault vehicles.

The Marines face a two part challenge. First, they need a vehicle that can swim in the ocean and in surf conditions without swamping or otherwise sinking, and do so from a respectable distance out at sea. That vehicle has to be able to transition from a seagoing vessel to a  fighting vehicle on the move as it crawls out of the water. The Marines simply must maintain the ability to roll from the sea to the beach and beyond to the initial objectives. At a minimum, they need to be able to move far enough inland to secure a lodgment big enough to keep the main beaches out from under artillery fire.

The other problem the Marines face is that they are a light force, with very limited assault shipping available, and yet they need sufficient armored vehicles to mount most of their force under armor once ashore. We’ve seen that in todays environment of IEDs and mines that mounting troops in trucks or other light skinned vehicles is not really an option. The operational and political costs of losing troops that way is just too high. But given the high cost of armored amphibious assault vehicles, and the weight and space limitations they face, mounting the entire infantry forces of a Marine brigade in amphibious vehicles isn’t really an option either. So it looks like the Marines might try to go with a two tiered approach to vehicles.

First, they are going to start a follow-on program from the ashes of the EFV. The linked article sure makes it sound like the Marines are hoping the new program will simply be EFV by another name. If so, they are going to get their feelings severely hurt. The country’s finances aren’t going to be in any shape to afford such a costly fleet of vehicles any time soon. But if the Marines can work with industry to provide a somewhat more modest vehicle, they may well be able to come up with the funds for a goodly sized amphibious assault vehicle fleet.

The other part of the equation is a program that has quietly been cooking along on the back burner, The Marine Personnel Carrier.

The Marine Corps has established a requirement for a new Marine Personnel Carrier (MPC), an advanced generation eight-wheeled armored personnel carrier that would provide general support lift to marine infantry in the ground combat element based maneuver task force. The MPC requirement is shaped to provide a balance of performance, protection and payload in order to set the conditions for fielding a combat vehicle that will be effective across the range of military operations.

If an 8-wheeled armored vehicle with advanced digital electronics and a remotely operated .50 cal weapon station sounds an awful lot like a Stryker to you, well, that’s the same though that popped into my head. Go read the link, and you’ll notice that the MPC, while able to cross inland waters and streams, doesn’t say anything about beaching from the sea. That’s because it won’t be expected to. Its job will be the follow on fighting after the initial lodgment ashore is secured.

We’ve focused on Marine landing vehicles here a bit lately, but it is important to remember, our friends the Sea Soldiers don’t have any intentions of making landings purely by vehicle. Each amphibious group that transports Marines also has a big old helicopter carrier assigned to it. The Marines have a robust helicopter capability, and they intend to make the most of it.

So while parts of the landing team are churning their way ashore in amtracs, another portion of the force will be landing by helicopter behind the beaches. The Marines will try to land on the least defended beaches available, and the troops landed by helicopter will have the mission of blocking enemy forces from reinforcing those beaches, preventing artillery from reaching the beaches, and even attacking toward the beaches to take existing defenders from the rear. Once the initial lodgment is secured, the Marines can use heavier lift landing craft to bring ashore vehicles such as the MPC and their M-1 Abrams, as well as the always critical logistics elements to sustain operations. The Marines can either begin a limited campaign of their own, or secure a port for the entry of follow-on Army forces for a larger campaign.

The basic tactical concept is nothing new. The Marines have been planning this sort of operation since the days of the Korean War. But with the proliferation of cheap antitank missile and especially the large numbers of shore launched anti-ship missiles around that can hold at risk the Navy’s amphibious shipping, the question has become, can we afford to assault a defended objective from the sea? I think it is vital that we maintain that capability, and that it be the Marines prime mission. How to go about maintaining and building that capability without spending every last defense dollar on it is the question.

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A Real Stimulus?

One of the quirks we find ourselves facing is the social welfare programs with unsound Constitutional basis are “entitlements” and not discretionary spending, but the duties of government most explicitly outlined fall under discretionary spending.

Former Congressman Jim Talent makes the case that now is not the time to cut the defense budget.

First, the framers of the U.S. Constitution envisioned national defense as the priority obligation of the federal government. The first power granted to the president in Article 2 is “Commander-in-Chief of the Armies and Navies of the United States, and of the Militias of the Several States.” Of the 17 powers granted to Congress in Article 1, six relate specifically to defense, and the Constitution grants Congress the full range of authorities necessary to establish the defense of the nation (as it was then understood).

The other powers granted to Congress are permissive in nature; Congress can choose to exercise them or not. But the federal government is constitutionally obligated to defend the nation. Article 4, Section 4 states that the “United States shall guarantee to every State a republican form of government and shall protect each of them against invasion.”

I’m quite sympathetic to this argument. Further, Mr. Talent notes that the recapitalization of our forces could easily be funded with the unspent monies from the so-called “stimulus” (which was really nothing more than a bail-out of state social welfare programs, with some bonus pork thrown to traditional Democrat allies).

Congress could reverse the decline in military capability simply by capturing the unspent portion of the stimulus package and spending it judiciously on modernization over the next five years. As the panel report demonstrated, it is possible to marshal a strong bipartisan consensus for such an effort.

The problem is not budgetary. The problem is getting our government leaders to focus on the vital connections between strength, prosperity, and freedom. The best and cheapest way to protect American security is to sustain American power at a level that reduces risk, encourages global economic growth, and deters the wars that cost America so much in lives and treasure.

The elegance of this approach is that it would have the twofold benefit of first, restoring our forces material strength, and secondly, acting as true stimulus spending. Buying real, tangible equipment means manufacturing, which means good jobs in a wide variety of Congressional districts. That money gets spent in those communities. And that helps the local economies, and the economy as a whole.

I don’t support defense spending as a means of stimulating the economy. But I’m more than happy to tout that benefit of defense spending.

So how do I square this stance with my call below to axe several high profile programs? That’s simple. Defense dollars will always be limited. And I do not believe these programs provide a sufficient return on investment, if you will. I do not think they are the best way procurement dollars can be spent. Each of these programs are the legacy of the “transformational” school of thought that envisioned fighting a “Desert Storm Redux” and posited that would could fight those wars even cheaper by further leveraging our technological edge. Well, I certainly don’t want to sacrifice our edge, but there is a lesson that the Soviets knew that we should never forget- quantity has a quality all its own. There is simply too much land, sea and sky for our forces to cover if we maintain such a small number of platforms. The Navy, the strategic service of our nation, is already far, far too small. The Air Force is hurting badly. The Marines are still searching for relevancy in Afghanistan, when they should be focused on being America’s door-kickers, and strategic reserve.  The Army, ironically, is probably in the best material shape, despite having borne the brunt of fighting in two wars the last 10 years.

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The Defense Budget

We are obviously in recessionary times, and the federal budget is at unsustainable levels. The real backbreakers are Social Security and Medicare, but plainly, every department is going to be staring budget cuts in the face. The Department of Defense is a favored whipping boy for cuts, since every penny of its budget is discretionary money, and not “entitlement” money. Rough seas are ahead for the DoD.

If you were in charge, and had free reign, what would you cut? Programs? Staffs? How about a revision to Goldwater-Nichols? Troop units or major ships?

Since we’re just indulging in a fantasy here, let’s pretend that we don’t have to fool with Congressional interference and patronage, and that politics don’t intrude upon national security budgeting decisions.

I can think of any number of things I’d cut from the budget. Heck, there’s a few I’d cut even if money weren’t an issue.

Part One-

Army:

The FCS system would be deader than a doornail. Having said that, some of the technologies and ideas behind it would remain. For the short to medium term, next generation vehicles would be suspended. The R&D emphasis would be on improving communications and intelligence gathering and distribution at the brigade and lower level.

I’d be prepared, if pressed, to reduce the standing US presence in Korea to one combat brigade. I’d really rather not pull completely back from Europe, but I could be convinced to leave the 173rd in Italy, and rotate 2 combat brigades to Europe much like the Marines Unit Deployment Program.

Procurement wise, the Army is actually in pretty fair shape. A lot of the fleet of logistical vehicles is fairly new. Of course, they are putting on mileage faster than anticipated due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but a good depot program should be able to manage that concern. With the combat vehicle fleet, the Stykers are relatively young. The Bradley and Abrams fleet are another matter. Both fleets have been in service for almost 30 years, with an average age somewhere around 20-25 years. Both systems are running out of room for growth, but should suffice for the medium term with a strong depot maintenance program.

Army aviation is similarly in decent shape. Blackhawk and Chinook procurement is going well, and should be continued. The Apache fleet is similarly on glidepath. There are some issues with other aspects of aviation though. The Army can’t seem to buy a simple replacement for the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior. The ARH-70 program was riddled with cost overruns and performance shortcomings. Maybe it’s time to set aside the JetRanger family and go back to the MD-500 family. The other option is to do away with observation helicopters, and just go with Apaches in the scout role. I’d also pull the plug on the Army’s MQ-1C Predator program. Let the Air Force be the sole manager for the platform. The only UAVs the Army would operate would be smaller observation platforms that give the local ground commander situational awareness and reconnaissance.

On the staff side, there’s a lot of duplication. Sometimes, it isn’t a terrible burden. For instance, 3rd Army exists as the field Army at CentCom, and also goes by the name of ArCent.  But why does every headquarters in Iraq and Afghanistan need a separate “Joint” or “Multi-national” designation laid above the tactical unit that makes up the force? For instance, if the 4th ID headquarters is in charge of the Green Zone in Iraq, does it really need a headquarters named Multi-National Division blah, blah, blah whatever it is with all the administrative burdens beyond just what the 4th ID already has?

What do you think? Where would you cut programs in the Army? What money would you save? Would you trim troop unit levels?

We’ll get to the other branches in later installments of this topic.

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