11 November 2010

In Non-Missile-Over-LA-News...

Note: This blog will dedicate precisely zero text to the missile jet contrail found over LA the other day.

The big news, of course, is that a recent deficit reduction commission recommendeda slew of cuts to the Defense Department that is sure to have the American public up in arms.

Make no mistake, an ever-increasing deficit is surely as great a threat to American power as a non-existent Chinese aircraft carrier or non-existent Russian Pak-FA fighters. But where to cut, and how much? That's going to be the painful question we'll be asking of ourselves over the next few years. Suffice to say, Americans, as a rule prefer cutting spending for someone else's pet project, and, of course, don't want to pay any additional taxes to curb the deficit either.

We truly live in interesting times.

The Pentagon has been in the midst of its own "guns-vs-butter" debate, weighing major weapons system procurement against spending on the health and well-being of the all-volunteer force. It's a precarious debate. While cost overruns are frequently lampooned in the media--the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter being one of the most notable as of late--few mention the cost overruns in the "butter" portion of the budget. The military's health care costs have doubled in the last ten years, and now take up roughly ten percent of the US military's budget, despite no increase in insurance premiums. With a fleet of ships and airplanes which are increasingly aging and shrinking, new weapons procurement, in some cases, will have to take precedence over "butter" issues.

But where? According to the study, F-35 production, like that of the F-22, will be capped, with F-16s and F/A-18s filling the gap. I can agree with this one--the aging fighter fleet needs replacement machines, though I suspect this might be filled with a combination of 5th Generation fighters, 4.5 Generation fighters, and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Similarly, the Marine Corps' V-22 Ospreys, only now beginning to come into their own, will also be halted, with the venerable UH-60 Black Hawk filling the gap. There are also proposals to reduce the number of troops in Europe and Asia by 50,000; nearly one-third. With the end of the Cold War, the remaining garrisons in Europe are largely a relic of the past, though they do offer strategic movement, and offer a good opportunity to partner and train with fellow NATO nations. (Your existential question of the day: what is NATO, really?)

But perhaps one of the most shocking suggestions is freezing service member pay at its 2011 level for the next three years.

Okay, maybe I only oppose that one because it affects my personal pocketbook. Perhaps my commitment to deficit reduction only goes so far...

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