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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

The evolving role of the US Military

Gizmodo points out a recently-release intelligence report that suggests the Chinese are developing an “anti-carrier” missile- basically, a short-range ballistic missile with a conventional, instead of nuclear, warhead on it. Combined with the new reports of the defense budget released recently, this has resulted in a great wailing and gnashing of teeth mostly from Republicans, of course, but there have been Democrats that have chimed in, as well- quite tellingly, mostly from constituencies that get lots of money from the “military/industrial complex”, as there have been a great number of programs trimmed and killed in favor of others.

The multibillion-dollar boondoggle of the new Presidential helicopter fleet has been canceled; the F-22 is to be funded through it’s current run, and then production is to focus on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; we’re going to trim our operation carrier fleet from 11 to 10 active carriers; so forth and so on.

This is, of course, followed by a great heaping of “The Democrats are weak on defense, they’re leaving our country defenseless!” Bush administration mouthpiece Thomas McInerney gives a prime example of this, suggesting that the only weapon that can effectively deal with Somali pirates is the F-22 stealth fighter. Yep, that’s right. Apparently, we’re not safe from Achmed the Pirate- armed with an AK-47 and RPGs, and a locally-pieced together junk- unless we utilize a $300 million dollar air superiority stealth fighter. So, logically, since the defense budget calls for us to fill the current order of F-22s put in by the US Air Force, Barack Obama is disarming America!

Among the hard-core conservative rank-and-file (more commonly known as “Internet tough guys” or “Keyboard commandos”, from places like RedState and FreeRepublic) it prompts responses like this:

When GWB became President I encouraged my son to become a Marine. He did and it was a good decision. On November 5th of last year I was very pleased he got a medical discharge and can’t be called up. It’s a good thing, too. If he did, I’d encourage him to head over the border for awhile.

The other side doesn’t see the military as the last line of defense of this nation – they see the military as yet another “electoral group” that is political and ideologically hostile to the Democrat Party.

So what’s their answer to that? What it always is – defund all rival and hostile groups, while simultaneous doubling up funding to “allied” groups (e.g. $2b for ACORN, the UAW, etc.).

Aiiieee. The stupid, it burns!

Now, there are questions about the Chinese “supermissile” above, and how much of a threat it really represents- namely, it’s not real wise to go slinging ballistic missiles about, as there are lots of people who tend to get a bit twitchy when things like that happen, and having to alert every nuclear power ahead of time kinda defeats the whole “surprise” part of the attack, and that the new SM-3 missiles deployed on AEGIS cruisers and destroyers would (hopefully) be an effective defense. This is why the United States quashed a similar program awhile back. But it begs the question- what should the future hold for the United States Military?


  1. ragekage

    Should we have been gearing up to confront countries like China? If so, our little foray into Iraq was certainly ill-advised, as it made our military weaker than ever, and put us on precisely the wrong footing to address threats like from that missile. Or are we going to be moving into dealing with scenarios like that in Iraq and Afghanistan? And do we need to spend more on defense than the rest of the world combined to really be truly concerned about “defending” America?

    Good God, and especially with the comments sourced above, I can’t believe it- I’ve never seen such a stunning display of intellectual dishonesty and cognitive dissonance, and downright cowardice in my entire life!

  2. is that if you build a military force like the United States then someone is going to want to get some use out of it. If there isn’t a war to justify it then something has to be ginned up until it qualifies.

  3. creamer

      We/they have created this huge industry that makes some rich and provides lots of jobs. They push for weapons systems based on their need for profit as much as our need for national defense. The jobs are spread out to enough congressional districts to make it hard to cut.

     Its time for the rest of the world to stand on its own. Even the low intensity wars we now find ourselves in are related to the huge footprint our military has left in the rest of the world. In my mind we need to cut even more.

  4. Michelle

    Not quite on topic, but rage will forgive me….

    What I’d really like to see is a shifting of funds from producing unnecessary (and dare I say outdated and inefficient) weapons, vehicles for those weapons, and other military equipment to caring for our military members and their families.  The Republicans just love screaming and complaining about how the Democrats are weak, but they took these men and women, shipped them off to two wars, broke them over and over and over again, and essentially refuse to fix them…or even attempt to make them whole again.

    Military members, particularly enlisted, don’t get paid shit, and yet, they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country.  They are often targeted by predatory lenders, for mortgages, tax refund loans, car loans, etc. because they don’t get paid shit.  Lots of people, including pols, prey on their loyalties and sense of honor and duty by claiming patriotism and singing along to country music lyrics, and then they screw them over.

    We are seeing problems in those enlisting.  Gang members are being allowed in and bringing their military training to the communities around the country in crimes against a rival gang.  Start paying livable wages to our military, and I bet that those joining will be of higher caliber.

    The helos that my brother-in-law flew are constantly breaking because they are so outdated, but they are still the fastest helo flown and the only one with strong towing capacity.  Yet, his crash, which took his life and the lives of two other sailors, may have been easily prevented by giving the pilots night vision goggles.  I suppose I should be grateful now that they have requisitioned those goggles for their pilots.  I suspect that outfitting his squadron with those goggles aren’t anywhere near the estimated cost of his crash which was something like $42 million lost…not to mention three priceless lives.

    In short, we have a problem with taking care of our own in the military. Some of these fixes that Obama wants to make are long overdue…others, like removing VA benefits from veterans with private health insurance are complete bullshit.  Our strongest weapons in our military are the men and women who join.  If you keep breaking them, the whole system will continue to be on the straight and narrow path to hell.

  5. HappyinVT

    conservative state of OK…

    These Republicans are joined by, so far, a lone Democrat–Dan Boren of Oklahoma, and also a member of the Armed Services Committee. Boren joined much of the Oklahoma delegation in criticizing the Gates proposal in a series of statements reprinted on the website of Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK).


    “The administration’s announcement today of sweeping changes to key defense programs is a significant concern. Even in tough economic times, providing a strong national defense for the American people should remain a top priority of the federal government.”

     I give him credit for wanting to save OK jobs, but there are better ways in which to do so then by building defense systems that are outdated and/or overbudget.

  6. louisprandtl

    purchase of four F22s running through the current year. The JSF (F-35) production does not get ramped up till next 2-3 years. This gap is enough under the current economy to get most of the small ancilliary shops who form the local supply chain for very specialized jobs to go out of business. While the major defense contractors like LMT and Boeing would survive, the small companies may not.  Some of the projection of layoffs in the defense industry are true whereas some are artificially inflated to scare the politicians. Mr. Gates would be able to muster lot of support in the defense industry if he can develop a clear plan for a quick transition from F-22 to F-35 production.

    Few points about F-22. There seems to be some mythical misrepresentation even in famed NYTimes.

    1) F22 is the first fifth generation combat airfighter. It is built to be a replacement for the old F-15s and mainly to be used in the air-superiority role. This is a very different application than the multi-role F-35. F35s and F-22 have different applications and were never meant to be replacement for each other.

    2) “F-16s and F-15s are best in the World, why do we need newer aircraft”? Actually that statement was partly true in 1970s and early 80s. Today’s 4.5th generation aircraft like SU-30 and Su-35 variants have several technological advantages over the 4th generation F-16 and F-15 variants.

    3) The unit cost of production of F-22 is extremely high ($316M) because of several reasons.

       a) Initial projected unit costs were based on the original AirForce volume requirements of 381 aircraft. The unit costs goes up when the total quantity to be purchased lowered.

       b) The defense contractors LMT and Boeing played a rather political game by contracting work into 44 states. That definitely increased the cost of production because of innumerable points of the supply chain and complicated assembly costs.

       c) MIL-Standards for some of the newer novel materials that are used for the F-22 fabrication adds to its uniqueness but also raise the costs

       d)JSF is cost shared by several countries and will be built in 10 different nations and sold abroad. Other US fighter aircraft like F-16 and F-18s can be sold to other countries. However from a Congress mandate of mid 90s, F-22s cannot be sold to any foreign country, thus the production unit costs remain indirectly proportional to the number of aircraft USAF would purchase.

    I’m not arguing the merit of Gates’s decision and broader subject of the role of military industrial complexes in our society. I’m pointing out the need for effective transition for minimal effect on some critical manufacturing base and without the loss of internal technical knowledge base.


  7. jonlester

    Russia’s Medvedev wants a professional military by 2020. This means more than half of the general corps will be retired, so those guys are all trying to come up with new threats that only they are qualified to counter, in an effort to preserve their jobs.  

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