Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Return of the Complex: Men or Matériel

One of the cold war's major and paradoxical features was always the role of President Eisenhower's military-industrial complex: A sort of cabale of production and R&D and procurement - all dedicated to the cause of freedom, its defense and progress. During the 1990s, and as a result of the post-Vietnam willful doctrinal blindness, this setup had resulted in a tech-driven approach to war. One of pure war, outside its political context. RMA stood and stands for industrial age warfare, just with tech instead of infantry; one where mass still counted but now as intelligent hardware, rather than men and artillery.

Since 2001, the return of the paradigm of small wars - Barnett's lesser includeds - has slowly gained ground and is one of the principal perspectives in this blog. That means monikers like 'the long war', 'NSPD44', DoD Directive 3000.05', Transitioning, SSTR, COIN, Shaping/CSE JOC, etc. This paradigm is heavy on the manpower side, heavy on relatively low-tech machinery (thousands of vehicles vs. handfuls of fighter jets), and especially heavy on organizational intelligence (doctrine, education, training for joint, combined, interagency operations). But now the industry apparently has had it, and hopes to influence the political agenda so that the Pentagon moves from implementing the two directives mentioned to investing again, more, in the major wars of the future.
Years of military operations in Iraq have led many in the Pentagon to see antiguerrilla operations and smaller conflicts as the fights of the future. This has created tension with those who believe the military must not lose its ability to win a more conventional war against a country such as China or Russia, or even well-armed smaller nations.

The AIA represents roughly 275 aerospace and defense companies, ranging from giant contractors such as Lockheed Martin Corp., Boeing Co. and Northrop Grumman Corp. to smaller companies that play supporting roles. Defense stocks are strong, and the Pentagon's budget is at historic highs.


But with a change of administration looming and the tab for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan mounting, concern is growing that a peak is at hand. Recognizing the growing fiscal pressure that the next administration will face, the AIA wants the government to find ways to hold down costs for operating and maintaining the armed forces and devote more resources to buying military hardware. The AIA is also concerned that growth in the Army and the Marine Corps will drive nonweapons costs such as health care and training even higher.

For fiscal 2009, the Bush administration requested $515 billion for the Defense Department, with billions more in supplemental funding for Iraq and Afghanistan. That would be approximately 3.7% of GDP. But tough decisions that would effectively shut down production of Lockheed's F-22 Raptor fighter or Boeing's C-17 were postponed for the White House's next occupant.

The AIA suggests that the Pentagon spend $120 billion to $150 billion a year on weapons procurement, up from the fiscal 2009 request of $104 billion, saying that the military's air superiority is in "serious danger" because of age and underinvestment. The group says the U.S. "cannot afford to pull back investment spending as it has done during past postwar defense drawdowns -- the nature of the security environment strongly mitigates against taking such a risk during what may be a generation-long war on terrorism."

The interesting and problematic thing about this proposed turning of the tide is that no major program was ever cut in order to pay for the small wars paradigm. The total cost - not of running the wars, but of transforming for them - is probably only a fraction of the cost of running the missile defense program alone.

1 comment:

Sven Ortmann said...

I believe the cancellation of the RAH-66 Comanche for (it was believed at that time) less ambitious recon helicopters might be considered as a cut of major war equipment in favor of small wars capability.