In Ruins

Uncovering the Reality of US Political Military Procurement

By RU member Max

This article is an attempt to put into perspective the cause and effect that certain actions or inactions, on the part of our politicians, have had for the everyday common soldier fighting on the front lines for all of the freedoms that we enjoy. If it also points to the hypocrisy of certain politicians, that would be a good thing.

US Political Military Procurement

The silly season is nearly upon us. The political climate is beginning to spool up to full speed in anticipation of the national elections in 2008.

If the past is a good indication, we will hear tales of malfeasance, neglect and self serving interest on the part of the politicians. Much of it will be spin, from BOTH parties. However, spin has been proven to be effective in influencing the electorate. Just ask the spin-meisters, such as James Carville and Dick Morris. This spin has been used to hide the past agendas of many politicians and even to attempt to make those agendas sound like a good thing, while assuring the electorate that the sins fall elsewhere. It is more important than ever for the free people of this world, for the everyday common man/woman, to cut through all the garbage spewed forth by the special interests and the political hacks from both parties, and to zero in on the truth of the matter. One way to do this is to review a little history.

During the last national Republican Convention, a featured speaker, Zel Miller, Democrat from the state of Georgia, outlined a list of programs that Democratic nominee John Kerry had voted against. The list was long. Mr. Miller wound up his speech with the memorable comment (paraphrased) that if left to John Kerry, we would fight our enemies with all that was left; spit balls. However, John Kerry isn't the only guilty party, and the list of programs Zel Miller outlined is not complete.

On the other side of the aisle we also have clear and unambiguous evidence of pork spending, of influence being used to cut programs the military says it needs or to enhance military programs that the military says it doesn't need or those it doesn't want a high priority placed on, all to simply keep a particular corner of the electorate happy, and assure re-election.

We will attempt to briefly touch on some of these programs and hopefully raise the reader's interest, so as to cause further research. The entire scope and complexity of these issues would take an entire book to explore.

We start out with one of the more controversial programs, the new US Air Force fighter for the 21st Century, the F-22 Raptor. Originally intended to replace the venerable F-15 Eagle, it has been continually revised to the point where the fighter force would constitute but a shell of the original plan.

F-15 The F-15 was first flown in 1972 and first deliveries to the Air Force were in 1974! That's right, 34 years ago! With years of development behind it, that makes it essentially a 1960's technology aircraft! The APG-63 radar was developed over 20 years ago and has an average mean time between failure of less than 15 hours. APG-63 LRUs have become increasingly difficult to support both in the field and at the depot.

The US Air Force claims the F-15C is in several respects inferior to, or at best equal to, the MiG-29, Su-27, Su-35/37, Rafale and EF-2000, which are variously superior in acceleration, manoeuvrability, engine thrust, rate of climb, avionics, firepower, radar signature or range.

Although the F-15C and Su-27P series are similar in many categories, the Su-27 can outperform the F-15C at both long and short ranges. In long-range encounters, with its superior radar the Su-27 can launch a missile before the F-15C does, so from a purely kinematic standpoint, the Russian fighters outperform the F-15C in the beyond-visual-range fight. The Su-35 phased array radar is superior to the APG-63 Doppler radar in both detection range and tracking capabilities. Additionally, the Su-35 propulsion system increases the aircraft's manoeuvrability with thrust vectoring nozzles. Simulations conducted by British Aerospace and the British Defense Research Agency compared the effectiveness of the F-15C, Rafale, EF-2000 and F-22 against the Russian Su-35, armed with active radar missiles similar to the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM). The Rafale achieved a 1:1 kill ratio (1 Su-35 destroyed for each Rafale lost). The EF-2000 kill ratio was 4.5:1 while the F-22 achieved a ratio of 10:1. In stark contrast was the F-15C, losing 1.3 Eagles for each Su-35 destroyed. (1)

F-22 Thus, enter the F-22. The original plan to purchase 750 aircraft as one to one replacements has been scrapped. The original cost of the F-22 was to be about $100 million dollars per aircraft, or about twice the cost of the F-15, amortized over the approximate 20 to 25 years (sometimes longer,) of a typical fighter aircraft program.

As a side-note, it is important to understand how military procurement works. Private industry giants, such as Lockheed Martin do not work for free.

Typically, a Research and Development program is entered into with the military. This can run into many billions of dollars.

Some of it is paid up front with the tax-payer's dollars and some of it the contractor will front, with the agreement that it will recover those costs as it sells its product to the pentagon at the completion of the development.

So what does this mean? If a program such as the F-22 is contemplated at running up to 750 aircraft, produced in x number of years, a projection is made that in recovering the R&D costs and making its profit, the aircraft would cost about $100 million. But what happens when you meddle with number of years or the number of aircraft? The R&D costs as well as the production costs have to be spread out among the units being produced. Thus, a 750 aircraft program cut back to 450 aircraft, for example, would necessitate that the cost of each unit would rise, perhaps even to twice as much as originally planned. Further cuts, along with a shorter production time line would continue to drive the cost of each unit.

Upon collapse of the Soviet Union, in search of that ever elusive "peace-dividend", many programs were sliced - including the F-22. Cut after cut ensued. It is now planned to procure 305 F-22's at a per-unit cost of $226 million each. Currently 120 have been funded. But wait, it doesn't stop there. The Center for Defense Information (CDI), a liberal think tank, and a favorite of those looking to gut our military, recommends a "silver bullet force" of 120 aircraft. In other words, capping the program at the number of those already funded. The cost effect? It would then cost well over $350 million to procure each aircraft! Their solution to the short-fall of available fighter aircraft for this country? Re-open the F-15 production lines! When pressed for information on how much each aircraft would cost in that event, they become quite evasive, but do admit there would be a substantial increase from the last "flight" produced at about $50 million per copy. Just how much more, no one is willing to say. They do admit that there would be an initial cost for re-opening the production lines of about $600 million! So you can see that in this instance, due to our politicians and to those organizations which do their thinking for them and greatly influence them, we have gone from a modern, effective fighter force for the 21st century of 750 aircraft at $100 million each, to a "silver bullet force" of 120 aircraft at $350 million each, with the rest of the force comprised of aircraft developed in the 1960's and 1970's. Does anybody want to bet on how long it would be before there would be talk of cancelling the F-15 program due to it being outdated and ineffective?

Another similar example can be found in the Navy's Seawolf and Virginia classes of attack submarines. The Seawolf program began in the latter 1980's. Intended as a replacement for the aging Los Angeles class attack subs, it was projected to cost a frighteningly expensive (at the time) $1.85 billion per copy! Designed to counter the Soviet threat of the then new Soviet Akula class, which was quieter than the Los Angeles class, it was seen as an unnecessary expense after the Soviet collapse. The need for a submarine force was recognized however, so the debate began as to what to do about the circumstances at the time. The program was cut and cut again until only 3 Seawolf subs were funded, at a total cost of $13.374 billion, or about $4.458 billion a copy!

USS Virginia The Virginia class was thus born as a "significantly lower cost alternative". Although the Seawolf was seen as "too-much submarine" for our new world, it was state of the art, and it was fast. The Virginia class gives up a little bit of the technological wizardry and it is able to operate in somewhat shallower water, thus enabling its use for special operations troops and reportedly it is as quiet as the Seawolf, although some disagreement exists.

It is, however, indisputably slower. It had to be to remain as quiet as it is - however quiet that may be.

The cost you ask? The plans are for a 30 submarine class with a total cost of $65.7 billion - or $2.2 billion a copy!

There were 62 Los Angeles class submarines (at $900 million a copy in 1990 dollars) that operated alongside other classes during the Cold War. The other classes have been struck, and at least 11 of the Los Angeles class have been decommissioned. Many more will follow. The JCS Submarine Force Structure Study completed in November 1999, concluded that the optimal force structure would be 68 attack submarines by 2015 and 76 by 2025.

So you can see again, we have gone from a planned modern, effective submarine, the Seawolf, planned to replace the aging Los Angeles class, cancelled due to cost ($1.85 Billion per copy) to the Virginia class, a slower compromise without quite all the bells and whistles, costing us $2.2 billion each.

If this doesn't have your blood moving and you're not thinking of doing some research prior to contacting your friendly local politician, well then, let's talk about the Hummvee, lack of armor, losing soldiers to IED's problem.

For years the Army sought to provide its mobile infantry forces with a relatively safe infantry vehicle. In modern times, the Soviets had their BMP1's and BMP-2's which exemplified the capabilities of mobile warfare. Going back to Vietnam, the U S Army's M113 tracked APC's were a poor cousin. Built with thin aluminum armor, it was easily penetrated by anything larger than the basic infantry rifle a common soldier carries. More was needed. After many trials and errors and false starts, the M2/M3 family of tracked Armored Personnel Carriers/Infantry Fighting vehicles was developed. These vehicles were to provide better firepower (25mm cannon), much better armor protection for the troops and could keep up with the M1 Abrams tanks during manoeuvre warfare. Many were desired, but in the end only 6,724 were built (4,641 M2's and 2,083 M3's). Compare that to upwards of 20,000 M113's serving at any one time. The army was again caught short of ways to protect its infantry in certain situations.

An 'Uparmoured' Humvee The old WWII "Jeep" had reached the end of its operational lifetime, and the Army was procuring its replacement, the HUMMVEE, basically a light, general purpose truck. Faced with the prospect of not being able to acquire a purpose-built light infantry armored vehicle, the Army started adapting the HUMMVEE to many uses. Some of these included an anti-air capability using missiles and tow-missile launchers to use against tanks! It was thought that the ability to move fast along the front lines of the battle field would make up for the lack of armor!

In several instances the Army attempted to obtain a light infantry armored vehicle. It was always shut down by the likes of Schumer, Boxer, Feinstein, Kerry, etc. and the CID- type "thinkers". The closest it came was the LAV-25 family of vehicles produced in Canada. The Marines did manage to piggy-back on to these research efforts and were able to acquire some for their forces.

Then came Iraq. Faced with the prospect of patrolling areas, many of them urban, including narrow streets and alleyways, with critically short M2/M3 Bradley’s or with only foot patrols, the Army was forced into performing these duties with the only thing that had been provided by the pacifists, the ubiquitous and harmless HUMMVEE.

As the Improvised Explosive Devices began killing our soldiers in their unarmored light trucks, the accusations were flung at the Pentagon and the administration in power for failure to protect our soldiers. Funny, no one mentioned the repeatedly quashed attempts the Army had made at acquiring a suitable armored vehicle to protect the troops.
Cougar H (4x4) MRAP The soldiers were at first reduced to welding sheets of steel themselves out in the field and putting sandbags on the floor of the HUMMVEES to protect themselves from the IED's.

You heard the voices of those paragons of liberal thinking decrying the situation and laying blame, including those of Kerry, Reid, Boxer, Feinstein, Schumer, Pelosi, et al., but not a word of explanation from them as to why the Army had not been provided with a suitable armored vehicle years before.

Now, with several thousand dead and tens of thousands wounded, the Army has been given enough funds to procure the MRAP's or Mine Resistant Armored Patrol vehicle, which is what the soldiers should have been given years ago.

While we are on the subject of the voices criticizing everybody but themselves, lets touch on the size of the forces. The most current criticism being levelled at the Pentagon by these same people is that the forces are stretched too thin and that there is an over-reliance on the reserve components. In the latter days of the Cold War, the Army active components consisted of 16 divisions. During President Reagan's term, recognizing the inadequacy of the numbers for the situation at the time, his administration attempted to significantly increase the size of the Army. Although he met strong resistance from the Democrats, he was able to at least add two light infantry divisions to the overall force, leaving it with a total of 18 divisions in the active force and an additional 8 divisions in the Army Reserve and Army National Guard components. As the following president, G H. W. Bush entered his "new world order" with the collapse of the Soviet Union, he at least, had a sufficiently large force to deal with the invasion of Kuwait and the possible loss of the oil coming from that region. A very large force was available to the then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell, to use in achieving national objectives.

But the tide was already turning. Following Gulf War I, Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney, began a series of slashing cuts to the military followed by Les Aspin, Secretary of Defense under President Clinton, who cut not only the fat as had been promised during campaign electioneering, but cut large pieces of muscle and bone as well.

The end result was a force downsized to 10 active divisions (down from 18), a decrease of 45%. The reserve forces were organized into several loosely organized "Training Divisions" which were not combat-capable. The urgency of troop rotations recently has forced the re-activation of 4 Army National Guard and Reserve Combat Brigade Teams (CBT's) and 4 more are planned to be re-activated in the near future. (Note: a brigade is about 1/3 of a division).

We now hear complaints from those same voices who were primarily responsible for the huge cuts, of the National Guard being incapable of responding to emergencies at home (such as hurricane relief efforts) because they are off fighting the Iraq war. No mention, of course, of who was primarily responsible for the cuts that were made or of the fact that the National Guard and Army Reserves are supposed to be primarily a fighting force, not a training force or a social relief organization, and should be thusly equipped and trained.

Another criticism by the liberals being levelled at the military is their perceived inability of the military to respond to, and arrive at crises within a short time frame. What would it take to accomplish this? Obviously, airlift capability. (For the moment, let’s ignore the influence of the pacifists which blame the problem on the Army being too heavy and use the excuse to attempt to eliminate the Army's Heavy Divisions.) With the problem in mind of arriving the "fastest with the mostest" as General Nathan Forrest once said, let's take a look at the C-17 program.

C-141 Starlifter The old C-141 Starlifter has been the workhorse of the US military airlift capability for 43 years now. The first were delivered to Tinker AFB Oklahoma in 1964. Despite many updates and refurbishing programs it has clearly reached the end of its operational lifetime.

Prior to some airframes wearing out, there were 241 operating C-141's in the inventory.

Originally the Air Force planned to acquire 210 C-17s to replace them. In 1990, however, in his slash and burn, cut the military to the bone project, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney reduced the program to 120 aircraft as part of DoD's Major Aircraft Review.

The need to respond to actions by the Soviet bloc/Warsaw pact had gone away and apparently that's all that needed to be considered. Substantial airlift capability would never again be needed, or so they thought.

I think by now the reader can guess the result of the reduction in numbers to the price of each aircraft. Due to ongoing concerns with the C-17's growing cost then Secretary of Defense, Les Aspin, under President Clinton, announced in December 1993, that the program would be stopped at 40 aircraft. They reduced the number; the aircraft became more expensive, which gave them the excuse to reduce the numbers further. Sound familiar?

Further, in March 1994, at congressional direction, the Pentagon initiated a program to acquire a transport aircraft using commercial airframes as a possible alternative or supplement to the C-17. But, in November 1995, the Defense Acquisition Board decided to procure 120 C-17s and no commercial transports. An additional 14 are now planned for the Special Operations Forces.

The cost is now $44.86 billion for 134 aircraft, or a per-unit cost of $334.8 million per aircraft. The original cost for 210 aircraft was to be $199 million per copy.

C-17 Globemaster III The Air Force remains interested in purchasing additional C-17s. In order to bring down the aircraft's cost, Boeing is looking at additional overseas sales of the aircraft. In addition, the Air Force is considering a plan to help fund a civilian version of Boeing's C-17 transport aircraft. Federal support would include upfront subsidies to Boeing for development of the civil aircraft, a guarantee of government transport business to private companies that purchase the C-17s, and a promise to buy back aircraft from commercial companies that go bankrupt. In exchange, the commercial companies would promise to make the aircraft available to the Pentagon in case of war or other emergencies.

Those that now criticize our inability to airlift troops and equipment to a theater crisis are the same ones that continually fought against the C-17 program to begin with. But wait, again! What is CDI's recommendation (and what has it geared its lobbying efforts towards)?

Cap Air Force C-17 Procurement at 120. While early reports about the C-17's performance in Afghanistan show the aircraft's operational suitability and effectiveness, given the enormous cost of the aircraft, the Air Force simply cannot afford to buy C-17s in perpetuity. Even with federal support, it is highly unlikely that the purchase price of the commercial C-17 would be low enough to be viable.

There you have it. They grudgingly admit "the aircraft's operational suitability and effectiveness" but no amount of effort to reduce its cost is worthwhile. We simply don't want it, end of story.

Let us go back to the Navy and look at the F/A-18E/F Fighter program. The Navy already had what, perhaps next to the F-15c was the best fighter in the world: the F-14 Tomcat with its Phoenix missile. Initially designed for, and intended for the defense of its aircraft carriers from massed attacks from Soviet aircraft using cruise missiles. With the design beginning to age, and the Warsaw Pact dissolved, the decision was made to close the F-14 production lines and leave the air defense of the carriers to the F/A-18's.

The F/A-18 is a fine fighter and a capable air to ground attack aircraft. However, it does not come close to the abilities of its predecessor, the F-14. It cannot engage a target at extremely long range as the F-14 could do with its Phoenix missile. It cannot, as the F-14 could, track multiple targets at once and launch Phoenix missiles at each one using its fire-and-forget feature. In fact, it cannot use the Phoenix missile at all! It has to rely on the standard air to air engagement missiles in defense of the carriers at much shorter ranges (read much closer to the carriers). It also does not have the range to go the long distances that the F-14 had nor quite the speed either. Throughout its service, annual upgrades to F/A-18 weapon systems, sensors, etc. continued. The latest lot of the F/A-18C/D has grown to be far more capable (night attack, precision strike, low observable technologies, etc.) than the original F/A-18A/B; however, by 1991, it was becoming clear that avionics cooling, electrical, and space constraints would begin to limit future growth. Additionally, another operational deficiency was beginning to develop. As the F/A-18C/D empty weight increased, the aircraft were returning to the carrier with less than optimal reserve fuel and/or unexpended weapons. (2)

F/A-18F Super Hornet Enter the F/A-18 Super Hornet. The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is a larger, more powerful version of the Navy's current F/A-18 multi-role fighter with a much longer range. The updated version carries a larger weapons load, and is touted to be as manoeuvrable as the current C/D versions. Originally the Navy planned to buy 1,000 aircraft at a total program cost of $81 billion, or an average cost of $81 million per aircraft.

However, the meddlers began doing what they do. The 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) reduced procurement to 548. Fortunately, in this case, there exists a lot of commonality among the production lines of the F/A-18c, therefore the costs only rose to $85 million per aircraft in 2001 dollars. In 2000, Boeing was awarded a multi-year contract for the production of Super Hornets. When the contract expires the Navy will have purchased a total of 284 aircraft. There is an option to renew.

What are the lobbying efforts directed at this program from the liberals and those listening, including our list of "usual suspects"? From the Center for Defense Information, once again:

Recommendation: Kill F/A-18E/F production at the end of the current contract. Given the Super Hornet's incremental performance improvement over the current version and its considerable cost, the Super Hornet should be terminated.

This would probably be a good place to transition our magnifying glass to the Aircraft Carrier situation. For perspective, during the Cold War there were between 16 and 18 carriers available to the Navy and National Command Authority to respond to or engage in operations against what was usually considered, would be actions by the Warsaw Pact. During this same period many studies done by the Rand Corporation and others pointed to an actual need of 24 carriers. That goal was never even approached. Yes we all know the Cold War is over. But are we wrong to ask, if we needed 24 carriers then, and couldn't afford them under budget constraints, a number consistent with what we actually had could perhaps be the ticket to solving our deployment problems? No, say the "thinkers", we need to cut back to 10 carriers! Perhaps eliminate them all together and go with the concept of the Sea Control Ship, a much smaller vessel akin to our Tarawa class helicopter carrier/amphibious ships.

We have all heard the cliché' about the first thing the Presidents always say when they are informed of a crisis: "Where are the carriers?" There is much truth to that statement since as it has been proven over and over again, usually the first forces to arrive at the crisis are the carriers. But, there is a price to pay for that. Long deployments away from home cause recruitment problems and morale issues. The fewer the carriers, the longer the deployments and in some cases, even the longer absences from certain theaters. The Navy has consistently stated that it needs AT LEAST 15 carriers to fulfil its requirements around the globe in today's world, even without reducing time away from port significantly.

USS Nimitz (CVN 68)
Operation Enduring Freedom and the role of carrier-based tactical aircraft is cited as an example of how carriers can give the United States an operational presence in the early phase of the war, while Washington negotiates for access to airfields and bases in the region. Currently, there are no U.S. air bases in the entire swath of Asia between the Arabian and Korean peninsulas, and not many governments that appear willing to allow the United States to use their land to pursue the war on terrorism. The Navy feels strongly that unique capabilities of a carrier battle group will be required in most future conflicts for the foreseeable future. (3)

But, what is the recommendation from CDI?

Recommendation: Cut the carrier fleet to 10 vessels and explore a range of designs. Changes in deployment schedules made possible by the end of the Cold War and growing European capabilities would permit a reduction in the total number of carriers. A mixed fleet of both conventionally and nuclear powered vessels, with different capabilities will provide greater flexibility and achieve cost savings. Reducing the number of carriers to 10 and eliminating their associated air wings will save $15 billion over the next 10 years (CBO's "Budget Options for National Defense," March 2000).

Not only cut the number to two thirds of what the Navy says it needs, but further criticism includes:

The current new carrier design, the Nimitz class, may not necessarily be best suited for all carrier missions. For example, during Operation Enduring Freedom, the carrier USS Kitty Hawk (one of the remaining conventionally powered vessels) was deployed without its full air wing in order to accommodate Special Forces units. A more cost-effective alternative, similar to the Marine Corps assault carriers, could be a better alternative.

Now, if we examine that statement, even ignoring the fact that the Kitty Hawk is not a Nimitz class carrier, we are left to believe that the carrier was too small to accommodate its full air wing plus the Special Forces units. So what do they recommend? A much smaller alternative, the Marines assault helicopter carrier. Heck, if you're going to leave a portion of the air wing behind to accommodate other forces, you might as well leave the entire air wing behind! Does anybody want to make a bet on who will voice the loudest criticism if ever an aircraft carrier or a helicopter carrier cannot defend itself because of the lack of an air wing?

Other programs which deserve the reader's attention and are currently experiencing the same type of gamesmanship as the above are:

• The Abrams tank upgrade program.
• The B1B Lancer bomber refurbishing program.
• The Trident Ballistic Missile submarine program.
• The DD-X destroyer program.
• The D-5 missile program. A replacement for the less accurate and shorter range C-4 missile.

We are told we are fighting a war. The games being played with the tools with which to fight that war border on the criminal. We are sending America's finest, and in some cases our allies' finest, since many use identical equipment acquired from our industry, to sometimes certain death, and other times putting them at extremely high and unnecessary risk because of the games that are played in order to gain political points and political office.

In 1972 the US spent 6.7% of its Gross Domestic Product on the military. In the years 1999 through 2001 the figure was 3.0% Today (data available is for 2005) that figure is 3.7% due to increased spending in the Gulf.

From the Heritage foundation:
On March 4, China's National People's Congress announced that it would increase the country's military budget 17.8 percent in 2007 to a total of $45 billion.[1]

Despite the fact that this was the biggest single annual increase in China's military spending,[2] the Chinese government reassured the world that this spending hike was normal and need not worry anyone. "China is committed to taking a path of peaceful development and it pursues a defensive military posture," a spokesman said.[3] But the evidence suggests instead that China's intent is to challenge the United States as a military superpower.

A closer look at China's military spending raises profound questions about China's geopolitical direction. In terms of purchasing power parity (PPP), China's effective military spending is far greater than $45 billion, or even the U.S. Department of Defense's $105 billion estimate.[4] In fact, it is in the $450 billion range, putting it in the same league as the United States and far ahead of any other country, including Russia.[5] This figure reflects the reality that a billion dollars can buy a lot more "bang" in China than in the United States.

Most people think nothing of surrounding themselves with the best technology available. We in the west have become spoiled. We "have to have" the biggest plasma screen TV, the surround sound systems that can reproduce notes inaudible to human hearing, iPods, Blackberries, and of course let us not forget the $30,000 and even $40,000 automobiles and SUV's routinely seen in many family garages across the country. But spending a few extra Gross National Product Points for our military becomes out of the question to these "thinkers" with the silver tongues. You will find these same "thinkers" are the first ones driving the Audis, the Mercedes, and the Lexus, while decrying the cost of the latest armored personnel carrier, and thus sending our soldiers to patrol dangerous areas in HUMMVEES.

During the upcoming silly season we should ask tough questions. We should ask them of those in office, of those seeking to represent us and, most importantly, we should ask them of ourselves.

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