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Author Topic: FY 2015 Defense Budget  (Read 736 times)

Nightcrawler

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FY 2015 Defense Budget
« on: March 05, 2014, 07:56:08 AM »
FYI.

 Pentagon Requests $495.6 Billion in Fiscal 2015

The Defense Department is requesting $495.6 billion in its base budget, a reduction of $400 million from the enacted Fiscal 2014 budget. The proposed budget meets the sequester-related caps in Fiscal 2015, though it exceeds those caps by some $115 billion from Fiscal 2016 through Fiscal 2019, said DOD Comptroller Robert Hale on Tuesday. The Fiscal 2015 request also assumes some risks, but those risks would rise “significantly” if sequester continued beyond Fiscal 2016, said Pentagon officials. Hale said DOD planners strived to find the right balance between the size of the Joint Force, its readiness, and its capabilities, though he said officials were forced to make tradeoffs between the three in the long term. To save readiness and modernization, a host of efficiencies and compensation reforms have been proposed, including a new BRAC round in Fiscal 2017 and consolidation of the Tricare system beginning in Fiscal 2016. (Fiscal 2015 defense budget summary) (See also Pentagon Seeks $526.6 Billion in Fiscal 2014.)

Macro Breakdown:

Operations and Maintenance: $198.726 billion;

Military Personnel: $135.194 billion;

Procurement: $90.359 billion;

Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation: $63.534 billion;

Military Construction/Family Housing: $6.558 billion;

Other: $1.234 billion.

Department Breakdown:

Air Force: $137.782 billion;

Navy: $147.686 billion;

Army: $120.331 billion;

Defense-wide: $89.806 billion.

*********************

So, the question is, where do you make cuts?  The Navy is small, but new-construction aircraft carriers are behind schedule and over budget.  The F-35 is eating up a good chunk of the budget of the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps.  The Air Force needs new tankers before the KC-135s start falling out of the sky, doesn't have a single bomber less than 20 years old (but has a bunch that are 50 years old), and the bulk of its fighter force are Gulf War veterans.  The Navy's Super Hornets are new, but their F/A-18C/D models are not.  Those are still better off than the USMC's F/A-18A/B models and their AV-8 Harriers.

The Army has tens of thousands of MRAPs it doesn't know what to do with.  The Marines never did get their replacement for the AAV, mostly because the program was a disaster.

You cut procurement and the old equipment just gets older.  You cut O&M and training and readiness falls.  You cut personnel and that's reducing the pay and benefits of servicemembers.

And yet I feel like, beneath all that, is a massive layer of waste, duplication of effort, and frankly excessive numbers of DOD civilians that could be cut.  But that might just be me.
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RevDisk

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Re: FY 2015 Defense Budget
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2014, 10:04:44 AM »
So, the question is, where do you make cuts?  The Navy is small, but new-construction aircraft carriers are behind schedule and over budget.  The F-35 is eating up a good chunk of the budget of the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps.  The Air Force needs new tankers before the KC-135s start falling out of the sky, doesn't have a single bomber less than 20 years old (but has a bunch that are 50 years old), and the bulk of its fighter force are Gulf War veterans.  The Navy's Super Hornets are new, but their F/A-18C/D models are not.  Those are still better off than the USMC's F/A-18A/B models and their AV-8 Harriers.

The Army has tens of thousands of MRAPs it doesn't know what to do with.  The Marines never did get their replacement for the AAV, mostly because the program was a disaster.

You cut procurement and the old equipment just gets older.  You cut O&M and training and readiness falls.  You cut personnel and that's reducing the pay and benefits of servicemembers.

And yet I feel like, beneath all that, is a massive layer of waste, duplication of effort, and frankly excessive numbers of DOD civilians that could be cut.  But that might just be me.

There's easily a hundred billion you could cut without impacting too much readiness. Cutting down on contractors and DOD civilians, getting rid of excess bases, etc. I'm also a big fan of "auction off what you don't need". The rest is riding out the bad programs and drastically overhauling procurement.

Aircraft procurement is FUBAR, and that's on top of the insanity of Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). As I mentioned previously, smartest thing to do would be to include a clause giving the US government a royalty free unlimited copyright (plus all custom tooling, documentation, engineering data, et al) if the original vendor fails to make their milestones so that the government could go to a competing vendor. At the moment, it is in the interest of the vendor to screw up and have massive cost overruns. Cost overruns are all but expected, and tend to only get canceled if makes the news.

As for the Navy, I will fully admit I'm not remotely an expert on boats. I will say, do we really need 10 active carriers with attendant ships? It should be fairly obvious that we need and will always need a minimum number of submarines. We have 14 ballistic missile submarines, which is about what we want/need. We also have 50+ attack subs. Which is a lot, but I'm not sure if it's excessive.  They cost a boatload at nearly $3bn per, but operating expenses are fairly low at $50m per year.  I'm not sure what that means for the entire sub program's operational costs, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was under $10bn per year excluding new haul costs. That's not very much for their usefulness and deterrent factor.  That'd be the LAST item I'd cut. But I don't think it needs to be expanded either.

As admittedly not an expert, I'd personally keep the sub program as-is and look into at either less/consolidated carrier groups or vastly more economical aircraft choices.

Army is pretty straightforward. There's no huge programs on the horizon. Just "modernization", which means buying newer kit when the older stuff wears out and buying drones. No new helicopters, tanks or arty projects are planned besides conceptual models. I know they plan on moving armor over to the NG, which is not good. I'd recommend keeping at least one or two heavy armor brigades (just in case), but what do I know? Last cut went fine and didn't cut much operational effectiveness. This one will. If you make substantial cuts to the Army at this point, you ARE going to reduce operational capacity. There's plenty of fat that could be cut (little pieces here and there that add up), but no simple or easy solutions.

Air Force? Simple. They need to uncluster aircraft procurement (which will not be easy), or they're going to be a paper force. Yes, I know it's DoD largely controlling it, but they need to loudly drive that soaring procurement costs are becoming a national security concern.
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Re: FY 2015 Defense Budget
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2014, 11:43:36 AM »
The Army's short term problem is that they can't cut personnel fast enough.  Soldiers have enlistment contracts with fixed terms (number of years).  If you want to cut that contract short, you have to buy them out - which costs more than it does to keep paying them to finish out their contract.  (Officers and senior (E-6 and above with >10 years of service) are actually easier to cut, because their enlistments/commissions are for indefinite terms) The only places they can make significant cuts are O&M, procurement, and modernization.

Can you say 'Tiered Readiness' boys and girls?

Quote
"This budget request seeks to sustain readiness achieved in FY '14 with priority for forces in Korea, the Global Response Force, and the [new] Army Contingency Force," Maj. Gen. Karen Dyson told reporters at the Pentagon today. "But for those units that are not assigned to one of these categories...training is expected to reach only to company level in some cases and in some select cases to battalion level." And that's in the regular active duty force. "The [Army National] Guard and the Reserves are funded to individual crew and squad level," Dyson said.

FWIW, the GRF is a brigade+ of the 82nd, and the 'Contingency Force' will probably 2 brigades each of armor, Stryker, and light, plus sustainment and higher HQs.

That level of training would actually be worse than what we had when I was a new LT in Germany in the late 90s.  We got to do a battalion MTC rotation almost every 18 months (the limitation was physics, not money - there were 17 battalion sized units in USAREUR, and only time in the calendar for 11 rotations per year.

The one major piece of new equipment I know is in the Army development pipeline is actually a tri-service one - the replacement for the Black/Seahawk medium lift.  Last I checked that was still in the "what this thing needs to be able to do, and why we think it needs to be able to do those things" phase.  The draft of that paper crossed my desk about 5 or 6 months ago.

Other than that, besides the Stryker, most of the Army's major systems date back to the late 70s/ early 80s - the so-called "Big 5"  of the Abrams, Bradley, Blackhawk, Apache, Patriot, plus the MLRS.  The Paladin howitzers are getting a major upgrade, but the gun itself still dates to Vietnam, as does the CH-47.

I also find it interesting that the Army, the largest service in terms of people, has the smallest budget.
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Re: FY 2015 Defense Budget
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2014, 02:08:48 PM »
It's not really that surprising.  The Army has far less big-ticket items than the other services.  Aircraft carriers, fighter jets, satellites, space launch, nuclear systems, none of this is cheap.  If I were to guess, I'd say the Army doesn't do as much of the research and development as the Air Force and Navy do (lasers, rail guns, stealth, space systems, yadda yadda yadda).

Also, nearly half of the Army is made up of the National Guard and Reserve.  You save a lot of money when you only have to pay your troops 39 days a year.

Quote
Air Force? Simple. They need to uncluster aircraft procurement (which will not be easy), or they're going to be a paper force. Yes, I know it's DoD largely controlling it, but they need to loudly drive that soaring procurement costs are becoming a national security concern.

Indeed they do.  But they won't, becuase if they do, the powers that be will try to kill the F-35 or the new bomber.  Rumsfeld and Gates both dismissed the F-22 on the false premise that the F-35 was just as good, and now that program is more riddled with problems and setbacks than the F-22 program was.  But there is nothing else if the F-35 gets axed.  The Marines are so heavily invested in the idea that they need their jumpjet that they're mortgaging their future on the F-35, to the extent they've refused to even get Super Hornets from the Navy to replace their oldest F-18s.  The Navy is taking a more balanced approach, but they have Super Hornets as a fallback.  The Air Force has the most to lose from the F-35 program.  Killing it now would leave them scrambling for a replacement, and that process might take longer than it would for the first F-35A unit to become operational.  I'd still support it if it meant reopening the F-22 line and acquiring new F-18s, F-16s, or F-15s as an interim solution.  I think a high/low mix of Raptors and 4.5-generation fighters could be kept fully capable until the 2030s.

What the AF really needs is a new bomber.  The fighter mafia has run things for far too long, and bombers went by the wayside when SAC was disbanded.  The long range strike program shows promise, but it's probably going to be eaten up by delays like everything else is.  In my opinion, they need a couple of systems: a stealthy, supersonic, long-ranged penetration bomber to take over from the B-1 and B-2, for one.  For two, they need a not-really-stealthy, subsonic, huge-ass bomb truck to replace the B-52.  The BUFF is a great plane, but I'd rather a brand new bird built in 2015 fly until 2040 than them keep a 1962 vintage airframe in service that long.  They SAY it's going to be fine, but with that kind of age problems are going to develop sooner or later.  Design it around modern avionics and sensors, and develop some new standoff weapons for it.  It could be a converted airliner frame if it would be faster; it's what the Navy did with the P-8 Poseidon.  Instead of developing a new airframe, they weaponized a 737, including putting a bomb bay in it.  If they can do it with a 737, they can probably do it with something bigger.
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Re: FY 2015 Defense Budget
« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2014, 02:17:57 PM »
I'd actually like to see the Army and Marine Corps get a new generation of ground combat vehicles.  It doesn't have to be some ridiculous Bradley Fighting Vehicle fiasco though.  I'm thinking a commercial off-the-shelf competition for a new tank, a new tracked APC, and an amphibious assault vehicle.  I don't think abandoning heavy mech divisions for Stryker brigades is necessarily the way to go, either.  A lot of that is Iraq War mentality.  Surely there are newer, suitable vehicles in production amongst our allies that we could develop for our purposes and put into US production.  Not a next-generation system so much as it's recapitalization.
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Re: FY 2015 Defense Budget
« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2014, 04:03:55 PM »
I also find it interesting that the Army, the largest service in terms of people, has the smallest budget.

Not enough pork potential. The pork margin on boots, uniforms, rifles and even Abrams is only so much. That's maybe a couple thousand votes and maybe two retired brass. Dude, people flip their excrement over a hat. A HAT change can cause controversy. The pork margin on a ship or new type of aircraft is insane. You're talking margins in the billions, thousands or tens of thousands in votes, a slew of slots of retired brass, DOD civvie slots, etc.

It hands out pork like Oprah hands out gifts to her audience.

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Re: FY 2015 Defense Budget
« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2014, 04:15:08 PM »
Speaking as someone who works in the 3-star HQ charged with figuring out what the future Army needs to be able to do, and how to get the Army able to do it, I don't think the Army knows what it wants out of it's future ground combat vehicles (the current buzz term is "mobile protected firepower"), other than the kind of general sense of they want at least as much mobility, firepower, and protection as the M1 and M2/3, at half the weight and fuel consumption. At least.  Oh, and networked something or other, too.  Just for fun you can throw in the words "robot" "unmanned" and/or "autonomous" just to really stir things up.

To say the issue is unsettled is to understate the problem.  Really, we need to figure out, "How fast do we need to get to the point of crisis, and how much combat power do we need to bring to be effective, and how long do we need to be able to sustain that combat power to achieve our strategic objective?" before we can move on.

Of course, given that nobody on the civilian side has been able to come up with even the remote outline of a national strategic direction, trying to answer those questions in incredibly hard.
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Re: FY 2015 Defense Budget
« Reply #7 on: March 05, 2014, 04:59:10 PM »
Indeed they do.  But they won't, becuase if they do, the powers that be will try to kill the F-35 or the new bomber.  Rumsfeld and Gates both dismissed the F-22 on the false premise that the F-35 was just as good, and now that program is more riddled with problems and setbacks than the F-22 program was.  But there is nothing else if the F-35 gets axed.  The Marines are so heavily invested in the idea that they need their jumpjet that they're mortgaging their future on the F-35, to the extent they've refused to even get Super Hornets from the Navy to replace their oldest F-18s.  The Navy is taking a more balanced approach, but they have Super Hornets as a fallback.  The Air Force has the most to lose from the F-35 program.  Killing it now would leave them scrambling for a replacement, and that process might take longer than it would for the first F-35A unit to become operational.  I'd still support it if it meant reopening the F-22 line and acquiring new F-18s, F-16s, or F-15s as an interim solution.  I think a high/low mix of Raptors and 4.5-generation fighters could be kept fully capable until the 2030s.

What the AF really needs is a new bomber.  The fighter mafia has run things for far too long, and bombers went by the wayside when SAC was disbanded.  The long range strike program shows promise, but it's probably going to be eaten up by delays like everything else is.  In my opinion, they need a couple of systems: a stealthy, supersonic, long-ranged penetration bomber to take over from the B-1 and B-2, for one.  For two, they need a not-really-stealthy, subsonic, huge-ass bomb truck to replace the B-52.  The BUFF is a great plane, but I'd rather a brand new bird built in 2015 fly until 2040 than them keep a 1962 vintage airframe in service that long.  They SAY it's going to be fine, but with that kind of age problems are going to develop sooner or later.  Design it around modern avionics and sensors, and develop some new standoff weapons for it.  It could be a converted airliner frame if it would be faster; it's what the Navy did with the P-8 Poseidon.  Instead of developing a new airframe, they weaponized a 737, including putting a bomb bay in it.  If they can do it with a 737, they can probably do it with something bigger.

Personally, I'd argue that the USAF would be better served by a lower mix of F-22's to a higher number of conventional modernized F-18s, F-16s, and/or F-15s. But that's me. Stealth is nice and all, but it tends to be expensive, maintenance intensive and lower offensive capacity. A good niche capacity, but it'd be an expensive yet restrictive way of building an air force. Then again, I have an ground pounder mentality, which I fully admit. Expensive toys are very nice, especially for not-wars. At the end of the day, the quality of your land forces decide an actual war.

If we dumped a fifth of the loot we dumped into the F-35, we could buy much much more advanced missiles. I never saw the logic of using a $300 million dollar aircraft with a super expensive pilot to kill another super expensive aircraft with another super expensive pilot, when you could give an NCO making maybe $35k/yr a missile that costs a couple grand to do the same mission. Wouldn't work for air operations far ahead of your forces, but be just dandy for securing your own airspace.

As you say, the fighter mafia runs the USAF. Fighters are tactical assets, not really strategic ones. All of the strategic missions of the USAF tend to get back burnered. How many preventable nuclear weapon incidents did we have in the last ten years? A couple months ago, there was yet another scandal of USAF nuclear weapon personnel indulging in drugs and cheating on their proficiency tests. Apparently, Gates firing Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley had little impact on making the USAF actually take nuclear weapons seriously as a priority.

The B-2 bombers cost a billion dollars per airframe, give or take. Replacing them AND the B-52 would easily be a hundred billion dollar task. Personally, I'd argue that we should just restart B-52 production. If a platform has worked beautifully for 50 years, while other airframes have long come and gone, it probably is good enough. Not to mention, the USAF bet the farm on replacing all of their fighters at the same time and lost that gamble. Respectfully, they shouldn't be trusted enough to bet the farm on replacing all their strategic assets at the same time, because losing THAT gamble would actually endanger national security. Losing our fighter gamble just means tens to hundreds of billions down the drain, and we might have to skip an optional war or two. Losing our bomber gamble would mean losing a third of our nuclear forces. Another third of our nuclear force has a serious drug and attention problem. Thankfully, the Navy ballistic sub fleet seems to be doing alright.

I've heard the "Let's just convert a Boeing 787 into a bomber".  If that was approved, I'd weep for the soul and sanity of the poor PM handed THAT program. It'd be the only realistic project that I could see being worse than the F-35. Airbus A380, MAYBE. Quadruple the conversion costs you think it would take to turn an A380 into a bomber, and expect that to be the lower estimate of the actual project cost. Modern aircraft liners are not designed to be bombers. They are designed to haul passengers and/or cargo. That is only passingly similar to strategic bombers. I know folks that assisted in engineering and/or building both airframes. It'd be a total redesign from the ground up. The only realistic advantage would be between one third and one fourth of your parts being slightly cheaper, at the cost of two thirds or three fourths of your parts being a lot more expensive.

I really don't want to be as harsh on the USAF as I am being. I honestly, truly truly do not. But I swear, the fighter jock mentality was allowed to run amok and most of the other responsibilities seems to have been ignored. Well, the USAF space side seems to be doing alright. NASA took the baton on failure in that case. Our military satellite systems seem to be doing well. Aside from that, procurement sucks, nuclear weapons handling is atrocious, the bomber fleets are getting really really old, the drone fleet is too often a pissing contest with the Army and support elements seem to be lagging in funding priorities as well (refueling fleet, transport fleet, et al).



Speaking as someone who works in the 3-star HQ charged with figuring out what the future Army needs to be able to do, and how to get the Army able to do it, I don't think the Army knows what it wants out of it's future ground combat vehicles (the current buzz term is "mobile protected firepower"), other than the kind of general sense of they want at least as much mobility, firepower, and protection as the M1 and M2/3, at half the weight and fuel consumption. At least.  Oh, and networked something or other, too.  Just for fun you can throw in the words "robot" "unmanned" and/or "autonomous" just to really stir things up.

To say the issue is unsettled is to understate the problem.  Really, we need to figure out, "How fast do we need to get to the point of crisis, and how much combat power do we need to bring to be effective, and how long do we need to be able to sustain that combat power to achieve our strategic objective?" before we can move on.

Of course, given that nobody on the civilian side has been able to come up with even the remote outline of a national strategic direction, trying to answer those questions in incredibly hard.

Last sentence is the most telling. The Army doesn't have direction to restart Cold War mentality or low intensity mentality or both.

With respect, the Army is fine with the major systems it has. They could use incremental improvements in a LOT of areas, don't get me wrong. But it's just upgrades, not replacements. Wish I had the radios back in 2000 that are being issued now. Army just needs to sharpen up what they already have, fill in the niches as necessary and get cracking on better doctrine.

They're missing brains and spine in their senior officer corps, not hardware.    ;)
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Re: FY 2015 Defense Budget
« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2014, 06:17:20 PM »
Quote
Personally, I'd argue that the USAF would be better served by a lower mix of F-22's to a higher number of conventional modernized F-18s, F-16s, and/or F-15s.

It's hard to get much lower than 186 examples.  But that's what I was saying: kill the F-35 back in 2002, buy upgraded existing fighters. Gates and Rumsfeld BOTH said the Air Force didn't need the F-22 because the F-35, which was still very early in development, was going to be "just as good".  Rumsfeld was a knucklehead and Gates had a personal axe to grind with the Air Force, since when he was a young lieutenant he worked for some cigar-chomping fighter pilot who hurt his feel-bads.

Quote
At the end of the day, the quality of your land forces decide an actual war.

Depends on how far you're willing to go.  It wasn't boots on the ground that brought Japan to its knees in World War 2.  It was the B-29 and, ultimately, the atomic bomb.  But that's assuming a total war scenario that is extremely unlikely to happen today. Yes, you need troops in place to "own" territory, but that assumes owning it is a valid objective.  We owned Iraq and Afghanistan for years and years.  Fat lot of good that did us.  (We did, however, need to own islands on which to build air bases for said B-29s, hence the bloody island hopping campaign in the Pacific.)

In any case, no one can make the argument that land forces have been neglected for "high tech toys" for the past decade.  Everything was thrown at the grunt, for the sake of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Now, we've left Iraq and are leaving Afghanistan, and the Army is about to slash a good chunk of the grunts we worked so hard to equip.  (The Army isn't to blame for the inability of politicians to establish a clear strategic objective though.)  In any case the humble grunt is better equipped now than he has been at any point in history.  More time, effort, money, and R&D was thrown into the development and advancement of individual soldier systems during the last ten years than ever was before.

We didn't buy aircraft to the detriment of the infantryman.

Quote
If we dumped a fifth of the loot we dumped into the F-35, we could buy much much more advanced missiles. I never saw the logic of using a $300 million dollar aircraft with a super expensive pilot to kill another super expensive aircraft with another super expensive pilot, when you could give an NCO making maybe $35k/yr a missile that costs a couple grand to do the same mission. Wouldn't work for air operations far ahead of your forces, but be just dandy for securing your own airspace.

The logic is physics.  You can put that missile on a truck on the ground, or you can put it on an airplane.  The airplane can fire that same missile from 40,000 feet going 700 miles an hour, giving it a significant range advantage.  Historically, regardless of ground-based defenses, the bombers always get through.  The limiting factor is how many losses the attacking air force is willing to sustain, but defending your airspace from your own ground position is a losing proposition.

To quote our resident Leatherneck fighter jock:

Quote
But why do we really spend as much on aviation in the Marine Corps as we do? Because it's what we do. Organizationally, the. Marine Corps does combined arms. Period. And nothing puts the enemy on the horns of a dilemma, whether he is a cave-dwelling goat f@#£er or the commander of an armored brigade like a good combination of cheap IDF and precision smart munitions. Sure you can lob a rockeye and ground guide it, but's not as accurate or as powerful as a GBU-12 (500 lb LGB) or Hellfire and it doesn't have the kind of immediacy that on-call fixed and rotary wing air support provides.

The best example I can think of to show why the ACE is worth every penny on it is from March or 2003. During the initial invasion of Iraq, Bat 42, a section (two ship) of Marine F/A-18D's took off to conduct night Strike Coordination and Reconnaissance (SCAR or "go around and find $#!7 to blow up.") Soon after passing into Iraq, Bat 42 caught sight of multiple armored vehicles within their Killbox and began to prosecute attacks against them.  As soon as the first bombs hit deck, the Iraqis started their motors and began pulling out of their positions. Suddenly, Bat 42 was looking as facing more targets than they could possibly hope to destroy so they called on additional assets. Stacking aircraft from 17 to 35 thousand feet, Bat 42 spent the next 3.5 hours providing coordinates for GPS weapons and terminal guidance for other aircrafts' LGBs. By the time the sun was up the next morning, 65 Iraqi tanks and APC's were completely destroyed. Bat 42 had coordinated the complete destruction of an entire reinforced armored battalion.

Their is no other asset in the entire US inventory other than fixed wing aircraft that could do what Bat 42 did that day. The US military destroyed dozens of enemy vehicles and killed untold soldiers with zero loss of life to our own people. Any other conventional engagement would have put our Soldiers, Marines, Sailors or Airmen in harms way and would doubtless have cost us lives we didn't need to lose. LtCol Hammond can complain about the "unfair" share of resources that the ACE gets, but until he can show a weapons system that can reshape the battlefield as dramatically as air power, he has no ground to stand upon.

Quote
s you say, the fighter mafia runs the USAF. Fighters are tactical assets, not really strategic ones. All of the strategic missions of the USAF tend to get back burnered. How many preventable nuclear weapon incidents did we have in the last ten years? A couple months ago, there was yet another scandal of USAF nuclear weapon personnel indulging in drugs and cheating on their proficiency tests. Apparently, Gates firing Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley had little impact on making the USAF actually take nuclear weapons seriously as a priority.

That's partially because the firing of the Air Force bosses wasn't really about nuclear surety (especially since one of the two incidents, the shipping of components to Taiwan, was a Defense Logistics Agency bungle, not an Air Force once). It was more about killing the F-22 I think.

I'm not surprised about the problems they have at the nuke bases.  It's a s___ty job that's basically been a dead-end one for years, ESPECIALLY being a missileer.  It's not going to get fixed until they start doing no-notice inspections again.  And I don't mean having some team of inspectors going down.  I mean, having the general in charge of Global Strike Command going down personally and being willing to fire people on the spot.  It's what Curtis LeMay would've done. 

I don't think they have the stones for that these days, though.  I don't think you can make it past Colonel in the Air Force if you have a spine.  In any case let's not make more of the problems than there are; you never hear about the day-in, day-out alerts where nothing bad happens.  If nothing else, these incidents were found out and resolved before any real damage could be done.  Unlike, for example, the Army's neglect that led to the Fort Hood shooting, the Wikileaks incident, and the Abu Ghraib fiasco, which actually hurt our war effort and/or cost lives.  Stupid s___ is going to happen in a military as big as ours.  It's statistically inevitable.

The Navy's had its share of less-publicized screw ups, including personnel falsifying records on a nuclear reactor, cheating scandals, etc.  These things happen.  It only becomes a real problem if it's allowed to continue.  Hopefully, the problems with the Air Force nuke mission will get everybody else to pull their heads out of their asses and look at what they're doing before something else comes to light.

Hopefully.  Nobody likes having his cheese moved, though.  I can tell you, working an HQ billet like I do now, even getting the smallest of changes is like fighting a pissed-off weasel.

Quote
The B-2 bombers cost a billion dollars per airframe, give or take. Replacing them AND the B-52 would easily be a hundred billion dollar task. Personally, I'd argue that we should just restart B-52 production. If a platform has worked beautifully for 50 years, while other airframes have long come and gone, it probably is good enough. Not to mention, the USAF bet the farm on replacing all of their fighters at the same time and lost that gamble. Respectfully, they shouldn't be trusted enough to bet the farm on replacing all their strategic assets at the same time, because losing THAT gamble would actually endanger national security. Losing our fighter gamble just means tens to hundreds of billions down the drain, and we might have to skip an optional war or two. Losing our bomber gamble would mean losing a third of our nuclear forces. Another third of our nuclear force has a serious drug and attention problem. Thankfully, the Navy ballistic sub fleet seems to be doing alright.

The B-2s cost a billion each because we spent a decade developing entirely new, unproven technology on an incredibly ambitious proposal.  Then, at the last minute, they decided instead of it just being a high altitude bomber, they wanted it to be a low-altitude bomber too.  This added more delays and more weight to the design.  Northrop, despite itself, managed to make it work.

But then, instead of buying a hundred of them as originally planned, we bought twenty-one.  So the entirety of the R&D costs for what was, at the time, revolutionary technology, were rolled into less than two dozen basically custom, hand-built airplanes.  Anyone with an understanding of economies of scale wasn't really surprised.

The competing Lockheed design probably would've been less problematic, but it relied on the older faceted stealth design (which was necessary due to the limited processing power of the day).  They decided to go with the bolder option.  With the clarity of hindsight, maybe not a great choice.

Quote
I've heard the "Let's just convert a Boeing 787 into a bomber".  If that was approved, I'd weep for the soul and sanity of the poor PM handed THAT program. It'd be the only realistic project that I could see being worse than the F-35. Airbus A380, MAYBE. Quadruple the conversion costs you think it would take to turn an A380 into a bomber, and expect that to be the lower estimate of the actual project cost. Modern aircraft liners are not designed to be bombers. They are designed to haul passengers and/or cargo. That is only passingly similar to strategic bombers. I know folks that assisted in engineering and/or building both airframes. It'd be a total redesign from the ground up. The only realistic advantage would be between one third and one fourth of your parts being slightly cheaper, at the cost of two thirds or three fourths of your parts being a lot more expensive.

I don't know.  Again, the B-2 was a problem because it was all new technology.  Boeing has repeatedly offered to build bombers based on the 747 for the Air Force, so apparently they're reasonably certain it could be done.  How cost effective it'd be, I don't know. 

Thing is, you can't build more B-52s.  The factory that built them in Wichita, Kansas, probably isn't there anymore, and most of the people involved in the program are probably dead now.  It'd be much simpler, from an engineering standpoint, to define the capabilities and then have the industry create an airplane to suit.  In this case, the capabilities are pretty straightforward: big, reliable, long-range, large bomb-bays.  Nothing cutting-edge, pushing the envelope, or ground breaking.  Just something new to send to bomber units to replace B-52s.   It probably wouldn't need to be as big as the BUFF, either.

Quote
the drone fleet is too often a pissing contest with the Army

One issue with that is, when an Army brigade deploys, they take their drones with them, and employ them in theater.  When they go home, they take their drones with them.  Their replacements may or may not have the same capability.  Every time a new unit cycles in, the war effectively starts over.  It hasn't been a 12 year war so much as it's been a dozen one-year wars.  There's nothing like watching two headquarters FOBs get into a pissing contest over who owns what asset in "THEIR" battlespace.

For starters, to rebuild our military, we should seriously consider simply withdrawing from the Middle East almost completely, back to 1980s presence levels.  Policing that s___ hole for 25 years has been a massive drag on our resources and we have nothing for our trouble.
« Last Edit: March 05, 2014, 07:49:13 PM by Nightcrawler »
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Re: FY 2015 Defense Budget
« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2014, 06:33:31 PM »
Thing is, you can't build more B-52s.  The factory that built them in Wichita, Kansas, probably isn't there anymore, and most of the people involved in the program are probably dead now.

The factory is actually still there,  probably not much of the tooling and equipment though.  Boeing sold off their commercial division a few years ago which formed Spirit Aerosystems, which basically just operates as a subcontractor for Boeing making all the same s___ they did when the company owned the place.    They kept the military division in place for a few years, but they are currently in the process of shutting that down and moving all the work to Oklahoma.   I think they are currently trying to find a buyer for all the buildings and land.

Most of the guys that originally worked on the B-52 are mostly long retired or dead.   There might still be some of the folks around that worked on the various modernization projects during the ensuing decades.   When I worked there as an intern in 2001, they still had a B52 cockpit section outside of one of the buildings that they used to test the installation of new equipment and components to make sure they would all fit in the airplane correctly.   
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Re: FY 2015 Defense Budget
« Reply #10 on: March 05, 2014, 09:03:24 PM »
Just to be fair, I understand the line of thought behind the F-35A.

The F-16 has been the workhorse of the Air Force for a generation.  It has been improving in capability for almost 40 years.  It's gone from a lightweight, short-ranged day fighter with almost no air-to-ground capability to a jack-of-all-trades fighter bomber.  It's the most widely exported US jet fighter since the F-4 Phantom and F-104 Starfighter.  The USAF has relied on it heavily in every conflict its fought in.

Before that, a previous generation of fighter bombers like the F-4 and, closer in design philosophy, the F-100, did the bulk of the missions in Vietnam.

Given that institutional experience, I get them seeking a modernized replacement for the F-16.  I just think they might have been too ambitious with the F-35 (it also had to be a jump jet for the Marines).  Too many design compromises, too many decisions by committee, too many politicians, lobbyists, officials, officers, and everyone else in on the effort.  The DOD couldn't cancel the damned thing now if it wanted to, Congress would never allow it.

But...the axis of the world is pivoting to the Pacific.  Traditional threat regions like the Middle East aren't going to go away, but even there, our air bases and carriers will be in range of a new generation of theater ballistic missiles.  Short ranged fighter bombers aren't the best option for that kind of scenario.  Longer ranged platforms offer a lot of advantages.

I don't know how to fix the broken acquisition system though.  There's too much politics involved.  Take, for example, the KC-X fiasco.  The USAF chose a winner, the Airbus, years ago.  Boeing sued, and the whole matter got tied up for years with a legal battle, Congressmen getting involved, the office of the SecDef getting involved, on and on and on.
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Re: FY 2015 Defense Budget
« Reply #11 on: March 05, 2014, 09:10:47 PM »
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304384104579141982099354454

Pentagon Toils to Build a Bomber on a Budget
Financial Considerations Vital in Effort to Build Replacement for Aging B-52s and B-1s

By Julian E. Barnes, Nov. 3, 2013

When a military contractor showed Col. Chad Stevenson a design for the Air Force's top secret plane of the future, he began to worry.

"They were showing this really nice fold out bed, this nice refrigerator and microwave, a kind of lounge-provision area," Col. Stevenson recalled of the recent design.

The contractor, Lockheed Martin, LMT +0.71% didn't offer an estimate for such flying comforts. But Col. Stevenson imagined a publicity nightmare in the making: a $300,000 kitchenette as the latter-day symbol of Pentagon excess—the $600 toilet seat for the 21st century.

The kitchenette was killed.

Such financial considerations are vital to the Air Force's most important project today: building a new long-range bomber to replace the iconic and aging B-52s and B-1s that have come to represent America's domination of the sky.

It is the job of Col. Stevenson and a small group of Air Force colleagues to guard against improvidence and any untested technologies that could lead the grand project—expected to cost upwards of $55 billion—down the path the Pentagon often travels of cost-overruns and blown deadlines.

The plane of the future, dubbed the "Long-Range Strike Bomber," is the first weapon system to be designed in the new age of military austerity. Flight range, firepower and technological prowess are no longer the only features that matter. The Pentagon says it now gives equal weight to a far more pedestrian point: cost.

After a decade of rapidly rising defense spending, Congress capped the Pentagon budget, forcing nearly a trillion dollars in cuts by 2023.

Defense officials worry that those cuts could threaten many modernization programs, like the bomber.

The new bomber remains largely classified, with critical elements of range, bomb payload and overall look a closely guarded secret. But over the past six months, the Air Force offered The Wall Street Journal rare access to officers behind the project.

"We are trying to stick to a plan, for once," Col. Stevenson said. "Adding things means risk: risk of increasing costs, risk the plane won't be built."

Col. Stevenson has blocked everything from new cyberdefenses to advanced surveillance sensors, squaring off over upgrades against defense contractors and aides to the Defense secretary.

While his job is mostly budget cop, he also plays the role of a kind of crisis manager, on the lookout for any embellishments that might make the plane appear gold-plated.

In 2011, officials agreed to spend $550 million on each new bomber—a third of the cost of its predecessor, the B-2 bomber, which ended up with a price tag of $1.8 billion a plane.

Air Force leaders believe the new aircraft is critical to America's ability to project force in far-flung parts of the world, particularly in Asia, where China is investing heavily in its military and long distances between U.S. bases diminish the effectiveness of its short-range fighters.

The Air Force hopes to get the new nuclear-capable bomber airborne in the middle of the next decade—a daunting task considering the history of such ambitions.

Delays, technical glitches and cost overruns have beset nearly every Air Force project in the past three decades.

An F-22 fighter plane scheduled to take flight in 2002, for instance, wasn't finished until 2011, with fewer planes than planned and each costing hundreds of millions more than expected. None have been used in combat.

The oldest plane in the bomber fleet, the B-52, took flight in 1954, during the Cold War, followed by the B-1 and the latest, the batlike B-2, which hit the battlefield in 1998, after more than 20 years in research and development.

Most recently, the B-2 was deployed in the early days of the Libyan conflict, where it took out air defenses.

Aging and expensive to maintain now, only 16 B-2s are combat ready (at $135,000 per hour of flight), and many of the remaining 138 B-52 and B-1 bombers are heading for retirement.

The military fears being stuck with a small fleet, as many in the service believe future conflicts will require lightning quick responses, with the ability to strike newly identified targets in distant lands within hours while at the same time penetrating a bristling range of air-defenses.

For supporters of the new bomber, only a long-range stealthy aircraft offers that capability.

"In the future, what our president is going to need is options, options to project power anywhere in the world within hours," said Major Gen. Steve Kwast, who is charged with helping shape the Air Force's long-term strategy. "This Long-Range Strike Bomber is going to be that option the president can use when there are no other options."

The project is still at an early design stage, putting it in an especially risky spot during the coming negotiations over government spending.

There are no flying prototypes. Last month, Boeing Co. BA -1.11% and Lockheed Martin announced a joint bid for the new bomber, setting them up against Northrop Grumman Corp. NOC -0.48% , maker of the B-2.

The three firms declined to discuss their work on the bomber.

Some defense analysts and former officials believe the Air Force should put the future bomber resources into developing advanced unmanned drones, which have been used increasingly to strike distant targets in Africa and the Middle East. Others think the Air Force needs to invest more in aircraft that better support ground troops.

"The services are all wedded to tradition," said Mieke Eoyang, the director of the national security program at Third Way, a centrist think tank. "It is like the Army and its fondness for tanks. If you prioritize things that you don't use, you have less money for things you do."

The new bomber rises out of the ashes of an earlier program that struggled to get off the ground over the last decade. That program was canceled in 2009 by then Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who lamented that such weapons systems were "so complex that they take forever to build."

The Long-Range Strike Bomber began life in February 2011 when Mr. Gates signed off on the plane's new requirements, setting its range and payload (both classified) and requiring that it be able to evade radar and penetrate defended air space.

About $600 million has been spent so far to research the new plane and another $8.7 billion is set to be spent over the next five years, according to budget documents.

As Col. Stevenson dug into the new project, he also took on a larger mission: transforming the culture of the Air Force.

"If Ford or GM design a new car, they know how many they want to sell and they know much they want it cost. And they go back from there," Col. Stevenson said. "But the Air Force has not done that."

A 48-year old from South Dakota, Col. Stevenson arrives to work at 7 a.m. every morning in a green flight suit, putting in at least 12 hour days as he darts between meetings at the Pentagon and around Washington, D.C.

He was chosen for the job largely because, as a former B-2 pilot, he knows what pilots need—and don't.

It was with this eye that he looked askance when Lockheed Martin showed him the proposed crew lounge last year.

"This was a very nice crew rest area which would have made a lot of pilots very happy," he said.

There were debates over the kitchenette. Design contractors and some officers argued mishaps would decline if crews flying around the world for nearly two days could get proper rest, Air Force officials said.

In his 40-hour B-2 runs from Missouri to targets in Afghanistan, Col. Stevenson slept on a cot bought from a sporting-goods store and kept his two sandwiches, a bottle of water and a Mountain Dew in a 10-gallon cooler.

When Col. Stevenson sought approval to jettison the pilot lounge, he went to Gen. Kwast, his boss then at Air Combat Command, who backed his deputy.

"This is a plane to go to war in," Gen. Kwast told the colonel. "Crew comfort, while important, is not a necessity."

In an interview, Gen. Kwast said he wanted to "maintain an appetite suppressant" while encouraging smart innovation.

"If they were to bring us fusion power and could power the bomber for 100 hours on a banana peel, I would probably say 'yes' to that," he said.

Air Force officials struck down more than a dozen ideas from the defense industry, including new electronic support measures, the warning systems that detect enemy radar or cyberattacks. Instead, Col. Stevenson said, the Air Force has opted to go with existing systems.

"Technology that has been fielded is the only answer," the colonel said. "If it hasn't already been tested, we aren't interested."

The bomber will likely resemble the B-2, with its famously sleek black body and sweptback wings, Defense officials said. It will also run on an existing engine design, Air Force officials said.

While that means its range is likely to be similar to the 7,500 miles the B-2 can travel without refueling, it will save billions of dollars in development costs.

But Air Force officials note that the new bomber will exceed the B-2 in many ways. Stealth technology has advanced, as has the coordination of real-time targeting intelligence from satellites and other airplanes.

The cost obsession however has its downside, resulting in the elimination of requirements that some officials originally considered essential.

For instance, a concept that would have allowed the plane to be converted into a unmanned drone was shelved for now—too costly for the age of austerity, according to Air Force officials.

Still, some remain doubtful the bomber will remain stripped down. Thomas Christie, the Pentagon's former Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, predicts the defense industry will eventually convince the Air Force to include various new technologies.

"I have watched over the years as we load a system up with all the latest toys," said Mr. Christie, a critic of the Air Force's history of building planes. "The next thing you know, we are in trouble technically and with costs."

One heavily debated upgrade was a new reconnaissance sensor. A contractor presented the Air Force with the design late last year. On its face, the sensor held great appeal.

One of the military's new guiding principles is that new weapons shouldn't be designed for only one task or one style of warfare. The added sensor would essentially create a spy plane on top of a fighting machine.

But it would come at a cost: $25 million or more.

Four months of discussions ensued, with Col. Stevenson shuttling around the Pentagon, with stacks of papers detailing design plans, meeting senior officers and four-star generals.

Some argued that the sensor would save money later and make the plane more useful as a surveillance platform, officials said.

"There was a rich debate," said Gen. Kwast.

In the end, Col. Stevenson believed that the sensor would take the plane into unknown technological areas, ultimately the death of the last bomber.

The colonel came up with a compromise: no second sensor, but the design would leave enough space for one to be added later.

There were 15 meetings within the Pentagon alone, just to explain the decision and then another with congressional staffers.

The cost-cutting move brings its own complications, of course. To allow for later upgrades, the Air Force will adopt an "open architecture" for the plane's internal software. That would make adding new capabilities easier and less expensive. It would also add upfront costs and increase the risk of delays.

All the current bombers are used far beyond their original imagining. The B-2, for example, was designed to hit one or two targets in bombing runs, but today can carry 80 500-pound precision-guided bombs.

Building in flexibility, said Air Force officials, will ensure the plane will evolve over its decadeslong time in service.

Col. Stevenson said the new bomber will be very powerful. Still, he said, some people will inevitably be disappointed. "This plane," he said, "is not going to be all things to all people."

************

I'm a believer in bombers.  Bombers are how you project power.  Bombers give the Commander-in-Chief options during a crisis.  Modern bombers can do everything from close air support (smart munitions and a JTAC on the ground, and it's great because unlike fighters, it can hang around all day), recon, anti-ship, or even just presence patrols for the sake of making a point (like when we flew our B-52s through China's "air defense zone" over some disputed islands recently).

Fighters are versatile.  They're like small ships in the Navy.  But bombers are like carriers or SSBNs: they're the big stick, the tool in the strategic toolbox, and for way too long they've taken a sideline (especially since the end of the Cold War).  If I could cut the number of USAF F-35s in half or more to get twice as many new bombers, I'd do it.  If I could scrap the F-35 and put ALL of that money to a new bomber, I might just do it.

That's why I'm not in charge, though.  I just want to do things without shuffling between a bazillion committee meetings. :)
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Re: FY 2015 Defense Budget
« Reply #12 on: March 05, 2014, 09:49:35 PM »
It is irksome that the military is killing some programs in favor of programs that are not yet ready.


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Re: FY 2015 Defense Budget
« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2014, 09:34:18 AM »

Part of the problem is that they're cutting the DOD budget without letting them retire equipment, reduce infrastructure, etc.  It comes back as a result of our complete lack of a strategic vision for the US military.  Instead of deciding what we want to accomplish and building a military to facilitate that, we've got a military and we're trying to figure out what to do with it.  :facepalm

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2014/03/04/220134/militarys-top-general-offers-grim.html

Now, regarding the Air Force's nuke mission problems, like I said: no-notice inspections, firing people on the spot if need be, and finding a way to make that career field desireable.  I'm pretty sure Curtis LeMay would've shot somebody after the Barksdale incident back in 2007.



We'll see if they have the stones to really clean that mess up.  Maybe missileer duty should be a temporary rotation instead of a permanent AFSC.  Nobody wants to spend his entire military career sitting in a hole in the ground, going over the same checklist every day, year in and year out.  People are going to get complacent.
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Re: FY 2015 Defense Budget
« Reply #14 on: March 06, 2014, 03:15:43 PM »
Worked at a nuclear power plant at one time in my life, the security people there had to stand fire watches.  After the NRC caught the first one sleeping during an 8 hour watch, it became a rotating watch, an hour at a time, part of normal patrolling.  Same type of thing should apply to Air Force.  You do a period of time out of each year or two as part of a normal career in the AF.  You want to progress through the ranks, you get your ticket punched for your time in the silo.
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Re: FY 2015 Defense Budget
« Reply #15 on: March 07, 2014, 01:57:40 PM »
This rant came in on a list serv that I'm on, concerning a post on the "Defense in Depth" blog at CFR:

Quote
How does anyone continue to get away with this kind of analysis.  I don't
get it.  "compared to pre-war levels it is still a pretty big Army"???  not
one mention of the demands of National Security, the future operating
environment or what in fact the Nation might have to do.  "let us at least
begin the debate with an understanding of the size of these forces compared
to pre-war, not peak levels."  Okay, let's.  the pre war size of the Army
was too small for the future operating environment.  That is the only
inarguable comment we can make about size comparing pre-war size to
projected cuts.  We were too small at 490K in 2001 for what we were going to
be called on to do.  So one suspects, that if we were too small at in 2001,
in a global environment with a more stable North Korea and a less
reactionary Russia, a pre Arab Winter, Iran 12 years further back in nuclear
weapons kind of world, than it seems more likely than not that we will be
too small at 450, and too small at 420 (which is where we will be under
current sequester law.)

If the US is going to surrender the global representative of western
democracy (pay any price, bear any burden) role it has held since 1945, than
the Army is too big.  If it is going to retain that role, the Army is too
small.  That is where we need to begin the debate.

Dennis Miller, the comedian, had a
better take on this than any expert I have read.  He said, if we are going
to retreat from our role of global leaders, we need to do it quickly and get
off the stage, because the uncertainty we are creating now is more dangerous
than if we just give up.  Fine -lets pass global leadership to Russian or
China and enjoy our well earned retirement as the dollar is replaced as the
coin of the globe.  Not our job anymore. 

The argument about force size absent an argument about the role of the US in
world affairs is a self licking ice cream cone, meaningless argument.  if we
can't have the actual debate within the defense community, then we may
already be doomed.
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