FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Beyond the F-22

by WINSLOW T. WHEELER

Most of the experts see the cancellation of the F-22 as “small potatoes” or ill-advised. Many see Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ efforts to focus so heavily on the wars at hand (which they also support) as a threat to US security. The focus on Iraq and Afghanistan are a problem not because the wars are ill-advised but because they demand money otherwise directed at what they see as lurking threats from North Korea, Iran, and China. What several of them really seem to mean is that Gates does not propose to spend enough additional money on missile defense and high tech conventional weapons: A spending trajectory for the defense budget at or above the very large annual increases established by the recent Bush administration.

In all, I believe it is a remarkable vision of where US national security policy should be going. It has three parts:

1) Keep on fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,

2) increase, in most cases dramatically, the top line of the defense budget to accommodate spending for the selection of weapons the Pentagon has been pursuing for decades (that are also extremely complex, extraordinarily expensive to buy and operate, unreliable, and poorly tested), and

3) everything else is pretty much OK.

I am clearly very out of step with each element of this thinking. My own view, and that of twelve other retired military officers and Pentagon insiders, is articulated at length in the anthology “America’s Defense Meltdown: Pentagon Reform for President Obama and the New Congress.

The Senate system, political and otherwise, is not designed to stop producing much of anything — let alone weapons — especially in a lousy economy. The 58-40 vote to put the F-22 out of it misery offers a ray of hope that intelligent defense decisions can be made in Congress, even if it takes a massive effort by a determined secretary of defense, the president, and arm twisting by Rahm Emanuel. Perhaps the single individual to credit most for this important success is John McCain. Without him, and even with Gates, the vote would have been purely partisan, supplemented by pork crazed Democrats, such as Murray, Boxer, Feinstein, Byrd, and many others.

Important as it is, the vote should not be misinterpreted as a manifestation of Gates’ “reform” agenda. Put simply, reform is not his agenda; reorientation is. Clearly he wants to focus on fighting the wars at hand, and he is having some real success at that, but only inside the Pentagon. And, reform it is not.

Reform means a change in business as usual. That ain’t happening. Case in point: look at the F-35 program, which Gates is anxious to promote and which some touted as picking up the slack that killing the F-22 left. The F-35 is a classic example of buying a pig in a poke; in fact, we will buy 500 of them before the first definitive (IOT&E) test report lands on Gates desk, and it is a undiluted example of the same kind of design thinking and execution that got the Air Force into trouble with the F-22. Namely, costs so high, performance so compromised, and availability so un- that we get as a result an air force that is smaller, older, and less ready to fight at vastly increased cost.

The recently enacted Weapon System Acquisition Reform Act is another clear example of the non-, even anti-, reform agenda that dominates in Secretary Gates’ Pentagon. Riddled with loopholes and the thinking that the Pentagon should be left alone to fix itself, the original draft bill was given even more loopholes and self-report card writing after Deputy Secretary William Lynn’s interventions.

Both reform and Gates reorientation both have a long way to go to succeed. Despite a post-mortem death wriggle in the form of a CQ article that pretended there was new, but belated, news that the F-35 program is falling apart and therefore the F-22 merits reconsideration, the F-22 is a-goner. (News that the F-35 is having huge cost growth and serious performance problems is very plainly nothing new.) But, Gates’ agenda to focus clearly on fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is still very much under siege in Congress. It’s not just the porkers determination to fund more VH-71 helicopters, C-17s, F-18s, and several billions more in pork. Much more importantly, and with little opposition from Gates, the House and Senate Armed services Committees and the House Appropriations Committee are pressing ahead with their beating up on the most important account in the Pentagon budget as far as the two wars are concerned. Specifically, they all recommend billions in reductions in DOD’s Operation and Maintenance account to pay for the pork they add in the Procurement and R&D accounts. O&M pays for training, weapons maintenance, fuel, and much more of the items basic to any war effort. Congress couldn’t care less; the O&M account (and to a lesser extent the military pay account) is their bill payer for pork. To their credit, Senators Levin and McCain pointed this out when they undid Saxby Chambliss’ revolting raid on these accounts to pay for his extra F-22’s. Very sadly, however, Levin and McCain left in tact other raids on O&M (over a $billion) to help pay for the rest of the pork in their bill. The House Armed Services Committee and the House Appropriations Committee did much the same. The Senate Appropriations Committee will; it just hasn’t reported its bill yet.

Gates has a long way to go in Congress to enforce his effort to take the wars seriously.

As for real reform, the 58-40 vote in the Senate shows that with huge effort some progress can be made. Among the 58 who voted against more F-22s are some potential leaders in Congress against the bad ideas in the defense budget that make us weaker at increasing cost. Based on what I am hearing from some of them, there is a real chance we will see more such actions. The longest journey starts with the first step.

WINSLOW T. WHEELER spent 31 years working on Capitol Hill with senators from both political parties and the Government Accountability Office, specializing in national security affairs. Currently, he directs the Straus Military Reform Project of the Center for Defense Information in Washington. He is author of The Wastrels of Defense and the editor of a new anthology: ‘America’s Defense Meltdown: Pentagon Reform for President Obama and the New Congress’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Winslow T. Wheeler is the Director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight.  He spent 31 years working for the Government Accountability Office and both Republican and Democratic Senators on national security issues.

Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
Ryan LaMothe
A Christian Nation?
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Finger on the Button: Why No President Should Have the Authority to Launch Nuclear Weapons
W. T. Whitney
A Bizarre US Pretext for Military Intrusion in South America
Deepak Tripathi
Sex, Lies and Incompetence: Britain’s Ruling Establishment in Crisis 
Howard Lisnoff
Who You’re Likely to Meet (and Not Meet) on a College Campus Today
Roy Morrison
Trump’s Excellent Asian Adventure
John W. Whitehead
Financial Tyranny
Ted Rall
How Society Makes Victimhood a No-Win Proposition
Jim Goodman
Stop Pretending the Estate Tax has Anything to do With Family Farmers
Thomas Klikauer
The Populism of Germany’s New Nazis
Murray Dobbin
Is Trudeau Ready for a Middle East war?
Jeiddy Martínez Armas
Firearm Democracy
Jill Richardson
Washington’s War on Poor Grad Students
Ralph Nader
The Rule of Power Over the Rule of Law
Justin O'Hagan
Capitalism Equals Peace?
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: From the Red Sea to Nairobi
Geoff Dutton
The Company We Sadly Keep
Evan Jones
The Censorship of Jacques Sapir, French Dissident
Linn Washington Jr.
Meek Moment Triggers Demands for Justice Reform
Gerry Brown
TPP, Indo Pacific, QUAD: What’s Next to Contain China’s Rise?
Robert Fisk
The Exile of Saad Hariri
Romana Rubeo - Ramzy Baroud
Anti-BDS Laws and Pro-Israeli Parliament: Zionist Hasbara is Winning in Italy
Robert J. Burrowes
Why are Police in the USA so Terrified?
Chuck Collins
Stop Talking About ‘Winners and Losers’ From Corporate Tax Cuts
Ron Jacobs
Private Property Does Not Equal Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Mass Shootings, Male Toxicity and their Roots in Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
The Fordist Academic
Frank Scott
Weapons of Mass Distraction Get More Destructive
Missy Comley Beattie
Big Dick Diplomacy
Michael Doliner
Democracy, Real Life Acting and the Movies
Dan Bacher
Jerry Brown tells indigenous protesters in Bonn, ‘Let’s put you in the ground’
Winslow Myers
The Madness of Deterrence
Cesar Chelala
A Kiss is Not a Kiss: Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children
Jimmy Centeno
Garcia Meets Guayasamin: A De-Colonial Experience
Stephen Martin
When Boot Becomes Bot: Surplus Population and The Human Face.
Martin Billheimer
Homer’s Iliad, la primera nota roja
Louis Proyect
Once There Were Strong Men
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones
David Yearsley
Academics Take Flight
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail