Paying More, Buying Less

Paying More, Buying Less

The new budget now being trotted out for the Pentagon is a tired old document, bereft of the many significant changes needed to revive our decaying defenses. Worse, the Pentagon’s masters and its peanut galleries in Congress, the press, and think tanks opine delusions that anything significant is changing.

Much will be made of a few reluctant acknowledgements of reality. The Navy won’t plan on, for now, a new cruiser it can’t afford even under the wildest budget growth assumptions. The Army will continue redesigning the vehicles for its “system of system” target hunting technologies that we now know can’t find even primitive enemies. The Air Force will have to wait, but just a bit, for a new bomber to try, yet again, to attack what it called decades ago “critical nodes.” The Marine Corps will declare a return to its amphibious warfare heritage: to fight its way onto hostile shores — something it has not done since 1945.

The new spending level for the Pentagon reinforces the non-change. At $708 billion, we will witness yet another year of “real growth:” a trajectory we have been on since 1999. As usual, we will be told that the increases are because we live in a dangerous world, as evidenced by the continuing, if not expanding, wars President Obama wants to fight directly or indirectly in at least five countries. We will also be told of the “austere” nature of the Pentagon budget for its spending back home; although it is the largest DOD money plan since 1946.

A dangerous world it may be, but significantly less so than the one we saw in the Cold War when we faced hundreds of Soviet divisions in Europe and tried to address unending brushfire — or worse — wars all over the world, least some new communist regime tip the scales of perceived balance against us. The relative calm we witness today, nonetheless results in an American defense budget that is today about $200 billion higher than the average Pentagon Cold War budget.

A new report from the Congressional Research Service now tells us that the Bush/Obama wars have cost just over $1 Trillion, but that is just 19 percent of the $5.3 Trillion spent by the Pentagon in the same period. The conflicts that impel the growth in the budget actually comprise only a fifth of its size.

Excluding the cost of the wars, the “base” Pentagon budget has also gone up dramatically: 25 percent, or over another Trillion dollars. What we have gotten for that huge increase illuminates the disturbing nature of our decay. The Navy and Air Force are both smaller and equipped with major hardware that is, on average, older than at any point since the end of World War II. The Army and Marine Corps have seen increases to a few combat formations but are only marginally above their post-World War II lows. A gargantuan increase in spending has brought forth major decay in two military services and insignificant up-ticks in two others.

Where did the added money go? According to the Government Accountability Office almost $300 billion went into mismanagement in the form of cost overruns for hardware. (Expect a new GAO report this spring finding the cost overruns have grown.) Much of the rest of the money for acquisition went into “successful” hardware programs that were so much more expensive to buy and maintain than what they were replacing that we literally shrunk the force with more money, while simultaneously spending more to support this new equipment at lower operating and training levels.

With better justification, but exacerbated by a herd of politicians anxious to pander, another huge cost increase has been in military manpower. Largely indiscriminant pay increases and gigantically expensive programs for healthcare, retirement, disability, and family survivors have now set the rate of increase in military manpower spending well above the rate of increase in the rest of the Pentagon budget. The uncontrolled costs for manpower and hardware have made the two competitors for each other’s wallets: advocates for hardware try to raid the personnel budget, and the advocates of high manpower costs spend the money as a political necessity — without the slightest reflection on how to pay for it all, or the implications.

You will search in vain for rescue from these trends in the new budget. Anyone paying the slightest attention knows both of these wolves have passed the door, but no one in the Pentagon or Congress (repeat; no one) has the political spine to confront the trends and reverse them.

Instead of exploring real reform, the nation’s national security leadership spawns justifications for business as usual. Paralleling the 2011 Pentagon budget is a new national security master plan, the Quadrennial Defense Review, written by the Pentagon’s top leadership. They proudly announce that they have discarded simplistic formulas to justify America’s defense bloat and have come up with a new construct. The document reveals that the only thing they changed is the terminology.

Neither the new budget nor the new QDR bring anything significantly innovative, or even original. The decay — at ever increasing cost — continues. There will be a reckoning; the longer we dither, the worse it will be.

Join the Conversation

…I’m sorry, apparently I accidentally switched over to DailyKOS when I wasn’t looking. No, no…still on DoD Buzz. Odd.

This is from the Huffington Post. Why the hell are their anti-defense articles being replicated here?

I appreciate that TMB can at least base his rebuttal on the substance of the article, and made good points. Implying the article is worthless cause Winslow Wheeler wrote it… pretty weak.

Wheeler is writing here now???? Oh come on! I could see if you got someone who was middle of the road or even veered to one side but this guy is so far to the left I can’t see him.…

Wheeler???? COME ON!

The marines need to give up using amphibious assaults, and dedicate themselves to their lovely Osprey. (As Ospreys will be the future). Wouldn’t hurt that the Army/Marines integrate some to reduce cost. (Use the same vehicles and equipment, granted be specialized for each others unique missions.)

When he mentions that we are supporting fewer systems (ships, aircraft, etc) at lower training levels — we should at least politely listen. Every new manned system costs more and so we buy fewer. Example — we bought 100 B-1s but less than half that many B-2s. We bought hundreds of F-15s and only 183 F-22s.

Byron will be happy to see me mention the UAVs — that are brand new and bring very needed capabilities — Winslow missed that. I am happy to hear that personnel costs have gone up since I feel we are more reasonably compensating our folks, even into retirement.

I disagree with many of his points but I will closely examine his ideas. His voice is one that might have something for us here on DoD Buzz. I am glad to read his thoughts here.

LtCol, USAF Retired

While not a Winslow Wheeler talking head fan, he has a point about the failure of the Pentagon to map out a coherent case for what it really needs. With a charter to win the war and keep the peace, the Pentagon needs well trained personnel with overwhelming firepower. As to the amount of money it gets each year to do that job, well, that’s a different matter. Despite what the President says about exempting the Pentagon’s budget from a hard nosed evaluation to help cut the deficit, what’s really needed is for the Pentagon to go into a GM-Chrysler style “bankruptcy” or zero-based review process, where it maps out it what it truly needs (not all the generals’ and admirals’ pet rocks or “wants”), decides what is the most time-effective, cost-efficient way to get that capability, and cut everything else (including retiring or firing the bosses of those cut or reduced programs).

In my 25 years of managing about $60 billion of Navy and Marine Corps money, the only way to get that kind of certainty of outcome was to cut the budget. (No amount of “acquisition or management reform” was ever really successful.) Getting down to basics brings a real clarity of purpose and effectiveness when all the rest of the “welfare” stuff is weeded out.

How are you supposed to “rebut” a column whose “substance” is mostly hurf-durfing about military spending? I could search-and-replace “military spending” to “social security” and it would work just as well as this screed manages to do.

Look, this isn’t some tea-party knee-jerk thing, here. If DoD Buzz wants to put up some contrarian views, I think that’s great. However, this column is crap. It’s badly-written, presents no central thesis or coherent argument, and what few facts it brings up are either incomplete or incorrect.

The problem is that everyone has a different idea of what’s Absolutely Needed Right Now and what’s Useless Waste That Ought To Be Cut. I’m pretty sure that back in 1988 or so, satellite navigation was Useless Waste That Ought To Be Cut, because after all we had TACAN and that’s all we needed right?

DD — Some of us saw that new technology was going to provide much better capability and supported TACAN. But there are vast areas which need no-holds-barred, deep dive assessments to revalidate their utility and cost-effectiveness/efficiency. Early program truncation is a good example. A change in operational over-the-horizon rules-of-engagement led to the early demise of the Phoenix air-to-air missile program, which in turn killed off the F-14 Tomcat, whose only purpose was to carry six of those missiles.

I meant to say supported satellite navigation. Another example, I helped push direct broadcast capabilities onto the Navy’s last three UFO satellites while the Air Force had no clue as to what to do with that new comemrcial technlogy. That was a budget process initiated decision.

Then why didn’t you say that, instead of implying you just don’t want to read anything from this author?

Wheeler tends to paint with a broad brush, but not everything he says should be automatically discounted.

Of course personnel costs for a volunteer army in an unpopular war are going to be very high.

The Marines’ last amphibious assault under fire was in 1950, not 1945. They’ve also made several landings since then. Reinforcements were landed a few times in Vietnam on the shore, as well as Grenada. The Marines conducted an amphibious assault (no resistance) on Mogadishu in 1992. You don’t have to land under fire to validate the tactic. Just because Korea (NOT WWII Windlow!) was the last time a Marine was shot at coming ashore doesn’t mean we can write off the capability. The EFV is an expensive and wrong way to move forward in that realm IMHO, but the need is still there.

Marines landed repeatedly 1966–68 in I Corps. Nearly monthly ARG/SLF Bn-sized ops, helo and across the beach, in support of grnd ops., and took casualities.
But agree, Amphibious Ops doctrine needs to be reviewed. Pretty narrow, I think.

Good Evening Folks,

The budget isn’t even out yet and the wingers have shown that they have nothing but personal attacks and nonsense to offer. It would appear that Mr. Wheelers article is pretty accurate, I don’t expect many of you to deal with evidence. The article pants a dismal picture of waste, needless spending and a total disregard for the 40% of the military that actually is fighting the war.

Last year there was a backlog of $2.5 trillion, in defense spending this year it’s down to $2 trillion, with any luck maybe we can get another half billion of waste and need programs tossed out.

Some interesting things that happened this week.

On AM talk radio, I can’t use a name of the program or a direct quote because mil​.com doesn’t a law suit, but it was said to cut the budget first freeze military pay for three years, they already make more then what is being paid on the outside.

Cut back on dependents benefits, way especially healthcare, they are way to generous. Next Veterans benefits, PTSD and TBI are skamms that are allowing discharged military to get monetary benefits. Most claims for PTSD and TBI are fraudulent. A congressman called in and agreed with this.

Yesterday Goldman Sachs changed Lockheed Martin from hold caution to sell/dump. Many conservatives think that the street is ahead of events. It was noted in the WSJ today that 10% of LM’s gross profits for 2009 came from the F-35n and they have yet to deliver an aircraft.

This comes on the heels of about a week ago when NG was downgraded to sell/dump after the much hyped USS New York “blew out engine bearings” back story has it that two of the New York’s diesels were blown out, the reason as with all the other San Antonio’s is shoddy workmanship, poor supervision and line management on NG part.

Last year Sec. Gates, Admiral Mullen and General Cartwright showed that they are not beholding to those peculiars institutions of winger tanks and had a few surprises, let hope for more of the same this year. How about trimming that $2 trillion down to under $1.5 then work on that in the 11–12 budget.

Put more then 20% of the budget for the troops especially the 40% who have been fighting these wars for the past nine years. They could start with a 4.5% base pay raise, increase combat pay, war zone bonus (tax free) for those who are in combat, look after families of those deployed and vastly increase Veterans Benefits. For the 60% that don’t deploy, well screw ‘em.

To show good fate Congress could pass a law that guarantees everyone with a Purple Heart a job, even if it means displacing someone else who didn’t serve in combat. To those with combat service but not PH they should have front of the line privileges for any job that is supported by tax payers money in both the public and private sector. No woman or man who is a combat veteran who wants a job, should be with out one, period.

To those who have payed the price of fighting these un needed wars and have spilled their blood the LEAST American owes them is a middle class income, ($70,000 annual income for a family of 4), lifetime healthcare for them and their spouse, the ability to buy a home, have a decent paying job and the ability to support their families.

Byron Skinner

Byron, the first and last parts of your post are contradictory. Are we overcompensated or not? “Most TBI claims are fraudulent.” Care to offer some kind of evidence to that claim? You say we’re paid too much and lie about our injuries, but then want to give us a golden ticket when we get out. I’m confused.

As for the annual argument over military vs civilian pay, how much does an infantryman get paid in the private sector?

I love all those benefits you say to give to the troops. (Except for taking someone else job). But it will never happen as we continue to pay for a big government (that’s been around for countless years *Over 30*) and is only getting bigger under Obama. And will surely get even bigger followed by his replacement in 2012. Rather its a republican/democrat, it won’t matter.

Typical Huffington Post trash. Can we please get some articles from legtimate sources please? Not a bunch of leftist nuts who want to scrap our military entirely.

The budget isn’t even out and the leftists are showing they have nothing but personal attacks and nonsense to offer. It would appear that Mr. Wheelers so called article is nothing more than a thinly veiled liberal rant and rave about the military they don’t want to pay a dime for. Naturally the author is very “liberal” with the facts and while claiming the DoD budget is too large totally ignores the massive waste and corruption in countless programs of so called “mandatory” spending. Nor is inflation, political interference, and countless other factors that contribute to these cost problems even examined.

Seriously Byron, “wingers”? Is that supposed to be offensive? And what “winger institutions?” do you speak of? I guess any organization that develops the equipment needed to fight in modern conflicts is part of the vast right wing conspiracy? You claim PTSD is a scam but perhaps you should be checked out in the head before making such a claim.

Typical conservatard bullcrap. Instead of addressing the argument, make personal attacks that aren’t even remotely factually based, let alone on topic.
Somehow, I’m just not surprised.

I’m rather surprised that you read my original comment as critical of the column itself, rather than critical of its being published on this website. I think that you need to have a doctor look at your knee, because it’s got a serious jerking problem.

GIs earn two to three times more than comparable Americans. We start at $38,000 a year and can make $100,000 a year as an E-9. An E-6 can make more than the average American with a Masters degree. Shocked? I was too, but all the data is laid out in the recent blog at g2mil​.com . Reenlist! Don’t waste your time and money going to college.

$100K as an E-9. That’s after putting in at least 20 years time in service and being promoted to a position that constitutes less than 1% of the military. We don’t start at $38K a year. An E-1 starts out making just over $17K a year. He makes a little more if he’s married and living off post. The g2mil blogger makes a lot of broad brush assumptions about pay, benefits, and what people actually do in the military. As I stated at the beginning of the comments, pay has gone up considerably because its a case of supply and demand. There is a huge demand for troops these days and the DoD has to put up the money to recruit and retain them in this war. Over the last couple years with the economy tanking reenlistment bonuses have seriously dried up because supply (recruits wanting in) is outpacing the demand (people staying in our getting out).

Take a look at Wheeler’s biography. He spent most of his career on the Hill working in the GAO and for various members of Congress in the budget committees. Debate his conclusions, but at least bear in mind he has some expertise on what he writes.


Good Morning TBM,

I do not agree with the contention being made by the winger that the military is over paid. I will argue the exact opposite.

How much is an Infantryman worth? Well a rough compairson would be law enforcement officers. With OT and generous base pay many if not most Federal and large uniformed city law enforcement can a do take home more then a $100 grand a year. Their pension and health benefits far exceed the measley one of the military.

Good Morning TBM,

I do not agree with the contention being made by the winger that the military is over paid. I will argue the exact opposite.

How much is an Infantryman worth? Well a rough comparison would be law enforcement officers. With OT and generous base pay many if not most Federal and large uniformed city law enforcement can a do take home more then a $100 grand a year. Their pension and health benefits far exceed the measly ones of the military.If injured in the line of duty or getting a life changing disability the insurance pay outs are in the $ millions. If you are lucy enough to get hired as a California prison guard, well, well just read the papers.

Just as an example. The Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Admiral Mullen make somewhere north of $200 K a year. He controls the lives of 2.5 million people and over a half trillion dollar budget. Earlier this month we were told that traders from AIG, a company that took over a $ trillion of tax payer bail out money ‚who’s value to society borders on criminal behavior were getting bonuses averaging $8 million dollars.

On conservatives, those in peculiar institutions and wingers can see the justification of the inequality.

I did not say, nor even hinted that TBI and PTSD claims are not real. While some are clearly fraudulent ( Ex, a bomb loader on a carrier who claims that loading ordinance onto F-18’s that was killing civilians was causing Her/Him to suffer from PTSD, or Air Force UAV operators at March AFB who claimed PTSD because they were firing Hellfire Missiles and on their monitors were seeing people blown apart, these are questionable claims) and the filings and appealing these types of claims are a big reason that the VA system is backlogged. The majority of PTSD/TBI claims are very real.

With the tempo of deployment that many of you who are deployed are now doing, a recent DoD/VA study confirms that a 1942/1945 study that says after 200 days of combat, close contact with the enemy on a daily basis, physical changes will take place in a Soldiers/Marines brain that seem to be irreversible.

The cost in health and disability benefits over then next 70 years for the current generation of combat veterans will be in the $trillions for TBI and PTSD.

To finish the argument TBM: The Defense contractors and the sword makers are getting their money up front, the Veterans who left blood on the land, are going to have major health and economic problems the rest of you lives and you will have a continuous fight to get the meager benefits being offered.

Byron Skinner

Admiral Mullen doesn’t control anything. He is just an adviser. Perhaps 4% of the force are trigger pullers, so increase combat pay if that’s your point. Why pay more to airmen, missile defensemen, desk jocks, and coast guarders? I am always amazed at the greed by government types, even those in the military. The nation is going bankrupt and they want more and more and more. Then get out and get a job! Quit whining. Most never do because they much much more in uniform. The USAF just increased high-end tenure to force people out early.

Good Afternoon Folks,

To all of you who are, or have served in the military Greg’s opinion is pretty much what right wing conservative American thinks of you and your service. Just wait till the wars are over and then read what they think of Veterans.

Oh TMB, I was one of Greg’s 4%. I have a total of nine qualifying Purple Heart wounds.

Byron Skinner

PS Sorry TMB for switching the letters in your handle.

Conservatard? What an unoriginal response to libtard. As typical you liberals gladly try and make every attempt to strip the military budget down for nothing for the sake of sponsoring hundreds of wasteful social programs designed to buy votes. Leave your “progressive” politically correct nonsense back in the 1960s where it belongs.

You leftists whine and moan every single time an article from the Heritage Foundation is shown on DoDBuzz despite the fact that it is a useful source unlike the Huffington Post.

Oh please Byron? The right wing conservative Americans? It is the left wing liberals who are constantly accusing our solders of murdering “innocent” Iraqis. It is the left wing liberals who insult our soldier’s intelligence and compare them to Nazis. It is the left wing liberals who don’t want to fund anything. If they had their way the USAF would consist of old biplanes and we would have no tanks.

Conservatives of the particular institution? Are you incapable of writing a sentence that makes sense? What is this mysterious “particular institution” you are always referencing?

Can’t you read. The G2mil post is linked to a DOD calculator for pay. That is the Pentagon’s figures. Why do you gin up this 17K BS. Are you trying to kill recruiting and reenlistments. Are you trying to fatten your wallet with lies? I am happy with my E-3 pay. The only problem is that everyone wants to stay in the Navy, so I worry I will not be accepted for reenlistment.

An E-3–wow. Do tell all of us career types all about all the years we qualified for welfare payments if we lived off post with our families or we lived in government housing that was barely liveable. Tell us all about the guys who held down part time jobs to make ends meet.
An E1 with less than four months makes $16,068/year. An E1 over 4 months makes $17,364/year (2010 pay chart) so an E1 will make $16,932 in his first year. Since poverty rates in the US are only calculated using the cost of food, and ignores the cost of transportation, clothing, utilities, and medical care, that leaves a huge number of EMs below the poverty level, which is artificially low to begin with. BAH rarely makes up the difference, and I’ve only met one E-4 who was married to someone with a college degree and they were up to their eyes in loan debt.
If everybody wants to stay in, your command can pick and chose who to keep. If you’re honestly worried about being accepted to re-up, then maybe you should be doing whatever it is that needs doing to be one of those chosen, instead of posting incoherent, easily refuted crap on the internet.

Since you’ve only been in the army for about 10 seconds maybe you should ask your team leader to teach you about the military pay system. You went to that calculator apparently without actually reading each line. That calculator makes it look like EVERYONE draws BAH. A soldier living in the barracks makes a hell of a lot less than a soldier living off post. Have you bothered to read your own LES lately?

Dude. You need to be LESS FREAKING OBVIOUS about your trolling. You were doing better in the F-35 threads, why not go back there?

The budget year almost always starts out this way and changes within months. Nothing new to additional funds being approved for the budget so there is nothing to get worked up about yet.
There are many in the govt that feel the military is over paid, by thier math the average GI makes $50.00 an hour including benefits — food — housing. We all know this is BS, these are the same politicians who believe the majority of America (mid income) earn just at $250,000.00 a year then there is lower income @ $35,000.00 a year. So if I dont make enough to be middle class and too much to be lower class then where do the rest of us fall in (PURGATORY). To tell you the truth I/m fed up with IVY leaugers classifying us period and placeing themselves at the top of the heap when its well known they have the same issues as the rest of us, they can just aford to do it more often and hire attorneys when they get caught. The system is broken. The military does need to slow down and take a look at what is already available and not look to replace systems that are time tested and proven. They need to go old school by putting out what they want and let the contractors approach them with thier items after they have built and tested them out of thier own pockets and not ours.

The need to maintain an amphibiuos assualt capability is very important despite what many have posted. Despite what they believe the majority of equipment and supplies is transported by sea. We may not always be lucky enough to have a port to pull into to offload our ships or nearby countries that allow us to land our planes to unload equipment. The reason our amphibious forces have not come under direct fire since Korea is because everyone knows the ability of the Navy to be able to lay waste to a coastline if challenged and why they enemy avoids this type of engagement. In order to take the battle to a major military such as China — Korea — or even Cuba or Venesuela an amphibious assault will be neccesary to gain a foothold and set up airfields for the rest of the military toher than airborne to come in or helos which would be deployed from ships, but no heavy gear will get ashore till we take the ground for it to land on. (there is no way they can drive there from Thailand international airport folks.

We need to spend our money more wisely in many ways and improve the bang for the buck. Why spend 2 grand (man hours — transportation– and parts) to rebuild an M4/M16 coming back from in country which we know is insuficient in pure knock down during combat when we can buy a brand new 7.62mm for the same price ( I know, I know, a lot of you want 6.8 or 6.5 but it iwll never happen due to retooling cost of Lake City Army ammunition plant, 7.62mm is the easiest and cheapest route). How come the brass wont let us add muzzle breaks to our 50cals to reduce recoil thus parts wear and breakage (a $300.00 fix for a $6,000.00 weapon). Why do we keep spending so much to maintain Hummers when we could replace them with better vehicles (look up the MARINES IFAV “Interim fast assault vehicle” they and SOCOM are buying). How come it is we keep talking about Littoral combat but are not doing anything for it other than talking. Littoral combat requires involvement from all forces, but no one is doing it. This hurt us in NAM and other skirmishes — The ARMY expects the NAVY to handle water ops, but constantly pulls NAVY assets to them when they realize they need them. So how come we dont open up SWCC to all branches so the ARMY and MARINES have thier own Littoral/COIN maritime units and cross train to work together just as all the SPECOPS need to work and cross train more closely together, as do the regular forces. How come the MARINES are the only ones still researching COIN aircraft. SIMPLE english is we could greatly improve our military with the alloted funds by putting our heads together rathjer than fighting for a bigger piece of the pie.

Going back to 7.62x51mm is a bad call for various reasons in theaters other than Afghanistan. It is either a new cartridge like these 6.5mm or 6.8mm calibers, or sticking with 5.56mm but issuing more designated marksmen rifles to the squad.

I dont see any bad call’s on 7.62 in any theater, I have carried either an M60, M14, FNLAR, H&KG3, Galiali or Ak47 inalmost every theater on this planet and the results were always the same (dead bad guy with fewer shots). I cant say the same about 5.56mm when used (the bad guy died but took more rounds — and I was using 77gr projectiles). 6.5 and 6.8 flat is out of the question due to cost period, already agreed by all who have a say — 1,000’s of new 7.62mm are being purchased monthly, and more are requested, More M240’s are being purchased as well, and every M14 has been put back into service along with numerous 12ga shotguns. We are already on the way to bringing 7.62mm back, 1 in 10 twist barrels with 180gr projectiles is the new favorite for putting down bad guys, and the M118 long range round is used a lot as well in these weapons with far better succes than a 5.56mm. I cannot think of any purpose other than plinking or rodent hunting that I would rather carry a 5.56mm. But then I never switched to a 9mm either for the same reason. I even carried a 44 mag a number of times, really made the bad guys take cover when it went off, hence where I got the nick name BOOMER from my guys.


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