The Pentagon’s ostrich strategy

The Pentagon’s ostrich strategy

The Pentagon has spent months officially ignoring its own worst nightmare.

In August, when everyone was first absorbing the budget implications of the debt ceiling agreement, a senior Pentagon official told reporters that DoD had no backup plan in case the super committee failed. We just hope it won’t come to that, the official said, then became the first of many to raise the prospect of layoffs, furloughs and other big disruptions across the empire.

On Friday, the Pentagon’s top spokesmen once again railed against the prospect of sequestration. Press Secretary George Little said it would be “devastating” and “irresponsible” and “a doomsday scenario.” But he also repeated that the Building is making no plans for dealing with it:

“Our focus is not on planning for sequestration.  We’ve not been asked to plan for sequestration.  We are laser-focused on our mission of protecting the American people.”

Yet somehow, between these two bookends, Secretary Panetta was able to draft his now-famous letter to Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, warning that sequestration could mean an end to the F-35; the new bomber; SSBN(X); the littoral combat ship; the ground combat vehicle; Army helicopter modernization; “major space initiatives;” European missile defense; and the Air Force’s land-based nuclear missiles. Panetta said the post-apocalyptic military would be a “hollow force” and a “paper tiger.”

So DoD does have some idea about what sequestration would mean, even though it hasn’t been told to plan for it, even though it has been yelling for months that it would be the worst thing imaginable. But for the Pentagon to officially acknowledge it can conceive of the consequences of sequestration might send the message they’d be somehow acceptable, and DoD can’t have anyone thinking that.

Instead it’s embracing its once-dreaded first round of $450 billion in reduced growth over the next 10 years. Another top department spokesman, Navy Capt. John Kirby, said Monday that DoD plans to submit the standard future years defense plan along with its fiscal 2013 budget, just as it always does. The belief seems to be that if everyone sees how eager the Pentagon has been to swallow reductions up to a certain point, somebody somehow will save it from the guillotine.

Indeed, Secretary Panetta and other top leaders probably want to make sure everybody on the Hill knows in granular detail just how many marbles they stand to lose. Starting in January and continuing through the formal budget rollout, the message will be clear: If you think $450 billion is bad, just wait’ll we have to come up here with another $500 billion — maybe you guys should get some kind of deal to stop that from happening, don’tcha think?

For its part, the Pentagon can only give an official response to the guidance it gets from the White House, which, yes, has not instructed it to do the worst-case budget drills. In fact, to the outside world, Friday’s numbers from the Office of Management and Budget might not look like “cuts” at all: The base defense budget would grow from $523 billion in fiscal 2013 to $567 billion in fiscal 2017, and the overall defense budget, including war costs, would grow from $605 billion to almost $618 billion.

But that’s compared to earlier budgets that assumed a base budget of almost $571 billion in 13 growing to around $622 billion in 17. Sequestration would throw an even bigger monkey wrench into budget planning, given not only its greater bite but its arrival partway through a fiscal year, meaning it could cause the Defense Department to seize up like an engine with no oil.

The ongoing frustration is not knowing what any of it actually means. Does the administration’s choice not to plan for sequestration mean that it doesn’t actually consider it the big threat everyone says it is? Is the fix in? Or is this really the trillion-dollar game of chicken that it appears to be?


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This entire discussion has been a joke from the start. The DoD never planned on cutting its budget, and in fact it’s really programming in an increase. This is government accounting 101
How it works is best described by using a weight loss analogy. The DoD has been gaining 20lbs a year over the past decade, and was projected to stay on that course for the next ten years. Congress steps in and demands it makes some changes to its diet. So after all the budget discussions and debate it agreed to lose 100lbs by only gaining 10lbs a year for the next 10 years. While someone should have cried foul because this isn’t a cut, it is in fact a net gain of 100lbs; Congress kept quiet because the truth is the Federal Government is on the same weight loss program.

That is why when you look at the budget documents for the “cuts” the DoD has made, most of what you’ll find are a few token cancellations and decreases in future year expenditures by account/line item.

Yes but peanut butter tasts better at the 20lb level than tofu at the 10lb level. I choose you Pikachu!!!

this is a big joke, saying that with over $500 billion the post-apocalyptic military would be a “hollow force” and a “paper tiger.”

fire the guy… out of office for saying that …if another economical crisis happens what will those guys do?… jump out of the boat and give up the fight?!
even with $450 billion over the next 5 years the US would still be by far the most dangerous tiger in the jungle .… just does not need to fight Chinese, Russian Afghanis, Pakistanis, Iranians, etc all at same time! .…
start by selling the damn F-22 to Japan, Korea, Australia, Israel, etc and let the others do something useful as well. Trying to be the fireman, the policeman and the therapist, all at same time, does not always work well.

Ok so we’d have to cut LCS and euro missile defense? What’s the problem?

Let’s hope that somewhere in the Pentagon in some closed room somewhere, they have some very smart guys coming up with a plan they could put into place should sequestration take place. Is that too much to hope for?

And the JSF

This is National Defense 101; because your legislators cannot resist spending beyond your tax dollars does not mean that I will vote for similar DimWits (LOL). This country will be defended from those who wish to have our homeland, at our expense. Defense expenditures (reasonably) far exceed the need for the waste on your useless socialist social experiments. If you do not acquire an adequate education to feed yourself, then get a cup of pencils to sell on the street corner, where you belong.

Reducing spending limits our ability to buy things, which for most of the suits in D.C. is the measurement of our military capability. Some members of Congress have been quite vocal in their belief that they’d rather spend that $50 billion a year on weapons and have no soldiers left to actually operate them.

Time for “Seven Days in May” :)

The problem is not that we don’t buy enough things. We need to buy many more things. The problem is we spend too much time developings things that may never be bought.

“Friday’s numbers from the Office of Management and Budget might not look like “cuts” at all: The base defense budget would grow from $523 billion in fiscal 2013 to $567 billion in fiscal 2017…but that’s compared to earlier budgets that assumed a base budget of almost $571 billion in 13 growing to around $622 billion in 17.”

I get it. “Defense cuts” are like all the other “cuts” Washington leaders keep saying they’re putting in place: not real REDUCTIONS but only reductions in planned GROWTH.

Now it becomes clear why Secy Panetta sent his letter to Sens Graham and Mccain — he simply looked at the planned (= “required”) spending in the four “out years” of the Future Years Defense Plan, and saw continued spending on already established contracts for the F-35X , the new bomber, the SSBN(X), the littoral combat ship, the ground combat vehicle, etc. , etc.

This illustrates why many people have said that after the Cold War ended, the Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Execution System stopped being an effective planning, management and control tool , because it doesn’t provide leaders with any workable mechanisms for fundamentally changing course. The QDR was supposed to help with that, but it hasn’t worked either.

Bring on the sequester.

Everybody gives up something:

USAF The B-52
USA Heavy Armor / Artillery
USMC The F-35B

Interesting position. Adding up failed programs “wasted” funding equals what?

Bet it’s a pittance of the defense budget let alone the acquisition pie, but it sounds good. Not defending waste just questioning placing all blame at its feet.

Baseline budgeting isn’t limited to the defense dep’t but its the defene dep’t taking the majority of the hit.

Having been one of those budget guys and played this games numerous times, while the Pentagon makes hundreds of war plans, they believe it a high risk strategy to make contingency budget plans for cuts they hope never come, because.…if the plans got out, they might become self-fulfilling and very real. When the cuts do come, they cut from the margins, trying to preserve force structure for the attack from the Evil Empire that has already collapsed. The sorry point is the generals, admirals and political hacks NEVER learn ANY lessons. Which is why about 5,000 insurgents spread through a few countries have cost the U.S. over one trillion dollars, 5,000 dead, 30,000 wounded and outwitted the biggest, most well-equipped and well trained military in the world.

An article on this subject: http://​www​.slate​.com/​b​l​o​g​s​/​t​h​e​_​r​e​c​k​o​n​i​n​g​/​2​0​1​1​/​12/
Don’t agree with everything (Germany and France don’t need our surplus MBTs), but it has some interesting points.

Good article only for the idea of actually radically transforming our military…

Good on attacking unnecessary and wasteful forward European basing — bad on the overconfidence in UAV aviation.

So the USAF gives up the bulk of its strategic bomber force that has been declining for years now. The USN doesn’t get proper alternatives for the LCS, the Army loses what it does best, and the Marines lose a critical component of Marine aviation, which has become all the more important since the EFV was cancelled.

With the exception of the decision to close foreign bases, most of these are poor ideas. These UCAVs in development are strike and reconnaissance aircraft. Their air-to-air combat capability is very limited. They also require ships to take off from. If we don’t have Ford or Nimitz class carriers, what are they going to do? Look pretty at stateside bases? How is such an idea “playing to our strengths” of naval and air capabilities?

Also we don’t even have any M1A3 Abrams yet. The Germans and French don’t need ‘em and certainly shouldn’t be getting any for free. The plan to transition almost completely to a lighter force died with FCS. Yet that isn’t necessary a bad thing. Heavy armor can be a very nice thing to have.

There’s so many project we don’t need for the Army and it waste money as it is. There no need for a new APC now or a new rifle or new HUMVEE replacement. current weapons are fine. and It will take sequestration to force these crazy generals to stop wasting money.

Forgot to add with President Obama Vetoing any Senator McCain attempt to undo pentagon cuts and the senate frozen with the house on the issue there will be BIGGER cuts maybe not $500 Billion but $250 Billion or more will be coming we need planes and ships the Army and Marines have good enough weapons and vehicles to stand against North Korea or China or Iran what ever time to trim the bloated army budget.

It takes time to develop a new IFV. As for a new rifle, even with money I doubt the Army would get one due to the politics involved.

I’m sure there are a lot of newer HMMWVs good for a long time to come but I’m sure plenty of older models have been worn out in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is the creation of a Paper Tiger.

Cina and the Soviet Union are building up their Armed Forces and they will challenge this paper tiger.

Noth Korea knows that we will loose our teeth and will not ble able to protect the south and it is only going to take one assault from the North upon the south and they will loose it all. Because of the lack of capability to defend themselves.

Bean counters be aware!!!!!! your doing is making our country to loose the capability to defend our way of life… And places in danger all our generations present and future to defend our country…

We voted you into office and we can vote you out!!!!!!


The guns or butter debate is boring. It is a question of guns AND butter. Because the govenment did not adjust spending voluntarily, both guns and butter will be cut drastically. Bean counters of all political persuasions are throwing up their hands in horror. This Sequestration poison pill is the fiscal equivalent of “Pull to Eject”.

THe hit that the Pentagon will take is not all that much. In fact it puts them back where they were prior to 911 and there is no way anyone would have said the US was a paper tiger.

So the Military will loose new vehicles. Is that so bad? we are the military in 80% of the world any way. Newer isn’t better…its just newer. The automotive industry has been working on the same chassis design for decades, all they do is incrementally upgrade as “optional” upgrades get cheaper or more popular. They then add those as standard. “Older” military vehicles can do the same thing, proven by the RECAP/Reset efforts during the last few years. So the Army wants to be lighter.…bull. WWII proved that medium vehicles were the right itch. Even though Light Tanks and Recon vehicles were present in WWII they still trended to get heavier and with bigger guns which negated the speed advantage. Speed and mobility are not a substitute to gain survivability/lethality. Why do we have to relearn this.…and the last time it cost the Army a lot.

Lastly, the biggest challenge the military faces is the cost of repairs and parts as vehicle systems come home for good. Can the Pentagon maintain readiness as it goes through hellish cycles of maintenance? These troops coming home are going to chaff at not training hard. They will know the lessons of poor training and will not like being hand tied to it.

Go Squirttle!

TECHNO BEAT… corndog, corndog, corndog

you are absolutely right. That’s why taxes need to be raised to pay for a US military build-up. However the GOP has decided to sacrifice National Security on the altar of no new taxes. They should be voted out. And oops, China now may have 3000+ Nukes and rising. Where are all the GOP senators who where to eager to sign START2? They should have know better, but signed on to the Obama bandwagon of a world free of US Nuclear weapons and full of Russian, Chinese and North Korean Nukes

Everyone seems to ignore the fact that they aren’t planning for it because it wont happen. No one will allow sequestration to actually happen. That is not to say that they will actually agree on a plan, but will instead wait till after November to vote away all the pain for the next generation. And Pres Obama _will_ sign it, despite his hollow threats to veto.

DoD has enough on their plates than to play along with fantasy budget theater for the sake of politics.

It just wont happen, so why bother pretending otherwise. And if it does, things are pretty well f#cked anyways.

There is no Soviet Union.

Noting is more important than giving the Occupy Wall Street protestors free healthcare and cancelling their student loans. Something must be sacrificed for that and that will be the defense of the nation. We have wise and intelligent leaders.

If we want to avoid being completely gutted we will have to make serious changes — these are weapon systems we can do without. Slightly smaller — far more modern.

More modern…. hmmmm…. wasnt THAT the core idea behind FCS? But what about , maybe,…perhaps, “more LETHAL”????

I know its not as pretty to consider that in spite of all of the ‘trons flying around and all of the fancy displays, the objective of the military, even a more modern military, is to compel an unwilling enemy, by the application of lethal force, to comply with our national objectives.

I know, its a jobs program, and a stimulus program, and a rice bowl / pork barrel program, and a voter pacification program, and.…etc, etc, etc, but somewhere in there the resulting military has to retain the ability to kill bad guys.

You seem to miss one salient point, unlike the “Occupiers”, none of our potential enemies out there in the cold cruel world are going to be voting, in mass, in next Novembers election! At least I hope not… for MANY years, at least, not!

But then most of our noted enemies dont exactly vote in the same way as we do… or tolerate the freedoms that the Occupiers exercise so liberally, or….…for that matter, have the budgetary problems that we have saddled ourselves with either!

I agree — kill people & break things is job 1. Everything else is below that but to save the money that we are being told to save, we will have to lose something… we have to cut some players from the team, not that my list is the end all be all of ideas about moving forward but something has to give, in addition to my above list of MDS’s that we can/should retire we will have to address the retiree benefit system & defending some ot the wealthiest nations on Earth…

- probably require 25 years of service for a full pension, paying less overall and less up front than now.
– Tricare standard for dependents
– Medicare+ instead of Tricare for Life for retirees
– Halve the European , Korean & Japanese basing

Dude, Tricare for Life IS Medicare. After age 65, Medicare becomes your primary insurer and TFL just pays for the stuff that Medicare does not cover.

Understood but not well stated — end Tricare for Life

Not to trying to hurt those who have served admirably but it is not sustainable

Yes I know what the movie was about the joke was to have a military coup only successful this time.

The sums are quite significant, but the most dangerous aspect is that the method of trying to wash/wish away problems with floods of money becomes a habit.

After enough missed feedback loops, the task of effectively managing weapons development, risk, and procurement — id est making informed choices — gets unlearned.

People must be missing your sarcasm..

Well, yeah.…if a five year POM cycle is too “long range” and not “flexible” enough for ya, I guess that PPBES is broke. How often do people call for ” fundamentally changing course” inside the Beltway anyhow ? Its an everyday thing down on K Street. But seriously — this report belies what friends inside the building are saying. When I say, “there is no floor” they just nod their heads.

It isn’t a question of how heavy the armed fighting vehicles are, it is a question as to whether or not you understand mechanized warfare at all. Too many of these armchair generals somehow believe that lightening the force is a linear function.

Many would and have disagreed for decades that we need a new rifle and caliber. That damn thing has gotten entire platoons wiped out in Vietnam… sure it works ok now. but caliber and effective range is inadequate in many situations..

If Putin gets his way there will be soon.…


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