Loose Canons

Et Tu, U2?

Obama happily cuts America down to size.

By 2.26.14

UPI
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Sergeant Hagel did his duty on Monday. The gent who was appointed to be Queen of Hearts for the Defense Department did as he was told and announced yet another round of massive cuts for the defense budget.

Like the Queen — “verdict first, trial after” — Sgt. Hagel announced some very choice cuts without the benefit of any analysis of the threats our nation faces. Gone will be the A-10 attack aircraft, the U2 reconnaissance aircraft, and a host or two of soldiers and Marines. The decision may also be made that the Navy can’t afford to refuel one nuclear carrier resulting in it — and the rest of its battle group — being stuck in port for the foreseeable future. Which is surely okay with the White House because Hagel is matching that with cutting half of the Navy’s cruiser force.

(NB: Obama’s “Pacific Shift” to protect Japan, Taiwan, and the rest of the Pacific Rim nations is now officially a nullity. So is his promise to replace the ground-based missile defense that Bush promised Poland with a sea-based system.)

Military pay raises will be capped at 1% for the second straight year and other pay and allowance reductions are imposed. Pay won’t be actually reduced, but some allowances will be, such as the housing allowance which is the reason military families can sometimes live off-base when on-base housing isn’t available.

An E-5 Army sergeant makes about $60,000 a year (which doesn’t including a few thousand a year in untaxed allowances). That’s not so bad in times of economic crisis, right? And the military don’t deserve any special consideration just because they routinely risk their lives, leave their families for months at a time, and have to uproot their families to move every couple of years, right?

But keep in mind that they get paid less — a whole lot less — than the average bureaucrat who sits on his butt all day pushing paper and writing regulations to further burden our economy.

According to Mallory Factor’s book, Shadowbosses, the average federal bureaucrat makes over $76,000 a year. What’s more, about 470,000 of them make (I refuse to say “earn”) more than $100,000 a year. Nice “work” if you can get it.

Because he can’t find enough in military pay cuts to make a dent in personnel costs, the troop reductions proposed in Sgt. Hagel’s budget for the Army (cut from 520,000 to 440,000) and the Marines (cut from 190,000 to 182,000). That’s 88,000 soldiers and Marines who will lose their jobs — through attrition and outright firing — and not be replaced.

There are no plans to reduce the population of bureaucrats, who number about 2,723,000. (There are about 1,400,000 people in the entire military.)

Now it may be that we don’t need all of the troops who will cut. But we don’t know, and neither does Hagel.

The Navy is going to lose 11 of its 22 cruisers. And the decision has apparently been made to lay up the USS George Washington, one of our Nimitz-class latest aircraft carriers, because its nuclear power plants are too expensive to refuel. If the budget cut dance is continued next year, more ships will be laid up or sent to the boneyard.

Because the F-35 is sucking the Air Force dry of funding, the venerable A-10 Warthog will be retired as will the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft. Both are, simply, irreplaceable. The U-2 is supposedly going to be replaced by drones and reconnaissance satellites. But the U-2 can fly places the satellites can’t see and far beyond the range of any drone. What will do its job when it’s gone? Good question. There ain’t nothing that can. We retired the Mach 3+ SR-71 about twenty years ago. It had superseded the U-2 but the U-2 was kept because it was less costly to operate. Now it’s gone.

(NB: At the same time these reductions take place, the CIA is — according to my sources — decimating our human intelligence capabilities.)

The A-10 is a close air support attack craft that carries pretty much any bomb or missile we have. As I’ve written before, it does its job better than any other aircraft we have except the huge AC-130. Losing the A-10 means we lose not only its capability but also the corporate knowledge of the CAS mission. The ground pounders are always complaining that the Air Force didn’t want the CAS mission so it didn’t put enough resources into doing it properly (this despite the fact that the last U.S. ground soldier killed by an enemy aircraft died in April 1953.) Now when they make that argument, all the Air Force can do is shrug.

We are months before the “Quadrennial Defense Review,” a political tool which Hagel — Obama’s tool — will use to justify the cuts. This is his “Queen of Hearts” role: the verdict having been reached in the budget, Hagel will then visit upon us the rationale for them. In the Good Old Days (defined, as is our practice, as the years 1981-1989) there was a process called “Defense Guidance” which accomplished a different means of coming up with the defense budget.

In Defense Guidance, experts would gather the best intelligence information on the threats we faced.

(NB: Not to worry. Our decimated intelligence capabilities — which includes a reduction in the number of reconnaissance satellites to be built and launched because they are very expensive — may soon be unable to provide the intel we need anyhow.)

Then a strategy would be drafted to deal with them. And, from all that, a defense budget would be derived to compare what we had with what we need in the next four to ten years. The budget would provide for the retirement of weapon systems that weren’t a match for what we faced, pay to develop what we needed and set the number of ships, aircraft, missiles, soldiers, sailors and Marines that had to be there to do the job.

Instead, we now have the reverse. The decision to cut has already been made, in willful ignorance of what we need. The QDR will serve one purpose only: to pretend we have a strategy that will deter or defeat all the threats we face. It will, like the one done four years ago, be a sham.

We know from former defense secretary Bob Gates’s book, Duty, that Obama told him that military spending cuts were an objective from the beginning of Obama’s presidency. Gates oversaw the first round of massive cuts — about $400 billion over ten years — that preceded the “sequestration” cuts imposed under the 2011 Budget Control Act. Gates went along with Obama, and so has Hagel. What Hagel faces next year — unless Congress acts to stop it — are more massive cuts that will be made without regard for their effect. About $60 billion will have to be cut in 2015.

And that’s the rub. There is no prayer that the Obama administration will do an honest, informed analysis of the threats our nation faces. If they were to do that, they could find that some of the cuts they’ve made are actually justifiable. No sane person can say that there’s nothing in the Pentagon budget that shouldn’t be cut. But just the same, not one of these people — not Obama, not Hagel, not Joey Biden — can tell you if we’re cutting fat or cutting muscle. It’s the difference between spending smart money or dumb money.

They don’t know the difference, or care. I’m still stuck on the fact that 470,000 bureaucrats make over $100,000 and no one is talking about firing a single one of them. That’s because the federal government civilian workforce is largely comprised of union members who vote for Obama. But for every $100,000 bureaucrat fired, you could keep 1.4 mid-rank sergeants. And I’ll guarantee that 0.4 sergeants are a lot more valuable and productive than 4.0 expensive bureaucrats.

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About the Author
Jed Babbin served as a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush. He is the author of several bestselling books including Inside the Asylum and In the Words of Our Enemies. He is coauthor (with Herbert London) of the new book The BDS War Against Israel. You can follow him on Twitter@jedbabbin.