Copyright 2012 by John T. Reed

On 1/5/12, Obama announced big cuts in the U.S. military budget and related changes in defense strategy.

I am not a conservative. I am also not one to knee jerk oppose all defense cuts. Matter of fact, the military is probably the most screwed up, wasteful part of the U.S. government. It needs to be cut and reformed dramatically.

However, the current SNAFU U.S. defense deparment is not made better by Obama’s approach.

Military lifer retirement benefits

Obama said our military must be “leaner.”

Actually, the whole federal government, mainly entitlements, needs to be cut about 45%. The reason the military needs to be leaner, but not Medicare or Social Security, is because Obama believes the purpose of tax money and the U.S. government’s credit is to buy votes and he thinks he can buy more votes for himself if the federal government spends less money on active-duty military, ammunition, fuel for mililitary vehicles and aircraft.

Conspicuous by its absence in the new defense spending plan are cuts in military retirement pensions and health benefits. In fact, they also should be cut by 45% right now. I, like most veterans, was in the military, but not long enough to get the 20-year pension/health benefits to vest. So this 45% cut would not affect me. But I also call for a 45% cut in Social Security. I am supposed to start getting that this year so that would affect me.

See the article I wrote about this recently titled “Separation of Air Force officers just before retirement.”

Defense spending is to defend the country, not take care of a bunch of victims of military service

My main point is the purpose of the defense budget is to defend the country, not to provide a sinecure for active-duty lifers or over-generous pensions and benefits to retired lifers. We are now cutting active-duty military pesonnel and the money they need to support them—like ammo, new weapons, training, etc.—to avoid cutting benefits to the minority of U.S. military veterans who stayed in for 20 years or more. This is reminiscent of the Vallejo, CA mayor’s answer to why is your city bankrupt?

We have three police forces and three fire departments. One of each is on duty, the other two of each are retired.

It is also reminiscent of the statement that GM has become a health insurance company that occasionally builds a car.

I wrote an article titled, “U.S. military: a pension/health care plan that occasionally shoots a terrorist.”

2012 defense related expenditures include $70 billion for “veterans affairs” and $54.6 billion for veterans pensions. That’s $124.6 billion for people who used to be on active duty. How much do we spend on active-duty personnel? From a graph in the 1/6/12 Wall Street Journal, it looks like about $125 billion. says $120,199 is the active-duty personnel cost for 2012. Please note that the number of retired lifers it takes to collect the same amount of money as active-duty personnel is about two or three times as many. Retired military get about half to three-quarters pay—although because of their being older, they probably cost more per peson than active-duty personnel for health care. So we have about two or three retired militaries in terms of numbers of people collecting as much for doing nothing as our current active-duty military gets paid for dodging IEDs in Afghanistan and so forth.

U.S. military budget approximately equal to the rest of the world combined?

You often hear that the U.S. military budget equals what the rest of the world combined spends on defense. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the U.S. military budget for 2010 was $698 billion. The rest of the top 15 defense countries combined was $932 billion. So the correct percentage is not 100% of the rest of the world, but it is probably too large compared to the rest of the world. Furthermore, it is quite likely that America’s high defense budget has allowed our defense treaty allies like NATO countries to get away with spending less on defense than their fair share. NATO has a rule about the miimum amount each country has to spend. Our NATO allies are violating that rule.

Here are some defense-spending-percentages of GDP spent by selected countries in 2010:

U.S. 4.8%
U.K. 2.7%
France 2.3%
Germany 1.3%
Italy 1.8%
Canada 1.5%
Australia 2.0%

Nuclear nonproliferation

One argument for us to bear the burden more than others is to discourage nuclear proliferation. For example, Japan has no nukes, that we know of. But wouldn’t they have to get them with North Korea and China having them if we did not protect them? And why do we Americans get the whole bill for preventing nuclear proliferation among our allies. No country is paying the bill to prevent our enemies from getting nuclear weapons and they are getting them.

Also, we did not prevent our ally Israel from getting nukes. In retrospect, it appears Israel getting those weapons was not a good idea for them. Muslim Pakistan has nukes and teaches Muslim allies like Iran how to make them. Libya was trying to get them they admitted. The main idea behind having nukes is the strategy of Mutually Assured Destruction. That strategy appears to have worked with regard to the Soviet Union in the Cold War, but that’s because they Soviets were sane and wanted to live. A large percentage of Muslims want to die for Jihad. So Israel having nukes does not deter its particular enemies. It encourages those enemies to get them. Israel should have relied on our nukes rather than getting their own. But Israel is not real big on following U.S. advice which is rather odd considering that it is only 8,019 squre miles, about the same size as Massachusetts and it has only 7.8 million people compared to a world Muslim population of 1.6 billion.

Cutting ground troops more than Air Force and Navy

The cuts mainly are of Army and Marine troops. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says we need to rely more on naval and air power.

Excuse me.

There is no such thing as naval power since around 1955 on the surface. U.S. Navy surface ships like aircraft carriers are useless against the nations we really need to defend ourselves against, like Russia or China. They are only useful for beating up on Third World Countries which is arguably not defense, per se, but feel-good overracting to terrorism.

We have 11 carriers. China is building their first. In a war with China, the U.S. Navy would hide its carriers in U.S. ports. China would do the same with theirs. If either country ever sent their carrier(s) out in the ocean towards the other country, the conutry being approached would sink them. Neither country would bother to sink the other’s carriers if they were kept in port because it would be a waste of amunition on a ship that has been obsolete since around the mid-50s when land-based bombers or missiles could strike everywhere on the earth’s oceans.

If that sounds preposterous, note that Germany built two great battleships in the 1930s: the Bismarck and the Tirpitz. Bismarck famously went out into the North Atlantic to fight. It was fatally wounded by a torpedo launched by a bi-plane then, when it could only move in circles, sunk by a zillion ships and planes. Understandably, the Germans then kept Tirpitz in port. The British sunk it in port.

Japan built a huge battleship called Yamato. For most of the war, they kept it in safe waters. Toward the end of the war, someone asked why they had it if they were not going to use it. They sent it out to attack the Americans with its guns. It was sunk by U.S. planes long before it could get within range of the U.S. ships.

The battleship was the naval weapon of World War I. In World War II, it was obsolete because it could not defend itself against enemy airplanes.

The decisive naval weapon of World War II was the aircraft carrier. But now the aircraft carrier cannot defend itself against missiles. The carrier is to the next war with a first-world enemy what the battleship was to the last war with a first-world enemy—World War II. Neither the U.S. nor Chinaor any other first-world enemy will send its surface navy toward the other country in a future war because the carriers will be sunk promptly by the enemy if they get close to the range where their planes or missiles can reach the other country.

The U.S. surface navy is not a defense activity. It is a jobs program for active-duty naval personnel and Navy contractors and a very big toy and career prize for top naval officers.

Nuclear subs are valid, although I have noted that the viability of U.S. nuclear submarines is totally reliant on one assumption: that our enemies do not know where our subs are. An Annapolis grad assured me, in the most confident terms, that the Russians do not know where our subs are. I don’t buy it. In World War II, the Germans assumed we could not break their naval code. We did break it. When their subs met resupply ships, we sank them. Then there was the U.S. Navy chief Warrant Officer who sold the Russians the locations of our nuclear subs before he got caught.

More air force, fewer pilots

I am okay with more reliance on air power, but unmanned air power, please. Human pilots have become obsolete or nearly so. They cannot handle the G forces that unmanned aircraft can. They need oxygen and food and water and heat and air conditioning. When they get shot down, they need enormous, expensive, extremely dangerous efforts to rescue them. Drones can perform better in many ways, e.g., eyesight, and appear to be on the verge of performing better in all ways than humans.

Army and Marines

The ground pounders in the Army and the Navy’s army, the Marines, to put it bluntly, have no clue. I am a West Point graduate, airborne ranger, Vietnam vet. Our leaders in the Vietnam war had about half a clue. Mainly because the enemy was kind enough to wear uniforms, operate in company- and battalion-size units, and use traditional military tactics like supply convoys on the Ho Chi Minh trail and operate out of a neighboring country that we let our military bomb the crap out of. We still managed to lose the war to a bunch of grade-school dropouts wearing flip-flops made out of old tires.

There are some groundpounders who are competent, namely:

green berets
• medics and corpsmen
• medevac chopper pilots

Artillerymen, tankers, and combat chopper pilots know how to use their equipment, but the recent wars offer few opportunities to use such weapons. Artillery was important in Vietnam and before. Tanks are useful in some terrain situations against some enemy targets, typically deserts or dry plains or rolling hills versus enemy tanks or troops.

And fighting choppers are only viable when they are outside of the range of enemy weapons. Tanks are vulnerable in villages and in vegetation where an enemy can shoot an RPG at them from close range and tanks have limitations regarding roads and bridges.

Our more recent enemies wear civilian clothes, surround themselves and their materiel with civilians, and only engage in squad or platoon size hit-and-run-nobody-here-but-us-innocent-civilians actions and command-detonated mine tactics against us. They operate more like street gangs, without tattoos or colors, than military units.

If I were commander in chief now, I would pull all our ground troops out of Aghanistan and tell their commanders to figure out how to fight modern wars now or I will more or less replace them with a new organization that will.

They incur, and cause, too many U.S. and allied casualties. Most of the allied fatalities in the U.S. military’s greatest hit—Desert Storm—were killed by American military. In other words, we killed more of our own guys than the Iraqi enemy did.

I hear U.S. commanders say you can’t kill your way to victory anymore. Tell it to the Tamil Tigers. Alternatively, if you can’t kill your way to victory anymore, why does the Army exist?

You’re not supposed to get wounded

The U.S. military ground pounders kill too few enemy to win the war. Their job is to win our wars. They act as if they think their job is to deploy, lift weights, train, become “wounded warriors,” “show presence,” parade around in the civilian world in their combat uniforms (we were not allowed to be seen off base wearing a combat uniform except during our commute to work each day), and hang around until retirement.

As George C. Scott portraying World War II in Europe General George Patton said at the beginning of the Patton movie,

Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country. The Nazis are the enemy. Wade into them! Spill their blood! Shoot them in the belly!

At West Point, there is a large structure called Battle Monument on Trophy Point. Officially, it is a monument to the Union Soldiers who lost their lives in the Civil War. But the cadets from the South call it a monument to Confederate marksmanship. They’re right.

And the U.S. Purple Heart is a medal for enemy marksmanship, or lousy American marksmanship in the case of friendly fire. I get a sense that we are now elevating “wounded warriors” above victorious warriors, perhaps because we now have many of the former and none of the latter (below age 86). A U.S. solider or marine being a victim of the enemy is now more celebrated than a U.S. soldier or marine killing, wounding, or capturing an enemy or winning a war.

Gun slingers in the old West were not government bureaucrats like U.S. Army and Marine personnel. They were more results oriented. They did not put notches on their guns for every time their opponents hit them.

The U.S. Army seem to think their role today is to be World War II in Europe reenactors, not to win current wars.The Marines to a lesser extent, seem to think their role is to be World War II in the Pacific reenactors. What neither seems willing to deal with is what retired British General Rupert Smith calls “wars amongst the people,” the only kind we have been in since Desert Storm.

Roughly speaking, a competent commander in chief should tell the current Army and Marine leaders, either figure out how to win the wars we have been fighting lately or I will fire the whole lot of you and replace you with civilians, who swear in as soldiers for the duration and who are paid by the victory, not by the hour.

We apparently need more of a uniformed posse/bounty hunter authority, incentive, duration of service, and compensation arrangement to get our ground military back into the war-winning mode of World War II and before.

The above are the real changes we need in the military, not what Obama announced.

• More reliance on drones and, if they are truly hidden, nuclear submarines.

• I believe the ground pounders can become more effective, but they sure as hell are showing no interest in doing so with the current arrangement and leadership.

• Military retirees and short-term veterans need to get off the financial sledge (no snow or ice under it) that is being pulled by the taxpayers. Line-of-duty injuries and disabilities ought to be compensated by the taxpayers as civilian employers compensate work-related disabilities and injuries. But the rest of the charity—over-generous pensions and health benefits—to veterans and military retirees needs to be cut for existing people and phased out or just ended for new military members. Just pay them and tell them to take care of their own health care (other than in combat areas) and pensions like the rest of us. The cradle-to-grave pay, housing, medical and pension benefits for military lifers and their dependents is Soviet-like and too separate from, and costly to, ordinary American taxpayers.

Military retirees and vets are not the only parasites. Social Security recipients who get three times as much as they paid in are, to the extent of the two-thirds, welfare queens. Ditto Medicare recipients who also get three times as much as they paid in. Medicaid is a total freebie. Unions’ whole reason for existing is to ratchet their members pay and benefits above market value. Former military are not the only freeleaders, but they sure as hell are not exempt from the charge because they risked their lives. (By the way, a lot of current military vets and retirees never got combat pay a day in their lives. That’s why we have both an American Legion and a Veterans of Foreign Wars. The VFW did not want the “veterans” who never went “over there” in their midst.)

And to the military who say “we were promised” those pensions and health benefits, welcome to the freaking club. Since 1933, sleazy polliticians promised a whole lot of things that are not going to be delivered, including Social Security, Medicare, ObamaCare, Medicaid, federal pensions, federal health care to retirees, payment of principal and interest on U.S. government bonds, FDIC insurance, and so on. We are all in the same leaky, sinking boat. There is no separate dry boat for military or any other category of claimant—although every single group will claim they are exempt from the coming 50% or so cuts in federal spending.

So, cuts in the spending on military? I’m okay with that. But Obama’s cuts are partly the wrong ones and the new defense strategy is partly wrong and the former lifers and short-timer vets need to stop being welfare queens. A welfare queen, in this case, being a person who gets more retirement pension and benefits than a comparable private sector retiree. And you can shove the notion that nothing is comparable to the military because they risk their lives. Lots of people lisk their lives. And most of those who risked their lives in combat are not military retirees.

John T. Reed