When Don Rumsfeld first became Defense Secretary, he pledged to push military "transformation" -- turning heavy-footed American forces into lighter, quicker, smarter squads. During the debates, President Bush mentioned "transformation" as the reason the U.S. would be able to bring troops home from Europe and Korea -- and stave off a draft, as well.But have Bush and Rummy done much to "transform" the military? Not really, says Slate's Fred Kaplan.
The military establishment has become more expensive to maintain its budget has risen from $362 billion to $420 billion (not including the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) but the extra money has purchased little in the way of "transformational" combat power.Rumsfeld has changed a few things. He canceled the Army's Comanche helicopter. With the enthusiastic backing of President Bush, he's added billions of dollars to missile defense. And he has purchased a lot of drones and smart bombs. Beyond that, in the words of a report from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments a Washington think tank directed by Andrew Krepinevich, a former Pentagon official who invented the phrase "military transformation"Rumsfeld's programs "fairly closely resemble those of previous years and the plan inherited from the Clinton administration."Nearly all the big-ticket items in the fiscal year 2005 military budget which a House-Senate conference committee approved this month have nothing to do with transformation, nothing to do with any threat on the horizon. Look at them:All true. But I don't think Kaplan has it quite right. It's not that Rumsfeld has chosen old-school military gear over transformation. It's that he hasn't chosen at all. Old and new school projects -- like the Army's ginormous transformation effort, Future Combat Systems -- are being funded to the hilt, all while burning bales of cash in the Middle East. That can't continue. As Kaplan notes:* $4.1 billion for 24 F-22 stealth fighter planes at a time when our prospective enemies can barely fly fighter planes, much less shoot down our non-stealth aircraft;* $4.3 billion for continued development of the F-35 Joint Strategic Fighter, a smaller version of the F-22;* $2 billion for a new "Super Hornet" version of the F/A-18 fighter plane;* $2.3 billion for a new Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarine, at a time when our Navy faces virtually no threat and possesses more subs than it knows what to do with.
Rumsfeld or whoever replaces him needs to think about a different sort of transformation, one that emphasizes better planning, training, mobilizing, and equipping for the kinds of wars we're really fighting now.THERE'S MORE: "As reliance on foreign bases is reduced, the carrier battle group becomes more important to the projection of our power. The increasing purchasing of Diesel subs by potential enemies promises that the ASW [anti-submarine warfare] function of our Navy is alive and growing," says Defense Tech reader WW. "As a grandfather and granduncle of troopers currently in Iraq I do not begrudge any reduction in cannon fodder in exchange for mechanical force projection and protection."AND MORE: Reader RT also wants us to remeber that --
1. Some of these systems have been pushed by Congress, not the Pentagon.2. Some have been kept active in order to keep the at infrastructure at someamount of viability (Atomic/Diesel Submarines, ect.)3. The aircraft presently in use are in most cases over 25 years old(minimum) and pushing 50 years in the case of the B-52. Retrofits will onlygo so far. Talk to the maintainers, it will give you some perspective onreality.4. A balanced force should not focus only on an "Iraq" scenario. Thereluctance to address what is not popular (that we may someday have to facean enemy with advanced weapons systems and forces) is wishful thinking thatwill leave our forces in dire straits when the "fit hits the shan".