We should reject Bob Gates’s pre-emptive effort to lock in future defense budget growth with his PR statement declaring $100 billion in DoD out year budget cuts. Don’t fall for the flare off the back of the jet. He’s throwing Congress and the public a few meaningless sacrifices. His admitted long term goal? It’s not to cut costs per se but justify permanent 1% increases from this year’s already record defense outlays. This stunt is political kabuki intended to head off real defense cuts by offering a Potemkin facade of budget discipline.
Will Americans be deceived by his PR sleight of hand? Probably.
Gates knows how to play the game. An August recess announcement that he wants to cut $100 billion in (notional, future) DoD spending is perfect timing. He has the megaphone to himself. He drives the messaging. (Another example of why Andy Card didn’t get it). The media needs stories and Congress is out of session. So on it rolls, his PR release is called ‘stunning’, a ‘bombshell’, etc. (We aren’t without sympathy – shark week is winding down, Lohan is out of jail and editors need SEO web clicks).
Gates’ sacrificial lambs? The Joint Forces Command? Please. It was a hollow and largely political construct left over from the Cold War. Atlantic Command became pointless without a Soviet Navy. In 1999, voila, thus JFCOM. Under Rumsfeld, this tiny ‘command’ without a functional area of responsibility became hyper politicized. He packed the place with true believers in his ‘Transformation’ agenda. JFCOM was where one went to bask in pure, undiluted Rapid Decisive Operations (RDO), Effects Based Operations (EBO), kool aid fantasies, etc. (Here’s one critique out of thousands, this from the Army War College). We’ve talked about all that at length at STSOZ 1.0.
Kinetic fire and operational fire maneuver in depth would solve all problems. Operational-level outcomes were all that mattered. Worrying about achievable ‘victory conditions’ for pussies like, you know, Zinni. (It’s true the Air Force peddled most of this swill but not all). Oddly, JFCOM became radicalized far earlier and more deeply than SOCOM, JSCOM and others – their radicalization awaited engagement and mission creep/identity. Did JFCOM do some ancillary cross training and other work? Sure. But not nearly enough or important enough to justify its existence.
What More Could We Ask Of You Now?
JFCOM’s famously the scene of the hilarious disaster of Millenium Challenge 2002 wargames – a three week, $250 million dollar cluster***k. Recall General Ripper commanding the ‘Red’ team sank the U.S. Navy in the Gulf and won, forcing JFCOM to declare a do-over and all sunk ships raised, etc. (Yes, exactly like the Japanese wargame before Midway). We still remember Cambone fuming like a smokestack in the aftermath. Others in OFT similarly vented.
Getting rid of JFCOM is no bombshell. It’s a trifle with a mere $240 million budget. It was an empty billet to be filled to park politically useful, kool aid drinking ranking officers. But within the Pentagon, military and Permanent National Security State the snickers never stopped. Rumsfeld’s ‘Transformation’, like the Cultural Revolution, Whip Inflation Now, and Change We Can Believe In, is a discredited meme. Strategic failure in Iraq and Afghanistan underscores the misguided fundamentals of all the RDO/EBO fantasists. As we discussed back at STSOZ 1.0, operational success by itself is pointless – something the U.S. Army, with its fetish for all things Werhmacht should have learned oh, say 60 years ago.
Likewise, the ludicrously ineffective and irrelevant ‘Business Transformation Agency’ gets the heave ho. No tears there. Gates may claim $100 billion down the road. The real savings involved are actually going to be small if not utterly negligible. A cut here or there more often than not means a new office grows somewhere else, etc. $100 billion in notional out year projections? Does anyone fall for that game anymore?
Cutting contractors by 10%? Sounds good. Yet consider Gates admits no one at OSD can even tell him how many contractors are employed by DoD. 10% of what? Where? He can’t say. And that’s why this is just about political optics. Likewise, cutting some staff at OSD? A nice gesture for his successor . OSD bloat under Rumselfdian imperialism became unmanageable. Meaningless in budgetary terms. Bureaucratically, Gates sends very astute signals to the military, the bureaucracy and to the Hill. He is willing to cut his own power base head count. In politics (and military commands are extremely political), the two measures of power are budget and people. So Gates’ slice off his own rice bowl will win at least an initial nod.
Which is all very much besides the point. We must ignore Gates’ feint. America can no longer afford the Permanent National Security State’s parasitism while American civil society crumbles. That path ends like the Soviets in 1991. That denouement may be closer than people think.
If we are to reclaim our country, reclaim our future and reclaim ourselves, we must reject Gates’ effort to dissipate focus on DoD’s irrational spending and resource depletion. Rather than herald his so-called cuts, we must emphatically rebuke his plan to ‘lock in’ a permanent 1% budgetary increase from today’s record levels. Such reckless and mindless goals are bureaucratically self-serving, untethered to any ends means analysis.
Gates’ announcement just underscores reform will not come from the Pentagon. Systemically a realistic appraisal of strategic ends and means can come from only 3 places: (a) the president; (b) Congress; or (c) gaiatsu (foreign imposed shock). Sadly, (a) and (b) have already proven themselves wedded to status quo Permanent National Security State bloat. After all, this President’s spokesman attacks his own base and demands they take ‘drug tests.’ You can’t make this stuff up.
By default, we think America will lurch onwards like a golem waiting for (c), foreign shock. When that foreign imposed decision arrives almost by definition it won’t be on favorable terms and conditions. Still, it’s a just fate for a society unwilling to face or make hard choices for itself.