Senate The 2nd Term of the Obama Administration: Facts, Opinions, and Discussions

Discussion in 'Community' started by Ghost, Dec 6, 2012.

  1. Juliet316 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 27, 2005
    star 7
    I don't know how many of the new contracts are simply to expand the carrier/submarine fleet (somebody with much more expert military knowledge can correct me if need be [paging @Souderwan ], but I think a good chunk of the new ship contracts are to build ones that replace aging carriers as they slowly become decommissioned (for example, the Enterprise was recently decommissioned and a few other ships are due to be decommissioned in the coming years). Again someboedy with more military knowledge about ship contracts and stuff can hopefully, be more specific on that.
    Last edited by Juliet316, Feb 27, 2013
  2. Souderwan Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 3, 2005
    star 6
    Juliet is correct. All "new" contracts are for planned replacements of decommissioned or decommissioning units. There is no "expansion" of the Navy planned. In point of fact, the SSBN fleet is planned to be reduced from 14 to 12 (and there is significant discussion underway to reduce it to 10). This was before the sequestration. The same is true of the SSN fleet, which will reach a low point of about 10 less than our current fleet size in the 2030s. This is without any reduction in the demand signal for the fleet. The effect of all this is longer deployments, less time to do routine maintenance, etc. And again, all of this is prior to sequestration. The OHIO Replacement (SSBN) program has already delayed construction start by 2 yrs prior to sequestration. There's no real telling what the impact will be once the cuts are implemented.

    It's important to understand that ships have a finite lifespan. You can't operate a nuclear submarine forever. The OHIO class submarines lifetime was already extended from the original 30-35 yrs to 42 yrs in an effort to save money. The SSN and carrier fleet have a similar story (Enterprise was in service for 51 yrs--way beyond her original planned service life). If you don't purchase new ships, then you have fewer ships in the Navy. That's how we drew down the Navy from a high of 594 active ships in the 80's to 282 ships now (lowest level in the modern era). At our current build rate, using existing and "new" contracts, we will continue to lower ship levels into the 2030s and then slowly return to a level about where we are now long-term.

    The term "new" contracts should not be interpreted to mean "unplanned". The way contracts are required to be awarded by law, we purchase ships every 1-2 yrs and each purchase has to be separately authorized with a new contract. The contract for the submarine I'm currently on is being built at Newport News shipyard (where the President spoke yesterday--he was actually standing in front of my boat) was only awarded last year even though she's been planned for well over a decade.

    Disclaimer: I am not speaking for the US Navy nor is anything I say an official DoD position. Impact assessments on military capability are highly charged issues so don't interpret anything I say as anything remotely official. There are retired admirals who think our Navy's on the verge of collapse and there are current admirals who think the Navy is "the right size". Submarines in particular are a hotly debated item.

    I hope that helps answer some questions.
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  3. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    So, where's the fat in the DoD, then? And why isn't that on the chopping block when it comes to the sequester? That's what I'm really trying to ask.

    I'm pretty sure we had to refuel aircraft carriers before 9/11. The DoD budget has somewhere between doubled and tripled since 9/11. Out of that, what can be cut?

    @Souderwan, can you shed any light on this?
    Last edited by Summer Dreamer, Feb 27, 2013
  4. Alpha-Red Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 25, 2004
    star 5
    I'm not sure there's an easy answer to that. For every person who says a particular defense program is unnecessary waste, there's two or three people who will say it's essential to national defense. Chuck Hagel will no doubt have his ideas on what to cut, but members of Congress will scream bloody murder in order to protect the defense jobs in their respective districts.
    Last edited by Alpha-Red, Feb 27, 2013
  5. LandoThe CapeCalrissian Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 30, 2012
    star 3
    The U.S. military has been turned into a jobs program paid for by the U.S. taxpayer...

    Why make 1 jet for 300 million no one will ever fly, the government will make 5 of them.. Thanks U.S. taxpayers
  6. Juliet316 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 27, 2005
    star 7
    Very much this. And it'll be this way across all areas of the budget.
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  7. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    Still, there must be smarter cuts to make. There must be less painful cuts to make to DoD in particular, with all the expansion they've seen in the last dozen years. If we can cut the DoD budget by 30-45% after WWII and Korea and the Cold War, this 8% cut should be nothing. We're no longer in Iraq, and decreasing in Afghanistan, yet the DoD budget hasn't been cut. What gives?



    EDIT:

    Jack Lew has been confirmed as Treasury Secretary.
    Last edited by Summer Dreamer, Feb 27, 2013
  8. Souderwan Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 3, 2005
    star 6

    I can. There are many cost drivers, but if I were to simplify it as much as I can, it's the people and the fuel.

    The "people" costs come in the flavor of the active duty and reserve personnel for an all-volunteer force.

    1. Pensions. Some of the same problems hitting industry with defined benefit plans are hitting the military. Our pensions are significant and we're living longer and longer.
    2. Medical Care. This will sound rough but our much lower mortality rate in combat increases costs. Not only are there the costs to keep people alive, but there are lifetime costs to care for those veterans who were severely disabled in combat.
    3. Benefits. The Post 9/11 GI bill is a prime example although it's only the most visible one. Every time a politician wants to sell himself as caring about the troops, he throws out a new benefit idea for the troops. The Post 9/11 GI bill is a perfect example of this. Basically, if you were in the military after 9/11, no matter what your rank, you are entitled to go to college for free plus up to $10k/yr for books and fees. You can also transfer that benefit to your family members. Sen McCain really championed this bill and it has really helped a lot of people I know. But it was a new bill (in dollars) placed on all the services.

    People costs are about 30% of the DoD budget but they are the fastest growing portion. According to the 2012 DoD budget overview, people costs have gone up over 90% since 2001. That's huge.

    The fuel costs should be obvious. It's even worse for the military in many cases as our conventional forces sometimes use specialized blends of fuel that have limited sources so costs go up much faster than they come down and the volatility is always in the favor of the supplier, not the DoD.

    One more thing. I remember when Osama Bin Laden was killed and people were talking about how cool the stealth helicopters were. That stuff ain't cheap! Neither are drones! Of course, guns, bombs and stupid acquisition programs also hurt (Osprey, F-35, Littoral Combat Ship) but the $100 toilet seat is not as big a problem as it was in the 80's.

    Edit: Also, it's important to note that the DoD budget has been cut (in the same way that all Washington programs have been cut, which is that the rate of growth has been slowed less than what was planned). It was cut by $450 billion over 10 yrs in the 2012 budget before the sequester.
    Last edited by Souderwan, Feb 27, 2013
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  9. Juliet316 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 27, 2005
    star 7

    You may want to reread that sentence. There's something a touch off about it.:p
    Last edited by Juliet316, Feb 27, 2013
  10. Souderwan Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 3, 2005
    star 6
    Thanks. Typing too fast. Whoops. [face_blush]
  11. Juliet316 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 27, 2005
    star 7
    Your welcome.

    Jack Lew confirmed as Tresaury Sect.

    So now it basically becomes what could be a bloodbath battle over John Brennan's confirmation.
  12. Kimball_Kinnison Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    There are 2 new carriers already under construction: the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), which will enter the fleet in 2015, and the USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79), which will enter the fleet in 2020. There is also one more scheduled for construction: the USS Enterprise (CVN-80), scheduled to enter the fleet in 2025.

    Those three ships are in addition to the 10 Nimitz-class carriers that are currently in service. However, the oldest of those carriers (the Nimitz) is approaching 40 years old. (Two were built in the 70s, three in the 80s, three in the 90s, and another 2 in the 2000s.) Because of how long it takes to construct a carrier, you need to start planning for replacements a good 10 years (or more) ahead of when you will actually want to use them.

    In the 2000s we decommissioned 4 carriers, but only commissioned 2 replacements. We're already in the process of decommissioning one carrier (the USS Enterprise CVN-65), with another 2-3 likely to be decommissioned this decade. If we don't start ordering new carriers now, we simply won't have them ready when our current carriers get too old.
  13. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8
    So then we simply go without those carriers, and there are none to take their place. That sounds good to me. More money for things we need and less spent on things we don't need (like more carriers).

    If we halved (or more) our military and minded our own business internationally, I suspect our standing in the eyes of much of the rest of the world would go up considerably.
    Last edited by KnightWriter, Feb 28, 2013
  14. SiouxFan Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 6, 2012
    star 3
    The problem is that most Americans still want to view ourselves as the unrivaled 'king of the mountain'. Until the public and Washington is content with viewing ourselves as a 'regional' power, we will continue to spend gobs of money on the Pentagon.
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  15. Rogue_Ten Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Aug 18, 2002
    star 7
    [IMG]

    i think we might just have this shizz covered
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  16. Souderwan Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 3, 2005
    star 6
    I would agree with much of what you're saying here. The problem is that no one is talking about reducing our footprint. We refuse to "starve the beast" with entitlement program spending (the truly massive spender in the budget, dwarfing military spending by a factor of at least 2 depending on your measurement) but we're taking that approach with the military. We really do have more carriers and submarines than we need if we adjust our mission to regional management or--gasp!--border protection only. But that's not in the cards (believe it or not, military leaders have actually asked for just such a reduction in mission profiles). So the effect is what I described earlier--longer deployments, shortened maintenance cycles, etc--the hollow force that ex-Secretary Penatta warned of.
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  17. Alpha-Red Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 25, 2004
    star 5
    Speaking of which, why does it take us over a decade and a half to develop a fighter jet now? The YF-22 first flew back in 1990, and the F-22 didn't become operational until 2005. Heck, the final product doesn't even look anything like the prototype...and who knows how many design changes were made under the hood in that time? Instead of giving the contract to Lockheed Martin and then letting them build something completely different, wouldn't it have been better to keep Northrop Grumman's YF-23 in the competition until they both had something that could reasonably be turned into a production model?
  18. LandoThe CapeCalrissian Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 30, 2012
    star 3

    Because the military has turned into a joke and they bleed the taxpayers dry with what you detailed above...

    These things happen all the time, you can find countless stories on the net about this type of stuff.
  19. Souderwan Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 3, 2005
    star 6
    I actually think I strained an eye muscle just now.

    To answer your question, @Alpha-Red, it's more about politics than what makes sense. The acquisition is often hamstrung in what it can and cannot do. In fact, the acquisition process (codified in law) is so mindbogglingly complex as to create a lot of these problems. One of the most frustrating things is that the people who actually use the equipment aren't the ones who define the requirements, establish the specs, or test the equipment. A lot of the delay in bringing new equipment to production comes when the product is fielded and we discover that it doesn't do what we wanted it to do.

    [IMG]

    Nowhere is the above more true than in defense acquisition. It'd be funny if there weren't billions of dollars involved. What makes it much worse is that the bureaucracy is borderline impenetrable and when you finally get through it all, there's always a congressman or senator who will fight tooth and nail to keep his particular gravy train going just a little longer.

    But I'll put a plug in for the submarine force. The Virginia Class submarine has the unique distinction of being the only major acquisition program in the Navy to consistently come in under budget and ahead of schedule since its inception. This is largely due to the Navy asking for and receiving special flexibility in contracting and being able to bypass some of the acquisition rules.
    Last edited by Souderwan, Feb 28, 2013
  20. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    I posted this in the fiscal cliff thread a while ago, but this is what I thought a "grand bargain" should look like, and where I thought (with my very limited knowledge) how the DoD budget should be cut:






    @Souderwan, do you know why the "Military Construction" budget is so big, and has seen such a big increase? (If wikipedia is even right)
    Operations & Maintenance should go down automatically once we're out of Afghanistan.

    Also, what do you think about the military bases in Europe, do we really need that many anymore?

    Thinking more long-term about the future of warfare, would it also make sense to shrink (or at least recruit less people for) the Army and the Marines?

    I think it's inexcusable that the GAO can't even audit the DoD, that the DoD doesn't even know where a lot of its money is being spent. It just makes sense to me to have a series of small cuts until they can be audited, hopefully it would motivate them to get some better accountants.
    Last edited by Summer Dreamer, Feb 28, 2013
  21. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    I'll answer some of those..

    Military Construction is mostly barracks. Lots of single soldiers, and it's cheaper to just build dorms than it is to increase everyone's pay by a thousand dollars monthly-rent around bases is typically exaggerated compared to most areas because of the increased, always-there population-most base towns are small communities whose economies are inflated from having twenty to thirty thousand extra people frequenting local stores. That said..Single soldiers are also young, and prone to abusing the buildings they live in. They typically need constant upkeep to keep just from falling apart; certainly my first barracks room, constructed in the 1980s, was waaay more damaged than your typical house or even apartment constructed in that time frame.

    Europe: Deploying from Europe is considerably cheaper than deploying from the US. You either move 5,000 guys six hours, or you move 5,000 guys eighteen hours...plus shipping equipment from Europe to the ME and Africa is cheaper than doing it from here.

    The future: The Marines...absolutely. They're supposed to be an elite, and we haven't enough ships to move more than about forty thousand of them anyway. The Army, probably back down to it's 1990s 500,000-figure. We'd have to really consider what we want our overseas presence to be to cut more, though-With conventional land wars being a thing of the past, and long-term occupations and insurgencies (Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq) having dominated Army operations for the last twenty years, mass is not a bad thing at all-you get too low and you'll be spending more on care of exhausted soldiers and equipment.
  22. Souderwan Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 3, 2005
    star 6
    Ghost: I have serious issues with most of your proposals as they don't drastically reform entitlement spending but there's no point in arguing that here. I'll just answer your questions from my perspective.

    I don't know that the Wiki number for Construction is right, but it seems in the right ballpark. Believe it or not, most of our spending has been on (as I said in my first post in this thread) people and fuel. Many of the buildings we use were built in the cold war era. Submarine Forces, Atlantic, for example (headquarters for the submarine force) is currently in a WWII hospital that was refurbished in the 80's. The foundations are literally crumbling and the infrastructure is atrocious. Moreover, it's incredibly energy inefficient. This story is largely the same throughout the Navy and I suspect all the services (except the Chair Force. They build facilities first and then planes. True story). So the 19% increase in spending there is really just a re-prioritization of funds to get our infrastructure right (especially since we now have Congressional-mandated energy-efficiency standards that must be met).

    My personal opinion on military bases around the world is to close them all. We should stop trying to be the world's policeman. So close everything in Europe. That said, to make that happen, we would have to drastically reshape our thinking about our role in the world and that's not likely to happen anytime this century. There are very good financial reasons for our behavior, but that's a topic for another day.

    The Marines are already near their constitutional minimum and the Army is also relatively small given its mission profile. You can't shrink these forces any more than they currently are without fundamentally changing their requirements. Closing those bases would be a good start. But really you'd have to decide that we're not going to send troops off to a 10-yr war without a draft. Although we have never formally abandoned the 2-war policy that we had during the cold war, we significantly drew down the size of our forces in the 90's. Then we promptly started two wars during the Bush years. Even during those wars, we were cutting away at troop strengths, with Rumsfeld insisting on a "leaner, more agile" force. The effect of all this is troops who have made 3 or 4 deployments in 5 yrs. Many would argue that this is what we signed up for. I can't really disagree with that perspective, honestly. But I would argue stridently against further troop reductions unless we change our attitudes about how troops should be used.

    I agree with you that the DoD should be able to be audited. The problem is security. The GAO is not authorized to see classified material. They don't audit much of the CIA either (you want to see a black hole of money? Check those guys out). But yeah...

    As for "special projects" funding, I can only tell you that you don't get drones and super secret stealth helicopters, let alone a bunch of stuff that our ships and subs can do that you don't know about without that. Should we give up on advancing military technology? I think that's a worth subject for debate. But until Americans stop expecting us to be able to show them live video footage of a bomb entering a terrorist camp and blowing up the exact right guy, it'll be this way. It costs a lot of money to have the ability to launch a missile from almost 1000 miles away and have it hit the exact place you're aiming at within a few feet at the exact time you want it to his. The fact that most of the collateral damage in war today is a function of human error is a testament to remarkable engineering and design teams. But that is also very, very expensive.
    Last edited by Souderwan, Feb 28, 2013
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  23. Kimball_Kinnison Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    Except that it doesn't really work that way.

    We're already on track to commission only 1-2 carriers for every 3-4 that we decommission. When you factor in the time needed for refits, scheduled maintenance, refueling, crew rotations, etc, you really need to have 2-3 carriers in the fleet for every one that you want to be able to have on deployment at any time.

    According to this list, of our current 10 carriers, 3 are currently undergoing refueling, maintenance, or refit, 1 is scheduled to start undergoing refueling shortly (likely when one of the 3 is finished), 3 are on current deployment (1 in the Atlantic, 1 in the Pacific, and 1 in the Persian Gulf), and 3 are in port (2 in Norfolk, VA and 1 in Everett, WA).

    The bare minimum that we want to have on deployment at any time (even during a time of peace) is 2, 1 in the Atlantic and 1 in the Pacific. When you factor in that you want to be able to send one carrier out on deployment before the one currently on deployment returns, that means that you need a minimum of 4 carriers (two in each ocean). Factoring maintenance schedules, adds another 2 to that minimum (because you need to keep 2 in each ocean while another is in maintenance). That means that the bare minimum that we want to have in our fleet is 6.

    In addition to that, you want to have some excess capacity, for use when situations arise around the world (such as our current deployment in the Persian Gulf). Because you don't know how long the situation might last (and deployments tend to be on the order of 6 months or more), you again need at least 2 carriers to have one relieve the other. Again, because of maintenance schedules, that means that you need one more, giving a total of 3 for your excess capacity. That gives a total fleet of 9 carriers, only one less than our current level of 10 carriers.

    Remember, it takes almost a decade to build a carrier. You need that excess capacity because while things might be peaceful now, you don't know what might happen before you could get a new carrier built.

    Our fleet is already pretty much at the minimum size it can safely be when it comes to carriers. Reducing it further isn't a good idea when you look at the numbers.
  24. Souderwan Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 3, 2005
    star 6
    I agree with your analysis and this observation is spot on, except that I would modify it as I have above. The requirements we set dictate the costs we bear. We (the voters) have the power to revist our requirements. If we really think we have too many carriers (or submarines, or planes, or troops etc), we should revist what it is we routinely ask of those units.
  25. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    With regards to bases, I think Boba is closer to the mark here. The Brigade transformation project that was started back around 2003-2004 really took care of the bulk of what is being discussed here. At with the Army, "Rummy's transformation" moved the organization away from being division-based, to one having a brigade focus.The US only has a few heavy-divisional bases in Germany left, with the remaining ones more dispersed. Baumholder is still an example of a cold-war hold-over, but as Boba also mentioned, Baumholder exists in the size it does precisely because it is the transitional point for the US forces who end up all over Europe.

    I'm also almost positive that the US ceased paying Germany direct development assistance back in 2006 or 2007, and so all the US DOD does now is lease the remaining facilities anyway.

    So the important issues are:

    1)One has to look at the role of the bases. For example, Ramstein Airbase is probably the US' s largest base in terms of troops (not area) But Ramstein is a NATO base, as is the supporting base at Spangdahlem. The US couldn't simply close Ramstein without leaving NATO out to dry. So instead of focusing on bases, the question that has to be asked is why does the US share so much of the burden for NATO? Could the other NATO nations take up more of the slack if the US cut personnel and resources? For another example, there are HUGE training facilities at Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels. But again, NATO trains there just as much as the US does. (Hohenfels probably has more foreign troops than US ones, but the US gets their training money's worth) Technically, they're still "US Army bases," but could a different country take over administration of them for NATO? It's not in Germany, but Aviano, Italy Air base is another example, which although it's technically a US Air Force base, it serves NATO, and has participated in every conflict from the 1st Gulf War, all the way to the NATO bombings in Libya. Could the US pull out of Aviano and turn it over to the Italian air force while still keeping the NATO capability?

    The simple matter is that most of the remaining US military units in Europe, especially Germany, don't exist for strict US interests, they're there as part of other alliances, namely NATO. The straight US military units that exist in Europe are smaller brigade combat teams that are stationed in rapid reaction/Stryker bases in countries like Bulgaria and Romania. The important thing to note about these bases is that they have a small footprint, because they aren't larger than a couple of thousand troops-precisely because the larger headquarters are located in Germany.

    2)It's perhaps a secondary issue, but where would all the US troops go? So let's say you cut 35,000 US military personnel from Germany? Where do you send them? Do you just cram them into existing bases in the US? Do you throw 35,000 families out of work in the middle of current economic conditions? I'm not so sure such large scale cuts could even be made any more because the remaining troops all have defined missions as part of NATO and/or the UN. It's not like the Cold War, where large divisions of US troops were just sitting around in Germany waiting for the Soviets to pour through.