Sunday, December 07, 2008
Fred Kaplan has a very interesting column in Slate about Robert Gates' efforts to reform the Pentagon, and offers benchmarks to measure his progress under President Obama. Assuming Kaplan's report is accurate, it all strikes me as very sensible.
I'm rereading Churchill's "The Second World War" and am struck by how critical the long lead time weapons were. Ships and new state of the art aircraft were at the top of the list, but also tanks and other specialized items.
Gate's prescriptions are not new, but we do need to look 10-15 years ahead for new technology and 5-10 years for procurement. Interestingly the lead times have not changed all that much from Winston's era. Ships and planes initiated in the mid 1930's were just coming into wide service in 1941-2.
Interesting article. Let's see if Gates can deliver.
This whole thing can be summarized in the British TV series "Yes, Minister" and "Yes, Prime Minister." The unelected bureaucracy that runs the show day to day is going to try to continue to what it has done since the day it came on board. It's called bureaucratic inertia. I was a LtCol in the late 1970s and I recall the wisdom then WRT the A-10: it was not survivable in the threat environment expected in a big war in Europe and was going to be retired. Fortunately, the "experts" who foresaw that didn't hold sway and the A-10 is still used to good effect in Iraq and Afghanistan (at the very least).
The flip side of the Gates view has some merit too. A fleet of 187 F-22s may be sufficient for now, but the world situation can change in a heartbeat. Recall we went from Cold War confrontation to the demise of the USSR in very short order. It can go the other way just as quickly. A fleet of twenty-some B-2 bombers is also kind of iffy if someone should choose to seriously challenge us or our allies (assuming we really do have allies). WRT the B-2, I recall the arguments for procuring so few of them: they were so expensive we could afford only a few. Nonsense. Any serious student of finance understands that if a project has value you fund it. In the case of the B-2 the politicians didn't see much value in the project even though it has shown itself to be highly useful in fighting small wars. The inventory is at least one smaller now after the loss at Anderson AFB, Guam a while back.
It seems that Gates has the right idea for the problem at hand, but the seers in the Pentagon, and there are countless numbers of them, are all vying for their views to be heard and can jam a stick in the spokes of Gates's bicycle if they choose.
Politicians come and go but bureaucrats go on forever and ever, amen.
Thanks for linking the article. The Gates agenda sounds very good to me too.
A fleet of 187 F-22s may be sufficient for now, but the world situation can change in a heartbeat.
Well, we have some control over that. If we keep tensions with China and Russia from getting out of control, they'll be less inclined to blow large amounts of money on attempts on challenging American air superiority.