Why Now?
Sunday, May 15, 2005
  Merger Mania
Rumsfeld has announced his plan to make the military more efficient and able to meet the requirements of the 21st century, except we already know from Iraq that current Pentagon planning is either non-existent or totally incompetent. I'm betting on totally incompetent, because even a random choice would yield better results than we have seen in the last four years.

What Rumsfeld has done is pull a page from "business management 101" and moved to implement it. He is going for the merger and consolidation option to reduce costs without bothering to understand why certain functions are dispersed. Having no actual military experience and no imagination, he doesn't understand why you wouldn't consolidate everything to eliminate any redundancy in the system. Consolidation saves money in peace time, but it might cause you to lose a war. Redundancy is seen as a problem in business, but it is a virtue in war.

Currently the B-1 bomber fleet is based at two different bases separated by a thousand miles. An aggressor would have to attack both bases to eliminate that threat. Rumsfeld wants to consolidate all of these aircraft at a single base, so a single ICBM can take them all out. It might save money, but at the risk of losing an entire weapons system in one strike. Whatever money it might save the US, there is a definite savings for the enemy.

He is consolidating fighter aircraft, even though the attacks on 9/11 showed that a major problem was the lack of fighter protection for major cities in the event of an aerial attack. Previous closures have eliminated fighter bases closer to New York and Washington. If he wanted to save money on fighter defenses the military could buy cheaper, more efficient fighters designed to defend against civilian aircraft, rather than opposing enemy fighters. A subsonic fighter with an extended flight capability would be better than a supersonic fighter that is out of fuel by the time it gets to an area of concern. If the cheaper planes were flown by National Guard or Reserve units that were guaranteed to stay in place, the pilots could be found. The fuel costs for the 2 F-16s that intercepted the Cessna in Washington DC were probably greater than the cost of the Cessna.

Locally they are planning to add about 2,000 Army Special Forces people to the mix at Eglin Air Force Base. This is a logical move as Air Force Special Operations Command is headquartered at Eglin's Hurlburt Field. The problem is the lack of any place for these people to live. Eglin has a lot of space, but much of that is devoted to testing ranges and necessary buffer zones. The civilian areas are dominated by vacation and retirement homes that are well out of the price range of military families, even if there were vacancies, which there aren't after hurricane Ivan. Local governments don't have the resources to absorb the extra people and their children and cars. The water and sewage systems are already maxed out. Nice idea, but there is no money available to adjust the infrastructure for the change. It will take at least a year for the base to build new housing, and there is only so much you can do without water.

Closing down the Navy facilities on the New England coast looks like a good idea if you don't know anything about weather or the coastal geography of the US. If you consolidate along the Southern coast you risk having major damage from a single hurricane moving up the coast. There are fewer deep water ports on the South because of the Continental shelf which is why there aren't more Navy bases down here. In addition you have the basic problem of reducing the number of targets an enemy has to hit to cripple your capabilities.

Frankly I think that in the aftermath of the end of the Cold War too many bases were closed and now the military has problems finding training and testing locations. If we bring back a massive number of people from Korea and Germany, as planned, where are our staging areas and storage locations?

It is all well and good to say that our military requirements are those envisioned by the G.H.W. Bush years, but the reality of the G.W. Bush years don't match that paradigm. Bush I had a foreign policy that didn't annoy the rest of the world; that has not been the case for Bush II.


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