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Chalmers Johnson: Our military is useless and expensive, Air Force worse offender


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#1 Fiz

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 10:00 AM

Chalmers Johnson is pretty damn intelligent. If you haven't read his Blowback trilogy go and do that. the first book was written before 9/11 and accurately predicted we'd eventually face retribution for out actions in the middle east. The last part of it interestingly compares the current state of american politics with the heights of imperial britain and rome, declaring us a "domestic democracy, a dictatorship abroad."

read the whole thing here

The Looming Crisis at the Pentagon: How Taxpayers Finance Fantasy Wars

Equally striking, the military seems increasingly ill-adapted to the types of wars that Pentagon strategists agree the United States is most likely to fight in the future, and is, in fact, already fighting in Afghanistan - insurgencies led by non-state actors. While the Department of Defense produces weaponry meant for such wars, it is also squandering staggering levels of defense appropriations on aircraft, ships, and futuristic weapons systems that fascinate generals and admirals, and are beloved by military contractors mainly because their complexity runs up their cost to astronomical levels.

That most of these will actually prove irrelevant to the world in which we live matters not a whit to their makers or purchasers. Thought of another way, the stressed out American taxpayer, already supporting two disastrous wars and the weapons systems that go with them, is also paying good money for weapons that are meant for fantasy wars, for wars that will only be fought in the battlescapes and war- gaming imaginations of Defense Department "planners."

The Air Force and the Army are still planning as if, in the reasonably near future, they were going to fight an old-fashioned war of attrition against the Soviet Union, which disappeared in 1991; while the Navy, with its eleven large aircraft-carrier battle groups, is, as William S. Lind has written, "still structured to fight the Imperial Japanese Navy." Lind, a prominent theorist of so-called fourth-generation warfare (insurgencies carried out by groups such as al-Qaeda), argues that "the Navy's aircraft-carrier battle groups have cruised on mindlessly for more than half a century, waiting for those Japanese carriers to turn up. They are still cruising today, into, if not beyond, irrelevance Submarines are today's and tomorrow's capital ships; the ships that most directly determine control of blue waters."


More than 20 years ago, Chuck Spinney wrote a classic account of the now-routine bureaucratic scams practiced within the Pentagon to ensure that Congress will appropriate funds for dishonestly advertised and promoted weapons systems and then prevent their cancellation when the fraud comes to light. In a paper he entitled "Defense Power Games," of which his superiors deeply disapproved, Spinney outlined two crucial Pentagon gambits meant to lock in such weaponry: "front-loading" and "political engineering."

It should be understood at the outset that all actors involved, including the military officers in charge of projects, the members of Congress who use defense appropriations to buy votes within their districts, and the contractors who live off the ensuing lucrative contracts, utilize these two scams. It is also important to understand that neither front-loading nor political engineering is an innocent or morally neutral maneuver. They both involve criminal intent to turn on the spigot of taxpayer money and then to jam it so that it cannot be turned off. They are de rigueur practices of our military-industrial complex.

Front-loading is the practice of appropriating funds for a new weapons project based solely on assurances by its official sponsors about what it can do. This happens long before a prototype has been built or tested, and invariably involves the quoting of unrealistically low unit costs for a sizeable order. Assurances are always given that the system's technical requirements will be simple or have already been met. Low-balling future costs, an intrinsic aspect of front-loading, is an old Defense Department trick, a governmental version of bait-and- switch. (What is introduced as a great bargain regularly turns out to be a grossly expensive lemon.)

Political engineering is the strategy of awarding contracts in as many different Congressional districts as possible. By making voters and Congressional incumbents dependent on military money, the Pentagon's political engineers put pressure on them to continue supporting front- loaded programs even after their true costs become apparent.

Front-loading and political engineering generate several typical features in the weapons that the Pentagon then buys for its arsenal. These continually prove unnecessarily expensive, are prone to break down easily, and are often unworkably complex. They tend to come with inadequate supplies of spare parts and ammunition, since there is not enough money to buy the numbers that are needed. They also force the services to repair older weapons and keep them in service much longer than is normal or wise. (For example, the B-52 bomber, which went into service in 1955, is still on active duty.)

Instead, in military terms, the most unexpectedly successful post- Vietnam aircraft has been the Fairchild A-10, unflatteringly nicknamed the "Warthog." It is the only close-support aircraft ever developed by the U.S. Air Force. Its task is to loiter over battlefields and assist ground forces in disposing of obstinate or formidable targets, which is not something that fits comfortably with the Air Force's hot- shot self-image.

Some 715 A-10s were produced and they served with great effectiveness in the first Persian Gulf War. All 715 cumulatively cost less than three B-2 bombers. The A-10 is now out of production because the Air Force establishment favors extremely fast aircraft that fly in straight lines at high altitudes rather than aircraft that are useful in battle. In the Afghan war, the Air Force has regularly inflicted heavy casualties on innocent civilians at least in part because it tries to attack ground targets from the air with inappropriately high- performance equipment.

Planning for the F-22 began in 1986, when the Cold War was still alive (even if on life support), and the Air Force was trumpeting its fears that the other superpower, the USSR, was planning a new, ultra-fast, highly maneuverable fighter.

By the time the prototype F-22 had its roll-out on May 11, 1997, the Cold War was nearly a decade in its grave, and it was perfectly apparent that the Soviet aircraft it was intended to match would never be built. Lockheed Martin, the F-22's prime contractor, naturally argued that we needed it anyway and made plans to sell some 438 airplanes for a total tab of $70 billion. By mid-2008, only 183 F-22s were on order, 122 of which had been delivered. The numbers had been reduced due to cost overruns. The Air Force still wants to buy an additional 198 planes, but Secretary Gates and his leading assistants have balked. No wonder. According to arms experts Bill Hartung and Christopher Preble, at more than $350 million each, the F-22 is "the most expensive fighter plane ever built."


the article then goes into great depth describing just how worthless the f-22 and how even more worthless the f-35 is, and there's lots of information in there about attempted reform within the airforce and the career fallout suffered by those who were behind it.

tl;dr we're pumping tons of money into things that will never be used to fight wars we can't win with weapons that won't help. fug the military industrial complex, fug the air force

#2 Kurb

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 10:09 AM

The A-10 is like the most badass plane ever made.

It a BEAST plain and simple.


Wasteful military spending is nothing new. I would argue the F-22 is needed, but not in for the same reasons they say it is needed. While it is important to stay on the cutting edge, I don't think one should do such to a fault.

#3 cookinwithgas

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 10:26 AM

Meh. I think that over the past 10 years there can be a valid argument made that more effort has gone into much more accurate (and therefore cheaper to use) GPS based ordinance, which is what allows the B-52 to drop weapons at high altitudes without local laser targeters exposed, and be accurate to within less than 100 feet.

The F-22 is indeed pretty unnecessary, but unless we build some advanced aircraft, we will lose the ability to do so again in the future - for an example of what this means in practical terms, research why we can't just build more Saturn V rockets these days.

The J-35 is a lot more practical, and also a good export sales item.

Carriers....well they certainly do project force and that can prevent issues before they happen, but they are expensive. I think that in the future they can be smaller and use a lot more drone technology, so costs will come down.

The B-2 and the B-1, while hellacool, have been fantastically expensive failures from a cost/usefulness standpoint. The B-1 was a rallying cry for Reaganites, but in the end Carter had it right from at least the technical aspect - fund the F-117 and smart weapon research, cap Trident sub production to a reasonable amount, and scrap the B-1A in favor of better cruise missile tech and B-52 survivability.

The Air Force is moving quickly to a majority pilotless system and gaining more and more accuracy at the same time. These bloated projects mentioned have lives of their own, but will eventually slow to a halt, simply because they have become far too expensive even for the US.

#4 bredy087

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 11:28 AM

[quote name='Kurb']The A-10 is like the most badass plane ever made.

It a BEAST plain and simple.
QUOTE]

Agreed, its relatively cheap, can take a helluva beating and keep flying. Dispenses a poo storm on ground forces.

This guy has some pretty good points, we have a family friend who worked maintence on an F-22 while it was in testing. He said it would be great if this were still the 90's but it just has toooooo many damn bugs. F-35 JSF I think could work, but its probably a giant cash cow as well.

I do like the Navy's carrier battlegroups though, you gotta control the skies, and you dont have an airforce base in every country.

#5 engine9

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 11:32 AM

I agree with him about the waste on all but the Carriers. Being able to move air support pretty much anywhere will always be useful.

#6 Fiz

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 11:51 AM

everyone go out today and check out/buy nemesis, especially if you want to hear a very well informed, reasoned, and put together argument against all of our military bases.

#7 cookinwithgas

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 12:20 PM

Isn't that the one where Data dies?

#8 engine9

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 01:05 PM

everyone go out today and check out/buy nemesis, especially if you want to hear a very well informed, reasoned, and put together argument against all of our military bases.


get out of here libertarian trash

#9 Davidson Deac II

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 01:25 PM

Nemesis was the worst of the Star Trek movies, by far.

#10 dimbee

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 01:28 PM

I put together a model of the Warthog back when I was a younging... that thing was badass

#11 Davidson Deac II

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 01:28 PM

For a little light reading though, I prefer Alfred Thayer Mahan's the influence of Sea Power on history.

#12 cookinwithgas

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 01:30 PM

At least Nemesis was somewhat understandable. Star Trek V was the absolute worst, guilty of terrible storytelling, awful effects, and mental rape of all the characters. Scotty knocking himself out, then waking up to Uhura putting the moves on him made me physically ill.

#13 N1kkadeemuz

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 01:31 PM

everyone go out today and check out/buy nemesis, especially if you want to hear a very well informed, reasoned, and put together argument against all of our military bases.


Fiz you're a piece of crap.

#14 cookinwithgas

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 01:32 PM

Come on Fiz, where else is the Air Force gonna put their golf courses?

#15 Matt Foley

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 01:33 PM

everyone go out today and check out/buy nemesis, especially if you want to hear a very well informed, reasoned, and put together argument against all of our military bases.


But then we would be left wing nutjobs like you. Just sayin'...


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