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  • First They Came for the Lasers...

    Making his case for cuts in defense spending,The Washington Post‘s David Ignatius wrote yesterday:

    Trimming the defense budget is one of the hardest tasks in Washington. … Senior Pentagon officials recognize that new technologies make it possible to reshape the budget without putting the country at greater risk. … The new technologies that will drive these changes are detailed in a study called “Technology Horizons” that was prepared last year by Werner Dahm, who was then chief scientist of the Air Force. He urged research on “cyber resilience” and “electromagnetic spectrum warfare,” including lasers and other beam weapons.

    Lasers are only a few years away from being practical weapons, Pentagon officials say. Ground-based lasers could revolutionize air defense, and a new generation of solid-state lasers may be small enough for airborne platforms. “Directed-energy systems will be among the key ‘game-changing’ technology-enabled capabilities,” wrote Dahm.

    This is all true. There is just one problem: lasers were among the first things the Obama administration put on the defense budget chopping block. The Washington Post reported on October 29th, 2009:

    President Obama signed a $680 billion defense authorization bill Wednesday that he said begins the difficult process of eliminating “some of the waste and inefficiency” from the defense budget. … The president had threatened to veto the measure if Congress did not cut several costly programs that military leaders said they did not need. Congress did eliminate … an airborne laser and the Future Combat Systems, a space-age Army initiative to link sensors, soldiers, and information systems with unmanned and manned vehicles.

    All of the systems that Obama cut are exactly the type of technologies that Ignatius says we need to better defend ourselves in the future. Does Ignatius not know this? Maybe he should reconsider his zealous defense spending cut beliefs.

    This is not to say that our defense budget is perfect. Far from it. Heritage Foundation defense policy analysts Mackenzie Eaglen and Julia Pollack have identified defense spending reforms that could save taxpayers more than $70 billion. But it is vitally important that these savings are plugged back in to the new technologies that Ignatius says are needed to defend this country.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    12 Responses to First They Came for the Lasers...

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    3. Robert, Edmonton Alb says:

      Maintaining the "technological" edge with full spectrum dominance is vital for our security now and in the future. The US is currently the only country not only with extensive global security relationships but is also required to be able to domestically produce weapons of incredible diversity able to extend deterrence quickly on a global scale. The US simply cannot rely on foreign production of any major weapon system deemed vital for national defense.

      The increasing complexity of major weapon systems, from submarines to fighter aircraft to main battle tanks absolutely relies on a robust scientific industrial manufacturing base. If any skills are lost, say to produce nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles, the US would be unable to reconstitute the production of those systems for possibly decades.

      It is quite ironic that the lesson for the US might be ancient China (1420 to 1460 around that time) who, at one time, was building the largest most complex ocean going vessels in the world. The Emperor said stop producing these types of ships. Within two or three generations China was a technological backwater and was soon colonized.

    4. George Colgrove, VA says:

      Prior to 9/11 we were only spending $366 billion on defense. In nine short years, we are spending over 2.5 times that – in a period where there was low inflation.

      Since 9/11, we have been fighting a 9-year war in two theaters and right now, we are shopping for wars in Korea and Mexico. The argument back in 2001 was that we needed to increase our investment in defense to improve the military infrastructure, modernization of equipment and so on.

      This argument was pounded into our skulls each and every year with dire predictions of the peril we would be in if, we did not get that funding. Well, in 2002 we got $56 billion more to work with. In 2003, we got $117 billion more; in 2004, $177 billion; in 2005, $234 billion; in 2006, $255 billion; in 2007, $287 billion; in 2008 we doubled the defense budget when we got an additional $364 billion; in 2009, we got an additional $428 billion; in 2010, $529 billion and in 2011 we are planning on getting another $564 billion more over that original $366 billion. In 10 years, we have invested in the military to the tune of $3.011 trillion beyond the original $366 billion annual budget.

      The national debt in 2001 was about $6 trillion and by the close of 2011 we will be over $15 Trillion. The DoD has contributed 33% of that additional debt for these “investments.”

      Here is a shopping list to ponder:

      20 F-22 jets @ $300 million each hardware& operational = $6 Billion

      A single submarine = $3 billion

      An aircraft carrier = $5 billion

      A Destroyer = $2 billion

      A Frigate = $0.750 billion

      A Cutter = $0.300 billion

      Fast attack craft = $0.100 billion

      Amphibious = $1 billion

      Auxiliaries = $0.200 billion

      Missle defense system = $1.5 billion

      100 Abrams M1 Tanks = $0.750 billion

      What did we get for that $3 trillion dollar investment? Even if we take out an assumed $175 billion each year for war operations in the two dragging wars, we are currently fighting, that leaves $1.25 trillion additional spending. $175 billion has been the amount the DoD has hovered around for annual war operations. We have anywhere up to 250,000 soldiers in the field right now. That represents spending of upwards of $700,000 per soldier – not including salaries and befefits!

      With the remaining $1.25 Trillion, we could have bought 625 Destroyers, 250 aircraft carriers, or 416 submarines. These are the big-ticket items. We could have even paid for 833 missile defense systems. Why are we not already modernized? What has the DoD been doing with that money?

      Incidentally, the DoD has been very generous as of late with paying their federal workers. The number of jobs that pay over $150,000 skyrocketed way over 50,000 in recent years – most of those were in the DoD. The DoD has proportionally more employees earning over $110,000 – in cash! The DoD has been on a building binge of luxurious and spacious office building when they were ordered to consolidate. This has been at an exorbitant cost of over $150,000 per federal non-military employee. I guess the DoD feels it should only get the best. Since we were attacked in 2001, frugality was the first thing that was jettisoned. Government officials have been spending that money as if it grew on trees and have spent it foolishly. The DoD has been spending that money on everything other than the war effort. After $3 trillion dollars later and 10 years of investing in modernization and a nation deep in debt we are told they need more cash to modernize. What have they been doing?

    5. George Colgrove, VA says:

      I am with you on every cost cutting proposals you have made. Except you have a pathological hands off approach to the DoD – the premier wasteful federal department. Every week there is one more alarm that says we need one more defense increase in defense or otherwise doom. The DoD is the one department that need the most review to get rid of the corruption, the fraud, the ill-conceived projects, the overlap and redundancy and the waste that goes on in the DoD halls. We need the DoD to be trustworthy, frugal and accountable. It lacks all three. All we have to do is listen to the current and former soldiers who post here in the HF to know there is far more than $70 billion we can cut from the defense budget.

      Raw Numbers:

      Year US GDP Deficit Fed Budget Defense

      1995 $7,414.70 $4,974.00 $1,515.90 $326.40

      1996 $7,838.50 $5,224.80 $1,560.60 $316.20

      1997 $8,332.40 $5,413.20 $1,601.30 $325.00

      1998 $8,793.50 $5,526.20 $1,652.70 $323.10

      1999 $9,353.50 $5,656.30 $1,702.00 $333.20

      2000 $9,951.50 $5,674.20 $1,789.20 $358.70

      2001 $10,286.20 $5,807.50 $1,863.20 $366.30

      2002 $10,642.30 $6,228.20 $2,011.20 $421.80

      2003 $11,142.10 $6,783.20 $2,160.10 $483.20

      2004 $11,867.80 $7,379.10 $2,293.00 $542.60

      2005 $12,638.40 $7,932.70 $2,472.20 $600.10

      2006 $13,398.90 $8,507.00 $2,655.40 $621.20

      2007 $14,077.60 $9,007.70 $2,728.90 $652.60

      2008 $14,441.40 $9,986.10 $2,982.60 $729.60

      2009 $14,258.20 $11,875.90 $3,517.70 $794.00

      2010 $14,623.90 $13,786.60 $3,720.70 $895.00

      2011 $15,299.00 $15,144.00 $3,833.90 $928.50

      Basic GDP analysis

      In the last 15 years the deficit was an alarming 60% +/- of the GDP – but stable. Since 2007, the near flat line on the deficit shot from 64% to 99% of the GDP in 4 years.

      In the last 15 years, the federal Budget has been stable at 19% +/- of the GDP. Since 2008 it shot up to 25%.

      Defense spending has been an even 4% and then because of the prolonged war efforts the budget went up to 5% of the GDP in 2004 and now as things are supposingly winding down, we are now spending 6% of the GDP since 2009. In terms of the federal budget, the DoD has been steady at 20% until 2002 when it sharply jumped to 24% and hung in there.

      Let’s put the last 15 years into 2011 numbers

      Year US GDP Deficit Fed Budget Defense

      1995 $10,902.88 $7,313.97 $2,229.04 $479.95

      1996 $11,212.11 $7,473.50 $2,232.26 $452.28

      1997 $11,571.44 $7,517.46 $2,223.77 $451.33

      1998 $11,937.22 $7,501.85 $2,243.55 $438.61

      1999 $12,497.47 $7,557.54 $2,274.08 $445.19

      2000 $13,010.25 $7,418.25 $2,339.13 $468.95

      2001 $13,005.63 $7,342.87 $2,355.78 $463.14

      2002 $13,089.37 $7,660.30 $2,473.65 $518.78

      2003 $13,488.28 $8,211.53 $2,614.95 $584.94

      2004 $14,043.79 $8,732.07 $2,713.42 $642.08

      2005 $14,562.49 $9,140.39 $2,848.57 $691.46

      2006 $14,931.11 $9,479.81 $2,959.05 $692.23

      2007 $15,200.99 $9,726.51 $2,946.66 $704.67

      2008 $15,169.09 $10,489.29 $3,132.89 $766.36

      2009 $14,428.39 $12,017.65 $3,559.68 $803.47

      2010 $14,857.88 $14,007.18 $3,780.23 $909.32

      2011 $15,299.00 $15,144.00 $3,833.90 $928.50

      What this shows is that in today’s dollars, defense spending has been constant at $457 +/- billion annually until 2002. Now the war on terror would make an impact and that does shows in the history. However with annual field operations coming in at $150 to $190 billion, why the defense budget needs to be more than $630 total, escapes me. We are winding down our war efforts in the two theatres we are currently in. Since the major push was in the 2002 and 2003 years and after that we have done nothing more than nation building with some minor conflicts, and the fact we have less people in the field than we did back in 2004 at the peak, we should be spending less than the $642 billion we were in 2003. However, we are spending a surplus of almost $300 billion – for what? Every federal department will need to cut their budgets significantly to spread the burden of the current economic crisis we have been in since 2007. We also have to start one day paying back the debt. Every year we wait, it is going to get worse – and more impossible to do. My ongoing proposal of having the defense budget cut to $549 billion fits with the historical picture above. This value represents a permanent $92 billion annual increase over pre 9/11 budgets (in 2011 numbers). The DoD will have to do the hard work of prioritizing its needs. If such laser weapons are necessary, put them on the top of the list. However, weapons pushed by politicians because of campaign contributions will need to take a back seat. We cannot do it all. If we collapse economically, there will be little a luxurious and lavish DoD will be able to do. They will more than likely do what they can to defend their own interest over military and the country – that is exactly what they are doing now.

      So the final Budget:

      Debt Interest = $0.430T

      Non-Defense Discretionary spending = $0.320T

      Defense = $0.549T (22% of the budget)

      Entitlements = $1.251T

      Total Budget = $2.550

      Anticipated “Revenue” = $2.550T

      Total added debt = $0.00

      If we do not follow this budget, we will fall as a nation. This budget does not allow for tax decreases nor does it allow for debt reduction from the total national debt. In short it does little to help the economy short of only stopping deficit spending.

    6. George Colgrove, VA says:

      If I am not making my point well enough check out the Cato Institute:

      The US Should Cut Military Spending in Half

      by Benjamin H. Friedman


      "To really keep us safe, we should slash defense spending. Americans should prepare for fewer wars, not different ones. Far from providing our defense, our military posture endangers us. It drags us into others' conflicts, provokes animosity, and wastes resources. We need a defense budget worthy of the name. We need military restraint. And that would allow us to cut defense spending roughly in half."

      ". . . powerful interests benefit from heavy defense spending, and cutting the military budget would be a tough sell. Both political parties believe that American primacy is the route to safety. But they're wrong.

      A more restrained approach to defense is what would make us safer."

      A modern interpretation of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.

      We have to get our head's screwed back on.

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    8. Gabriel says:

      George, I disagree with you 99.9% of the time mostly because you are very partisan in your views but you are 10000000000% correct on this comment. Be careful, you might be labeled a terrorist if you suggest cutting the dod. :)

      Bravo George, Bravo!

    9. Larry Conner Lafayet says:

      Without getting into the repeat of the numbers, please think about this as a business.

      Basic principle is one invention can increase productivity of assets and reduce the need for total outlay…ala defense spending. The problem is not one dimensional. One has to view many areas of the cause of the problem of sky rocketing debt.

      If we had a laser missle defense system deployed, why would we consider going to war with Korea or any other country with ICBM capability. More simply stated, if one was attacked by a robber in the alley and they had a knife and you had a gun, what would be the outcome. I suggest that there would not be a continued effort on the part of the robber to complete his act of violence.

      I believe it is safe to say, much of our spending on current issues would not be spent. If we used our own oil reserves to provide oil for USA, and flood the market with excess supply, what would happen to price of oil? History proves it would go down.

      If we were not fighting on two theatres to help ensure people of Iraq and Afghanistan have an opportunity to pursue their personal freedoms and protect the balance of power of who controls the oil supply, I submit that this one act alone would save $750 billion in Military spending and then the residual defense spending to continue to develop and resupply conventional fighting tools, would also be reduced.

      This would enable private industry or "business soldiers" to go into Middle East and help them compete in the "free trade" market place. Instead of their infighting for control of oil, I believe it would be easy to divert efforts to use their resources on things that would fill voids in the International market place, not to mention provide for their own basic needs.

      To conclude:

      Our Founding Fathers understood that to use Government only for the things outlined in the Constitution, and ensure that nothing prevented private enterprise from being innovative, our country would thrive and provide a model for the rest of the world to learn and implement. Our new leaders must get us back on track.

      Regards LJ Conner

    10. Robert, Edmonton Alb says:

      George – You understand that by simply writing a bunch on numbers down with a total absence of any discussion on US strategic doctrine and global political/military/economic realities is incomplete/useless analysis?

      "I am spending twice as much on gas as I used to"!

      "But prices have risen and you drive further to work each day."

      "Oh ya right."

      Defense IS THE primary function of the federal government and in a $15 trillion economy is easily afforded at current spending levels.

      I believe Alice Rivlin, who worked for Clinton and Obama, recently said, to paraphrase, "future budget deficits will be TOTALLY (emphasis mine) driven by welfare and entitlement spending and not defense."

      That said I am all for weeding out every wasted dollar……………for re-investment NOT for cuts in the defense budget.

    11. Bobbie says:

      Standing by results (#'s) is easy. It takes intelligence to consider all factors as to why (bad) results come to be and common sense to prevent bad results, in the future.

    12. Magnum Serpentine says:

      As I have said before, the United States is NOT THE WORLDS POLICEMAN!!!

      that being said, the Constitution only states that we are to defend the USA and no other nation. Infact, George Washington said not to get into any foreign wars or any alliances. Has the Heritage Foundation forgotten that? Eisenhower warned us about the Military Industrial Complex. Seems we ignored that and are now captive to the big wig defense contractors.

      Since the Constitution says only defend the USA, here is what we need to do in order to do that:

      1. The USA needs only 1 carrier on the west coast and one on the east coast.

      A. Mothball USS Enterprise CVN 65. It is 50 years old.

      B. Mothball 6 Nimitz Nuclear Carriers.

      C. Keep 2 additional Nimitz Carriers in Active Reserve (Use them for National Guard training cruises etc)

      D. Reduce the navy to 60 ships. 30 ships for each coast.

      In 1889 The Congress ordered 2 Second Class Coastal Battleships. USS Maine and USS Texas. They clearly stated that these two ships should not be able to travel well to Europe or be able to be used as offensive weapons, defensive only.

      Thus, USS Maine, which started out as an Armoured Cruiser but was changed to a Second Class or Coastal Defense Battleship was armed with 4 10 inch guns, in 2 wing turrets. The Wing Turrets were designed for defensive not offensive. USS Texas was given 2 12 inch guns one per turret in an arrangement that was similar to Maine.

      These ships were built for Defense. The Congress of 1889 (1884 might had been the year of authroization) understood the mandate of the Constitution, which was to defend the USA and nothing more.

      Many say the Mission of the USA has changed since then. Oh really? What happened to the inflexible Constitution? If it says defend the USA only then thats what it means. Cutting the Defense Budget to 90 billion a year and no more is much more than enough to carry out the Defense of the USA. (In addition to the cuts with-drawing from Afghanistan, Europe, Iraq, Japan, Korea and other areas will reduce cost as well)

      Thats my views and opinions.

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