Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Wrangling for Budget

Here is an interesting article regarding a new study group within the Pentagon that is chartered with "combining the capabilities of the US Air Force and the Navy" in an effort to "offset their vulnerabilities and better use their assets to deter or defeat future enemies.

Hmmm, me thinks there is something foul afoot! Now I hate to be pessimistic about something with such a noble goal, you know that whole make things better, touch feely study and PR first. When you have to sell the concept with flowery words pulled out of the PR Department one has to pause and remove the rose tinted glasses. To be sure when someone says this is a "win-win" I get really curious about ones motives.

Besides the cultural differences between the two branches what of the institutional attention paid to a given capability or service? I am speaking of something low key but vital that is de-emphasized because of institutional malaise. I'll give you an example, CAS. Close Air Support is something vital to the Army and Marines. Ask any Infantryman hunkered down in a fire fight and what do they want? They want aircraft that can drop steel on the enemy. Today, only the Marines have fully integrated CAS, the Army has to rely on the Air Force to provide that capability. And dare I say, begrudgingly? You see, the Air Force many years ago tried to retire the best CAS aircraft ever built, the A-10 Warthog. Why, because it was not a flashy fighter aircraft? Who knows, the effort was there to strip that capability out of service in favor of using F-15E's and F-16's instead of something purpose built for the role. It speaks to the institution.

I understand that there is some overlap between the services, and that there could be 'vulnerability' because of gaps in capabilities but to want to "combine the capabilities" I think is frightening.

There are other examples and the Navy is guilty of the same issue. I come out of an ASW background, carrier based ASW is vital to a Battle Group out beyond the littorals, yet the Navy got rid of the purpose built aircraft for that mission and now relies on land based aircraft to "scout" ahead of the Battle Group. A mistake I believe but this too speaks to the institution.

They do list one example of something they hope to address; I laughed at it and it got me to thinking that there is more here than you see on the surface. The example they use, from a "veteran analyst" by the way, maritime surveillance. The use of Navy P-3 aircraft over Afghanistan has left the U.S. vulnerable to submarines, since the traditional role of the P-3 is ASW. The "veteran analyst" theorizes that a package could be developed and installed on B-52 Bombers which can then be used to patrol for submarines. Now, I laughed at this because the problem is the lack of ISR assets over Afghanistan and the "veteran analyst" fix is to use USAF B-52's in an ASW mission? What a joke. Yeah, fix the symptom, not the problem. Why not get more dedicated airborne ISR assets overhead in the AF and those P-3's can go back to doing ocean work and the B-52's can find another job, maybe dropping bombs!!

I wonder if the whole reason for this study is to justify the flying platforms on hand and shoe horn them into roles they are not suited. It will be interesting to see where they go and what comes of this but I think it's more of a grab for the budget that is shrinking and not a concern for the projection and protection of the country.

BT: Jimmy T sends.


Buck said...

The proliferation of "studies" and "study groups" is symptomatic of the rot and decay with DoD... IMHO. I weep.

JimmyT said...

Buck, I agree, the "Cancer Within" was what I was going to use as a title for that very reason.

BT: Jimmy T sends.

tom said...

I just googled the s3 and found it was retired from its mission in January. My immediate reaction was 'ummh, who is going to find the quiet chinee diesel/electric boats that are coming down the ways? There was report of one surfacing abeam the Ike or Abe over in WestPac last summer... and no one knew it was there until they saw the conning tower.
So, yeah, what a good idea! Retire the ASW tools. What is taking its place? DASH? [old old drone system]
I realize I am not up to date, as I was leaving as the S3 came in, but what are they thinking?