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November 26, 2008

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The catchy "4 percent of GDP" hides another absurdity--GDP isn't identical to actual Government assets or wealth such as *the tax base.* If the military wants to agitate for a permanent 4 percent cut of all tax revenue they have my good leave. I'll take ten percent for health care, five percent for education, and etc....

aimai

I'd happily peg defense to a percent of gdp if I could also peg all other govt spending to a percent of gdp.

The very first question that the 4% advocates need to answer is why defense spending ought to be based on GDP at all. Sure, GDP is a constraint, but there's no reason I can see for making defense spending a percentage of GDP.

When you get a raise, do you run out and buy more locks for your doors?

How about capping it at 200% of the second largest defense budget in the world, with a guaranteed 125%.

Also, what does "in perpetuity" mean? Since when can the current legislature bind future legislatures? Are they asking for a Constitutional amendment or something?

Sheesh.

And we see that, once again, the Pentagon exists to serve itself, and not to defend the nation.

The wimpy British had a 2 power standard. the manly US has of course to have an all power standard (including potential alien invasions*).
Even Reagan was "moderate" enough to just demand the ability to conduct two (regional) wars at the same time (the situation now, if meddling-below-war-treshold in other countries is ignored).
The ideal solution would be to go through the Pentagon books line by line and to cut everything that cannot be provided with a reasonable un-weaselly explanation/justification instantly.

*iirc there was recently a Pentagon study on that

"As Cernig points out that while Four-Percenters claim that our current spending is a mere 3.43% of GDP, that calculation ignores supplemental spending on Iraq and Afghanistan which, when added in, pushes spending to 4.73% of GDP"

Ah yes, that old trick. "If you ignore the two main missions that the Pentagon is actually engaged in, it hardly spends anything at all!" By this standard, we should be comparing current expenditure to Vietnam era expenditure by excluding the cost of the Vietnam war.

The last I heard, Al Qaeda doesn't have an air force

The last I heard, you don’t get a new air superiority fighter overnight when you do encounter a situation where you need air superiority. I’d have no problem scrapping this program if someone could guarantee me we’d never be in a situation again where air superiority wouldn’t matter. I don’t believe anyone can do that however.

The F-22, which he describes as a "dog" on performance (more fragile and less maneuverable than Vietnam-era fighters),

Huh? That’s pure nonsense. And making such a sweeping and plainly incorrect statement shreds whatever credibility this guy (Wheeler) may have had.

During Exercise Northern Edge in Alaska in June 2006, 12 F-22s of the 94th FS downed 108 adversaries with no losses in simulated combat exercises.[3] In two weeks of exercises, the Raptor-led Blue Force amassed 241 kills against two losses in air-to-air combat, and neither Blue Force loss was an F-22.

This was followed with the Raptor's first participation in a Red Flag exercise. 14 F-22s of the 94th FS supported attacking Blue Force strike packages as well as engaging in close air support sorties themselves in Red Flag 07-1 between 3 February and 16 February 2007. Against designed superior numbers of Red Force Aggressor F-15s and F-16s, it established air dominance using eight aircraft during day missions and six at night, reportedly defeating the Aggressors quickly and efficiently, even though the exercise rules of engagement allowed for four to five Red Force regenerations of losses but none to Blue Force. Further, no sorties were missed because of maintenance or other failures, and only one Raptor was adjudged lost against the virtual annihilation of the defending force.


…the Defense Department's procurement bureaucracy is practiced at pushing its wish list through Congress

And vice-versa. (Yes I know those were Republicans.)

Look, there’s a ton of savings to be had by reforming the procurement process. It really needs to be reformed from top to bottom. A lot of that is on the DoD side, but Congress needs to stop using the defense budget as a jobs program for their districts as well. I doubt that anyone in the Pentagon would make the case that F-22 assembly needs to happen spread over 44/50 states.

I’m all for any serious evaluation of which systems are needed and which are not. When you say “Optimally, and logically, defense spending should be based on a rational assessment of risks, needs and exigencies” I agree completely. But your cites (Sharp and Wheeler) are less than clue-full IMO.

Whatever happened to President Bush's "peace dividend"?

Oh yeah, that was the smart Bush. Whatever happened to him, and that?

I think you're wrong about Wheeler. He is well-respected and considered exceedingly knowledgable.

If you look at the book he's editing, America's Defense Meltdown, it is based on contributions from over a dozen experts.

While you cite Wiki, it should be noted that the F-22 has had a history of running over cost and sub-par performance.

If they have, at last, worked out its kinks, that doesn't change the basic point.

Take the F-22. The Air Force, which began developing the fighter in 1986, originally intended to buy more than 700 of them to replace its aging fleet of F-15s and F-16s. By 2000, cost overruns led the Pentagon to halve its order to 346. But in 2005, almost 20 years and $40 billion later, the request was lowered again to just 180 aircraft, the consequence of lengthy delays and unanticipated development costs that had pushed the price per airplane from an earlier projection of $184 million to $355 million. To fill the void in inventory, the Air Force has now begun developing the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which critics say promises a repeat of the F-22 fiasco.

The absurdity of spending a fixed percentage of GDP on defense regardless of circumstances is revealed as soon as you stop thinking of military strength as an absolute measure (for X dollars spent we get a Y percent increase in security) and realise that an even moderately informed reading of military history shows that security is always relative (to the competition) rather than absolute.

Say we spend 4% of GDP, and our GDP is 3 times that of China. Which means that to match our level of spending the Chinese would have to spend 12% of their GDP.

So what do we do when they suddenly boost their spending to 25% of GDP? Surrender? Or boost our spending to match the threat?

And if the answer is: boost our spending, then does that gear turn in only one direction, or do we reduce our spending when the threat subsides?

Do these people know anything about history?

Wheeler may have been reliably informed in the past, but as regards the F-22's performance, he's dead wrong.

According to the CBO, tax revenues came out to 17.7% of GDP in 2008. A full 6.3% of that was social insurance. That leaves revenues of 11.4% of GDP (unless you advocate using Social Security surpluses to pay for defense).

Roughly speaking, that means the military wants over 1/3 of all non-social insurance income. And this doesn't even take into account the fact that revenue in 2008 is nowhere close to covering expenses. Of course, those who are pushing this won't have the guts to ask for a tax increase to, you know, actually PAY for it. Man, I'm glad Elizabeth Dole got her ass kicked out of Congress. To quote "Ruthless People":

Kid: "Bitchin'! Hey, what's it fucking cost?"

Ken Kessler: "That's the bitchin' part about it! It don't matter! If you can't afford it, F***ING FINANCE IT!"

Do these people know anything about history?

They most certainly do: They know that Adolf Hitler was a liberal Islamist who murdered Jews so he could give their money to cadillac driving welfare queens while destroying families by making everyone get gay married to a box turtle.

I’d have no problem scrapping this program if someone could guarantee me we’d never be in a situation again where air superiority wouldn’t matter. I don’t believe anyone can do that however.

Which makes it an odd pre-condition. And is "this program" the only way to air superiority? How superior? How much would it have to matter? Would there be no other priorities considered in utilizing limited resources, or is air superiority mattering to some degree more important than anything else?

Wheeler may have been reliably informed in the past, but as regards the F-22's performance, he's dead wrong.

Do you have a link to support that Slarti?

I am not sure exactly where this particular question fits into this discussion, but one detail that always bugs me in these discussions is the ratio of budget apportioned to the different branches of the service.

Would someone please tell me why it is politically impossible to say "Not only no, but FUCK NO!" to a defense contractor or Pentagon procurement officer?

Here's a link on the problems and unsuitability of the F-22 for combat.

I'm not saying this is the end all, be all, but it makes a stark contrast to the Wikipedia entry. And it certainly sounds like the two persons quoted are long-term experts, one with very real life experience in air warfare.

Do you have a link to support that Slarti?

No more than he has a link to support his claim, Eric.

OCSteve,

Be very careful about claiming the effectiveness of a piece of military hardware based upon the results of simulations. These are the same people who keep insisting on the need for a missile defense system that only works when the tests are rigged. They go into their simulations with the result they want in mind.

Be very careful about claiming the effectiveness of a piece of military hardware based upon the results of simulations.

simulated combat exercises != simulations

The "simulated" part involves only that there weren't any smoking craters afterward.

No more than he has a link to support his claim, Eric.

Well, considering that he works in the defense policy area, and is editing a book on Pentagon spending and the procurement process, I would assume that he has links. Unfortunately, he's not here to provide them, but his credentials do lend a bit more heft to his statements regarding this subject area than would mine or yours.

The "simulated" part involves only that there weren't any smoking craters afterward.

The point being Slarti, that the people running the exercises often have a vested interest in finding positive results.

This has been a familiar pattern.

TLT got there first, so "what (s?)he said."

This is an open invitation to the capture-and-ratchet scenario.

Would someone please tell me...

Well if it's a procurement officer you should probably say "SIR, @^%#$ NO, SIR!!!"

Unfortunately, he's not here to provide them, but his credentials do lend a bit more heft to his statements regarding this subject area than would mine or yours.

Eric, I've worked in the defense industry, directly, for 25 years. Wheeler has worked as a Senate staffer whose work occasionally examines Defense spending, for Senators who haven't occupied important Defense Appropriation subcommittee seats, for 31 years. Which of us is credible?

Neither, to my way of thinking. I'd tend to wait until someone whose opinion in these matters is both informed and regardable.

The point being Slarti, that the people running the exercises often have a vested interest in finding positive results.

The folks who evaluate the airplane aren't the same folks who are acquiring it. I thought everyone knew this. Do you think the people evaluating the F-22 want it to succeed, if it's a dog?

"Would someone please tell me why it is politically impossible to say "Not only no, but FUCK NO!" to a defense contractor or Pentagon procurement officer?"

Simple: because the Defense budget is the most sacrosanct of sacred cows in our budgetary process - not only because there is a military base/military facility/military contractor in virtually every Congressional District in all 50 states, but also that military/industrial spending provides the little-scrutinized underpinning for vast swathes of this country's technology, engineering and manufacturing sectors. Mostly in (enormous) industries where there are no (or at best, few) "civilian" applications for the technology, engineering or products these enterprises produce.

Oh, and also the fact that Americans, in general, have - for the past fifty-sixty years - been conditioned by government, media, and industry, to view any potential reduction (no matter how small) in defense spending as tantamount to abject surrender to The Enemy - whoever said "Enemy" might be.

Slarti: Fair enough, two times.

Jeez, didn't expect you to whip that out man.

All bloated bureaucracies exist to perpetuate themselves. DoD is no different. Hopefully President Obama will exert the same sort of leadership with Defense that he promises for the rest of the government: to do away with programs that don't work and to make even better those programs that do. The debate will be much more constructive when it focuses not on dollars spent but on effectiveness and efficiency.

Hopefully President Obama will exert the same sort of leadership with Defense that he promises for the rest of the government: to do away with programs that don't work and to make even better those programs that do.

Seems unlikely, since it seems to have been confirmed that President-Elect Obama doesn't even have the leadership to fire Robert Gates and appoint someone else to be Secretary of Defense: he's got to keep on the Bush appointee. And that is supposed to be definitely inside his job description, but it appears he doesn't plan to exercise that part of it.

The "simulated" part involves only that there weren't any smoking craters afterward.

No, simulations involve something less than full combat. That means that there are holes. Those holes are filled with assumptions as to what the parts that aren't real would have produced. Those assumptions are prone to confirmation bias.

The folks who evaluate the airplane aren't the same folks who are acquiring it. I thought everyone knew this. Do you think the people evaluating the F-22 want it to succeed, if it's a dog?

Yes, this is exactly what I think. Asserting that there is no intersection between these two groups is an exercise in wishful thinking. Further, even with full intellectual biases, the promotion process in the Air Force assures that both groups have a shared set of beliefs as to what should work. These beliefs inform the evaluation process at all levels.

That the US military (which is hardly alone, so I'm not singling it out) routinely produces equipment that does not perform as advertised cuts against your argument. I already pointed out the case of missile defense. It seems clear that there are important officials who want it to succeed, even if it is a dog.

There are a lot of people who are usually skeptical of a bureaucracy's ability to get anything right, who forget all of those principles when it comes to the military.

While you cite Wiki, it should be noted that the F-22 has had a history of running over cost and sub-par performance.

Cost is one thing. Claiming it is “less maneuverable than Vietnam-era fighters” is another.

The F-4 (a.k.a Flying Anvil, Lead Sled) had a wing loading of 78 lb/ft² and a T/W of .86. The F-111 had wing loading (swept) of 158 lb/ft² and a T/W of .61. The F-22 has a wing loading of 66 lb/ft² (best) and a T/W of 1.08 – meaning it has enough thrust to take off (literally) like a rocket – it has enough thrust to lift its weight off the ground from a dead start. The lower wing loading means it climbs better, turns better, etc. Those figures are from Wiki too – maybe they are all wrong, but you can follow their links.

Better yet – what Slarti said.

The F-22 is a stealth fighter. It is practically impossible for existing air-to-air missiles to lock onto it. The advantage this confers is much, much more significant than maneuverability (though the F-22 does fine on that front).

But overall, defense spending does need to get cut. A good place to start would be shutting down some overseas bases; hopefully basic R&D doesn't get hit, because DARPA is doing some really fascinating stuff.

Posted by: Slartibartfast:

"Eric, I've worked in the defense industry, directly, for 25 years. Wheeler has worked as a Senate staffer whose work occasionally examines Defense spending, for Senators who haven't occupied important Defense Appropriation subcommittee seats, for 31 years. Which of us is credible?"

He is, because he put his name out in public, behind his criticism. 'Slartibartfast' is, IIRC, a character from tHGttG series of quite fictional novels.

You do get points for gall, though - it takes a lot, IMHO, to boast of a resume while not revealing either your name.

In additon (again, IIRC), you claimed extensive work experience on SDI project. SDI is a ~35 year old dream in which 'valid tests' involve firing a missile on a known course, with a freakin' transponder in it to home in on.

Any experience with such a program reminds me of Enron accounting experience - it might be real, but it's not a mark in the person's favor.

The F-22 is a stealth fighter. It is practically impossible for existing air-to-air missiles to lock onto it.

This may or may not be true, but the thrust of the criticism is that it doesn't matter. The claim that needs refutation is that, to be effective, the F-22 must have its own radars turned on, and that missiles can home in on these emissions, and don't need to lock onto the plane itself.

Current stealth aircraft work because, despite the F-117's designation as a fighter, they are bombers. They don't need to have their radar active, because they know their targets, which don't move. They are therefore able to be stealthy, rather than announcing to the enemy where they are.

No, simulations involve something less than full combat. That means that there are holes. Those holes are filled with assumptions as to what the parts that aren't real would have produced. Those assumptions are prone to confirmation bias.

The only parts that aren't real in this simulated combat are the missile parts launching and hitting (or failing to hit; I think they use probabilistic phit/pkill models) the opposing aircraft. It sounds, though, like you have some working assumptions about what constitutes simulation in this example; it'd be good to get those out in the open before we do any more back-and-forth.

Asserting that there is no intersection between these two groups is an exercise in wishful thinking.

It's an exercise in observation, actually; the product that I work on is being currently evaluated by the USAF, and my experience is that they're quite thorough. I welcome your observations that go the other way, though.

That the US military (which is hardly alone, so I'm not singling it out) routinely produces equipment that does not perform as advertised cuts against your argument. I already pointed out the case of missile defense.

You haven't said anything specific enough about missile defense for me to dispute or agree with. Maybe you ought to say more. Missile defense, though, has also been rather rigorously tested. This happens to be another area I know something about, having been an evaluator working for a government program office that one of those missile defense programs was run out of. I assure you, we pulled no punches.

Barry:

He is, because he put his name out in public, behind his criticism. 'Slartibartfast' is, IIRC, a character from tHGttG series of quite fictional novels.

IOW: both nobodies in the area of defense technology. I'm ok with that.

You do get points for gall, though - it takes a lot, IMHO, to boast of a resume while not revealing either your name.

Interesting accusation, "Barry". I can't have an informed opinion without posting my full name? Neither can you.

In additon (again, IIRC), you claimed extensive work experience on SDI project. SDI is a ~35 year old dream in which 'valid tests' involve firing a missile on a known course, with a freakin' transponder in it to home in on.

Which one was that? This sounds oddly like a conversation we've had before, but there's no way to tell without some supporting details.

The radar point is almost a good one, if you ignore that the F-22 has LPI radar. Still, the F-22 might have been a better stealth platform, had it kept the IRST system that it was designed to have, which was completely passive.

Which, coincidentally, I also worked on, back in 1987 or so.

The only parts that aren't real in this simulated combat are the missile parts launching and hitting (or failing to hit; I think they use probabilistic phit/pkill models) the opposing aircraft.

There's a lot of assumptions built into that calculation right there.

You haven't said anything specific enough about missile defense for me to dispute or agree with. Maybe you ought to say more. Missile defense, though, has also been rather rigorously tested. This happens to be another area I know something about, having been an evaluator working for a government program office that one of those missile defense programs was run out of. I assure you, we pulled no punches.

Other than, as has already been pointed out, putting transponders in the targets.

The radar point is almost a good one, if you ignore that the F-22 has LPI radar.

What I've read suggests that, by the time an enemy is technologically advanced enough to need the F-22 over existing planes, there are solutions to LPI. I don't know for sure, because the information is classified. There is a long history of hardware being oversold, though.

This also points to one of the problems with a national security establishment that relies so heavily upon classified information. It becomes impossible for citizens to be able to figure out what's going on. That's not healthy for a democracy.

I would love to hear an argument for why we wouldn't get along just fine, thank you, by cutting military spending by 60 percent, and diverting those funds to infrastructure spending.

Eric -

Separate from your larger argument, I find this assessment odd:

The inexorable slide? Really? Any fair accounting of US defense spending compared to the rest of the world, or any other relevant metric, would not describe the trend in recent decades, years or months as an inexorable slide.

Defense as a proportion of GDP was 11.7% during the Korean War, 8.9% during Vietnam in 1968, 6% during Reagan's build-up in 1986 and 4.6% during Gulf War I.

At both the officially budgeted 3.4% and the 4.7% with supplementals, there are indeed relevant metrics that would classify the spending on defense as a "slide."

That said, the Pentagon does waste a lot of money (see F-22 Raptor) when one analyzes the challenges we will be facing in the near future (small wars, COIN).

The argument, Bill, is that percentage of GDP is NOT a relevant metric.

The argument, Bill, is that percentage of GDP is NOT a relevant metric.

The last I heard, Al Qaeda doesn't have an air force

Which has relevance if you are interested in preparing to fight the last war, rather than the next one.

Al Qaeda is not, and never has been, among the greatest threats to the US. I would place China, Russia, Pakistan, and the "Iraq group" (e.g., the competing interests of the Kurds, Sunni, Shia, and tribes; pre-surge, I would include al Qaeda in this group) above it.

The argument, Bill, is that percentage of GDP is NOT a relevant metric.

I don't see that as the argument. Eric is arguing against a fixed %; he is not arguing that & of the GDP is irrelevant.

Al Qaeda is not, and never has been, among the greatest threats to the US. I would place China, Russia, Pakistan, and the "Iraq group"...above it.

Threat to do what?

von, following up somewhat on Ugh's comment (or question), by saying what you did you are sounding an awful lot like Obama who was criticized for putting a realistic face on Al Qaeda's threat.

Don't you know that the greatest threat to the entire world, civilization, life liberty and the pursuit of financial gain (unless you are a firm like Blackwater) is Islamofascist fundametalist radical terrorizing childeating decapitating AlQaeda?

What kind of American are you.

Furthermore, the question is not to have a military equipped to handle Al Qaeda (we already have that if it is used properly) but to deal with the types of conflicts most likely to arise in the future.

Nobody has suggested getting rid of air power, just that certain types of expenditures need to be looked at critically and that we should not just build a new type of weapon system just because we can.

Defense as a proportion of GDP was 11.7% during the Korean War, 8.9% during Vietnam in 1968, 6% during Reagan's build-up in 1986 and 4.6% during Gulf War I.

At both the officially budgeted 3.4% and the 4.7% with supplementals, there are indeed relevant metrics that would classify the spending on defense as a "slide."

No. This is not a slide, because the amount in inflation adjusted dollars keeps going up. As cited in the post:

[T]he United States will spend significantly more, in inflation-adjusted dollars, for defense in FY 2009 than it did during the peak years of the Korean War (1953; $545 billion), the Vietnam War (1968; $550 billion), or the 1980s Reagan-era buildup (1989; $522 billion). The United States is also projected to spend more on defense in FY 2009 than the next 45 highest spending countries combined, including 5.8 times more than China (second highest), 10.2 times more than Russia (third highest), and 98.6 times more than Iran (22d highest). Indeed, the United States is expected to account for 48 percent of the world’s total military spending in FY 2009.

Me: Thus, focusing on GDP gives a distorted view because the GDP has gone up so much, that real dollar expenditures are excessive.

So, I stand by what I said: it would be hard to call that level of spending a "slide." Even if the percentage of GDP is lower, the real dollar expenditures are considerably higher or at least commensurate with periods of high spending born out of a crisis.

trollhattan
//Whatever happened to President Bush's "peace dividend"?//

It contributed a great deal to Clinton's surplus.

Slart: "IOW: both nobodies in the area of defense technology. I'm ok with that."

Well, wrong. *He* posted his name. Let me repeat that, for those who have problems: *he* posted his name. We can see what else he wrote, and judge his judgement accordingly.

I won't ask you if you understand basic English, Slart, because it's clear that you do. I also won't ask that you refrain from twisting people's words around, because that's been your practice for as long as I've read the blog.

I will state that you're probably not impressing anybody with elementary reading comprehension.

I don't see why % of GDP is a relevant metric, except in the broad sense that it defines the resources available for all purposes, including defense.

It's useful as a measure of affordability, but really says nothing about what an optimal level of expenditure is. To repeat, when your household income increases, do you just increase all your expenditures pro rata?

Regarding:

Me: Thus, focusing on GDP gives a distorted view because the GDP has gone up so much, that real dollar expenditures are excessive.

Ok, you can make that argument. I might counter that % of GDP is still a "relevant" metric, in that it shows how expenditures impact our national budget.

And growth in absolute dollars holding constant for inflation doesn't necessarily hold constant for the inflation of maintaining the same type of military superiority over the same time period.

If we wanted to achieve ultimate specificity. For example, does factoring in the cost of R, D and manufacturing of stealth materials cost more than how much the price of beans went up over the past 30 years?

There are arguments to made both ways, but % of GDP is at least one way to look at it. It is true that the Pentagon wastes a ton of money, so I'm not necessarily adversarial on this issue. But the Marines and Army need expansion, and maintaining superiority over Russia and China are worthy priorities.

If these goals can be accomplished by cutting bloated pet weapons systems that are unnecessary to these goals, sign me up.

(sorry if this comment appears twice)

Regarding:

Me: Thus, focusing on GDP gives a distorted view because the GDP has gone up so much, that real dollar expenditures are excessive.

You can make that argument. I might counter that % of GDP is still a "relevant" metric, in that it shows how expenditures impact our national budget.

And growth in absolute dollars holding constant for inflation doesn't necessarily hold constant for the inflation of maintaining the same type of military superiority over the same time period, which is more amorphous, but measurable.

If we wanted to achieve ultimate specificity. For example, does factoring in the cost of R, D and manufacturing of stealth materials cost more than how much the price of beans went up over the past 30 years?

There are arguments to made both ways, but % of GDP is at least one way to look at it. It is true that the Pentagon wastes a ton of money, so I'm not necessarily adversarial on this issue. But the Marines and Army need expansion, and maintaining superiority over Russia and China are worthy priorities.

If these goals can be accomplished by cutting bloated pet weapons systems that are unnecessary to these goals, sign me up.

"Evil will always find a way to justify itself"

excellent post. thanks for writing it.

maintaining superiority over Russia and China are worthy priorities.

I disagree. What direct geopolitical threat does either of these nations pose to the United States, that a conventional military is the proper response to?

Here is a pretty good summary of the geopolitical issues so far as China is concerned, and note that the history of Han Chinese expansionism beyond the reach of their historic hinterlands (Tibet, Xinjiang, Mongolia and Manchuria) is pretty darn thin (e.g. the Vietnamese have more to worry about than we do). Based on our respective histories the US looks like a hyper-expansionist power compared with China.

Russia is a different story, but isn't that as much of a European problem as it is an American problem? And if so, why do we need the capacity to act in a unilateral fashion with regard to Russia? Who are we to oppose Russia in ways which are fundamentally unacceptable to our alliance partners in Europe?

Why is not military parity with these two nations adequate, which when combined with our historic alliances with the centers of economic power in Japan and Europe, would still provide a preponderance of power sufficient to deter a conflict based on rational calculation of the balance of forces?

I just don't see any defensive justification at this time (as opposed to in the immediate wake of WW2 when it was desirable to keep Germany and Japan disarmed) for the idea that the US has to spend almost as much as the rest of the world combined on our armed forces. If the 2-power standard was good enough for Victorian Great Britain, it should be good enough for us.

As far as I'm concerned calls for us to try to maintain a posture of hyperdominance vs. any potential competitors can only be justified on an aggressive basis, as a foundation for global power projection irrespective of what our alliance partners may wish, with all of the imperial baggage which that comes with.

Please justify why on a defensive basis the US military needs to be larger than those of Russia + China combined.

Jay C nails it:
because there is a military base/military facility/military contractor in virtually every Congressional District in all 50 states, but also that military/industrial spending provides the little-scrutinized underpinning for vast swathes of this country's technology, engineering and manufacturing sectors.

And I'll add that not all of that production goes to our military. Many nations in the world know the U.S. primarily as their Friendly Neighborhood Arms Dealer. Just as Afghanistan and Columbia depend on international drug sales for their economic well-being, and the Saudis & Iranians on oil, we depend on selling arms. It's not our only export, but it is a very big one.

To see how much our need for an arms market guides our foreign policy, consider that one of Russia's complaints re South Ossetia was the presence of U.S. "advisors." Why did Georgia feel brave enough to challenge Russia? Because we had been selling them really good weapons (and promising eventual NATO membership because that would let our contractors build bases there). And no, it wasn't for the oil -- we would be better off if Russia had enough oil to build its economy so we could sell them civilian goods, than if we had a hammerlock on that particular oil. Similarly, why did we try so hard to keep a presence in Iraq? Not to make it easier to invade Iran -- we don't really want to invade Iran anytime soon, we can bully them adequately with our other ME bases and fleet, and history proves we can go through Iraq very quickly at need. But Halliburton and others really wanted those base building and maintenance contracts.

Naturally, this sort of thing engenders hostility. That creates even more of a market: we need ever-bigger armed forces to quiet the locals (Russia, Iran, Sadrists, etc.) who resent our presence and militarization. It's a nice self-perpetuating system, if you don't mind the incredible waste of resources and lives.

Understand, I'm not remotely a pacifist. But like our President-elect, I'm against dumb wars. Any war that happens because we need a market for arms (instead of the other way around), is by definition a dumb war.

To sum up, our current system wastes huge amounts of our resources, helps kill or enslave millions, and fuels terrorism and conflict worldwide. This is THE big policy issue, in some ways the only one that matters because if we can't fix it we can't really fix anything else.

How do we fix it? No idea. In theory, we could wean the economy off of military overproduction by replacing each military-related government contract with a non-military-related contract that employs as many people, at the same rate, in jobs similar enough to need only limited retraining, and pay for the retraining. In practice, that ain't gonna happen. Even if the contractor lobbyists could be shouted down, what about the many civilian industries that service the direct contractors? The disruption would be huge. Maybe it just goes on until we finally bankrupt ourselves, which by the look of things could be any week now.

There's a lot of assumptions built into that calculation right there.

Sure, but they're assumptions that are validated by field test data.

Other than, as has already been pointed out, putting transponders in the targets.

As has been pointed out, I have no idea how to respond to that without more specific information. Didn't I just say as much to Barry, upthread?

What I've read suggests that, by the time an enemy is technologically advanced enough to need the F-22 over existing planes, there are solutions to LPI.

Which advanced opponents did you have in mind?

This also points to one of the problems with a national security establishment that relies so heavily upon classified information. It becomes impossible for citizens to be able to figure out what's going on. That's not healthy for a democracy.

There are independent evaluation requirements in place for nearly every major defense programs, including missile defense. I think I've said as much upthread, although probably not directly enough. Generally there is, today, not a problem with insufficient oversight.

The classification issue is one worth considering, but the percentage of the populace that's qualified to evaluate these programs is rather small. I'll concede this point, though, if you've got some alternatives in mind that don't have our technologies falling into the hands of...well, absolutely everyone.

Well, wrong. *He* posted his name. Let me repeat that, for those who have problems: *he* posted his name. We can see what else he wrote, and judge his judgement accordingly

I get that, Barry. I'll even concede that not posting my name disqualifies me from having an opinion on anything, but him having posted his name isn't, by itself, enough to give him an informed opinion. The rest of his qualifications are rather thin.

So, the name thing is puzzling. Can you address the issue of his qualifications, or are you going to again offer the angry retort in place of actually addressing my point? Or, maybe even point out what the basis for his opinion is?

...and while you're thinking that over, if you decide to, please answer the question about missile defense and transponders. I'm interested in knowing the basis for your point of view.

Sure, but they're assumptions that are validated by field test data.

Given that the F-22 has never been in combat, what possible field data is this?

Which advanced opponents did you have in mind?

At this point, no one. I'm not arguing that anyone can defeat the F-22's radar profile now. I'm arguing that, right now, any conceivable opponent would also be defeated by F-15s and F-16s, and by the time that they are obsolete, the stealth advantages of the F-22 are likely to be a lot less than they appear now.

And growth in absolute dollars holding constant for inflation doesn't necessarily hold constant for the inflation of maintaining the same type of military superiority over the same time period, which is more amorphous, but measurable.

All right, Bill, let's run with that. Do you think that US military superiority over its closest competitor has "slid" since, say, 1985? Do you think that the US now has less of an edge over, I don't know, China or Russia, than it did in 1985 over the USSR?

Spending as a % of GDP is relevant if you are talking about how much of a priority the US thinks defence is. It's not relevant when you're discussing the issue of how much to spend on defence in order to achieve your strategic aims.

Given that the F-22 has never been in combat, what possible field data is this?

I’ll stipulate that conditions are different in actual combat. There is more stress on the pilots for one thing when real bullets and missiles are flying (obviously). Beyond that though, these mock engagements are very real. Nobody wants to get “killed” and everyone wants to go home with a “kill” - everyone pushes themselves and their machines to the max. You may have heard that fighter pilots have the biggest egos around. The ACM is very real – you still have to outmaneuver the other guy and get into a position where your missile or guns would have taken the other guy out. Gun camera footage and radar tapes “prove” to the judges who would have won. Yes there is some fudge factor – sometimes guns jam or a missile doesn’t come off the rail, but that is a known percentage that can be accounted for.

The real world kill ratio for F-16s is 70+:0. Not a single F-16 has been lost to an enemy fighter.

F-22s simply decimated the F-15/16s in that Alaskan exercise. One of them made a simulated gun kill on an F-16 – got within visual range completely undetected.


We can see what else he wrote, and judge his judgement accordingly.

Exactly. And when he writes F-22s are “less maneuverable than Vietnam-era fighters” my judgment is that he doesn’t have a clue what he is talking about. On its face the statement ignores a couple of generation’s worth of development in materials, avionics, power plants, etc. Beyond the light wing loading, the thrust nozzles on the engines swivel +/- 20 degrees. It can pull -3/+9 G’s. The F-4 used to need the entire sky to turn around. The F-22 can do a back flip.

F-22 costs $200 million per copy. Probably more. F-16 costs $27 million. What about availability rates? F-16s can get above 70% - they're really reliable. F-22s are much more complex, and because they're newer as well as being stealth aircraft they'll have much lower availability rates. Other stealth aircraft manage 30-40%. So let's go for 40%.

In the ground attack role, F-16 carries ten tons of ordnance on nine hardpoints. F-22 carries a tenth of that - if you can fit it in the internal bays. Ground attack's the important one, remember - air-to-air is a largely useless art. The Iraqi air force weren't beaten air-to-air, they were (mostly) beaten by offensive counter-air - hitting airfields and control buildings, killing the aircraft before they could even get airborne. And since then, of course, there's been barely any air-to-air fighting worth the name. But air-to-ground is happening every day.

So, let's recap. If you want to get fifty tons of ordnance on target, you can do it with 7.2 F-16s (allowing for unavailable aircraft) which will cost you $192 million. Or you can do it with ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FIVE F-22s (allowing for unavailable aircraft) which will cost you $25 BILLION.

Oh, and OCSteve? Manoeuvrability is irrelevant. The F-22's strength in air-to-air is that it can detect well before it gets detected. So it doesn't need to dogfight; it just fires an Amraam from beyond visual range and keeps on flying straight and level. If an F-22 pilot ever uses his gun in air-to-air combat, he should be grounded. It's the equivalent of an artilleryman deciding to attack with a bayonet; he's throwing away the biggest advantage he's got.

Which has relevance if you are interested in preparing to fight the last war, rather than the next one.

Al Qaeda is not, and never has been, among the greatest threats to the US.

von, haven't you been one of this "the war on terror is going to be a generations-long thing" people? If so, are you changing your opinion?

The slogan is propaganda all the way through.

Since the other end of the proposition has been justifiably chewed to death, I'll just point out that the percentage of military (or "Defense" Department) spending on projects that have anything to do with protecting our freedom is quite small. So small that expressing it as a proportion of GDP would be instructive...

Given that the F-22 has never been in combat, what possible field data is this?

I think you're not following me: the simulated combat is only simulated after the point where a weapon would be fired. The field data is on the weapons, not the aircraft. That the aircraft has been able to maneuver to the point where a weapon can be fired effectively at an opponent, that's where the F-22 has shown its worth.

In short, the field data comes from the weapons.

I'm arguing that, right now, any conceivable opponent would also be defeated by F-15s and F-16s

Possibly, but those are no longer in production, and have a finite service life. They have to be replaced by something. What that thing is, actually, is another conversation from the F-22 being a dog in terms of performance. I'd be perfectly comfortable with a discussion of reopening the F-16 and/or F-15 production lines and cranking out a limited production run of fresh copies of those. They're great aircraft, both of them.

the stealth advantages of the F-22 are likely to be a lot less than they appear now

A decent point, as I said, but one that's unrelated to the dog-like performance of the F-22.

F-22 carries a tenth of that

Sure, because F-22 wasn't designed to be a ground-attack machine. The F-16 has evolved into a dual-mode fighter from its initial air superiority role.

It may be that F-35 will become the multiservice, multirole replacement for the F-16 and F-15. But I'm not up to speed on where that trade is, or even if it is a trade.

In the ground attack role, F-16 carries ten tons of ordnance on nine hardpoints.

That'd be a trick, wouldn't it? No, the F-16 has nine hardpoints, all right, but four of them are AMRAAM/Sidewinder only, and the center is for the targeting pod. The innermost wing hardpoints are for tanks. So, we're talking two hardpoints that can carry 2000-pounders, which can be twinned (as I understand). Four tons, then, that can be used for ground attack. The whole tonnage discussion is kind of mooted, though, because the trend is, at present, toward smaller, more precise munitions such as the GBU-39. I think the more of those you can carry, the more useful a strike platform you are. If you're dropping weight, you might as well bring a B-1 or B-52.

Manoeuvrability is irrelevant.

Untrue. That aside, though, the F-22's initial purpose was to approach enemy fighters on CAP undetected, track and obtain fire control solutions on them, launch long-range weapons out of detection range, and then turn and exit without ever having been noticed. That doesn't obviate the need for it to participate in a dogfight should one occur, though.

Note: by "enemy fighters", it should have been obvious that the design-to threat was, back in the late 1980s, a Soviet air force.

In the ground attack role, F-16 carries ten tons of ordnance on nine hardpoints. F-22 carries a tenth of that…

As Slarti pointed out – no. Besides, the F-22 is a star in the ground attack role. It has a crazy ceiling, so it can deliver smart bombs from 22 miles away. That is nuts. It can hang out above the missile envelope (mostly). It does free WiFi – it sends the radar pix to the F-15/16s below so they do not have to radiate. And yes they are damned expensive, but as it is shaping up they are a force multiplier. One F-22 can enhance the value of a bunch of F-16s.


Manoeuvrability is irrelevant.

Well, no. I only entered this fray because Eric cited someone who ridiculously claimed that F-22s are “less maneuverable than Vietnam-era fighters”. If you review all of my comments, they have been all about maneuverability and that silly statement. It was a ridiculous and totally unsupportable statement.

I am not an aeronautical engineer. I’m just an R/C modeler who is very familiar with things like wing loading and thrust/weight ratios. Those bare statistics make this guy’s statement a joke.

And well, to a fighter pilot, maneuverability is pretty much every damned thing.

If maneuverability was the thing, shouldn't we go back to biplanes? ;-)

I think you're not following me: the simulated combat is only simulated after the point where a weapon would be fired. The field data is on the weapons, not the aircraft. That the aircraft has been able to maneuver to the point where a weapon can be fired effectively at an opponent, that's where the F-22 has shown its worth.

You are ignoring the elephant in the room. The whole point of the argument over the F-22 is whether or not missiles can track it and hit it. The assumptions as to what happens after the weapons are fired is critical to the value of the F-22. The simulations can't test that. If the service has an inflated opinion of how effective that ability is, it will overstate the capabilities of the plane.

You are ignoring the elephant in the room. The whole point of the argument over the F-22 is whether or not missiles can track it and hit it. The assumptions as to what happens after the weapons are fired is critical to the value of the F-22. The simulations can't test that. If the service has an inflated opinion of how effective that ability is, it will overstate the capabilities of the plane.

So, you think that's it? I'd question that conclusion. If it turned out that the F-22 was consistently able to get into a position to get into a missile- or gun-firing position, would you reconsider?

I'm guessing that an F-22 is just as vulnerable to a heat-seeker, from a tail-chase position, that an F-16 or an F-15 is. The heat has to go somewhere.

And, still, none of this is going even an inch toward substantiating that the F-22 is a dog, maneuverability-wise.

As an aside, I'm still wondering about the missile-defense transponder comment. Is that something you're willing to explain?

If maneuverability was the thing, shouldn't we go back to biplanes?

Good question. I used to play a dogfighting simulation, networked, with a bunch of other guys. You could select a number of aircraft types, and it turned out that the best choice was to select a Cessna 150 and be the first guy in the air. Then you could pick everyone off while they were still taxiing.

If they got off the ground, though, you were toast. See, the problem is that you need to be able to follow your opponent, in your gunsights. Biplanes don't have a prayer of following an F-22; it could just run off at a speed the biplane couldn't hope to match, and then come in fast and blow the biplane away.

Not as if it would have to, mind. A biplane isn't a threat to anyone. A biplane can't hope to threaten, say, a squadron of bombers.

If you don't have to defend that squadron of bombers, the utility of a fighter escort is sort of diminished. Then we fall back into the ground-attack discussion, again.

More seriuosly, why still manned planes? Drones are already used for attack missions and unmanned flying objects allow for higher g turns than the human body can withstand.

Btw, I just try to imagine a futuristic biplane that could match the speed of a jet fighter ;-)

Just for fun: There is such a thing as a jet-powered biplane
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WSK-Mielec_M-15_Belphegor>PZL M-15 Belphegor
:-)

Drones are already used for attack missions and unmanned flying objects allow for higher g turns than the human body can withstand.

Yes, drones are going to be the thing, I think. But they can't yet fly autonomously, and it's very, very difficult for a pilot to dogfight effectively from a chair, sitting still on the ground. No feedback mechanisms, other than visual.

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