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New Force Posture



  • :mrgreen:


  • Liaison TripleA '11 '10

    Without all the small details of the reform laid out in front of me, it’s impossible to say anything but this.

    If the demon-crats are behind it, I’m opposed. (Because the overlying purpose will be to hurt the military.)

    If it’s a move by the military to modernize itself and some spending, I’m in support. (Because the overlying purpose is probably to improve the military, and it’s service to the American people).

    So the big question is… who’s really behind the proposal?

    Because although many people can propose reforms, none of those proposals will be the same.


  • 2018 2017 2016 2015 Customizer

    Hey… you’re a Canadian! Of course you are opposed! You just want a US military to keep North America safe because Canada can’t!  😛


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    Current defense policy isn’t a subject I follow very much, and even if I did so it would only be with the limited amount of information that’s available in the open press, so I can’t offer the kind of expert opinions that could be provided by the board members who are either in the military or who (like rjpeters) work with the military – but for whatever they might be worth, here are a few thoughts.

    I’d start by asking a variant of Garg’s question: what (as opposed to whom) is behind the proposal?  Is the stated purpose to save money overall?  Or is the purpose to save money in one place so it can be spent elsewhere?  I recently heard, for example, that the A-10 Thunderbolt II is being contemplated for retirement, and that some people have speculated that the (not-so-secret?) purpose of this move is to divert money towards continuing the development of the super-expensive F-35 Lightning II fighter.  Whatever the case may be, I think it can be argued – as Paul Kennedy did in The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers – that great powers like the US have to strike a tricky balance when it comes to defense spending: making sure that they spend enough money in the right places to be able to deal with threats to their national security and to maintain their status on the world stage, but not to the point where they drive themselves into bankruptcy (which is partly why the USSR collapsed a couple of decades ago).  Modern military forces are extremely expensive, especially when a country tries to stay at the cutting edge of military technology, so even a country as enormously wealthy as the US has limits on what it can spend on its armed forces (especially if one wants to adopt the position that a country should only spend what it can afford to pay for in cash within a balanced budget rather than with credit within a deficit budget).

    The issue can therefore be approached from two angles.  The first approach is to determine how much defense (and what kind of defense) one needs to achieve a country’s national security objectives, and to then find a way to fund this plan accordingly.  The second approach is to determine how much the country can afford to spend on defense, and to then devise a plan to make the best possible use of the dollars available – the catch being that this may result in a defense posture which is considered inadequate.  A great power might even (to pick up Kenndy’s argument again) have to conclude that it no longer has the military and economic power it needs to maintain its preeminence on the world stage, which is what happened to Britain during the period running roughly the 1930s to the 1960s.

    Britain is actually an interesting example of this dynamic on account of two defense policies it had in the decades prior to WWII.  On the one hand, Britain’s traditional policy was that its navy had to be big enough and powerful enough to defeat the world’s next two largest navies combined.  (This is along the lines of the point I mentioned earlier about determining what size and type of armed forces are, in a nutshell, “good enough, but not too much”).  WWI and the Great Depression both put severe strains on this traditional policy, so Britain switched to a second approach: the “ten-year rule”, which was brought in as a cost-saving measure.  The ten-year rule basically said that, for military planning and procurement purposes, Britain would assume that another war would not break out for another ten years, hence justifying reductions in defense spending.  The problem, however, was that Britain kept extending the ten-year window year after year (in much the same way that the projected realization of controlled nuclear fusion has been a consistent “fifty years from now” for the past several decades).  The result was that Britain had a lot of catching up to do when it finally decided (around 1936, I think) that it had better stop deluding itself that a new war could be postponed indefinitely.

    Anyway, as Garg says, without more details, it’s hard to provide more than general comments, especially from a limited civilian perpective.  I’m quite glad that none of these policy decisions rest on my shoulders.


  • '12

    Hey… you’re a Canadian! Of course you are opposed! You just want a US military to keep North America safe because Canada can’t!

    Safe from whom?  The Chinese navy and invasion force?  The Russian navy and invasion force?  I suppose if one metric was the last time Canada was attacked by terrorists we are doing rather better than most countries.  Granted luck often plays a part, but one can make their own luck……

    I understand that the US now spends 25% more in real dollars now then during the cold war when there really was an existential threat.  One can argue the balance of forces and where money is spent, but spending as much as the next 20 nations combined and 25% more than during the cold war has got to be too much money.


  • 2018 2017 2016 2015 Customizer

    @MrMalachiCrunch:

    Hey… you’re a Canadian! Of course you are opposed! You just want a US military to keep North America safe because Canada can’t!

    Safe from whom?

    Godzilla

    He is going to do this on May 14:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIu85WQTPRc

    Though, it looks like all the money spent on defense will avail us, and Canada, none.

    (My apologies in advance for spamming this thread, but I had to.)



  • I think this is a good thing.

    We spend way too much on the military, and I find it unnecessary.  We need to lean on diplomacy and international, unified approaches to issues/crises more and breaking out the guns less.  Economic measures can be effective weapons as well.

    I’m a bit sad some people want to take the A-10 away, though.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @rjpeters70:

    Most of the explosion in military costs (outside of war funding, known as OCO) has been for compensation, to include retirement and healthcare.Â

    Interesting.  Does “retirement compensation” mean pension payments?  (I don’t know if the US armed services give pension payments to their retirees; I assume they do.)  I know that pension plan liabilities are a huge problem in the private sector and in the civilian public sector.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    Thanks for the supplementary information.  I’ll probably skip the Barno material because, generally speaking, things related to budgets and finance make my eyes glaze over.  The only numbers I enjoy looking at are things like battleship tonnage figures, gun calibers and so forth – something which actually came in handy on one occasion.  A friend of mine and I once got a special off-the-normal-route tour inside the battleship New Jersey because the tour guide was impressed by the fact that I knew that the Iowa class vessels have a maximum beam of 108 feet, 6 inches (owing to the fact that they were designed to just barely squeak through the narrowest locks of the Panama Canal, which are 110 feet wide).  That was a great treat of which I still have fond memories.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 '13 Moderator

    Nice Marc: your kind of numbers are the kind I like.

    As always, Rjpeters, thank you for your thoughts and comments. Always good to read(although, so often go over my head!).


  • 2018 2017 2016 2015 Customizer

    Something more streamlined and more efficient would be better. Smaller does not have to be bad. The US military can still be an effective force. Especially since the vast majority of tactical projection on a routine basis is through the Navy, not the Army.

    400,000 Army personnel seems incredibly small though. Who proposed that? Is that combat infantry only or the whole shabang? Air Corps, support, logistics, clerical, reserves, ANG…? The entire Army (as of 2011), including reserves and ANG, is at just about 1 million.

    An increase in support and fielding from close Allies would be excellent, though I wonder how they would feel about increasing forces or exposure? Likely not an easily won issue.

    As for CVNs: we currently have 10 in active service, with 2 under construction and another ordered. I understand they are working to phase out the Nimitz class. Not sure where that will ultimately leave us in terms of consistent fighting force, but my simple philosophy is why would we cut what is most effective for us? Might we be okay with 10 or 11? I do not have the expertise to know. However, carriers are the most roundly mobile and effective military weapon in the US arsenal.

    Reducing or closing bases that are less critical today might be beneficial. A focus on pertinent areas of potential conflict, in which our allies would need US support would be preferable; such as S. Korea, Japan and Mid-East (specifically Israel). Not saying increase physical presence in Israel, but in the surrounding area. Get out of Europe… Britain, Germany, France and Italy should be able to handle Russia in eastern Europe. We have enough on our hands worrying about China (and to a lesser degree N. Korea) in the Pacific and radicals/Russians in the Mid-East.

    Downsizing is fine. I think it would be best to have some plan for re-upping numbers if the situation should arise.


  • 2018 2017 2016 2015 Customizer

    @rjpeters70:

    And I agree with you:  Downsizing is ok, if you either 1) change your national objectives (which we aren’t); or 2) change your strategy (ends, ways, means).  We are positing keeping the same ends, decreasing the means (small budget and ground fighting force), but not altering the way in which we operate.  THAT to me is the rub; there is little to no intellectual fermentation that is discernable when it comes to ways.

    THAT, my friend, is the real problem… good point.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @rjpeters70:

    We are positing keeping the same ends, decreasing the means (small budget and ground fighting force), but not altering the way in which we operate.  THAT to me is the rub; there is little to no intellectual fermentation that is discernable when it comes to ways.

    I’m wondering: are things being rationalized by decision-makers by assuming that the capabilities of potential enemies are degrading at the same time as the US is cutting its defense budget?  In other words, are decision-makers arguing that the US, with x-minus-z resources, can accomplish today against an enemy with y-minus-z resources the same things that the US, with x resources, could accomplish yesterday against an enemy with y resources – and therefore that US goals don’t need to be adjusted to reflect a smaller budget because today you can accomplish the same with less?  Or is this kind of analysis not even taking place at all?  (I’d hate to think that there was more intellectual fermentation occuring on this subject at A&A.org than at the Pentagon.  If that’s the case, perhaps we should all consider offering our services to Washington as high-priced defense consultants.)


  • Liaison TripleA '11 '10

    To play devil’s advocate,

    Necessity is the mother of all invention. In my industry we constantly do more with less.  Work smarter, not harder.

    that said - I believe the US Military can and will adapt, with less, and still achieve the same goals.

    Sure, it won’t be easy, and perhaps more people will die. (That’s a reality).  But it doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

    Consider the troop surge.  Yes, it was very helpful, and brought an ends to the means sooner rather than later.

    But it wasn’t necessarily required, as the status quo probably would have met the same end eventually.


  • 2018 2017 2016 2015 Customizer

    I would think that it is less about them purposing that we can do more (or as much) as others with less than what we are used to, than it is just to save money because they have to do something about the deficit and the military is an easier (less political) target than Medicaid/Medicare, Social Security, Affordable Care Act, EPA, education, other spending bills etc…

    The idea of doing more (or the same) with less is the rationalization of a need more than a strategically weighed expectation.

    If the US military is at ‘A’ rate now, and potential threat militaries are at ‘B’ or ‘C’ rates, I’d rather not drop to their level ever… personally.


  • 2018 2017 2016 2015 Customizer

    @Gargantua:

    To play devil’s advocate,

    Necessity is the mother of all invention. In my industry we constantly do more with less.  Work smarter, not harder.

    that said - I believe the US Military can and will adapt, with less, and still achieve the same goals.

    Sure, it won’t be easy, and perhaps more people will die. (That’s a reality).  But it doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

    Consider the troop surge.  Yes, it was very helpful, and brought an ends to the means sooner rather than later.

    But it wasn’t necessarily required, as the status quo probably would have met the same end eventually.

    You are probably correct, however, I for one do not think that reducing our expectations or ability in a war is a good thing. Hopefully, we do not get into another Iraq/Afghanistan situation any time soon, or ever… that would be the real evidence of being smarter and doing more with less: not getting into those situations in the first place.

    Americans have historically not been very permissive of allowing more lives to be lost than is absolutely necessary. I believe that whatever needs to be done to lessen American or other allied casualties should be done (within reason). Half-assing it because we don’t have the money or the material would be unconscionable in my eyes. We should always have the ability to get out of a hard situation like that, but the real intelligence is to not allow it to develop in the first place. For the most part, that can be accomplished… unlike preventing terrorist attacks from ever again occurring. Our actions can always be measured, what the enemy does can not.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    I’m speculating (and it’s just pure speculation) that the reasoning goes something like this:

    1. There has been no general war (i.e. no full-scale war between coalitions of major powers) since WWII, nor is it assumed that such a war (essentially meaning a NATO vs. Warsaw Pact ground war in Europe and an associated naval war in the Atlantic) is probable now that the Cold War is over.

    2. The US retains a large and diverse nuclear force, which presumably is considered satisfactory to provide a strategic nuclear deterrent (against both the threat of a wholesale attack by Russia and a retail attack by, let’s say, North Korea) as well as a tactical nuclear strike capability (potentially applicable in small- or medium-sized wars, though I imagine the situation would have to be pretty extreme for the US to consider using nukes in conflicts of such sizes).

    3. There have been countless wars since WWII, but many of them have been internal wars (i.e. civil wars / insurrections) within countries rather that wars between countries.  Several of these turned into proxy wars between the US and the USSR during the Cold War, but from what you’re saying it sounds as if the US plans to be a lot more choosy in the future about getting involved in these kinds of conflicts.  A related situation would be US involvement in someone else’s two-sided war – for example, the Russian war in Afghanistan, during which the US provided Stinger missiles to the Afghan resistance.  Again, it sounds as if the US plans to be more choosy – though in fairness, such marginal involvement by definition does not require the commitment of large ground forces.

    4. Since WWII, there have been several medium-sized wars between medium powers and/or which have involved one of the major powers, and a handful of much larger conflicts – for example the Arab-Israeli Wars, the Indo-Pakistani Wars, Korea, Vietnam, the Falklands, Gulf I (Kuwait) and II (Iraq), Afghanistan (the current one and the earlier Russian one I mentioned) and so forth.  Only some of these have involved the US – but of the ones which did so, some have been recent enough (some are still ongoing) to show that the US needs to retain the capability of fighting a medium-sized war (though preferably not more than one at a time).  That’s probably where the validity of the “large-scale ground conflict is off the table” assumption would need to come under the most scrutiny.

    5. On the other hand, it’s probably safe to assume that the US will need to continue to be involved for a long time in asymmetrial warfare situations (such as the war on terrorism), so in that respect investing in capabilities such as special forces (you mentioned expanding SOF in your original post) would seem to be appropriate for dealing with that particular need.

    Anyway, that would be my guess.  Does the water cooler discourse at the Pentagon run anywhere along those lines?


  • Liaison TripleA '11 '10

    Let’s ask a different question.

    If the USA downsizes to say 250k, and then a nation scale global conflict erupted, how long would it take the USA to build, train, and equip, a million man army?

    18 months?

    3 years?

    Any takers?

    ‘Experience’ aside.



  • 250k Army + 200k Marine Corps + 200k Army Reserve + 360k National Guard = over one million ground pounders and support units. So I give it about a month if we’re kicking it into full gear and take those thousands of armored units sitting in storage sheds out to play.

    EDIT: If you mean downsize the entire military (not just the Army) to 250k, then 6-9 months probably, presuming that the draft is instituted for a war that would require a million men.


  • Customizer

    “The World Without US” is by no means a fantastic documentary but shows why the US is deployed all over the globe and what the impact could/will be if the US were simply to withdraw from the world stage militarily. It also shows some of the misconceptions citizens in the US and around the world have about the US and it’s Armed Services and why they are there.


  • 2018 2017 2016 2015 Customizer

    @Gargantua:

    Let’s ask a different question.

    If the USA downsizes to say 250k, and then a nation scale global conflict erupted, how long would it take the USA to build, train, and equip, a million man army?

    18 months?

    3 years?

    Any takers?

    ‘Experience’ aside.

    That was one of my points (or requirements if I was in a position of power)… downsizing is okay, but we need a plan for re-arming quickly  if the need arises. As for how long it would take, I have no idea of how to estimate that.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @LHoffman:

    That was one of my points (or requirements if I was in a position of power)… downsizing is okay, but we need a plan for re-arming quickly  if the need arises.

    The catch, however, is that the concept of rearming quickly is difficult to apply to high-tech major weapon systems.  I once saw a documentary (dating from the 1980s) which compared the WWII production rate for top-of-the-line US fighter planes versus contemporary production rates for the F-15 Eagle.  I can’t recall the figures, but it was on the order of hundreds (maybe even thousands) per month for the WWII planes versus maybe a dozen or so per month for the F-15.  And note that the figures were for operational production lines, not for weapons whose production had been suspended.  The documentary went on to state that a modern full-scale war between major powers would probably therefore be a “come as you are” war: it would be fought with the weapons that were on hand when the shooting started, and virtually no replacements could be anticipated in any practical timeframe for the losses that would be sustained in combat.



  • The downsizing of the army, if it occurs like the Navy, will be handled ineffectively and cause severe gaps in specific manning areas.  The Navy tried this 3 years ago and killed many people’s careers. They kicked out some good people with the trash, and now ratings are still trying to recover.  A shift in HYT (high year tenure) would seem to be a more effective way to wittle down along with volunteer seps in certain fields that you can afford to lose people in.  The ERB that the Navy had will probably be used in the army and will do more harm than good.

    I could see a total force reduction of 10% of the military happening to support budget and shift in technological warfare spending. As mentioned before, we have cut costs before to spend money elsewhere.  The F-35s and drones will probably get more funding (especially the drones under current policy usage, despite the controversial issues with drone attacks).  More spending is also being slated for special forces, which have taken sever punishment over the last 13 years.

    RJPeters mentions TSP about effecting the budget.  TSP is cost to the government because of the administration of it, not because of the money the government provides to people (because that is zero by the way).  The TSP is more like a traditional IRA than it is a 401K.  It just has to get transferred over to a 401K or IRA.  If financial management was pushed in the military to our young sailors/soldiers (I do train my division regularly), the cons of TSP greatly outweigh the benefits, and I recommend NOT to use the TSP.  TSP is a waste of government money because it is harmful and an adminstrative blackhole for tax money.

    I would see the downsize of forces as such:
    Army would reduce its forces to about 375K enlisted and about 85K officers.
    Navy would eliminate its 7 CGs, cut about 10K in enlisted, 1K in officers.
    Marine Corps would probably be stagnant (would not see any significant cuts)
    Air Force would be looking at about 15K cut enlisted, and proably 1K in officers. 
    Spending would increase in drones, missles/missle defense, and other “flight” tech areas.

    Due to cuts in personnel and increase in other areas, you are probably only saving about 10 billion in spending.  So in essence, the Military budget WILL NOT CHANGE with this change in force posture.

    And to answer Gargs question, I would say it would take about 12 months to get boots trained up and on the ground…whether they are effective, is a different story.  I wouldn’t see a cut down to 250K though…The army could not survive on 250K…



  • I guess the first half got cut off…

    Do realize that Healthcare and Federal Pensions including Social Security are now bigger than the military budget and projected to be 300 billion more with in 3-4 years.  Interest alone on the debt will be half the military budget in that same time frame. I don’t want to get political, but don’t just look at the military for cuts when you see these other areas take up so much of the budget/debt.


  • Customizer

    @Jermofoot:

    I think this is a good thing.

    We spend way too much on the military, and I find it unnecessary.  We need to lean on diplomacy and international, unified approaches to issues/crises more and breaking out the guns less.  Economic measures can be effective weapons as well.

    I’m a bit sad some people want to take the A-10 away, though.

    That’s what happened in WW2.
    If the allies had used force to keep Germany from growing there might have never been a WW2.
    “Peace in our time” didn’t work then and the US wasn’t even a player in those discussions since we felt that the Europe’s problems were not ours. And that doesn’t even take into account what was happening in China. We punished the Japanese by withholding metal scrap shipments.


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