Friday, October 24, 2008

Arms for the Poor

Arms for the Poor

By Jeff Huber

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T
hose poor kids at the Pentagon. They receive more funding than the rest of the world's military establishments combined, but it's just not enough. Pentagon officials have prepared a new defense spending estimate—one they plan to spring on us just before young Mr. Bush exits stage right—that projects a requirement for $450 billion more over the next five years than previously announced.

Whoa, you might be thinking. We already spend well over a half trillion a year on defense, and what do we get in return? The Pentagon did such a lousy job defending the homeland on 9/11 that we had to buy a whole separate agency to take that job over, and only neocons and other lunatics would say our military is protecting our national interests overseas.

You ignorant bedwetting liberal. Don't you see? The half trillion plus a year only buys you history's best equipped, best trained military and a few wars for them to fight in. If you want your armed forces to do what you pay them to do, that will cost extra.

Battle Budget Galactica

It's hard to tell exactly how much everybody spends on defense. America's fiscal year 2008 defense budget request was $623 billion. The Chinese, the nearest thing we have to a peer military competitor, say they spend about $25 billion a year on defense, roughly four percent of what we spend. The American warmongery, ever eager to create scary phantasms, claims that China spends a lot more on defense than it admits to. Critics of the Pentagon say they Chinese can't possibly lie more about their defense spending than we do. Our official defense budget doesn't include things like defense related spending by other departments, the Homeland Security budget, some veterans' care expenses, the ubiquitous "supplemental allotments" that never make it into the regular budget but always get through Congress, the ultra secret "black" budget, and other hush-and-slush funding.

Some say the Chinese spend up to three times on defense what they claim to spend. If so, they're still spending a half-trillion a year less than our official budget. Many claim that we spend twice as much on defense as the official budget total. If that's true, we're spending over a trillion dollars a year more than three times what the Chinese say they spend. Either way we're spending a bunch load more money on defense than the Chinese are. Half a trillion dollars a year will buy you very many $400 toilet seats. A trillion will buy you twice that amount.

Much of what China spends on defense goes to update its arsenal. Admiral Tim Keating, head of U.S. Pacific Command, says the Chinese admit to being "25 years behind us." I say that's another thing the Chinese are fudging facts about. The majority of their combat jets are J-7s and J-8s, fighters copied from the Soviet Mig-21 that first flew more than a half century ago.

However much the Chinese are lying about their defense spending, Russia spends somewhat less than they do, and however much we're lying, Iran's defense spending is less than one percent of ours and only about 70 percent of Mexico's, and those evildoing terrorists could hide their defense budget under a tic egg.

So at this point in the New American Century, whatever two-war strategy we're arming ourselves to fight must involve simultaneous conflicts with the Klingons and the Borg.

Force Plan 9 From Outer Space

As best we can tell, the 2009 defense budget only carries $520 million for space weapons research, which sounds like a trifling amount until you consider that we've signed on to a treaty that prohibit putting weapons in space. Don't feel too bad for space though; the Pentagon isn't neglecting it. In fact, the U.S. military is so heavily invested in space that it cannot navigate, communicate or hit a target without it. Without space, esoteric air breathing systems like the ultra stealthy, $2 billion a pop B-2 strategic bomber would be, well, worthless.

Maybe that's why the Air Force is looking to replace it by the year 2018. Originally called (cleverly enough) the "2018 Bomber," the Air Force now refers to the B-2's replacement as the NGB (New Generation Bomber). It's anybody's guess what they'll be calling it when 2018 rolls around. The NGB will be "super stealthy," which I reckon means it will have a smaller radar signature than a flying carpet. But the NGB does not represent the end of strategic bomber evolution. It's merely an interim weapon designed to fill the gap until the 2035 Bomber comes along. Nobody knows for sure what the 2035 Bomber will look like, or what they'll call it in 2035. Some say it will be a "system of systems." It sounds like it will cost enough to qualify as a self-contained economic system.

The B-2's tactical stealth buddy, the F-22 Raptor air-to-air fighter, isn't faring so well. As best anybody can tell, the Raptor costs $339 million per copy, as opposed to the less than $85 million unit cost of the other stealth fighter, the F-35 Lightning II. The F-22's predecessor, the F-15 Eagle, cost under $30 million per unit. The F-16 Falcon, still in production, costs less than $20 million a copy and carries the same state-of-the-art air-to-air missiles as the F-22 and the F-35 and the F-15.

Congress has limited the F-22 buy to 183 airframes; the Air Force says that isn't sufficient to cover all of its missions, which now include, believe it or not, homeland security. The U.S. Air Force is the only armed service in the world arrogant enough to argue that it needs a fleet of $339 million fighters to shoot down commercial airliners armed with box cutters. But seeing as how the only congress the Air Force has to bamboozle with that argument is the U.S. Congress, they may get away with it.

The Navy tried to kill its DDG-1000 project after only two copies were made, but Congress apparently wouldn't let them, and included money to build a third hull in the 2009 budget. The Navy's estimated unit cost for the DDG-1000 is $3.3 billion, but the Government Accounting Office expects the cost to be higher. So a DDG-1000 costs somewhere in the neighborhood of two B-2 bombers, but not nearly so much as the new class of nuclear aircraft carriers will cost.

The new class of aircraft carrier is estimated to cost about $8 billion per copy. It will feature the latest in automation technology that the Navy says will reduce the cost of the future carriers. That's an interesting statement for the Navy to make, considering that the older class of Nimitz class aircraft carriers are said to have only cost $4.5 billion apiece.

In that light, it is perhaps fitting that the new class of American flagships will bear the name of Gerald R. Ford, the only U.S. president who was not elected to either the office of president or vice president.

It's also fitting that the most pressing maritime mission these multi-billion dollar juggernauts will perform any time soon involves war at sea with Somali pirates, whose vessels are comparable, capability and cost-wise, to Jack Kennedy's PT-109.

Reports from respected military analysts like the

Rand Corporation say that the best approach to the war on terror is "a light U.S. military footprint or none at all," yet it seems all but inevitable that Congress will increase the size of our land forces. Part of the justification for the expansion is that the Army and Marine Corps are "stretched to the breaking point" after seven years of overseas deployments in support of the war on terror. Yet, incredibly, a combat unit from the Army's 3rd Infantry Division has just been assigned to U.S. Northern Command to quell "civil unrest" and conduct "crowd control" inside the United States.

In other words, an active duty Army combat unit has been pulled from action in ongoing foreign wars to suppress insurrection by American citizens at home.

And all this time I thought violating Americans' right to protest was Homeland Security's job.

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