[FoRK] Reducing defense spending

Jeff Bone jbone at place.org
Fri Jun 25 06:11:50 PDT 2010

Re reducing defense, as James pointed out, a lot of the spending is  
related to active headcount.  Another massive chunk goes to  
maintaining logistics in large deployments. Eliminate active  
groundwars and you win on both fronts. Big.

Re weapons systems, we have two concerns: strategic and tactical.   
We've got the first covered pretty well. Doesn't require terabucks to  
maintain that.  And if everybody gets all hand-wringy about using  
nukes (despite the long term advantages of, for example, irradiating  
the Afghan / Pakistani border highlands*) --- there are options. Rods- 
from-God wouldn't cost that much to put into production, and are  
significantly less "objectionable."

Tactical is the problem.  Warfighters, to use the de jeur term, are  
expensive.  Technology provides an out.  Fast, quiet, cheap, smart,  
disposable, and massively parallel is the model of the day.  Drones of  
all shapes and sizes are all of those things.  Enormous per-fighter  
force multiplication and projection.

And then there is the Aussie working on his own that has demonstrated  
that we can build cruise missiles from off-the-shelf parts for  
kilobucks a pop.

Distance kills are cheap and have a deterrent quality even tactically,  
if we have the will to use the tools.  There's becoming increasingly  
little need for any manned aircraft, and the foot soldier isn't far  
behind on the obsolescence curve. (Spec. ops and support in/ 
exfiltration infrastructure exempted..)

The warfighters we need are video game nerds sitting in comfy air- 
conditioned command pods on ships offshore, directing semi-autonomous  
mixed swarms of killbots, backed by deep IT and "combat programmers."  
The heart of tomorrow's battlespace looks more like a network ops  
center or trading floor than a desert tent city.

More like that.

That plus a willingness to use strategic weapons judiciously if  
necessary would reduce the costs of any unavoidable wars by many  
orders of magnitude while improving outcomes and deterrents.

No more BS engaging guerilla wars h2h or cave2cave on the enemy's  
terms, which invariably neutralizes any advantage we might think we  

No land wars in Asia.  Or elsewhere.

Also, spending on RT sigint gives dispropotionate advantage.  And  
we've seemingly lost all competency in humint and tradecraft, need  
that back.

Also worth mentioning: a little diplomacy with real carrot-stick goes  
a long way.  The neocons don't believe in the carrot.  The  
progressives don't believe in the stick.  You've got to have both, and  
a willingness to use them.

Getting over hegemonic fantasies would help a lot, too.  But we resist  
that even domestically.  A sea change in attitude about that pays  
dividends both domestically and world-wide.  More Rasputin, less Caesar.

The JSF is a perfect example of what NOT to do on the new weapons.  An  
egg-laying milk pig. Today's best technology for fighting yesterday's  


* at the risk of giving away the secret:  play some Risk. Afghanistan  
is a choke point in that game.  Control passage through there and the  
game is half won. ;-). IRL, cut off that passage and Afghanistan cools  
down quickly.  Pakistan is harder and more of a diplomacy and intel  
problem.  There you probably need the biggest stick and all the  
carrots you've got.  Whacking the western highlands but good would  
probably inspire a reevaluation, though.

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