[FoRK] "Two faces of the Tea Party"

J. Andrew Rogers andrew at ceruleansystems.com
Fri Jun 25 17:05:24 PDT 2010

On Jun 25, 2010, at 1:33 PM, Reese wrote:
>> I wasn't the one enumerating wasteful programs. Why would I mention it?
> Honesty?

Are you in a conversation with someone else? I didn't list anything, you did. I was commenting on your gross misrepresentation of their impact on the DoD budget. My only point has been that the boondoggle weapon programs -- regardless of what you define as such -- are a pretty negligible portion of the Department of Defense budget.  List away, it won't matter, I'm still correct.

>> You made the assertion, not I. Since you are too lazy, the annualized cost of the program to date is ~$900M.  Not even a lousy billion dollars.
> Which assertion? That Osprey was a boondoggle or personnel accounted
> for more cost than toys? Even if a particular toy amounts to less than
> the total cost of personnel, does that make it not a boondoggle?

Osprey very arguably isn't a boondoggle since it had a legitimate purpose, it was just a troublesome engineering challenge. Your assertion was that canceling programs like this -- boondoggle or not -- would materially reduce the DoD budget. 

> What exactly is the capability the Osprey provides? Troop-carrying
> capacity over slightly longer (short) distances? Larger landing
> footprint and potentially, greater vulnerability to ground fire? Oh,
> that'll turn the tide, win their hearts and minds. @@

How about vastly more speed and range than a helicopter with most of the flexibility a helicopter provides. In many parts of the world the limitations of a helicopter make them a marginal aircraft.

>> What does this have to do with defense spending in the modern era?
> Were we discussing cuts to the defense budget? My bad. You're the one
> who claimed that DoD spending was personnel-tied, I was taking a longer
> and larger view at DoD spending and trying to understand the breakdown
> between "personnel" and "toys." Are you retracting your assertion?

Eh? Feel free to count the "toy" costs of ancient history, you just have to be consistent and count the personnel costs of ancient history as well. Nuclear weapons are a sunk cost, the capital was spent decades ago. Maintenance costs relatively little.

What kind of nutty argument are you making? That the sum of all weapon expenditures throughout history should be compared to this year's personnel cost? What exactly are you asserting? It seems incoherent.

>> This is completely irrelevant.  Are we going to talk about the arms spending minutiae of the Spanish-American War next?  We probably still have those weapons in storage too.
> Which would be another stupid DoD expenditure we should cut one way
> or another. Next?

Sure, it could be cut. Though to be honest, it would probably cost more to cut it than to just maintain it. Old firearms have utterly negligible overhead. I'm not sure how we are supposed to save meaningful money this way. Obsess over the trivial stuff, ignore anything that matters.

> Kindly name the US bases in Kenya, Ukraine, Haiti, Ethiopia, Israel
> in or out of Gaza, etc.

I have no idea what you are getting at. It isn't even a coherent argument that I can parse.  However, back in the 1990s the US military did shut down its ammunition factory (Lake City) and bought it all from the Israeli ammunition factories (inferior quality as it happens). There was no military reason to do this, it was an indirect form of Israeli aid using DoD resources.

> The latest round of Aegis anti-missile testing in the Pacific, vicinity
> of Hawaii (that I have reliable feedback on), shows you the exact
> advancements in almost every weapon system. Outside of some new rocket
> motor designs that are still a bit dodgy. Right? You said:

Your ignorance is showing. The Aegis system uses a conventional, proven rocket platform. It is one of the reasons that one works so well. Unfortunately, there are significant vulnerabilities to using those rocket platforms that the newer ones are supposed to address.

>   >>> almost every modern weapon system is heavily based on it.
>   >>> Outside of some new rocket motor designs that are still a
>   >>> bit dodgy -- no one understood the physics of such designs
>   >>> when they started that project -
> So here you are saying, no one understood the physics of the rocket
> engine (not motor) designs. Confirm or deny?
> Did you think that rocket engine scientists were lost on the new
> engine design or, am I unfairly parsing the quote?

The new rocket motors were designed to operate at an extreme performance envelope under which the US military R&D guys had no experience with the material physics, and their original designs used very exotic materials science that only the US military could fabricate at the time. That turned out to be far from good enough. Basically, it was at the boundary where any normal molecular material you can conceive of will fail quickly, often in unanticipated or strange ways.

They had the terminal guidance package down solid 20 years ago. On a conventional rocket it works great -- currently ubiquitously deployed for anything that uses imaging based terminal guidance. The rocket would suffer all kinds of material failures in normal testing. They've been through several versions of the design to eliminate the failures under normal workloads, mostly by designing a rocket that assumes material failure in flight but still functions.

I'm assuming they've mostly figured out how to design these rockets now. Rockets of this type are starting to show up in all sorts of weapons that are being field tested.

Most high-performance military systems are limited by materials science. Materials science and material behavior is not always well-understood under extreme condition -- the original material physics models they used were wrong. It has taken US military R&D a long time to become comfortable designing systems at the threshold where it isn't possible to design a material that will survive per se.

>> It forces the battlefield toward a vastly more expensive equilibrium.
> Ooooh.
> Oh wait. Wasn't the original complaint centered on the expense of DoD
> spending with at least some part of that as spending to the military-
> industrial complex (aka R&D programs), implementing the product (aka
> R&D programs), and maintaining it for its own or any lifetime (aka
> more spending to the R&D people)?
> If it isn't, that ought to be game, set, and match. Right there.
> Checkmate.

Exceptional reading comprehension, not. Defense spending has nothing to do with the abstract cost of executing a war. 

> So, a numerically large number of programs that do not have particularly
> noteworthy price tags? As in, they add up. Kinda like the minor
> fractions of the total DoD budget represented by the F-22 and Osprey
> programs. @@
> Again, and last time: what other programs would you add to the list?

My point was that your list is an utterly irrelevant waste of time in terms of saving the government lots of money *regardless* of how much waste is on that list.  It is just that your credibility is low because you are clueless about the weapons programs you are going on about.

>> Rumsfeld was able to kill a bunch of expensive weapon programs
>> that were designed for a backward-looking "land war in Europe" scenario.
> Great. Why wasn't the F-22 included? Or did you mean Rumsfeld's first
> time at bat?

The F-22 was expensive, but something like the F-22 was arguably a necessary military expenditure. It wasn't going to be inexpensive because there was a lot of new technology. Rumsfeld tossed a lot of other Congress-loved programs, like the new artillery system.

> WRT The VA, it can serve as proxy for the Social Security Account
> situation for all the civilians who stayed home. In either case,
> why is there a cap on wages for FICA taxation purposes, for all
> civilians and veterans alike?

To maintain the pretense that FICA isn't a welfare tax.

>> The engineering that is done for US military R&D is extremely bleeding edge. Unlike many other countries, the US can't just copy design elements from other people in most cases. This, along with Congressional monkeying with the projects every year for pork-related purposes, creates a certain amount of risk that exists anytime you try to do something that has never been done before.  Or worse, several things that have never been done before, all in the same system.
> So basically, you side with (if not confess to being a part of) the
> military-industrial complex that we were warned about. Apologia and
> a bit of disinfo. Yes?

Non sequitur much?  There is no coherent reasoning streaming through your email. Somehow I get the idea that you are against military spending *generally*, regardless of how much pork is involved. 

Instead of pretending like you care about saving money backed by a shoddy argument, why don't you just say you want to defund DoD? That's fine, and it would be easier than trying to pretend there is some kind of high-brow argument being made here for eliminating specific programs altogether.

> 2, if it is that widely known, it would be trivial for you to provide
>   even a half-hearted proof, any link - you haven't even tried.

First couple links on Google with all the logical keyword combinations isn't good enough for you? That's just militant denial.

> 3, you've already conceded that "boots on the ground" is in sunset mode,
>   that it is being replaced by "active countermeasures..." or whatever
>   it was you used as a euphemism, for military toys.

Most of what it is being replaced with isn't "military" in any conventional sense.

> 4, I called out "checkmate," above.

Well that changes everything.

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