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Archive for June, 2013

Defense Budget Tutorial #2 Smoke and mirrors in Congress’ Defense Appropriations bills

Posted by picard578 on June 22, 2013

January 23, 2006

Defense Budget Tutorial #2: Smoke and mirrors in Congress’ Defense Appropriations bills

The Smoke and Mirrors in Congress’ Defense Appropriations Bills: You’ll need a Rosetta Stone


Understanding how Congress allocates spending in the defense budget requires a comprehension of obscure terms, opaque practices, and sometimes complex ruses. The explanation below of the gimmicks in Congress’ 2006 Department of Defense Appropriations Act is based on over 30 years of experience in congressional appropriations. Some of that experience was in crafting the very same dodges explained below; there did, however, come a point during the author’s Hill career when the focus shifted to opposing the same.

“Defense Budget Tutorial #1” established that Congress appropriated $454.5 billion for the Department of Defense in H.R. 2863, the DOD Appropriations Act, which is now Public Law 109-148. The amount constitutes most, but not all, of what the Defense Department will get in fiscal year 2006. The question here is, how did Congress distribute that money, and what does that say about the nature of Congress’ exercise of its “power of the purse?”

Appropriations Bill Basics

To understand the defense appropriations bill, it is necessary to briefly review its basic contents. These bills are typically divided into eight categories, or “Titles,” as follows: Read the rest of this entry »


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Briefing on DODs QDR and 2007 Budget

Posted by picard578 on June 22, 2013

By Winslow Wheeler,
Straus Military Reform Project

February 14, 2006

My recent briefing to the press on DOD’s new Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) and the new 2007 defense budget made the following points:

  • The new 2007 defense budget achieves a post-World War II high for defense spending, and yet it supports new lows in the quantity of Army divisions, Navy combat ships, and Air Force wings.
  • In their depictions of the defense budget, both liberals and conservatives bias their typical presentations to conform to their preconceptions. These days, few consider a depiction of the threat.
  • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s new QDR fails to address the key rationale established by Congress in the statute calling for QDRs: that the defense budget be sized to execute the new defense plan and that the new defense plan be devised to implement the national defense strategy. The 2005 QDR does not address budget requirements even superficially, and while the strategy focuses on unconventional 4th generation war (“the Long War”), the defense plan remains focused on conventional war.
  • Many of the new budget’s ideas for strengthening our forces for 4th generation war are too little, too late, and other ideas start to fall apart on close inspection.
  • Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has requested a budget he knows Congress will augment and expand. Proposals to reduce the Army Reserve and National Guard, to truncate C-17 production, and to retire prematurely the F-117 “stealth” bomber (and other proposals), are what some call “Washington Monument Drills” (“WMDs,” they are proposed budget reductions the Pentagon knows Congress will immediately add back into the budget). The thought that any such money will be saved is surely illusory.

In sum, in a time of war and when certain critical elements of the defense budget require steadfast support and straightforward justification, today’s Pentagon leadership gives the nation mismatches between rhetoric and realities and a focus on budget gimmicks. A copy of the briefing slides is attached (1 MB PPT).

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Air to air weapons effectiveness

Posted by picard578 on June 15, 2013

Measures of effectiveness

To determine effectiveness of weapons, first we must determine what are measures of that effectiveness. Weapons are designed to kill, and to preferably kill opponent before he can kill you. But opponent wants to do the same thing, so he will try to survive – which means prevent you from killing him, and kill you. Best way to achieve advantage is by surprise; further, weapons should be as resistant to countermeasures as possible.

Historically, engagements were always between flights and squadrons, more rarely entire wings. This means target saturation. It also means that pilot is always in danger of getting killed by somebody even as he tracks the target; resultantly, time required for tracking the enemy should be reduced to minimum. But even side with inferior weapons was able to win if it has superior personnell or superior numbers as Germans have proven in France in 1940 and USSR in 1941/2. But once USSR learned from mistakes, and adjusted both training and tactics correspondingly, its numerical superiority decided the war.

Thus most important aspect of weapon is how it affects user’s skill. Second is how many weapons can be sent to and supported in fight; only third is combat capability of weapon itself. Further, more expensive weapon is not necessarily more effective even when numbers are ignored. More on it here. As for aircraft weapons, their primary function is to kill enemy quickly, reliably and at minimal danger to the user.

Missile effectiveness Read the rest of this entry »

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Quality and quantity

Posted by picard578 on June 8, 2013


In modern materialistic society, where value of everything – including human life – is considered in monetary terms, many people see more complex and more expensive weapons as being automatically more capable than cheaper weapons, thus justifying the costs. Defense spending proponents argue that “nothing is too good for troops”, thus justifying procurement of ultraexpensive weapons. In reality, more expensive is not automatically better – if there is no discipline to specify what is important and stick to it, mounting requirements will start requiring very heavy trade-offs, thus compromising specifications in primary mission.

For example, battle rifle has to have powerful round capable of reaching long ranges, which also means lot of recoil; this means that bolt-action and semi-automatic rifles are best for that role. Assault rifle’s primary requirement is to put lots of rounds down the range quickly, enabling suppressive fire, which does not allow for powerful rounds. As infantry combat has, ever since World War I, usually happened at ranges of 100 meters and below, it can be seen that assault rifle, and not battle rifle, is best suited for standard infantry weapon, with bolt-action and semi-automatic rifles being relegated to special roles. Yet for person who does not understand reality of infantry combat, bolt-action rifles with their very long range may seem superior to assault rifles.

Thus only way to see what works and what not is to study combat data, over long period, and understand what makes an effective weapon. That is what I am going to do here.

Lanchester laws

While in ancient combat, where lines of soldiers fought, each unit of army that was outnumbered by factor of 2 had to be twice as effective as each unit of outnumbering army in order for it to break even (or, as more commonly said, force a stalemate), that does not hold true in modern combat.

Modern combat is a ranged affair, and individual units are highly mobile, and no not fight in relatively static formations. Result is that combat between units becomes several-on-one affair, unlike phalanx’ one-on-one affair, which automatically means that equation is different; no longer does army outnumbered by 2:1 have to have two times as effective units, but four times as effective. It is not always applicable, as ground combat (particularly infantry combat) still faces force-size-to-area constraints, so exponent is often adjusted to 1,5.

But while it would appear to give large advantage to quantity, there are times where numerically inferior force won over numerically superior one. These victories, however, could only very rarely to never be attributed to quality of weapons alone.

Quality versus quantity – a false dilemma

This lack of understanding among general populace, and even many military personnell, has led to definition of effectiveness as “how loaded with high technology this weapon is”. Hugely costly weapons are being justified under “troops deserve the best”, “we can’t win the war with inferior weapons”. But while at first look it would seem a reasonable assumption, reality is often that, when combined with above-mentioned lack of understanding of combat, it results in costlier weapons that are less effective than cheaper ones, both individually and as a system. Still, in some cases more effective weapon also is more costly and expensive; such is case with air-to-ground precision-guided munitions when compared to dumb munitions dropped from same altitude.

Quality vs quantity through history Read the rest of this entry »

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