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  • January 2015
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CDI: Where is the Payoff for Huge US Budget Hikes

Posted by picard578 on January 1, 2015

Smaller, Older, Less Prepared
Where Is the Payoff for Huge U.S. Budget Hikes?
by Winslow T. Wheeler

Since 2001, Congress has given the Pentagon more than $1 trillion to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over the same period, Congress and the Pentagon have added a second trillion dollars to the nonwar (base) part of the Pentagon budget.

You’d think all that added money would give us larger forces, a newer hardware inventory and better trained people. Instead, the windfall made our forces smaller, older and less ready to fight.

A rare few in Congress have begun to notice that more money has bought less defense.

They portend a major shift in the consensus on defense spending. The coming change is a byproduct of the realization that the Pentagon is an integral part of a federal government with spending that is out of control. The Pentagon and the majority of champions of higher defense budgets in conservative think tanks and Congress are trying to head off the coming cuts with seemingly dramatic, but substantively feeble, initiatives.

Here are the facts underlying the need for real reforms.

At $707 billion, the defense budget is today higher than it has ever been since the end of World War II. That statement has been true since 2007; under the Gates plan, it will remain so out to the year 2020 if war spending stays constant.

This spending level is unrelated to the military threat. During the Cold War, from 1948 to 1990, when we faced the sizeable forces of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, annual Pentagon spending averaged $440 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars. Today, big spending advocates point to China as the future threat we must prepare for, but if we add the defense budgets of China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and Cuba together, and then double that sum, the Pentagon still spends substantially more.

As to the current threat (terrorism), we almost certainly spend more in one day than the terrorists spend in an entire year.

The size of our defense budget today is not the product of the external threat. It is the result of internal Pentagon dynamics, none of them healthy.

Since 2000, Congress and presidents have funded the Pentagon with $7 trillion out to the year 2011. Of that amount, $1.3 trillion has been for the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Thus, the nonwar parts of the Pentagon budget will have received $5.7 trillion.

We can calculate what the Pentagon would have received for the same period in the absence of the wars and of any spending above inflation: $4.7 trillion. That means the Pentagon’s “base” budget received a plus-up of almost $1 trillion for 2000-2011.

What did the Pentagon and Congress do with this trillion-dollar windfall? The Navy budget received an additional $293 billion, 2011 funding increased over 2000 by 44 percent. Yet the size of the Navy’s combat fleet dropped from 318 ships and submarines to 287, a decline of 10 percent.

This is not a smaller, newer fleet; it is a smaller, older fleet – about four years older, on average, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Is it more ready to fight? Almost certainly not; for the past year, the press has repeatedly reported on severe maintenance problems throughout the fleet, and Navy combat pilot training in the air has remained at historic lows.

The situation in the Air Force is worse. It received a windfall of $320 billion, an increase of 43 percent. During the same 2000-2011 period, the number of active and reserve fighter and bomber squadrons went from 146 to 72, a decline of 51 percent. Like the Navy, it’s also older on average: According to CBO, it is now about nine years older and at a historic high of about 23 years.

(Our aircraft are older than our ships.)

Air Force budget data tell us that fighter pilot air training hours today are only one-half to one-third of what they were in the 1970s, an era not touted for high readiness.

The so-called good news is from the Army. It received a plus up of $297 billion, a 53 percent increase. The number of brigade combat teams grew from 44 to 46, an increase of 5 percent. A 53 percent increase in money bought a 5 percent increase in combat forces.

But still, CBO tells us that major Army equipment inventories are mostly older. More ready to fight? In 2006, the House Armed Services Committee held hearings and leaked a memo documenting historic lows in the readiness of active Army units. The analysis has not been publicly updated; we should worry that it has gotten worse, not better.

In sum, an extra trillion dollars for the Pentagon has been processed into forces that are, with minor exceptions, smaller, older and less ready to fight.

The defense management leadership in the Pentagon and Congress has squandered a trillion dollars.

Those who recently have become politically active out of disgust with the mess in Washington should be particularly incensed over the Pentagon’s horrific performance. 

15 Responses to “CDI: Where is the Payoff for Huge US Budget Hikes”

  1. Chris said

    The article is a couple of years old. I wonder where things are like circa 2015. Probably even smaller, less capable inventories if the direction of the F-35, the LCS, and similar weapons systems are any hint.

    I have wondered about the US Army in particular. The nature of the conflicts means that the Army plays a much larger role in the action on the ground action and as such, the equipment takes a much heavier load.

    It seems the US is heading towards fiscal bankruptcy … and many would argue moral bankruptcy.


  2. Andrei said

    More news regarding the SNAFU called JSF. Apparently it can’t even fire it’s gun and it won’t be able until at least the 2019 software patch when the piece of code linking the trigger to the gun will be added to the software. I don’t know whether to laugh of cry. But seeing as it’s not my tax payer money being thrown out the window…ummm…. scratch that: the window is not big enough for the amount of money being thrown… seeing as it’s not my take payer money being sunk by the burning Ultra Large Container Vessel/Crude Carrier/Bulk Carrier load, I’m leaning on the LMAO/ROFL/LOL-ing side.


  3. PassingBy said

    Good to see you’re still at it with this blog. Speaking about the F-35, apparently another problem that’s emerged is that if it’s fuel gets too hot it’ll cause the plane to shut down because the fuel serves as coolant, so the F-35’s tanker trucks have to be shaded from the sun.

    I hope you get to address the Battleship Myths series of videos soon, which currently has grown to eight videos in length.


  4. Andrei said

    Hey Picard have you read this article:

    I think it’s a classical example of some-bodying tailoring the facts to suit the desired conclusion. In this case that big fighter are better then small fighters.
    A simple example is this:

    “Let us consider a generic small fighter, and a generic large fighter, each with weight, fuel loads, and installed thrust produced by averaging the values across each class (ie no possible vendor bias here, 3 current large fighters and 4 current small fighters, Western and Russian types inclusive). We end up with a large fighter with an empty weight of 32,600 lb, an internal fuel load of 23,500 lb, 40,000 lb of total dry SL thrust and 62,000 lb of reheated SL thrust, with a wing area of 706 square feet and fuel fraction of about 42%. Doing the same for the small fighter, we end up with an empty weight of 22,700 lb, an internal fuel load of 10,600 lb, 24,120 lb of total dry SL thrust and 36,700 lb of reheated SL thrust, with a wing area of 416 square feet and a fuel fraction of about 32%. Interestingly, for the statistically inclined, the variance on these parameters is not very big. ”

    Now it’s a very well thought example. Only problem he is trying to use past data to justify a future example without taking into consideration the impact of emerging technology the way you did with the FLX. Namely he winds up with a fuel fraction of 32% for the small fighter based on the performance of teen fighters probably but he gives no thought on how the EJ-200 and Snemca M-88 witch were still in development at the time might change the equation. Jesus to think somebody might consider a fighter with a take off weight of 30 tons (as much as a WWII tank) as viable is to laugh.


    • Chris said

      Wing loading wise, I think that larger aircraft will always be at a disadvantage due to the square-cube law. Transient performance would probably be penalized. Hmm … what about a tailless Delta-winged sized Su-27 like fighter with close coupled canards and a well designed leading edge?

      I suppose though that there is the advantage of the larger airframe potentially (if well designed) having a better lift/drag ratio (affected by wetted aspect ratio), but it doesn’t negate the advantages of having the lower wing loading.

      It would have better range and be a good bomber interceptor, but it’d be costly.


      • Andrei said

        “Hmm … what about a tailless Delta-winged sized Su-27 like fighter with close coupled canards and a well designed leading edge? ”

        You mean like this:

        It had a top speed of Mach 2.6 could supercruise, was super-maneuverable, somewhat stealthy and with a flight celling of 21000 m. The Sukhoi T-50 has simular performance to it, but with more focus on lower observability (especially visual, it’s not as thick). If the project is restarted it could be to the Sukhoi T-50 what the MiG 31 was to the Su-27, that is a specialized interceptor for the Russian Air Defense force (a completely separate service) where as the T-50 would go to the Russian Air-Force.


      • Chris said

        What you are proposing is essentially a more maneuverable Mig-31. The lower wing loading of interceptors would make it less maneuverable at low speeds, but much faster at top speed (less drag). Such a design might have filled the same niche the Mig-25 and 31 did. They also have a very high fuel fraction 0.45, which is why they could go very fast for longer than most aircraft. A Delta wing variant might be higher than .5, perhaps even .55.

        I was thinking the end result would look like a bigger variant of the Rafale, something roughly the size of the SU-27. Essentially a bomber interceptor but with more in common with air superiority jets – higher cruise speed and better maneuverability in exchange for lower afterburner speed.


  5. Andrei said

    Hey Picard have you seen the Taiwan built AIDC F-CK-1 or IDF (Indigenous defense fighter) ?

    It’s the closest thing to the FLX I have seen produced in the last twenty years. The Taiwanese were forced by US politics in the 80s to produce it. US offered some help especially with the engines which were developed specially for this fighter. It is a pure-air-superiority design that has a T/W ratio of 1.01 at normal take-off weight (internal fuel+4 BVR missiles and 4 WVR missiles ). Missiles were specially designed for it. The BVR ones ( are very interesting in addition to active radar guidance they seem to have developed a variant with dual-mode passive RF and IR seeker.

    In has very nice aerodynamics seems like a combination between Rafale (front), F-16 ( planform ) and F-5 (wing and dual engine design). the big wheels suggest it was designed for rough landings ( ) and this is in concordance with Taiwanese doctrine of dispersing their fighters in case of war.

    It is handicapped by outdated sensors, no IRST and radar meant for F-20, and engines: it has two that barely produce the same dry thrust as a single Snecma M-88 but surpass it with after-burning (hence the high T/W ratio ) and give it a maximum speed of barely Mach 1.2 and possibly a cruise speed around Mach 1 (based on Italians having managed to barely attain supersonic speed with the M-346 – – which has the same 2 engines but no afterburner and worst streamlining – it’s quite fat. )

    A quote from Global Security confirms what I wrote above:

    “The IDF’s engines are only about as powerful as the F5 it replaces, leading to criticisms that the IDF is underpowered. It has been speculated that that’s because of political pressure from the US, which worried that long-range fighters could provoke Mainland China. The IDF is superior to the F-5E in airborne performance. The IDF accelerates better than the F-104 and its turning radius is smaller than that of the F-5. The aircraft, equipped with four Sidewinder missiles, but without spare fuel tanks, has a combat endurance of three minutes on afterburner and a combat radius of between 70 and 90 nautical miles. With a combat radius of 600 nautical miles while carrying out armed reconnaissance and patrol missions, the IDF is capable of conducting preemptive raids and strikes at airports along the Chinese coast. It is mainly used in combat for air control and is capable of using “Hsiung Feng”-II missiles to attack targets at sea. Most of the IDFs are expected to be armed with the indigenously-produced, BVR Tien Chien-II (Sky Sword-II) ARAAM. ”

    If they were to replace the engines with a proposed upgrade called F125XX it would become a very scary fighter. The F125XX ( ) was supposed to have 48kN dry thrust and 73 kN with afterburner T/W of the engine would have been been bigger then one, which would have given the IDF a T/W ration of above 1 at normal take-off weight on dry thrust alone. Unfortunately the engine upgrade was scratched in exchange for Taiwan acquiring Mirage 2000-5 and F-16 A/B.

    Also from the above article about the engine there is this quote: “The TFE1042/F125 programme, meanwhile, is gaining momentum in Taiwan with the production, assembly and testing of the first two engines at the AIDC sites of Kaohsiung and Taichung this month. More than 800 flights have now been undertaken, including some at an angle of attack of 90°, “with no compressor or fan operability problems”, says Baerst. “, which suggests that the IDF is controllable at high angles of attack, just like Rafale and Gripen.

    So what do you think?


    • picard578 said

      “Hey Picard have you seen the Taiwan built AIDC F-CK-1 or IDF”

      Looks quite nice, though of course I’d prefer a tailless delta configuration with canards.

      “are very interesting in addition to active radar guidance they seem to have developed a variant with dual-mode passive RF and IR seeker.”


      “So what do you think?”

      It would be nice if it got built. God knows, maybe Croatia could acquire some too?


      • Andrei said

        It was built in the 90s. 130 of them 😀 At a total unit cost of 30 million, and that includes R&D. It’s going thru mid-life upgrades and life extension and it’s expected to last another 30 years in service.


  6. altandmain said

    Now the Russians are improving the rough field capabilities of their aircraft:

    Apparently real world experience has taught them how important this is.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. altandmain said

    One other point – maybe the Russians should be building an FLX and probably an ALX (such an aircraft would probably serve them well against ISIS in Syria), but at least they seem to get that they need rough field operations.


  8. altandmain said

    Oh and the USAF is at it again:

    They want to get rid of the A-10 … again.


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