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Posts Tagged ‘reducing US defense spending’

How to reduce US defense spending without harming the capability

Posted by picard578 on January 5, 2013

Defense spending must be cut to help economy (hint: no economy – no money to support military); charts show that US debt exploded after 2001 – in FY 2001, US Government ran a budget surplus of 1,3% GDP, which was expected to increase. If that had continued, entire public debt would have been paid by 2008 – 2012. However, it did not continue – it could not, due to the massive rearmament of 2000s as well as tax cuts aimed primarly at the rich. On the contrary, 1993 tax increase fell mostly on the rich.

While Federal spending in 2011 equated 24,1% of GDP, revenues were 14,8% of GDP. 36% of 2011 spending was borrowed. While Social Security and Medicare were largest spenders (33,5% of GDP) defense spending was next-largest (20,1% of GDP). Meanwhile, corporate taxes brought in only 8,9% of federal receipts, and income tax 41,5%.

Is it possible to solve this? It is, by transferring tax burden to the rich, by returning production jobs to United States, by reining in fast food, tobacco and alcohol companies – therefore reducing health care expenses (first and foremost, fast food companies should be thrown out of educational system), and by reducing defense spending. It is the last point that I will take the look at here, and I have already adressed the health care issue.

Defense spending can be cut without reduction in overall military effectiveness through elimination of waste and replacement of costly existing and proposed weapons with more effective and efficient weapons.

Now, savings proposal:

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

Both Dassault Rafale and Harrier II are cheaper and more effective than F-35; rebuilds of F-16, F-18 and Harrier II also can serve as stopgap measure. Thus, replacing variants of F-35 with variants of these jets could save a great amount of money. At the same time, US industry should focus on designing new non-VLO aircraft.

USAF standard is 240 hours a year of operation per aircraft.

Out of 2.443 F-35s, 340 will be CATOBAR F-35C, another 340 will be STOVL F-35B and 1.763 will be CTOL F-35A. F-35s R&D costs have been paid, so I’ll use weapons system flyaway costs – 197 million USD for F-35A, 237,7 million USD for F-35B and 236,8 million USD for F-35C. 15 F-35s – likely A variant – are in service.

In next 10 years (2013 – 2022), 424 F-35As are planned to be delivered – 29 will be delivered each year from 2013 – 2016, 32 in 2017, 48 in 2018 and 2019, 60 in 2020, 2021 and 2022. If we cut orders from 2014 on, it cuts 395 F-35As, totalling 77.815.000.000 USD, plus 81.984.000 USD in maintenance costs.

Rafale C costs 82,3 million USD, Rafale M costs 90,5 million USD, and Rafale’s operating costs are 16 500 USD per hour of flight. Harrier II costs 34,28 – 44,11 million USD and operating cost is 18 900 USD per hour of flight.

Replacing F-35As with (far more capable) Rafale C on 1-on-1 basis, we get cost of 32.508.500.000 for procurement plus 7.801.200.000 USD for operation over next 10 years.

CONCLUSION: 37.587.204.000 USD can be saved over next 10 years by replacing F-35A with Rafale C.

Next-generation bomber

Next Generation Bomber is assumed to have program cost of 55 billion USD for 100 aircraft (up from previous estimate of 40 – 50 billion USD). Given US history, however, it is unlikely to provide on time and on budget – in fact, it is likely to have program cost of more than 100 billion USD and production run of 20-25 aircraft. Its utility is also questionable, as it will be easily detectable by space-based surveillance systems, long-wavelength and multistatic radars as well as ground- and aircraft- -based IR detection systems. In all likelihood, it will follow the path of overexpensive, underperforming B-2 bomber. In fact, it is more likely that NGB is USAF’s “budget insurance policy” than an actual attempt at useful weapons system. That is supported by the fact that design is being accelerated while its operational priorities have not been clearly defined, virtually assuring large cost overruns. Another thing making cost overruns a near-certainity is USAF’s wish to stuff it with all possible technology – including the capability to fly unmanned (which basically means that Chinese can steal it while airborne.).

Operationally, it is unlikely that USAF will let its super-expensive toys run across China without fighter escort – and F-22 fighter can be easily detected by VHF radars. In fact, attacking China directly is the last thing US should do in case of war – containing it from breakthrough into Pacific while at the same time cutting off its trade and supply lines is a far cheaper, more effective and less dangerous alternative – especially when having in mind traditional numerical advantage required from attacker. If direct attack is required, cruise missiles can be used to deal with air defense networks (another possibility are relatively small armed drones).

While I do not like to judge aircraft before it has actually flown, B-2s operational history suggests that NGB will cost far more than expected, while being next-to-useless in a war. In fact, any stealth aircraft in service or proposed is in danger of being detected by HF radars operated by China, Australia and United States.

Conclusion: 55 billion USD can be saved over the next 10 years by cancelling Next Generation Bomber

Aircraft carriers

If there is a war against China, aircraft carriers will not be very relevant, as Western Pacific is filled with islands to brim. Islands are less vulnerable (for example, they can’t be sunk) and air bases can be made. Moreover, aircraft carriers are very vulnerable against enemy cruise missiles, air forces and submarines, and as such are very bad choice for destroying enemy troops, merchant marine and supply convoys – tasks possibly more important than any other in naval war. Nimitz class carriers are large, putting too many eggs in a single basket. Nuclear carriers are not environment-friendly – aside from very expensive nuclear waste disposal, they routinely release irradiated coolant water into sea. Due to that, most countries refuse to allow them to make port, and even less to homeport them, reducing long-term deployment capability.

Thus, two of Nimitz class carriers could be retired. Average operating cost of each was 243 million per year in FY 1998 USD or 340 million USD per year in 2012 USD. Retiring two early would save 6,8 billion USD for next 10 years. Gerald R Ford will be comissioned in 2015, and Navy hopes that its operating cost will be 173 million USD per year. It could replace third Nimitz class carrier, thus saving further 1,169 billion USD over next ten years as opposed to putting it in service without retiring additional Nimitz class carrier.

Decomissioning Nimitz-class carrier costs 750 – 900 million USD.

As such, retiring two Nimitz class carriers would save 5 – 5,3 billion USD over next 10 years

Conventional carriers are a better option, as same force can provide 10% larger force presence. Maintenance of conventional carrier is easier and takes up smaller percentage of lifetime compared to nuclear carrier, and they are easier to replace if lost. While nuclear carriers don’t have to replenish their own fuel, aviation fuel and ammunition still have to be replenished, and conventional carriers are less maintenance-intensive. At no time was USN deployment adversely affected by deploying conventional, as opposed to nuclear, carrier. Conventional carriers can carry more aircraft than similar-sized nuclear carriers, can deploy equally quickly, and spend same amount of time on-station. Meanwhile, air wing size is most important factor in carrier’s combat performance during time on station. Losses in conventional carriers can be replaced far more quickly than nuclear carriers – in peacetime, nuclear carriers take 71% longer to construct than conventional ones – 7,2 against 4,2 years between funding and comissioning. As proven in World War 2, construction time of conventional carrier can be reduced to one-third in case of massive war, whereas such reduction in construction time of a nuclear carrier is questionable at best.

Retirement of six Nimitz-class carriers can be compensated with having five conventional carriers. Retiring of six Nimitz-class carriers would save 20,4 billion USD over next 10 years, whereas six similar-sized conventional carriers would cost 8,568 billion USD to operate over the same time, while providing greater force projection capability. Assuming two carriers per year enter service, with Nimitz retirements being designed to fit timeframe, total costs would be 4,284 billion USD, with to-be-retired Nimitz class carriers adding 10,2 billion USD over the same timeframe.

Decomissioning Nimitz-class carrier costs 750 – 900 million USD. For comparision, decomissioning conventional carrier would cost no more than 60 – 90 million USD. This plan would cost 21,684 billion USD, compared to 20,4 billion USD of operation of nuclear carriers plus 23,748 billlion USD for Gerald R Ford-class procurement, thus saving 22,464 billion USD.

Conclusion: Replacing six Nimitz-class carriers with conventional carriers at rate of two per year would save 22,464 billion USD over the next 10 years. This is my preferred option, as it does not lead to reduction of combat capability of USN surface combatants (in fact, this proposal would increase US carrier capability), and even carriers, while not being very useful in naval warfare, are very good at providing support for troops during amphibious landings, and can be used for transporting aircraft to land bases (as they were in World War 2). For that reason I will not make any change to number of Marine amphibious ships, which would be ideal for convoy escort duties.

V-22 Osprey programme

V-22 programme is another very expensive but not so useful program. It offers very few advantages over helicopters, and has far lower mission capable rate. Cancelling it would save 9,15 billion USD.


Nuclear submarines are an effective weapon. However, they have many shortcomings too. Compared to AIP submarines, they are very costly to both buy and operate, very large and very loud. They are designed for open ocean warfare in the East Pacific and Atlantic; in Western Pacific, nuclear submarines can easily fall prey to smaller and more agile subs without even detecting them, due to being outmaneuvered. While nuclear submarines are much faster than AIP ones (over 30 kts vs ~20 kts submerged), that is not advantage in the Western Pacific.

Thus, a mix of nuclear and AIP submarines would be best suited for large-scale warfare, especially in the Western Pacific. Nuclear submarines cost over 1 billion USD per sub. AIP submarines cost 100 to 250 million USD per sub, and can operate submerged for a month, carrying 25 – 40 crew members.

Per-year operating cost for nuclear attack submarine is, on average, 21 million USD, and typical service life is 30 years. Midlife refuelling and modernization costs 200 million USD. USS Dolphin, US last diesel-electric submarine, has cost 18 million USD per year, however that cost is unusually high for a non-nuclear submarine. UK WWI J-class submarine had operating cost of 28 300 GBP per year in 1921, or 6,023644 million 2012 USD (I have been unable to find figures for modern diesel AIP submarines, so I have to use this). Here, I will use estimate of 7,45 – 12 million USD for modern AIP sub, to stay on the safe side. Swedish Gotland sub costs 100 million USD.

Cost of decomissioning nuclear submarine is 36,5 – 38,8 million USD.

Decomissioning 40 nuclear subs would save 8,4 billion USD over next 10 years, whereas costs incurred would be 8,44 to 10,35 billion USD. However, over the next 20 years savings would be 16,8 billion USD, whereas costs incurred would be 11,42 to 15,15 billion USD.

Conclusion: replacing 40 nuclear submarines with AIP ones would save 1,65 – 5,38 billion USD over the next 20 years. However, cost saving for next 10 years would be 0,04 to 1,95 billion USD in negative – that is, replacement would cause additional costs to be incurred.

As for effectiveness, in WW2 US submarines sunk more Japanese aircraft carriers and (more importantly) supply ships than all USN surface assets combines, despite having only 2% of total US manpower in the Pacific. In World War I, Germany lost 187 submarines, sinking 5.234 merchant ships, 10 battleships, 20 destroyers and 9 submarines. (dodati težinsku i cjenovnu usporedbu)

In exercises, diesel subs routinely sank disproportionately large numbers of surface vessels and nuclear submarines. During RIMPAC 2000, the Australian Collins Class diesel sub HMAS Waller “sank” two US fast attack nuclear submarines and almost “sank” the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. Similar record has repeated itself in exercises to follow, where diesel and AIP subs routinely sunk large numbers of nuclear submarimes and surface assets. Unlike nuclear subs, diesel submarines can shut down powerplant, lie on seafloor and monitor activity in their surroundings.

Using submarines, United States could easily keep China bottled up in Western Pacific at low cost.

DoD contractors

DoD contractors are very inefficient, and should be replaced with military personnell and DoD civilians wherever possible.

In 2011, contractor employees cost 2,94 times more than DoD civilian employees doing the same job. 622.000 DoD service contractors have cost $253.8 billion and 778.000 DoD’s civilian employees have cost $72 billion (base) or $108 billion (base plus overhead) in FY 2010. Similar ratio is when comparing DoD contractors with military personnell. Contractor jobs are also not easy to cut when not necessary, possibly harder than military or civilian ones.

By taking numbers above, it can be calculated that replacing said 622.000 contractors with equal number of civilians and military personnell can save 167,46 billion USD per year, or 1,67455 trillion USD over next 10 years.


US military only needs one-third of generals it has right now. Many generals are, in fact, professionall lobbysts, pushing for increases in defense spending; and many members of Congress are reluctant to oppose a “distinguished top officer” – even though many, if not most, of them are really bureocrats of questionable leadership ability and military knowledge. Even after they retire, they retain rank and can be called back; most of them go into armaments industry, continuing to work to influence active officers of lower rank.

There are 970 generals and admirals in armed forces. Average salary is 14.000 – 17.000 USD per month, or 168.000 – 204.000 USD per year. Thus, by cutting number of high officials in US military to appropriate number, 1,08696 – 1,3192 billion USD can be saved over the next 10 years just on their salaries. In fact, while in World War 2 there were 130 ships per admiral, and three ships per admiral at the end of the Vietnam War, in 2011 Navy had 254 admirals and 285 ships.

However, staff provided to generals and admirals can cost 1 million USD per general. That is 647 million USD that will further be cut over the next 10 years.

DoD also spends 500 million USD annualy on marching bands. That amount could be cut in half, saving 2,5 billion USD over the next 10 years.

There are 79.000 US military personnell stationed in the Europe. Removing them, and turning bases over to European militaries, would save 110,6 billion USD over the next 10 years. However, as withdrawal per person costs 8.800 USD, actual savings would be 695,2 million USD less

In total, 114,1 – 114,36 billion USD can be saved in next 10 years by cutting personnell costs.

War in Afghanistan

In 2013, War in Afghanistan is expected to cost 97 billion USD. Assuming average of 90 – 100 billion over the next 10 years (it is expected to last until 2025), it comes to 900 billion to 1 trillion USD.


Measures proposed above would save 2,8 – 2,9 trillion USD over the next decade, while at the same time increasing US combat capability. It is important to remember that larger defense spending does not necessarily increase combat capability – in fact, it can decrease it, by reducing the discipline in the weapons design process and other practices.

Cuts are even more important because military that is not reined in by civilian authorities is, in itself, a serious danger to democracy. For the last 60 years, we were witnessing Prussization of United States, a process that may have serious repercussions on democracy beyond United States themselves. Thus processes going on in United States must be carefully observed even by people not living in US themselves.

It is nonsense that defense cuts automatically lead to job losses – workers can transfer to civilian industry, and civilian shipyards can easily build aircraft carriers and other warships – especially if they are not nuclear. Simpler weapons will make it easier to increase production during war, and thus sustain force levels during protracted war.

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