My blood is boiling over this. Am I pissed at our broken Congress and executive leadership about how they set up this perfect failure years ago? YES. But I am more upset at the Pentagon. Am I living on Mars here? Seriously maybe it’s me? Some see cutting more flight hours, major deployments of our Carrier Strike Groups and even the Blue Angles as doing something about the looming fiscal problem. I see it as a failure of vision on just about every level.
I am beginning to wonder if the way I see the systemic failures in procurement and force structure that have left us with an increasingly rigid and unaffordable force somehow do not exist, I mean are they just in my head? The DoD brass obviously doesn’t see any of this, they cover their eyes, ears, and mouths and just continue on with unsustainable weapons programs and investments in dated and inflexible solutions. I find it absolutely sickening that the first order of business for the DoD when faced with what has been the most foreseeable crisis in decades, they go right for the flight hours, maintenance and key deployments. The reality is that flight hours for combat aircrews have been shrinking steadily throughout the last decade. I don’t care what the DoD says on the matter, talk to the aircrews as I have for years. F-15 guys are fighting to stay qualified, the U-2 guys have had their flight time slashed and bomber crews are even less likely to get what they need to accomplish their mission with confidence. How on earth are we supposed to continue stacking more and more missions on these crews while allowing them to train for them less and less? Oh, and for all that talk of “synthetic training” that will take the place of the real deal to a certain degree(which it CAN’T!), I have not seen a substantial, game changing investment in these systems, have you?
So instead of making up lost funds by replacing a small portion of the F-35 purchases with F-16s that are about one third the price of an F-35, something that will impact the total force very lightly as a large majority of the F-35′s missions can be accomplished by late block Vipers, we cut the pilots ability to train on their weapon system even deeper. Disgraceful and nearsighted. The brass wants their toys so bad that they will sacrifice training and readiness to have them huh? Fools. Is the F-35 going to win the air war by itself? Last time I checked a human has to actually be the brain of that machine and that brain needs to be constantly exercised in simulated combat and operating procedures so that $145M asset comes back in one piece. Same for any of our combat aircraft and their assigned crews, even including drones to some extent.
Tough times do call for tough measures right? The Blue Angels are not a combat coded squadron so it makes sense to get them off the books huh? I want to ask the Navy bean counters, are you planning on cutting up their F/A-18C/Ds and laying off the entire team? I highly doubt that, instead you are going to do what? Paint the jets gray and turn the entire squadron into a combat capable unit? I doubt that too, especially as their C models are probably trapped out. I have a feeling that you are going to shutter the squadron, send all the enlisted personnel and officers to other squadrons in the fleet right? So what the hell are you saving? Is there a war I don’t know about that needs these folks on the front line? Because if there is not you are most likely adding to the budget or breaking even as these aviators will now be training for combat, expending training munitions, and participating in complex training exercises with mainline units. What you are actually doing is a public relations stunt that will hurt the morale of the Navy and the country, as well as hurt recruitment of the best and brightest in the long-term which you actually need, badly. The Blues are a long-term investment in the Navy’s future. The kid that watches them in 2013 will be your sailor of the year or Top Gun patch wearer in 2028. The Blue Angels have such an astonishingly good track record for recruitment that you are better off pulling the plug on your national advertising program and all the other agency style promotional crap you have got yourself into over the years. Air Shows are where Americans can actually meet their Navy, not see them on TV. I mean what did the Navy invest in “Act of Valor” or the last Michael Bay action movie?
The reality is that these aviators are still going to get their hours, even if reduced, in a gray jet instead of a blue one, and unless you plan on handing pink slips to the Navy’s finest enlisted personnel these folks will be doing their job in the fleet. In other words, this is total BS. Once again, a near-sighted gesture that will buy you some hardship points but will save what? Maybe the cost of one F-35 motor at the very most? Another shameful symptom of the DoD’s disease. Real proven training, recruitment and planned deployments out the window but the big wigs bloated pet projects? Oh they are protected, and yes I am talking to you F-35 and Littoral Combat Ship.
Message to the DoD: If you have no choice but to cut than do not cut in training, readiness, and maintenance, cut where it will actually make a lasting difference, procurement and bureaucracy. Stop with these idiotic multi-year procurement handouts to defense companies, our government is not stable enough monetarily for such “attempts at saving money.” Be flexible and be prepared not to cut things like aircraft numbers but to substitute the purchase of expensive, should be silver bullet technologies, with more cost-effective solutions. Throw out your ailing dream of one-size-fits-all 100% solutions and move toward a more flexible and sustainable “high-low” capability mix. For those who are new to this site, this means procuring the S-92 for the last 50+ MV-22 slots at half the price, or buying 300 more F-16s instead of 300 more F-35s. If this causes the unit price to balloon than you have an unsustainable and risky program and you should pull the yellow and black handle on it immediately for reasons beyond the current fiscal climate. I find it strange the DoD stress tests an air frame thoroughly but you do not stress test your budget in relation to a volatile program at all. Wake up and learn to look at the big picture. Your problem has to do with your own lack of creativity and excess vanity. When you will only settle for 100% capability in a one size fits all solution across a large fleet at tremendous acquisition and sustainment costs and will not abandoned failed concepts like the LCS, you are digging your own fiscal grave. If you do not have to lie in it on this round of the budget crisis than it will be the next.
The DoD’s, and especially the USAF’s, unsustainable way of building its future force while neglecting the one it already has will hit the wall, it’s not if but when. Don’t let the inability to address this issue by top Pentagon chiefs make you believe that is does not exist. It does. Living in denial is not that big of a deal when you will be promoted out of your position in a couple of years anyway. I hear Generals talk of how much they love their branch and the military every day, yet I am blown away that none of them are actively trying to save it. Maybe it would keep them from getting that next star on the shoulder, but isn’t the warrior life supposed to be one of sacrifice for one’s country? Well sometimes that does not have to occur on the battlefield, the halls of the Pentagon and the Capitol building are just as relevant.
If we are cutting flying hours even deeper now can you imagine what it will look like with 2400 top of the line stealth fighters in the inventory that cost, at a minimum, double to operate compared to the aircraft they intend to replace? Still, the problem is here and now, for God’s sake let our aircrews and other warfighters get the training they need to accomplish their mission. I think its a disgusting waste of money considering the tax payer spent millions training an elite combat aviator just so that he or she can do paper work for days on end in a cubicle! Get our aviators and aircrews back in their aircraft, I would much rather have the best trained air arm in the world than the one with the most stealth aircraft by a factor of 10. To think otherwise is just ridiculous.
In the end I beg the DoD to look at its broken procurement strategy that is full of bloated, stupid weapons programs, many of which have already failed even before they have become operational, and its own bureaucratic payroll first before having our combat pilots sit on the ground more than they already do or cutting the world’s most known air demonstration team just so that you can buy a little time by showing that you are “doing something.” If you do move forward with the Blue Angels cut than you better send a memo over to the Presidential Airlift office saying that you are cutting back VC-25A hours by 10+% as well, as much of what happens on that aircraft is not “essential” to the military’s mission either. Like the Blue Angels, Air Force One in 747 form is more about making an impression than national security. The same mission can be done on a smaller more economical aircraft, as it should be for domestic use. If cutting the Blue Angles will save a few million a year, the 20 million dollar claim is bogus for reasons stated above, than what will cutting the use of VC-25As domestically save? Considering the aircraft costs between $150-250,000 an hour, just one round trip from Washington DC to Los Angeles and back cost the US tax payer $1.5M-2.5M+! The same can be said to a lessor degree for other Washington DC sky yachts used by public officials and military generals daily (prior piece and debate on this subject). Then when it comes to cutting Carrier Strike Group deployments to a troubled part of the world you have no reason why not to hang you head in shame. How is this necessary? I would rather see our flotillas prowl the world’s oceans as normal than continue on maintaining hundreds and hundreds of bases and deployments in other countries that can defend themselves perfectly fine.
The reality is that the fiscal cliff hit the military long ago, they just never cared to actually read the numbers and acknowledge it. Now it’s a massive crisis when the writing has been on the proverbial wall for years running. It is as if the DoD, an institution that spends the majority of its time figuring out ways to defend the country from disastrous events and heinous enemies has has ignored the biggest threat, one that lives within its own headquarters, a fiscally unsustainable force and total lack of budgetary rationalization and prioritizing. So whatever happens to our military on March 1st is more a product of atrocious management than it is of a broken economy and ballooning national debt.
*For those of you who want to inform me that POTUS needs a VC-25A for its unique countermeasures and communications suite than I ask you why he cleared to use a C-32A and a C-20C as well? The C-32 has advanced communications and the same IR countermeasures that the VC-25A has. Additionally, we have a National Command Authority because if POTUS is unavailable decisions can still get made. The contingency planning and associated costs are out of control. We a have a President not a king remember?