Reforming Defense: Tempting Fate

Some words of wisdom in this time of crisis:

  • “No good decision was ever made in a swivel chair.”
  • “An Army is a team; lives, sleeps, eats, fights as a team. This individual heroic stuff is a lot of crap.”
  • “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”
  • “Wars might be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of the men who leads that gains the victory.”

GENERAL GEORGE S. PATTON, JR. QUOTATIONS


“In his book, Fast Tanks and Heavy Bombers, David Johnson (who just took over Army CHief of Staff Odierno’s Strategic Studies Group) asks why nothing remotely like “Blitzkrieg” tactics and innovations emerged inside the U.S. Army. What Johnson discovered is worth remembering. A combination of factors ensured the Army was the wrong force for war in 1942. Of these, the most significant was not a lack of funding. First, there was almost total ignorance in Congress about what was really happening inside the Army. And, second, it was the intellectual — not the fiscal — deficit that obstructed useful change in the Army. As for those who argued after World War II that if the Army had been better resourced a different army would have emerged, Johnson discovered it was not true. Had more money been available, Johnson concluded, the Army’s generals would have simply done more of the same. The American people don’t need more of the same and the American Taxpayer cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the past. Military institutions, grounded as they are in the past, are not particularly adept at dealing with the future. This is especially true for the Army. Congress can and must ask the tough questions and demand real answers, not platitudes before increasingly scarce funds are lost on yet another wrongheaded Army program, yet another false start.”
–“Congress: Don’t Let Army Botch GCV, The Bradley Replacement“:By Doug Macgregor, AOL defense.

Brad brings us the tale of woe concerning the Army’s quest to field a new APC.

The first try was the FCS. It was so awesome it was canceled for being over budget. Before that there was this:

Back to the present. The Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) prototypes wound up at 70+ tons. About as much as an Abrams. The C-17 can lift one, the C-5 only 2 Abrams or 1 M-1 and two M-2 Bradleys. So much for the mobile Army. Now before you think I’m picking on the treadheads, the Marines had their Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) and ADA had Medium Extended Air Defense System(MEADS). In each case, specs were changed, then changed again. Since they were new programs, they needed new systems and new software. That means training, contractors and new parts. That means mucho dinero. Big Army is trying hard to keep costs down by looking at existing designs this time.

But I fear this is just re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Are there 80-90 ton tanks and APC’s rolling off Russian and Chinese factories? No. In fact “smart” anti-armor weapons are getting cheaper. Every tango, technical and two bit militaman will have missiles, IED’s and perhaps UAV’s. No layer of armor will be sufficient. No network will save you if the radios don’t work and your computer crashes. And contractors just add more money to any program they touch.

The FCS and EFV failed due to rising costs. The FCS had software problems, just like the Joint Tactical Radio. MEADS died because of costs and complexity. A MEADS battery has 3 radars to Patriot’s one.

What is needed are review boards. In college, experiments with human or animal subjects had a review board of about 3-5 members. At least one board member was from a department that didn’t use animals (i.e. the Physics Dept). So if the biology department wanted to cut up mice or frogs, the prof or grad student had to have a good explanation. And a budget, and safeguards. This oversight keep all experiments above board.

I know, Uncle Sam’s children in uniform tend to not get along, but we can’t afford more of the same. No more field grades sitting in an air-conditioned office, ducking deployments yet designing the gear and systems for those downrange.

I propose the following:

    Each new weapons program should undergo a review by a review board with:

  • 10 senior members and five junior enlisted members.
  • They will be nominated by the Chief of Staff for each service, selected by the President and confirmed by Congress.
  • The ten voting members are current, retired or former Field Grade officers (0-4 and up) and senior NCOs (E-6 and up)
  • The five junior enlisted members are junior enlisted chosen on a rotational basis. They are Soldier/Sailor/Marine/Airmen of the year picked from posts assigned to a major command. All must have at least 15 months combat/overseas experience. At least two should be married.
  • The senior board members will not have any ties to a contractor or current unit.
  • All proceedings will be public, the press will be invited.
  • The board will report to Congress.
  • Special Operations and “black” projects are exempt. This is for line units only.
  • Military aid to other countries is also exempt, there is Congressional oversight for that.

Why junior enlisted? Those of us E-4 and below turn the wrenches. We’re the ones stuck with the “good ideas” of the E-ring. If the program office or defense contractor can’t explain why their reasons to a private, what business to they have selling to the DoD? By making the process transparent and concurrent with the development, we can avoid the mistakes of the past.

It’s a start at least. What do you guys think?

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