WASHINGTON: Turmoil, fear and a certain resolute grimness marked this week at the Pentagon and Capitol Hill. The military scrambled to cope with a range of new threats as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the Pentagon leadership begin to grapple with the grim future posed by the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration. Put it all together and you have a military in turmoil, as the four services prepare to battle for missions and budget dollars, while our nation’s senior leaders at the White House, State Department and Pentagon grope for clear strategic direction in a highly unpredictable world.

“I would just highlight the fear in the room at the Pentagon,” noted one of Washington’s top defense analysts, Todd Harrison, referring to a briefing Wednesday evening he and defense wallahs from four think tanks received from Hagel and senior staff. Harrison is the budget expert  at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

Data point:. Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs James Winnefeld told the House Armed Services Committee Thursday about the sweeping effort ordered to rewrite the country’s crucial operational plans 18 months ahead of the usual schedule. Kudos to Rep. Mac Thornberry for knowing about this and asking about it in an open hearing. Kudos to Winnefeld for a surprisingly honest — if lacking in detail — answer. (Tip of hat to Wall Street Journal’s Julian Barnes for spotting this and getting details.)

“We don’t want to fight the last war,” Winnefeld told Thornberry. “We’re always accused of fighting the last war. I don’t want to do that.”

Data point: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel decided to share the results of the Strategic Choices and Management Review (SCMR) with the American taxpayers and Congress on Wednesday. In past years, a high-level review like this would probably have remained either classified or pegged under the stupidest and hoariest of Pentagon rubrics, “pre-decisional.”

Mackenzie Eaglen, defense analyst at the American Enterprise Institute and a member of the Breaking Defense Board of Contributors, said yesterday evening that senior Pentagon officials had told her earlier in the week that the results would not be released. (As anyone who deals much with the American military knows, those who rely on publicly available official papers, memos and formal briefings have completely missed the boat when it comes to important decisions. They only know about them once the decisions been taken and can’t influence the result.)

Data point: Four think thanks here released results of their own version of the SCMR that raised serious questions about the Pentagon’s reluctance to consider deeper cuts to readiness funding, as well as the country’s long-term ability to buy the advanced weapons our troops need to make the other guy die when we go to war. For example, the Long Range Strike bomber program may be cut under one of the options developed for the SCMR, Todd Harrison told reporters yesterday evening. If you look at their chart above, you’ll see where LRS gets whacked.

The five think tankers at yesterday evening’s event broadly agreed that the services and senior Pentagon leadership — deeply concerned about decaying readiness and the possibility of a hollow force — should consider much deeper cuts to readiness funding to preserve programs like LRS.

“We took the Willie Sutton approach,” Eaglen said. “We went where the money is, which DoD is still not willing to do.” Her colleagues nodded their agreement. One of the areas the Pentagon left largely untouched is the 800,000-strong civilian workforce, which Eaglen and her colleagues think can be a rich source of savings. But the Pentagon first has to know much more about the structure, composition and locations of the workforce. “They really told us, we really have no visibility about them,” she said.

After all, the analysts argue, readiness can be fixed relatively quickly through the simple application of cash and training. Research and development — let alone actual procurement — of advanced weapons often takes 10-15 years to get something workable.

Taking more money out of readiness can also be accomplished through application of concepts like tiered readiness. One of the ideas Harrison and other tossed around was tiered readiness not just inside each service but across the military — something many believe already happens in practice: For example, the Marines designate themselves as the nation’s 911 force; Special Operations troops are often in conflict zones before the conventional military arrives.

Hagel and his coterie have what the analysts agreed was a grand chance to rebuild the United States military, but it’s a fairly narrow window, argued David Berteau of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Given the fiscal guidance required in nine months, Berteau said the Pentagon has that much time to make major decisions in light of sequestration, which no one at CSBA thought was going away any time soon.

Final data point: If the Pentagon presents budgets equal to or less than the levels set by the Budget Control Act (sequestration’s enabler) then the Pentagon has complete freedom to move its money around and would not face the debilitating and strategically useless prospect of being forced to cut 10 percent from each account, Harrison told us.

Meanwhile, as we first reported, Reps. Paul Ryan and Jim Cooper presented their bill to help free DoD from that requirement it cut from each account. To do so, the Pentagon would have to declare it “an urgent national priority or the consequences of a national emergency resulting from such sequestration, as determined by the Secretary of Defense.”

I asked Rep. Randy Forbes, chairman of the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee, about the bill a few hours after it was introduced. He was not impressed.

“I don’t think their bill is the right approach for us to take because I am very concerned about turning all the reprogramming over to the Pentagon, because the House has an oversight role it must continue to play,” Forbes said.

The most positive thing we heard this week in terms of defense planning concerned the Ryan-Cooper bill. “This is a good sign in that serious folks on both sides of the aisle are looking at this defense spending,” a congressional aide told us. Maybe, but it’s almost certainly not enough.


  • Thomas Cox

    Putting civilians out of work creates a drain in other areas…each of these options mean only one thing…that China and Russia will soon overtake us and we will be powerless to do anything about it…

    We need Americans employed to bolster our economy. At least DoD civilian employees are doing something besides sitting on their behinds taking welfare and other expensive entitlement programs…but put those civilians on the street along with their contractor counterparts, and you’ll have to invest more into entitlement programs…meanwhile you reduce the tax base forcing more cuts…

    None of these options do anything to solve the economic problems we are facing…

    “Good luck with your firings…I hope they go well!”

    Be wary of the “experts” you are listening to, they all have agendas!!!

    • M&S



      Be wary of the “experts” you are listening to, they all have agendas!!!



      Indeed, I’m an outsider so perhaps you’ll listen to me if I tell you my personal bias up front: I don’t believe in militarism for it’s own sake as it leads to a salamander-and-tail condition whereby technical stagnation as block obsolescence of military capability is conjoined to a fear of losing position as a prideful refusal to -take the lead- in moving in another direction.


      Military Force has always been used to secure resources as both direct tribute and indirect access to enhanced trade and profit through a process of aggressive social amalgamation that brings everyone up a notch to the load bearing capacity of the management systems that the government itself represents.


      By wiser powers, such capability is also kept busy, in peacetime, as a ‘free labor’ source to build infrastructure and create good will as logistical dependence among conquered societies. Creating a gone-native impulse as Limitanei frontier population which prevents retiring soldiers from flooding the home society stable economics system while providing stability in these conquered states.


      Of course there comes a time when management of the resulting bureaucracy and ethno-strategic decisions all come together to make it unwise to expand further and take on more burden than you can sustain as your own _achieved_ critical mass.


      And at that point you are a nation state, not a city state.


      Fail to acknowledge this and put away militarism when it is no longer useful as much as used as it has been always been intended to be: as a tool not a toy, and you create a locked-in-adolescence modality whereby competing with the Jones’ makes it impossible to stay ahead in the true nature of statecraft which is to say the advance of society in ways that make you, not the envy but the -relied upon- leader of a world attempting to emulate your success.


      We have been bled pale by Cold War doctrine designed to do exactly that with one side pushing us towards exhaustion in pursuit of One World Government. And another side pulling us into a world of private enterprise ‘partnership’ which in fact amounts to mafia type influence gaming.


      Both of which are sending our nation over the brink of collapse -because- it is so fixated upon defense that it is no longer capable of generating innovation in the civilian sector that would allow us to avoid commitments to high TFR populations of wage slavery as sustainment of the old economics model.


      In this, it is important to understand that the defense industrial base has -never- been subservient to the Miltary or the Nation, though the degree to which each side had led the other to an insular system of sustainment based on fear has varied over the years.


      And that is why, as the Cold War fever has died out, we have seen this emphasis upon ‘The Honor Of The Soldier’ and ‘Maintaining The Best For Our Warfighters’ as an alternative.


      As the MIB has gone from being a technical pioneer for which the assurance of numbers was the assurance of layer upon layer upon layer of systems which never replaced so much as supplemented previous systems. Towards a conventional as expeditionary capability where everything is up front and ‘readiness’ is the byword in less technically proficient but still vastly inflated forces.


      Such is why there are so many ‘civilians’ in the Pentagon (as contract maintenance personnel who have completely usurped military specialists in support and repair of weapons systems) and it is also why these Washington Think Tanks really have _no clue_ how the Pentagon works if they honestly did the following-



      “We took the Willie Sutton approach,” Eaglen said. “We went where the money is, which DoD is still not willing to do.” Her colleagues nodded their agreement. One of the areas the Pentagon left largely untouched is the 800,000-strong civilian workforce, which Eaglen and her colleagues think can be a rich source of savings. But the Pentagon first has to know much more about the structure, composition and locations of the workforce. “They really told us, we really have no visibility about them,” she said.



      Because what has happened here is the same thing that happened when the Mafia, nominally ‘chased out’ of mom and pops franchise of terrorizing middle class business, vanished into Wall Street instead.


      The MIB -is- the Pentagon. And they will _not_ sacrifice the service support positions because service support is the daily bread and butter constant of Military Existence. Weapons Development has become too on-again/off-again unreliable as a profit base.


      This is why the MIB is not being cooperative in it’s response to cutting major force structure. This is why they shut down (as childish, spiteful, shows of power, akin to a Union walkout) operations funding to ground squadrons. When what they are really saying is: “Oh no, not with our sweet-deal cut of the pie you don’t!”


      As for the ‘at least they aren’t on the entitlement dole’ utility of employing 718,000 civilians to maintain weapons for some 1.5 million troops in a society that numbers some 340 million total people, I would say that the sword is wielding the body.


      And again, you have a closed loop condition where government services employees are not supported by their own tax dollars rather than an outside, civilian, entrepreneurial system. This smacks of socialist conditioned existence whereby the -ability- to control all means of livelihood as support becomes the -assurance- that, without real injected work product as outside energization of an economy, corruption and decay of efficiencies will lead to entropy and fragmentative breakdown of the system as a whole.


      We cannot rely on our defenders to be our employers in a condition where the Rest Of World is making headway across broad fronts of _civilian_ technology. And we do nothing to support our own entrance to the 21st Century.

      Such hidden agendas as selfish motive and regressive social entropy are the greatest threat to our national security, by far, of any state or capability in the world today.

      • Thomas Cox


        What your opinion and those that share your opinion seem to forget is that human history has been full of despots and evil men willing to inflict their will on other people or cultures. Pol Pot, Adolf Hitler, Genghis Khan, and many, many others have been out there waiting and executing their agendas. So in my opinion, the greatest threat to national security is our complacency, apathy, and forgetting the lessons of the past. Selfish motives and regressive social entropy contribute and I would submit through our media are actively contributing to the threat to our national security.

        By the way, the “real work product” that DoD produces is the protection of that “outside civilian entrepreneurial system” that allows it to operate only impeded by our elected leaders and lobby groups that seek to enforce their will over the system.

        If your position is that we don’t need the military anymore or a large defense, then apparently we don’t need to have a large say in the way in which our future unfolds, that we should just mind our own business and let events unfold.

        I’m sure Austria, Poland, Korea, and China all felt the same way when they were invaded by Germans and Japanese in WW2 respectively.

        If that is what you want, so be it. But don’t talk to me about peace, love and Jimi Hendrix because I’ve had a career in Law Enforcement in what is supposed to be a free country where people are supposed to be safe…I’ve seen the evil deeds of men. The peaceniks will always be enslaved once they start believing their own press…the only thing that keeps wolves away is the ability to defend yourselves from imposing their strength on you. Show weakness and they will exploit it.

        As for defense, I’ll simply close with a quote we are all familiar with, “you get what you pay for.” If you don’t want to pay for defense, then don’t. But don’t try and sell me this rose col

        I very much believe that China and Russia are out there right now looking hard at our declining means to back up our words with actions. Once the weaker nations we support see that we are unable to help defend them, they’ll align themselves with people who can defend them, our ability to have an impact on future events will be weakened and we will get what we invested…an inability to defend ourselves when it matters the most

        • george

          I agree with a small exception. I think Russia is our unseen and misunderstood ally. When push comes to shove they share many of our own ideals and characteristics.
          There are surely others very pleased to see our stresses and working at every level to overcome our military advantage. We simply cannot to cut funding, if anything we should be boosting it.

        • M&S

          I believe that the U.S. armed forces stopped defending this nation from enemies foreign and domestic when they became more interested in sustaining an internal, separate, honor culture than they were willing to securing the parent society whose borders they were sworn to protect.

          I believe that when they refused to see the betrayal of this nation’s Constitution and help Americans find a way to act upon it, they became a part of the problem, not the revolutionary solution.

          I do not believe our Country will survive the coming decade because we are bailing the ocean with a teaspoon.

          Total U.S. unsecured debt approaches some 80 trillion dollars in housing, medical, social security and commercial. We cannot even begin to cover this with Sequestration and when the big OPEC countries start to go post peak and trade in oil declines or is switched over to more bio-renewable sources, the need for the USD as a global trade currency will vanish and the coin of the realm will be the RMB and Euro.

          At that point, we will not be able to burn our useless paper fast enough to get out from under our debt. And this nation will either be subject to international takeover on the road to the horrific fate of One World Government.

          Or we will be forced into a lesser condition as massive racial unrest will accompany starvation on the order of hundreds of millions and our lands will suffer a roving mazcat that makes all of WWII look like a day at the beach.

          If you are truly a LEO, you know the demographic statistics of which I am referring.

          The aftermath of which will be a divided ethnostate condition where we are -also- in no way able to support the grandiose plans of an organized defense bureaucracy as paranoia for it’s own sake.

      • Vendetta

        You have some good points, but come back when you’ve learned to speak like a normal person. You will change no one’s mind about anything until you relearn how to do that.

        Phrases like the “body politic”, “ethno-strategic decisions”, monstrosities like “when it is no longer useful as much as used as it has been always been intended to be”; these are unnecessary and in fact convolute rather than clarify your arguments.

    • rayfin3

      Totally disagree with your logic. Why should the US borrow money from China to maintain a workforce that does nothing but increase the country’s debt? These ‘defense’ workers are parasites on the larger body politic, producing nothing but weapons of destruction and worthless reports. Cutting 100,000 of these positions will not harm the US defense capability one iota. Perhaps some of these workers will find the internal strength to actually produce something of
      value or provide a genuine service to our country. And please don’t reply with
      empty flag-waving. Go down and visit your local homeless shelter if you want to complain.

      • Thomas Cox

        You have the right to disagree…I hope you get what you want…since you obviously don’t work for the government, you have no idea what the impact of 100,000 employees would be…nonetheless, I hope you like Chinese food…I do!

      • george

        I read somewhere you could give civilians, like submarine design engineers, 4 weeks notice and it could take a generation to get back to the same skill level. There are other arguments too. I think your comment is to say the least, hasty.

  • SS BdM Fuhress ‘Savannah

    In the pentagon’s view is it better to have a bunch of mortars with a small range or an artillery piece with a long range? Will there come a time when the Pentagon informs the President and Congress that to stay America we ‘have to move now’. I would think there is no country on this planet that could run with the Chinese and the manpower they can use to build a larger and even better Army in the future and have the mass of troops they could have. So the options are stay America and move , stay America and get pushed to 2nd/3rd fiddle or try to cause chaos within so China, and that will have to go for the Russians too fall apart.

  • furloughed

    rayfin3 you are an idiot do actually believe all federal workers in the defense department just sit around and draw a check? You know what if we were invaded you would and the other idiots like you would be the first to cry and while you run for the hills. In fact ass wipes like you will aid the enemy to save your own rotten skin.