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26 mars 2014 3 26 /03 /mars /2014 08:50
Putin, Crimea and US Land Forces In Europe


Mar 25, 2014 defense-aerospace.com

(Source: Lexington Institute; issued March 24, 2014)


A specter is haunting Europe; it is the specter of land war. The emerging conflict in Europe is about nationalism, the control of territory and the domination of populations, precisely the kind of fight we were told was passé in the 21st century. The massing of Russian forces along that country’s border with Ukraine is reminiscent of the lead up to Soviet aggression throughout the 40-year-long Cold War. Like that period, the security of the Ukraine and the easternmost members of NATO cannot be guaranteed by airpower alone.


Fortunately, the Russian Army is a faint shadow of what it once was under the Soviets. At the height of the Cold War, the Red Army consisted of about 200 divisions, including more than 40 tank divisions. Around a quarter of these were sufficiently manned and equipped for a relatively rapid conflict and most were deployed in Eastern Europe and the Western military districts facing NATO. There were 20 Soviet divisions in East Germany alone, two in Poland, five in Czechoslovakia and four in Hungary. Non-Soviet Warsaw Pact countries added some 24 divisions to this total. Backing up their land forces was an artillery park consisting of tens of thousands of artillery pieces and rocket launchers, an Army aviation park of thousands of utility and ground-attack helicopters, an Air Force deploying literally thousands of ground-attack aircraft and light bombers and an air defense force with masses of advanced fighters and highly capable surface-to-air missile batteries.


Today, the Russian military has shrunk to perhaps ten percent of its Soviet-era size. Instead of nearly 200 tank and mechanized infantry divisions, there are some 40 combined arms brigades, some still organized into divisions. Most of the equipment, both ground and air, is Soviet vintage, although the Kremlin has been pouring money into the military over the past five years. Recently, the Russian military has been conducting extensive combined arms exercises that also involved elements of the strategic forces.


Unfortunately, the NATO armies that once stood guard along the Iron Curtain are gone as well. Forward positioned NATO forces once consisted of some 20 German, United Kingdom, French, Belgian, Danish and Dutch divisions. The U.S. contributed an additional two corps (four divisions plus support units) of the best equipped and trained combat forces in the world. Additional divisions were deployed by Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey and Norway.


Today, NATO stands on the brink of true demilitarization. NATO does not spend enough on its military and what is spent isn’t allocated wisely. Ground forces, in particular, have been gutted. Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark have essentially disbanded their heavy armored formations. The U.K., France and Germany maintain only eight heavy brigades, along with a number of lighter infantry, air mobile and marine formations. Poland has a total of nine armored mechanized and cavalry brigades. The U.S. Army in Europe now consists of two light units, the two-battalion 173rd airborne brigade and the 2nd Cavalry regiment. Two stateside heavy brigade combat teams are the designated regionally-aligned brigades for Europe. That is it! On the ground, NATO may be even weaker than the Russian Army.


Moreover, NATO has only recently begun to conduct large-scale combined arms exercises, something that was standard during the Cold War. Nor has the U.S. done an exercise based on reinforcing Europe in about 20 years. In the near-term, a conflict over Ukraine would be decided by which side first suffered a collapse of its logistics system.


With respect to events in Eastern Europe, the U.S. and NATO should heed the advice of Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak and increase its military presence in Poland and in other NATO members in Central and Eastern Europe. It would be a good idea to return at least two heavy brigades to the European continent.


The irony is that before Crimea, the U.S. and its NATO allies had pretty much decided to exit the business of preparing to fight major conventional land wars. In the FY2015 budget, the U.S. Army cancelled its last new-design armored fighting vehicle program, the Ground Combat Vehicle. In fact, the Army had insisted that it could shutter this nation’s sole tank production facility at Lima, Ohio for four years.


Literally, events on the ground are challenging our vision of future conflicts. They also call into question current proposals to reduce the size of the active Army to 420,000 and to retain significant heavy land and air capabilities in the National Guard. Vladimir Putin may have saved the West from the folly of believing that fantasy could become reality merely by wishing it so.

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2 octobre 2013 3 02 /10 /octobre /2013 17:20
Shutdown Suggests Way to Pentagon Savings

October 1, 2013 defense-aerospace.com

(Source: Lexington Institute; issued October 1, 2013)


Shutdown Math Suggests Way to Curb Pentagon Overhead


The government shutdown that began at 12:01am on Tuesday should be used as an object lesson for those who understand the necessity of reducing unnecessary and excessive costs of the federal government. As part of the shutdown process, non-essential workers are being directed to remain at home. The percentage of the total workforce on (temporary) unpaid leave varies widely among cabinet departments and agencies.


For example, in the Department of Veterans Affairs, 95 percent of the workforce has been directed to report for work while at the Housing and Urban Development Department 96 percent of the workforce has been deemed non–essential. Air traffic controllers, customs and border patrol personnel, FBI agents and the like are all considered essential and will remain on the job.


It is reported that the Defense Department will furlough approximately half its civilian employees, roughly 400,000, beginning today. This is by far the largest group of federal employees to be put on leave. In addition, an as yet undefined number of defense contractors, many doing jobs that are similar in nature to those performed by government employees, will be temporarily laid off.


The fact that nearly half a million civilians in the Pentagon are considered non-essential is one indicator that this is a place to begin cutting defense overhead expenses. Numerous studies of ways of reducing unnecessary defense spending, including most recently one by the Stimson Center, have identified the bloated size of the civilian workforce as a place to start cutting costs. If half the Department of Defense’s (DoD) workforce can safely be put on temporary leave, it stands to reason that a significant fraction of that half could be permanently eliminated.


This does not mean that these workers haven’t been performing their jobs well. It does mean that in an austere budget environment any position that is not considered essential to national defense should be considered a candidate for elimination.


What say we begin the process of reducing excess DoD overhead by eliminating 25 percent of the 50 percent of the total civilian workforce in the Pentagon that didn’t show up for work today?


This may seem like a large number but it is actually a smaller fraction of total civilian employment at the Pentagon than the 20 percent of headquarters staff including military personnel that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel proposes to cut from DoD. Reducing civilian manpower by 100,000 is a good first step and will save tens of billions of dollars.


Add to that figure some of the tens of thousands of uniform personnel doing jobs that could be performed by civilians (government employees or contractors) and the savings would go a long way to mitigating the impact of sequestration on military operations and procurement.

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16 juin 2013 7 16 /06 /juin /2013 07:20
Does Competitive Defense Contracting Make Sense?

June 14, 2013 defense-aerospace.com

(Source: Lexington Institute; issued June 13, 2013)


Competitive Defense Contracting: When It Makes Sense (and When It Doesn't)

Competition has become the mantra of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) acquisition corps. The Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics, Mr. Frank Kendall has gone on record saying “I think that nothing, nothing, works better than competition to drive cost down.” DoD has established metrics for competition, sort of like a quota system. Many more prime contracts are being competed. The idea is to the greatest extent possible to replicate the commercial marketplace.

Unfortunately, the defense marketplace does not resemble the ideal free market where competition produces optimal market efficiency. Indeed, there are reasons to believe that the competition goals set by DoD and the policies implemented to encourage competition are not contributing to acquisition cost savings. A recent study of the defense industrial base by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments concluded that efforts to increase competition based on the presumption “that the defense industry operates like a normal free market is not only unlikely to improve efficiency, but have often made things worse.”

The defense sector is really a state monopoly and should be treated as such. There are approaches to improving performance and reducing costs such as performance-based contracts. But to pretend that this sector can be a mirror of the commercial marketplace is wrong and ultimately counterproductive to the goals of reducing costs for defense goods.

There is a natural place for competition in the defense marketplace. In the early phases of a major program – concept definition, technology development and risk reduction – there is value in competition. DoD has experimented with continuing a second contractor through later program stages, including into full-rate production, with mixed results. Also, there are a range of goods and services that are commoditized and can be treated the same in the defense market as they are in the commercial world. Hence, the defense customer can use competition to achieve reduced price for a specified level of performance. This kind of competition is inherent in the products themselves and in their use. It is natural.

But for platforms, major weapons systems and networks, products that are likely to be in the force for decades and undergo repeated upgrades, certainty, reliability, quality and effectiveness must be the considered. Beyond a rather obvious point, competition for this set of goods and services is not natural but forced.

Click here to download the full study as PDF (24 pages)

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