Reject the Simpson-Bowles plan

With three big issues (sequestration, the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, and possibly another debt ceiling hike) looming, to be resolved in the lame-duck session, a small but vociferous group of RINOs and Democrats in the Senate is claiming that the utterly-discredited Simpson-Bowles Commission’s laughable “plan” should be passed as a deal, perhaps as a replacement for the sequester.

That laughable “plan” should be rejected immediately and should not even be discussed. Why? For two reasons. Firstly, it is not, and never was, a serious attempt at balancing the budget or even reducing the deficit. And secondly, it would cut defense spending disproportionately, by a whopping $100 bn per year. The Commission proposed, inter alia, to:
* End purchases of the V-22 Osprey.

This excellent, highly-capable VTOL plane, which can fly twice farther and twice faster than any helicopter, is absolutely necessary to replace the USMC’s obsolete, over-40-year-old fleet of CH-46 helicopters, the USN’s obsolete C-2 Greyhound COD aircraft, and the USAF’s obsolete fleet of MH-60 CSAR helicopters. It has proven itself in three different combat theaters – Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya – during over 10 years of brutal war. It is less accident-prone than helicopters and even if it crashes, at least part of the crew is likely to survive.

It has served extensively in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. It has amassed over 150,000 flight hours. Its problems have been solved long ago. Helicopters are no substitute for it.

Not only are they inferior to it (in terms of speed, range, and survivability), the H-60 is too small, too slow, and too light to do the V-22′s tasks (which include CSAR), while the CH-53K is too big and too heavy (indeed, when it enters service, it will be the US military’s heaviest helicopter ever). The CH-53 is also twice as expensive as the V-22 ($128 mn per copy, vs only $69 mn for a V-22), costs twice as much to operate as the Osprey ($20,000 vs $10,000 per flight hour), and it won’t be available until 2018. These 3 designs represent 3 completely different weight and duty classes of VTOL aircraft and are meant for different duties. Only a totally ignorant person would equate them and suggest they are interchangeable.

The Marines are, by the way, buying the CH-53K… but to replace their older CH-53 Sea Stallion heavy helos, not the V-22 or the CH-46 (the V-22′s predecessor). The CH-53K is designed for a totally different mission than the V-22.

The V-22 is an excellent, unmatched aircraft, as validated unanimously by all USMC leaders past and present, including the current Commandant, who is a Naval Aviator by trade. He, the expert, should be listened to – not anti-defense POGO hacks. It has proven itself in three wars in three different countries – Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. (When an F-15E crashed in Libya, it was a pair of V-22s that rescued the pilots.) It underwent its baptism of fire in Iraq in 2007, during the fiercest fighting there. POGO’s claim that it is “neither cost- nor operationally-effective” is a blatant lie.

Most importantly, its primary users, Marine pilots, like it. Just listen to them. And watch this film about how the V-22 proved its mettle, proved itself to be far more capable and useful than any helicopter (its speed and service ceiling really matter in combat zones), and what the Marines say about it. Also listen to USMC Commandant Gen. James Amos, a Naval Aviator by trade, who has strongly praised the V-22 and urged its continued production. (Whom will you believe – a real Marine general or armchair generals?) Also listen to his predecessor, Gen. James Conway.

And as defense expert Dr. Robbin Laird writes:

“The beauty of the speed of the Osprey is that you can get the Special Operations forces where they need to be and to augment what the conventional forces were doing and thereby take pressure off of the conventional forces. And with the SAME assets, you could make multiple trips or make multiple hits, which allowed us to shape what the Taliban was trying to do.

“The Taliban has a very rudimentary but effective early warning system for counter-air. They spaced guys around their area of interest, their headquarters, etc. Then they would call in on cell or satellite phones to chat or track. It was very easy for them to track. They had names for our aircraft, like the CH-53s, which they called ‘Fat Cows.’

“But they did not talk much about the Osprey because they were so quick and lethal. And because of its speed and range, you did not have to come on the axis that would expect. You could go around, or behind them and then zip in.”

As Dr. Laird rightly writes, the V-22 isn’t just a great performer, it has revolutionized warfare and the way Marines think about it. (Please read his entire article.)
* Cut by half the planned purchases of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and cancel its B and C variants.

This would dramatically increase unit costs and total program costs for a program that can accept little of either, and also dramatically reduce its affordability (because of higher unit costs) for foreign partners, which would likely cause them to cancel their orders (thus spiking up unit costs even further) and cause a total cancellation of the program without replacement, leaving three American military services without any replacements for their obsolete, worn-out aircraft.

Although often suggested as a substitute,

the Super Bug has no such capabilities. Not turning capability, not thrust, not TTW ratio, not speed, not range and combat radius, not stealthiness (and thus survivability), and not weapons possible for integration (the F-35 can, for example, be fitted with Meteor A2A missiles; the Super Bug cannot). And the Super Bug’s combat radius (350 nmi) is DECISIVELY inferior to that of the F-35B (450-500 nmi) and F-35C (650 nmi, making the F-35C the longest-ranged of the 3 F-35 models). Range and endurance are absolutely vital for strike aircraft, as is stealthiness, because it determines survivability, which is key to winning ANY war. If a plane is not survivable, it’s worthless – and that’s exactly true of the Super Bug. And as stated above, stealthiness is necessary for any aircraft due to the proliferation and sophistication of enemy air defense systems.

The “proven” Super Bug, like B-1s and B-52s, has “proven itself” only in permissive environments (Afghanistan and Iraq) where the only opponent is an insurgency unable to contest control of the air. It is useless for any war theaters in which the enemy is a country with advanced IADS and/or fighters. It’s not even fit for any real A2A combat (and has not partaken in any), because it’s not a real fighter, but rather an attack jet, and is decisively inferior against current and projected enemy fighters.

And it doesn’t have the STOVL capability required to take off from and land on amphib ships and primitive airfields, which is an absolute non-negotiable USMC requirement, as confirmed by USMC Commandant Gen. Amos. Without the F-35B, the Marines won’t have their own air cover when disembarking from ships and the Nation will lose 50% of its carrier-based strike aircraft fleet when the Harrier retires. Furthermore, cancelling the F-35 would relegate Marine and Naval Aviation solely to COIN environments.

Put simply, the Super Bug is not an alternative to, or even a substitute for, the F-35. It’s a facelifted model of an attack jet that first flew in the 1970s. The F-35 is a 21st century fighter. Both are strike aircraft with jet engines… and that’s where the similarities end.

* Reduce overseas deployments by one-third – $8.5 billion.

America’s military footprint abroad needs to be reduced, but not by that much, and such reductions should be made SOLELY according to military, not budgetary, considerations. Furthermore, withdrawing troops to the US would actually cost far more money than it would save.

Such policy would also deprive these units of close-in bases in Europe from where they can easily and quickly deploy wherever they may be needed – be it the Middle East, North Africa (as was the case in September 2011), or Eastern Europe to keep the region’s new democracies free of Moscow’s yoke. When American consulates in North Africa were attacked, reinforcements (Marines) came not from the CONUS but from Rota, Spain, only a couple of hours away from Benghazi by plane. As Heritage Foundation’s Luke Coffey rightly writes:

“forward basing U.S. troops in Europe is just as important today as it was during the Cold War, albeit for different reasons. U.S. military bases in Europe provide American leaders with increased flexibility, resilience, and options in a dangerous world. The garrisons of American service personnel in Europe are no longer the fortresses of the Cold War, but the forward operating bases of the 21st century.

The U.S. military presence in Europe deters American adversaries, strengthens allies, and protects U.S. interests—the U.S. reduces the number of these troops at its peril. U.S. can project power and react to the unexpected because of its forward-based military capabilities in Europe. Reducing these capabilities will only weaken America on the world stage.”

So Simpson-Bowles’s proposals, if implemented, would “only weaken America on the world stage.”

* Cut the US nuclear arsenal.

The arsenal is already inadequate, yet the Commission proposed to cut it even further, and unilaterally, without any agreement with any foreign country. This would invite a nuclear first strike. Moreover, the size of the arsenal needs to be determined SOLELY according to military, not budgetary, considerations.

The nuclear arsenal is already too small, as Russia has reached strategic nuclear parity with and retains a huge tactical nuclear advantage over the US.[1] Under the New START treaty, the US is required to cut its deployed strategic nuclear arsenal by a third, to just 1,550 warheads, while Russia is allowed to grow its arsenal of these weapons, which has now reached 1,492, just 58 short of the ceiling. Furthermore Russia’s Tu-22M intercontinental bombers and Su-34 bombers are not covered by the treaty.

China has an arsenal of up to 3,000 nuclear warheads (not the 300-400 that the leftist media often claims), according to two independent studies – one by the DOD’s former chief nuclear strategist Professor Philip Karber, and another one by retired Russian Strategic Rocket Forces Major General Viktor Yesin[2]. North Korea is growing its nuclear arsenal, and Iran, completely uninhibited by Obama and unafraid of him, is quickly developing its own.

Moreover, China is steadily expanding its arsenal of delivery systems. In addition to its 4 Jin class, 1 Golf class, and 1 Xia class ballistic sub and 120-160 H-6K strategic bombers, China is steadily growing its ballistic missile arsenal and its sophistication. Once consisting only of 36 DF-5 ICBMs, it now includes MIRVed DF-5A ICBMs and modern, MIRVed DF-31A and DF-41 ICBMs. It is not clear how many of them China has, but there are bound to be many, given the 3,000 miles of tunnels and bunkers China has built for them and their warheads. In addition, China has 20 DF-4 and 20 DF-3 IRBMs with a range covering most of Asia, a growing arsenal of modern DF-21 MRBMs with a range of 2,700 kms, and over 1,600 SRBMs, the vast majority of them stationed opposite Taiwan. These can carry nuclear or conventional warheads and are far more accurate than American or Soviet BMs of the Cold War era.

To disarm, or cut the US nuclear arsenal, in the face of such a nuclear buildup by Russia and China would be worse than an utter folly. It would be suicidal.

Moreover, unlike Russia and China, which are threats to many and protectors to nobody except NK, the US is responsible for providing a nuclear deterrent not just for itself but for over 30 allies in Europe and Asia, who are threatened by Russia and China. Any further cuts will cause these allies to doubt America’s nuclear deterrent and, at some point, develop their own nuclear weapons, thus making the proliferation problem much worse.

If nuclear proliferation is the concern, cutting or eliminating America’s own nuclear deterrent is the worst way to handle it. It would only make matters worse.

The record of the last 22 years is undeniable: decades of “arms reduction” and deeply cutting the US nuclear arsenal have only made America less safe and have utterly failed to stop nuclear proliferation, or to prevent China from significantly building up its nuclear arsenal. See here.

*Cut DOD procurement funding by a whopping 15% and RDT&E funding by 10%.

Again, these would be arbitrary, unjust, damaging budget cuts directed solely because of budgetary considerations, not military ones. They would inevitably cut, or lead to the closure of, many needed weapon programs, thus leaving the US military underequipped and inferior to its competitors.

There are only a few of their cuts and “reforms” in defense spending that I agree with:
* Modernize the DOD Tricare health system – $6 billion

* Institute a three year salary freeze for civilian workers in the DOD – $5.3 billion

* Freeze non-combat military pay levels for three years – $9.2 billion

As AJC’s Jamie Dupree admits, “that last one is controversial because it would authorize an increase in premiums and co-pays; much the same would happen by establishing co-pays at VA Medical facilities.”

Unfortunately, getting such reforms passed by Congress would be difficult.

Pseudoanalysts claim that defense spending has been a sacred cow, even though it has never been (as proven on this blog multiple times), and that cutting it would be “politically brave” while preventing it from being cut would be “cowardice”. That is a blatant lie.

In fact, cutting defense spending is cowardice and, politically, very easy, because few politicians or ordinary citizens will defend it. It’s always the easiest target – which is why it always gets cut most deeply (far more deeply than entitlements or nondefense discretionary spending). What is cowardice is to dump 50% of the spending cuts on defense (which accounts for only 19% of total federal spending) while allowing entitlements and nondefense discretionary programs to skate away with tiny cuts, which is what the Simpson-Bowles plan would do.

That disastrous plan must be rejected. It’s fundamentally flawed. Nothing good can come of it. It is not a serious proposal and should not even be discussed.


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