Rebuttal of Robert Maginnis’ garbage article of 9/11/2012

On 9/11/2012, the 11th anniversary of the 9/11/2001 attacks, HumanEvents committed an absolutely reprehensible thing by publishing a ridiculous article by retired Army LTCOL Robert Maginnis which calls for further defense cuts on top of those already enacted and ordered (while admitting that sequestration would be “catastrophic”… and simoultaneously understating its budgetary impact by $58 bn).

Robert Maginnis, as a retired Army LTCOL, obviously has a very narrow horizon, a very narrow mindset, and harbors bias against the USMC. (The latter is nothing new; the Army has long been biased against the USMC and has long seen the Corps as a rival.)
By writing this garbage article, Maginnis has displayed his utter ignorance of non-army matters.

He claims, inter alia, that:

“the current process (…) is vulnerable to presidential ideology and unconstrained by budget realities which Congress rubber stamps.  That must change because America can no long afford such sloppy management.  Specifically, in 2011 U.S. defense spending was $739 billion, which equals roughly two-thirds of the next nine top countries combined and five times what potential adversaries China and Russia spend on defense.”

and that

Second, sustain a smaller all-volunteer force which costs at least $141 billion annually.  Now that the war in Iraq is finished and Afghanistan is winding down we should return the Army and Marine Corps to pre-9/11 levels…”

Third, eliminate duplication of forces, staffs, and agencies. The Pentagon structure needs another transformation such as the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Reorganization Act.

We don’t need two ground forces (Army and Marines), four air forces (each service has an air force) and 16 intelligence agencies mostly controlled by the Pentagon.   We should consolidate Special Forces, medical personnel, logisticians and other specialties.

Fourth, the Pentagon has too many bases both here and overseas.  Dramatically reduce our overseas basing infrastructure and rely more on unaccompanied rotational forces.  For example, the US military has bases in 63 countries with 80,000 personnel on 400 facilities in Europe; 35,688 personnel on 115 facilities in Japan; and 28,500 personnel on 86 facilities in South Korea.

Reduce the Pentagon’s infrastructure here at home.  The Congressionally mandated Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process has closed more than 350 installations during five BRAC rounds.  But that still leaves the Pentagon 539,000 facilities at nearly 5,000 sites.  Many more need to be closed.”

Firstly, the DOD has never had a $739 bn budget. Not in FY2011. Not ever.

Secondly, cutting the Army and the Marines to pre-9/11 levels would leave them too small to respond to even one large contingency, which would jeopardize US national security.

Thirdly, eliminating duplication and reducing bureaucracy and the number of generals and senior executives would not save more than a few billion dollars per year, which wouldn’t be enough to pay even for the first tier BCA-mandated defense cuts, let alone for sequestration.

And the claim that the US has two ground armies and four air forces is patently false. The Army only has light and heavy divisions. The USMC is a completely different organization – a middleweight, amphibious-capable force that is neither too heavy to be too slow to deploy, nor too light to have an insufficient punch and protection when it deploys.

Naval aviation has totally different missions than the USAF does. Naval aviation’s principal missions are fleet defense, ASW, ISR, and so forth. The USAF’s principal missions are air superiority, tactical attack, long range strike, airlift, space capabilities, ICBM- and bomber-based nuclear deterrence, and the like. Army aviation is limited to helicopters and its principal mission is close air support and chopper airlift.

Fourth, the claim that the US has way too many bases at home and abroad is false. While some bases can and should be closed and America does need a BRAC round, the majority of bases in Asia, and many strategic bases in Europe, are needed. Moreover, Maginnis’ claims of numbers of US bases abroad are completely false. The vast majority of what he calls “bases” are tiny military installations like fuel dumps, and only several dozen of them are large bases like Spangdahlem, Aviano, Kadena, and Misawa.

Fifth, the claim that

“the Pentagon dropped the costly Air Force F-22 Raptor because it failed the “needs” rationale and the same should apply to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the $15-billion-each aircraft carriers that are vulnerable to China’s carrier sinking DF-21D missiles.”

is completely false. The F-22 Raptor is not that costly (it costs only $137 mn per copy) and it is VERY MUCH NEEDED to defeat the newest Russian and Chinese fighters (the PAKFA, the J-20, the J-10, the JF-17, and the various variants of the Flanker). The F-35 is needed for the same reason, as well as many others, including the need to replace several types of obsolete aircraft that are wearing out. The USMC alone would save at least $1 bn per year by replacing its F/A-18s, AV-8s, and EA-6s with F-35Bs.

The USN’s aircraft carriers do NOT cost $15 trillion per year, and their costs could be significantly reduced by buying them in pairs, buying them in multi-year contracts, repetitive construction, etc. Furthermore, they are very much needed, because only an aircraft carrier is the only warship type that can deliver sufficient, massive airpower wherever it’s needed. In October 2001, right after the 9/11 attacks, when President Bush gave the order to bomb Afghanistan, ONLY aircraft carriers and USAF long range bombers could deliver any strikes against the Taleban and AQ there, because there were no land bases available in the area at the time. In fact, immediately after he learned of the attacks, CVN-65’s skipper, Capt. James Winnefeld (the current VCJCS) ordered the ship (which was coming home after a Gulf deployment) to turn back, and the next day, its aircraft were within range of Afghanistan.

Moreover, carriers are not nearly as vulnerable as Maginnis claims. They’re the best protected vessels of the Navy, hidden behind several layers of protection, including BMD-capable warships.

Moreover, if anti-ship missiles are the concern, gutting Naval Aviation and the USAF is the worst way to deal with them, because such weapons are best dealt with by attacking their launchers… with aircraft, of course. The best way is to kill the archer, not the arrows.

And for that, the F-35 is needed. The Super Bug does not have a sufficient range. Not even close.

“A better approach is to concentrate on utility platforms such as unmanned drones and cargo airlift and reduce costs by using common aircraft across the services. “

Drones are the most accident-prone aircraft in US inventory, and they’re of very limited use. They’re good only for ISR and small-scale ground attacks. Cargo airlift aircraft are nice, but a military without combat aircraft will be a toothless, weak one. Airlift aircraft are nice, but they’re no substitute for weapons.

“We can simultaneously defend our country and streamline military spending.”

Deep cuts cannot be made without severely weakening the US military and thus severely degrading its ability to defend the country. There’s no way around that fact. Deep budget cuts always result in deep, across-the-board cuts in the force structure, care for the troops, the development and acquisition of new equipment, training, operations, and the maintenance of existing equipment and bases.

Maginnis lives in a world of make-believe. He lives in a kum-ba-yah world. He thinks the US can deeply cut its defense budget and still be safe. But it’s not possible. A strong defense costs a lot. That is a fact that American taxpayers need to understand.

Maginnis probably wants to appease both sides of this debate – those who demand deep defense cuts, and those who want America’s defense to be put first.


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