Archive for the 'budget' Tag
As the budget cuts kick in – I’m having a few flashbacks to the 1990s “peace dividend” era. The key to getting through this process is communication. It takes away some of the uncertainty, and in a way it focuses attention to priorities. It is always interesting, and instructive, to see how different organizations start the process of thinking about what should and should not get the cut.
Via the SalamanderUnderground, the following notes from a Chief of Naval Personnel recent all-hands call is helpful, and adds a bit to Ryan’s post from the 21st.
VADM Van Buskirk’s MT&E priorities are to STABILIZE (at 320,000 personnel), BALANCE (overmanned and undermanned ratings) and DISTRIBUTE (between sea and shore) the workforce. Sailors need to be ASSIGNABLE, DEPLOYABLE and DISTRIBUTABLE in order to meet the Chief of Naval Operations tenets to be WARFIGHTERS FIRST, OPERATE FORWARD and BE READY.
In order to meet these goals, his emphasis is to attack undermanned ratings and increase the quality of recruits as currently evident on entry level exam scores. Quality of recruits is key to keep apprised and abreast of technological changes. He noted that Perform to Serve (PTS) is at 90 percent acceptable in-rate quotas with averages at over 95 percent over the last four months. Retention is historically high but a continued focus is on resiliency of the force. He indicated continued FY funding for sailor support and family readiness programs.
Q&A session discussion included impact of sequestration/CR regarding as well as the following topics:
- USN continuation of tuition assistance (TA) through this FY (all other Services have curtailed this benefit). 45 thousand sailors are recipients of TA with over 90 percent receiving degrees.
- Possible changes in advancement to include consideration of multiple scores such as sea duty.
- Priority of Cyber training but fiscal pressures including civilian furloughs may slow training pipelines.
- Attack undermanned rates with new accessions. YTD have had 41,000 new accessions. Previous years were approximately 35,000-37,000. Looking at a summer surge of recruits.
- Provision of health care with possible civilian furloughs requiring referrals to civilian specialists in town. Possible contributory payments for pharmacy co-pays and increased retiree payment for Tricare for Life.
- Discussion of option to obtain NECs on-line leveraging technology for training. Limitations include current training infrastructure and classification limitations.
- Active duty IAs (except for specific specialties such as dog handling) will be transferred to reserve component. Expect closure of Gulfport MS and other IA training centers.
- STA-21 IW program closed this year. Accession options adjusted based on ROTC, OCS and related accession pipelines. Look for adjustments in future cycles.
- Number one priority is stabilizing the work force ensuring proper distribution and balance. Cross deck sailors may receive special pays and other incentives.
This is going on throughout the Navy and other services. As budgets continue to contract, expect to see more and more of this.
Priorities; time to rack-n-stack ‘em.
History shows that the national mood determines spending priorities as much if not more than even economic needs. In a representative republic, our elected officials respond to the mood and desires of their constituents in fits and starts – but usually head in that direction.
If you are making long-range plans, like military budgets and systems development, to avoid spending time and money on systems that Congress or a future Pentagon will never support for production – because they don’t meet the mood and direction the nation is going – you need to make sure you can see the big picture.
To do that, you need to make sure you are not stuck in either group-think in your small circle, or worse than that – have tunnel vision such that you are unaware of what is going on around you.
A nation and a society can often have trouble with self-reflection. In the national security arena, a professional must make the effort to read widely and deeply; seeking out not just like-minded ideas, but even more importantly contrary ideas. Better than that, make an effort to read foreign sources of opinion and analysis.
Where do you look? Well, if you want to get an outsider’s view, the Anglophere-centric The Economist is good. The English version of Der Spiegel works. The major British papers and their English language counterparts from Japan, Singapore, Al-Jazeera works too. Everyone finds their mix.
There is no nation that is more like the United States – and therefor more likely to pick up our nuanced trends – than our friends to the north, Canada. Some don’t really “get” us – but our fellow North Americans usually do.
You could do worse than to take the time to listen to a relatively objective opinion from a friend. The Canadian Conference of Defence Associations Institute (a non-partisan think-tank) has its strategic assessment out. It is well worth your time to read the whole thing, but the opening section on the United States has an interesting hook;
Americans are war-weary, disappointed with what has been achieved at great expense, and feeling exploited by ungrateful allies. Debate is intensifying over how national interests should be defined and the degree to which the security of Americans requires expenditure of lives and treasure in faraway places. There is a rising mood of disengagement which will translate into actual disengagement in selected areas no longer deemed to be in the national interest.
There will be no going back to Iraq whatever happens and 2012 will feature continued drawdown of US forces and involvement in Afghanistan. The Administration will find it very difficult to send forces anywhere in 2012 unless the security interests of the United States or those of its closest friends and allies are openly threatened or humanitarian needs are overwhelming. With the economy improving but remaining fragile, the United States would be hard pressed to finance or gain public support for any new foreign policy or defence initiative not directly in support of the supreme interests of the country.
In the event Washington cannot avoid sending forces into harm’s way in 2012, there is every indication the Pentagon would want any engagement to be short and sharp, with objectives which are as narrow and clearly defined as possible, and with little or no chance of stretching into a lengthy and complex intervention of the type which characterized the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns. One should expect the Administration’s posture to prefer persuasion over force and, when diplomacy and sanctions fail, to favour the employment of military force with as much precision as possible.
If they are correct – what are the implications for the defense budget and the Navy-Marine Corps team? Are we training and equipping our forces to be ready for this in a shrinking resource environment? Are we adjusting our manpower allocations to ensure that the “high-demand-low-density” assets will be there in the right amount, or will they be put under the same haircut as everyone else?
If the American public’s mood continues along these lines – are we being realistic on what kind of budget we will have in 10-years? Are we being too optimistic, too pessimistic – or just about right?
Having served with the Canadian forces, have Canadian friends, and heck – even took the family to Canada for our summer vacation last year, I admit to being a Canadaphile – as a result, agree or disagree, I always give them a good listen.
This time, I think they about nailed it.
Hat tip T.E. Ricks.
With some of the budget reduction POM options coming to the front over the last couple of weeks, everyone’s Fleet-number waterfall graph just shifted to the left a few years. A quick note to those blandly blinking at the PPT; this is not a drill.
It is time to leave behind the sway-back, hidebound arguments and talking points of the Lost Decade; FRP, Optimal Manning, Transformation, exquisite systems, Network-Centric Unicorn Theory – that is in the past. The future, if you will, that never was.
They have either been measured and found wanting, abandoned, unaffordable, or perpetually shifted to the right waiting for quantum theory and pixie dust to make them operational. It is time to move forward.
One underlying fact that has finally reached the 51% tipping point in the minds of most decision makers in the last 18-months is this; in time of financial crisis the military budget will be hit harder than other parts of the budget if for no other reason than it is structurally easier for politicians to do so. With our new “Super Committee” process – even more so.
Relax; there is no need to panic. No need to wear sack cloth and ashes, bound with your full-leg metal cilices as you walk off the Blue Line, through Pentagon Station to your desk. No; it is time to straighten your gig-line, lean forward, walk with purpose to get your next cup of coffee, put a smile on your face, and get to work.
Look at what has been done by our predecessors in a time of stress; naval developments in the 1920s and 1930s in carrier and cruisers; even the 1970s, more or less, brought us the F-16, TLAM, Aegis and others.
This is a time to focus. We can come out of this period – be it 10 years or 20, in a good position if we start now to look; look not just at platforms, but what those platforms carry. Sensors, weapons, leaders, Sailors, and ideas. That is what is critical. Don’t get me wrong – numbers matter for a dual-ocean, maritime, mercantile republic with global responsibilities – but what is on those platforms is more important than just numbers.
To do this right though, we need vision and leadership grounded in fact, modesty, honesty, and respect for risk. Not just that, but in our age it needs to be public vision and public leadership. The time is now to look back for a firm grip on something firm, solid, and reliable – and then reach forward.
A great worry however, is that we won’t benchmark the successful responses to stress in the past clearly founded on solid programs and viable short-cycle evolutionary progresses, but instead will follow the intellectually moribund and disgraced habits of the other past as defined by a future-imperfect PPT deep and an efficiency plan as thoughtful as, “Everyone grab your spoon and take two scoops our of your rice bowl.”
Simple reductions of what we have without vision and an understanding of a strategy to support it is not a plan, it is a reaction. It is drift; drift in rapidly shoaling water.
Dig down in the comments on another post and you’ll find some strong arguments being made for drastic cuts in the Navy and other services to help improve America’s balance sheet for the long haul. Clearly, restoring the health of the economy is a national security issue, but reports on the economy are vulnerable to hyperbole and predictions on how long the current downturn will last vary.
While the economy is in fact weak, in an environment where bad economic news makes good headlines, sells newspaper and drives traffic to media outlets, and economic issues and proposed remedies are highly politicized, it is challenging to objectively weigh economic issues against other national security issues. Unemployment is rising, several major industries are in genuine crisis and consumer confidence is low, but many of the key metrics grabbing headlines have been worse in the post-Depression period, yet did not require massive government intervention or austerity measures to correct. The less politicized economists seem to be predicting the recession will last another 12-18 months, with a few predicting as long as 24-36 months.
We also appear to be seeing a rebalancing in security challenges. The war in Iraq is drawing down, and while resources must be shifted from Iraq to Afghanistan, it’s not unreasonable to believe America’s commitments to “boots on the ground” in far away lands will decrease on the order of 30 to 50 thousand troops over the next two years. Meanwhile, maritime challenges are on the upswing and global maritime presence and engagement is becoming a more pressing requirement to maintain the free flow of trade and regional stability.
So, given the situation America faces at home and abroad, three questions come to mind:
- Are the current economic problems significant enough to make the economy America’s #1 security problem and warrant substantial reductions in defense spending?
- Does the current plan to build the end strength of the Army and Marine Corps need to be reconsidered?
- Should defense dollars be reallocated among the services to give higher priority to resurgent naval threats and maritime security initiatives?
What say you?
[Update1] Looks like somebody at CBO may already be saying “yes” to question #2:
The Congressional Budget Office prepared some budget alternatives for Congress to deal with defense budget shortfalls.
The alternative budget…proposes increasing enrollment fees and copayments for military retirees using the defense health care system and a reduction in Army and Marine Corps personnel.
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- Midrats this Sunday, May 17 2013 – Episode 167: Intellectual Integrity, PME, and NWC
- Remembering our Fallen Coast Guard Shipmates and their Families