A Falling Giant
By J.D. Roy
When giants fall, they fall hard! For a short time before the fall they are unbeatable, but then they grow too large to support themselves. When this happens they are bound to fall; and when they fall, they seem to take everyone else along for the ride. This is especially true when the strongest, most powerful giant trips and begins to fall. When the "head" giant begins to fall, all the smaller ones notice. They attempt to grab all the power they can. Then finally when the giant falls, it all comes crashing down. Anarchy ensues as rival giants fight it out to become the "giant in charge".
Today there is a giant that is almost ready to fall and all the giants are watching and waiting for this giant to topple over. This giant is the United States military, not the fine men and women who make up the armed forces, but the infrastructure that makes it all stand. This infrastructure is bloated to astronomical proportions and threatens to collapse in on itself like a dying star becoming a black hole. For instance, the Drug Enforcement Agency has 1,200 agents, while the Department of Defense (DOD) has 27,000 auditors (Rich 313). As a result of this overflow of auditors, the DOD forces manufacturers to have several inspectors watching during every process taken to produce a product for the United States military. This then results in a 20% price increase over the normal commercial price and causes delays in production time (325). In fact, 61% of the DOD performs infrastructure functions (QDR sec VIII). These types of procedures spread throughout the military and the government as a whole. Subsequently, the United States military is not ready for the next century of warfare.
The inefficiencies in the military are large. In 1776, the government published a three-page work order to build a warship. In the 1990's, during restoration, it took a three hundred-page work order to get the same ship repainted (Rich 328). In fact, the government itself has said that it can overtax its available forces just to act in a peacetime event (QDR sec VIII). A large contributor to this problem is the fact that the communications between forces and command can be slow and will not be able to keep up with modern warfare (sec VIII).
The current policies also extend to military development and procurement. For example, the government currently requires that companies keep files for everything they do for a government contract. This requires a company to spend 45% of the procurement cost to make, store, and guard these documents (Rich 328). The government is also an unreliable customer. They first put in a large order for a contract, and then they cut the order in half (322-323). Consequently, fulfilling a government contract is not profitable, so companies are pulling out of the government sector of business all together. Another inefficiency in the production of military equipment is the number of sub-contractors. New aircraft now have upwards of 4000 subcontractors for final production (313). A final detractor of a military contract is the rules the government forces a corporation to follow. Surprisingly, to obtain a military contract, a company must follow 500 procurement regulations, 12,000 contract clauses, and 1200 departmental regulations (329).
All of this inefficiency adds greatly to already high cost military operations. Even pride itself has greatly raised production prices. In 1964, President Johnson accidentally introduced the RS71 as the SR71. Instead of apologizing and restating the proper name, they told Lockheed to spend $29,000 to change the official name to the SR71 on every piece of paper and blueprint in the company's possession (333). Another huge price inducing policy is the government's demand to get military items, at or as near as possible, perfect. This costs an extra 40%, whereas an attainable 80% "perfect" is just as reliable and sturdy (325). The final inefficiency in cost is the price of declaring a project classified. Just that act alone will raise the price by 25% over a regular project (333). While some classified projects are justifiable, the government is currently classifying several projects that are already either common knowledge or old technology.
Since the Cold War is over, many people believe that the military should be cut back. They also believe that the possible number of world enemies is low, and that no country could challenge the United States' military power. What they do not see is the growing number of enemies we do have. In the Quadrennial Defense Review it says, "Between now and 2015, it is reasonable to assume that more than one aspiring regional power will have both the desire and the means to challenge U.S. interests militarily." (QDR sec II). These countries include Russia and China, which could feasibly become superpowers by the year 2015 (sec II). More threats that are possible could come from the countries with unstable or failing governments. These countries include most Mid-Eastern countries, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Albania, Zaire, and the situation between North Korea and South Korea (sec II). Another possible threat is the possibility of one of Americas' many allies being attacked (sec II). If that were to happen, the U.S. military would immediately be called on to help. In the past decade, this has occurred in Iraq with Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War (Faragher 1023).
The Gulf War was fought over oil; almost every government involved has stated that. President Bush said, "Our jobs, our way of life, our own freedom, and the freedom of friendly countries around the world will suffer if control of the world's great oil reserves fall into the hands of one man, Saddam Hussein." (1021). This brings in another great weakness of the United States, oil dependency (QDR sec II). For instance, the oil crisis that shook the nation in the 1970's shows how dependent this nation is on foreign oil (Faragher 965). If that were to happen again during a large war, the U.S. and its industry would be ineffective in that war.
A final challenge facing the military is the new tactics these potential enemies may use. These countries know that the United States military can currently beat them in conventional warfare. Therefore, these countries will try unconventional methods and tactics (QDR sec III). Some of these unconventional tactics include nuclear, chemical, and germ warfare. The current dispersion of these weapons can encourage a rogue country to attack the United States or its allies (QDR sec II). Another method the military establishment is ill prepared for is electronic warfare and information warfare. The military reliance on new electronics and equipment is a sizable weakness; if electronic warfare is tried properly, it could completely shut down operations and communications (sec II). Underestimating an enemy's tactics or resolve could be one of the greatest challenges facing the military today.
All of the previously mentioned problems are solvable. Steps taken to fix these ailments are underway and will soon take effect. Some of these steps are in the right direction yet others are just making things worse. The steps in the right direction include an inactive draft law, a reduction in oversight and obsolete command areas, and increasing the numbers of submarines. The inactive draft laws are good because most of the people in the military want to be in the service of the United States armed services (sec VIII). The reduction in oversight and obsolete command areas is good because they are effectively removing dead weight (sec VIII). Increasing the numbers of submarines in the arsenal will help ensure staying power of the United States as a world power (DOD strategic force highlights). Unfortunately, some recent reforms do not help as much; the DOD plans to, by 2003, reduce the number of active military forces by 36% when compared to the numbers in 1989 (QDR sec VIII). The DOD is also planning to reduce the number of bases, research centers, and testing areas in the near future (sec VIII). These reductions will severely hurt the nations military power around the world; thus reducing the pace of needed military development to minimal levels.
The recent reforms show that the government is at least trying to fix the present problems, but what is really needed is a complete, sweeping, overhaul of the Department of Defense. The numbers of supervisors need to be reduced while the numbers of good performers out in the field increased. A final area where the need for change exists is paper work. The DOD needs to evaluate what paper work it needs to operate smoothly without too much excess. When achieved, the United States Military will be able to keep its superpower status without risking a system wide failure from its colossus size and complexity.
When the giant forces involved in the act of running a military the size of the United States' is considered, it is understandable that it is not perfectly run. Yet, it can still be run better than it is currently run. The freedom of this country depends on the men and women, in the field as well as in command. In a world where risk is unacceptable and costs need to be tightly controlled, the military is a dinosaur. If it does not reform its methods, its largest enemy may turn out to be logistics and cost. Anything of this size needs to run smoothly with very little red tape. While it may be working in the right direction, it is not yet at that point. Under all of that bulk there is a good, well-rounded set of people making it all work. If these people but remember the mission of the military, they will keep it strong. As former Air Force Chief of Staff, General Ronald Fogleman has said, "We have no desire to control the world. We have a great desire to see that no one else controls the world." (Garvey 86). The world needs to be kept safe for freedom, and the United States military is in the best position to do so as long as it remains efficient and strong.
The best way to go about bringing the right kind of change is to write either a local representative or the DOD itself with ideas or comments. The address for the Secretary of Defense, William Cohen is Honorable William S. Cohen, Secretary of Defense, 1000 Defense Pentagon, Washington DC 20301-1000. The best probable way to correct the military's problems is for the DOD to go through a comprehensive reevaluation of needs. This would help the DOD realize what it needs to do to be ready for the next century of warfare.
"DOD Almanac." N.D. : 27 OCT. 1999. Available Defense link.
Faragher, John Mack, Mari Jo Buhle, Daniel Czitrom, and Susan H. Armitage. Out of Many: A history of the American People. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1994.
Garvey, William. "21st Century Fighter." Popular Mechanics Dec. 1999: 84-91.
Rich, Ben R. and Leo Janos. Skunk Works New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1994.
"The Report of the Quadrennial Defense Review." 9 May 1997: 24 Nov. 1999. Available at Quadrennial Report.
Wilson, Jim. "Sea Power 2000." Popular Mechanics Nov. 1999: 72-77.