The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 69/No. 4           January 31, 2005  
Washington weighs cuts in U.S. military programs
Debate shows factionalism among U.S. rulers
(front page)
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Department of Defense is seeking to cut several weapons programs, particularly in the Air Force and Navy, which do not fit what the Pentagon describes as the “transformation” of the U.S. military. According to a December 6 report in the Defense News, top commanders of the Air Force and Navy have balked at proposals to cut back on purchases and modernization of warplanes and ships in order to qualitatively expand the Army’s resources—most importantly Special Forces.

The debate on possible cuts in the U.S. military budget highlights a growing factionalism among the U.S. rulers as well as the increasing politicization of the officer corps.

Last November the defense department convened an advisory commission to help improve the military’s “transformation.”

This is a strategic reorganization of the U.S. armed forces, prompted by the rulers’ conclusions that their military was not up to snuff to defend Washington’s imperialist interests worldwide more than a decade after the end of the Cold War.

U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been at the center of leading these changes in the U.S. military, which relied primarily on heavy armored divisions, bombers and long-range land and sea-based missile systems aimed at the former Soviet Union. In testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee last September, Rumsfeld said, “We have entered an era where enemies are in small cells scattered across the globe. Yet America’s forces continue to be arranged especially to fight large armies, navies, and air forces, and in support of an approach—static deterrence—that does not apply to enemies who have no territories to defend and no treaties to honor.” He added, “We are still situated in a large part as if little has changed for the last 50 years—as if, for example, Germany is still bracing for a Soviet tank invasion across the northern plain.”

The reorganization underway includes closing bases and cutting troop levels in western Europe and moving units toward the east. It also includes upgrading the role of the Special Forces, relying more on modern weapons technology and infiltration of enemy forces, combining commands of various branches of the military, outsourcing jobs like running prisons and hospitals to nonmilitary entities in order to upgrade the army’s “warrior ethos,” and organizing military units into smaller and more agile brigades that can be deployed within days anywhere in the world.

The 19-member Transformation Advisory Group includes retired military officers, executives of arms industries and private “intelligence” firms, Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton, and Newton Gingrich, former Republican Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.  
Cuts in warplanes
The Pentagon plans to cut purchases in half for a new warplane, the F/A-22 Raptor fighter jet, according to Defense News. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper, the news service said, argued with Pentagon budget cutters that the Raptor is the top transformation priority of the Air Force. The Raptor is supposedly superior to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter—more lethal, and more capable of sustaining high speeds for longer periods. Air Force generals claim the new plane is vital to maintaining U.S. global air superiority.

According to Defense News, senior officials in Rumsfeld’s office, among them Undersecretary for Intelligence Stephen Cambone, have been arguing that too much money is being spent on conventional weapons and not enough on what is needed to fight “unconventional adversaries.” They say air superiority is an area in which the Pentagon enjoys “excessive overmatch.” For this reason, while Jumper champions development of a multi-mission electronic aircraft to replace the AWAC and JSTARS spy planes, Cambone favors using satellites or unmanned aircraft for future spy missions, said the Defense News.

Private companies affected by the proposed cuts have also shown concern and have expressed hopes that the arms programs will go ahead as planned. Dennis Boxx, a spokesman for Lockheed Corporation, for example, said the company had not been informed of any changes in orders for the F/A-22. “If in fact these cuts do occur, they would not take place for several years,” Boxx said. “That would allow the aircraft time to prove its value and convince the Pentagon to restore its numbers.”  
Fewest ships since 1916
The Pentagon also plans to mothball the aircraft carrier USS Kennedy and reduce the number of carriers in the Navy’s fleet, from the current 12 to possibly as few as nine. Other new shipbuilding programs for a destroyer, an amphibious assault ship, and a nuclear carrier would be delayed.

When deployed, each carrier is the centerpiece of a battle group. In addition to the carrier’s compliment of 70-80 warplanes, the group usually includes guided-missile cruisers, destroyers, frigates, submarines, and a supply ship.

Washington’s naval superiority is in no danger either, just like its edge in the skies, the top leadership of the Department of Defense argues. Only eight other countries have aircraft carriers. Of those, only two have more than one carrier—Russia with four, and the United Kingdom with three. France, India, Spain, Brazil, Italy, and Thailand have one aircraft carrier each, according to World Navies Today.

The U.S. Navy is also cutting the number of sailors in uniform by 52,000. Its 289 ships is the lowest number since 1916, according to Defense News.

The Air Force and Navy are taking deeper cuts as more resources are being redirected to the Army and Marines, which have borne the brunt of the $4.9-billion-a-month occupation of Iraq.  
‘Trigger pullers’
The January issue of Armed Forces Journal noted that during last year’s election campaign both President Bush and his main opponent, Senator John Kerry, said they would substantially increase Special Operations Forces. At the same time, the Pentagon publication said, interviews with officers recently retired from the Special Operations Command cautioned against a rapid increase in the numbers of these troops.

“There is no fear within the halls of the Pentagon,” the magazine said, “that the special operations mission will deteriorate as it did in the late 1970s when the Carter administration began viewing this mission as expendable…. The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the ensuing war on terrorism made sure of that.”

But the “jarring” reality, the military magazine continued, is that only about a quarter of the 48,000 special operations personnel are “trigger pullers”—soldiers who have received intense training in the ways of combat. “We need highly trained people actually performing the missions,” an unidentified “expert” is quoted in the article as saying. Another retired special operations officer, quoted anonymously, said, “To put this bluntly, you cannot train trigger pullers overnight.” Training for the Army Special Forces, Navy SEALS, and Air Force Special Tactics Teams require at least two years, he said.

Another factor intensifying the debate over increasing special forces troops is the relatively high numbers of the elite-trained soldiers who are leaving the force at the end of their tours of duty to take high-paying jobs with private “security” firms that operate in so-called trouble spots. Their skills are needed in numerous other “terrorist-plagued” countries, the magazine said, including Morocco, Algeria, the Philippines, and Indonesia—and perhaps Iran and Syria.

The emphasis on the use of the Special Forces is also expected to sharpen turf wars between combat commands, especially the Air Force and Navy, Armed Forces Journal reported. It noted that for the first time the Special Forces are expected to be the lead command in many future operations, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. Traditionally, the magazine reported, the Special Forces served a supporting role.  
Changes sought in ‘homeland security’
The transformation of the U.S. military is also propelling proposals for changes in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Edward Rowny wrote in the December 20 Wall Street Journal that the makeover of the U.S. armed forces contains insight for changes that are quickly needed in the DHS. Rowny is a career Army officer who has been associated with the defense department since its founding in 1947.

His column highlighted two changes in the Department of Defense that were “tested in the first and perfected in the second Gulf War.” The first was to establish a joint structure in which commanders reported directly to the secretary of defense. The second was to establish that no officer would be promoted to general or flag rank without first serving in a joint organization.

The DHS faces a more daunting task, noted Rowny. Instead of melding five uniformed services, it must mold 22 widely disparate agencies of 180,000 people. “Delay only nourishes entrenched bureaucracies and fuels turf battles,” Rowny counseled.

The general also urged improving the exchange and coordination of intelligence within the DHS—an objective at the heart of many recent congressional hearings. Just as the defense department has begun to take on domestic responsibilities with the establishment of the Northern Command, the DHS must follow suit and begin to look outward, Rowny wrote.

In December, the White House and Pentagon won a key fight on another front that serves the military’s transformation effort. The Bush administration beat back an attempt to dilute the defense department’s control over spying operations and confer it to a new national intelligence director, wrote Seymour Hersh in the January 24 issue of The New Yorker magazine. The legislation on reorganizing Washington’s spying operations was based largely on the recommendations of 9/11 Commission hearings last year, in which liberal politicians argued that “intelligence failures” prevented the Bush administration from stopping the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

The description by Hersh, a liberal reporter, is another indication of the increasing factionalism within the ruling class.

“The White House solidified its control over intelligence last month, when it forced last-minute changes in the intelligence-reform bill,” Hersh reported. “A reform bill passed in the Senate by a vote of 96-2. Before the House voted, however, Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld balked. The White House publicly supported the legislation, but House Speaker Dennis Hastert refused to bring a House version of the bill to the floor for a vote—ostensibly in defiance of the President, though it was widely understood in Congress that Hastert had been delegated to stall the bill. After intense White House and Pentagon lobbying, the legislation was rewritten. The bill that Congress approved sharply reduced the new director’s power, in the name of permitting the Secretary of Defense to maintain his ‘statutory responsibilities.’”

The Pentagon currently controls roughly 80 percent of the $40 billion budget for U.S. government spying operations. Hersh quoted a former senior CIA officer’s assessment that “the Pentagon is a five-hundred pound gorilla and the CIA director is a chimpanzee.”
Related articles:
U.S. troops in Iraq unleash raids in Mosul
U.S. soldier convicted for Abu Ghraib torture  
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home