Jewish World Review June 14, 2002 / 4 Tamuz, 5762

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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Vast majority $68.7 billion proposed for weapons will be spent on systems of little use in the war on terror | The arrest of Jose Padilla, aka Abdullah al Muhajir, suspected of plotting to detonate a radiological "dirty" bomb in an American city, should remind us all that we are in the midst of a war in which nearly 3,000 Americans have died, and in which tens of thousands more may die if we do not do our utmost to win.

There are few such reminders in the defense procurement budget for next year. The vast majority of the $68.7 billion President Bush has proposed for weapons will be spent on systems which will be of little use in the war on terror.

The United States spends about as much on the military as does the rest of the world combined. This helps explain why we are the world's only superpower. But it also suggests - especially when some in the Pentagon leak concerns about how difficult it might be to fight Iraq - that we aren't getting much value for what we spend.

Afghanistan, and Kosovo before it, demonstrated the absolute supremacy of the U.S. Air Force. In particular, they showed the value of long range bombers and strategic airlift. But the three most expensive programs in the 2003 budget are for new fighters - even though no air force in the world can compete with the ones we have now.

The Abrams tank and the Bradley Fighting Vehicle are the finest in the world. But now that the Cold War is over, we have far more of them than we need. We used barely a third of our inventory during the Persian Gulf War. Even in the brain-dead plan for an invasion of Iraq supported by General Tommy Franks, commander of Central Command, (which ignores, among other things, that we have an Air Force), fewer than half the tanks we used then would be needed now. Yet the Army plans to spend $191 million to modify the Abrams.

The Army also plans to spend $812 million on an overweight armored car that won't fit into the Air Force's tactical airlifter, the C-130. This despite the fact the Army already has in its inventory a vehicle - the M113 armored personnel carrier - that is superior in most ways to the Stryker. If you wonder what an M113 is, turn on cable tv. The Israelis use it all the time. The bulk of the Navy's budget will be spent on major surface combatants, which are of little use in chasing guerrillas across the desert. Little will be spent to develop a "brown water" capability which could be invaluable in port security.

The biggest item in the Marine procurement budget is for the tilt-rotor Osprey, despite the fact the Marines could buy a helicopter with 90 percent of the range and payload of the Osprey, and none of its problems, for one seventh its cost. The Nighthawk could be used in the war we're fighting now, while the Osprey won't be combat ready for years, if ever. But buying stuff we could actually use in the war we're fighting now seems to be as low a priority in the Corps as in the other services.

The only concession the Pentagon has made to the war on terror is to create another major command, Northern Command, even though homeland defense is chiefly the responsibility of the FBI, and the various agencies President Bush hopes to group in a Department of Homeland Security.

More cushy jobs for generals and admirals won't win the war on terror. For that we need more light infantry, with airmobile capability and light armor support. But we won't get what we need until we interrupt business as usual.

The U.S. has global responsibilities. We must be prepared for other contingencies. We need a strong Navy and Air Force to deter a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, or a North Korean attack on South Korea. The best way to make sure no potentially hostile nation develops a capacity to challenge our fighter aircraft or heavy mechanized forces is to maintain a robust capability of our own.

But preparing for contingencies which probably won't arise ought not to take priority over mobilizing to win the war we're fighting now. During World War II, General Marshall didn't worry much about threats China or Brazil might pose in the far distant future. He focused on beating the Germans and the Japanese. Would that our current crop of generals and admirals had Marshall's priorities, and his sense of urgency.

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06/12/02: Bush saw them and raised them, and he's holding the aces
06/10/02: Some heads need to roll
06/04/02: A new draft for the 'war on terror'?
05/31/02: So the FBI has finally caught up to our priorities?
05/29/02: Taking on common sense
05/23/02: Political terrorists
05/21/02: There is a great deal to fret about, but I've never been more optimistic
05/15/02: If there is a way for America to lose the war, Gen. Tommy Franks can find it
05/13/02: Impartial justice against Americans by the UN?
05/07/02: Want to win the 'war on terror'? Reinstate the draft
05/03/02: An expanded NATO is needed as a counterweight to the UN and the EU
04/29/02: Islamic 'smarts'
04/26/02: Did Bush play his Aces with Abdullah wisely?
04/23/02: Why peace in the Mideast is closer than ever
04/19/02: What the Arabs of Gaza and the West Bank gained from the "peace accords"
04/17/02: Logical Muslim allies
04/10/02: How to guarantee an infinite Mideast war
04/08/02: Saddam's American friends
04/05/02: Arab winners and sinners
04/01/02: Why is the commander of U.S. Central Command not coming clean to the American people?
03/31/02: Dubya under attack by conservatives
03/26/02: Saddam watch coming to an end?
03/21/02: Get the Jews!
03/19/02: It's time pols and gov bureaucrats be held to the same standard of accountability we insist for corporate execs
03/15/02: Khaki Throat
03/12/02: Making foreign cheaters pay
03/08/02: Timidity and indecision by senior American commanders
03/04/02: Why 9-11? Ex-CIA officials come clean
02/25/02: Don't rule out a quick victory --- even if prez says otherwise
02/21/02: Saving our military from itself
02/19/02: Front Page fiction
02/15/02: Our European allies are like the fat kid who wants to play quarterback
02/13/02: Is the Army in danger of becoming "irrelevant"?
02/11/02: So, I "propagate hatred"
02/06/02: Bush whacking the media
02/04/02: Why serious folks disregard the European Union --- and why Bush must, too
01/30/02: Give economy pneumonia in order to protect it from a cold
01/28/02: Media is its own worst enemy
01/25/02: Journalists making road to peace a bumpy ride, or: A case study in stupidity
01/23/02: Toward a stronger defense at a lower cost
01/21/02: How Bush could be Generations X and Y's Kennedy ... and guarantee a GOP victory in the midterm elections

© 2002, Jack Kelly