Wednesday, November 29, 2006
An article in USA Today reminds us of the old Pentagon shell game. It has been practiced since before I began working there in 1969. In order to hide the true cost of war every president defers maintenance to keep the costs down. But the bill comes due eventually. Everyone thinks the Persian Gulf is mostly sand. Not so. It is a fine dirt, the consistency of talcum powder, a substance that wears out equipment, especially engines quicker that any other in the world. The bill below is way understated but gets the message across.
By Matt Kelley, USA TODAY
“The Pentagon needs $50 billion to $60 billion to re-equip and restore units returning from Iraq, says Leon Panetta, the former Clinton White House chief of staff and member of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group”.
It should remind us that wars fought in many ways. The enemy is fighting the “little war”, the meaning of guerrilla warfare. Little means cheap. Our enemies are trying to drive us out of the Middle East, and will soon succeed. But they would be foolish to do so. We fight with the finest equipment in the world, lots of vehicles, helicopters, aircraft and electronic gear. Very expensive and it wears out. Our enemy fights with home made bombs, IEDs, and AK-47s. They cost next to nothing compared to our stuff. Less than 1 spy satellite.
A smart enemy would keep this war going as long as possible. At 80B for the war and a maintenance bill of 60B every year or so we will go broke or worse, do as all presidents do, defer maintenance and have the bill come do all at once. What happens? We have a defacto stand down. Everything stops and we spend 2 years repairing our equipment. Worse, while equipment is being repaired our units cannot train properly. 5 years of intense operations, robbing state side units to equip front line units, and minimizing training puts our military in a deep financial hole. I watched this Pentagon shell game in Vietnam and under the Carter and Clinton drawdowns.
But what about the navy? They should be fresh and ready to go. Nope, the pentagon robs Peter to pay Paul. In order to train you need to sail. But sailing costs a fortune in oil and maintenance wear. So one bright accountant 20 years ago figured out if you just keep the ships in port, you could save a fortune.
A smart enemy would make us put every ship we own at sea all the time and do to our ships what they are doing to our AFVs, wearing them out. How can you do that for next to nothing in cost? Simple, sink one or two oil tankers a year anywhere in the world. How? Use ocean going speedboats and hand held missiles. Costs nothing. Who did it? Could be anybody. Could be hired mercenaries. What happens? Two things. The cost of insurance skyrockets driving up the cost of gas and our Navy sends everything we have to protect oil tankers. Think a 2 million dollar tank is expensive to operate. Try multibillion-dollar ships.
Our enemy is very patient, they know from experience they can wear us down. Its called asymmetric warfare. It is more than body bags. It is also money.
Liberty or Death
As for the enemy being patient, yes, and Americans are not. We want everything NOW. Fast. And sadly, easy.