Thursday, October 23, 2008

Johnny and the Warmongers Part III

by Jeff Huber

Parts I and II described John McCain's position in the neoconservative daisy chain. Part III discusses McCain's tireless fundraising efforts on behalf of the Military Industrial Complex of America.

Among John McCain's more preposterous campaign promises is that he'll reduce federal spending by cutting back on non-discretionary outlays except for defense and veterans benefits. That's about as pound-foolish as an American politician can get.

For starters, discretionary spending is less than 40 percent of the entire federal budget. Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, interest on the national debt and other mandatory spending accounts for the rest. In fiscal year 2008, discretionary spending was $1.13 trillion, 38 percent of the total federal pie. $654 billion of that went for what the president's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) calls "security spending," which includes money spent on the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security and on the "war on terror."

The other $476 billion in discretionary funds went to Health and Human Services, Education, Housing and Urban Development, State, and Veterans Affairs. If you count the portions of all executive branch department budgets that also go toward security related items, and count all of Veteran's Affairs (about $40 billion in 2008) as payment on past wars, you have to conclude that "security" spending sucks up the lion's share of the available tax dollar. I've seen plausible estimates that say if you also figure in the interest we're paying on debt run up by deficit security spending, the real 2009 defense nut will come to almost $1.45 trillion, 54 percent of all federal spending.

McCain wants to cut health and housing and education and things that actually provide useful services to Americans. If you look at the way our security apparatus defended us on 9/11, and how well it's promoting our interests overseas, you have to wonder what kind of cost/benefit equation McCain's economic advisers are using.

Sticker Shock and Awe

Back in July 2008 McCain promised he would start "giving major speeches about the need for defense acquisition reform." It's nice, I guess, to hear McCain plans to get serious about the need to cut the lard out of the defense budget, but why is he just now getting around to it? He's the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee; he's been on the committee since 1987. McCain's web site says that "throughout his career," he "has fought pork-barrel defense spending," but it doesn't give any specific examples of how he did that. Maybe he got the cost of those $400 toilet seats knocked down to $385, but he sure hasn't put a dent in any of the big-ticket boondoggles.

It was John McCain's hand in the war till that delivered unto us the F-22 Raptor fighter jet, which at $330 million a pop should have been nicknamed "The Rapture." The F-22's vaunted success in air-to-air exercises came not as a result of its high cost stealthy airframe, but from its sensors, communications systems and missiles, all of which can be fitted onto the $18 million per copy F-16 Viper. More importantly, the Viper is perfectly capable of performing the Raptor's primary mission, which involves shooting down airliners armed with suicidal lunatics.

The first "training" mishap of a $2 billion B-2 bomber finally occurred in Guam in February 2008. The two-man crew ejected safely, but the aircraft was a complete loss. The B-2's price tag was driven by its latest generation stealth technology designed to make it impervious to enemy air defenses. The Guam B-2 was shot down by moisture that gathered on one of its flight instrument sensors. The latest generation land attack cruise missiles, also designed to evade enemy air defenses, cost under $600,000 apiece. A fistful of cruise missiles can do the same amount of damage to a Muslim wedding as a B-2 can, and when a cruise missile crashes, it's okay. Cruise missiles are supposed to crash, every time they fly.

McCain also presided over the launch of a new class of nuclear aircraft carriers to be named after—no kidding, I promise—Gerald R. Ford. According to the Navy, Ford class carriers will cost about $8 billion per copy to make. That's as opposed to the $4.5 billion price tag of the old Nimitz class nuclear carriers. If you're wondering why the Navy needs a new class of $8 billion nuclear carriers to chase pirates around off the coast of Somalia, you're in good company. What do we do with them after they defeat the pirates? Sic them on evildoing mermaids? And if they can't beat the pirates, what do we do then? Build a class of $16 billion dollar carriers and name them after Warren G. Harding?

Buck for the Bang

A companion piece of humbuggery to the Ford class carriers is the Navy Unmanned Combat Airborne System (N-UCAS). As envisioned, the N-UCAS could launch from the deck of a carrier as it leaves its pier in San Diego, fly to the Formosa Strait, and drop bombs on China persons trying to invade Taiwan. There are a few flaws in all this gee wizardry. If the N-UCAS can take off from a carrier leaving Naval Air Station North Island, it can also just take off from Naval Air Station North Island and cut out the middleman. That would make it a land-based strategic bomber, though, and we already have the aforementioned B-2 Billion that can reach China all the way from Missouri.

Theoretically, the N-UCAS could eliminate the need for both the $2 billion bomber and the $8 billion aircraft carrier. As soon as somebody lets that out, the aerospace industry will shoot the N-UCAS out of the sky like a squadron of B-17s on a daylight raid over Germany. Don't feel bad for the N-UCAS contractor Northrop Grumman, though. According to a company official, the government has already sunk $1 billion into the project, which to date has yielded a prototype that has not flown yet and a 260-page point paper.

But a billion clams for a static display and a masters thesis is nothing compared to the more than $13 billion we've spilled into the program to come up with a countermeasure to improvised explosive devices, which cost about $100 each to make and are still killing our troops in Southwest Asia.

Perhaps the biggest piece of crack pottery in American arms acquisition is missile defense, a legacy we've been stuck with since Ronald Reagan could remember his middle name. Development cost during the young Mr. Bush administration alone will run to $62.9 billion, and it still doesn’t work. Critics of the system correctly call it "a theology, not a technology," and say it is no match for the deterrence inherent in America's existing nuclear arsenal. The conceptual, theoretical and practical weaknesses of the missile defense system are legion, but first among them is the system's reliance on surface-to-air missiles that are easy to decoy. Richard Garwin, a member of the National Commission on Ballistic Missile Proliferation headed by Donald Rumsfeld in 1998, told Congress recently that, "Should a state be so misguided as to attempt to deliver nuclear weapons by ICBM, they could be guaranteed against intercept in mid-course by the use of appropriate countermeasures."

Lieutenant General Henry Obering, director of the Missile Defense Agency, says otherwise. Sort of. "There's a misconception that we cannot handle countermeasures," Obering says. "We cannot handle very complex countermeasures. I won't go into what that means."

I'll go into exactly what that means. It means that any ICBM any misguided state might ever throw our way would contain the very complex kind of countermeasures that our interceptor missiles can't handle.

And what does Johnny "Defense Acquisition Reform" McCain have to say about all this? According to his web site, "John McCain strongly supports the development and deployment of theater and national missile defenses."

Next: Johnny and the Grand Illusion Strategy

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword . Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Also catch Scott Horton's interview with Jeff at Antiwar Radio.


  1. redknight384:06 AM

    While I do not disagree with a lot of what was said here, perhaps one or two objections might be raised.

    I understand the F-22 is expensive, but the current fleet of legacy fighters are getting long in the tooth. There's only so much you can squeeze out of the airframes in terms of upgrades and operational lifespan. I don't quite agree that giving the F-16 Falcon the same avionics and missiles as the F-22 will make the F-16 a suitable stand-in for the Raptor. I would say the same of the F-15, the machine the F-22 will replace. After all, the F-16 and -15 already use the AMRAAM, the missile the F-22 will use. However, they are not configured for the avionics that the F-22 will handle-- they're just too old. Further, the F-22 doesn't just have stealth up its sleeve-- it's super-maneuverable and it can supercruise.

    Well, all of that is a moot point if the US weren't facing well-equipped rivals. But by all indications, it is. The Chinese fly the Su-27/35-- probably the best heavy fighter out right now (barring the F-22). And the French and the Europeans tend to sell stuff that ends up fighting Americans. The Dassault Rafale or the Eurofighter are excellent machines. Hell, America could even be facing its own F-14 Tomcats if it fought Iran.

    I tend to agree with Gentile in this regard-- America will face more than terrorists and guerrillas. Part of the strength of the US arsenal is deterrent, after all.

    But I do agree with the main point on spiraling weapons costs. The Zumwalt DDG, the B-2, the Ford carriers... Hell, even the ARH-70 helicopter, the supposedly cheaper alternative to the RAH-66 Comanche, was canceled because it got too expensive. I often wonder if it would not have been cheaper to just have continued the Comanche program and not paid for the ARH-70 development costs AND the cost of shutting down the Comanche.

    Still, I would make the argument that a lot in America's arsenal IS getting old (designed in the '70s) and needs to be replaced, if only because they're worn out. How many flight hours could a '70s vintage F-16 still have? Would it make sense to build new ones, when the design is reaching the end of its growth potential and in the face of matching opponents? Remember, part of America's diplomatic clout comes from the tacit or open threat of its armed forces.

  2. redknight384:08 AM

    I apologize for the long post.

  3. Anonymous6:06 AM

    Father was WWII pilot, shot down over Germany and POW til end of war (it was his first flight and he was only 22, DAMAGED GOODS to say the least, at end of war). Then, he tried to work at the Lilly Pharmaceutical Company only to be fired as a whistle blower. Now, the GENETIC MODIFICATION is out of control, as well as PHARMACEUTICALS IN SCHOOLS. Ah, so much for THAT, hopeful career, Dad. Onto be the USAF (not only him, many were involved) to set-up secret service bases across Thailand. Vietnam War, but of course. Let see now, he was decorated for having more Huey Helicopter hours than any other pilot (L.B. Johnson). It goes on and on, being a "Army Brat." What it felt like to me was being in the Armed Services since birth. I am now 60, and both parents passed in 2007. I am very happy they are not here to see this horrible place they loved as "America, Home of the Free and the Brave."

    Nah, the military is not needed in the capacity it is now in and continues to grow towards more and more INSANITY.

    Genetic modification of brains.

    Until the brains of Americans (especially) are discontinued in the shrinking of the organ, we are powerless in how to use the mind to solve this serious problem.

    What problem? Shrunken heads.

    Don't believe it? Read SEEDS OF DESTRUCTION.

    We are going to continue as a nation to support McCain/Palin and/or Obama/Biden, uh, hmmmmm, who else has a brain cell working? Hillary and Bill? George W. Bush?


    No hope with GMO humans, think about it and then study the 40/45 year old humans who have had their brains just shut down.

    America is an experiment gone wrong in every regard and now we can expect those mad scientists who did it to cover their tracks.

    Best become trackers rather than voters.

  4. Anonymous6:11 AM

    F. William Engdahl: SEEDS OF DESTRUCTION.

    Read it and weep for the United States.

    Then, begin the true driving the genuine cause into being - AND THIS IS NOT VOTING - demand accountability for the highest crime against humanity!

    Shrunken heads, brain organs being purposely modified is insane.

    America had best get a clue as to how bad it truly is and this line-up of brain dead proves it.

  5. Red,

    I'll be happy to discuss your post point by point, but first who says the F-16 can't be rewired to hold the F-22's avionics? That's the lamest line of poppycock in the aerospace acquisition manual.

    BTW, long posts are just fine, I just can't respond to them in the same depth. Thanks for bringing up all the points you made with this one.


    As I said in reply to your previous post, when you look around, what you're saying isn't all that presposterous. I am positively shocked at the amount of pharmaceuticals people let their doctors pour down their throats without so much as a whimper of protest.


  6. William Bollinger4:22 PM


    Other than an R after his name, what good reason did they give to continue destroying naming conventions. There are plenty of perfectly good previous ship's names and battlefields around that they could have used! (Personally, I'm partial to "USS Liberty" - That would go over good in the eastern Med).

  7. It was pretty jokey when they named one after Big Daddy Bush. Ford, goodness! I'm going to start calling it the Edsel class.


  8. Anonymous11:06 AM

    I'm afraid that I may have found one of the reasons for the deployment of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division. I learned yesterday that the ones at homeland security have declared a one hundred mile deep area along the entire border of the United States to be a "Constitution-Free" zone where anyone at any time may be subject to warrantless search and seizure for any (or no) reason.
    Please see the ACLU site at the following link for more information:

    Please tell everyone you know about this rape of our rights. I hope you will post about it and I hope you keep it active. I ask that you please write your congress critter and senator and raise hell in protest and that you urge your readers to do so.

    I hear a great rattling noise. Our honored American dead are spinning in their graves.

  9. Thanks for the link, Jeg.


  10. They'll probably quit building aircraft carriers once they get to Woodrow Wilson and James K. Polk. That should about cover the Presidential Warmonger's gallery (then they can start on the battlestars and star destroyers, doubtless to be named after great American patriots like Jonah Goldberg).

    I read (mea culpa) John Birmingham's Axis of Time sci-fi naval warfare trilogy, which was either blatant neocon propaganda in fictional form or a brilliant parody of same, I was never able to decide which. His future aircraft carrier battle group is led by the U.S.S. Hillary Clinton, named after "our most uncompromising wartime President." I suppose it was a joke, but it actually didn't seem all that far-fetched. Parody is in the eye of the beholder, I guess.

    Here's hoping the U.S.S. Ford won't be as accident-prone as it's namesake.

  11. Oh, and if anyone needs any comic relief from, well, you know, try these:

    America after eight years of Bush

    The Campaign

  12. JP,

    I think the plan is to never stop building them.


  13. redknight3812:50 PM

    I did a little poking around to confirm something I vaguely remembered. Apparently, John Murtha is a big supporter of the F-22. I guess this means that even under a Democratic government there will still be a strong push for these kinds of projects.

    Incidentally, my guess is that the US Army is going to try to revive the RAH-66 program.

  14. My research indicates Murtha has also voted to redirect F-22 funds into the F-16, as I propose.

    I think his attitude has changed over time. Remember, Murtha was once considered quite hawkish.


  15. Anonymous1:05 PM

    Commander - just wait until they name a capital vessel after George W. Bush.

    I will have an aneurysm.

    BTW -everything the Marine Corps taught me about warfighting is that the goal is to destroy the "enemy's will to fight." 25 attacks a day doesn't sound like the will to fight is destroyed.

    There are Marine generals partaking of what you would call "humbug" Kool aid - and we should know better

  16. Anonymous11:10 AM

    I'm baaaack. Keyboard was locked down and don't know how, but it was definitely something else.

    I do have, however, three other computers to access.

    My comment is about MILITARY SPENDING.

    Obviously when America took the wrong turn down the other way (death, destruction, etc.), rather than the creative, we set ourselves up to be what we are.

    You know who warned us (the General who was also a US Prez), about it so why are we so shocked that our military spending is what we have, to measure, our "wealth."

    Pharmaceutical companies began spraying the skies - why? Was it because too much "messing with the weather," by "man," to sell more of what we have? Or, er, what those private investors competed with governments to sell -- WEAPONRY.

    Thus, we began selling war weapons (albeit only AIRPLANES), by the expanded exponential messing with the weather.

    Then what?

    Uh oh, we made a mess and so BIG PHARMA (why not, when after all the CHEMICAL AND BIO WEAPONRY was such a major improvement in our arsenal to COMPETE WITH THE ENEMIES -- RUSSIA, CHINA, MIDDLE EAST, et al.!), had to begin spraying the skies to cover-up the weaponry advertising specialty of weather manipulation.

    Today we witness the greatest crime to humanity and it is by and through the private as well as public -- weapons, bio, chemical, etc. for SHAREHOLDERS' PROFITS.

    Unfortunately there are about 6 families who control the 400 trillionaires who run the economy.

    These families needs lots and lots of digits because they do not work for a living -- well, labor is not their lot in life anyway -- indeed, SHAREHOLDER PROFITS run the world.

    So, until shareholders discover another lucrative (how could it be so when growing the planet into billions of FLESH TO TRADE is sooooo obviously paying out into future generations of luxury satiating only the "few"), JOB or "WEALTH" to TRADE ....

    Think about it for just a minute:

    When China has AIG as THEIR on-site corporation, so to speak, how in the world can the US expect anything BUT TRADING, BY TRAITORS ... oops, I mean traders, and who wins?

    When a home is valued at a loan for (hypothetically) $100K and the US Government and their partners in crime expanded this asset into millions for the Chinese gamblers to "trade" for "retirement," and all the home owner actually gets is the raising of the loan payment since the MARGINS for the trading, must go up for the retirements ...

    How can this be labeled other than what it is? Treason.

    But, those shareholders of foreign countries gambled in the US Hedge Fund Market and lost?

    Check out Hank's giveaway to the Chinese Government and lo, behold, why the Chinese are also given a contract to fly into EVERGREEN AIR, in Oregon.

    Military spending, unfortunately, appears to be the only creative imagination the US can muster up, since the State of Israel must have its One World Government Show, no matter what.

    I heard where Arizona had been pin pointed to relocate Israel Jews, in the event of an attack on Iran.

    My oh my, the Humpty Dumpty crowd just does not want to be transparent in the trading of life for faux wealth.

  17. I've been saying for years we should give the Israelis half of Utah and make it the 51st state. If they're going to dictate our foreign policy, make them pay federal taxes, that's my motto.


  18. Anonymous11:56 PM

    Benny, what are U going to do with your life? U can't go floatin' round that pool forever.

    I dunno Mr.Robinson.

    I'm just gonna say one word to ya Ben, 'Stealth Missiles'.

  19. Funny you should mention that. I wrote an article for PROCEEDINGS in, I think, '97 about how stupid it was they were looking to design stealthy, radar evading missiles. I noted that if they evaded radar through terrain masking, giving them stealth too was like lighting a log in your fireplace with a 20 dollar bill.


  20. Anonymous11:07 AM

    Jeff Huber - excellent series. What can you say about reports I've read that Russians (and I assume others) have been using "old-fashioned" long wavelength radar to track our "stealth-enabled" aircraft. Perhpas jamming overcomes this? Just curious about the invisible offense-defense
    balance in the electromagnetic spectrum. Thanks...

  21. Bill,

    Lower frequency radars can defeat stealth technology to a point. Stealthy airframes are, in a sense, "tuned" to defeat acquisition and targeting radars that work in higher frequencies. I don't imagine it took a Russian rocket scientist to figure this out (heh, heh).

    That said, no weapon I know of can home in on those lower frequency radar waves, so the issue is something of a wash.


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