READINESS TRAP SPRUNG? - Senate Passes Amendment as Part of a Plan to
Increase Defense Budget by $60 Billion over Next Three Years

August 1, 1998

Comment: #159

Discussion Thread:  #s 100 & 157


[1] Hutchison Amendment to Senate Appropriations Bill (No. 3409) (Attached)

The readiness trap, which a few of the old-guard reformers have been hollering about since 1992, now appears to be in the process of being sprung. As the Hill staffer quipped in the Attachment to Comment 157, "It's going to cost a lot to adjourn this year."

On July 31, the Senate passed the Hutchison amendment (Amendment No. 3409) [Reference 1] to the FY 1999 Defense Appropriations Bill to express a Sense of Congress that the readiness of the United States Armed Forces to execute the National Security Strategy of the United States is eroded from a combination of declining defense budgets and expanded missions, including the ongoing, open-ended commitment of U.S. forces to the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia.

While this amendment contains good information about the nature of the readiness meltdown now taking place, my sources on Capital Hill tell me it is also a key building block in a plan to make the case for increasing the defense budget by $60 billion over the next three years. No doubt Republican will use the information produced by this Amendment's reporting requirement to bash Democrats as being soft on defense in the upcoming Presidential election. Bear in mind, the great concern about readiness is coming from the same "pro-defense" Congress that just stuffed unneeded C-130Js into the budget and shifted to a potentially illegal scheme of incremental funding for a nuclear carrier that accelerated the money-flow to the contractor by two years without changing the carrier's delivery date.

The Amendment does a positive service by placing legitimate readiness horror stories into record and raising the readiness issue to the forefront of defense policy, where it belongs. This information contained in this amendment is consistent with the readiness information I have been distributing on this list. On the other hand, the basic premise behind this amendment is dangerously FLAWED. Note my comments in Attachment 1, paragraph (1) clause (A), (C), (D), and (E)

Budget cuts are most assuredly NOT the cause of the Defense Department's meltdown.

Today, we are spending $265 billion on defense, which in historical terms represents about a 26% reduction in inflation-adjusted dollars from the level averaged between Fiscal Years 1983 and 1992, the last and most expensive decade of the Cold War. Although personnel has been reduced by about one-third, combat forces have been cutback by much greater percentages, for example, AF tactical fighter wings have shrunk by 50%, Army maneuver battalions by 44% and the Navy fleet by about 40%. So in terms of spending per unit of combat power, one can not say aggregated budget cuts are the cause of the readiness problems at the unit level. A more appropriate question is why training and readiness budgets are being cut so severely at the unit level, given the disproportionately smaller cuts at the total defense budget level. Where is the money going?

In other words, the readiness meltdown is more related to HOW we are allocating the budget cutbacks to the combat units, rather than being driven by the size of the overall cutback in the total budget.

In fact, a case can be made that the current budget is far too high in terms of the threats we face.

During the Cold War, we used to justify our defense budgets by the level of Soviet Spending. What would happen if we applied this standard today? According to data compiled by the authoritative International Institute for Strategic Studies, the United States is now spending over 3 times the combined amount of Russia, China, and the so-called Rogue States (North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Cuba, Sudan, and Libya). Add in the contribution of our allies, and the mismatch goes to over 5 to 1. So, one can not argue that the threat of increased enemy spending has anything to do with our lack of readiness to meet the threat, whoever that may be (which is part of the problem).

The deployments to Bosnia and the Southwest Asia are definitely an increasing burden to our combat troops. But as we saw in Comment #100 [Why the Lilliputians are Tying Down the US Military], these are very small deployments in terms of the percentage of total manpower (only about 7% of the active Army and 3.5% of the active and reserve army manpower is deployed, for example). The issue of a growing deployment burden has more to do with the rising cost of low readiness [see, for example, Comment #81] and complexity-driven deterioration in the tooth-to-tail ratio [not to mention an increasingly bloated officer corps, see Comment #s 23, 90, 137] than with budget cuts.

As I have explained in earlier commentaries, the Defense Department (1) has a modernization plan can not produce enough new weapons to modernize the smaller forces of the post cold war era; (2) the rising cost of low readiness is making it difficult to maintain readiness without robbing the modernization budget, but the modernization budget needs more money; and (3) a corrupt accounting system prevents decision makers from assembling the information needed to fix the first two problems.

At the roots of these three problems are the Defense Power Games (as explained in the three reports at hot link below signature block) that have created a defense economy that is a kludge of Soviet-style central planning with private enterprise. In this economy, decision makers reward cost growth, so costs always increase faster than budgets, even when budgets increase rapidly, as they did in the 1980s, while at the same time, they turn the budget process into a game where cooking the books is a habitual mode of conduct.

If the information produced by the reporting requirement of this Amendment [paragraph (c)] is used to pump $60 billion more into the Defense Department in order to protect this status quo, the money will be converted into cost growth and unneeded pork, and our military forces will continue their descent into Darkness.

[Disclaimer: In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 107, the following material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.]

Reference 1

Amendment No. 3409

HUTCHISON (AND ABRAHAM) AMENDMENT NO. 3409 (Senate - July 30, 1998) [Page: S9464] Purpose: To express a Sense of Congress that the readiness of the United States Armed Forces to execute the National Security Strategy of the United States is eroded from a combination of declining defense budgets and expanded missions, including the ongoing, open-ended commitment of U.S. forces to the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia.

Mrs. HUTCHISON (for herself and Mr. Abraham proposed an amendment to the bill, S 2132, supra; as follows:

At the appropriate place in the bill, insert the following:

SEC. (a): Congress makes the following findings:

(1) Since 1989,

(A) The national defense budget has been cut in half as a percentage of the gross domestic product;

[SPINNEY'S COMMENT - SO WHAT! This is a meaningless measure. One way to raise the Defense to GDP percentage would be to have a depression without changing the defense budget.]

(B) The national defense budget has been cut by over $120 billion in real terms;

[SPINNEY'S COMMENT - No doubt this is relative to the peak year of 1985, the most expensive year of the Cold War. A better measure is a cut relative to the average over the last decade of the Cold War, which would be about $90 billion, or from the level averaged during the first decade of the Cold War (post Korea), 1953 to 1962, which would be about $22 billion. Considering the fact that the Soviet threat evaporated, neither is very much.]

(C) The U.S. military force structure has been reduced by more than 30 percent;

[SPINNEY'S COMMENT - WRONG: Personnel has been reduced by about 30%, combat forces have been cut by more than 40% in most mission areas]

(D) The Department of Defense's operations and maintenance accounts have been reduced by 40 percent;

[SPINNEY'S COMMENT - This is in line with reductions in combat units, so readiness should not have dropped on a per unit basis, unless the rising cost of low readiness is eating into the budget.]

(E) The Department of Defense's procurement funding has declined by more than 50 percent;

[SPINNEY'S COMMENT - True, but the reason procurement dropped by larger amount is that most equipment in production in late 80s had reached end of their production runs and next generation of more-expensive replacement equipment was still in R&D pipeline, like after Vietnam War in 1972-3. Also rising cost of low readiness (caused by equipment that entered inventory in 1980s) did not permit deeper cuts in O&M on a per unit basis, so it was necessary to take it out of procurement. This is also similar to what happened immediately following Vietnam War. In fact, when the changes are compared for the two periods, the percentages are stunningly similar.]

(F) U.S. military operational commitments have increased fourfold;

(G) The Army has reduced its ranks by over 630,000 soldiers and civilians, closed over 700 installations at home and overseas, and cut 10 divisions from its force structure;

(H) The Army has reduced its presence in Europe from 215,000 to 65,000 personnel;

(I) The Army has averaged 14 deployments every four years, increased significantly from the Cold War trend of one deployment every four years;

(J) The Air Force has downsized by nearly 40 percent, while experiencing a four-fold increase in operational commitments.

(2) In 1992, 37 percent of the Navy's fleet was deployed at any given time. Today that number is 57 percent; at its present rate, it will climb to 62 percent by 2005.

(3) The Navy Surface Warfare Officer community will fall short of its needs a 40 percent increase in retention to meet requirements;

(4) The Air Force is 18 percent short of its retention goal for second-term airmen;

(5) The Air Force is more than 800 pilots short, and more than 70 percent eligible for retention bonuses have turned them down in favor of separation;

(6) The Army faces critical personnel shortages in combat units, forcing unit commanders to borrow troops from other units just to participate in training exercises.

(7) An Air Force F-16 squadron commander testified before the House National Security Committee that his unit was forced to borrow three aircraft and use cannibalized parts from four other F-16s in order to deploy to Southwest Asia;

(8) In 1997, the Army averaged 31,000 soldiers deployed away from their home station in support of military operations in 70 countries with the average deployment lasting 125 days;

(9) Critical shortfalls in meeting recruiting and retention goals is seriously affecting the ability of the Army to train and deploy. The Army reduced its recruiting goals for 1998 by 12,000 personnel;

(10) In fiscal year 1997, the Army fell short of its recruiting goal for critical infantry soldiers by almost 5,000. As of February 15, 1998, Army-wide shortages existed for 28 Army specialties. Many positions in squads and crews are left unfilled or minimally filled because personnel are diverted to work in key positions elsewhere;

(11) The Navy reports it will fall short of enlisted sailor recruitment for 1998 by 10,000

(12) One in ten Air Force front-line units are not combat ready;

(13) Ten Air Force technical specialties, representing thousands of airmen, deployed away from their home station for longer than the Air Force standard 120-day mark in 1997;

(14) The Air Force fell short of its reenlistment rate for mid-career enlisted personnel by an average of six percent, with key war fighting career fields experiencing even larger drops in reenlistments;

(15) In 1997, U.S. Marines in the operating forces have deployed on more than 200 exercises, rotational deployments, or actual contingencies.

(16) U.S. Marine Corps maintenance forces are only able to maintain 92 percent ground equipment and 77 percent aviation equipment readiness rates due to excessive deployments of troops and equipment;

(17) The National Security Strategy of the United States assumes the ability of the U.S. Armed Forces to prevail in two major regional conflicts nearly simultaneously.

(18) To execute the National Security of the United States, the U.S. Army's five later-deploying divisions, which constitute almost half of the Army's active combat forces, are critical to the success of specific war plans;

(19) According to commanders in these divisions, the practice of under staffing squads and crews that are responsible for training, and assigning personnel to other units as fillers for exercises and operations, has become common and is degrading unit capability and readiness.

(20) In the aggregate, the Army's later-deploying divisions were assigned 93 percent of their authorized personnel at the beginning of fiscal year 1998. In one specific case, the 1st Armored Division was staffed at 94 percent in the aggregate; however, its combat support and service support specialties were filled at below 85 percent, and captains and majors were filled at 73 percent.

(21) At the 10th Infantry Division, only 138 of 162 infantry squads were fully or minimally filled, and 36 of the filled squads were unqualified. At the 1st Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division, only 56 percent of the authorized infantry soldiers for its Bradley Fighting Vehicles were assigned, and in the 2nd Brigade, 21 of 48 infantry squads had no personnel assigned. At the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Armored Division, only 16 of 116 M1A1 tanks had full crews and were qualified, and in one of the Brigade's two armor battalions, 14 of 58 tanks had no crewmembers assigned because the personnel were deployed to Bosnia.

(23) At the beginning of fiscal year 1998, the five later-deploying divisions critical to the execution of the U.S. National Security Strategy were short nearly 1,900 of the total 25,357 Non-Commissioned Officers authorized, and as of February 15, 1998, this shortage had grown to almost 2,200.

(24) Rotation of units to Bosnia is having a direct and negative impact on the ability of later-deploying divisions to maintain the training and readiness levels needed to execute their mission in a major regional conflict. Indications of this include:

(A) The reassignment by the Commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of 63 soldiers within the brigade to serve in infantry squads of a deploying unit of 800 troops, stripping non-deploying infantry and armor units of maintenance personnel, and reassigning Non-Commissioned Officers and support personnel to the task force from throughout the brigade;

(B) Cancellation of gunnery exercises for at least two armor battalions in later-deploying divisions, causing 43 of 116 tank crews to lose their qualifications on the weapon system;

(C) Hiring of outside contract personnel by 1st Armored and 1st Infantry later-deploying divisions to perform routine maintenance.

(25) National Guard budget shortfalls compromise the Guard's readiness levels, capabilities, force structure, and end strength, putting the Guard's personnel, schools, training, full-time support, retention and recruitment, and morale at risk.

(26) The President's budget requests for the National Guard have been insufficient, notwithstanding the frequent calls on the Guard to handle wide-ranging tasks, including deployments in Bosnia, Iraq, Haiti, and Somalia.

(b) Sense of Congress:

(1) It is the sense of Congress that--

(A) The readiness of U.S. military forces to execute the National Security Strategy of the United States is being eroded from a combination of declining defense budgets and expanded missions;

(B) The ongoing, open-ended commitment of U.S. forces to the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia is causing assigned and supporting units to compromise their principle wartime assignments;

(C) Defense appropriations are not keeping pace with the expanding needs of the armed forces.

(c) Report Requirement.

(1) Not later than June 1, 1999, the President shall submit to the Committee on Armed Services of the Senate and the Committee on National Security of the House of Representatives, and to the Committees on Appropriations in both Houses, a report on the military readiness of the Armed Forces of the United States. The President shall include in the report a detailed discussion of the competition for resources service-by-service caused by the ongoing commitment to the peacekeeping operation in Bosnia, including in those units that are supporting but not directly deployed to Bosnia. The President shall specifically include in the report the following:

(A) an assessment of current force structure and its sufficiency to execute the National Security Strategy of the United States;

(B) an outline of the service-by-service force structure expected to be committed to a major regional contingency as envisioned in the National Security Strategy of the United States;

(C) a comparison of the force structures outlined in sub-paragraph (c)(1)(B) above with the service-by-service order of battle in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, as a representative and recent major regional conflict;

(D) the force structure and defense appropriation increases that are necessary to execute the National Security Strategy of the United States assuming current projected ground force levels assigned to the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia are unchanged;

(E) a discussion of the U.S. ground force level in Bosnia that can be sustained without impacting the ability of the Armed Forces to execute the National Security Strategy of the United States, assuming no increases in force structure and defense appropriations during the period in which ground forces are assigned to Bosnia.

[Page: S9465]

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