Reducing Military Spending

Depends. If it's possible, capture an airfield and use that. If not, have them land on much cheaper gator ships.

Fair point, but again, a UAV has a much wider operating envelope than manned aircraft, and a much lower cost to boot, meaning it can land in more places, with less of an issue if it doesn't come home.

Funkenpants wrote:
Jonman wrote:

But you don't need a runway for a UAV, becuase you can launch it at accelerations that would turn a pilot into pink paste.

And where are you going to land it? A successful flight requires an equal number of take offs and landings, as the saying goes.

It only needs to land if its carrying a human. If not, it is just a long range missile and no one ever worries about safely landing those things. The research has already been done for cluster munition delivery systems that basically loiter over a pre-defined area and attack whatever suitable target wanders into its grid. Future UAVs could do the same and just go kamikaze after they've fired off their missiles or dropped their bombs.

Cost depends on the UAV. A Global Hawk and a Reaper are not the same price. Much of the price of a modern combat aircraft comes from all the black boxes on board, along with the extremely expensive materials used to make it effective and survivable. Taking the pilot out removes some of the cost (pilot and his support equipment), but also adds costs (ground stations, satellite bandwidth) that a fighter doesn't incur.

Al wrote:

Depends. If it's possible, capture an airfield and use that. If not, have them land on much cheaper gator ships.

Capturing an airfield isn't an easy thing. You need ground troops and air cover. Where will the air cover come from? Plus, the Wasp won't have the the deck real estate to conduct simultaneous take-offs and landings. Or support the aircraft with all the ordnance, repair facilities, etc. that modern carriers use to support aircraft wings. Just because you take the pilot out doesn't mean that many of the requirements of operating fixed-wing aircraft off a ship don't remain.

OG_slinger wrote:

It only needs to land if its carrying a human.

Many of the black boxes aboard a modern combat aircraft are too expensive to be disposable, not to mention the powerful jet engines that enable carrying a large payload. As Lobster says, we already have single use autonomous attack aircraft in the form of cruise missiles. It's fine if evolved cruise missiles replace combat aircraft, but that's not the same as suggesting that UCAVs replace fighters and bombers.

Another thing to keep in mind is manned combat aircraft are getting really, really expensive. The F-22 was canned because of it and the F-35 was supposed to be the low cost alternative, only it's not working out that way so far. Pulling out the pilot seems to be the only way to make a cheaper combat aircraft these days.

Al wrote:

Another thing to keep in mind is manned combat aircraft are getting really, really expensive. The F-22 was canned because of it and the F-35 was supposed to be the low cost alternative, only it's not working out that way so far. Pulling out the pilot seems to be the only way to make a cheaper combat aircraft these days.

The F-22 was never "canned." The program ran to completion and the order was filled. Obama simply decided not to purchase any more, which his opponents decided was a "cut."

Al wrote:

Pulling out the pilot seems to be the only way to make a cheaper combat aircraft these days.

Global Hawk isn't cheap. It's loaded with very expensive sensors (not a combat aircraft, but an example of an expensive UAV). Black boxes and advanced materials are what drive the price of highly capable, survivable, combat aircraft.

People have the impression that UAV's are cheap because of UAVs like the Predator/Reaper. But this type of aircraft is cheap because it's 1) slow, 2) not survivable in contested air space, and 3) can't carry much ordnance. You need to compare apples to apples.

Funkenpants wrote:
Al wrote:

Pulling out the pilot seems to be the only way to make a cheaper combat aircraft these days.

Global Hawk isn't cheap. It's loaded with very expensive sensors (not a combat aircraft, but an example of an expensive UAV). Black boxes and advanced materials are what drive the price of highly capable, survivable, combat aircraft.

People have the impression that UAV's are cheap because of UAVs like the Predator/Reaper. But this type of aircraft is cheap because it's 1) slow, 2) not survivable in contested air space, and 3) can't carry much ordnance. You need to compare apples to apples.

All true. Not cheap, but still a helluva lot cheaper than an operationally comparable aircraft with a meatseat.

Jonman wrote:
Funkenpants wrote:
Al wrote:

Pulling out the pilot seems to be the only way to make a cheaper combat aircraft these days.

Global Hawk isn't cheap. It's loaded with very expensive sensors (not a combat aircraft, but an example of an expensive UAV). Black boxes and advanced materials are what drive the price of highly capable, survivable, combat aircraft.

People have the impression that UAV's are cheap because of UAVs like the Predator/Reaper. But this type of aircraft is cheap because it's 1) slow, 2) not survivable in contested air space, and 3) can't carry much ordnance. You need to compare apples to apples.

All true. Not cheap, but still a helluva lot cheaper than an operationally comparable aircraft with a meatseat.

Interesting stats:
Costs of Global Hawk (from wiki, grain of salt assumed): The Global Hawk costs about $35 million USD [1] (actual per-aircraft costs; with development costs also included, the per-aircraft cost rises to $123.2 million USD each

Cost of a U2 (1950s dollars): $1.125 million. This converts to about $10 million in 2010.

Of course I'm not privy to the capabilities comparison between the craft.

As a defense contractor, I've been thinking about my desire to reduce military spending versus what I know about the industry and personal self-interest. It is a conflict.

For one thing, it is a very real problem if the defense industry has massive layoffs. Whole communities, based off of well paying defense jobs will disappear. For instance, pretty much say goodbye to large parts of Boston, Dallas, Denver, San Diego, Baltimore, DC and its surrounding areas. Each of those communities will have massive foreclosures and employment. I'm talking on a scale not yet seen.

There is a reason defense jobs are well-paying. Go to a college recruitment fair and try to find graduates that are American citizens. Take that number and filter them even further for the ones that could possibly get clearances. It really isn't that many. It is the one of the last industries that is immune to global out-sourcing.

The heads of the various defense companies are not stupid. They see the possible future of a cut back military. That is why every single company is making in-roads to sell their wares on the global market. Regions like India and the Middle East are fertile new markets for our tech. I know for a fact that it is a major performance parameter for each company to increase their international sales.

Then I think about the personal technology that has resulted from defense spending...stuff that would never have been developed if not for defense investment. Things I can come up with just quickly are:
- GPS
- Satelites
- Not certain, but I'm willing to bet anything telecomm related
- the Internet (thank you Al Gore)
- Nuclear power
- Jet engines (probably anything aircraft related, really)

So it isn't a simple math equation. We could have auto-driving cars in a couple generations thanks to DARPA investments.

Yeah, I want to keep my job. I'm paid well and I do get satisfaction from knowing that I am doing something to contribute to the country.

Do we spend far too much on defense? Yes, but I also understand a lot of the justifications for some of the things we do spend money on. I guess what we really need is a comprehensive analysis of our true threats and what we need to counter them. Unfortunately I doubt that will ever happen. What we do now is look at the next biggest kid on the block and see what it would take to beat him up.

Jonman wrote:

All true. Not cheap, but still a helluva lot cheaper than an operationally comparable aircraft with a meatseat.

How so? No one is even close developing a UCAV that is operationally comparable to a fighter. How do we even know what one costs? We don't have any concept of operations for employing them, don't have any determination of requirements, don't know what it would take to design an efficient system or how long the service life expectancy would be.

Nevin73 wrote:

Then I think about the personal technology that has resulted from defense spending...stuff that would never have been developed if not for defense investment. Things I can come up with just quickly are:
- GPS
- Satelites
- Not certain, but I'm willing to bet anything telecomm related
- the Internet (thank you Al Gore)
- Nuclear power
- Jet engines (probably anything aircraft related, really)

So it isn't a simple math equation. We could have auto-driving cars in a couple generations thanks to DARPA investments.

Yeah, I want to keep my job. I'm paid well and I do get satisfaction from knowing that I am doing something to contribute to the country.

Do we spend far too much on defense? Yes, but I also understand a lot of the justifications for some of the things we do spend money on. I guess what we really need is a comprehensive analysis of our true threats and what we need to counter them. Unfortunately I doubt that will ever happen. What we do now is look at the next biggest kid on the block and see what it would take to beat him up.

Should we thank the Nazis? Because they developed jet engines and the ballistic missile technology that made satellites possible...

If you want the economic benefit, you just take that R&D budget and still have Uncle Sam spend it...but just not to make weapons systems. The 2009 military budget had $79 billion for Research, Development, Test and Evaluation. Only $1.7 billion was for basic R&D, $4.2 billion was for applied research, and $5.5 billion was for advanced technology development. The rest was for system prototypes, development, and management--basically shepherding new weapons systems and technologies through the development process.

So we could spend $12 billion a year and still get all those wonderful inventions the military supposedly gets us. Hell, we'd probably get more things out of a non-military R&D investment because it could go into things that we need--like clean energy--instead of just focusing on how to kill someone more efficiently or from farther away.

See, I get spending a couple ten billion on R&D. That's an investment.

Taking that R&D and plowing it into a $1.2 billion stealth bomber? That's a tragic waste of my money. That's $1.2 billion of infrastructure, schools, training, health care, etc. that will never happen. Actually, it's much more than that because I have to pay to build a base to put that bomber on, train pilots and ground crew to fly and service it, and pay whoever made it likely tens of millions a year in maintenance fees and spare parts. Over it's active service life that one lousy bomber will sucked billions and billions of dollars out of the economy preventing them from being used from anything truly productive.

R&D is one thing. More often than not it is conceptual. You don't actually work out the details until you try to integrate it into something.

Nevin73 wrote:

R&D is one thing. More often than not it is conceptual. You don't actually work out the details until you try to integrate it into something.

Which is why I included the numbers for applied research and advanced technology development. The of the military's R&D budget is project oversight, systems integration, and pilot programs--none of which generates any immediate value to anyone but the shareholders of the military contractor.

Funkenpants wrote:
Jonman wrote:

All true. Not cheap, but still a helluva lot cheaper than an operationally comparable aircraft with a meatseat.

How so? No one is even close developing a UCAV that is operationally comparable to a fighter. How do we even know what one costs? We don't have any concept of operations for employing them, don't have any determination of requirements, don't know what it would take to design an efficient system or how long the service life expectancy would be.

Many features of modern aircraft are only there to facilitate a pilot. UAVs have no need for a cockpit, no need for a seat, no need for controls, no need for a canopy, no need for various safety features, no need for life support of any kind... All those things take up space, have weight, and cost money. Sure they're going to throw in some extra bits to facilitate remote control but I don't think the two options are equivalent.

OG_Slinger wrote:

Should we thank the Nazis? Because they developed jet engines and the ballistic missile technology that made satellites possible...

The technology is neutral. Missiles have no natural inclination to go after Jews. If we're thanking DARPA for the civilian benefits of new technology then your point is valid, so long as you remember that it was possible for a Nazi to do something good. I'm pretty sure one or two of them kissed their mother goodbye before they left for war.

Then again, that woman was the MOTHER OF A NAZI.

I think his point was that the Germans and the Japanese kick the living snail snot out of us in consumer products because that is where they toss their R&D dollars whilst we are spending ours on how to blow one another up.

How difficult would it be to design a UAV around being launched like a missle from a sub, then on return simply hits the water at low speed to be recovered?

DanyBoy wrote:

How difficult would it be to design a UAV around being launched like a missle from a sub, then on return simply hits the water at low speed to be recovered?

Depending on the mission, not difficult at all or extremely difficult.

If it is just to provide air recon for a wide area, I imagine, such a drone with an array of sensors could be manufactured pretty inexpensively and without a tremendous amount of engineering. If it is to loiter over a target, identify threats, and drop ordinance, you might be better off just using a cruise missile.

OG_slinger wrote:
Nevin73 wrote:

R&D is one thing. More often than not it is conceptual. You don't actually work out the details until you try to integrate it into something.

Which is why I included the numbers for applied research and advanced technology development. The of the military's R&D budget is project oversight, systems integration, and pilot programs--none of which generates any immediate value to anyone but the shareholders of the military contractor.

You're also making a lot of assumptions and false conclutions. You assume that if we don't spend that money on defense, we will spend it on something more worthwhile. In reality, we could wind up with 500 bridges to nowhere.

Yes, the Nazi's developed the first jet prototype engine, but the US Military R&D programs turned it from a prototype missile into the advanced engines we have today. Just because someone came up with an idea doesn't mean it popped out the other end a perfectly developed product ready to be strapped on a 747. The Military is also responsible for an amazing amount of medical developments, most recently something I would actually call bionics.

We already spend the vast amount of our budget on social welfare programs. Yes, our defense to GDP spending is a higher ratio then any other country, but the world is as advanced as it is today because of that spending. I don't see a lot of innovation and world changing concepts coming out of anywhere else in the world. Every major societal milestone in the last 30 years can pretty much be traced back to US defense spending.

I mean - Internet. The internet ushered in a new age in mankind. That's, uh, worth a few $$.

Paleocon wrote:

I think his point was that the Germans and the Japanese kick the living snail snot out of us in consumer products because that is where they toss their R&D dollars whilst we are spending ours on how to blow one another up.

Japan produces electronics, China produces cheap crap, France makes good food, Saudi Arabia provides oil, South Africa makes annoying plastic horns, the US has all the army toys. It's just our national product. It's what we've chosen to focus on and we use that product to acquire other nations wares that we don't build so well ourselves. Whether that's through alliances, selling of arms, or simply bombing a place to pieces and then walking in to plant our flag, it's how we operate. Need I remind you of the battle of Auvergne in '63 in which the American military secured a strategic position for the export/import of Laguiole?

The problem I see at this point is that our focus on the military has become so all consuming that we're now producing products that have far oustripped any realistic needs of the market. In Fallout 3 terms it's like the Nuka Cola company deciding to make Nuka Cola Quantum. Sure the stuff has a radioactive isotope in it, will likely poison the consumer, and it makes your pee glow in the dark but they manufactured it anyway. Why? Because they could, and by god it was their duty to make every kind of Nuka Cola that technology would allow whether it was needed or not.

Kehama wrote:
Paleocon wrote:

I think his point was that the Germans and the Japanese kick the living snail snot out of us in consumer products because that is where they toss their R&D dollars whilst we are spending ours on how to blow one another up.

Japan produces electronics, China produces cheap crap, France makes good food, Saudi Arabia provides oil, South Africa makes annoying plastic horns, the US has all the army toys. It's just our national product. It's what we've chosen to focus on and we use that product to acquire other nations wares that we don't build so well ourselves. Whether that's through alliances, selling of arms, or simply bombing a place to pieces and then walking in to plant our flag, it's how we operate. Need I remind you of the battle of Auvergne in '63 in which the American military secured a strategic position for the export/import of Laguiole?

The problem I see at this point is that our focus on the military has become so all consuming that we're now producing products that have far oustripped any realistic needs of the market. In Fallout 3 terms it's like the Nuka Cola company deciding to make Nuka Cola Quantum. Sure the stuff has a radioactive isotope in it, will likely poison the consumer, and it makes your pee glow in the dark but they manufactured it anyway. Why? Because they could, and by god it was their duty to make every kind of Nuka Cola that technology would allow whether it was needed or not.

Addicted? Don't be silly. I can stop anytime I want.

I play golf with a member of 174th TFW. Earlier this year they transitioned from an F-16 base to an MQ9 Reaper base. We spend a lot of time talking after golf about the future of the Air Force. While he clearly misses being a crew chief for the Vipers he says the drones ARE the future. The technology is advancing rapidly and their precision is incredible. He also mentioned that their ability to maintain a constant ToT means you get 24/7/365 coverage and nobody moves without them knowing it. Considering the cost of modern aircraft, the training of a pilot

He did say that the biggest drawback to the drones is that you usually have to be "uncomfortably" close to the action. It's not like sending up some 16's with external tanks and mid-air refueling that can cover several thousand miles in a few hours.

Shoal07 wrote:

You're also making a lot of assumptions and false conclutions. You assume that if we don't spend that money on defense, we will spend it on something more worthwhile. In reality, we could wind up with 500 bridges to nowhere.

Spending that money on practically anything would be more worthwhile. What generates more value for a society: a brand new school complete with skilled teachers or an F-22? Health care for your citizens so they're healthy and productive or a couple of carrier groups? Heck, even if we didn't spend the money on anything it would still provide us a value by not making us go deeper into debt.

In reality 500 "bridges to nowhere" would only set us back $200 billion, meaning we'd have to build a total of 2,500 of them to equal a single year of military spending. That's how much potential we just piss away year after year. We could have built 20,000 bridges to nowhere with the money we've spent on the military over the past decade, not that we would have since we actually *need* to spend $1.5 trillion on our transportation infrastructure just to get it up to snuff. Just two years of military spending would have given us a Grade A transportation infrastructure, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and helping our economy to grow for decades after that.

It's all about what we chose to spend our money on. Somehow we've decided it's more important to blow innocent third-worlders up than make sure our own bridges don't collapse.

Shoal07 wrote:

Yes, the Nazi's developed the first jet prototype engine, but the US Military R&D programs turned it from a prototype missile into the advanced engines we have today. Just because someone came up with an idea doesn't mean it popped out the other end a perfectly developed product ready to be strapped on a 747. The Military is also responsible for an amazing amount of medical developments, most recently something I would actually call bionics.

We already spend the vast amount of our budget on social welfare programs. Yes, our defense to GDP spending is a higher ratio then any other country, but the world is as advanced as it is today because of that spending. I don't see a lot of innovation and world changing concepts coming out of anywhere else in the world. Every major societal milestone in the last 30 years can pretty much be traced back to US defense spending.

I mean - Internet. The internet ushered in a new age in mankind. That's, uh, worth a few $$.

No, the Nazis developed a fully functional jet engine and used it in a production fighter, the Me 262. It wasn't a prototype. That means everything after that is just an improvement on a technology someone else developed, so you can't claim jets as something of value the US military "gave" society. Ditto with ballistic missiles. There's a reason why we scooped up so many German scientists after the war.

So, the world is advanced as it is because of our military spending and every societal milestone over the last 30 years came from our military spending? Talk about making a lot of assumptions and false conclusions.

Besides, I've already said that government investments in R&D are a very good thing. I'm just saying that the development of new technologies shouldn't be driven by the need to blow someone up. If you want government-sponsored innovation, then spend on another Apollo-type program. We could do four of them a year with the Pentagon's budget, BTW.

Sure it would be nice to take the $200 billion away from war toys and give it to old people, schools, and orphans. But in doing so, you are taking away about $150 billion in salaries for people that pay taxes for schools, social security, and social services.

If we are to fix this, we need a gradual decrease of defense spending, and probably an increase in government funding of non-defense related tech projects. This way our domestic tech industry stay intact, only what they build is not defense specific.

Nevin73 wrote:

Sure it would be nice to take the $200 billion away from war toys and give it to old people, schools, and orphans. But in doing so, you are taking away about $150 billion in salaries for people that pay taxes for schools, social security, and social services.

If we are to fix this, we need a gradual decrease of defense spending, and probably an increase in government funding of non-defense related tech projects. This way our domestic tech industry stay intact, only what they build is not defense specific.

Why not just eliminate the $200billion in war toy spending and allow the market itself to reallocate the capital?

Paleocon wrote:
Nevin73 wrote:

Sure it would be nice to take the $200 billion away from war toys and give it to old people, schools, and orphans. But in doing so, you are taking away about $150 billion in salaries for people that pay taxes for schools, social security, and social services.

If we are to fix this, we need a gradual decrease of defense spending, and probably an increase in government funding of non-defense related tech projects. This way our domestic tech industry stay intact, only what they build is not defense specific.

Why not just eliminate the $200billion in war toy spending and allow the market itself to reallocate the capital?

Great, we end up with $200 billion worth of additional stockbrokers that do nothing for society (IMHO).

Nevin73 wrote:
Paleocon wrote:
Nevin73 wrote:

Sure it would be nice to take the $200 billion away from war toys and give it to old people, schools, and orphans. But in doing so, you are taking away about $150 billion in salaries for people that pay taxes for schools, social security, and social services.

If we are to fix this, we need a gradual decrease of defense spending, and probably an increase in government funding of non-defense related tech projects. This way our domestic tech industry stay intact, only what they build is not defense specific.

Why not just eliminate the $200billion in war toy spending and allow the market itself to reallocate the capital?

Great, we end up with $200 billion worth of additional stockbrokers that do nothing for society (IMHO).

Hmm. Is that how you feel about every spending and/or tax cut?

Seriously, the last time we made significant cuts in military spending, we did exactly what I propose. We simply cut and let the market do its thing. What resulted was a pretty significant period of prosperity brought on by the "peace dividend". We can debate whether that was a good or a bad thing, but I'm not sure that we necessarily have to redirect existing spending centrally for it to be beneficial.

Nevin73 wrote:

Great, we end up with $200 billion worth of additional stockbrokers that do nothing for society (IMHO).

I know we've beat this horse before but just what do the tomahawk manufacturers contribute to society?

Nevin73 wrote:

Great, we end up with $200 billion worth of additional stockbrokers that do nothing for society (IMHO).

Great, we end up paying bloated salaries to defense contractors to make things we don't need and will likely never use (IMHO).

It would be far cheaper to have the government directly fund schools, SS, and social services than have that money get filtered through all those (very costly) defense-related employees.

All those engineers and technicians would have to wake up to the fact that once they get outside the wall of military secrecy their skills just aren't as valuable as they think they are. The world has lots of engineers and they'd have to compete with them instead of hiding behind a top secret clearance.

And, no, I don't want to create another corporate welfare program to aid the transition. Just because those folks have had comfy little suburban lives courtesy of Uncle Sam doesn't mean they're entitled to it forever.

It might sound rough, but when the GOP is claiming we're too broke to extend unemployment benefits to the millions and millions of Americans who are out of work but approves four times that amount to just to fund operations in Iraq and Afghanistan our priorities as a nation are dangerously out of whack.

Sure it would be nice to take the $200 billion away from war toys and give it to old people, schools, and orphans. But in doing so, you are taking away about $150 billion in salaries for people that pay taxes for schools, social security, and social services.

Living in Greater NY region, I hear this argument all the time, except in defense of the financial industry. And the rest of the country has no problem telling us "well, go and find something else to do". It's only the jobs in defense industry that are held as sacred cows in minds of the citizenry, pretty much like Paleo and OG have already mentioned.

Gorilla.800.lbs wrote:

Living in Greater NY region, I hear this argument all the time, except in defense of the financial industry. And the rest of the country has no problem telling us "well, go and find something else to do". It's only the jobs in defense industry that are held as sacred cows in minds of the citizenry, pretty much like Paleo and OG have already mentioned.

That may be what the rest of the country says, but the people who actually run the country have been working hard over the past year or two to make sure everything gets back to where it was in the financial services industry before the crisis. They got your back, man.