An Army in Retreat

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey has said some difficult decisions might lie ahead for Army modernization and future technology. It seems the writing might be on the wall, and funding will have to be moved from legacy programs like the Abrams tank, Bradley fighting vehicle, and Stryker to fund Future Combat Systems (FCS). Though Casey implied a necessary move away from “Cold War systems,” our guess is the fiscal number crunching is on the wall, and the FCS well might be running dry.

Speaking at the annual Association of the U.S. Army D.C. Sit-in and Love Fest, Casey might have been sounding “Retreat,” succumbing to fiscal and political realities not beyond his control. Others in fact might be working to heave FCS (and maybe other Army programs … and maybe the Army) under the bus, but rarely has this been a deterrent to more embattled entities. Like the Navy. And Air Force.

Former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig recently discussed an approach to future defense spending and other service-related issues. He noted that “costly” weapons programs should receive close scrutiny. He singled out the Army’s FCS and the national missile defense program.

Unmentioned but screaming, “Whattabout me?!” were disastrous Navy and Air Force programs that have dominated trade rag headlines and sent Air Force leadership packin’ the way of Wall Street fat cats.

Speaking at a Defense Writers Group meeting in Washington, D.C., Danzig said he thinks some programs may need to be revamped due to the “realities of cost.” But he would not sacrifice good ol’ air and sea power for superfluous efforts, like fighting nasty terrorists and guerillas. (Gee, and we thought maybe Navy and Air Force ought to see funding and programs curtailed because of the mismanagement and incompetence that have plagued their efforts for some time. Guess we were wrong.)

Danzig went on to imply funding for shipbuilding needed to increase. “Obviously, we’re not building enough [ships],” he said. Obvious to whom, Dick? To George Casey? You’re right, “we’re not building enough.” That’s because the Navy is struggling to find itself and a mission, and it is difficult to design even ships for a Navy that wrestles with vexing issues like which race-based award to support this week, and“Do I wear the brown shoes or the black, shiny ones? Sigh.” It is a challenge to build one (O-N-E) ship close to the budget nebula let alone multiple ships to get it to Magic 313. If the Boys in Blue could curb that appetite for change, a solution to NATO’s woes may not be far behind.

Danzig noted programs need to serve multiple uses and not target one threat (the mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle is our guess here). And the Army and Marine Corps need to grow without sacrificing quality. (Uh, too late: the Army is already clear-cutting Cat IVs and non high school grads (Sorry, George.), and according to recent reports, enlistment bonuses in the Army and Marine Corps are up 25 percent, well over $600 million for the year.)

Apparently the Navy man dared not criticize the Lost Boys or their DOA Zumwalt (that’s Dead on Arrival, the Flipped Ship to Nowhere DDG 1000). The Navy’s woes coupled with the financial-market style meltdown of Air Force procurement and leadership were probably too much to stand the scrutiny of his audience, so Danzig went after FCS — multiple systems, as easy to explain on the Hill as it is to cut. He says “F-C-S.” We say “Jum-bo-tron!”  He says “Air Force.” We Say “Melt Down.”

George, if the Navy can come out on top in 2008 with the promise of more money to squander in its ship-musings program, the Army should be able to find some backing for viable programs and comparatively well-managed money.

Go get ‘em, George 

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