20 September 2010

GEN Dunlap on Secretary Gates: Ready, Fire, Aim!

In a guest editorial over on Tom Rick's blog at Foreign Policy, MG CHarles Dunlap (Ret) takes aim at Secretary Gates, and like an extra in an A-Team episode, or me playing HALO, manages to hit a lot of scenery around the target, while doing very little damage to the target itself.

No doubt Defense Secretary Robert Gates is brilliant, hard-working, and eminently deserves much admiration for his patriotic service. But he is also an extremely clever CIA veteran, well-schooled in creating media hype when and where he wants. Hubris can, however, overtake even the savviest, and Newsweek's report of Secretary Gates' invitation to study his speeches may be an example.

Uh... General, the point of the CIA is to stay out of the media.

Recall his March 2008 address to the Heritage Foundation where he mocked anyone concerned about future conflict as suffering from 'Next-War-itis,' and further insisted that the only viable weapons' programs were those that 'show some utility and relevance' to irregular campaigns like those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Newsweek's newshounds celebrate all that, but I worry a lot about Secretary Gates' disquieting penchant for indulging near-term wants (and perceived needs) at the expense of long-term strategic interests. That's the kind of thinking that got Wall Street in trouble.

No, what got Wall Street in trouble was an addiction to balance-sheet shenanigans that were designed to skirt, flaunt, or outright ignore the rules, in the quest for the short-term dollar. The short-term that Secretary Gates is focusing on is the one that brings home as many US servicemembers as possible from a war zone, where real bullets are flying around.

Moreover, as Newsweek records, Secretary Gates rightly talks a lot about efficiencies, but does his quest apply to everyone? For example, he repeatedly increased the Army's size, supposedly to "enable the nation to meet its commitments." It isn't clear, however, that the enormously costly growth was really needed. Based on Army figures reported in USA Today, one can quickly calculate that of the 547,000 active duty soldiers, nearly 238,000 have never deployed for even a single combat tour, and an additional 150,000 have done so just once.

OK, there are several major issues that need discussing here:

  1. No one has remotely considered the time in service of those 238,000 that "have not deployed". The Army recruits 70,000 or so new soldiers every year. Hell, we report the monthly accessions right here on GrogNews, so it's not like those numbers are hard to find.
  2. Neither Dunlap, nor the original USA Today article, describe what constitutes a "deployment". Is it only Iraq or Afghanistan? What if you're in Kuwait? Qatar? Manas air base? What if you're in the Balkans, continuing the Bosnia mission, or support any one of a dozen different UN peacekeeping missions in the MidEast or Africa? How about the guys in the Philippines, helping fight the insurgents there? What if you're a Spanish-language expert and you're sent to Colombia, or some other points south to support military operations down there? If we're defining "deployment" strictly as Iraq/Afghanistan, then yeah, there's a lot of people not going. But if we're talking "deployments" in the large, then there are plenty of people all over the world.
  3. And many of those soldiers are deploying a shit-load more than the boys in baby blue pretending to be a military service while commuting to work from the Vegas strip and flying remote-controlled airplanes for 8 hours before knocking off for a long night of snuggling with the wife. If you want to start looking for bodies to go on deployment, take a peek at your own service there, General.
  4. There are real issues with ground troop rotation policies, as we've noted with extensive detail before on GrogNews, but there's no shortage of people being deployed. They just aren't all active duty soldiers.

It saddens me that in 34 years of active duty service I never saw alternate views crushed as thoroughly as during the Gates era.

Dude, were you asleep from 2002-2007?

Could this be a key reason why the President received only General McChrystal's version of a "military" option for Afghanistan last fall?

I don't know. I don't recall anyone from the State Department, USAID, the Peace Corps, OxFam, or pretty much anyone other than the Taliban offering an alternative to the plans proposed by the Pentagon. Unless, y'know, Gates manipulated the media into spiking any stories about their ideas. He's crafty that way, y'know.

I think we all know what's going on here - the Air Force has refused to show any relevance to the current fights being fought, and the only way to make themselves relevant is to point at a war that might happen in the future, and try to make a case for the deterrent effect to prevent that way by boosting their own service. In the meantime, the USAF has to be dragged kicking and screaming into the UAV era, ignores the purchase of equipment that can save ground-troops lives right now makes a hash of trying to buy new aerial tankers, tries the overtly-political "we need the jobs!" campaign to save the F22, and fails repeated nuclear inspections while losing track of warheads between bases.
Put your own house in order guys. Then get mad at other people who think you're irrelevant when, in fact, right now you are irrelevant, and unless you start selling F22s to the Taliban, are going to remain that way for a while.

In the meantime, I want MG Dunlap to show up at the houses of the families of every servicemember who dies when his MRAP funding was converted to F22s to counter an 'eventual' threat from the Chinese, and explain to them why their loved ones weren't equipped to go the war we have instead of the war he wants.

By: Brant


Anonymous said...

Those of us in AFSOC have to disagree with you blanket AF does not fight the current fight and does not have relevance

Brant said...

just out of curiosity - what's the ratio of AFSOC:USAF Overall?

and what's the ratio of senior leadership (2-star and above) with AFSOC experience to those without in the Air Force?

I'm not denying that AFSOC is part of the fight. But that's a very, very small percentage of the USAF.

Anonymous said...

AFSOC plus reserves is around 14,000, big blue plus reserves is around 520,000. So quite a difference. There are only two generals with over two stars (the AFSOC commander and the vice commander).

Also all the airlift that Big Green requires is staggering and they are always wanting more. When I was in slick C-130's we flew our butts off in theatre hauling everybody from every service and country. Now that I am in AFSOC (as a reservist) I am flying more than when I was in AMC and the mission is much more rewarding even though Big Green thinks those of us in the sneaky squirrel part of the base are a big waste of their resources.

While it may seem that the fighter community gets all the headlines and press, they are not doing much in the AOR. However AMC/AFSOC/ACC (ISR Bunch) are very busy and contributing every day to the fight.

Brant said...

Thanks for the numbers. You're kinda making my point for me, though :)

The fighter jocks want more fighter toys, without bothering to assess the relevance of them. AFSOC is a different world, and I can virtually guarantee that AFSOC is *not* what Dunlap had in mind when he was talking about the China threat and investing in our military future at the expense of today's mission accomplishment.

Anonymous said...

Actually my main point was the USAF is in the fight and your statement "And many of those soldiers are deploying a shit-load more than the boys in baby blue pretending to be a military service" is a bit of a Big Green broad brush statement.