Nick has called me out. That was quick…
Elsewhere, I must respectfully dissent from Robert Farley’s faint praise for Rumsfeld’s effectiveness at the Defense Department. His utter contempt for post-war contingency planning has left an insufficient number of soldiers in harm’s way with insufficient body armor or armored Humvees. The Military Police still don’t get enough respect to match their efforts in Iraq. Meanwhile, despite the obvious importance of the Army and Marines, procurement plans for the expensive F22 fighter and DD(X) destroyer go unchecked. I’m all for a strong defense, but I think we’ll have enough lead time to build new ships and planes should China suddenly get very bellicose. I Eeven the small things have gone wrong; DARPA has moved away from longer-term, blue sky research towards short-term work for defense contractors. The DoD continues to fight increases in pay and surivor benefits. And so on, and so on.
A couple of points to be made:
First, I didn’t (and didn’t intend to) defend Rumsfeld’s handling of the Iraq War. This is, and will in the future, be the central measure of his tenure, and he has failed utterly and repeatedly to handle the war in an effective fashion.
As for the DD(X), it replaced a previous advanced design that projected the construction of 32 ships. In 2001, the expectation was that 12 ships would be built. Now, the projection is 7, and there are serious questions as to whether more than the initial 2 will ever be constructed. This is hardly a vision of a program gone “unchecked”. Now, it could be reasonably argued that Rumsfeld has not played a crucial role in reducing the DD(X) program, but it can also be argued that he hasn’t pushed very hard for it. A similar story could be told about the F-22. The Clinton administration expectation for F-22 production was 339 aircraft. That number is now 183, and again may drop.
Now, it could be argued that Rumsfeld should have done a better job of killing these two programs, but is that terribly realistic? The Secretary of Defense is not an autocrat. He cannot simply kill defense programs. The services want the DD(X) and the F-22 badly. Their supporters in Congress want the DD(X) and the F-22 badly. Let’s not have unreasonable expectations about the capacity of a SecDef to do this job. Killing those programs is simply not on the table, at least not thus far.
On the question of pay and survivor benefits, I do not know enough about them to be able to comment usefully on the appropriateness of those critiques. It’s certainly possible that survivor benefits are too low, and that Rumsfeld is responsible. On the other hand, survivors will invariably request higher benefits, and Departments of Defense will invariably oppose such requests. This process does not necessarily indicate anything about competence. The question of pay is quite similar, except that it’s even more complicated. There are a fair number of people who argue that no military pay gap exists, or at least that other benefits (material and social) make up for that gap. In any case, the debate over military pay began in the 1990s, prior to Rumsfeld’s tenure.
A couple of final points: Nick argues that the Pentagon has erred in focusing more money toward short-term research projects, but it’s not clear to me that this is a mistake, given that the US is currently engaged in a couple of wars. Also, I am not nearly as willing as Nick to believe that the elimination of position of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict is a bad thing; the elimination of a bureaucratic layer does not necessarily reflect a lack of interest in that project. AG says:
Here we have Rumsfeld pissed off at his SO/LIC policy office. For what, it’s hard to say, because USSOCOM is one of his favorite children. If I had to guess, I’d say that the ASD(SO/LIC) office has screwed the pooch in their failed attempts to come up with a successful combating terrorism strategy. Combined with the lack of ability to manage a counterinsurgency campaign in the Middle East and inability to articulate a combating WMD terrorism policy, maybe he lost patience and told The Dark Prince (Cambone) to fix it.
Really too interesting. Of course, the real funny stuff is that Rummie thinks he can imperially wave his hand and make this office disappear without Congress raising the issue with him.
Indeed, I find it very difficult to believe that Rummy has given up his infatuation with special ops or his more recent interest in low intensity operations. Again, I can’t argue conclusively that this is a good idea, but I can’t conclude that it’s a bad one, either.