Skip to comments.Why Romney’s Right: Many Cheap Ships Safer Than Few Expensive Ones
Posted on 10/24/2012 2:00:19 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
Barack Obama lost the debate in Boca Raton last night. It must have been the altitude.
The president patronized, interrupted, and mocked Republican challenger Mitt Romney throughout the night. In return, Romney acted presidential, and may have put this election away.
A key moment of the night in this final policy debate was a set-piece zinger by the president as the candidates discussed military spending:
Romney: Our Navy is older excuse me our Navy is smaller now than any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. Were now down to 285. Were headed down to the to the low 200s if we go through with sequestration. Thats unacceptable to me. I want to make sure that we have the ships that are required by our Navy.
Our Air Force is older and smaller than any time since it was founded in 1947. Weve changed for the first time since FDR. We since FDR we had the weve always had the strategy of saying we could fight in two conflicts at once. Now were changing to one conflict.
Look, this, in my view, is the highest responsibility of the president of the United States, which is to maintain the safety of the American people. And I will not cut our military budget by a trillion dollars, which is the combination of the budget cuts that the president has as well as the sequestration cuts. That, in my view, is is is making our future less certain and less secure. I wont do it.
Obama: Bob, I just need to comment on this. First of all, the sequester is not something that I proposed. Its something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen. The budget that were talking about is not reducing our military spending. Its maintaining it.
But I think Governor Romney maybe hasnt spent enough time looking at how our military works. You you mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets (laughter) because the nature of our militarys changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.
And so the question is not a game of Battleship where were counting ships. Its its what are our capabilities.
Historian Tim Stanley covered the exchange for the UKs Telegraph, and was not impressed:
The candidates were discussing military spending and Romney had just accused Obama of making harmful cutbacks. The president wheeled out what must have seemed like a great, pre-planned zinger: I think Governor Romney maybe hasnt spent enough time looking at how our military works. You mentioned the navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our militarys changed. The audience laughed, Obama laughed, I laughed. It was funny.
But heres why it was also a vote loser. For a start, Twitter immediately lit up with examples of how the U.S. Army does still use horses and bayonets (horses were used during the invasion of Afghanistan). More importantly, this was one example of many in which the president insulted, patronized, and mocked his opponent rather than put across a constructive argument.
Stanleys analysis was similar to post-debate observations by political columnist Charles Krauthammer, who noted: Romney went large. Obama went very, very small shockingly small. Both men were correct in their observations that Romney won the debate.
But what was most fascinating: the American media, so obviously biased in favor of Obama, looked at this same exchange on how our military works and gave the victory to the president. They can only do so from a position of ignorance.
We do have carrier strike groups, and we do have nuclear submarines.
Currently, we field eleven carrier strike groups, consisting of a super-carrier and its air wing, cruiser, a small squadron of destroyers or frigates, and one or two attack submarines lurking under the surface. Various supply ships also weave in an out of the group to keep them fed and (in the case of the non-nuclear-powered ships) fueled.
Carrier strike groups can perform many roles, and can do many things. They have, as the president notes, capabilities. These capabilities, however, do not include the ability to be in two or more places at once. Nor can a Navy as heavily invested in capital ships as we are manage to easily recover if a carrier strike group is significantly damaged or crippled.
Technology and firepower is part of a militarys balance, but we know very well that the number of ships and aircraft we are able to field, and field in various roles, is critical. While Obama mocks Romney for his dated military references, he refuses to grasp a military reality made readily apparent in World War II.
In World War II, the German war machines technological advantages far outstripped those of any other nation. They created the first cruise missiles (the V1), the first ICBM (the V2), the first assault rifle (STG-44), the first jet- and rocket-powered combat aircraft, and even the first stealth fighter-bomber almost 40 years before we could replicate it (though the war ended before the Ho 229 could enter combat).
One of the technological highlights of the German Army was the Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger Ausf.E, or what Allied tankers learned to fear simply as the Tiger tank.
The Tiger was a masterpiece of German engineering. It was complex, heavily armed, and heavily armored. The high velocity 8.8cm main gun could destroy any Allied tank on the Western Front with a single shot, and allied tank crews fielding medium Sherman tanks against the Tiger came to call their vehicles Ronsons after the cigarette lighter, because they lit the first time, every time. In a one-on-one battle, or even a two- or three-on-one battle, the Tiger almost always came out victorious.
Today, one working Tiger exists.
Despite the Tigers technological superiority and reliability, our mass-produced, under-armored, under-gunned M4 Shermans simply overwhelmed them with numbers. By wars end, Germany had manufactured just 1,347 Tigers. Wed built more than 49,000 Shermans.
Our modern Air Force and Navy have not learned anything from World War II. Weve sunk pardon the term literally trillions of dollars into the development of nuclear-armed, nuclear-powered carrier strike groups and ballistic missile submarines, but the loss of a single one would be an overwhelming blow from which it would take years to recover.
Weve created a Navy that is too big to fail, in terms of the importance and capital investment weve placed on just eleven ships an incredibly short-sighted position. Weve made similarly bad investments in the gee-whiz technology of the F-22 Raptor, where every accident or combat loss costs $150 million each, and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which will cost (if they are ever fielded) as much as a quarter-billion dollars each to replace for the Navy and Marine versions. Were creating planes and ships that are too expensive to risk losing in combat. These technological marvels are backed by systems and support elements that are 50 years old, being used by the grandchildren of the men that built and used them.
What Mitt Romney has proposed is a shift in our way of thinking about the military that a community organizer simply cant grasp.
Romney has proposed a Navy of lighter, more numerous, less expensive, and more deployable multiple-role ships that can be better geographically dispersed around the globe to more quickly respond to need, instead of having less than a dozen carrier strike groups chasing problems around the world.
Romneys plan to use COTS (commercial off the shelf) technologies across the entire military may not be as sexy as spending billions to mount futuristic lasers and rail-guns on ships, but what it will do is put more ships and sailors on the water.
Its a stunning turnaround offered by one of Americas best turnaround artists. Romney proposes to toss the bureaucratic dead-weight out of the military, out of the Pentagon, and replace them with real war-fighters and practical weapons.
Against this sound advice, Obama offers only quips.
I think we all know who sounds more presidential.
As much as I hope that Obama’s snarkey comments are a vote loser, I don’t see any sort of sea change (hehe) with respect to Romney’s thinking on the military. I’m a 10+ year vet, much of it spent in the reserves (two post 9-11 tours) with my civilian career in business.
My take on Romney’s military advisers is that they are the types of people that are so wedded to the status quo in the military that they cannot really conceive of a smaller, leaner, military. They won’t see, and Romney consequently won’t see, that there are way too many generals and admirals, that there is way too much tail compared to the fighting tip (tip to tail ratio) and a very entrenched bureaucracy.
I would love to see a president really tackle the cost of the military, especially considering our deficits and debt.
Zero was churlish !
With the technology we now have, big carriers might well become a thing of the past. So, small fast ships that can launch drones will come into play.
Subs will forever stay in service.
OMG....is he 5 years old??
Ships have always been the best way to ship supplies...
Obviously the issue isn't that simple. Numbers re important. Nevertheless, cheap airplanes are going to have less performance than expensive ones. How much difference does that make?
I wrote a paper, presented at a conference of the OPERATIONS RESEARCH SOCIETY OF AMERICA, that showed that if the performance differential between the low-performance and high-performance aircraft was big enough, the cheap airplanes were simply cheap targets. The Air Force that counted on numbers instead of performance would we wiped out with little damage to the opponent. My paper was runner-up for an award. Runner-up only because I intentionally didn't address research & development costs, but only production costs. Still, it indicated the judges found my paper to be of high quality.
The same analysis applies to naval vessels. If their performance is reduced sufficiently to make a big cost reduction, they're simply going to be sitting ducks on the ocean.
The trick is to find the right tradeoff between performance and affordability. Maybe our carriers are "too big to fail." If so, we need to decide whether several smaller carriers in a carrier task group would provide equivalent performance to one big carrier at lower cost.
The important thing to remember, though, is that both numbers and performance matter. As someone has said, the most expensive thing you can have is a second-best Air Force. The same applies to a second-best Navy.
I fear that while we currently see plenty of quality in the troops in these small wars and shrinking units, combined with our advanced tech, that we are also witnessing our military slowly becoming just another branch of government employees.
More and more it is about quality of life issues, day care, pay and benefits, questions about the families and single moms being separated from their kids, and on and on.
As the work towards a 50% female military and generals ranks advances in years to come, the military will be excluding the single men of the warrior class and become more like a big city police department where union quality work conditions, living conditions and benefits and reduced personal risk become the primary goal, and combat is seen as too life endangering and difficult to participate in.
First - let me commend you for your proper “Hear” Hear!” and not the oft misused “Here! Here!”
I am actually blown away by this brilliant revisualization of our military. This alone proves the superior firepower of Romney’s mind.
For the first time in years, I have heard an idea from a politician that is not a compilation of basic conservative concepts or a repackaging of the same. Those ideas are fine, and I am not critical of them - but Romney’s concept here is brilliant in it’s simplicity and counter-current direction (no wonder he was so successful in turnarounds!) - and I am left asking myself, “Why didn’t I think of that?” and “Why haven’t I heard that before?”
This clear explanation of Romney’s philosophy gives me more hope for our country, the deficit and our military all at the same time.
I was not reflecting on shipping. I meant to reflect on fighting ships. Before one sets to shipping supplies, one must make the area safer for shipping. That is where fighting ships come into play.
That was learned the hard way back in the day.
With drones, we can have cheap airplanes and expensive pilots that don’t have to spend months in some prison camp if they survive at all when the plane gets shot down.
There was a Soviet premier (don’t remember whether it was Stalin or Krushchev) who said in regard to military equipment that “quantity has a quality all its own” or something. And while the Soviets usually didn’t have cutting-edge weaponry, they always had a LOT of it, and they made up for deficiencies in quality by making most of their gear easy to field-service (as one example, I remember reading somewhere that the engine on a MiG-21 could be swapped out in around an hour).
And it probably wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for the US military to embrace this philosophy.
I would like our few F-35’s to be preceded into the battle space by hundreds of lightweight unmanned “cheap” fighters to overwhelm the enemy.
Certainly they are great for transporting our planes to the enemies shores, but they are also great targets. So far with the little wars we have ought the enemy had no way to take these carriers out. That is no longer true with Russia and China, and perhaps Iran if they develop a Nuke.IMO. If we lose a Carrier we lose a major part of our air defense and about 6,000 seaman. I would opt for smaller ships and many of them. take one out and we don't hurt so bad.
Thats why they call it ship
O mocked Romney but didn't answer the basic point. The navy said they needed 313 ships.
>>No one ever asked where we were going to get the cheap pilots to fly those cheap airplanes.
That was then. This is now. Those cheap pilots are sitting in front of X-Boxes with years of experience steering an avatar through intense combat scenarios and processing lots of visual and audial input and making snap decisions.
The “gunfighter” planes need pilots inside, but the missile and bomb throwers can be flown remotely. We still need some heavy air superiority fighters with real pilots for those situations where the enemy air force actually comes up to challenge us. But for the assymetrical warfare of the war against radical islam, drones are doing the job very well.
The Air Force insists on using rated pilots to fly drones, which is silly since a team of enlisted men could fly a squadron of them with a commissioned officer overseeing them and making “official” decisions. You can reduce the number of expensive pilots needed greatly and still deliver the ordnance.
There are underwater drones hunting submarines right now. They’re a little behind aerial drones but don’t expect to see daily reports of their progress.
Yeah, the PC engineers in the pentagon don’t help. But a good part of it is there is no incentive to not spend money and very little training in prudent fiscal expenditures. It results in the spend millions on something you don’t need yet only get issued one pair of boots nonsense that is endemic withing the service.
That’s why I believe Romney won’t see any real results. The generals and admirals will get some new shiny toys. That’s about it.
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