Monday, December 18, 2006

Liberation Day

Yesterday the S.O. and I went to a Christmas concert with a combined US Navy and JMSDF band playing songs for the holiday. It was quite good and a good compensation to the fact that I was unable to play golf. They played an adaptation of one of my favorite hymns-Emmanuel. "O ransom captive Israel..........."

This weekend another group of long suffering captives was ransomed from captivity, as Donald Rumsfeld had his last day at work. Praise be to God!

Its way past bedtime for the Donald. Today I was watching the TV at work when AFN broadcast his "Farewell message to the troops". True to form it was full of Rumsfeldian admonitions about how they need "to get it" and " the war on terror is complex and misunderstood". He, of course, uttered the usual platitudes and they would have meant something-maybe-had they not been belied by his actions while in office.

Don't let the automatic door hit you in the ass on the way to your limousine good sir. You are about 5 years late in leaving. Leo Amery had some words for you that I think you might know:
Speaker after speaker, on both sides of the House, castigated the Government for its failures and its lack of will. Admiral Sir Roger Keyes, bedecked in full uniform including all medals, entered the House to a resounding applause. But the most devastating blow came when Leo Amery quoted Oliver Cromwell's words to the Long Parliament: "You have sat too long for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!"

For brevity's sake I will skip debates about the war in Iraq, except to note that no matter how it turns out-his name will be forever linked with it. It will probably not be in a positive light. More likely he will be compared with McNamara. A man who should have known to do better, but chose not to- for his own selfish reasons.

Rather I will stick to what I feel is Rumsfeld's major failing as the Secretary of Defense: He failed to use the power of his office to resource the armed forces for the challenges that were placed upon it. In today's world, the armed forces are the guarantor of the American Empire-an empire unique in history where we get all of the burdens and none of the perks. Like territory with the American flag flying over it, or preferred employment and life style overseas for the citizens of the regent. What is the point in that?

For all his emphasis on the military "getting it", in the end it was Rumsfeld who never "got it".

Rumsfeld failed to do the right thing in 3 specific areas:

1) Force structure and end strength.

Its no coincidence that the Chief of Staff of the Army is in front of a commission today stating that the Army needs to get bigger-a lot bigger- to avoid being ruined in the long run. In the words of General Shoomaker, "Over the last five years, the sustained strategic demand ... is placing a strain on the Army's all-volunteer force," Schoomaker said during a Capitol Hill hearing. "At this pace ... we will break the active component" unless reserves can be called up more to help, he said.

You think so?

When units are making their 3rd and 4th deployments to that hell hole, something is terribly wrong. The only question is why did it take so long to say it?

That's where Rummy's talents of intimidation come in. He made sure that all toed the party line- his line- that the force did not need to grow. Rather we should just make the rest of the armed services pick up the army's job and failing that, create a "shadow army" of contractors who make a lot more money-and are not subject to the same rules. Reduce Air Force and Navy aircraft and ship numbers and tell every one that technology will make up the difference. Package it in a neat ribbon and call it "transformation".

The problem is, that there is more than just Iraq going on. America is essentially fighting 5 differen wars-not just one, which need all force structure the armed forces can muster. I don't think Rummy ever really understood that-or if he did, he just thought he could keep the same people deploying over and over again to do it. For a representative of an administration that was elected on a promise to restore Americas armed forces, he sure had an odd way of doing that. In doing so he violated a cardinal rule of force planning-the threat determines the size of your forces and your stategy. Rummy got that one backwards, basically allowing the size of the force to determine what threats would be countered, and the strategy to do so. He got lucky in Afghanistan and then had it handed to him in spades in Iraq. Now people can go on arguing as to whether the US should have invaded in 2003 with more troops-at this point, one has to ask, " What would it have hurt to go in heavier?".

Its not like DOD did not have a good template to work from. 9 years previously, GWB's dad had left a good model of an appropriately sized military for the post Cold War-Irregular conflict era. Clinton disregarded that , much to the nation's detriment. However that was Clinton-Bush was supposed to know better.

That model was the so called Base Force. It envisioned an Army of 14 Divisions, 451 ships in the Navy, and 27 Tactical Fighter wings. It would be backed up by just under a 1 million man reserve force. As envisioned by Powell it was a floor not be dropped below. Unfortunately subsequent administrations viewed it as a ceiling-eventually disregarded entirely.

All Rummy would have had to do was vow to restore the armed forces to the level of the base force. Had he made this his mantra in 2001 then today-9-11, or Iraq war or not- the Armed Forces would have been in a much better position to sustain the so called "long war". Yes it would have cost more to be sure, but in the end it would have been the right thing to do. Congress was practically falling over itself in 2002 and 2003 to vote him the money. Rumsfeld however, chose a different path. Idiot.

2) Personnel and pay policies

This is the area where Rumsfeldian hypocrisy was really shown. The powers that be talked a good game-mouthing the right words about supporting the troops. However their actions-the legislation they sponsored, the pay raises and supplemental pays they supported set hidden messages that were understood well by the working Soldier and Sailor. Namely, "We don't really care about you-all you are is just another resource that costs us money". Which is incredibly odd from an administration that said at its start that US forces were over deployed and underpaid. That was before 9-11. So the statement is even more true now. However lets look at the Rumsfeld record shall we?

- Latest pay raise proposal in the lowest in years AND it violates key tenets of fairness and equity by focusing pay raises on only a few at the expense of the rest. That's the smallest military raise in 13 years, even while Congress itself has acknowledged that there's still a military pay gap of more than 4%. Interestingly enough the most senior leadership of the armed services got a pay raise totalling 8.7%. Don't think that was not noticed by the working man and woman in uniform. Shades of United Airlines!

- Had to be browbeat by Congress into keeping separation pay and Hazardous duty pay increases in place-in fact his stated intent was to roll them back. Additionally Congress twice had to intervene to prevent service cuts and fee increases for military and retiree health care.

- After over 5 years of authority to do so, has yet to pay anyone matching funds on their TSP contributions-even Soldiers in a combat zone.

- Dramatically expanded ILO (In Lieu of) and IA (Individual Augmentation) taskings to support the GWOT WHILE AT THE same time dramatically reducing end strength of both the services on the hook to provide them, the Navy and the Air Force. These deployments have caused problems of their own for the respective services- which continue to be ignored or glossed over.

-Opposed concurrent receipt provisions for disability retirees-in spite of the fact that all other facets of the government had such provisions. Again Congress had to intervene with only mixed success.

-And of course, he ignored my personnel favorite-did nothing to advocate reform of the USFSPA, the law that screws military retirees out of money they earned. In fact DOD continues to suppor this very bad law.

This list can go on and on because the list of insults from the Secretary on pay and benefits is long and its effects will take years to undo. Part of that road to recovery has to be in firing Dr. David Chu. It is my sincere hope that Mr Gates makes that one of his first accomplishments while in office.

3) Failed to make necessary procurement decisions to avoid the service life train wreck that is coming.

This is another area where Rummy's record is long, sad, and undistinguished. Sure he cancelled Crusader and the RH-66. However just about every procurement decision that has been made in the last 2 years could have been made 5 years ago- at less cost overall. Rumsfeld for all his rhetoric about "being the boss" allowed all of the services to punt procurement decisions they should have faced-and relied on him to deliver the money. Just about every Navy aircraft under procurement now could have been authorized in 2001. Furthermore while some improvement has been made in improving process and flow of spare parts-he has not made the kind of significant changes in the business rules that the services operate under. One example, near and dear to my heart is in transportation. Despite increased usage of commercial lift, the services still operate under a non standardized method of paying for this. In particular if DOD had wanted to be transformational-they would do away with the system of one service having to "pay" the USAF for lift it provides. Its just one example of how he did cosmetic surgery while ignoring the real problems. Oh and by the way, the USAF still does not have enough airlift, hwoever we closed the C-17 line anyway.

In terms of hardware America has never before had such older aircraft and ships. Yet we are retiring some ships with life still left in them- while flying other aircraft into the groound(like the P-3)-ignoring the fact that their replacements are years away. See the preceding paragraph.

There are plenty of other examples, but this is long enough as it is. Bottom line is that for a supposedly transformational thinker-Rummy really was not. He was just a bully. The President's hatchet man who got the boy what he wanted-despite the cost to the country in the long run. That is hardly a record of "the finest Secretary of Defense". No way that history will prove that statement correct. Rumsfeld's record will earn him a parking space with the other group of former SECDEF's-the infamous ones. He'll be right there with Charlie Wilson and Robert McNamara. As one commentator noted, "Historians will reinterpret him over and over. They will find brilliant, insightful, clearheaded decisions, and they will find boneheaded, jarring, dumb mistakes." . More of the latter than the former, methinks.



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