Given the current corruption, inefficiency, and deception that plagues our military’s bureaucracy, a change is much needed.
After a century of major American involvement in world affairs, it’s safe to say that the U.S. Military has definitely deviated from what the founding fathers had intended it to be: A national defense force committed solely to protecting the American homeland, and on rare circumstances, lending a hand to allies in need. But after 250 years of mutating “policy”, what America has instead is an invasive, destabilizing, and extremely expensive attack force that has become a corrupt extension of our equally destructive government.
Instead of focusing on defending America and its closest allies, the U.S. Military has completely destabilized regions worldwide, with the best examples being the Middle East and North Africa, and the developing Korean conflict. What started as an effort to combat proxy extensions of the Soviet Union ended up creating a worldwide terrorist organization and subsequent “War on Terror” that has destroyed or destabilized the greater part of the Middle Eastern region. It has resulted in the deaths or assassinations of several leaders and heads of state (and subsequent power vacuums), killing millions of civilians and soldiers, and costing trillions of dollars, and a bill that has been footed squarely by the American public.
Most of the events in this chapter of US Military history were intended to “solve” the geopolitical mess that the U.S. Government directly intensified by directing the U.S. Military to distribute weapons equipment and training to insurgents in countries such as Afghanistan in the 1970s under the Reagan Administration.
Inefficiency and Waste
However, the fecklessness isn’t limited to actual combat and geopolitical failures. The military is also precariously inefficient, enabled by the lobbyists who have intertwined their companies with American communities, and by extension, the jobs that the families of those communities rely on. A prime example of this is in the years late, tens-of-billions over budget F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. In 2006, the US Military began the F-35 JSF program, with the hope that it would eventually become the next-generation fighter of the future, replacing older, cold-war era jets, and work in tandem with current 4th generation aircraft, such as the F-22 Raptor.
Even before the program got underway, there were doubts about the timelines and costs of this 5th generation fighter jet. However, as the project progressed, it quickly became crystal clear that the aircraft wouldn’t be anywhere near ready by the original deadline: due in part, to short-sighted forecasts that failed to account for delays, as well as the military industrial complex’s ‘build first, fix later’ mentality, which caused F-35 jets to have to constantly be sent back to the production factories any time a major design flaw was discovered, a process which was costly in terms of both time and funding.
Another cause of delays was the massive amount of subcontractors and parts suppliers who were involved with the construction of all different parts of the aircraft, which caused significant logistical delays, especially when faulty parts or labor needed to be tracked down, or replacement parts remade. Instead of imposing tighter limits, cutting off funding, or making major adjustments to the program, the Pentagon, enabled by members of Congress (who were content to keep the funds flowing so long as the jobs they had promised to their constituents stayed put) kept funneling money into the program, akin to the way a gambler keeps withdrawing cash from the bank in hopes of finally winning, all the while fighting a losing battle.
Deception and ‘Dark Matter’
This inefficiency has also caused corruption and secrecy to become common tactics used to mask the flows of money and the inherent inefficiency of government bureaucracy. The most recent example of this occurred in 2015, when a report by the Defense Business Board (DBB), a federal advisory panel of corporate executives, and consultants, found that the Pentagon was operating extremely inefficiently.
A whopping 23% of its total $580 Billion budget being spent not on equipment, or on troop-related costs, but on overhead, back-office bureaucracy operations. Its total labor pool (1.01M) rivaled the total number of active troops (1.3M), which is at a level not seen since 1940. Almost half of those back-office personnel — a whopping 457,000 full-time employees — were assigned to logistics or supply-chain jobs, which on its own exceeds the size of United Parcel Service’s (UPS) total global workforce.
The DBB report detailed methods and reforms by which the Pentagon could save $125 Billion over a five year period, not by resorting to layoffs of civil servants or reductions in military personnel, but by utilizing methods such as renegotiating contracts, cutting out high-priced contractors, hiring less expensive workers, and making better use of data analytics.
However, the report was quickly censored, details classified and documents removed from the Pentagon’s website soon after their release, because Pentagon officials feared that if Congress and the White House were to see the detailed DBB report, it would heavily undermine their public narrative that the Pentagon was cash-strapped and in need of additional funds to furnish soldiers with necessary equipment. According to the Washington Post, the details of the report were never intended to be seen by the American people from the very beginning, because “a $2.9 million consulting contract signed by the Pentagon stipulated that none of the data or analysis could be released to the news media or the public” (Whitlock, Woodward).
According to the same WaPo article, attempts to analyze the information in databases that tracked both civilian and military personnel, as well as labor and contractor costs, were stymied by “the armed forces and a multitude of defense agencies”, many of whom “had fought to hide the data from outsiders and bureaucratic rivals, according to documents and interviews”. But the infighting and secrecy didn’t end there — “Information on contractor labor, in particular, was so cloaked in mystery that McKinsey described it as ‘dark matter’”. Several times, Deputy Secretary Work himself had to step in, in order to allow the Defense Business Board to access the information it needed for the analysis, with disorganization being so rampant that “at one point, more than 100 people were feeding data from different sectors of the bureaucracy”.
The Pentagon has since implemented very few of the highlighted reforms, instead opting to implement reforms that had already been planned, as well as other unrelated changes. It has also changed its attitude towards the report, with Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work, one of the officials who oversaw the report, doing a sudden 180 on his previous advocacies of the reforms and claiming that the $125 Billion in savings is “unrealistic”.
This recent incident isn’t the only attempt to enact significant change. Notable pushes by defense secretaries from 1997, 2010, and 2013 all dissipated after the reform instigators left office. A quote from Dov Zakheim, former comptroller under President George W. Bush, sums up the main cause of the inability of Pentagon reform-seekers to enact change: “Because we turn over our secretaries and deputy secretaries so often, the bureaucracy just waits things out. You can’t do it at the tail end of an administration. It’s not going to work. Either you leave the starting block with a very clear program, or you’re not going to get it done.” Overall, this is just another example of the extreme incompetence and obstruction that Pentagon bureaucrats impose on necessary change.
Resistance to Update Technology
In addition to its numerous geopolitical failures, the Pentagon has also resisted several notable efforts to update manned equipment with next-generation automation, in favor of the old ways of the military-industrial complex. This was recently seen when the effort to introduce pilotless, jet-powered, aircraft carrier-capable drones, such as Boeing’s X-45, and Northrop Grumman’s X-47, both of which were part of the UCLASS (Unmanned Carrier-Launched Strike & Surveillance aircraft) killer stealth drone program, failed, when the Pentagon abruptly decided to end the program in 2017.
The Pentagon’s decision was reflected in the its defense proposal budget for 2017, which after showing a combined $818 million allocated for the project in 2015 and 2016, disappeared completely for the fiscal year 2017, replaced partially by a program to develop mid-air refueling aimed at supplementing current piloted attack aircraft that would receive a fraction of the funding. This occurred amid reluctance from military bureaucrats over the absence of the human element; the robot warplanes posed a clear threat to the pilot-centric cultures of the Air Force and the Navy’s aviation arm. The UCLASS project almost became reality a decade ago, in 2006, but was sidelined by similar anti-A.I. sentiment and an overwhelming preference for manned aircraft.
After the recent dismissal of the program, a Boeing engineer who was involved with the project (but who desired to remain anonymous for obvious reasons), criticized the military holdouts over their illogical and counterproductive loyalty to manned aircraft, remarking that “the reason that was given [for the ending of the UCLASS program] was that we were expected to be too good in key areas and that we would have caused disruption to the efforts to ‘keep F-22 but moreover JSF sold,” the engineer said. “If we had flown and things like survivability had been assessed and Congress had gotten a hold of the data, JSF would have been in trouble”” (Axe). This refusal to eliminate the human element from welfare could possibly place US airpower at a disadvantage in the future, with competitors not far behind, and the current F-35 program facing significant hiccups and disadvantages to programs such as UCLASS, which is billed as (and which has demonstrated the capacity to become) a replacement to the concept of manned attack aircraft altogether.
One such advantage over the F-35 that the UCLASS drones have is that since they require no pilot (who subsequently needs regular training to keep his skills in top condition), but instead rely on simulation and training programs combined with the occasional training sortie, they can be kept in storage until needed in a conflict, and occasionally updated as needed, eliminating many billions of dollars per year in training costs, wages, fuel and maintenance costs.
The Military of the Future
What is the point of detailing these issues? The corruption and short-sightedness that has plagued the military for years have sidelined our nation with unnecessary war, criminal levels of inefficiency, and a lack of advancement to match the global military market and its next-generation aspirations. The American military behemoth has destabilized entire regions, resulted in the deaths of millions and indoctrinated the vast majority of the American people to believe in blind support of the military, all in the name of “patriotism”. But what we have today is hardly something to be proud of.
The solution? Revolutionize the US military by implementing major logistical and managerial overhauls, and increasing military accountability and transparency by making the military completely dependent on its “shareholders”: the American people. They would voluntarily fund the defense-only force, transitioning the current active forces to a need-based defense force which would operate from its current facilities on American soil.
The new system would also eliminate the current power structure that rewards officials who are older with more power, (which promotes corruption and an aversion to change) and instead replace it with a distinct state/regional system in which the people of a certain area would be able to vote at certain intervals on which management methods and defense packages that they would prefer. In contrast to the current system that runs on virtually endless government funding (and which violates libertarian principles of voluntaryism), the new system would allow communities to see where their money goes inside the military and would allow the people to effectively control unsavory military behavior by cutting off funding.
This “military 2.0” would also eliminate the need for much of the military budget, and would also eliminate the need for the multitude of (sometimes fraudulent and greedy) contractors that currently supplement military manpower and equipment needs. This includes the likes of Blackwater and other controversial private military companies, several of whom have committed atrocities abroad (A prime example being the 2007 Nisour Square Massacre in Iraq, in which a group of power-drunk Blackwater guards cruelly gunned down 14 civilians and later claimed to have been attacked by insurgents), which reflects poorly on the image of the United States in those countries. The smaller defense force would allow for a stronger community connection between military forces and the people they serve. Most importantly, this military 2.0 would eliminate the tragic loss of life that has been a heartbreaking side effect of the Middle Eastern wars and American imperialism as a whole.
This proposal is a clear step away from the corrupt imperialistic military that America has had since the late 20th century and a step towards a streamlined, transparent, and efficient self defense-focused military that all Americans can have a say in, and which all Americans can be proud to support. It is a change that is very much needed, given the current corruption, inefficiency, and deception that plagues our military’s bureaucracy. But it is also a proposal that will need the full effort of the people, given the heavy resistance that has doomed past efforts. Whether or not reform is implemented is up to the American people. Let’s hope the American people make the right choice.
Apuzzo, Matt. “Ex-Blackwater Guards Given Long Terms for Killing Iraqis.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 13 Apr. 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/14/us/ex-blackwater-guards-sentenced-to-prison-in-2007-killings-of-iraqi-civilians.html.
Axe, David. “Pentagon Kills Its Killer Drone Fleet.” The Daily Beast, The Daily Beast Company, 11 Feb. 2016, http://www.thedailybeast.com/pentagon-kills-its-killer-drone-fleet.
Whitlock, Craig, and Bob Woodward. “Pentagon Buries Evidence of $125 Billion in Bureaucratic Waste.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 5 Dec. 2016, http://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/pentagon-buries-evidence-of-125-billion-in-bureaucratic-waste/2016/12/05/e0668c76-9af6-11e6-a0ed-ab0774c1eaa5_story.html?utm_term=.398653bc33c4.