When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

09 April 2006

"Defending America"

The country's main military goal is clear. 'Our nation is engaged in a global war on terror that affects the safety and security of every American,' President George W. Bush told an audience of Idaho National Guardsmen last August. 'We're using all elements of our national power to achieve our objectives.' Winning could take decades. Bush compares this fight with the half-century struggle against Soviet communism. The Pentagon, in its newly issued master strategic plan, the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), has a new name for the campaign: the Long War. Iraq and Afghanistan are just the opening theaters.

So one would think the Pentagon's $70 billion annual weapons systems budget would focus on winning the war on terror. But a look at the arsenal the Pentagon is building tells a different story. Take the DD(X). According to critics, targeting terrorists with the destroyer, which hits the seas in 2012, is like crushing ants with an 18-wheeler. So why is it in the budget?

In fact, inside the defense establishment, the Long War has competition. In many minds, the real threat is a rising China. But containing China requires different weapons than breaking up Al Qaeda--weapons that were designed for Cold War-style fights. So nearly $10 billion a year goes to ballistic missile interceptors originally designed to stop Soviet missiles; $9 billion to next-generation fighter jets meant to take on MiGs; $3.3 billion to new tanks and fighting vehicles; $1 billion for the Trident II nuclear missile upgrade; and $2 billion for a new strategic bomber.

This QDR doesn't ignore the Long Warriors: They get more commandos and more robotic vehicles. But the China camp is ascendant: Most of the endorsed hardware seems only tangentially related to stopping the terrorist threats that Bush has called a "mortal danger to all humanity." That's not surprising. The bigger the weapons system, the more advocates it has and the harder it is to cancel.
Popular Mechanics - Defending America - April 2006 Cover Story

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