24 October 2006

The Pentagon Procurement Bubble

Sometimes the outside world has a hard time getting the ear of senior defense department officials, as Noah Shachtman who blogs for Defense Tech and writes for Popular Science on defense issues explains:

Often, the military-funded researchers -- and their managers -- that I meet seem only dimly aware that there are wars going on at all. They might pay some lip service to fighting the counterterror fight. But the money, and the research projects, seem only tangentially connected to that struggle. . . . when the country is losing two wars at once, it's time to get our priorities straight.

A commentor responds:

You never know what the next generation of war will be. In 2000, nobody knew that our wars would be vs insurgencies.

But, the commentator is simply wrong. We knew in 2000 that our military had insurgencies in its future. We have known for half a century that the United States military would be called upon to fight "small wars" and counterinsurgency actions. It has been called upon for peace keeping missions and to provide technical assistance to other nations in counterinsurgency roles all across the world. We fought and lost Vietnam and the Reagan response in its aftermath was to build a military designed to fight World War II, complete with a large compliment of blue sea warships, heavy tanks, and the like, but not a single unit designed from the ground up for counterinsurgency missions.

The military wasn't just not ready to fight the war in Iraq, it was designed to be ill equipped to fight that kind of war. And, in any case, once you are in two wars as it is, preparing for the next war is largely irrelevant. The nature of war is that if you don't perform well enough in the one you are in, you don't get to try again.

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