June 13, 2011

Discussion Question for the day

I don't have a movie review for today (slacker!) but I have had a random thought rolling around in my head for a few days and wanted to bring it to the table for discussion. This may be a controversial topic, and I'm not intending to make anyone upset (honest). I'm just asking some questions.

First: background. The country is in a financial crisis, yadda yadda yadda. And of course, the first thing many people - elected and not - like to bring up whenever talking about the budget is cutting or freezing troop pay. I don't know why no one ever talks about cutting Congress or federal appointee salaries (oh wait, yeah I do) but for some reason they always seem to want to start with cutting some poor E-2's salary or a wounded warrior's benefits. I just find that absurd.

Now, hear me: I know there's waste in military spending. Like any other government entity, there's going to be waste and abuse. But I don't think that wages or physical therapy are part of it.

SoldierMan and I were talking the other day about the "fantasy" posts we'd like to be stationed at someday. You know, the pie-in-the-sky ones. And they were pretty much all OCONUS. And as we started talking, we mentioned one place and SoldierMan said, "I don't really know why we have a base there anymore. I'd like to go, but I don't think we need one there. Do we?"

And I thought, that's interesting. I've never really questioned why we have bases (or posts, or camps, but for the purposes of this discussion, I'm going to say "bases") where we do, at least OCONUS. Although, I guess there's a discussion to be had about CONUS bases, too. But this isn't it.

Anyway, we're talking and going through the list and discussing the strategic wisdom versus the fiscal responsibility of having bases in various countries around the world. Again, caveat: I totally believe in the necessity of having forces stationed around the world in strategic locations in today's terror climate. The ability to have rapid responses to engage freedom's enemies at any given location in the world should be a no-brainer. That's not my question.

My question is, are we really doing that in a way that is both strategically effective and yet isn't a burden on the country right now financially - when it doesn't really have to be?

Again, caveat: I am NOT pointing a finger and saying any personnel is unnecessary or should be cut. Not at all. I just think that asking whether or not we are making the best use of our resources is a reasonable question.

For example (and here's where I'm REALLY going to step on some toes): we still have bases in locations that were created as a result of WWII. Is there still a strategic advantage to keeping an active presence in those countries 60+ years later? I mean, last I checked, Germany and Japan were a couple of our best allies. And it doesn't look like anyone in Europe is gearing up for war any time soon - at least, compared with the rest of the world.

When we have bases in other countries that are closer to the multiple theaters of war we are currently engaged in, or likely to be engaged in at some point (i.e. N. Korea) - is the strategic advantage in keeping those locations active worth the cost? And no, I don't know the actual dollar figures involved. I wonder if anybody does, really. But that's also kind of the point.

One of the very, very few things the Constitution allows the federal government to spend money on is to maintain a force for the common defense. Which is probably another reason it gets attacked so often, so we don't notice when Congress does things like spend a half a million dollars on a beer museum. A beer museum! But we shouldn't have to pay for a guy who contracted fibrosis due to fallout in the line of duty to receive medications to help him breathe. Nope. (Yes, that's a friend of mine. 2 years he's been waiting on the OK for treatment. 2 years.)

Anyway, that was a tangent. My point is, yes, the government has a responsibility to maintain a strong national defense, and I do believe that part of that includes a presence in various places around the world, primarily for the purpose of rapid response.

I'm just asking if we couldn't be doing it better, more efficiently.

What do you think?

(And remember, this is a public forum. I can see this topic leading to a discussion of troop movements. I had a hard time not mentioning it myself. Remember OPSEC, everyone.)

11 comments:

  1. I do think it is a good point to bring this issue up. I remember Glenn Beck discussing it, and suggesting that we scale down/leave Germany. It costs a TON of money. I don't know the numbers, but I'm sure it's tens of thousands just to send one family overseas (moving costs alone, then think about all the COLA). Like you, there are lots of dream places I would love to be stationed, but it's just so I can live some foreign vacation dream for a few years (with the help of the Army).

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  2. Good questions. The problem with military spending is that a lot of it is political rather than strategic. For example, they still have "bases" that are open just because the district has a powerful Congressman/woman who don't want to lose the jobs. That often means that you've got a small command that could be moved anywhere else, except that the Congressperson has made sure it stays in the middle of nowhere -- ditto on several weapons programs that even the military has tried to get rid of, but which Congress simply will not let die because they spread the jobs over the right districts.

    In terms of Germany, my understanding is that most of the troops left in Europe are there to train European troops to work with ours in the event of joint military work -- or to handle things like missile defense. So I'm guessing those are probably fairly necessary at this point. Japan is a little different because of North Korea and the presence of China.

    But none of that means that our allies shouldn't be picking up the slack and taking up the burden for themselves. That was actually what Gates was saying in his speech the other day about NATO -- that most of NATO has become useless because they don't spend enough.

    So there are definitely things that can and should be cut from the military budget. But the military is a bit of a red herring in this. The real spending problem in Washington is entitlements, which are far too expensive and which are growing by leaps and bounds every year.

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  3. Like AndrewPrice mentioned, I bet it's all politics. Kind of like moving Air Defense out of Bliss. It was politics. Bliss became the home of air defense because it has the land and space needed to test and train on their weapons. Now they're getting shoved in with FA in Sill. (Had a doubt moment if I should say all that, but it's all found easily online when looking up BRAC.) And it's all because of politics. Armored was smart enough to snatch up Bliss while they could!

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  4. I completely agree with you.

    In my opinion, we could EASILY do without civilian employees on post. 9 times out of 10 they aren't doing anything, they're rude, they never know what is going on or how to help you and most (not all) are downright a waste of money. Personally, they are doing jobs that should be done by soldiers etc... especially now that we're drawing down from the wars.

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  5. Because we're stationed in Germany, they hardly spend any money on national defense. And their students don't have to pay for secondary education. I'm all for getting out of Germany.

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  6. I def think we should scale down in Germany. One of th ebig Hospitals is there that we use as a treatment facility for injured soldiers, before coming back to the states, but other than that, all we are doing is allowing Germany to spend money on other things than defense.
    Also, I know there is a p[olicy in the Army (not sure of the other branches) that if you don't use your budget, you lose it the next year. Instead of rewarding companies for saving money, and being fiscally responsible, they punish them for NOT using all the funds by cutting them the next year. This causes a LOT of waste...for instance, i know that one of the local units just bought 20+ office chairs costing $700 a piece just to use up their funda at the end of the year, even though the current chairs were still in great condition!!
    I am part of a medical unit. we throw out TONS of supplies like bandaids and IV fluids and bandages every year and get new ones. We don't donate the supplies to clinics, or recycle them. all because we have this budget, so we waste...it is REALLY SAD!! they could EASILY cut spending in other areas of defense as opposed to the saleries of the hard working soldiers and the wounded!

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  7. My husband was deployed to Germany in 2004-2005 & his deployment alone raised questions for me. His National Guard unit (Field Artillery) was deployed as Military Police, which meant they had to undergo months of training before deploying. The reason they were deployed was so that the full-time Army unit that was stationed in Germany could go to Iraq. Now think about this...activating an entire Guard unit is going to have a huge financial impact because of the fact that they're typically not on payroll! And they re-trained for one deployment...which had to be costly...so that another unit could deploy elsewhere. It just doesn't make sense from a financial or managerial point of view.

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  8. I've never thought about why we have bases in certain locations. So that's an interesting point you bring up. Whether we need bases where they are...well I don't know. And I think they have shut down several military bases in Germany, but there are still a lot. At any rate, I think it's interesting that the decision to to go somewhere or not would be based on the post's necessity. I've never looked at it from that angle. As long as they are sending troops OCONUS and it's somewhere you'd like to go, and not a bad career move, I say go for it. Because if it's necessary or not, as long as a base is open, they are going to send SOMEONE there. Might as well be someone who'd like to go. But that's just me...and I know my opinion doesn't mean a whole lot. It's obviously different than most of the other comments!

    And agreed, the government sure knows how to spend money where it shouldn't be. But I'm no expert so I probably shouldn't say any more than that!

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  9. I recently had a very similar discussion with my husband. For what ever reason, it just dawned on me, why are we the only country to (for the most part) have bases all over the world? Your thoughts and concerns make perfect sense to me and I think it's perfectly reasonable to raise the questions you do.

    I may not always understand all the things that the Army does, but I'm trying to trust in the Lord and simply count all of the blessings that come along with being stationed in Japan.

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  10. This is a good question!

    As far as Germany goes, they have already scaled down drastically there. There are only a few major hubs: Landstuhl/Ramstein (the medical center), Stuttgart (the Europe/Africa command post) and Bavaria (Stryker unit and some infantry unit I believe). The reason why the hospital is there is a given - other than that, lots of money is spent on the other units and I beg to differ if they actually make sense strategically. On the other hand the United States are the number one military power in the world and that's one reason why. Think of the recent events in Libya. Wasn't it fighter jet based out of a base in Italy/Spain that were there right away?

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  11. My favorite talk radio host brings this up all the time. We have no money...correction, we have LESS than no money...and government spending is out of control. He believes we should stop operating most of the bases overseas, because it is SO expensive, as a part of a much larger cut in spending. Of course with the amount of debt we are in it's going to take a lot more than just shutting down a few OCONUS bases, but every little bit counts and it could add up to getting our country back on the right track, financially. All in all, I think all government programs need to take step back and start cutting out the things that aren't worth what they cost...starting with their own salaries, of course. :)

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