Archive for February 24, 2014

DEFENSE: Good News for Special Ops, Bad News for Warthogs

Pentagon’s 2015 Budget: Dropping the First Shoe

Updates with Sen. Ayotte comments

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today (February 24) outlined the painful cuts to programs and reductions in the armed services imposed by Congressional budget cutters.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (Defense Dept. photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel
(Defense Dept. photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

Under the Bi-Partisan Budget Act passed by Congress in December, defense spending is capped at roughly $496 billion for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015 – forcing the Pentagon to come up with more than $75 billion in cuts over the two-year period, Hagel said.

He noted those cuts come on top of “the $37 billion cut we took last year and the Budget Control Act’s 10-year reductions of $487 billion.” If sequestration-level cuts remain the law for Fiscal Year 2016 and beyond, more cuts will have to be made, Pentagon officials said.

Starting in Fiscal 2015 [October 1, 2014-September 30, 2015], the Army will see a large reduction in size over five years – down to pre-World War II numbers, 440,000 to 450,000 – and the Navy can expect to see the number of cruisers and Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) drop. The Air Force is dropping some of its tactical aircraft inventory, including its 40-year-old A-10 close air support jets and U-2 spy planes as cost savings measures.

But the Pentagon continues to see a need for increasing the size of Special Operations Forces. In the 2015 budget request to Congress, Defense Department leaders are choosing to reduce troop strength and force structure in all of the military services, “in order to sustain our readiness and technological superiority” and to “protect critical capabilities like Special Operations Forces and cyber sources,” Hagel said.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The 2015 budget seeks to increase the number of personnel serving in Special Operations Command by 3,700 to 69,700, Hagel said, to protect “capabilities uniquely suited to the most likely missions of the future” counter terrorism and crisis response. That’s more than double the 33,000 SOF complement in 2001.

To protect “higher priorities” like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, new aerial refueling tanker and long range strike bomber programs in this era of fiscal austerity, the Air Force plans to eliminate the entire A-10 Thunderbolt fleet. Called the “Warthog” for its stubby appearance, punishment-taking air frame and lethal armament, the 1970s era A-10 is best known for effective close air support in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Air Force can save $3.5 billion over five years by retiring the 300-plus A-10 fleet rather than upgrade it, said Hagel. The move would also speed up Air Force plans to replace the A-10s with the F-35 in the early 2020s.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Willard E. Grande II)

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Willard E. Grande)

Hagel said it was a tough decision to eliminate the beloved A-10. But he noted it was a “40-year-old single-purpose airplane originally designed to kill enemy tanks on a Cold War battlefield.” The A-10, which can fly low and slow to provide covering fire for ground troops “cannot survive or operate effectively where there are more advanced aircraft or air defenses,” Hagel said. And the Pentagon believes the advent of precision munitions means there are more types of aircraft to provide effective close air support – a point A-10 advocates and several members of Congress dispute.

Senator Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican and member of the Armed Services Committee, was quick to criticize the move.

“The Pentagon’s decision to recommend the early retirement of the A-10 before a viable replacement achieves full operational capabability is a serious mistake based on poor analyses and bad assumptions,” said Ayotte, who has been battling Pentagon efforts to ground the Warthogs. “Instead of cutting its best and least expensive close air support aircraft in an attempt to save money, the Air Force could achieve similar savings elsewhere in its budget without putting our troops at increased risk,” she added.

In addition to the A-10, the Air Force also plans to retire the 50-year-old U-2 high altitude spy plane in favor of the unmanned Global Hawk system. But the Air Force is also slowing the growth of its unmanned aircraft inventory. “While effective against insurgents and terrorists,” UAVs “cannot operate in the face of enemy aircraft and modern air defenses,” Hagel said.

The actual budget numbers for each service and program – the other shoe, if you will – will drop next week (March 4) when the White House releases the president’s full budget request. And then the “fun” will begin when Congress weighs in.

February 24, 2014 at 8:49 pm 1 comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (February 23 – March 1)

Court Martial

William Hull (xxxxxxxxxxxxxx)

William Hull
(Colonial Society of Massachusetts)

Winter 1814: Indian leader Tecumseh and British General Isaac Brock are dead … Fort Detroit, which they captured in 1812 through subterfuge and bravado, is back in U.S. hands … and American General William Hull, who surrendered Detroit without a fight, is on trial for his life.

After surrendering Detroit in August 1812, Hull is first transported to Montreal as a prisoner of war before being returned to the United States in a prisoner exchange.

In January 1814 Hull’s court-martial began in Albany, New York. On January 17, he pleaded not guilty to charges of treason.

Witnesses – mostly subordinates who had been infuriated when Hull surrendered—testified that he had seemed panicky and distracted during the brief siege. It was noted that in addition to more than 2,000 troops – most of them Ohio and Michigan militia – Hull’s surrender presented the British with more than 3,000 muskets, 37 cannons and other ordnance, 400 rounds of twenty-four-pound solid cannon balls and 100,000 cartridges.

It turned out Hull had surrendered to a smaller force. Brock had only 700 British regulars and militia and about 600 Indians. But through ruse and bluff, he led Hull to believe he faced a far larger force (the Indians marched past the same gap in the woods three times loudly shouting war cries.

The Surrender of Detroit by John Wycliffe Lowes Forster.

The Surrender of Detroit by John Wycliffe Lowes Forster.

Brock had also captured a Detroit-bound ship that carried Hull’s personal possessions, including his papers and war plans. He know U.S. morale was low and the Americans feared the Indians after troops and civilians evacuating Fort Dearborn in Illinois Territory (the site of present day Chicago), were attacked and massacred by Indians.

Hull’s supply lines had been cut, he had poor communications with Washington and Secretary of War William Eustis. His troops were mostly poorly trained and unruly militiamen and volunteers. Th head of the Army, General Henry Dearborn had been slow to launch other attacks into Canada to take some of the pressure off Hull. Dearborn presided over the court-martial.

The final straw in the capture of Detroit probably came when Brock sent a letter to Hull warning that the Indians with the British “will be beyond my control the moment the contest commences.” In other words, surrender or I’ll turn the Indians loose and who knows what savagery that might unleash. There were women and children at Fort Detroit, including Hull’s own children and grandchildren.

Hull about 1800

Hull about 1800

A Revolutionary War veteran who had fought bravely at White Plains, Trenton, Princeton, Saratoga and other battles, the 60-year-old Hull had been territorial governor of Michigan and originally turned down command of the Army of the Northwest.

Compounding his bad luck, papers Hull believed could exonerate him were burned up when the ship carrying them was attacked by the British. The trial will continue until late March.

February 24, 2014 at 12:17 am Leave a comment


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