Expect to see this kind of thinking here soon.

War News Updates brings us this article about defense budget cuts in Europe.

“By the end of the year it ought to become clear that the Bundeswehr will become smaller, but better.” This is how German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg framed his plans to cut the German army by around a third last month.

Well. Maybe. Or maybe you’ll just end up with a smaller Bundeswehr. The story doesn’t state it, but it does imply that tight fiscal restraints result in better defense policy, and that less fiscal restraint results in intellectual stagnation. No evidence to that effect is shown, however.

In these austere times, it won’t be long before we see people coming after the defense budget here in the US as well. Unfortunately for some of these folks, the military is the single most trusted institution in the nation. And with US troops abroad in two separate wars, any call for trimming the defense budget will almost certainly be met with charges that liberals want to deprive troops of the tools they need to do their jobs.

That’s where this “do more with less” argument will come in. Supporters of slashing the defense budget will claim that by downsizing the defense establishment, they’ll actually produce efficiencies.

But they won’t. See, almost always when the DoD is faced with budget cuts, the first cuts go to troop force levels, rather than to the institutional side of the house. That’s like IBM slashing its work force by laying off salesmen and engineers without trimming any of the management layers that exist to service them. It’s a net loss.

Oh, we’ll see a lot of arguments in the news about high profile weapons programs that are over budget. And truth be told, I’d swing a pretty sharp axe through those myself if I were in charge. But the fact is, a smaller defense budget outlay is going to hurt the troop on the ground more than any other facet of the military.

As a guy who remembers the bad old days of having to buy your own toilet paper and cleaning supplies in the barracks, I don’t think this is going to end well.

3 thoughts on “Expect to see this kind of thinking here soon.”

  1. Two thoughts. Neither of them wholly rational, but still.

    First, I seem to recall that the Bundeswehr has not exactly been getting much bang for their buck in their overseas deployments. They managed to spend quite a lot of time in Afghanistan without actually doing anything outside of eating rations. The KSK managed to not participate in a single mission according to some reporters.

    The second. When the German Army gets too big, it goes on tour. Going on tour usually ends up badly for large parts of Europe, bits of Asia and Africa. Sorry. I know its a largely irrational fear. But yet, there it is.

  2. My limited exposure to the Bundeswehr back in the days right around reunification led me to the conclusion that they had an excellent professional officer corps. Real pros. But the bulk of the army was conscripted for 15 months. That’s just about enough time to run a troop through basic training, some job training, and one unit training cycle. So just as they achieve any proficiency, they are released to the reserves. That’s actually not a terrible model for a conscript army. The idea was that FRG would have a huge reserve of trained manpower in the event of the Soviets going on tour.

    But what they can’t do is train a unit and maintain any personnel stability, then deploy that unit for a year or so overseas. Either you’d deploy with untrained personnel, or all your peoples enlistment would end about 3 months into the deployment. And I don’t think they have a stop-loss program.

    But they do have a fair number of volunteer enlistees who enter for longer terms than the 15 month draft. But they don’t have enough to make it a truly expeditionary force.

    As to the Bundeswehr not really accomplishing anything while in Afghanistan, that’s a function of the ROE that Germany set for their forces, and that is a political matter. The war is very unpopular in Germany, and the rules were set to minimize the casualties their contingent took.

Comments are closed.