The following was written by Ronald G. Garant.
As an individual who has participated at relatively high levels in prior Defense Quadrennial Defense Reviews (QDR), I could not contain myself as I read Newt Gingrich's defense of the most recent QDR in the Post's 4 March OP-ED page.
He makes it look like it is a big decision making process when everyone involved in the process knows that is it one of the single most focused turf protection exercises in the hallowed halls of the Pentagon. He fawns over the Army's restructure from 11 divisions to 77 brigades. This restructuring was an Army initiative sprung forth during last year's Iraq war supplemental and all that we are looking at in the QDR is an affirmation of the Army's decision.
I find it curious that the Army took this long to adopt the organizational structure that the Marines have had in place for several years. The Marines were several years ahead of the Army in recognizing that it was important to train to fight in an urban environment. Once again, the Army may be behind the power curve. The Marines are finding that agile brigades need more structure to support the long deployments in Iraq. So once again, it looks like the Marines are more adept at adapting to the situation at hand.
Little is made in the QDR of a major sea change, which, once again, is not a product of the QDR, but a product of an independent decision, by the Marines. Prior to last year, the Marines thumbed their nose at the Special Operations Command (SOCOM). Their typical response was that, “we are the 911 force.” Now that they have joined the SOCOM, one would anticipate that the QDR would be the appropriate venue for rearranging some of the deck chairs.
One of the most obvious changes that never surfaced in the QDR turf battle was the V-22 mission. Had the QDR been a real review of the defense establishment it would have, at a minimum, recognizes the movement of the Marines into SOCOM, and addressed its obvious impact on the V-22 program. Until the incorporation of the Marines, the Air Force was required to dedicate a small element of its force to the V-22 program in support of the SOCOM mission that it had fulfilled with helicopters. The Marines are the major V-22 user with a substantial element of the force dedicated to the platform.
Adoption of the SOCOM V-22 mission into the larger Marine force, which is now a player with SOCOM, is a no brainer except for the fact that it requires a decision to impact turf. The cost of maintaining a separate Air Force contingent in a service which does not promote other than jet jockeys to become Chief of Staff, is but one reason to merge the mission into the larger Marine force. The SOCOM mission is without question the more challenging that the V-22 must address. As such, it makes eminent good sense to draw from the much larger pool of talent that will be available within the Marine V-22 base than to attempt to grow an elite Air Force group in a service, which has little if any appreciation of any non jet jockey. When I broached this position several years ago I equated it to the Difference between the UNH and UCLA football teams and asked who would you bet on?
Newt lauds the fact that the QDR reduced the overall number of F-22s. It is common knowledge that major acquisition programs are defined by the total program estimate. As the cost must ultimately be recognized, by even the proponents with blinders on, the quantity is adjusted to fit the dollars. Look at any major acquisition program and this truism becomes apparent. The “military-congressional-industrial complex” has become adept at sustaining production long after the Defense dollar-defined program has ended.
When the cost cap for the F-22 was the subject of the Defense Acquisition Executive discussion early on in the program the Deputy Secretary for Acquisition, in jest, summarized the process as the culmination of Calvin Coolidge's position that we should buy one airplane and take turns flying it. He focused on the fact that the cost cap approach carried to its extreme could produce one multi-billion dollar aircraft without some other discipline applied. Given the growth in the F-22 cost, it is obvious that total program cost is all that DOD acquisition management can impose.