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US Military Procurement 1/N

Summary:
I plan to write a series of posts on which and how many weapons the US should buy. I start with two important disclaimers. First, obviously, I have no expertise and probably don’t know what I am talking about. Second, I firmly believe that the US Federal Government intertemporal budget constraint is currently satisfied with slack, so spending can be increased without ever increasing taxes or cutting otehr spending. To argue that wasteful spending is suboptimal, I have to argue that there is a political limit on deficits (which there is) while discussing what I guess is optimal policy (ignoring politics). The military procurement budget which I will discuss is $ 245.6 Billion for Fiscal Year 2022 out of a Defence Department budget of 8

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I plan to write a series of posts on which and how many weapons the US should buy. I start with two important disclaimers. First, obviously, I have no expertise and probably don’t know what I am talking about. Second, I firmly believe that the US Federal Government intertemporal budget constraint is currently satisfied with slack, so spending can be increased without ever increasing taxes or cutting otehr spending. To argue that wasteful spending is suboptimal, I have to argue that there is a political limit on deficits (which there is) while discussing what I guess is optimal policy (ignoring politics).

The military procurement budget which I will discuss is $ 245.6 Billion for Fiscal Year 2022 out of a Defence Department budget of $778 billion for fiscal 2022 and a total Federal Government budget of 6.8 Trillion in fiscal year 2021. This would be a very large amount of money for any other organization, but not so large a fraction of the US Federal Government budget.

I have thoughts.

1) I think that the US should buy smart munitions to be fired from many cheap platforms (that is I take one side in a decades long debate).

2) I think there has been a pattern of planning to spend really huge amounts of money on a weapons system, followed by compromise leading to high spending to acquire a small number of weapons which do not satisfy the original perceived need at all.

3) I think that there has been much to little focus on shoulder fired munitions (roughly stingers and javelins) available to infantry.

4) I think stealth technology is over rated — it is just not as important as must be assumed to justify the current budget. F

5) I think that piloted military aircraft are heading off into the sunset with cavalry.

I have had some of these thoughts for over 40 years now. This means I can mark my beliefs to market and see if I have been proven wrong. I will try to be completely honest about this (but won’t succeed).

The budget is complicated. I will try to summarize. First the FY 2022 budget contains $950.2 million for drones (less than 0.4% of the total). This seems odd to me, given how much I read about drones. I think one lesson of the Russian-Ukraine war is that drones are very useful.

I cite “Top American Generals” who draw three lessons. “Logistics are not Optional”, The Human Element (Still) Matters, and

Humble “Legacy” Technology Can Still Play a Role Against a Sophisticated Adversary

As the US military looks toward a future fight against a technologically advanced foe like Russia or China, the services have made the case for why it’s important to invest in cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence, hypersonic weapons, and the next-generation of combat aircraft, ships and vehicles.

However, the fight between Ukraine and Russia shows that older, less advanced tech can still make an impact against high-end threats.

McConville pointed to Ukraine’s success in using relatively inexpensive, Turkish-made TB2 Bayraktar drones to take out Russian tanks and other military vehicles without putting human pilots at risk.”

I think all three points should be military doctrine 101. Again I note less than 0.4%. This is less than the budget for the V-22 Osprey. Quick pop quiz, what has the US military accomplished using V-22s — ever ? Also why are we spending money on the program ?

thougth 6) I would reduce the budget to maintanence only (buy 0 more V-22s ever).

The budget also includes $ 2 ,980.6 million for development of the B-21. I would definitely cancel this program. The B-21 “is to be an advanced, very long-range, large, heavy-payload stealth intercontinental strategic bomber for the USAF, able to deliver conventional and thermonuclear weapons.[1][2][3]

As of 2021, the bomber is expected to enter service by 2026–2027″”

thought 7) I do not support development of a new intercontinental strategic bomber. I have never supported development of a new incontinental strategic bomber. I think the airborn strategic force should consist of drones launched from planes which are not designed to penetrate modern air defences.

thought 8) I would also cancel the F-22 program (I always opposed building the F-22 — again what has it ever done for us or anyone ?). I note that more is spent on it than all the drones put together.

I also have problems with the 12,024.3 million budgeted for F-35s.

I do support the

2 ,188.7 million for F-15s. I wonder why the budget for F-16s and A-10s is $ 0.00 ? They get the job done, certainly in 2021 (how many have ever been shot down ?).

I will discuss the history of my thoughts on US military procurement in an even more boring post soon.

Robert Waldmann
Robert J. Waldmann is a Professor of Economics at Univeristy of Rome “Tor Vergata” and received his PhD in Economics from Harvard University. Robert runs his personal blog and is an active contributor to Angrybear.

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