“War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.” – John Stuart Mill

The U.S. military machine is sputtering along like a WWII tank that’s made too many invasions. This isn’t exactly hot news; Navy Chiefs, Army and Air Force Sergeants and junior officers have been shouting “We’re nearly broken” for years.

But up to now, the top brass have been saying they’re full of it. Now big dogs like Navy Secretary John Dalton are finally admitting that the grunts are right: Our military’s combat readiness edge is marshmallow dull.

No doubt, the Army and Air Force Secretaries would second Dalton’s concerns, but things are so bad under Bill Clinton’s military mismanagement that these two top positions — along with thousands of infantry slots — have been unfilled for months.

What’s troublesome is how our security apparatus can be in such bad shape when we spend $32 million an hour on defense and intelligence — almost $300 billion a year.

Since Stormin’ Norman whacked Saddam, our forces have been cut by about 40 percent. This means that we now have less ships and airplanes and almost a million fewer warriors, although the defense dollars have not been proportionately cut.

So on a dollar-per-sailor/soldier/airman basis, we’re spending more per head on our warriors today than we have at any time in our history. And this is without a serious conventional opponent in sight.

Here’s why our well-financed military machine is sputtering:

It’s over-committed. Clinton and his national security clowns cut the force, but they increased the missions by 300 percent. Since the military didn’t budget ahead for hare-brained missions, the dough for these save-the-world operations has come out of the service’s hide.

Over-commitment has gobbled up dough that would have bought spare parts. So mechanics are back to scrounging — stealing from vehicle/aircraft A to get vehicle/aircraft B up and running. Cannibalization wears out parts and frustrates mechanics. Things are so bad that some first hitch grease monkeys believe spare parts come from equipment rather than from the parts room. Cannibalization also puts the operators at high risk — especially pilots — because tired maintenance crews make mistakes. Maybe that’s why so many military aircraft have been falling out of the sky.

A shortage of money has cut training. Poorly trained soldiers die faster than seasoned warriors who continually practice their trade with live fire exercises and spend plenty of time in the boonies scooting and shooting.

Buying the wrong stuff. Even though there’s not enough money for spares or to train, the Pentagon continues to buy more unneeded wonder weapons — Sea Wolf subs, B-2 bombers and fleets of new fighters, and the way pilots are quitting — almost 3,000 in the past two years — there will be no one left but the admirals and generals to fly these wildly expensive toys.

The Pentagon is now shaking its tin cup at Congress, begging for $2.5 billion in supplemental funds. Because of the balanced budget agreement, Congress can no longer write in the needed money with the stroke of their lard pen. So congressmen are looking at which domestic programs can be raided. Will it be school lunches for missile launchers? Or welfare programs for wonder weapons?

If Congress were composed of courageous visionaries, it would:

  1. Streamline our military and get rid of the bloated, redundant structure that has not had a major tune-up in 50 years.
  2. Close down dozens of obsolete forts and bases that were needed when Ike was doing Normandy but now are a total waste of defense dollars.
  3. Freeze buying more cold war wonder weapons. For openers, kill the planned trillion dollar fleet of fighter aircraft and concentrate on getting what we have up to snuff.
  4. Ensure that our military is ready for the new face of war: Irregular combat in cities around the world and terrorism in the USA including attacks with weapons of mass destruction.

Nothing focuses a politician’s mind like an election. If you’re concerned about the quality of our fighting forces, let them know before November.

Defending America — with the right warriors and equipment, the right organization and the right missions — is serious business. Our forces have been hung out to die too many times since 1775. It’s about time we got it right before we fight.

Hack Notes

The talk on Military readiness at the Union League Club went great. Air Force Brigadier General John Flanigan, who introduced me, said it was the best turn out they’d had in his memory — including big hitters such as George Bush and Margaret Thatcher

It was wonderful to meet so many concerned citizens. A lot of West Pointers showed up. Many had checked out of the net within the last year as captains and majors and sadly endorsed what I said about our sputtering military machine and the low state of morale.

I think a number of the Union League Club members will join SOLDIERS FOR THE TRUTH. They snapped up all the SFTT brochures I brought — like cold beer is slugged down on a hot Arizona day.

I pray that everyone who receives this newsletter also signs up for SFTT. If we’re going to cause change it will take your spiritual/physical as well as financial support. Bitching and venting may let off steam, but it doesn’t put any pressure on the high brass or politicians to do the right thing.

I am motivated from what I saw in Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and in Somalia. Too many young people died or were badly mangled in these hell-holes because their political and military leaders didn’t get it right.

So if you haven’t signed up for SOLDIERS FOR THE TRUTH, stop picking your nose and get with the program. Roger and Carl, who are working their butts off for our serving troops, need your help NOW.

Secretary of Defense William Cohen was scheduled to follow me as the next speaker, but I’m told he canceled. Maybe he was afraid the audience was primed and would ask some hard questions. Or maybe he figured his poetry wouldn’t go down well among such a hardcore and smart audience.

I was asked “What is good about our Armed Forces?” I replied, “It’s the wonderful young people who are now in the ranks. I have never seen better. They shine. They’ve been well selected, well educated, well trained and they’re full of piss and vinegar. They never cease to amaze me. The trick is how to keep them. They come in full of fire and idealism, but those attributes seem to get snuffed out in their early years and they quit.”

One answer is for the senior military leadership — full colonel/Navy captain and above — to leave their laptops and meetings, can their staged visits and spend a 24 hour block a week with the lowest echelon in their command — a rifle or tank platoon, the crew in an engine room or a maintenance crew out on the line. For 24 hours, they work, eat, sleep with these wonderful kids and hey, a lot of good stuff will rub off and a lot of truth will get out.

Did you know that in the eight years we had TOE fighting units in Vietnam, not one general or admiral spent a 24 hour block with a grunt unit. Not a frigging one. And it is the only war we have lost in our history.

That figures. If the top doesn’t know what goes on at the bottom, the outfit eventually bellies up.

Keep Five yards!

— Hack

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