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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Go it alone or share the costs; that's the question

I sparked more of a debate than I expected with my blog earlier this week, about sharing the cost for manning and operating major military systems, such as aircraft carriers.

One person drew a parallel to Pearl Harbor, saying that the Japanese attacked because they saw us cutting defense, and thought they could win.

But he was quickly rebuffed by Bill, who said the Japanese attacked because they thought they could cripple the U.S. fleet in a single strike. “Sharing resources not only doesn’t cripple the fleet, it preserves it,” he said.

But many of the comments represented various sides of the debate that is central to my question, and such was eloquently described by CJ of Washington, D.C., the first commenter on the blog:

“Should the U.S. retain our position as the dominant international force at all costs or is it worth the savings in time, money, resources, and potential lives to let other countries shoulder more of the burden? This is where we are divided.”

I can’t tell which side of the debate CJ would down on, but at least I think he or she would be open to the discussion.

Some of the others, I’m not so sure about. A current Marine wrote, “I want my Marines to fix our vehicles, and I want Marine and Naval Aviators to be able give me close air support from the flight deck of a carrier. That cannot happen when it is lost in the Pacific Ocean because it's manned by a French or Italian crew.”

The dig against the French and Italians aside, the Marine strongly represents the dominant force at all costs argument.

Other commenters also focused on what I’ll call cultural and process issues.

Flag and general officers, and the senior civilian officials, need to focus on redefining budget needs and requirements, but a good portion of their day is mandated to “reviewing and approval [of] travel, conference participation, IT systems and software ….or genuflecting on the latest crisis outside of national defense,” a commenter wrote.

Another commenter suggested attacking redundancies in the DOD and the services: “Pretty much all the back office and supply functions can and should be common-serviced. And why does each service have their own IT and telco empires? This doesn't even address all the things where DOD has a mirror image of other offices and agencies doing the same thing for the civilian agencies, (i.e., Defense Printing Service and GPO, as a minor example.)”

It’s a great discussion, I think. Too bad there isn’t more of it going on between the White House and Congress. How we cut defense spending will have a significant strategic impact whether or not the cuts are done with a strategy in mind.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jan 25, 2013 at 9:50 AM

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