Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How to Save Money, Military Style

My temptation is to put in some outrageous waste of money and pretend that the military has discovered this as a new "cost saving" technique. Something like the idiotic $9B the Conservatives want to spend to upgrade the Canadian military to "stealth fighters". My question: just who is Canada going to sneak up on? Russia, UK, China, or the US? Give me a break. So the answer in Canada is to go back to the old Liberal policy of focusing the Canadian military on peace-keeping and humanitarian missions. Canada is a pip squeak among nations and pretending to field a "serious military" only invites somebody to take the Canadian military seriously and threaten us.

So, my suggestion is that Canada get rid of its old planes and go into UAVs. They can do surveillance and search missions with a double duty of carrying missiles to blow up non-state actors like terrorists. That's an appropriate role for Canada.

As for the US, here is a serious idea from The Best Defense blog of Thomas E. Ricks:
Secretary of Defense Gates is currently searching for ways to trim the Department of Defense's proposed $550 billion budget for next year.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are a perfect case study. They are significantly cheaper to purchase and operate than manned aircraft, and they do not require officer pilots. Officer pilots are necessary in manned aircraft because they make decisions independent of a commander's control, due to distance and communications limitations. UAVs remove these impediments. Today a team of enlisted personnel can remotely operate numerous aircraft under the supervision of a single officer. Currently, the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps all use enlisted personnel to fly some UAVs. Yet the Air Force insists on maintaining antiquated requirements that all pilots -- including of UAVs -- be officers.

A recent internal audit of the Air Force's UAV training pipelines found that if properly structured, the training cost could be decreased to $135,000 per pilot, an impressive number when compared with the more than $2.6 million the service spends to train a fighter pilot. Of the approximately 1,200 individuals entering the Air Force's pilot training pipeline last year, roughly half will pilot UAVs. It costs the United States Air Force Academy $403,000 per officer graduate, while it costs less than $45,000 to recruit and train an enlisted service member. If a switch from officer to enlisted UAV pilots were made in the Air Force alone the total recruiting and training savings could amount to over $1.5 billion each year. If all of the services were to begin replacing officers in flight training pipelines with experienced enlisted personnel, such programs could yield several billion dollars in savings each year.

These would not be one-time savings, as maintaining an officer on active duty costs far more than maintaining enlisted personnel. Last year, for the first time, a Navy Petty Officer First Class completed the basic flight standards course, the first step in the Navy's pilot training pipeline. Before flight pay, bonuses, and allowances this individual is paid $2801.40 a month, compared with the $5117.10 a lieutenant is paid for the same month's work. These soldiers, sailors, and marines complete highly technical operations with extremely high levels of efficiency and do so at a fraction of the cost of an officer.

It seems clear that some of the billions of dollars in budget savings for which Secretary Gates is searching might be found by more fully utilizing the talents of enlisted service members.
The above advice makes eminent sense, so it is obvious it won't be followed. Nope... to many "important" people have a stake in the current system getting big bucks to do over-inflated jobs.

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