August 31, 2012

Question about military service and affirmative action

When I look around for places to cut the federal budget, military spending looks like one pretty obvious place. The U.S. accounts for close to half of the world's military budget, and the world seems to be getting more peaceful. Cross-border military invasions seem to be declining in number decade by decade (not counting the U.S. and Israel). So, do we really need quite as many troops or aircraft carriers?

This is not, however, a popular view.

There are a lot of reasons why this isn't popular, but I wanted to ask about one that doesn't come up much. A few times, commenters have have asserted that being able to check the "Veteran" box on civil service applications is a major advantage in getting desirable government jobs, such as fireman or cop, roughly equivalent to checking "Black" or "Latino."

Can anybody who knows more about this than I do, fill me in on this?

80 comments:

foseti said...

I can only speak for federal employment.

If you (as a supervisor/selecting-official) post a federal government job, it's virtually impossible not to hire a current federal employee or a veteran.

Initial preferences go to existing federal employees. After that, in order to NOT hire a veteran, you basically have to demonstrate that he's retarded. If you want to hire anyone other than the veteran, you affirmatively have to demonstrate that the veteran is incapable of performing the job at a minimal level.

I can give you lots more detail, if you need more in any specific area of the process.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of aircraft carriers:

The War Nerd has written years ago that they can be easily taken out by kamikaze attacks and other means. According to him they cannot be defended and only continue to be deployed through bureaucratic inertia. Lots of knowledgeable people read iSteve. Does anyone here know if the War Nerd's assertions about aircraft carriers are factual?

Anonymous said...

This is an argument for universal military service, in my opinion. Another is that adventurism such as we have seen post-9/11 would be politically impossible if military service were truly universal.

foseti said...

Wikipedia puts it well (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veterans%27_Preference_Act#Hiring_unqualified_persons):

"In some cases hiring officials have no choice but to hire an underqualified sometimes undesirable [!] veteran. Though there are not many of these cases, when they happen they do not help the overall situation. The hiring official, coworkers and those who were unable to get the position are often incredibly frustrated in these situations, but there is not anything anyone can do."

Of course, when there are lots of veterans (i.e. now), this situation isn't so rare. Nowadays, it's the norm.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of affirmative action, I predict that will turn out to be, ahhhh, over optimistic.

Matt said...

DoD spending is about $700b. The deficit is about $1.4T, or twice that. Basically no even vaguely realistic cut would make much of a dent in the deficit. You could cut half of it. You could cut all of it and have no military at all, and you'd still have a gigantic deficit.

While I'm personally a bit hawkish by the standards of this blog (and quite dovish by (say) McCain standards), I personally think we could do with cutting quite a bit of our world-policing and still be a safe and well-defended nation. But deficit reduction isn't really a benefit of military cuts. The numbers are just not there.

anony-mouse said...

Whenever I read of a vet going off his nut I never read that he's a federal employee.

BTW I've never read of a female vet going crazy after service.

Ex Submarine Officer said...

Jobs that explicitly favor veterans (mostly government jobs) are not ones I would want to have.

Thus, I've never objectively benefited from it according to some formulaic organizational regs/guidelines.

On the soft scale,though, mentioning that one was a Cold War era sub officer is a great conversation piece and an experience that seems to be held in fairly high regard in our society.

The Hunt For Red October was great propaganda for us.

By that measure, I've undoubtedly benefited from my status, but, again, more as the sub officer rather than the larger, more general, veteran category.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the War Nerd's assertions are factual, but one of the main functions of aircraft carriers is to be able to rapidly project force anywhere in the world, especially against weak oil bearing nations. Not as easy to do that from a submarine.

Maybe China or Russia could take one out whenever they wanted to, but they don't, so it's ok. Very few people want WWIII.

Anonymous said...

The primary reason the civilized part of the world can spend nearly nothing on their military budget is because they know the US will spend and spend and can be counted on to help them when needed.

Comparing US military spending to world military spending is like comparing the family paying for private school to the education spending of those in "The Community."

Ex Submarine Officer said...

The War Nerd has written years ago that they can be easily taken out by kamikaze attacks and other means. According to him they cannot be defended and only continue to be deployed through bureaucratic inertia. Lots of knowledgeable people read iSteve. Does anyone here know if the War Nerd's assertions about aircraft carriers are factual?

That is an overstatement, but with more than a grain of truth.

Back during the 80's, the saying was that in the outbreak of general warfare with the USSR, the Soviet Navy would lead a short, exciting life.

Against a foe with modern submarines or a lot of cruise missiles, that is likely the case for U.S. surface fleet.

Against the odd incursion, the defenses on a carrier group are pretty impressive.

The Phalance gatling guns are a sight to behold. I remember reading some reports of the effectiveness of the Phalanx against a cruise missile assault, they claimed a success rate of something like 115%.

How can one have a success rate greater than 100% you ask? The Phalanx continues to hit the pieces of the incoming it targeted as they fall into the water.

But really, aircraft carrier groups are great for projecting power against the tinpot dictators, gunboat diplomacy, etc. And we don't have the USSR to worry about so much anymore, so, again, there is some truth in War Nerd's statements, but it is an exaggeration IMO.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe China or Russia could take one out whenever they wanted to..."

I specifically remember the War Nerd saying that North Korea and Iran could do it too.

DaveinHackensack said...

Agreed with the earlier anon, though it's worth noting there isn't really room in our armed forces for every healthy 18 year old. But you could sort them by SAT scores and pick the highest scoring fit kids for the military. You could have other outlets for national service too, have them work as hospital orderlies, for example.

Conscription would save a huge amount of money, on enlistment bonuses, etc. Limit it to unmarried, childless men and you'd save more money on DOD schools, social workers, off base housing allowances, etc.

But this goes back to my point in an earlier thread about our trade deficit. Active duty military, and vets benefiting from their service as cops or whatever, are what passes for today's Reagan Democrats. With a yawning trade deficit, there aren't enough blue collar jobs in manufacturing and related industries to employ blue collar folks at high-enough wages for them to vote GOP for cultural reasons.

A Wal-Mart worker living hand-to-mouth will likely vote Dem, because Dems offer more government aid for the poor. A well-paid auto worker with a solid pension might vote GOP for guns against AA, etc.

MSG said...

Why should one infer an inconsistency between the fact that the U.S. accounts for almost half the world's military spending, and the increasingly peaceful state of the world? The overwhelming power of the U.S. and the absence of global rivals presumably has at least some effect on deterring the adventurousness of the various dictators. I am thinking of the complaints about how horrible it is that the U.S. imprisons so many people, even while its crime rate declines.

stari_momak said...

I applied for one of those census jobs they were so eager to get people to sign up for. I got 29 out of 30 on the written exam. I should have gotten another five points for being a vet. I speak Spanish. I am white.

I didn't get the job.

deconstructingleftism said...

There's 5 point veteran preference, and 10 point veteran preference. 5 points is any honorably discharged veteran, I believe, while 10 points requires service during a time when combat occured- not participation in combat, God forbid, any rear echelon job while shots are being fired is fine. I have been told certain desirable jobs are impossible to get without 10 point veteran preference.

SF said...

I took what was possibly the last of the old civil service exam in 1972. Five points were added to the score of qualifying veterans, 10 points for those with a service connected disability. This wasn't an insurmountable barrier to employment for a non-veteran good test-taker. Later, when evaluations became more subjective, veterans preference was even more significant, and affirmative action plus consent decrees made it much more difficult for a non-veteran to get a permanent job.

Seth said...

I worked for a brokerage firm once and one executive there was a veteran whose job had been captaining the American guard that "guarded" Rudolf Hess in the 1980s.

I asked my boss once what it was this guy sold and she said "his Hess stories."

Ég anda said...

In contrast what usually crosses this blog, to a large degree military spending is a subsidy for smart white American citizens. I'd personally like to see the military cut drastically, but I'm glad the US is keeping its stock of engineers active. Too bad they couldn't do something of more general use though.

Anonymous said...

Not all fed jobs give a vet preference. Some agencies explicitly do not give any veteran's point preference for any position within those agencies.

Anonymous said...

The U.S. accounts for close to half of the world's military budget, and the world seems to be getting more peaceful.

This is the paleocon version of the immortal Fox Butterfield headline.

Ex Submarine Officer said...

I asked my boss once what it was this guy sold and she said "his Hess stories."

I've had and have collateral duties like that, regaling clients w/stories of chasing Russian subs, going under the polar ice, launching mini subs of SEALs in the Sea of O.

Surprising how many guys who went straight from high school to college to desk job love this stuff.

What's the difference between a sea story and a fairy tale? A fairy tale starts off with, "Once upon a time", a sea story with, "This is no sh*t".

But you can risk becoming a crashing bore. The trick is to be a little reluctant, one of your confederates reveals about your background, and then stop well before the audience quits asking questions.

For extra measure, I started off my military experience in the USMC infantry, ended up as STA platoon scout/sniper.

Back when I attended Parris Island, in the mid-70's, it was pretty much as depicted in Full Metal Jacket, minus the shooting the drill instructor scene. Suicides or attempted suicides, though, were hardly unheard of...

Anyhow, you play your cards right w/that sort of background, like combining it w/advanced education and going into fields where this sort of background is especially rare, it can be worth way more than 5-10 points on a civil service examination.

Educated women like it too, though they know that due to feminism/PC mush they sort of have to keep it under wraps.

The question remains, though, whether one would be farther ahead having skipped the whole mess and got into the office park rat race right from the git-go.

Hard to say, although I'm a lot happier in my skin having that behind me.

"Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier, or not having been at sea." - Samuel Johnson

Anonymous said...

Ramping up military spending is the Republicans' preferred version of Keynesianism when they're in power. There is no short-term deficit problem since the government can borrow at near record low rates, and the long-term problem is entirely a health care system story rather than a taxes or spending story. Military spending would be one form of stimulus, and in a depressed economy cuts would be a drag on growth. However, military spending has a much lower multiplier than discretionary spending since it is capital intensive and there is less democratic oversight of corrupt contracts.

If we were back in a full employment story and wanted long-term government spending to focus on efficiently providing needed services, there's no question we overspend on what's needed to provide defense. After all, we're running an empire with military bases in dozens of other countries.

As for your post, think about the incentives. If there is resistance to military cuts from people wanting civil service jobs, the same forces would oppose cuts to non-military (i.e., civil service) spending. The motives don't make any sense! State and local government employment has fallen in this recession even though you'd expect it to more or less track rising population growth. GOP voters like high military spending because it provides a form of Keynesianism and welfare without the stigma.

Anonymous said...

stari!

Good to hear I'm not alone. I got 30/30, apparently only the 5th time that had EVER happened.

I did not get the job.

I am Jewish (white).

Auntie Analogue said...

Contrary to commenter foseti's assertion, there are now fewer, not more vets. Just ask the American Legion how hard today's shrinking number of vets has made the Legion's fights for VA healthcare funding.

Theoretically, an aircraft carrier can be sunk by a "kamikaze." Such an attack would be very difficult to execute successfully (jihadists who exploded themselves alongside USS Cole failed to sink a warship far smaller than an aircraft carrier: also, the Cole was then vulnerable, lacked sea/maneuver room, & few port entry security measures were practiced). A charge 5 times the power of the charge that jihadists detonated against the Cole would be unlikely to sink an aircraft carrier - carriers are so huge and so efficiently compartmented that sinking one would require multiple detonations at several key locations on, or in, the carrier.

Carriers deploy in the center of a task group of vessels whose mission is to protect the carrier at all costs. The carrier is the raison d'être for itself and for its escorts, so the bottom line for an escort vessel is to sacrifice itself, & if needs be to sacrifice its crew, to keep the carrier operating (subtract the carrier & its escorts can project power over a far smaller area than the carrier's air group projects power). A carrier air group is more powerful than 90% of the world's air forces (the air group may have fewer aircraft, but they're vastly technologically superior to those in all threat air forces - not least because of the carrier's AWACS aircraft which constantly orbit & screen the carrier group, direct its aircraft, & supply the TG commander with info on both air & surface threats).

In addition, many escorts carry helicopters to augment the screen/defense of the carrier task group. Under constant satellite & carrier AWACS aircraft surveillance, escort vessel & helicopter screen - & by all the air, sea, & undersea sensors of those assets - it would be virtually impossible for an enemy aircraft to penetrate a carrier task group screen/defenses. Surface threats stand the same very slim chance of penetrating those screens & defenses - as proven by the reticence & failure of hostile small surface craft to have attacked U.S. Navy (or NATO) ships operating even in the narrow waters of the Persian Gulf & Straits of Hormuz. A hostile submarine also stands scant chance of going undetected.

Defense spending should be slashed. But carrier strength - indeed all of U.S. seapower - must not be reduced, because the best defense is a good offense (& because China has been throwing its weight around to try to take control of places such as the Spratly Islands - seapower is vital to contain Chinese Pac Rim expansionism & to prevent Pac Rim states - including, ironically, Vietnam - from caving in to Chinese menace). Seapower is alone sufficient to guarantee oil flow from the Gulf. Overseas air & ground force deployments must be cut - we must compel allies to pony up to defend their own interests & interests held jointly with the U.S. The U.S. should withdraw from Iraq, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Mali, & other Moslem money & power drains, & redeploy ground forces along the U.S.'s southern border, because stoppping and reversing illegal immigration-colonization will slash federal, state, & local outlays that have been squandered on illegal invader-colonists: defending our southern border will slash entitlement costs by confining their administration & benefits to U.S. citizens & thus work in tandem with defense cuts to reduce the debt & deficit.

U.S. seapower is key to overseas success (since none of our enemies has any means to defend against seapower) & ground power is key to our continental security. What the U.S. lacks above all is sober, rational grand strategy - the lack of which formed the direct cause of misconceived, misbegotten, & massively costly ground (and air force) deployments in & around, mostly, overseas Moslem lands.

Anonymous said...

"The War Nerd has written years ago that they can be easily taken out by kamikaze attacks and other means. According to him they cannot be defended and only continue to be deployed through bureaucratic inertia. Lots of knowledgeable people read iSteve. Does anyone here know if the War Nerd's assertions about aircraft carriers are factual? " - On paper they suck(in an all out war), but they have a bunch of roles that only large ships can perform. It was once thought that swarms of torpedo boats would make the mighty battleship obsolete, but what actually made the battleship obsolete was the even more massive supercarrier.

We're not diminished by having them, especially when its time to bang heads together in the 3rd world.

Anonymous said...

We won't really know for sure until WW3 breaks out which weapons will work and which won't, but thats the way it was in WW2, and War Nerd doesn't have any monopoly on future knowledge there.

Funcrusher said...

The primary reason the civilized part of the world can spend nearly nothing on their military budget is because they know the US will spend and spend and can be counted on to help them when needed.

Let the NATO countries pay their share then. Its not like they are forcing America to break the bank on defense. Most of that pressure is from the US military establishment.

Anonymous said...

Good morning! I took a secretarial/clerical Civil Service test in 1989. It was scored on a 100-, rather than 30, -point basis. I scored 97 and was hired a few months later. White, female, no college (back then the population was still literate enough that bosses didn't need to insist on a college degree to find clerical employees who could write and speak intelligible English).

Truth said...

Federal Government employment operates on a points system, and if a make is not a veteran, he has basically three choices:

1) develop a very unique skillset.

2) be lucky enough to apply for a job for which no veterans are applying.
3) know someone high up to pull strings.

Otherwise he will not be working for the government.

Simon in London said...

How are you going to keep Invading the World without a ginormous military? And without Invading the World you'll find the flow of asylum seekers from Invaded countries will dry up, hurting Diversity, too!

Simon in London said...

anon:
"The War Nerd has written years ago that they can be easily taken out by kamikaze attacks and other means. According to him they cannot be defended and only continue to be deployed through bureaucratic inertia. Lots of knowledgeable people read iSteve. Does anyone here know if the War Nerd's assertions about aircraft carriers are factual?"

The Argentines failed to sink either of the two British aircraft carriers in 1982 - despite our ECM being basically worthless; OTOH we did have the secret blinding lasers. The picket frigates seemed to more or less do their job, and the Argies only had 5 exocets to start with.

ECM is better these days, but I can't see carriers surviving long against any serious adversary like China or (probably) Russia.

Simon in London said...

Auntie Analogue:
"A hostile submarine also stands scant chance of going undetected."

I recall the War Nerd recounting a Chinese sub surfacing inside a US carrier group, just to show they could do it.

I don't think carrier groups are survivable against a near-peer competitor; they have a lot of defenses but you can be pretty guaranteed to sink one for much less than the cost of building one, whether through overwhelming numbers of cruise missiles, through submarine wolf pack or stealth attack, through enough planes armed with anti-ship missiles, or most easily through a small number of cruise missiles each armed with 0.5 megaton yield nuclear warheads that can detonate a good distance from the carrier, well beyond machine gun range, and still render it inoperable.

But as others have noted, that does not make them useless - they are primarily for colonial power-projection into areas with no bases. For that, they work great.

Steve Sailer said...

My vague recollection is that the Argentinean air force landed 9 unguided iron bombs on British warships, but five of them didn't detonate. A couple of forgotten points about that war: the Argentinean pilots were pretty good; and it was a pretty close run thing.

Simon in London said...

Funcrusher:
"The primary reason the civilized part of the world can spend nearly nothing on their military budget is because they know the US will spend and spend and can be counted on to help them when needed."

Here in the Rest of World, we would like the US to be strong enough to defend us against Russia (Europe), or China (Australia & Japan), and to guarantee security of the world's sea lanes*. But we don't want the US military as bloated as it currently is. Twice as powerful as the nearest rival would be plenty.

*You are not doing a good job on that, BTW. Especially re Somalia & her pirates; probably because of CIA support for the 'anti-Islamist' northern Somali areas that are the main pirate bases.

Conatus said...

In Wikipedia, the entry, List of Countries by Military Expenditures, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures,has a nice chart with numbers saying the US spends 41% of the world's military expenditures and 4.7% of our yearly GDP.
This is far more than any other country, even fearsome threatening China spends only 2% of its GDP on military expenditures. All the other major military spenders are in the two percent range, with the exception of Saudi Arabia.
We are 25% of the world's GDP yet we spend 41% of the world's military expenditures?
How stupid and uninformed are the American people to not notice this?
So we lose our manufacturing jobs to Asia and other low wage countries because they can transport goods by sea relatively cheaply because WE maintain peace at the choke points of sea travel in the world? Our middle class is taxed to maintain a Navy and an Army so goods can be transported inexpensively by low wage countries and thus take middle class manufacturing jobs? I don't get it?

My uninformed opinion about vets preference is when it comes up against the Lords of Diversity in the HR Depts, the vets lose big time. Too many white men are vets.

Simon in London said...

Steve Sailer:
" A couple of forgotten points about that war: the Argentinean pilots were pretty good; and it was a pretty close run thing."

Forgotten perhaps by the US; those of us in the UK old enough to remember it concur strongly with both your points, and have not forgotten. :)

The Argentinian officer class was *highly* effective; both their Mirage pilots and their ground force commanders. They have an 'heirs of the Conquistadores' warrior ethos. Their Special Forces were also pretty good fighters. Their mestizo conscript forces were not good, though, and were treated abominably by their leadership.

Britain had major areas of weakness; our anti-aircraft ground defense missiles did not work at all; we were assaulting entrenched Argentine positions without artillery or effective air support. We lost hundreds of our elite Paras and Marines dead and wounded to defeat a largely conscript army - the cost was appalling.

Simon in London said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

The US can't just leave NATO countries to defend themselves. Having NATO countries potent enough to matter is important for keeping the US safer. The Europeans, like they did with Russian natural gas, would likely not boost their military spending but simply redefine the threat to match their puny spending. Since they couldn't fight Ivan they will simply see Ivan as friendly enough. The US alternative to taking up the slack of many of our far-flung allies is to either retreat to our continent or try to do most of our important patrol activity, from which all trading nations benefit, from continental bases.

I don't like it one bit more than the isolationist like it. And we should take all opportunities to shame, shame, shame the weak sisters for their weakness.

Their is a non-conspiratorial logic chain that helps explain why US weapons keep getting more and more complicated and expensive which then leads to the need to make them more complicated and expensive. If you try to preserve all capabilities, because you don't know what the future war will require, you try to stuff more ability into fewer ships/planes/tanks, etc. As the cost for adding capabilites escalates, bleeding-edge engineering is complicated and expensive, you cut numbers. That gets you into a vicious cycle of increasing unit costs. Then the inevitable decision to buy the design that is still on paper but could provide most of the gee-whiz at only 75% of the almost operational doohickey. As the paper item is turned into metal it's costs escalate and the cycle repeats.

The US doesn't have a bigger, richer, more responsible ally to bail us out while we experiment with the minimum level of effective defense spending. If the US gets that wrong the world changes in a very dangerous way for us and the others on our side.

The options come down to retreating, trying to get by with Gary Hart type patrol boats and treaties of dubious value, or paying what it takes for a military big enough to dissuade major war makers.

There was easily $1 trillion worth of unnecessary departments and agencies, before GWB and Obama added an additional $1 trillion per year in permanent waste. Knock $2 trillion off the budget from domestic spending and I'll happily support hanging anyone involved in corrupt spending on defense. I'll also support Glenn Reynolds 50% surtax on former Federal officials when they work for contractors after their government service.

Anonymous said...

'numbers saying the US spends 41% of the world's military expenditures and 4.7% of our yearly GDP.
This is far more than any other country, even fearsome threatening China spends only 2% of its GDP on military expenditures. "

US also spends more than the next few biggest nations combined on education. As for china spending only 2% of its GDP, one would be wary of using those figures.
Don't forget those trillions that US has to pay up.

Aaron B. said...

The War Nerd wasn't talking about a near-peer enemy with nukes or the latest tech. He wrote about a war game where the Navy had one of their generals try to take out a carrier group. He came at them with a fleet of low-tech boats and planes, and "sank" most of the battle group, until the Navy restarted the game and changed the rules. Here's the article: http://www.exile.ru/articles/detail.php?ARTICLE_ID=6779&IBLOCK_ID=35

Of course, a low-tech attack by a bunch of Arab pirates isn't the same as an attack by a Navy general and his hand-picked crew, even if the tech is the same.

Anonymous said...

I worked for the post office, which required at the time (2002) an exam which was sort of like an IQ test, but with a heavier emphasis on memorization and speed (I doubt anybody ever finished it before the time ran out). It's graded on a 100 point scale, and you get 5 extra points for having served in the military, and 5 more for seeing combat.

The demographics of my post office were about 50% black, 25% white, and 25% Mexican, but the biggest idiot there was this white Vietnam vet who claimed to be too disabled to lug around mail, so he would go around fixing locks on mailboxes and other "light duty" work. He would ask me about twice a month for directions to the same trailer park, despite having been there countless times.

I'm sure he made a lot more money at the post office than he would have anywhere else. The only jobs he was actually qualified for were ones where you don't do anything, like people greeter at Walmart or rent-a-cop at a place that only has one for insurance purposes, which typically pay slightly more than minimum wage.

Anonymous said...

I was looking for the footnote to indicate that Fox Butterworth was a contributor to this article.

Marlowe said...

The Argentines failed to sink either of the two British aircraft carriers in 1982 - despite our ECM being basically worthless; OTOH we did have the secret blinding lasers. The picket frigates seemed to more or less do their job, and the Argies only had 5 exocets to start with.

The Royal Navy positioned both of its carriers far enough away on the other side of the islands that they were outside effective range of Argentine aircraft (which flew from the mainland). It meant British Sea Harriers had only a few minutes over the combat area.

Menachem Begin and Israel sent more missiles to Argentina during the war.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

The overwhelming power of the U.S. and the absence of global rivals presumably has at least some effect on deterring the adventurousness of the various dictators.

Without question that is the case. The cost is that if the military's motivating ideas are cheap oil and the global democratic order, then they are perforce no longer concerned with defending the homeland's cultural and territorial integrity.

And if the following comment is typical, then it is long past time for the US to tell the rest of the world to go eff itself:

Here in the Rest of World, we would like the US to be strong enough to defend us against Russia (Europe), or China (Australia & Japan), and to guarantee security of the world's sea lanes*. But we don't want the US military as bloated as it currently is. Twice as powerful as the nearest rival would be plenty.

*You are not doing a good job on that, BTW. Especially re Somalia & her pirates; probably because of CIA support for the 'anti-Islamist' northern Somali areas that are the main pirate bases.


Sonny boy, we don't have any money left to defend your dying, emasculated, deracinated, atheistic welfare states.

You're wetting your bed over Russia? I suggest your daughters start learning the ahadith.

Anonymous said...

A small nuke gets a carrier group, but kamikaze? Phalanx guns are pretty good at pureeing any of those, as well as non-ballistic missiles. When the Navy's new railguns go live, all bets are off.

The carrier groups are the last thing that should be cut.

Gaddafi talked about the US Navy being the greatest terrorist threat in the world. It remains so. If carrier groups were so vulnerable, the Chinese must be idiots for putting so much capital into their blue-water capability.

Anonymous said...


I recall the War Nerd recounting a Chinese sub surfacing inside a US carrier group, just to show they could do it.


Do you think that the US Navy would admit that they had detected that submarine 20/30 miles from the carrier group?

Do you think the PLAN would admit that they were forced to the surface by a Los Angeles class attack submarine?

It was peace time after all. It is likely that everyone is guessing about what will happen during a war.

The greatest liability for the US military is diversity given the high-tech nature of its weapons systems.

The Chinese can count on all of its soldiers understanding how to use their high-tech weapons and to fight for the motherland. It is not clear that the US can.

Anonymous said...

europeasant says;

Affirmative action was in operation back in 1977. When I wanted to apply for a job with ma Bell, I was told that they were hiring only minorities. Next I went to the Post office and was told that they were only hiring minorities and veterans.
Yes you got 5 points if you were a vet applying for a Federal job.

Anonymous said...

Supposedly the Chinese are working on anti-ship ballistic missiles that would be pretty much unstoppable against aircraft carriers. The warhead would come straight down out of the sky at 15,000mph, and would be self steering and difficult to evade. At that speed the warhead doesn't even need an explosive charge, which wouldn't add much to the kinetic energy of the warhead anyway.

NOTA said...

Matt:

Your numbers don't really track with your words--defense spending is a big enough piece of the budget that it's almost inevitable that we will have to cut it to get the deficit under control. That and Medicare are the big targets, because they make up so much of government spending each year.

Also, as I understand it, the wars are funded with supplemental funding bills, not part of the defense spending appropriation. My not-too-informed take is that we could easily cut 50% from our milirary spending without becoming any less secure. We already massively outspend the resr of the world, and would even with half our current defense spending.

As I understand it, any serious deficit reduction has to make cuts to medicare and defense, as well as some kind of tax increases. Two of these are extremely politically unpopular, and all three involve pissing off important well-financed interest groups. Serious talk about taxing the rich makes it hard to raise money from the sort of people who can pay $20K to come to a dinner with the candidate. So I expect that we will not get control of our deficiit. But if we do, I think defense cuts are inevitable.

NOTA said...

If we are going to one day hit some financial crisis and have to pull way back on our overseas military commitments, we need to start doing that now, and do it gradually and with a lot of warning. If we have another financlal meltdown and the oligarchs needing bailouts trump the generals wanting expensive toys, we could see our defense budget cut massively almost overnight. And that will destabilize a lot of the world, as places that have counted on us for security suddenly have to scramble to find some other way to see to their own defense.

NOTA said...

One other point about government spending: When we wpend a lot of money on somethiing, we fund research and development of new technologies. The cold war led the two biggest powers in the world (and the biggest economy in the world) to spend untold riches developing terrible weapons that could wipe out industrial civilization. The war on terror has led to the development of efficient technology for holding down angry subject populations with minimal manpower.

Those technologies don't go away once developed, In a decade, when there are riots abut the latest welfare cuts, and more and more of the latestscandal is coming out, threatening to unseat the president, those technologies will still be waiting on the shelf. And we probably will appreciate them just as much as the Afghans and Pakistanis and Iraqis did.

NOTA said...

Simon:

I keep wondering how much of our experience in these third world brushfire wars is misleading us, causing our army to evolve in ways that will leave it vulnerable if we ever have to fight a first-world opponent. You can imagine ways that could cost us a whole lot--the tactics and equipment we have ready to hold down resentful illiterate peasants turns out to be a bad match for facing a modern well-equiped modern army.

data345 said...

Back in 1979, I was visiting Los Angelos, and was interested in being a cop. I asked one what the best way to do that was. He said, get a college degree OR do an enlistment in the military. It wouldn't matter what you specialized in.

I did join the Coast Guard, but never did become a cop. I did volunteer as a firefighter both before and after I left military service and came pretty close to making firefighting a career. But I was also studying computer science, and ended up in that field instead. Still, I volunteered as a firefighter for 25 years, and saw a lot of people come through my department on their way to making firefighting (and some police) a career.

My take on police and firefighting hiring is that while they end up hiring a lot of veterans, it's not so weighted that a non-veteran can't get hired. In Alaska, none of the major cities have a formal preference for veterans. Most veterans that choose to get into those fields, simply use their educational benefits they've earned to get the requisite certifications and degrees and that's how they get hired.

A non-veteran with those same certifications and degrees have about the same chance to get hired.

Ex Submarine Officer said...

Oh yeah, on the easily taken out by Kamikaze pilots.

During WWII, not a single fleet carrier was sunk by Kamikazes. A couple of smaller escort carriers were.

Some were heavily damaged, to be sure, especially the US carriers. The RN carriers had armored flight decks, so the kamikaze attacks had less affect than on the U.S. carriers that lacked this feature.

Things have changed a lot since then, so it is difficult to draw a direct analogy - air defenses are better, but maybe you can load up more efficient HE on a suicide plane now?

But really, it is hard to imagine a more dedicated kamikaze foe than Imperial Japan in the last year or so of WWII.

There is a great deal of ruin in an aircraft carrier. Read about the fire/explosions on the USS Forrestal in 1967. Huge conflagration on the flight deck, bombs cooking off all over the place, still the vessel stayed afloat.

Aircraft carriers are sort of expected to have planes laden with explosives crash into them from time to time, it is an occupational hazard of being an aircraft carrier.

Truth said...

" Their mestizo conscript forces were not good, though, and were treated abominably by their leadership."

So what's the consensus on Argentina here again?

I keep hearing that it is "The whitest nation on earth", and that there are "no indigenous people there", and that it is "the last white paradise I could be comfortable in if the N-s make me leave the US", now I'm hearing that there are enough Indios to make the Argentinian army a clusterfuck. Which is it?

Anonymous said...

Hell yeah, cut the military. Militarism is the opiate of the Freeper, it keeps him voting Republican while pretending not to notice that the Republicans are also helping to sponsor an invasion of his own nation. It allows the Republicans to get the yahoo vote while covering the fact that the party is paralyzed by racial politics back home. Cutting military adventurism might force some of these people to face the reality of their dispossession back home.

This is why if Romney wins a war with Iran is a sure thing, with its thousands of (disproportionately white) American dead, hundreds of thousands of other dead and another trillion or more added to the deficit. No thanks. It should be said that most of the yahoos are fully aware of the game of Republicans/Conservatives starting wars overseas to avoid confronting racial politics back home, and the war-joy (surely there must be a German word for it) these yahoos feel is in large part relief, they're as paralyzed as their masters.

ATBOTL said...

I read some newspaper article recently where a police department bragged that it's new recruiting class of several dozen was composed entirely of veterans.

Anonymous said...

A lot of private employers will regard veteran status as a black mark on your record. They will think it means (a) you were not smart enough to get into college after high school, and/or (b) you might be some sort of patriotic conservative.


The above applies to white guys. As is usually the case, different rules apply to blacks.

Anonymous said...

This is true.

Veterans, blacks, women, minorities all get preference. Too bad if you are a young white man like my son because THEY DO NOT WANT YOU!

Anonymous said...

The War Nerd has written years ago that they can be easily taken out by kamikaze attacks and other means. According to him they cannot be defended and only continue to be deployed through bureaucratic inertia. Lots of knowledgeable people read iSteve. Does anyone here know if the War Nerd's assertions about aircraft carriers are factual?

I don't think his assertion makes much sense. While it's certainly the case that a carrier is vulnerable if it gets within range of all of a country's defenses, the beauty of a carrier is that it is a mobile airfield that can be deployed against weak targets. Fixed air bases come with big political and economic costs, and can't be moved towards targets of opportunity.

And the idea that carriers simply show up within range of the enemy's weaponry to soak up punishment is simplistic. Carriers show up after the subs have done their jobs of clearing the seas of enemy shipping or in action against enemy carriers that have shown up with an invasion force.

During WWII, the carriers could theoretically have shown up in Tokyo Bay like the Black Ships of a century ago. But unlike Commodore Perry's triumphant entry, they would have ended up at the bottom of the bay. It took 4 years before it was safe for carriers to show up in the vicinity of Okinawa, which is not even part of mainland Japan (Honshu, Hokkaido, et al). And yet without the help offered by the carriers to (1) gradually beat down Okinawa's air defenses alongside long range USAAF bomber raids, and (2) suppress the enemy's air assets and provide tactical air support once the invasion was under way, the Battle of Okinawa would have been a much bloodier affair.

Carriers are not assets that are rushed to the front lines as cannon fodder. They are deployed close to the enemy's assets only after the Air Force has spent some time battering down the front door, and the subs have taken out significant chunks of the enemy's civilian and military fleet. At that point, they are invaluable for providing timely tactical air support and for suppressing enemy air forces at a rate that can't be accomplished from air bases thousands of miles away, in support of a ground force invasion.

sunbeam said...

I guess it all depends on who your enemy is, and where you have to go as regards carriers.

That war nerd article (whichever one, he has several where he mentions this issue) has a lot of good points.

Now, I'm not a military person, but I do have some beliefs that say it is kind of dicey to use carriers in a lot of situations.

One such situation is facing China anywhere around Taiwan. They can pack the Chinese coast adjacent to Taiwan with all kinds of missiles. Anti-aircraft, anti-ship, you name it.

I don't know as much as Jane about what kind of cruise missiles the Chinese have, but if I were trying to sink a US Navy carrier group using them, the first wave would be full of chaff and assorted other targets for Phalanx to shoot its load on. Considering the rate of fire I'd be kind of surprised is some mechanical problem didn't occur on one of my first runs. My second wave will be designed to sink ships. And my third wave. And then my ...

You get the idea. You can shoot a lot of cruise missiles at a 4 or 5 billion dollar (conservative guess) carrier task group and get an awfully good return on your investment if sinking dollars is your thing.

And that doesn't include actual sorties from the Chinese air force, regular anti-ship missiles, etc.

Then there are anti-ship ballistic missiles from which I gather there is absolutely no defense other than something like a Patriot Missile. Even then the games you can play with Phalanx can be played with that if a ship based anti-ballistic missile system actually exists and works.

Remember this crap is very cheap compared to a CVN group with all those airplanes, all those gadgets, and all those relatively well paid personnel.

I also haven't mentioned some of the newer stuff like supercavitating torpedos (another thing you can't defend against), suicide speedboats or fishing trawlers the diplomatic situation says you can't light up, submarines with super high tech torpedos or "regular" torpedos.

Some of this stuff is limited on range. But anti-ship cruise missiles have a range of what, a 1000 miles or so?

And it's not likely you can hide the location these days. China has their own spy satellites thank you, as do the Russians.

Now another country carriers can be used against is Iran. No where near the equipment that China has, but an even worse geography for the Navy. Airplanes don't have that great a range for flying sorties. Plus you have to have cover for them.

It's probably changed, but in the 80's there were only like 24 attack planes (Intruders if I remember correctly) on a Nimitz class carrier.

Okay I'm writing too many words. Suffice it to say attacking Iran can be just as dicey with carriers as China.

I think the War Nerd wrote something about how handy carriers were as floating bases, but it was kind of a waste to build anymore.

That seems about right. Any situation where you can safely use them for projecting force is kind of not a cost effective place to use them. No one on the Horn of Africa can do much about them.

Well unless someone sells them an advanced relatively cheap weapon system, and the Navy falls asleep or is in some awful geography. Like 10 miles offshore for some stupid reason or another.

And the kicker that I haven't mentioned till now ....

Mines.

Mines work. Oh god do mines work. Ask some of the guys that say they are Navy vets here about how dangerous mines are.

Now just ask yourself, you can't control these things for the most part after they are floated, and they are a danger to ships in an area with a lot of supertankers. You cut your own throat economically in a way.

But if I'm (whatever that Iranian guy's name is), and you push me in a corner, I'll flood the Persian Gulf and parts of the Indian Ocean with mines.

I'll blame you all the way.

And that is even without Van Ripers suicide speedboats, or exploding fishing trawlers.

Dan Kurt said...

The little propeller arming device has to turn sufficient times to arm a bomb. The Argentinian's failed to make changes in the arming sequence of their bombs so that the low level delivery with its short free fall time had the result that most of the bombs were UNARMED when they hit.

Dan Kurt

Mellow said...

To paraphrase Simon from London:

Thanks for being too strong, but you should be weaker. Btw, you're to0 weak in Africa.

No country dares attack the US Navy becuase "A carrier air group is more powerful than 90% of the world's air forces" (Aunti Analogue). If we were only twice as strong as the next guy then the two or three next strongest, together, could fight and beat us (possibly disguise enough of their naval build up too). And when we're just only as twice as strong as the next guy, it might not be suicide for them to try.

About Somalia, just give your bleessing to attack and execute on sight, maybe toss a few missles at some ports. You want us to solve your problems but no one will let us; it would be too uncivilized.

Mellow said...

The military probably is inefficient and has too much bloat, like any other government orginization. But the military has to be bigger than "needed." For a military to be effective for defense as a symbol of power (The best army is the one you don't have to use), it needs to visibly have excess capacity to destroy. Those who wish to be your enemies need to see your power and your willingness to use it.

As for cutting the budget, every thing needs to be reduced. Jerry Pournelle mentioned an idea of cutting just 1% a year. Any "cut" now is just a reduction in the rate the budget expands. If D.C. could ever do that, maybe we can talk about increasing taxes, also in the same way.

They "cut" the budget in one spot and spend twice as much in another.

Anonymous said...

You get the idea. You can shoot a lot of cruise missiles at a 4 or 5 billion dollar (conservative guess) carrier task group and get an awfully good return on your investment if sinking dollars is your thing.

The lifetime cost of a Nimitz CVN is estimated at around $30+B (about half of that is personnel and maintenance over its life, the newer ones are about $5B less, according to wikipedia), and an Aegis DDG is about $1.8B.

Thus the carrier group is at least a $30Bn investment (to replace).

You can put a lot of cruise missiles and ballistic missiles in the air for that amount, and things are cheaper for the Chinese to build.

Anonymous said...

"Defense spending should be slashed. But carrier strength - indeed all of U.S. seapower - must not be reduced, because the best defense is a good offense (& because China has been throwing its weight around to try to take control of places such as the Spratly Islands - seapower is vital to contain Chinese Pac Rim expansionism & to prevent Pac Rim states - including, ironically, Vietnam - from caving in to Chinese menace)."

No thanks. China can have the PacRim and Vietnam - why should I care?

Anonymous said...

WTF are all these super geniuses on here applying for min wag temp work as census takers?

Truth said...

"Veterans, blacks, women, minorities all get preference. Too bad if you are a young white man like my son because THEY DO NOT WANT YOU!"

Take that fool to the recruiter's office, He be aaah-eiit. Besides with his ASVAP score I'm sure he'll be a fighter pilot or a Nuclear Sub Captain.

Anonymous said...

the war nerd on carriers, with links to some earlier articles.

Ex Submarine Officer said...


No thanks. China can have the PacRim and Vietnam - why should I care?


Because of the precedent, just like saying I don't care if mafioso have constitutional rights.

One of the big jobs of the Navy in peacetime is exercising the right of free navigation.

That is, sailing, well armedly, into places that tinpot dictators are claiming and daring them to do something about it.

This is analogous to the citizens "open carry" movement, where they wear arms to the grocery store, etc. Clearly overkill, but understanding that rights not exercised are rights not lost.

This is why you should care, it is sort of like freedom of speech on the open seas.

Simon in London said...

Anti-Gnostic:
"You're wetting your bed over Russia? I suggest your daughters start learning the ahadith."

Me? No, I'm in England. Russia's near neighours certainly have a healthy respect for her, though.

Being in England, I'm a lot more afraid of the US and the prospect of your military bombing us if we ever _did_ try to stop our daughters having to learn the hadith...

Simon in London said...

NOTA said...
"Simon:

I keep wondering how much of our experience in these third world brushfire wars is misleading us, causing our army to evolve in ways that will leave it vulnerable if we ever have to fight a first-world opponent. You can imagine ways that could cost us a whole lot--the tactics and equipment we have ready to hold down resentful illiterate peasants turns out to be a bad match for facing a modern well-equiped modern army."

Good point - the British Army in 1914 was an excellent 'brushfire' army, but almost completely unready for the Great War. I think the US military places a lot of emphasis on fighting the notional 'near-peer competitor', though; if anything there was a tendency until ca 2006/7 to avoid actually developing/relearning decent counter-insurgency tactics, and most of the really expensive weapons systems are not designed for brushfire use, though some are adaptable. A brushfire military would be heavy on the drones and stop developing new air superiority fighters, for instance.

Simon in London said...

Mellow:
"About Somalia, just give your bleessing to attack and execute on sight, maybe toss a few missles at some ports. You want us to solve your problems but no one will let us; it would be too uncivilized."

You have my blessing. If it were up to me I'd obliterate every pirate village in Somalia, the way we used to do when the world's sea lanes were actually safe.

sunbeam said...

Simon in London said:

"A brushfire military would be heavy on the drones and stop developing new air superiority fighters, for instance."

Manned fighters are another dead weapon system.

Something that hasn't been talked about here are the political constituencies within each service branch that are attached to each weapon system strongly.

For the flying Navy it's all about the image of WWII they have, Hellcats Of The Navy, Midway, all the rest of them

Ditto with the Air Force and fighters. Of course the Air Force really doesn't like the close in support role. Even though ample evidence in at least two conflicts can be interpreted as saying the A-10 is the best weapon the Air Force has.

Neither branch wants to admit that:

Manned Aircraft aren't the best way to do anything you want a manned aircraft to do in combat.

And the Navy, at least an influential sector within, doesn't want to admit that Carriers are targets. We could decommision a number of carriers and not miss any utility.

And not to leave the Army out. A lot of sectors build up the Israelis to be supermen, but they know what they are doing, and have done great things with tanks and tactics since the 50's war. Some argue, with some veracity a Merkava is a better Main Battle Tank (MBT) than a M-1 Abrams.

And the lesson learned from the Lebanon invasion of 5-6 years ago, is that in this new world tanks can be targets just as surely as carriers.

If the enemy has modest equipment, and has time to prepare, tanks are toast not the arm of decision.

Heck somewhere out there is a still shot of a Merkava sitting on its front section, tread section totally vertical as the result of a truly massive shaped charge.

I write too many words. But current materials aren't going to stop modern development in relatively cheap anti-tank missiles.

And reactive armor can be gotten around now too.

In modern wars satellites, infantry, and a whole lot of robots are where it's at.

And a whole lot of logistics cause this stuff has a massive tail.

For now. No reason a fire and forget automated fighter replacement can't be much simpler than a manned fighter.

Simon in London said...

sunbeam:
"In modern wars satellites, infantry, and a whole lot of robots are where it's at."

I definitely wouldn't write off tanks - shaped charges can be arbitarily big, are deadly in insurgency war, but you have to get the tank to actually drive over it. The ability to win large scale tank battles remains important as in Gulf War I, and armour is still important in shorter high intensity conflicts such as the 2006 South Ossetia War.

Matthew said...

"DoD spending is about $700b. The deficit is about $1.4T, or twice that. Basically no even vaguely realistic cut would make much of a dent in the deficit. You could cut half of it. You could cut all of it and have no military at all, and you'd still have a gigantic deficit."

But you could say that about any program: none of them, cut on their own, would eliminate the deficit or even come close to doing so. With the attitude you never get rid of the deficit.

sunbeam said...

Simon in London said:

"I definitely wouldn't write off tanks - shaped charges can be arbitarily big, are deadly in insurgency war, but you have to get the tank to actually drive over it. The ability to win large scale tank battles remains important as in Gulf War I, and armour is still important in shorter high intensity conflicts such as the 2006 South Ossetia War. "

A valid point about South Ossetia. Funny thing is the South Ossetians didn't really seem to prep like Hezbollah did.

But as regards the tanks and shaped charges:

"If you build it, they will come."

ex Viper Driver said...

Auntie Analogue said...” Carriers deploy in the center of a task group of vessels whose mission is to protect the carrier at all costs…A carrier air group is more powerful than 90% of the world's air forces…”

You touch on a key point regarding carrier task forces. A carrier is fantastic at intimidating (and pummeling) tinpot dictators, small countries, etc. Against a first world opponent, they’d be not nearly as useful. In a shooting war with China, the War Nerd is correct – they’re floating future dive sites.

A huge amount of the firepower is to protect the carrier and attendant task force, not project force. The air group’s force projection capabilities are also not immense – while they’re now phased out, the F-14’s primary role was flying CAP over the boat and intercepting threats, not projecting power. Much of the Navy’s attack presence is very range limited as well. A USAF attack squadron of F-16’s or F-15E (Strike Eagle) is far more powerful. That’s even before getting into what the heavy bombers can do. Of course, the USAF requires bases. It may agitate the USN guys on here, but the Navy’s air role in say Gulf War I was insignificant and included primarily for political reasons. With bases in Saudi (heck, one bomber group left from Barksdale AFB in Louisiana) the USAF not only was more than enough, the roles created for USN aviation left them in a position of mostly getting in the way.

Aaron B said: “the War Nerd wasn't talking about a near-peer enemy with nukes or the latest tech. He wrote about a war game where the Navy had one of their generals try to take out a carrier group.”

The Navy doesn’t have generals. Or Generals for that matter.

Anon 9/1/12 2:49 PM said: “Carriers are not assets that are rushed to the front lines as cannon fodder. They are deployed close to the enemy's assets only after the Air Force has spent some time battering down the front door…”

This misses the point of carriers. If the Air Force has access to bases close enough that allow it “batter down the door” there is not a need for USN aviation. The USAF has the luxury of having numerous aircraft with mostly dedicated roles that individually are superior to their Naval counterpart. USN aircraft and their superb crews have to prepare for a variety of roles plus the airplanes need to be able to take off and land from the boat – this involves limitations unfortunately (e.g. much sturdier landing gear). Finally the USAF does not send their heavy bombers (door batter downers) anywhere without complete air superiority. The role of Naval aviation is and will remain force projection, not sustained action against a near-peer foe.

Truth said “Take that fool to the recruiter's office, He be aaah-eiit. Besides with his ASVAP score I'm sure he'll be a fighter pilot or a Nuclear Sub Captain.”

In your sarcastic nitwittery above, you meant ASVAB. Not ASVAP.

Truth said...

"
In your sarcastic nitwittery above, you meant ASVAB. Not ASVAP."

You see, your son has one right already.