The Bush administration plans to spend an extra $20 billion dollars on military Research and Development (R&D) over the next four years. Bush also plans to increase education and health care spending while cutting taxes, a budget plan that his Dad once called "voodoo economics". Nevertheless, Bush is correct that R&D should get a higher priority during peacetime because of the $300 billion the U.S. military spends this year, only $34 billion will go towards R&D. The bureaucratic U.S. military/industrial complex will eat up most of that money for "overhead", and much of the remainder will be squandered on dubious projects.
Effective R&D is critical for nations hoping to produce future weaponry. Most citizens assume that people involved with R&D projects are brilliant scientists working overtime to produce the world's best weaponry. In fact, R&D work is an easy life with huge expense accounts; so long as annual funding is renewed. The irony of R&D is that once a team completes a project, they risk losing their jobs. This problem is worse in government labs and large corporations because they attract those concerned about job security. Scientists unable to secure private sector work become dependent on government work where credentials are more important than performance. As a result, nobody shows an interest in simple projects to adapt proven technology to develop future weapons.
This is why R&D racketeers insist on developing "advanced" weaponry which is so complex and far beyond current technology that it will take years, if not decades, of research. Defense contractors love R&D funds where they charge off portions of their normal overhead and guarantee profits without producing anything. This explains the interest in complex and expensive Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), and "space" and "information" projects, where billions disappear into universities and defense contractor profits. The biggest example is "National Missile Defense" which gobbled up almost $100 billion in R&D since the 1980s and produced nothing. Several types of "missile defense" continue to soak up R&D funds ($7 billion this year), but nothing is ever fielded.
The dubious Army RAH-66 Comanche helicopter gets a huge R&D share each year, $614 million this year. Meanwhile, body armor research is zero, as well as hand-grenades, machine guns, mine detection, and personal gear. The Air Force says the F-22 is ready for production, but still added another $1.4 billion for F-22 R&D this year, while spending billions more in R&D for the Joint Strike Fighter. The Navy spent billions of dollars to develop the SeaWolf submarine, then built just three until it decided to spend billions of dollars to develop a "cheaper" submarine. The Navy lacks modern FA-18Cs because it halted production several years ago and wasted $5 billion dollars to "develop" a slightly better FA-18E. The Marine Corps hasn't purchased a transport helicopter for the last 20 years while $14 billion was wasted on V-22 R&D.
The problem with R&D must be addressed by military and political leaders. Unfortunately, much of this R&D cash finds it way into their pockets as well. Any modern nation can leap ahead simply by adapting proven technology to current weapons. This issue includes three revolutionary weapons which can be developed in a couple of years. This assumes these projects are not entrusted to big defense contractors who would immediately expand the "requirements" to stretch out these programs, then blame delays on a lack of funding. Such projects should be entrusted to smaller companies lacking military "R&D experience". A revolution in military affairs cannot occur when those profiting from the status quo are in charge.
Carlton Meyer editorG2mil@Gmail.com
March 2001 Articles
Letters - comments from G2mil readers
Video-Guided Missiles - infantrymen can guide missiles fired skyward
Fiber Optic Guided Bombs - the ultimate airpower weapon
Ship Counter-battery Radar - use ship radar to locate gun and missile sites
LW155 - impossible requirements of a 155mm howitzer
Modern Body Armor - the U.S. military ignores this vital issue
Anti-Ship Commandos - precision munitions endanger ships near shore
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