2004 G2 Gems
Most Americans only know what multi-national corporations allow on television or in major newspapers and magazines. We often encounter interesting military information ignored by the corporate "mainstream" press, and post it in our member Library to stimulate thought and discussion. We post last year's G2 Gems here for visitors.
November 2004 - US Debt
foreign debt a wolf at the door?
At the end of 2003, 37.3 percent of Federal debt was in foreign hands -- more than double the 18.2 percent share of 10 years earlier. There is no sign of a let up. In 2003 the Treasury sold $373 billion of bonds to the public. Foreigners bought $259 billion, or nearly 70 percent. We don't see any precedent in the historical data for this situation. But, curiously, we don't hear all that much outcry about it. What does this foreign financial inflow mean? Literally what it means is that foreigners are financing the U.S. budget deficit and, in the process, our chronic trade deficit. Very nice of them. Arguably, this situation could go on for a long time. In fact, it already has.
Most of the foreign-held debt is held by Central Banks of countries that depend on U.S. trade. Some observers assume that neither China nor Japan would sell their holdings of U.S. Treasurys, because of the negative consequences of such a move on their own economies. For one thing, weakening the dollar would make their exports to the U.S. more expensive here. But it's hard to look at the extraordinary upsurge on our chart without wondering: what happens if the foreigners stop buying? It won't be the end of the world -- markets equilibrate in response to shock -- but it could presumably mean sharply higher interest rates and a weaker dollar.
Shockwaves could extend beyond the U.S. The world monetary system is based on the dollar. Dollar-denominated bonds are issued throughout the world. Their value would be jeopardized. One investment service that is looking at foreign debt is Bridgewater Associates. This week, it observed that the current situation is eerily like 1968-1973, with China playing the role of Japan and Germany and buying U.S. Treasurys to prop the dollar up. It was unsustainable and, argues Bridgewater, still is. The service says:
"Right now, China's ownership of U.S. paper is nearly a third of the Chinese economy, up from about 15% two years ago. If the existing system continues, we estimate...that the total value of Chinese holdings of U.S. dollars will exceed the total value of China's GDP in five years."
September 2004 - BRAC 2005 update
New members should note the March 2004 BRAC update far below.
Once again, no official BRAC list will appear until March 2005. One factor is who will be President at that time. The Bush administration is openly planning a big BRAC, one that will close more bases than the four previous BRACs combined. They also hint that all government run arsenals and depots will be closed or "privatized." Note that all three service secretaries (e.g. Army, Navy, Air Force) were executives with major defense contractors who would love more government business. I had a first hand report from the Army Aviation Depot in Corpus Christi that large numbers of helicopter industry types have been touring and taking notes. While these depots may officially "close", many workers will be rehired by private industry to perform the same task at the same location.
John Kerry is a career politician who commented that it may be a good idea to delay the 2005 BRAC. However, this is unlikely because Kerry wants to spend more money and the savings from BRAC will come in handy. This entire BRAC process was organized by the Bush administration, so Kerry can avoid political fallout by simply accepting the Bush plan. Delaying it for two years only pushes the burden on him and moves it close to the next election cycle. However, Kerry is more a socialist at heart and is likely to scale back the privatization idea. He may also spare some bases as political favors to those who help him win key states. Likewise, if Bush wins he is likely to modify the list to help those who helped him.
Although the BRAC process is designed to avoid politics, the President and the armed services do not want to antagonize powerful Congressmen, so Senator Ted Stevens' clout may save unneeded Fort Richardson, while Senator Carl Levin may keep the Detroit Arsenal (e.g. office complex) open. On the other hand, the departure of powerful senators like Trent Lott means payback time for Mississippi. We left Gulfport off the list because Mississippi had three other small bases more likely to close. However, with planned Navy manpower cuts, distant Gulfport (a Seabee base) could close as well.
The Army has sent one of its brigades from Korea to Iraq for a year, then it will move to the USA. The Army has also announced that three of its four brigades in Germany will move out. It is curious that a future home for these brigades has not been announced. Either the Bush administration plans to permanently base them in Iraq, or is saving this announcement until October to bolster voter support with good news about improving the US military while adding base jobs in some areas. The Army has announced that some bases will gain troops as more combat brigades are organized from resources freed by eliminating Army base activities elsewhere, primarily in Korea and Germany. In other news, the Army General in charge of developing infantry gear at Fort Belvoir has become "dual hatted" and now also commands the Natick development near Boston; so good bye Natick.
A bomber wing is likely to move to Guam. Minot AFB could be affected as it is often rated the worst quality of life base in the USAF. However, the nearby missile silos cannot be moved, so Minot is more likely to downsize, or perhaps a tanker wing will be added. Here are the details: US Military Spreads its Wings in Asia. The article mentioned a fighter wing, but I suspect that could be the F-15s from Okinawa, making room for Marine aircraft from adjacent MCAS Futenma, which will close to defuse local anger. The USAF recently moved a C-130 squadron from Yokota (near Tokyo) to Guam. Dedicated Air Force Reserve bases like Grissom are likely to close. It costs much more to maintain these stand alone reserve bases for a couple small squadrons than to maintain the same squadrons on active duty status at active duty bases. Here is a 1998 GAO report on the savings of operating larger squadrons at fewer bases.
A phone call from a former submarine officer to discuss if New London will be closed led to further research, and this was added to the list:
Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island - This is a small base whose few ships left a decade ago. It has extremely high housing costs and old historic buildings which are costly to maintain. It hosts several Navy schools which can relocate anywhere, ideally near major fleet concentrations so thousands of sailors need not PCS or go TAD to attend. The best known, the Naval War College, can co-locate with the Naval Doctrine Command in Norfolk, or the Marine Corps War College in Quantico. The largest activity at Newport, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, would fit nicely into the underutilized New London sub base near GE's Groton shipyard and submarine development complex.
I've come across several recent articles and studies:
BRAC to the Future - a good overview
Official DoD BRAC website - Note the links to the "Military Department BRAC sites." Their old service reports about the last BRAC in 1995 are interesting as they discuss individual bases. The four previous BRACs were frequent: 1988, 1991, 1993, 1995. Since the last BRAC was ten years ago, saving bases because a state is still adjusting to the economic changes from previous BRACs is not a factor this time. For example, the Navy noted that there were several bases in California it would like to close, but only put Long Beach on the list since California was hard hit by the 1993 BRAC. This resulted in the addition of this base to the list:
Naval Surface Warfare Center, Corona Division, California - This is left over from World War II and somehow survived the previous base closings, especially when the Long Beach complex was closed. It is located in the Los Angeles suburbs far from the ocean and over two hours drive from the San Diego fleet which it primarily supports with "assessments." If truly needed, it can move to a Navy base in the San Diego area.
March 2004 DoD Report (pdf) - This report found 24 percent excess capacity across the military. More specifically, the Army has 29 percent, the Air Force 24 percent, the Navy 21 percent and the Defense Logistics Agency 17 percent, according to the report. No bases were specifically cited, but Defense officials did break down excess capacity by type of work. Among the largest areas of reported excess were: Army research, testing, development and evaluation facilities and laboratories (62 percent); Navy inventory control facilities (60 percent); Air Force classroom training space (45 percent); and Defense Logistics Agency distribution depots (20 percent). Given those numbers, the Navy supply activities in Mechanicsburg (near Philadelphia) may close, and all the excess Air Force classroom space makes Keesler AFB, Mississippi and unattractive Maxwell AFB, Alabama targets.
May 2004 GAO Report (pdf) - details on the BRAC process
GAO BRAC related reports - a historical list compiled by Globalsecurity.org
July 2004 - The Value of Memory
Am I the only American who can remember a major news event from less than three years ago? If you recall, as US forces built up to invade Iraq, President Bush demanded that Saddam Hussein permit UN inspectors "free and unfettered access" to search Iraq for Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Saddam surprised everyone by agreeing, and UN inspectors were allowed to roam Iraq at will and check all the locations which Colin Powell had told the UN assembly were actively producing illegal weapons. After several weeks, the dozens of UN inspector teams had found nothing, and the dirty, rusty conditions of the suspect sites showed nothing had been made there for years.
The Bush administration insisted they had other proof that WMDs were in Iraq, so Hans Blix publicly stated if they would send him a clue, he'd have UN teams inspect the next day. Saddam even proposed that US military officers join the UN inspectors. So the USA had PERFECT intelligence that Iraq had no WMDs. The US military had complete freedom to fly anywhere in Iraq to observe activity, and had inspectors on the ground who checked all possible sites and were permitted to stay in Iraq as long as they liked to pursue new leads. All this confirmed what General Hussein Kamel, Iraq's weapons chief who defected from the regime in 1995, told U.N. inspectors, that Iraq had destroyed its entire stockpile of chemical and biological weapons and banned missiles. So for whatever reason the Bush administration invaded Iraq, it was not because of WMDs.
The "we were fooled by bad intelligence" ploy is one of the most successful disinformation campaigns this decade, and the American media has played along to a point where most Americans accept this as fact. In addition, many Americans think former CIA Director George Tenet told the President it was a "slam dunk" that Iraq had WMDs. Tenet never confirmed that, and resigned shortly after those allegations appeared in Bob Woodward's book. The "slam dunk" story came from senior members of the Bush administration who allowed Woodward hours of their time for interviews. President Bush gave him more than two hours, more time than he spent with the 9-11 Commission. By all accounts, President Bush came off as a leader in Woodward's book, Tenet was given the Iraq blame for "bad intelligence", and Woodward made a million dollars from book sales.
June 2004 - How to Prepare for a Deployment to Iraq
1. Sleep on a cot in the garage.
2. Replace the garage door with a curtain.
3. Six hours after you go to sleep, have your wife
or girlfriend whip open the curtain, shine a flashlight in your eyes and mumble,
"Sorry, wrong cot."
4. Renovate your bathroom. Hang a green plastic
sheet down from the middle of your bathtub and move the showerhead down to chest
level. Keep four inches of soapy cold water on the floor. Stop cleaning the
toilet and pee everywhere but in the toilet itself. Leave two to three sheets of
toilet paper. Or for best effect, remove it altogether. For a more realistic
deployed bathroom experience, stop using your bathroom and use a neighbor's.
Choose a neighbor who lives at least a quarter mile away.
5. When you take showers, wear flip-flops and keep
the lights off.
6. Every time there is a thunderstorm, go sit in a
wobbly rocking chair and dump dirt on your head.
7. Put lube oil in your humidifier instead of water
and set it on "HIGH" for that tactical generator smell.
8. Don't watch TV except for movies in the middle of
the night. Have your family vote on which movie to watch and then show a
9. Leave a lawnmower running in your living room 24
hours a day for proper noise level.
10. Have the paperboy give you a haircut.
11. Once a week, blow compressed air up through your
chimney making sure the wind carries the soot across and on to your neighbor's
house. Laugh at him when he curses you.
12. Buy a trash compactor and only use it once a
week. Store up garbage in the other side of your bathtub.
13. Wake up every night at midnight and have a
peanut butter and jelly sandwich on a saltine cracker.
14. Make up your family menu a week ahead of time
without looking in your food cabinets or refrigerator. Then serve some kind of
meat in an unidentifiable sauce poured over noodles. Do this for every meal.
15. Set your alarm clock to go off at random times
during the night. When it goes off, jump out of bed and get to the shower as
fast as you can. Simulate there is no hot water by running out into your yard
and breaking out the garden hose.
16. Once a month, take every major appliance
completely apart and put it back together again.
17. Use 18 scoops of coffee per pot and allow it to
sit for five or six hours before drinking.
18. Invite at least 185 people you don't really like
because of their strange hygiene habits to come and visit for a couple of
months. Exchange clothes with them.
19. Have a fluorescent lamp installed on the bottom
of your coffee table and lie under it to read books.
20. Raise the thresholds and lower the top sills of
your front and back doors so that you either trip over the threshold or hit your
head on the sill every time you pass through one of them.
21. Keep a roll of toilet paper on your night stand
and bring it to the bathroom with you. And bring your gun and a flashlight.
22. Go to the bathroom when you just have to pass
gas, "just in case." Every time.
23. Announce to your family that they have mail,
have them report to you as you stand outside your open garage door after supper
and then say, "Sorry, it's for the other Smith."
24. Wash only 15 items of laundry per week. Roll up
the semi-wet clean clothes in a ball. Place them in a cloth sack in the corner
of the garage where the cat pees. After a week, unroll them and without ironing
or removing the mildew, proudly wear them to professional meetings and family
gatherings. Pretend you don't know what you look or smell like. Enthusiastically
repeat the process for another week.
25. Go to the worst crime-infested place you can
find, go heavily armed, wearing a flak jacket and a Kevlar helmet. Set up shop
in a tent in a vacant lot. Announce to the residents that you are there to help
26. Eat a single M&M every Sunday and convince
yourself it's for Malaria.
27. Demand each family member be limited to 10
minutes per week for a morale phone call. Enforce this with your teenage
28. Shoot a few bullet holes in the walls of your
home for proper ambiance.
29. Sandbag the floor of your car to protect from
mine blasts and fragmentation.
30. While traveling down roads in your car, stop at
each overpass and culvert and inspect them for remotely detonated explosives
31. Fire off 50 cherry bombs simultaneously in your
driveway at 3:00 a.m. When startled neighbors appear, tell them all is well, you
are just registering mortars. Tell them plastic will make an acceptable
substitute for their shattered windows.
32. Drink your milk and sodas warm.
33. Spread gravel throughout your house and yard.
34. Make your children clear their Super Soakers in
a clearing barrel you placed outside the front door before they come in.
35. Make your family dig a survivability position
with overhead cover in the backyard. Complain that the 4x4s are not 8 inches on
center and make them rebuild it.
36. Continuously ask your spouse to allow you to go
buy an M-Gator.
37. When your 5-year-old asks for a stick of gum,
have him find the exact stick and flavor he wants on the Internet and print out
the web page. Type up a Form 9 and staple the web page to the back. Submit the
paperwork to your spouse for processing. After two weeks, give your son the gum.
38. Announce to your family that the dog is a vector
for disease and shoot it. Throw the dog in a burn pit you dug in your neighbor's
39. Wait for the coldest/ hottest day of the year
and announce to your family that there will be no heat/air conditioning that day
so you can perform much needed maintenance on the heater/ air conditioner. Tell
them you are doing this so they won't get cold/ hot.
40. Just when you think you're ready to resume a
normal life, order yourself to repeat this process for another six months to
simulate the next deployment you've been ordered to support.
May 2004 - The new Iraqi Flag
Paul Bremer continues to astound me with his incompetence. He has approved a new Iraqi flag. The two blue stripes represent the two major Iraqi rivers, while the yellow stripe recognizes the Kurdish colors. Now the old flag can become the symbol for the Iraqi resistance. It has "God is Great" inscribed, the green color of Islam and the black color for Arab independence, colors found on most Arab flags. While the crescent moon also represents Islam, it is light blue. The only nation with that color in the Middle East is Israel. This flag is ugly too.
May 2004 - Anti-Iraqi Iraqis?
What is doublespeak? Here is an example from the US Central Command. Some Iraqis fired on US Marine occupiers. They report the news as "Anti-Iraqi Forces Fire on Marines".
April 2004 - "Against All Enemies"
This new Richard Clarke book about the inner workings of the Bush Administration includes this gem:
"I thought I was missing something here," I vented. "Having been attacked by al Qaeda, for us now to go bombing Iraq in response would be like our invading Mexico after the Japanese attacked us at Pearl Harbor."
Powell shook his head. "It's not over yet."
Indeed, it was not. Later in the day, Secretary Rumsfeld complained that there were no decent targets for bombing in Afghanistan and that we should consider bombing Iraq, which, he said, had better targets. At first I thought Rumsfeld was joking. But he was serious and the President did not reject out of hand the idea of attacking Iraq.
March 2004 - BRAC update
The G2mil 2005 list of likely base closures has generated tremendous interest from the media and politicians. Therefore, I am limiting this update to G2mil members. The Pentagon's official list is mostly complete, but will not be released until early next year. Apparently, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld is pushing for more closures than the Generals have proposed. The President's FY2005 budget was released February 2, 2004 and includes proposed spending for new military construction and base housing. Any base with no new projects is suspect for closure, while any base with numerous projects is likely to expand. You can find the list here: FY2005 Family Housing and Military Construction Request. The lack of new construction at 98% of the bases on the G2mil list supports those predictions. Here are inside perspectives.
I found an excellent 1999 RAND study on US Army bases: Land Use Strategy. It provides a list of Army bases that are overcrowded; like Fort Hood and Fort Benning. The Army will officially move four heavy brigades out of Germany. It is unclear if these units will move back to the USA, or move to Iraq permanently. If they move to the USA, here are the options:
Fort Knox - had an independent armored brigade which was deactivated in 1995. It is already home to the Armor branch and has a new urban warfare training area.
Fort Bliss - had an armored brigade until 1997 (the 3rd ACR). It was moved to Fort Carson so Bliss could become an air defense Mecca. However, the Army plans to eliminate ten air defense battalions, and Bliss has an amazing one million acres of maneuver room.
Fort Lewis - The Army has no heavy brigades rapidly deployable from Pacific ports. The terrain at Fort Lewis is poor for tanks, but the huge 325,000 acre Yakima training area is two hours away. In fact, the Army may just put a brigade there and expand that undeveloped base.
Fort Yuma - This "proving ground" is on G2mil's list of likely closures since it is not used much. However, it is close to Pacific ports and Fort Irwin, and has a million acres of maneuver space. It could easily become "Fort Yuma" again.
Fort Irwin - The Marines might abandoned its administrative base at Nebo just down the road from Fort Irwin. The Marines do the actual logistics work ten miles away at Yermo; Nebo is just overhead. If Rumsfeld succeeds to privatizing most logistics and shifting these uniformed Marines to operating bases, Nebo is surplus. The Marines already plan to convert 1372 uniformed positions to civilian during 2005. If Nebo is transferred to the Army, it can provide an instant base for an Army armored brigade, with easy access to NTC and west coast ports.
Here are other events which may effect closures.
Fort Buchanan - is on the G2mil closure list. However, with the surprise sudden closure of the Navy's base at nearby Roosevelt Roads, that may change. The base serves little purpose, but DoD may want to retain an active footprint in Puerto Rico.
Redstone Arsenal - is on the G2mil closure list. However, there is talk of expanding the base instead, consolidating some Army Material Command units there, perhaps moving some from rented space in Arlington, VA. The FY2005 budget contains one construction project, but that is Phase 2, and funded "Defense Wide". As I noted, most the facilities can continue to function if the Army landlord leaves.
Watervliet Arsenal - There is talk of privatizing this base by selling it outright. I think it's a bad idea since profit minded owners will lay off skilled gun tube makers when business is slow, then gouge the Army whenever it can since it will be the sole supplier of gun tubes. However, the "base" overhead can close while the Army still runs the Arsenal with Army civilian personnel.
Fort Richardson - There are several small FY 2005 construction projects requested, probably to appease powerful Senator Ted Stevens. However, if the active army leaves as G2mil predicts, these facilities could still be used by the Alaskan National Guard and adjacent Elmendorf AFB.
Fort Shafter - The US Army is pulling out of its large headquarters complex at Yongsan in Seoul, Korea. There is talk that 8th Army headquarters will disappear, and a new Army headquarters will form at Camp Zama, Japan. Perhaps I Corps in Washington state will move there, or perhaps US Army Pacific will move from Shafter to Zama.
There is talk about whether the Navy and Air Force air logistics centers will be shut down through privatization. That is a political decision difficult to measure. If a Democrat is elected President, this is unlikely. There is talk that one carrier battlegroup might shift from the Atlantic to Guam or Hawaii, but that shouldn't affect bases. I suppose Mayport, Florida could be shut down, but that would be extreme. Otherwise G2mil's Navy list is considered solid.
Point Loma (San Diego) - the Navy may pull its few attack subs from this small base; it recently added attack subs to Guam and also has room in Bangor, Washington since some Tridents are gone. However, Point Loma is an excellent location and the Navy has limited pier space near its ships at 32nd street, so some surface ships may move over. It is also a good spot for some mine warfare ships from closing Ingleside, TX.
NAS Barber's Point, Hawaii - was closed in 1999. However, it has not been redeveloped and would be an ideal spot for a new Pacific carrier air wing. Also, the Marines will soon leave MCAS Futenma after years of pressure by locals in Okinawa, Japan. Perhaps the Marines will move more squadrons to MCAS Kanehoe Bay and push Navy squadrons back across the island to Barber's Point.
US Marine Corps
Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany - The Corps has already begun a major expansion of its logistics facility at Blount Island near Jacksonville, FL for the Albany shutdown. DoD recently announced that 1372 uniformed Marines will move from base support jobs to the operating forces in 2005. Yet another sign Albany will close.
MCAS Miramar - the politicians in San Diego have begun to realize the city is better off if this base is closed, but they are keeping quiet to evade the few loud base supporters. Marine Generals love this base, but Marine Aviation is heading for a train wreck and needs to save money; Miramar is surplus and costs over $200 million a year to operate. Current plans to quadruple procurement for new Marine aircraft over the next fours years are unrealistic to say the least. Local studies for a new airport have found only two practical locations, MCAS Miramar and Camp Pendleton. The Marines have denounced the Camp Pendleton idea as impossible, but haven't commented on Miramar.
US Air Force
Beale AFB - has been dropped from the G2mil list. We had noted that Beale is little used, although ideally located near the west coast and Nevada training ranges. It was destine to expand or close. However, the USAF loves the new long-range Global Hawk UAV and is buying more while the FY2005 budget contains funds to build Global Hawk support facilities at Beale. I suspect they will add more units from other closed bases.
Homestead AFB - The Southern Command is likely to leave its expensive leased space in Miami and move to a military base. Local political leaders are suggesting little used Homestead AFB to the north. Ironically, Dade County wants to close that base for conversion to an airport. However, it is home to reservists and several federal agencies so the Air Force is resisting. Another option is for the Southern Command may move to Tampa since it appears the Central Command may remain in Qatar permanently.
MacDill AFB - in Tampa will now gain 40 KC-767 tankers to replace half as many KC-135s. So it will remain open, gaining units from closing tanker bases in the MidWest.
Los Angeles AFB - It looks certain the Space and Missile command will leave, but where? Large March AFB is an hour away. The main building near LAX may become an annex for March and the few dozen contracting officers who work there can commute or take a daily Air Force bus from March. This simple change would save millions of dollars a year and local governments would come out ahead by collecting property taxes from new tenants and the houses at Point MacArthur. However, there is discussion about moving the entire command to Kirkland AFB in New Mexico.
Shaw AFB, South Carolina - is on the G2mil closure list. However, there is talk of pulling some USAF flying squadrons from Germany back to the USA. On the other hand, delays in the F-22 and now the F-35 will reduce the number of fighter squadrons in the future.
If any member has a question about a particular base, just send an e-mail: editorG2mil@Gmail.com Note that you are a member so I'll provide a more detailed response.
January 2004 - V-22 may finally die
Progress on the V-22 program continues, but it will likely be cancelled soon for cost reasons. It is three times more expensive than comparable helicopters, and the Marines would need to quadruple their aviation budget to buy all they need. In addition, a civilian whistleblower lawsuit has been filed which implies those already built contain defective parts.
Read Year 2003 G2 Gems