Can the U.S. carry out Trump’s military buildup?

President Donald Trump has called for a military buildup, which would mean more aircraft carriers, more nuclear submarines, more high-tech weapons of all kinds.

A military analyst named Daniel Gouré wondered whether the United States has the industrial base needed for such a buildup.

For the Army, this means moving forward with near-term modernization and improvements to its existing fleets of tanks, fighting vehicles, artillery, rotorcraft, and rockets.   For the Air Force, it is reaching an economic rate of F-35 production as soon as possible.   For the Navy, it is all about the numbers of Virginia-class SSNs, Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, Ford-class aircraft carriers, LX(R) amphibious warfare ships, and small combatants (Littoral Combat Ship or new Small Surface Combatant).  Without question, a military buildup will require lots of dollars for defense.

But unless the industrial base is prepared to accelerate production, all the money in the world will not produce the desired results.

Source: RealClearDefense

Do we have the industrial base?  U.S. military power depends on U.S. high-tech manufacturing, and the U.S. manufacturing base is declining and dependent on foreign imports.   The U.S. depends on China and other foreign countries for many key electronic components.  The U.S. depends on imports even for basic raw materials such as steel.

We have had two contradictory policies—a industrial policy that accepts U.S. dependence on global supply chains, and a military interventionist policy that depends on U.S. technological superiority.

This contradiction did not originate with President Trump, but it is now his responsibility to deal with it.

High tariffs on imports, as proposed by Trump, won’t solve this problem—at least not overnight.   The hollowing out of the U.S. manufacturing base has been going on for years, and rebuilding it won’t be accomplished overnight.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the greatest challenges to increased production would be experienced by the makers of nuclear submarines, Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) and General Dynamics (GD) Electric Boat. These companies did a magnificent job moving from producing one to two Virginia-class nuclear attack submarines (SSN) a year while squeezing more than a million man hours out of the process for each boat. The Virginia-class is being built in blocks of 10 boats, each introducing new features while ensuring quality and controlling costs. Now they are working to hire and train the thousands of additional workers needed just to manage the current program for two SSNs a year while adding production of the new Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine to the queue.

HII and GD might be able to add to their order book more attack submarines, but only if they have sufficient lead-time to improve their infrastructures, acquire the necessary workforce and tooling, create additional production spaces, and contract for the necessary long-lead items. Not only HII and GD, but their entire supply chain, including the makers of nuclear reactors, sonar equipment, engineering systems, and weapons, would have to be spun up.

Source: RealClearDefense

This could be done, perhaps, as part of President Trump’s infrastructure initiative, but it would take time.

Many of the new weapons that the U.S. military wants are weapons that would be mainly useful in waging war against Russia and China, not in the so-called “war on terror.”

Most of the U.S. quarrels with these nations are over questions that are vital to their national security (Crimea, the South China Sea), but not to ours.   A military mobilization aimed at those nations is unnecessary and unwise.

Another question is whether the U.S. military can recruit enough troops to maintain the buildup without lowering standards to unacceptable levels.

Afterthought [5/16/2017]  Actually, if the Pentagon’s goal is “full spectrum dominance” on land, sea, air, interplanetary space and cyberspace, no military recruitment, no weapons procurement and no armaments industry capacity will be great enough.   We Americans have ample capacity to defend ourselves.  We don’t have the capacity to dominate the world.

LINKS

The First Signs of A National Mobilization for War Are Appearing by Daniel Gouré for Real Clear Defense.

The US military’s #1 challenge in the 21st century: recruiting a few good people by the editor of the Fabius Maximus website.

America’s New Nuclear Missile Endangers the World by Conn Hallinan for Counterpunch.

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