One of Mitt Romney’s big ideas is a dramatic increase in funding for the U.S. military. As a taxpayer this reminds me of watching $1 billion Navy ships confronting a few Somalis in a rubber boat with an outboard motor and wondering “How could we possibly afford to sort through these guys one at a time?”
A friend of mine is a retired Air National Guard officer. I asked him whether he thought that his corner of the military was spending money efficiently. He said “My entire branch of the Air Force should not have existed. State governors don’t need fighter jets at their command. The Air National Guard should be merged with the Air Force Reserve.”
How would that save money?
“There are about 6000 officers and civilians in the Air National Guard headquarters at Andrews Air Force base. We call it the ‘crystal palace’. Every person there has a job that duplicates a job in the Air Force Reserve, which usually duplicates a job in the mainline Air Force. For example, there are F-16s, KC-135s, and C-130s in all three of these branches. Each branch therefore has a group of program managers who are responsible for buying spare parts for, say, the F-16. Each branch has ‘career field managers’ for every possible job within the branch, e.g., maintenance or finance.”
How much would that save? If we figure $300,000 per year per person, including real estate and pension and health care benefits, 6000 people costs about $1.8 billion per year (admittedly less than 1/500th of an Obama annual deficit).
My friend said “Don’t forget that the same thing can be done in reverse for the Army. Give the Army Reserve to the governors to be part of the National Guard.” He finished by pointing out that Congress and the military seldom truly save money because they are seldom willing to shut anything down completely. Instead of closing a base, they will cut operations to 10 percent of what they had been, but this leaves the taxpayer still with about 75 percent of the cost.
At first glance it would appear that Mitt Romney, having noticed that the country is spending way beyond its means, has decided to give one of the world’s least efficient organizations a whole lot more money. Has Romney articulated how our society will benefit by putting extra money into the military?