In The Effectiveness of Military Organizations, the authors find that the analysis of military effectiveness must include qualitative organizational attitudes, behaviors, and relationships that span a military organization's full activities at the political, strategic, operational, and tactical levels. Similarly, In Making Military Might, Rosa Brooks finds that the qualitative aspects of military organization and activity are essential sources of state power. Quantitative indicators of power can be highly misleading. These findings have practical implications for debates about U.S. defense spending. The U.S. should reorient the way the military applies its defense dollars. Greater expenditure on training, doctrine, and enhancement of organizational efficiency and integration would serve better than the current preoccupation with the procurement of expensive, technologically advanced weapons systems.
The problematic F-35 project is an example of this trend. The project is seven years late and seventy percent over budget. It’s been delayed by countless design flaws and malfunctions, which has caused massive cost overruns with no end in sight. Each plane could cost up to $115 million dollars, with a lifetime program cost of $1.5 trillion dollars, and there are serious concerns about the plane’s durability. Meanwhile, the air force is facing a critical pilot shortage. The shortage of Air Force pilots and other personnel to operate the UAV’s and jets has led the Pentagon to rely more on private contractors for reconnaissance missions. There are at least several hundred contractors, many of them former drone or fighter pilots who are making double or triple their military salaries.
America’s new class of aircraft carriers also faces several issues. The $13-billion USS Gerald R. Ford is already two years behind schedule, and the U.S. Navy's newest aircraft carrier is facing more delays after the Pentagon's top weapons tester concluded the ship is still not ready for combat. The Navy is developing a new class of carrier that cannot function properly, and has designed them to launch F-35 fighters that are not ready to fly their missions. This is all happening during an era of out-of-control budgets, which bodes poorly for American sea power and leadership ahead. Meanwhile, China is investing in relatively affordable “carrier killer” missiles and attack submarines.
That the Navy is concentrating larger percentages of its total force structure on large, high signature, and increasingly vulnerable ships endangers America’s future. The pivot to Asia should result in a pivot in procurement to subsurface vehicles for deterrence. Yet, the Navy is straining to build two attack submarines a year, while it could afford to build ten at the cost of just one carrier and its air wing to much greater strategic effect. In addition, unlike most of the surface ship acquisition programs, attack submarine programs have had a generally good record for coming in on schedule and budget.Research on military effectiveness therefore represents a solution to the current trend of wasteful defense spending and provides insight on ways the U.S. military can maintain its comparative advantage in training and combat readiness.