WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Secretary of Defense James Mattis will fail to cut costs enough for the modernization program he and President Donald Trump want to implement by closing 19 percent of US bases around the world, retired Department of Defense analyst Chuck Spinney told Sputnik on Friday.
Mattis told Congress in an October 6 letter that 19 percent of US military bases might be unnecessary and he wanted the US legislature to allow him to study the feasibility of closing many of them.
However, Spinney, whose career in the Pentagon spans 33 years, cautioned that Mattis’ plan failed to tackle the underlying problems that had driven US military expenditure out of control.
"Simply reducing infrastructure is a stopgap cosmetic treatment of the symptom, but it is no cure, because it ignores the root cause of the infrastructure problem, that is, complexity-induced cost growth in procurement and operating costs," he said.
Mattis appeared to hope that he could find much of the money to pay for his ambitious modernization program by closing old bases, Spinney remarked.
"In fact, my sense is that Mattis wants to cut infrastructure in the forlorn hope that he can save the status quo modernization program," he said.
Mattis was trying to implement the very expensive military modernization and expansion program that President Donald Trump had promised during his 2016 election campaign, Spinney recalled.
"Trump inherited and is hyping a modernization program [that] guarantees future force reductions, more equipment aging, continual pressure to reduce readiness, and more excess infrastructure," he said.
Mattis and Trump would fail because they were facing a complex procurement process functioning for more than 70 years that has always guaranteed massive profits to defense contractors at the expense of the needs of actual soldiers and combat forces, Spinney explained.
"This is an issue that goes to the heart of the decision-making pathologies in the Pentagon. These pathologies — which feed contractors at the expense of the troops — create a political economy wherein costs always increase faster than budgets," he said.
The surplus of unnecessary military installations in the United States and around the world was unavoidably generated by the existing procurement system, Spinney commented.
"Excess infrastructure is a natural and inevitable consequence of this relationship," he said.
Combat force readiness was the last thing to be improved regardless of how much investment was poured into the defense industries, Spinney observed.
This was the case "even when budgets increase rapidly, as they did during the Reagan administration or after 1998," he said.
Mattis wanted to revive the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) assessment process, but it would not affect the key forces generating the cost overruns and enormous budgets, Spinney maintained.
"While BRAC-type activities are portrayed as a solution to the cost-budget squeeze, at best, they just buy a little time, and usually do not even do that, once shutdown costs are accounted for," he said.
US weapons cost growth has slowed modernization rates and creates perpetual readiness problems, Spinney acknowledged.
The Defense Department had been trapped in this spiral for more than 60 years, Spinney recollected.
"It has been going on since the late 1950s and the statistics cannot be rebutted," he said.
Mattis had given no indication that he understood the underlying causes of the budgetary problems that he was struggling with, Spinney added.
"Mattis’s griping, which is based on a semi-correct snapshot of his current situation, shows no appreciation of the roots of the infrastructure problem," he said.
Numerous members of Congress have for many years resisted all efforts by the Defense Department to close large or excess military bases in their states because they see them as providing jobs and investments, especially in remote and poor areas.