Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tail to Teeth Math

On TV last night (and taped on Monday), I was asked about the effort to re-allocate spending from the tail to the teeth of the Canadian Forces.  That is, move people and spending from headquarters to the field, port, airfield, etc.  This makes a great deal of sense, and I applaud Andrew Leslie, former three star general, for pushing this.

But I have a basic math question: if the challenge du jour is not just being more efficient but actually cutting spending, then I am not sure how moving people around cuts spending.  The big costs for any modern military in a democracy are personnel (pay, benefits, health care) and the big capital projects.  Moving people from HQ to the field does not reduce costs but shift where people are doing their work.  It may make all kinds of sense, but unless one sells off the Ottawa real estate they inhabit (or DC, London, Paris, etc), there are no or little reductions in spending.

In Canada, the government has pretty much told the military that personnel will not be cut, and that they will continue to pursue the new fighter planes (F35 or something else) and re-build the navy.  This way, they can say they are still strong on the military, but putting these limits in place means that the costs will come from operations (no significant missions soon), training, readiness and so on.

Again, this allows the government to say they are strong on the military while doing a far better job of hollowing out the military than the sequester threatens to do in the US.  While there is much to criticize from across the board cuts, at least the cuts in numbers and big projects means that the US Army will not be losing 22% of its readiness funding (I hope).

So, the big question for military folks is this: am I wrong? Does moving people around actually save a heap of money?  I am pretty sure that the only way to really save money is to cut numbers and stuff.

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