Robert H. Scales is a retired major general with a few notions to help make US infantry (and marines) more effective in ground combat situations:
Those of us who have spent our lives leading soldiers and Marines in combat agree with President-elect Donald Trump on one major campaign issue: We are fed-up with the defense establishment paying for high-tech fighter-jet programs such as the F-35 that cost more than a trillion dollars when, after 15 years of ground warfare and thousands of dead soldiers and Marines, we still send these “intimate killers” into combat with inferior gear.
Take a closer look inside the Department of Defense’s weapons-buying cabal and you’ll see people mad at work cooking up still more Star Wars–type stuff — from magic electronic rail guns to plane-killing laser blasters to hypersonic space planes. All this future gear would make George Lucas proud. But this stuff is about as far out in space and time as Luke Skywalker.
Has anyone noticed that Vladimir Putin is spending his money on “little green men”? These men are infantrymen serving in Spetnaz, GRU, naval, special forces, and airborne units. They do Russia’s dirty work in Ukraine, Georgia, Crimea, and Syria. Putin’s military is poor by our standards. But Putin spends lavishly on his infantry. His “Ratnik” weapons-development program is uniquely tailored to give his infantry the cutting edge — yet inexpensive — equipment they need to succeed in close combat.
Maybe we should consider following Putin’s lead by buying affordable stuff for the guys who are doing most of the killing and dying in our contemporary wars. We need Popular Mechanics, not Star Wars. The Defense Department can order some of it on your Amazon Prime account today and skip its lugubrious and wasteful acquisition process. Here are some things to add to an infantryman’s Christmas shopping cart.
The stuff described above is on the shelf today. Most of it is made in America.
By the way, anyone with reservations about the veracity of equipping our soldiers and Marines with “cheap and quick” gear should talk to General James Mattis, the soon-to-be secretary of defense. Mattis comes from a service, the U.S. Marine Corps, known for getting the most killing power for the dollar. For as long as I’ve known him, he’s passionately advocated increasing the combat effectiveness of close-combat soldiers and Marines. I suspect, if asked, Mattis will confirm the wisdom of this Christmas list and suggest additional inexpensive ways to get superior gear into the hands of the men we send into harm’s way.