America's Defense Budget Focus on Counterinsurgency

The $663 billion US defense budget for 2010 announced by Defense Secretary Robert Gates emphasizes higher spending on counterinsurgency weapon systems, and cuts back on expensive conventional weapon systems. For example, there is a huge increase in the budget for predator class armed drones, helicopter gunships, surveillance, cyber warfare and special (commando) operations. At the same time, it envisions deep cuts in spending on the expensive F22 Raptor stealth fighter, large navy ships and anti-missile defense shield.

Here is a quick summary of winners and losers in the 2010 defense budget:

Key Winners:

1. Intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR): budget to be increased by 2 billion dollars.

2. Predator unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV): Fielding and sustaining 50 Predator-class UAVs.

3. Army aviation forces: recruiting and training of additional Army helicopter crews and increase the budget by 500 million dollars.

4. Special forces: increasing special operation personnel by more than 2,800 and buying more aircraft for the special forces.

5. F-35 fighters: Gates plans to buy more F-35 fighters in fiscal year 2010, raising the F-35 budget from 6.8 billion U.S. dollars to 11.2 billion dollars. The proposal is to double the number of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters the Pentagon buys next year -- to 30 from 14 in 2009. The F-35 is a cheaper, more multipurpose plane but it can't begin to compete with the F-22 as a fighter jet.

6. Littoral Combat Ships (LCS): Gates proposes to increase the purchase of LCS, seen as crucial to counterinsurgency operations in coastal regions and to improve inter-theater lift capacity.

7. F/A-18 fighter jets: Gates plans to buy 31 more F/A-18 fighter jets in fiscal year 2010.

8. Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV): increasing the charter of Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) ships from two to four until the Pentagon's own production program begins deliveries in 2011.

Major Losers:

1. F-22 Raptor fighter jets: Gates said the Defense Department would complete its contract for 183 F-22 fighters and add four more, bringing the total to 187, before stopping the purchases.

2. VH-71 presidential helicopters: Gates said he plans to terminate the program, which had nearly doubled in cost to over US $ 13 billion and was six years behind schedule.

3. Transformation Satellite Communication System: Gates plans to cancel the program and buy two more Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellites instead.

4. CG-X next generation cruiser: Gates plans to scrap the program for now, which was initially planned to be based on the DDG-1000 design.

5. Aircraft carriers: Gates also envisions to reduce the number of aircraft carriers from 11 to 10 after 2040.

6. Future Combat Systems (FCS): Gates will restructure the Army's modernization program and cut costs.

7. Missile defense: Gates will cut annual funding for missile defense by $1.4 billion. The losers include the Airborne Laser, designed to shoot down ballistic missiles in the boost phase, and additional interceptors planned for the ground-based system in Alaska.

Combat Search and Rescue X (CSAR-X) helicopter program: Gates plans to cancel the 15-billion-dollar program to build new search and rescue helicopters.

8. Amphibious ship and sea-basing programs: Programs such as the 11th Landing Platform Dock (LPD) ship and the Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) SHIP will be delayed.

Gates characterized the budget shift as tailored to face the challenges of America at war with a host of players, many of them stateless and highly mobile, as opposed to the Cold War approach that long dominated the Pentagon's view of planning.

Gates acknowledged that his decisions would invite a lot of strong reaction.

"There's no question that a lot of these decisions will be controversial," he said at a press conference on Monday where he outlined his budget proposal. "My hope is that, as we have tried to do here in this building (Pentagon), the members of Congress will rise above parochial interests and consider what is in the best interest of the nation as a whole."

Going by the history of defense budget process, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are more interested in funneling money to their home states than in spending dollars most effectively. Democrats and Republicans both help themselves and their constituents' short-term interests while criticizing the executive branch for failing to make tough choices.

The announced US defense budget for 2010 is nearly $700 billion (more than half of the trillion dollars spent on defense by the entire world) while the total aid for the developing countries from all the rich countries is only about $60 billion, including about $20 billion from the United States, accounting for less than 1% of US annual budget.

Here are some facts about the US foreign aid program:

1. Less than half of aid from the United States goes to the poorest countries.

2. The largest recipients are strategic allies such as Egypt, Israel, Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.

3. Israel is the richest country to receive U.S. assistance ($77 per Israeli compared to $3 per person in poor countries).

4. Even after the planned tripling of the US aid to Pakistan, it still amounts to less than $8 per Pakistani.

The planned $1.5 billion annual aid to Pakistan will be just over 1 percent of the $130 billion US budget for military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. As Professor Anatol Lieven of London's King's College recently put it, "the stabilization and development of this country (Pakistan) is not merely an aspect of the war in Afghanistan, but a vital US interest in itself. Indeed, Pakistan in the long term is far more important than Afghanistan. The second is that changing Pakistani opinions will mean changing Pakistani society, and that is a project that will require massive, sustained and consistent aid over a generation." The professor adds, "Eight dollars per head is not going to transform anything much in the country. More over, the US statement emphasizes that the aid will be made conditional on Pakistan’s help to the US against the Taliban. This is a recipe for constant hold-ups, congressional blockages and the wrecking of any consistent, long-term programs."

The process of piling on all sorts of conditions by various interest groups and Indian lobbyists in Washington has already started as the aid to Pakistan bill comes up for debate in US Congress. According to Pakistan's Dawn newspaper, the first major condition for aid requires Pakistan to undertake not to support any person or group involved in activities meant to hurt India and to allow US investigators access to individuals suspected of engaging in nuclear proliferation if it wants to qualify for a threefold increase in US economic assistance. This is probably just one of many conditions that Pakistanis will see as an insult to and assault on the nation's sovereignty.

With Pakistan's growing population and rising expectations of its young people, it appears to me that the radical Islam is now spreading beyond its traditional home in NWFP and FATA to Pakistan's heartland of Punjab. It is also clear that the new generation of Pakistanis do not want to accept life under a feudal or tribal system that denies them basic human dignity. In the absence of significant economic growth (even the phenomenal 8% growth roughly equals 2.5m jobs), not enough jobs are being created for 3 million young people ready to join the work force each year, resulting in growing availability of recruits for terror outfits who pay them fairly well by local standards. According to Rand corporation estimates, the Taliban pay about $150 a month to each fighter, much higher than the $100 a month paid by the governments in the region. This fact has been amply illustrated by recent growth of the Punjabi Taliban who have been found recruited by terrorist groups for suicide bombings and violence within and outside Pakistan.

By adding more American UAVs and US troop reinforcements in Afghanistan, the commitment of significantly more money for greater firepower will remake neither Afghanistan nor Pakistan. On the contrary, it is certain to have major long-term negative repercussions for Afghanistan, Pakistan and the American interests in the region. At the very least, it is natural to expect more fighting and mounting American and civilian casualties during this year and the next few years, unless saner minds prevail and US changes course in favor of more political dialog and much greater use of soft power in the region.

Here's a video clip of Secretary Gates announcing his defense budget priorities:

Related Links:

Obama Seeks $ 663 billion for 2010 Defense

Pakistan's Choice: Globalization or Talibanization

Insights Into a Suicide Bombing in Pakistan

Feudal Punjab Fertile For Terrorism

Shaukat Aziz's Economic Legacy

Valuing Life in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Pakistan's Defense Industry


SEMFO Project said…
I am not sure this decision from the present US administration can brigde any gap between realistic approach and speculation based strategy in this regard. Anyway hopes should be kept for more better situation if possible
(Saeed Abbasi:Pakistani Blogger,
Egy Azziera said…
Clearly, attribution will be difficult to prove. but there are significant possible implications, beyond further proof that cyber warfare is becoming a part of mainstream international conflict.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a report on UN finding US drone strikes in Pakistan illegal:

...Ben Emmerson spent much of the week in Pakistan soliciting the views of senior government and elected officials about the drone strikes, part of his ongoing effort to investigate the relatively new method of targeted killing. He said in a statement on Friday that he also met with representatives of the tribal areas of western Pakistan that have borne the overwhelming brunt of the drone campaign. The officials underscored to Emmerson that Pakistan doesn’t consent to the U.S. drone effort, and denied extending the tacit consent that its military — with whom Emmerson did not consult — has previously provided.

“As a matter of international law the U.S. drone campaign in Pakistan is therefore being conducted without the consent of the elected representatives of the people, or the legitimate Government of the State,” Emmerson, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism, said in the statement. “It involves the use of force on the territory of another State without its consent and is therefore a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.”

Emmerson’s statement is carefully worded. He portrays himself as conveying Pakistan’s concerns, rather than vouching for their particulars. But it’s still the strongest statement yet by an international official calling for an end to a campaign of targeted killing that briefly flared back up earlier this year. And to call the strikes an unwarranted violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty is tantamount to saying the U.S. is waging a war of aggression.

“The Pashtun tribes of the FATA area have suffered enormously under the drone campaign,” Emmerson’s statement continues, referring to the tribal areas. “It is time for the international community to heed the concerns of Pakistan, and give the next democratically elected government of Pakistan the space, support and assistance it needs to deliver a lasting peace on its own territory without forcible military interference by other States.”

If the drone strikes continue into the next Pakistani government, Emmerson warned, the U.S. drone effort could further destabilize the nuclear power, undermining a key U.S. strategic goal at the heart of the drone strikes. He urged patience with a Pakistani military effort to eradicate al-Qaida’s allies in the tribal areas — one that official Washington has long since written off as unserious.

Significantly and subtly, Emmerson raised doubts over repeated U.S. claims that the targeting efforts behind the drones kill terrorists and spare civilians. Last month, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a staunch drone advocate, claimed that the drones kill only “single digits” worth of civilians annually. Many of the CIA’s strikes, termed “signature strikes,” kill people believed to fit a pattern of extremist behavior, rather than killing specific, known terrorists.


“In discussions with the delegation of tribal Maliks from North Waziristan the Special Rapporteur was informed that drone strikes routinely inflicted civilian casualties, and that groups of adult males carrying out ordinary daily tasks were frequently the victims of such strikes,” Emmerson continued. “They emphasized that to an outsider unfamiliar with Pashtun tribal customs there was a very real risk of misidentification of targets since all Pashtun tribesmen tended to have similar appearance to members of the Pakistan Taliban, including similar (and often indistinguishable) tribal clothing, and since it had long been a tradition among the Pashtun tribes that all adult males would carry a gun at all times. They considered that civilian casualties were a commonplace occurrence and that the threat of such strikes instilled fear in the entire community.”...
Riaz Haq said…
US holds title for world's most powerful military, Pakistan ranks 7th, Where does India stand?

Pakistan has entered the top 10 of the most powerful militaries in the world, securing the seventh spot. Japan and France have dropped to eighth and ninth respectively. The United States, Russia, and China remain the top three.

According to Global Firepower, a prominent data website specializing in defence-related information, the United States possesses the most powerful military force worldwide.

Russia and China follow closely in second and third place, respectively, while India secures the fourth position. The recently released 2023 Military Strength list, which evaluates over 60 factors, also highlights nations with comparatively weaker military forces such as Bhutan and Iceland.

The assessment by Global Firepower takes into account various criteria, including the number of military units, financial resources, logistical capabilities, and geographical considerations, to determine each nation's overall score.

"Our unique, in-house formula allows for smaller (and) more technologically-advanced nations to compete with larger (and) lesser-developed powers… special modifiers, in the form of bonuses and penalties, are applied to further refine the list which is compiled annually. Trends do not necessarily indicate a declining power as changes to the GFP formula can also account for this."

The report lists 145 countries and also compares each nation's year-on-year ranking changes.

Here are the 10 nations with the most powerful militaries in the world:

United States




United Kingdom

South Korea





Here are the 10 nations with the least powerful militaries in the world:








Central African Republic


Sierra Leone

The top four nations remain as they were in the 2022 Global Firepower list.

In a shift from the previous year's rankings, the United Kingdom has advanced from eighth to fifth place in terms of military strength. South Korea retains its sixth position from last year.

Notably, Pakistan has entered the top 10, securing the seventh spot. Conversely, Japan and France, which held the fifth and seventh positions respectively last year, have dropped to eighth and ninth this year.

Despite ongoing conflicts and Russia's "special operation" invasion of Ukraine in February of the previous year, Russia maintains its second position. The rankings reflect the evolving dynamics and complexities of global military capabilities and highlight the continuous assessment of various factors influencing military strength.

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