Chuck Spinney: Drones of War — Send Money

Drones & UAVs, Military
Chuck Spinney
Chuck Spinney

In the last week, much has been made of the leaked DoD briefing entitled ISR Support to Small Footprint (CT) Operations – Somalia and Yemen, dated February 2013.  To date, all the reports I have read, save one, focus on the “critical shortfalls” of drone warfare revealed in these slides — see, for example The Intercept, which broke the story on October 15 and placed the slides on the net, and this report in Common Dreams, and anti-war progressive outlet. Both of these reports and the briefing slides contain a lot of useful information are well worth careful reading. But there is more.

Attached below is the exception.  Andrew Cockburn* argues that the real message of the briefing is “send more money.”  I agree with Cockburn, and I would direct readers to the blue box at the bottom of the study overview (slide 3), which says that the purpose of the briefing analysis is “to inform ISR planning and investments for potential future small footprint operations.” 

Cockburn ends by noting that it is budget time and perhaps this leak had a little encouragement — or in my words: The MICCsters in the Hall of Mirrors that is Versailles on the Potomac are not above leaking sensational, seemingly embarrassing information, if the press dutifully uses it to help Congress shovel more money their way.

As one Republican reform-minded congressional staffer told me in the late 1970s, the defense game is first and foremost about “turning on the big scoop shovel.”  About the only thing that has changed since then is the size of the ‘scoop,’ which is why a pissant little** war like the Global War on Terror is now the second most expensive war in U.S. history.


* Cockburn is a close friend.  I consider his most recent book, Kill Chain, to be one of the most important books about drone warfare, particularly how it less a revolution in military affairs than a  rebranding of a flawed strategic dogma that reaches back to the 1930s.

** Little in terms of activity measurements, like optempos, troops deployed, bombs dropped, sorties flow, etc. (see Flush With Cash, Running on Empty).

Flying Blind

The authors of the Drone Papers were delivering a simple message: send more money.

By Andrew Cockburn, Harpers, October 23, 2015, 12:36 pm

Phi Beta Iota: The pitch for drone money is small potatoes. All the think tanks have started their campaign plans for influencing the Senate and House Armed Service Committee hearings and ultimately pitching the next president on a “transformation” of national security that requires — you guessed it — more money.

See Also:

Defense Budget @ Phi Beta Iota

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