Booknotes+: Winslow Wheeler on the United States’ Military Posture

By | December 6, 2022

A couple of weeks ago, the conservative Heritage Foundation published its 2023 Index of U.S. Military Strength. At that time, we discussed the Index’s findings with the editor, Dakota Wood. The Heritage study concluded that the current U.S. military is at significant risk of not being able to meet the demands of a single major regional conflict.

We wanted another point of view on the current U.S. military posture. So this week, we asked longtime observer and critic of the U.S. military procurement process, Winslow Wheeler, to talk with us. He has spent over 40 years working on national security defense budgets and military reform for both political parties, the Government Accountability Office and the Center for Defense Information.

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A couple of weeks ago the conservative Heritage Foundation Published its 2023 index of U.S military Strength The study concluded that the current U.S Military Is at significant risk of not being able To meet the demands of a single major Regional conflict We discussed the index's findings with The editor Dakota wood we wanted another Point of view on the current U.S Military posture We asked long-time Observer and critic Of the U.S military procurement process Winslow wheeler to talk with us He has spent 40 plus years working on National Security defense budgets and Military reform for both political Parties the government accountability Office and the center for defense Information Winslow wheeler how did you get into the Criticism business of the U.S military Oh Um Started working on the Senate staff in Capitol Hill for a liberal Republican Jacob Javits from New York in 1971. Worked for him for 10 years moved on to Work for Nancy casabaum from Kansas During that period I met I was always Interested in the Pentagon and you know Those gravitated to reading those

Stories in the paper rather than you Know the foreign policy stuff And more and more you know became Javitz's defense guy National Security Guy rather than just foreign policy I Started out as a research assistant Um and uh was always on sort of that Critical side but early with casabaum I met a bunch of people the so-called or The military reformers I Um a band of about Four or five people at their core And they brought to me a whole new level Of understanding Of Defense issues Rather than what I had been hearing in The Senate from defense critics or Reading in the mainstream press it was It's a real Revelation to me to Understand some of this stuff at a very Different level From what I've been exposed to before And I've been on that path ever since Who I will get to what you do but who Who in the mainstream media if that's a Word several words does the best job Covering the military and I'd be Interested once you say who you think it Is how how good a job do they do well It's pretty horrible out there right now Um I was just last week at a uh conference Sponsored by Politico

It was it was a operation run Intellectually and morally by defense Corporations And for some strange reason Politico was Happy to you know put his name on that Um Um The New York Times and the walls and the Washington Post are not that bad but They're still pretty bad They cover defense at the level I was doing it in the 1970s you know at The super the first layer of the of the Onion skin Um It's hard to say who's doing it right Out there There's one Journalists for Bloomberg Tony capacio I always read his stuff Um he gets into the stuff better than Most Not as deeply as I would like But better than most Um A friend and colleague Died last year Pierre spray one of The Originators of the A10 and F-16 aircraft And um we decided to set up in his honor A program sponsored by Ben Cohen at Ben Jerry's Uh is paying for it to award make awards For good journalism And we haven't met

Yet to make our decisions But it's It's a vast wasteland out there Um we're going to be hard put To find an awardee That Pierre would be happily selected It's not good and it's it's so much Worse than it used to be Um it's not just the defense Corporations you know buying their Position by you know placing ads and Stuff The internet is ruined part of it I mean The internet is a fantastic tool if you Use it properly But the way it's evolved everybody's Rushing to be the first out there with Their latest flimsy Um some are better than others but the Vast gang of it is It's just fluff One of the reasons we wanted you to come Talk with us as we had Dakota wood from The Heritage Foundation on to talk about Their military survey for 2023 and Asking are you a conservative and is the Heritage Foundation conservative most People of course in this town think That's what they are let me ask you the Same thing before I ask you about their Survey well how would you characterize Your politics all over the lot Um I voted for Reagan the first time but Not the second time

Um no way I would ever vote for Donald Trump I find something personally repulsive Um Um in no way I'd vote for Hillary Clinton I voted for the green party ticket not In 2016. why do you think this way and What's the reason behind it because I I Don't I don't think they're serious people I think they're ambitious people And in Donald Trump's case you know his Prime directive is point that camera at Me Um Hillary Clinton is a more complex Individual But she's on the hunt for position Status and you know whatever Um I worked Um In the Senate and GL for 30 years And you know you know familiarity breeds Contempt but you always always used to See people who would rise above Themselves in a crisis In the Vietnam War they're a group of People uh on you know on the left Started criticizing the war Um Um It took a lot of courage to do that back Then Um but eventually the nation came around

And agreed with them Um in Watergate you know everybody blew It off except for a very few Uh on the Sam Irvin Watergate Committee I was just around the corner And down the hall from those hearings And a little TV screen you know four inch screen on The top of my The Book Rack and on top Of my desk and we'd watch that you know Have at least have it on all day long And I I think I'm a big fan of Lowell Weiker and obscure Republican senator From Connecticut Uh who seemed properly uh outraged by What he was seeing I was much less impressed by Howard Baker Who I learned in the closed sessions Would tear the critical Witnesses apart And be you know a dutiful Republican And then in the public sessions well What did the president know when did he Know what kinds of stuff let me ask you About this survey the military survey In the Heritage Foundation 527 page survey they basically concluded That the Navy is weak The Air Force is very weak The Army is marginal one of the ways They raided the Army and the Marine Corps is strong when you read that your Reaction Um well I read the report

Um it's long Um it could really be condensed it's Very uneven Um I thought the guy who wrote The Air Force part was pretty good I had some Serious exceptions to some of the things He said buddy you know the guy who wrote The Marine Corps part you know that you Know Dakota wood the guy that you Interviewed I just don't know how he came to the Assessment he did Um In some cases they understate the Problems even Though they sounded really severe Um a typical Example in the fringes is they use What's called Mission capability to Measure the Readiness of aircraft for Combat that's the wrong measure Um If you if you're able to form perform One of your assigned missions you're Mission capable In other words if you're not 35 And you're capable to Transit the pilot From Andrews Air Force Base to Uh somewhere as in Virginia you're Mission capable The right measure is full mission Capability Where you're able to perform all the

Missions assigned to you Um they would have done a lot better to Use that data They may have embarrassed some of their Favorite airplanes But that's the right measure Um Um let me just jump in and ask you as I Try to figure out what everybody's Saying when it comes to the military I Looked up a number uh the number of Military aircraft that we have and I've Seen several but the last number I saw You can bring us up to date was 13 000 military aircrafts with five fifty Two hundred and nine fighter jets across The military does that sound no that's That's old data what is it now Um it's about 2 000 fighter and attack Aircraft in the Air Force In the reserves Uh it's really then my data what I saw I Mean that's the problem with the Internet yeah yeah Um you know yeah is that enough don't Trust and do verify Um are these enough uh air aircraft in Order to fight a war if that's what We're looking at well to do what to Fight an enemy with no Air Force no Navy In the army like we've been doing you Know or none to speak of as such as We've been doing you know for the last Three decades it's you know plenty I

Should ask you though do you think we Have a threat from other lands the Russia the China the Iran name it We've evolved to a situation Where China and Russia are closer to each Other Than either of them are to us Not what Nixon and Kissinger set up in The 1970s Um Because of cheap domestic politics It becomes the thing to do To uh uh antagonize Uh China and Russia Russia over NATO Expansion China over Taiwan And declare it to be all their fault Uh and when they do something stupid and Aggressive like Putin did in Ukraine uh Last February uh it's all his fault we Did a lot to provoke him Um More power to Biden for attempting To meet with uh The Chinese leader and getting things a Little bit better under control Rather than sending Sorry for the insole but halfwits like Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan to Piss off the Chinese and you know build Up her Cold War credentials back here Um why do you call her a half wet oh She's not a half wedge I don't like her

Policies but to run over to Taiwan and Do what she did I thought it was very Stupid why uh it's gratuitous Um offenses Um Um if Putin were to send that delegation to Alaska To encourage the native alaskans to Uh declare independence from the United States we'd be all kinds of angry about That That's not a good Analogy but it's a shows the kind of Mirror image you know that when you look At it from different a different lens You understand better what they're doing What do you think of the fact that the United States has some 800 bases around The world Well the major ones is not that many but We are all over the place Um I don't have as big a problem with that As I have With our International Behavior Initiating Wars of choice Um all of which we've lost Um name those Iraq The closest country to Iraq right now is Iran not us Remember in 2010 they kicked us out

Um they told George Bush no we're not Going to renew your agreement to stick Around here uh we want you to leave we Came back in uh Afghanistan you know there's a little Question uh Vietnam Um you know a long time ago but be sure To sell lost that one too we're picking Fights that we shouldn't be picking Um and we're inserting ourselves into Alien cultures Where we don't understand things And we think like Putin thinks in uh in Ukraine We can brow beat them into submission by Bombing their cities A few people appreciate that in Desert Storm in 1991. One of our Prime Air Force hargrets was Their electrical grid We did it quicker than Putin's doing it In Ukraine and we did it more Effectively but we did it And there are lots of Civilian Casualties directly and indirectly as a Result Um This is not America on The Shining Hill This is America shoving itself into Situations that are not in our national Interest And the rest of the world is watching This and it's astonishing the rest of The world has been has been polite us as

I asked you and a couple of other the Folks that you work with Pierce Bros one Of them uh deceased but you wrote back In 2019 uh and it takes a little bit to Read it but you you say this this is sad But unsurprising you're talking about The 1.25 trillion dollars that was spent National Security in 2019. you say this This is sad but unsurprising despite the Parade of scandals And the billions of dollars wasted on Poorly performing schedule busting cost Exploding weapon systems the Dismal Failure of the Department of defense's Audit The grossly overpriced spare parts the Ethically challenged senior leaders and The widely reported collapse in training And Readiness the issue of Pentagon Spending and a decaying defense has been Steadily shunned by both the candidates And the debate moderators and you're Talking about the debates for the 2020 Right Democratic primary where they Didn't bring it up at all that there Were defense hardly appeared and did Towards one of the last debates but That's a that's a huge indictment there Yeah it is Can you break it down I mean let me just Ask you billions of dollars wasted on Poorly performing schedule busting cost Exploding weapon systems sure uh you Know the classic cases the F-35 which

The Heritage production study found Quote found found quote fantastic Um I stop you there for somebody that Does not know what the F-35 is explain It just to the average person oh God in A sentence Um it's that poorly designed Fat profile stubby winged airplane Intended To perform Various different kinds of missions air To air air to ground For three services Air Force Marine Corps Navy And save money by doing that How expensive how the real expense per Airplane that was on the F-35 how many Of them so far have been produced about 500 have been paid for About 300 have been delivered to the U.S The unit cost you know there's a number Of ways you can measure it but if you Take the whole program Uh over its lifetime or excuse me over Its acquisition the the research and the Buying not the day-to-day maintenance You get a cost of 412 billion dollars For about 2500 airplanes that math comes Out to about 6 160 million dollars per Airplane but what we see often printed Is it's 80 million dollars yeah they the Air Force has this phony thing called The FlyAway cost

Where they measure the cost to fabricate The airplane just as it's rolling out The factory door Um doesn't include all the support you Have to have to have that airplane The maintenance equipment the simulators For training the initial not all of them But just the initial spare parts the Special basing requirements that Airplane has yada yada yada uh when you Add just all that together not counting The r d it's about 120 130 million Dollars so go back to this what I just Read another line the Dismal failure of The Department of defenses DOD audit there's the new age sorry the Dod audit how often in the history has The Department of Defense been audited Um the requirement started in 1990 Um they have tried five times they've Flunked every time Uh the excuses like in the Heritage Foundation report is that's too complex It's too big of an art operation well no Um it's subdivided into 27 different Audit entities Um In this last audit nine of them passed One of them not so great but passed what Kind of sections passed uh the defense Financial auditing service the pension Fund a huge amount of money none of the Services have passed they're not even Close

There's an important point to be made Here the other 18 Two-thirds of the Entities that are supposed to be audited They didn't flunk They got what's called a Opinion of disclaimer You flunk an audit When you track the money and you find it Wasn't spent as intended or as the law Isn't set Um we're not that good We can't track the money That's what disclaimer of opinion means They couldn't perform the audit The stuff is too chaotic this has been Going on for 30 years It's literally True that it would be a vast Improvement If all 27 of those are audit entities Could Funk an audit That means that you could track the Money in it in this town you have the Armed services committees on the hill And you've undoubling know that from Your time on the hill And you have the media and you have the Defense department and you have the White House anybody in the mix here in The last several years Concerned about auditing successfully The military Uh we have an annual drill Um

Somebody reveals this in this case it Was the controller of this apartment There's going to be a long and Impossible to read report from the Defense Department's Inspector General Um there'll be some hearings everybody Would be horrified pat on the table when Are you going to fix this Uh do their press releases and Immediately go back to sleep Uh and wait until next year and we'll You know Rinse and redo Um There's a lot of interest in not solving This problem Bye um a lot of people don't want the Kind of audit that we really need The audits we're doing right now are Very superficial they're called a Statement of budgetary resources it's Basically checking over here it's a Bouncing your checking account I wrote That check it I you know I gave my son 500 he did spend the money As to what the hell your son did with That money that's not in the audit What we do need is something we Initiated in uh World War II called the Renegotiation board I've been around for A long time and it got pretty much strip Cleaned of all of its powers but uh and Then it was eliminated entirely but it Audited corporations

Uh to see whether the profits they were Earning Were not just appropriate but were truly Profits rather than hiding overhead you Know that kind of thing Um And uh I'd love to know how Lockheed Martin are Boeing or Raytheon spends Their overhead money in addition to Having an audit of of the programs the Defense Financial Accounting Service Does go over the assembly line and they Do do reports nobody reads them And they're sort of ankle budding kinds Of reports but they're out there let me Ask you about you you mentioned the Corporations Again these numbers could be off some You may know the actual numbers I'm Looking at the top 100 Military manufacturers in the world and The first five are Americans sure and The first one is Lockheed Martin Lockheed Martin if this figure is Correct in 2021 Had defense revenues of 64 billion Dollars do you happen to know what Lockheed Martin does Uh lots of stuff what they make uh not Just the F-35 and the F-22 but Ships missiles Intelligent systems they're all over the Place Are they known I mean what are they

Known for doing are they known for doing Good work no Um uh F-22 a airplane there's a huge Disappointment in terms of performance How many of those do we have 184 We paid those were half a billion Dollars a piece if you count you know All the expenses half a billion half a Billion Um in today's money how would that stack Up to the F-35 is that an airplane it's A better fighter uh than the F-35 but It's still huge in clergy it's not as Stealthy as people would have you Believe there's lots of Radars out there That can see them Um and it was so expensive you couldn't Buy an a adequate force of them that's One of the problems these things are so Complex That you can't afford to buy an adequate Inventory You can't replace the inventory we have Therefore as your inventory shrinks it Also ages Our aircraft as that guy who wrote The Heritage Air Force uh chapter said Average Air Force aircraft are 30 years Old That's astonishing the yeast we used to Joke in the 80s that the sons Of B-52 Pilots are now flying those

Airplanes we're now doing the Grandfathers Friends the grandsons Um how many did I read write the 70s Some uh B-52s are still there right now Yeah and they have outlasted the B1 That Was supposed to replace it Um the B1 was kicked out of the nuclear Mission you know 10 15 years ago Um and they're slowly being their ties About 40 left let me go back to Lockheed Martin I'm not picking on them so much As you sure you can get all these Numbers can get very complicated again If I have the current information Correct There is a retired Navy Admiral A retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff Joe Dunford Retired Air Force General on the board Of Lockheed Martin does that matter yes it does why The Meadows greatly It matters before they retire Because if that's what your ambition is If you're even contemplating Going to work for industry or an Industry-owned think tank of which we Have many Um You don't want to piss them off Uh you want you want to get that visit From the nice man who says well when you Finish here you know we'll talk

Um that's the most important part of the Corrosive impact of this Behavior A way to make it more live Is to consider the staffer on the armed Services committee advising a senator on The value of whatever he's overseeing uh Airplanes But his ambition is to go work on at the Pentagon get a nice senior slot maybe if You're really amongst the best you know Get a senate advice and consent position Many of them have So what's that going to do to your Advice The nice man isn't going to come and Visit you Um you know uh not going to happen And so you don't do it consciously I would hope Dakota Woods said when I Ask him the same question that if you Trusted them in the Pentagon why would You not trust them in these courses well I should be trust them when they're in The Pentagon why not Just because they're been promoted in a System Doesn't mean that automatically we trust Them Uh you know Martin Luther King was right When he said don't judge a man by the Color of the medals on his chest judging By his character and by his ability to Command people in war And his ability to manage a broken

Building but go back to the let's take Joe Don for he was the most visible of All the Former military generals and four stars And three stars that are on the the Board of Lockheed Martin what can he do As a board member make phone calls Um is it legal course uh called call up Senator you know Schumer Chuck we really need this you know Wishlist stuff you know the the Inflation is really eating it's eating Us up uh that would really help Uh and what Schumer going to do He's going to go along Um once they've passed some of the Prohibition periods it's you know a year Or two depending on The situation is Um they can call anybody the Pentagon to Say what the hell are you doing on the F-35 you want to you want to test it for What You know that kind of stuff what about Money from these corporations to the Members of Congress how much of that Matters Um Uh We get lots of information on How much they're giving I don't trust that information I think what members are getting Varies from

A few hundred thousand per election to Tens of thousands for a non-defense Committee Member It buys entree It buys the thinking in the members head Well you know you know this guy is Telling me I want to be against this Program because it's not working it's Too expensive you know blah blah blah But I have a trade-off here Uh will this you know Wonderful Supportive Corporation be nice to me Next time around Um it's those subtle but powerful Ways that members of Congress think and Act and Um the corporations fully understand That on the F-35 How many different states in the union Provide material to the F-35 uh it's 35 Something like that is that done on Purpose yes Um spread it around Um sometimes members insist on a Bobby Bird from West Virginia used to insist That the plants in West Virginia have a Bigger piece of the C-130 for example Um but it's not just that We've evolved a system And a way of thinking about defense of This country Where it's only the flakes Who are you know harsh critics And if you want to be pro-defense

That means you're for more money And you're for letting the Pentagon do Pretty much what it wants to do you Might nibble around the ankles a little Bit to pretend that you're doing your Job Um but nothing serious Yeah we've produced paid for excuse me Over 500 of these uh f-35s they're in What's supposed to be called what is Called low rate initial production That's enough copies to figure out how How to build it and to test it You need maybe 20 30 for that and we're Buying I say we meaning the United States buying 2500 for use in the United States yeah for the Air Force Marines The Navy how about overseas how many Different countries there's another 800 Or so on contract Uh for a list about a growing list Of Eight nine ten countries Um is that normal yes for all these Aircrafts yeah yeah Um the F-22 was the exception Um they considered it so highly Classified they refused to sell it Um But yeah that's perfectly normal Back to the Heritage study um before I Asked you about Heritage how many of These kinds of studies are done Um The Heritage thing was much more

Complete and detailed than most Um Usually there are the their reports are Rifle shots not shot gunshots Um and they like the chapters in The Heritage thing the quality is all over The place Why do you think that is The individual writing them Um Sometimes it's how much do they really Know Sometimes It's not the instructions they get But it's the you know the You know and if I put it that way and It's going to better not say it that way When when you were in the government Accountability office what was your Impression of the kind of work they did When they looked at the military and Were you a part of that Um yes um Um I was in the smaller division in GAO The program Evaluation and methodology division that Specialized in how to do studies We had a small defense group of about Anywhere from five to ten people Um How would you what would you how would You grade the GAO on on the work they Did on the military well there's a much Larger division uh which does the grafas

Bulk of Defense work thing Jail got rid of the division I worked in There was too much of a pain in the butt Because it was telling other divisions Their reports are crap Um There are a number of excellent Geo Reports as they come out There are a number of awful GAO reports Uh that never should have been released It escapes Um there's a vast body of them That are informative They're basically what DOD will admit to Um the the way I use the way we used to Joke about it in the division where I Worked Was that most GAO evaluators Would go into a pentagon office And say we really want you to give us The right honest answers And please do that And Um If the guy or woman has half a brain They'll throw them some bones Yeah that you know that The helmet and the F-35 has still got You know some problems you know but We're fixing it Um And the evaluators will walk out of the Interview and say oh we really drag that Out of them and that's the report

Um we would have huge fights In my division with the rest of GAO About they're going along with our Demanding documents from DOD The Mantra was well that makes them Angry why do you want to make them angry We don't care if they get angry we want Their data Um what kind of a grade would you give The Armed Forces committees on the hill And also mixed in with that the Congressional research service that does Research for the different members of Congress on anything they want Um I guess the members Of the defense committees and their Staff a disclaimer of opinion They're not doing it why not Um they're too busy Um Members have to spend Hours every day fundraising Not doing their homework There's a culture On many of the staff Where well this is an interesting job And I'm moving on And I'm on a career and I'm going to go To the Pentagon second level choices you Know go work for the corporations But move on but isn't there a vast Difference between working at the Pentagon and working for a corporation

In terms of income For the individual well Yes and no that Pentagon job will get You another job later on So it depends on what your career path Is whether you want to you know be heavy Or just a lobbyist who would you give High marks to if anybody over the years That has have been our secretaries of Defense Again mixed bags but Schlesinger James lesson James lessinger Um I had a reputation for asking questions And not taking baloney Um did some things where Forest services To do things like buy f-16s Which gave them enough airplanes with The budget they had to have an Air Force What's the difference between an F-16 And an F-35 Um because we still buy f-16s and f-15s Well they they've mangled over the F-16 Design so much that it's now almost as Expensive as an F-35 Um but it was designed as a fighter And you know to shoot down other Airplanes that's the end of it It was For a very For various reasons It was an excellent design With that Successful design like that you can use

It for other stuff for bombing Especially and that's what the F-16 has Become has become a bomber not a fighter I want to go back to what I started on The The Heritage Foundation Index of military Strength And read to you because some of what I'm About to read it sounds just like you They say what's the consequence of the Military being in a weak position and They list Years of sustained use Underfunding Poorly defined priorities wildly Shifting security policies exceedingly Poor discipline in program execution a Profound lack of seriousness across the National Security establishment even as Threats to the U.S interests have surged Do you buy that I'm more on that side of what they're Trying to say than not the problems are Profoundly fundamental More so than they say They say more money will fix it We should we should build better Airplanes yes indeed we should but uh The way this system works you you know You castigate them for having you know Problematic things uh programs and say Here try again They do it the same way And

Surprise and surprises the same thing Happens What they studiously avoid Is the kinds of Structure to a program where we've had Some really successful programs First you base your requirements on Combat Lessons rather than what some Technologists in Lockheed Martin Oren Andy Marshall's so-called Think Tank Tell you Um hard bitter lessons from com from Conflicts Then you build At least two competitive combat ready Prototypes You fly them off spend hundreds of hours In the air flying these airplanes to see If they work And then you pick the one that actually Won not the one that lost And then you build them in numbers That make a difference Because if you have a successful design You don't have a gigantic House of Complexity what has the Pentagon done Right in your opinion Um and pentagon's a big word you know What I'm talking you named Schlesinger Are there other defense secretaries that Have been good in your opinion There aren't any that are leap into mind Who has been and again may not be a fair

Question excuse me Robert Gates okay I Had problems with some of the things he Did but he had a talent uh for trying to Listen And for Um telling the bureaucratic honchos You're not going to do that who's been The worst Secretary of Defense oh good Lord Um and do they and this sounds strange But do they matter Sure they matter Um It's an important job Um My favorite worst is probably William Cohen If I remember the Senate from Maine a Long-time member of the Senate armed Services committee You should not appoint politicians To run gigantic federal agencies and Then after it after he was there he's Now formed the Cohen group in Washington That does lobbying it shows up on the TV Every now and then but you know but he Also does lobbying for defense Corporations I'm sure he does you know Adult paying attention to what he does And why is that I mean does anybody Because I don't think he's a serious Human being Um Um you could listen to him for half an

Hour And think back well what did I learn From that I learned what his opinion is I learned what he's in favor of I didn't Learn anything profound about what he is That thing that he's in favor of So if all of a sudden you wake up one Morning and it says uh China has invaded Taiwan What would you expect from the United States Well at first I want to know how they Got there Um did we do what we did with Putin To continually provoke him With a NATO expansion and other Gratuitous insults Where he made the gigantic mistake of Doing what he did But what if they just you know President Biden's been on the record saying we Will defend Taiwan but if all of a Sudden they just put boats in the water Airplanes in the air Moved into Taiwan and tried to take it Over what should we do and what are we Capable of doing We should do something to support the Taiwanese But it's their fight They can impose Huge penalty On the Chinese Foreign an attempted invasion

Just as the Ukrainians did on Putin Putin thought it Was going to be a cakewalk Um uh that war is not over And sadly the Russians are probably Learning from their Big mistakes how much of the military Equipment in Taiwan comes from the United States manufacturers A lot of it some of it's indigenous Some of it is some old submarines God I Think they're French I'm not sure but They do some indigenous stuff The most important thing about if you Want to prepare for war The most important thing is not to buy Stuff The most important thing is to train Your people And if you do have to uh fight a Conflict They even more important thing Is to have your nation behind you Rather than engage in some Gratuitous Act of offensive action Where you know like in the case of George W bush the nation was initially In support of but the more we learned About what the hell is going on The more he said no thanks As you know the Heritage study shows That the Navy in their opinion is weak I ask you what's your feeling about the 11 aircraft carriers that we have and

The Gerald R Ford was four years late And had 13 billion dollars what's your Opinion of all that Um outrageously expensive it replaced a Uh class of aircraft carriers in the Midst class that carry about the same Number of airplanes Um the big claim is that the forward Will be able to launch its airplanes Faster They haven't proven that yet and they've Had big problems with the fancy Electronic launching system and a Resting system but we'll see whether That doubling the cost really got you Anything worthwhile how important though Is it we have 11 the world if the number I have is right is is 26 total we have 11 and there's probably some that don't Don't do much and no other country has More than two right Um my problem is that if the balloon Does go up with China for example Those are graph carriers are either Going to stay in safe Waters Or they're going to be at the bottom of The ocean We have had exercise after exercise After exercise Where Sometimes our own and sometimes Foreign submarines Constantly are able to perform Successful attacks

On aircraft carrier battle groups Including the carrier Uh this would be going on For 40 years The Navy solution was to stop leasing Those uh Swedish Electric submarines that were doing this To our Battle groups and exercises That's not a solution Um There are other ways To deliver Firepower Uh against an enemy That can sink your aircraft carrier and We better they're thinking more about That than all these long-range fire Stuff that brings up a lot of other Issues but Um Um aircraft carriers both ours and Theirs are not going to be around very Long if they Venture close to New Hostile places how extensive is our Satellite Network looking around the World Um I'm not a specialist in that Um but uh just for example Um when the uh The Russian Pipeline to Europe was was Was detonated was blown up Um uh satellites found an image of a

Ship Uh that was there at about the right Time Now that the image was too fuzzy they Say To determine whose ship that was Satellites should be able to get a Fairly sharp image of that of that ship Until not just wait what type it is but Whose was it Um I was told in the 70s That our satellites are so good That it could look over the shoulder of Somebody reading a newspaper or read the Headline that turned out not to be true When I had my classifications Um But they can see lots of stuff If you were invited to the Oval Office No I said if oh I was like if And you're sitting there in the President United States says okay Winslow I've watched you for the last 30 Years you just Hammer the military tell Me what you would do now To improve the situation change the People Um both the ones wearing uniforms and The ones wearing suits how do you do That though Um By finding People who stood up

To the pressure in the past And have a record of saying I'm not Going to stand for that crap we're going To do this the right way can you name Anybody you know the guy named Rick Gilmore who used to run the testing Office In the Obama Administration The best he did the best job running That office of anybody I've seen others Have done a really excellent job others Have done that's one guy well that's one Guy but that kind of model he had a he Had a profile Where he works in uh pa e the program And evaluation and methodology the Program analysis and evaluation part of The Pentagon which was sort of their In-house think Town assigned to question Stuff Uh it went from there to CBO Um uh He had a professional life Going through the data uh Not just one side of the data but both Sides and sorting his way through it Um so what what is your reaction when You turn on the television set and I'm Sure we're guilty of it at C-SPAN just As much as the rest and you see somebody Name name your Petraeus You know all these generals uh Keen that Come on television and nobody ever tells The audience that they are on the board

Of XYZ company in the defense business What what do you what's your reaction When you see well they should go and see Span where they do get us those Questions we don't do it as bad as well As we should though Um uh a guy I know we're not friends but The former ambassador to China and Saudi Arabia and chance Freeman had an Interview about this kind of thing And the first thing one of the first Things the subject was how to get decent Information And uh his first suggestion was If you want to be informed don't watch Television Uh From cable news not I'm not talking About C-SPAN where you'd talk to people And try to go through stuff Um but the infotainment channels Um it's not news it's their take on Things And if you didn't get it right The first time you'll get 14 more times Uh during the course of the day Um That's not Informing people it's telling them Things Uh so what would you tell somebody that Says I'd like to know more about what's Going on in the military than I do where Would I where would you suggest they go

Um It's not easy But you've got a synthesize Across a lot of different types of Information Um Get a hold of CRS reports on airplanes Ships whatever CRS I'm sorry Congressional research service can are Those available to the general public Yes they are now how do you get them how Do you find them um go to crs.gov Um and uh or just uh Google F22 Congressional research service You read the part it's going to be Boring unless you really love that stuff But pay attention to the footnotes And go read those documents Um can they read what you do Uh yeah just Google my name you'll find All kinds of stuff How have you been able to stay Interested so for so long in this Business oh it keeps the juices flowing I love it Um you know a semi-retired in 2016. Um Um but you know uh When And you know my my output is going way Way down Um but when I put something out somebody Might ask me well how come you wrote That

And they said they pissed me off enough Um you know you see some of this dribble Coming out and that's You know just part of the normal Stuff that no longer gets under my skin Because it's just part of the noise out There but you've written a lot on the F-35 over the years when did you start Writing about it Um pretty much when I stopped writing About the R22 Um where do you get your information Today is it available to the part of Those footnotes uh from those reports Um from talking to people that I know Um we used to have a network That included Any number of people working inside the Pentagon And Some of them are constant you know Contacts some of them were sometimes Contacts but some sometimes they would Commit truth Go look at this you don't ask that Question ask this question That kind of help or you need to ask for This report you need to answer that Report okay before we wrap it up a Couple of other quick things how many s Nuclear submarines do we have About 50 attack Subs in about Oh God A dozen

Um ballistic missile uh nuclear Missile submarines what's the difference In an attack sub and a nuclear missile Uh and attack sub the the target is Other subs ships in uh uh targets for Cruise missiles uh the targets for the Boomers you know the nuclear ones uh the Nuclear missile ones uh is Russia China Again and this always scares me when I Try to give you a number from what I Picked up on the internet That Russia had 6257 nuclear warheads And the United States has 5550 is that In the something like that close enough For government work with that many Nuclear warheads What's it mean Um we got plenty uh we don't need to Spend another trillion dollars Replacing Icbm's submarines uh the aircraft the Communications and so on uh and some of The in some cases in the nuclear stuff Uh uh yeah they're getting a little long In the tooth but we can get another Decade out of those submarines that Nobody can find in in the ocean Um how do our submarines compare with China Russia other countries Um The the nuclear missile ones uh they're Quieter Uh these missiles have a longer range And more megatonage in the Warhead what

Would you do if a young person came to You today and ask you whether they Should go into the military Just do it Um Uh I I didn't sign up Um Uh when I was going to came out of College Vietnam was going on and I had Written a thesis about gorilla Warfare And I want to know part of what was Going on in Vietnam But I've always admired the military And the people at the working level are Fantastic people uh I've known I can't Count the number of people I've met and Have been extraordinarily impressed with Um It's a fantastic career Um Are there problems of course there are Problems but if you go work on Capitol Hill or industry or think tanks you're Going to find some of those same Problems you know when I first thought Started working on Capitol Hill Sexual harassment was Drigger You know there were some awful scandals And what was going on you know below the Ridge line uh was would raise the hair In the back of your neck Um uh it's very different now Um Anywhere where you work you're going to

Have you know have issues uh But if the Jews is worth the squeeze Sometimes you can do important stuff JL Is a very tough bureaucratic Plotting place to work But the people I work directly for And the people I had and my staff once Away came a sort of a quasi manager they Were fantastic people And I really enjoyed working with them So you can find good stuff wherever you Work in your preparation for this chat Today uh you looked and read the uh Strategy report uh status report by the Heritage Foundation is there anything That you saw that you want to comment on And we have not talked about Uh people should read it uh you're going To read a lot of Dogma about policy Cold War behavior that kind of stuff Um but again pay attention to the Footnotes And go read those documents It's far longer than it should be But I've wasted Time far worse reading other stuff Wenzo wheeler spent over 30 years in the United States Congress and government Retired now living in Hagerstown Maryland You have family yes sure do uh two sons And a wonderful wife Uh one son is in Florida in Jacksonville The other was uh in in Virginia and we

Have a good family Anything that you're you've spotted in The military world that you want to Write more about specifically in the Next year or so Um I'm very interested in the failure In our society To have an informed Legitimate opposition To business as usual in the Pentagon And if I can think my way through How to change People's minds about how to conduct Business It's easy to figure out what to do the Problem is figuring out how to get there And if I can figure that out you know I'd be delighted to try to get that on Paper Mr Wheeler we thank you I appreciate it Very much thanks For listening to the book notes plus Podcast please rate and review book Notes plus and don't forget to follow so You never miss an episode Questions or comments we would love to Hear from you you can email us at Podcasts at c hyphen span.org [Music]