A training military?

Many countries are not in danger. Meanwhile, they have really good ideas about how to spend their government revenues on non-military purposes.

Would it make sense for these countries to go into a full and overt training mode, giving up the claim that their military is combat ready?

I'm thinking of countries such as Sweden, Austria, Belgium, Portugal, New Zealand, South Africa or Bulgaria.

How would this look like, assuming a country of small but noticeable size such as Belgium?

First, it would require some diplomacy. NATO members would tell their allies about fiscal troubles and a military in training mode without readiness until further notice.

Next, all procurement programs would need to be adjusted and the personnel system would need to be adjusted. The ability to expand the military into a ready and capable force of substantial size would become the mission within the constraints of the given (small) budget.

The air force could operate a squadron of old (so called "4th generation") combat aircraft until it receives the cheapest modern combat aircraft (Gripen?) as replacement for worn-out aircraft. The pilots would receive civilian, multinational and allied foreign training. It would make no sense to operate an own pilot training system at such a small scale.

The navy would probably have two multi-purpose frigates, two mine countermeasure boats and two conventional submarines. This should suffice to keep the personnel informed about modern naval tech and tactics. Major exercises would happen together with allied forces.

The army would probably keep a few battalions of heavy, light and para/mountain troops as well as a few artillery units. The overall size would probably amount to a small division. The forces could -if the country is allied- be under command of a bi-national army corps, in order to offer corps operations training to some officers.

The personnel system with its focus on the ability to expand would need to focus on intelligent, promising recruits as well as many shortly-trained reserve NCOs and reserve junior officers. The active forces would see many of the enlisted personnel slots occupied by soon-to-be reserve personnel of junior NCO ranks. The remaining enlisted personnel would basically be soon-to-be (reserve or active) NCOs. The skill in training personnel would be highly valued and fostered through training and education (in adult education).

The only missions outside of allied territories would be either observer missions with 2-4 personnel each or embassy emergency protection missions.

Equipment procurement would be oriented towards standard equipment that's suitable for intense training use (so for example no T-90 MBTs) and the operating costs should be low if possible (=low fuel consumption, low training ammunition prices, low spare parts prices).

The overall effect would be that modest savings could be coupled with the ability to expand to a considerable and effective force within few years. This might look unsatisfactory in the short term, but is likely superior in the long term. An underfunded and thus demoralised force that pretends to be combat-ready but is in reality hollowed-out would in my opinion be an inferior alternative use for taxpayer money.

S Ortmann


  1. I would love to see the US do this. We have no threat to our own country beyond Mexico. Get out of NATO and remove all our military from overseas. Take the Army down to 100,000. Fire all officers over Major, cap the officer corps of the future at 1 officer for every 9 enlisted and have them begin free play exercises to determine future forces based on significantly reduced funding. Only take officers of the highest mental and physical standards. The standards are to be far more important then the numbers. If we can't find enough talent we go with what we have. Keep our light infantry Bns And two or three armor/mechanized bdes, and move them to our southern border(No command structure below corps and none above Bde). Keep two engineer and two artillery bdes, and a new command that deals with their use and deployment. There are plenty of "training areas" in the southwest. Allow the army to keep half of their aircraft and crews, but also move them to the border. Form a new command that deals with missile/aircraft defense and offensive missile/drone use. Faze out all equipment over five years and replace with trucks until proper equipment can be devised at half (maybe even 10 percent) the cost of previous equipment. Keep our nuclear deterrent and interceptor aircraft, but every other trace of the air force must be obliterated. But set up a new command that deals with drones/unmanned aircraft. Expand the Submarine force, but especially attack. Cut the surface forces by 90 percent and have them begin free play exercises to determine the future, which must be significantly cheaper than the present one. There simply is no existential threat to the US that we don't make ourselves. We have a tremendous opportunity brought on by our worsening economic circumstances to fix things. We need to take what's left and work on various aspects of combined arms bdes. I could go on this way for hours, but I'll let it go at that.

  2. EN, "Faze out all equipment over five years and replace with trucks until proper equipment can be devised at half (maybe even 10 percent) the cost of previous equipment."

    Are you saying that the U.S. should get rid of things that still have alot of life left in them and have had lots of money spent on them only to buy other things? Do you mean ALL or just certain equipment? As for me I think the U.S. military could use much better pratices in buying new things, I know a guy in the air force and he says he sees alot of waste in the air force, if they could cut it they would save alot of money. I think the military needs to reduce its cost as well, but I'd go more for turning more active personnel into the national guard. Maybe an active force of 550,000, the number of active personnel right now is around 1.4 million.

    S.O., Have you considered using a Dolgorae class like submarine that the S. Koreans use. A new and improved one could be built that is cheaper than a full sized submarine and it should do an ok job of coastal defence. If you can't find out much on the Dolgorae class (it took me awhile to find the little info on it that i did) I will post the info I found as a comment. I like the direction you are going in your post, but they might need to keep a small number of troops on stand by encase anything bad happened while the rest of the force was out training it could create a huge blacklash by the voters. Also be ready for hearing even more that they "are not pulling their fair share in NATO".

  3. Well, a country like South Africa for example could defend itself with policemen, so there's no real need for real readiness of the armed forces.

    The European countries mentioned would be under protection of the alliance, and the temporary small contribution would be outweighed by a better contribution when it really counts. It would require some early diplomacy to prepare the field, though.

    I think the Dolgoraes may be a diver-centric analogy to the much older Koryu class (since they are supposedly based on the Cosmos class), but I've got no details and I'm not looking much into naval details these days anyway.

  4. Dolgorae class mini-sub
    Displacement: 150 tons surfaced/ 175 submerged
    Speed: 6 knots surface/ 9 knots submerged
    Armament: 2 - 533mm Torpedos (no reloads)
    Electronics: Sonar: STN Atlas Elektronik active set and passive array
    Powerplant: 1 diesel generator setup with 1 propeller
    this is from the 80's, i have no idea what updates may have been done.
    Crew: 6 total + 8 combat swimmers
    Last sub commissioned was in 1991.

  5. Let's assume we're a country untouched by the question of industrial basis, meaning a pure importer of warfighting goods.

    Tripartite forces:
    Part one, we still see the need for colonial, sorry - peace keeping troops. A sustained out-of-area presence requires a minimum 4-to-1 rotation ratio, in some parts as high as 7-to-1. Such troops are usually reinforced infantry with, with a cavalry, a CIMIC, a mobility (road, air), and an ISR component. Focus of such troops would be international interoperability and compatability. Strategic mobility needs would be answered on a supranational basis. If you need a navy to protect your merchant ships, this also falls under this category.

    Second part would be aerospace policing & defence. Some interceptors, plus a supranational BMD system. If there is a coast line, the coast guard to protect the EEZ would also be included here.

    Manpower target for the first and second part could be assumed at 0.15% of population, highly trained professionals "lifers", with a budget according to their mission needs and requirements.
    For peak demand hire PMCs or give young foreigners citizenship for x years of honorable combat service.
    As an alternative hire PMCs for all out-of-area jobs.

    And the third part (or the only one if you chose the PMC path) would be a territorial defense militia, either purely on a voluntary basis, or connected with some perks like: you only get a state job or certain social benefits if you serve or have served in the militia. Organized very flat, guerilla style light infantry. Some man portable anti-tank and anti-air equipment. Otherwise mirror the Pashtuns and maximize the benefits you have due to being local.

  6. The value of military adventures is only a fraction of its costs, thus I see no purpose in maintaining a force for them.

    Continental-wide BMD is a pipe dream, unproved, extremely expensive, may make politicians overly aggressive due to a (unjustified) feeling of unassailability and last but not least; it's extremely expensive.
    Why would you defend a continent against ballistic missiles if you cannot protect it against cruise missiles launched from container ships?

    I don't get why people think that ''defensive force = light infantry''. Combined arms thinking appears to be out of fashion. Man portable AA equipment is meant to protect the forces against some air threats - it does not protect the civilians or their property. Man portable AT appears to be at a performance low point vis-a-vis defensive equipment (ADS) now.

  7. "I don't get why people think that ''defensive force = light infantry''. "

    Maybe because it is cheaper and they want to save money even if combined arms is better (does depend on location though).

  8. "The value of military adventures is only a fraction of its costs, thus I see no purpose in maintaining a force for them."

    And in this case any government - like Gadhafi's - can make any commercial agreement with China. And sell the oil - our oil - there and put his petromoney wherever it wants.
    So Europe looses the energy and after hundreds of billions of euros/dollars.
    As long as we need the energy and the capital surplus colonial troops are here to stay.
    Or of course we can change places with China and do the work they don't want to do for leftovers. Their leftovers. Don't think it's going to happen in our lifetime.

    And something else:
    "And the third part (or the only one if you chose the PMC path) would be a territorial defense militia, either purely on a voluntary basis, or connected with some perks like etc etc".
    No need for that. Strategic nuclear forces exist so militia is useless.

    What was described above is pretty much the french military doctrine.

    1. Colonial troops - in the last 12 month they operated directly in Ivory Coast and Lybia.
    2. Airforce
    3. No militia that's not a solution, but " la force de frappe".

    Simple cheap and rational. ( not so cheap due to the nukes but the cheapest)

  9. We would get oil no matter what. In worst case we'd need to buy it at an exchange instead of having long-term trade relations.

    The attempt to justify military expenditures with oil import security always ends up at a ridiculous cost/benefit ratio because oil imports aren't that expensive and even the small chance of a doubled price wouldn't offset the sure expenditure of billions of Euro per annum.
    Besides, even having a first rate military does not ensure access to foreign oil. Ask the Japanese. They lost a world war trying to make use of it for pretty much this purpose.

  10. Right now China is exactly in japan\s position from 1930-40s. They need accces to oil and gas in order to function as an industrial developed society. And acces is controller militarily and politically by nato/US.
    Of course we not goingto transfer control to them.
    because without military control acces is not necesarily connected to prices. That is why chinese trillions af dollars does not mean acces to oil. theoretically they can buy and offer advantageous commercial conditions but it is useless. After Nato comes and elliminates the supplier. And that is all. We are not going to allow them to do the same.
    You can see its becoming an acute crisis by looking energy status af the world and especially of China\s.
    Easiest to use is this link - http://mazamascience.com/OilExport/
    Also extremly usefull analysis
    So its not a problem of price right now. Its much more and it looks the argument is becoming quite heated.
    China\s last independent supplier - venezuela is another case, involves another discution - is Iran. If they allow Iran to be obliterated as a functional society then China has become a second Japan.
    That is why also China - unable to break the blocade - is point zero of nuclear proliferation. They can not protect militarily their suppliers. So they are trying to make them able to protect themselves in front of western attacks.
    A pretty nice analysis can be found here - http://www.german-foreign-policy.com/en/fulltext/57954

    About the speed of proliferation nice data can be found here - http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/features/nuclear-notebook-pakistans-nuclear-forces-2011

    By the way Pakistan also absolutely needs the energy from the Gulf. They are in a far worse position than China. The absolutely enormous coal production which could sustain chinese industrial development is simply not present.

  11. Sorry for the spelling but I use a German keyboard - not a german speaker anyway - with windows Vista - ignored to erase it.

    Sended the links about energy to underline something. Developments are not going to to be liniar. And physical control starts to matter again. What you talk about above is the status from 1950s until 2000s. It was an exception.
    That is why any projection af a chinese development until they become a sot of economic juggernaut are completly false. they already crashed into an energetic ceiling and can not get supplimentary supplies.

  12. Well, all this is hardly related to the blog text.

    The blog text was about small powers who can lay back for a while and focus on maintaining proficiency and ability to expand.

    None of those small powers can expect to win economically with military adventures and maintaining expeditionary forces.

    Besides; the PRC is getting the oil it needs right now, they have huge savings potential and if oil was such a great concern to them they would certainly invest more in coal and CtL factories.

  13. You are right about relations with the original text. Discution strayed.

    About - the PRC is getting the oil it needs right now, they have huge savings potential and if oil was such a great concern to them they would certainly invest more in coal and CtL factories.
    The links from the Oildrum are exactly about this subject. They pretty much clear that China can not grow its coal production any more.

    And their huge savings can not offer acces to energy supplies. Paper money does not offer anything.

    About small power it depends what small means. We talked about France not Belgium. But you were right we pretty much strayed.
    About the original posting I don\t think there is much to comment.
    It was according to your approache extremly clear and logical. Very hard to add anything.

  14. I meant "efficiency gains" with "savings potential".

    Germany decoupled its energy consumption from its economic growth a generation ago. China can do so at some point in the near future, too.

  15. "Are you saying that the U.S. should get rid of things that still have alot of life left in them and have had lots of money spent on them only to buy other things?"

    YES! Everything in the current inventory is a part of our past thinking and way more expensive to maintain and build than it needs to be. I have little worry that we could easily "pay" for our oil without the huge resources we devote to "protecting" it. We could expand our economy greatly if we would give up some of our colonial troops and equipment. There's no such thing as as strong military if we don't bring back our economy. Right now we're rotting, to include our nuclear forces, because of expensive solutions bases on the sunk cost theory (We've already spend so much to get here so we must stay with it). An Acquaintance retired from DARPA a few years ago and he made this comment to me. "DARPA is like Apple... only with unlimited funding and no creativity." This needs to end.

  16. One thing all seem to overlook is that some smaller countries, like New Zealand, have a long tradition in supplying troops for legitimite UN peacekeeping missions. East Timor is a very sucessful example and many small countries have supportet this mission. In the end it payes to keep your neighbourhood peaceful, but that requires highly skilled infantry units with greater than usual medical and engineering capabilities.

    If you keep such unites combat ready, combined with a small reserve force you have a good cadre of high quality officers and NCOs. Thats good enough if you can live without a readily available division (a idea NZ shelfed in 1957). Obviously, such a force will not fight off a full scale invasion, but in the end if the americans with all their troops can conqour countries, but not control them under occupation, how large are the chances that someone would try to invade New Zealand, Belgium or Sweden?

  17. "sunk cost theory (We've already spend so much to get here so we must stay with it)"

    That's exactly NOT the sunk costs theory.

  18. "Is It Really Possible to Decouple GDP Growth from Energy Growth?"

    Well aparently not. Outsourcing of energy intensive activities does not ( absolutely not) decrease total energy consuption. By including transportation costs it only INCREASES energy consumption.

    Pretty nice analysis, I used their title also : http://www.theoildrum.com/node/8615

    I know I strayed but subject is pretty important I think. Starting from : "Germany decoupled its energy consumption from its economic growth a generation ago. China can do so at some point in the near future, too." drives you to completly wrong conclusions.
    Germany did not and China can not decouple. Energy consumptions just got counted in a different place. Its like shifting money from a pocket to another. The amount stays exactly the same. In our energetic case it even decreases due to transportation consumptions which did not exist previously.
    Anyway I simplified because some energy efficiency increases really took place but they don't change the overall picture.
    It looks like we already crossed peak oil - conventional one - and this completly changes the entire story.
    I have travelled quite often in Germany during the last decade. And the decrease in purchase power was visible. Of course a lot has been said about this especially blaming Euro. It looks like in collective mentality the simple fact that energy has become expensive and is about to become even more expensive and hard to get does not sip in.
    It was easy to asume that a decoupling took place when energy intensive activities were transfered to China which used an enormous quantity of coal produced locally at very low costs. But this period is now over. What was previusly possible, to deny the reality of the energy flows - if false assumptions don't have any consequences and make you feel good why not - is now very hard to do. Real life consequences do take place now. Denying does not help at all. And the decrease in purchase power is something you probably felt pretty well yourself and it is undeniable I think. With or without the mythology of " decoupling".
    Of course it was imposible to observe this on GDP numbers. They stayed the same. But an increased quantity of resources was consumed just to keep the system going. So the amount available for consumption decreased accordingly.

    Just a little example. In order to produce a barrel of biodiesel a very close equivalent of oil is consumed. EROEI is close to 1. So in statistics we produced 1 barrel of oil and 1 barrel of biodisel/ethanol whatever, and we have hurray 2 barrels . But in real life we have just 1 barrel of biodiesel and we got it with a lot of effort. But it is not apparent at first sight when you look at statistical numbers.

    What I am trying to say. Energy status of the world radically and completly changed during the last decade. Analysis which do not take this into consideration are prone to lead to erroneous conclusions. And due to this actions of the main international actors might seem eratic and irational. Not taking this into consideration makes the extremly high stake game played right now by PRC/Pakistan/KSA/Iran and Europe/USA impossible to understand. The enumerated structures are more or less independent from each other but trying to group them more precisely means writing probably 100 pages. Didn't have any better ideas to do it in few lines.

    If you consider just the extremly simplistic propagandistic approach with Iran threatening Israel and Rome and Paris it's absolutely impossible to understand why China threatens to start WWW3 if we attempt to destroy Iran. By we I mean of course the big political structures we belong to. Their survival as functional society in the short term and biological one in the longer term is at stake. Ours is at stake also.

  19. We decoupled energy consumption and GDP about three decades ago. That's long before the outsourcing began in earnest.

    Besides; the outsourcing of industries affected primarily labour-intensive industries, not so much capital- and energy-intensive ones. Our chemical industry is still huge and the #1 in export, for example.

  20. Interesting reading :


    I had to contend myself with a summary. I envy you for being able to read the original in german.

    About decoupling :


    The subject does not allow me to summarise in a shorter form then something close to original. I had to send the link.

    You are partially right but its much more complicated. The energy efficiency increases you mentioned - We decoupled energy consumption and GDP about three decades ago. - were real but they are a part of the story.
    And they were compensated by :
    - an increase of consumption as defined by the Jevons paradox; for ex. more efficient car engines, theoretically a big deal in reality led to .... more cars and larger ones. Consumption does not decrease until it hits a physical barier.
    - Declining EROEI leading to a decrease of net energy available for other economic activities except energy production.
    - About the rest I just have to send anyone interested to the links.

  21. OK, Sven, I suppose everyone misunderstood what i was trying to say so let me rephrase.

    [because of expensive solutions based on the sunk cost (We've already spend so much to get here so we must stay with it).]

  22. You suggest what the Swiss really do (except also guarding the Pope). The problem with this approach is that you can't invade and occupy Afghanistan.

  23. What if you have a two tier military a trained militia supplying infantry and a professional cadre operating machines?

  24. The concept looks nice in theory, but I don't believe a purely cadre military will work, for the following reasons:
    -Command is a mostly an OJT skill. Those junior reserve NCOs/officers would be worthless without practical experience of at least a year.
    -It takes at least half a year to train a ground-forces soldier to a mediocre skill level and at least a another half year of using those skills so that they "take". Even then, those skills are perishable and militia require several weeks of training per year to maintain proficiency.

    These are not the only cons to the idea, but they are the first that came to mind.