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Slash Military Spending

Just in case you haven't encountered his essays, you may want to review some of the recent analyses of economist Gary North (usually on  Thanks for keeping us informed - The Media (aka Ministry of Propaganda) certainly won't anymore.

                                                                                              Lou Pagnucco

Causes for the Fall of the Roman Empire 

Is history repeating itself?

1. As productivity declined, the Roman empire became more dependent on foreign products.
2. A break-down in the labor force occurred as the traditional work ethic declined.
3. The infrastructure of the cities declined and began a steady decay.
4. A balance of trade deficit began to occur.
5. The cost of government, including the military and welfare, became too burdensome.
6. Class economic warfare broke out between the rich and poor. Parts of the empire were not taxed while others were overtaxed.
7. The government became increasingly run by the rich and the military.
8. Citizens lost interest in government as it became distant from them.
9. The military became disloyal to the country; it became a job, not a mission.
10. Patriotism declined as people lost their allegiance to the state.


Few Bonds are Inflation Indexed

 I enjoyed your article on the need for slashing military spending and more or less agree with the conclusions you reach. Unfortunately, the article makes one major factual error that exaggerates the point. Most notably, you state that US government bonds are inflation indexed, so a rise of 1% in inflation will result in an increase of $67 billion in annual interest payments. That would only be true if all of the US government debt were inflation indexed, but as of now, less than $200 billion of US debt consists of inflation indexed notes or bonds. This means that if inflation rose 1%, annual interest payments would 'only' increase by less than $2 billion. Nonetheless, taking this into account does not invalidate the conclusions of the article, as the US economic situation is still dire.

                                                                                      Roman Lajciak

Ed: I realized that most of the older bonds are not inflation indexed, but wasn't sure of how much.  However, all should eventually become inflation indexed as they are renewed.  It is true that buyers still have the option of higher returns without the inflation guarantee, but they will soon learn what high inflation does to fixed-rate bonds.

$78 billion

     So the President says we need to spend $78 billion extra on Iraq next year, and most Americans support him.  Since he has not proposed raising taxes, I suggest he just ask for donations.  With just around 78 million Americans working, that's $1000 each.  So have the IRS send out a notice asking each American if they support the President's plan and ask them to check YES or NO.  Then at the bottom it will state that all those who checked YES must include a check for $1000.  I suspect 99.9999% of the forms would come back checked NO.



     There is already such a product in development and it is called "Robonaut." Developed by the Johnson Space Center and DARPA. Robonaut is being designed to perform most of the tasks you have prescribed in your article. There are, however, several problems in deploying Robonaut as a pilot. For example an anthropomorphic mechanism with telepresence would have to be a dedicated unit as any ingress or egress from the cockpit to the exterior of the craft would require an extensive redesign of the shuttle and Robonaut. A UAV style ground based remote control system (with a pilot) would be easier than having a Robonaut perform these tasks and even that may be unnecessary. Consider the exemplary record the shuttle's remote system has. The Challenger was destroyed by the much more problematic SRB's and the Columbia by impact damage. Having EVA capable Robonauts egress the same way Astronauts do would be difficult as it would require some kind of inert or cold gas thruster module for interior movement as well as a chemical maneuvering network like MMU's. This would be prohibitive in the form of increased bulk and complexity. 

     The Robonaut is designed to be deployed from the Canadarm to work on "virtually" controlled satellite repair, construction, and other extravehicular tasks. This solves a lot of problems in the realm of possessing an independent power source as well as a maneuvering system. Although I have no doubt that something precisely as you described is possible in the future it is not a near term solution. Robonaut is in the early stages of its development so it is not nearly capable of such abilities. Also Robonaut was designed to perform EVA's exclusively. Perhaps in a couple of decades or more such technology will be mature enough that a descendant of Robonaut could be this versatile, since it does make sense.


Ed: Thanks, no need to apply for a patent now. Astrobots could move around by simply using their "arms" to push and pull themselves around, just like humans.  They could be connected to the spacecraft by an umbilical cord, but they may become tangled with other astrobots and things, so maybe just a rechargeable battery pack and the astrobot would have to plug himself in every few hours.  But they would need some kind of thrusting system to work outside the craft, just like humans, except much smaller since life support is not an issue.


       It is with great interest that I read the Astrobot article in the October 2003 G2mil. My initial thought on the article was that Carlton had not considered in the problem of time delay, but in the context that he is writing this is not a significant factor. Space shuttles and stations such as Mir only orbit at around 100miles.

     The two terms missing from this article were "Waldo" and "Telefactoring".  "Waldo" was a term coined by Robert Heinlein and later adopted by the nuclear industry. Essentially it means a remote controlled arm or other tool. Telefactoring is the name given to remotely controlling Waldos or robots, and there is a implication that via various sensors the operator can move the machine as easily as his own body. This is rather like playing certain types of video game, but your actions have an effect on the real world rather than a synthetic one.

     There is an obvious temptation to use such robots at greater altitudes. Such a robot may be lighter than a man, and will require less (if any) life support, which translates into less fuel needed to reach a given orbit. In many situations the robot can be regarded as expendable, which means that there is no need for to make provisions for the trip back to Earth. However, at greater distances, time delay may become a factor. A Geostationary satellite orbits at 22,300 miles, while the speed of light (or radio waves) is around 186,000 miles per second. This translates as a delay of at least a quarter of a second between an operator on Earth seeing something needs to be done and the robot reacting. Should a robot/operator drop a component or tool the chances of recapturing it as it drifts away will be very low.

     Telefactoring of robots is already used in another hostile environment. Robots are being used for deep sea exploration and repair, and the form of these may give us some idea what Astrobots may look like. An astrobot doesn't really need two legs. Propulsion can be by jets or brachiating with the arms like an ape. Without legs the body is more compact and can go places that a man can't. An additional single grabber or "prehensile tail" may be useful to anchor the robot. Some Deep sea robotic systems have used air jets to synthesise a sense of touch for the operator, and in a space environment lasers can be used to scan a surface to "feel" its texture. Astrobots may look a lot like a smaller version of the pods in "2001".
                                                                                     Phil West

New Russian Arms

There is a new grenade launcher of Russian manufacture that should be of interest to you. Please visit

                                                                     Pedro F. Marcos (Portugal)  

.338 Weapons

You mention a "short .338 LM assault rifle". This is not possible. There's a reason that rifle pictured of has a muzzle break. You need one on a .338 rifle. Even with a muzzle break, it would be a pain to shoot from the shoulder. It's a very high powered round, on a par with .50 BMG. A shorter barrel would only increase this.

I do, however, love your idea for a .338LM machinegun. It could be something of an intermediate round between the .50 heavy machineguns and the 7.62 medium machineguns (I won't even mention the 5.56 machineguns). Such an MG could be used both in the medium/heavy role, mounted on vehicles or tripods, and even in the SAW role. Give it a good muzzle break, a long enough barrel, and enough weight, and the recoil will be tolerable, maybe even when fired from the hip or shoulder. Give it a semi-auto setting and it can double as a long range sniper rifle. Using a different caliber SAW than rifle might cause some problems, but I think this may be offset by needing only one machinegun round.  I personally think the 5.56 round should be done away with, except perhaps in a CQB role for special forces (the M4 excels in this...and not much else). In effect, it would become a submachine gun round, rather than a rifle round.

For rifles I wouldn't mind seeing a return to 7.62, or even .30-06 (retooled for metric). This would give both the necessary stopping power and armour penetration. Firing such a caliber on full auto from the shoulder might be hell on the accuracy, but I think full auto in a rifle is overrated anyway.  That's what machineguns are for. Give the rifles a burst fire facility and a muzzle break/compensator efficient enough to counteract muzzle climb for those three rounds, and I think it would be entirely satisfactory.  So, arm the special operations guys with a 5.56 SMG for CQB, the riflemen with a .30 rifle, and the machine gunners with a .338 LM  machinegun/sniper rifle.


Ed: I agree that a .338 assault rifle would kick a great deal, so semi-auto may be best.  Its noise would certainly intimidate an enemy. The 5.56mm is nice for a carbine, not a rifle.

Eliminate ROTC

     I just read your ROTC editorial and you are right on. ROTC is extremely wasteful. As a recent ROTC commissioned (Army), I am appalled at the level of waste that takes place in these units. The cadre at my battalion basically had high-paying "do nothing" jobs. I was a "Gold Bar Recruiter" during the summer, where I was paid in excess of three thousand dollars a month to essentially do nothing.

     Now that I am in OBC with a number of OCS-commissioned LTs, I wonder why the services even have ROTC or the academies any more. Every one of the OCS grads that I met so far is very mature and highly competent in comparison to the ROTC or USMA grads. The average OCS grad is a few years older (25-30 for OCS as opposed to 22-24 for ROTC/USMA) and most have extensive prior military service (as opposed to very little prior service for ROTC/USMA grads).

     I think that the military should just get rid of ROTC (and dare I say - the academies too) and just go straight OCS. They can expand the OCS program and a ton of money will be saved when ROTC and the academies are disbanded. The services should hash out if candidates should have prior enlisted service.  Please do not disclose my name


Ed: A young officer offers a way to save the US Army millions of dollars, yet is fearful of having his name published.  Has the US Army become the Soviet Army?

National Guard Urban Infantry

     When the 66th Brigade, Illinois ARNG deployed overseas to Germany the last few years, they were primarily MP's used in security role. That was what they were trained for. And since this is a light infantry brigade, their troops are ideally suited for security roles, whatever the nature. I think they are not far behind in this concept, or already may be ahead of the curve, as they say. 

                                                                                        Al Linsenmeyer

Convoy Tactics

I appreciated the detailed descriptions of real-world scenarios in this article.  However I found the "Author's Comments" sections not so realistic.  The author Lester Grau seems to forget that the convoy is operating in a hostile environment and does not have infinite resources available to protect it.

For example in commenting on the bridge ambush Grau writes "The bridge is an obvious chokepoint and a place for reconnaissance elements to dismount and check for mines."  But if the bridge is mined, and guerillas are already waiting there to ambush the convoy, then they could just as easily ambush the reconnaissance force instead.  They'll be a smaller, lighter force than the convoy itself, and if they stop moving and start looking for mines, that makes them easier to hit. 

In the next section he writes: "In this report, the recon element reports that all the people in a village, which is a traditional trouble spot, have left. This leads to increased observation, but the commander does not dismount a force and have them probe the village for ambushes."  Why?  Presumably because this would involve stopping the convoy in a potential ambush zone.  Plus whoever the poor suckers are that have to leave the main force behind and go out on foot to "probe the village for ambushes" are likely to get wasted.  Stopping the convoy and then splitting up the force in the face of a potential ambush doesn't sound like such a great idea to me. 

In the conclusion Grau writes: "Route reconnaissance must include flanks, must secure high ground and must check potential ambush sites as it travels.  Reconnaissance elements should be reinforced with additional ground elements as well as air elements."  Sure, that would definitely protect the convoy, but if the convoy has to wait for ground forces to secure each piece of high ground as it travels, it would be reduced to traveling just a few miles an hour. Earlier he suggests "using air assault forces to leapfrog from one dominant height to the next to cover the convoy's movement", but who has the resources to do that for every truck convoy?  Not the Russians, and probably not even the USA.

So what would be a more realistic way of protecting the convoy?  The only thing I can think of is continuous low-level air cover from a couple of heavily armored helicopters, which is exactly what the Russians used when they were available.  Failing that, rather than send out advance forces to protect the convoy at cost of their own lives, they understandably chose to stick together and blast through any resistance.  That's the reason trucks travel in convoys in the first place: safety in numbers.

I am not a military man, so maybe I should not talk about what is "realistic" in the field, but to me this seems like common sense. 

                                                                                                   Geoff Bainbridge