GORDON DUFF: Our Disarmed Army, Who is to Blame?


Ike and Ronnie, Defense Tech Duds, One Two Wars Behind, the Other Two Centuries Ahead

By Gordon Duff STAFF WRITER, Senior Editor

When Ike left office in 1960 after a period of relentless military competition between the US and Soviet Union, America’s military was behind and “behinder” with little in the pipeline.

Modern day revisionists rewrite the Eisenhower and Regan eras as something far different than they actually were, periods of stagnation, social injustice, debt and military stagnation.

The “pilot driven” Air Force with more Generals than Airmen were in the drivers seat, pushing our defense budget into a nuclear confrontation scenario with big bombers, big bombs and high altitude, high speed interceptors and little else.

For tactical support of ground troops, we were still dropping iron bombs from propeller aircraft well into the 60s while we had no planes with air to air gunfighting capabilities at all.

We left the 1950s having newly introduced the M60 Machinegun, a project from the Truman administration based on the WW2 German MG42 and without an advanced assault rifle.   We had only recently, 1957, introduced the M14 rifle, a variant of the WW2 Garand that had been in development since 1945.  Though a wonderfully made weapon, the M14 was tactically inferior to German assault rifles of WW2 and the AK rifles built by the Russians based on the German designs.

Additionally, we had failed to develop an adequate Main Battle Tank, depending on the Truman Era M47 which were massively outnumbered by Russian forces and easily outgunned on a one to one basis.

While we had separate military based space programs with the Air Force, Army and Navy, the Russians developed a massive unified program with long range rockets capable of incredible payloads and surging ahead of the US in space exploration.

Similarly, despite the efforts of Admiral Hyman Rickover, father of our nuclear Navy, Russian submarine forces were also both superior on a one to one basis and much more numerous during this era.

In the area of force projection and special operations capability, the US had done little, especially in regard to air transport capability and black ops warfare.

Similarly, the Regan administration inherited an advanced space program, advanced missile program, superior nuclear submarine and carrier forces, air superiority capabilities a decade beyond anyone else, advanced air defense, the Abrams Tank and other capabilities based on projects initialed during Democratic administrations.

Though Reagan inherited these systems, he, in actuality, ended up doing little of enduring consequence toward building our military into an effective force for the 21st century.  His space based defense programs that never came to fruition were, for the most part, poorly managed, inaccurately reported and an economic boondoggle that wasted a decades military weapons development funds with almost no results at all, in fact, many needed and useful systems were cancelled.

A careful study of SUCCESSFUL military technology advances would place the following US presidents in order of significance:

1. Harry Truman

2. Jimmy Carter

3. Richard Nixon

4. Bill Clinton

5. John Kennedy

6. Lyndon Johnson

7. George Bush

8. Gerald Ford

9. Ronald Reagan

10. George W. Bush

11. Dwight Eisenhower

Comparisons between Eisenhower and Reagan are, to an extent, unfair.  Eisenhower, in response to Soviet advances in space, joined with Congressional leader Lyndon Johnson and began a successful program, though frighteningly late.

Eisenhower oversaw 8 years of economic stagnation and social malaise.  Ike took over at the tail end of a “Commie witch hunt” that had left our country paralyzed and divided.  Additionally, Eisenhower knew better than any other President that a “runaway train” defense industry was capable of corrupting Congress and the Pentagon.  It is doubtful that if Ike were at the helm today, we would be paying for 170,000 private mercenaries hired to make up for an Army proven both incable and unprepared yet costing a trillion dollars a year or more.

With the prevalence of misconceptions regarding party loyalty and bellicosity, examination brings some odd facts to light.

Jimmy Carter, protégé of the dean of American military technologists, Hyman Rickover, and former Navy Nuclear Engineer was extremely proactive in all areas of weapons development.  It may have been one of the few areas he really understood.

Nixon, with Defense Secretary Melvin Laird was extremely effective in both working with Congress and developing a broad range of weapons including the B-1 Bomber and Trident Nuclear Submarine.

The Reagan administrations only weapons advancement was improvement to the radar system on the existing Patriot missile system.  However, the cost of these improvements, under the Strategic Defense Initiative would have been enough to fund several new “from the ground up” systems.

With so much talk today on the deteriorating condition of American forces due to endless deployments and our continuous and unrelenting and often unsupervised military spending, it is important to note that troops sent to this war in Iraq without adequate body army or safe vehicles share the same fate as their predecessors.

We entered WW2 with slow and cumbersome fighters, few aircraft carriers and tanks incapable of survival in combat.

In Korea, we fought, outnumber and outgunned, propeller plane against advanced jet at the outset.

In Vietnam, we entered the war with heavy uniforms, leather boots, WW2 based weapons and gear and tactics more appropriate for Gettysburg than Khe Sanh.

It is best that we look at the nature of the military itself rather than political leaders when finding fault.  Historically, the military gets whatever it asks for regarding weapons and equipment.

Service academies which too often, it seems, stress “class awareness”, snitching and date rape still manage to put out quality military leaders with vision and ability.  However, a government owned and operated by big donating defense contracting firms is capable of derailing the career of any officer whose demands for strategies, tactics or equipment preparedness differ from the financial needs of the multinational corporations that enrich themselves fleecing our defense budget.  The need to sell profitable weapons, sometimes built to fail, often overrides any form of common sense or accountability.

If it is more profitable to build thousands of armored vehicles to protect our troops that are little more than hapless death traps, Congressional and Pentagon bigwigs will chose to rake in huge benefits as they have in the past.  We can always open more cemeteries, pay larger bonuses for more troops, design “cooler” uniforms and give away more medals.

Do we blame our Presidents for failures in weapons, medical treatment for troops or idiotic strategic planning errors?  Could any of the corruption from Congress or the Executive Branch occur without honor bound Officers and Gentlemen ready to sell the safety of our servicemen for a soft job or free use of a vacation condo.

Recommendation:  Take time and rent “Pentagon Wars” from HBO Films.


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Gordon Duff posted articles on VT from 2008 to 2022. He is a Marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War. A disabled veteran, he worked on veterans and POW issues for decades. Gordon is an accredited diplomat and is generally accepted as one of the top global intelligence specialists. He manages the world's largest private intelligence organization and regularly consults with governments challenged by security issues. Duff has traveled extensively, is published around the world, and is a regular guest on TV and radio in more than "several" countries. He is also a trained chef, wine enthusiast, avid motorcyclist, and gunsmith specializing in historical weapons and restoration. Business experience and interests are in energy and defense technology.