They take 52% of the national budget, can’t account for the trillions they spend, don’t win any of the stupid wars presidents get them into and are still developing new-age weapons as adversaries become less national and more unstructured. We didn’t defeat the Afghan Army and Air Force because there was none. Over twenty years, the Afghans wore us down to a standstill with poorly armed civilians who would die rather than submit. The lesson from that is that no enemy can be defeated if it is willing to lay down its life to the last man standing.
So, I have a new role for the Pentagon, should they wish to accept it
Hold your breath. That role is right here on American soil and doesn’t require any of the current 896 generals on the Pentagon payroll to operate. A single, competent full colonel would do just fine.
I’m suggesting a permanent, full-time fire-fighting force, made up of the Air Force, Army and Navy to come to America’s aid as huge parts of the nation continue to burn down on a regular basis.
The numbers are mind-boggling
From 2011 to 2020, there were an average of 62,805 wildfires annually and an average of 7.5million acres impacted annually. In 2020, 58,950 wildfires burned 10.1 million acres, the second-most acreage impacted in a year since 1960; nearly 40% of these acres were in California.
As of August 6, 2021, nearly 39,000 wildfires have impacted over 3.4 million acres. The nationwide preparedness level is at the maximum level (5), suggesting significant commitment of shared resources.
Maximum levels are obviously inadequate. Acres burned have doubled in the last ten years.
The Camp Fire in Northern California was the deadliest and most destructive, killing 88 people, destroying more than 18,500 structures, and costing an estimated $15 billion. In all, 2018’s wildfire season burned 8.7 million acres, far surpassing the 10-year average burn area of 6.8 million acres per year. The total cost was a staggering $24 billion, primarily from the destruction of homes and infrastructure, along with firefighting costs. The 2018 wildfire season overtook 2017 as the most expensive, and the two years together caused an unprecedented $40 billion worth of damage.
And everything changes, even as I write this
The Dixie Fire, California's second-largest wildfire in modern history, continues to displace thousands of people as new evacuation orders were issued this week.
The more than month-old wildfire has burned at least 678,369 acres, more than 1,000 square miles, in Butte, Plumas, Lassen and Tehama counties. Recently, it has burned near the communities of Janesville and Susanville, which has a population of about 18,000. The fire is 35% contained.
The fire has charred an area larger than the city of Los Angeles and destroyed at least 1,217 structures. Roughly 16,000 structures remain threatened by the blaze, Cal Fire said. Nearly 6,000 personnel are helping battle the fire.
So, here’s the plan, Sam
The Air Force is in command, supported by the Army and Navy.
The Pentagon drags a few billion away from the out-of-control F-35 fighter program and fast-tracks the construction of three or four hundred purpose-built air tankers. Yeah, I know the dangers of ‘fast-track’ contracts, but America is burning down, at least in the West.
We have some jerry-built planes patched up to deliver retardant, but nothing fit for purpose. Maybe heavy-duty helicopters are the thing. That would be cool, because seawater is the only water available now that our lakes and dams are way below normal. Helicopters could recharge from aircraft carriers. Surely, we have a few available. Carriers would also be a perfect platform for the enormous pumps needed.
You can see I’m improvising a bit on the fly. This is a concept, not a detailed plan.
The Army comes in with heavy-duty bulldozers, fire lanes and military fire trucks, along with specialty-trained firefighters. If we can keep politicians from conjuring up another poorly conceived war, there ought to be plenty of personnel available.
Big on concept, small on details
I agree and I’m okay with that. At least (so far as I know) no torture is involved and no active-duty military at risk of war crimes. And there are international possibilities. The United States could use a few opportunities to actually help our allies.
Huge parts of Siberia, Central and Southern Africa as well as the Arabian Gulf, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Romania are all fighting major fires. As we fine-tune our fire-response capability, perhaps we can deploy our military for humanitarian purposes—just for a while, just to see if it works to save instead of taking lives here and there.
What we don’t need is a fact-finding study in a congressional committee. While it could certainly use the urgency of a wartime footing, please don’t anyone name it ‘a war on forest fires.’
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