The New US Strategy: Asking the
Obama, Secretary Panetta, and Chairman Dempsey have laid out the broad
framework of a new defense strategy in conceptual terms. It is important
to note, however, that concepts are easier. What counts are details and
President Obama, Secretary Panetta, and Chairman Dempsey made clear in
presenting the new strategy, most of these details will not be made clear
until the specifics of the coming budget request are come out over the
new few weeks. A broad emphasis on technology, the air-land battle in
Asia, maintaining a strong posture in the Middle East, relying more on
partnerships with our allies, reduced but ready ground forces, and a
slow-down in procurement all may make sense. But theoretical arguments
about concepts are just that until the Department releases tangible force
plans, manpower plans, and procurement plans; and shows how US forces and
force capabilities will change by mission and deployment.
is unlikely to halt a rush to judgment about the new strategy before most
of the critical facts are clear. It is important to understand, however,
that a new strategy is not a matter of concepts. It is a matter of how
forces and resources are allocated by mission. Accordingly, anyone who
really cares about national security needs to understand that it will be
necessary to wait until the key details are clear to make any judgments.
This won't halt a flood of largely specious comments over the next week
or so - this is an election year and an era of instant "news" -
but it is a flood that cannot really address most of issues involved.
is also important bear several things in mind as the real nature of the
new strategy does become clear:
focuses on the $487-$489 billion worth of cuts over ten years now
underway, but as Chairman Dempsey pointed out in presenting the new
strategy, there are many budget cycles to come. No one really knows
what will happen over ten years as threats change and our economy
changes. It is the near term changes - the ones already underway, coming
in FY2012, and called for in the FY2013 budget which will be far
more critical in the real world than the plans laid out for a decade
into the future.
New Strategy has no sequestration option. An additional $580 to $600
billion in cuts over 10 years would force massive changes that would
effectively invalidate this entire exercise.
debate of the number of wars is not inherently ridiculous but it comes
close. What wars? Where? For how long? "Prevailing in more than
one conflict at the same time?" Needing what force elements?
There is no Cold War enemy to define the new conflict or conflicts.
We entered Afghanistan and the Iraq in 2001 and 2003 and became
engaged in long land-air wars that required so many resources that
we could not provide the ground forces to fight in both conflicts at
the same time, and had to starve Afghanistan of resources to surge
in Iraq. What about North Korea? Iran? Etc.
is easy to emphasize Asia, technology, and quality over quantity. In
fact, this is what Secretary Rumsfeld did until 9/11 began to force
an almost total reversal in every aspect of our strategy and plans
less than a year after the Bush Administration came to office.
is all very well to talk about improving technology and cutting and
slowing procurement and R&D at the same time. A selective
emphasis on SOF, IS&R, space, cyberwarfare, and unmanned systems
sounds great, but everything depends on how well resources are
allocated, and the Department's history is miserable. As the GAO has
made all too clear, no service has been able to effectively manage
its procurement efforts over the last decade, and no service had an
affordable, practical procurement plan at the time the new strategy
was announced. Moreover, no service has done a good job of showing
that it could manage cuts in existing forces and equipment to buy
new equipment during the last decade. Given this history of failure,
the details really do count - and this includes our defense R&D
efforts and defense industrial base.
whole issue of civil-military operations is not really addressed,
and the QDDR both failed to have substance and is effectively dead.
The practical problem is that this issue is critical in transition
in Afghanistan and in dealing with Pakistan. It already involves a
new crisis in Iraq. It may be equally critical in building new
regional partnerships, particularly given the political upheavals in
the Middle East. The same is true of how the new strategy is tied to
specific military advisory efforts, arms transfers, joint exercises
and facilities. Half a strategy is better than none, but a Defense
Department strategy is not a national security strategy, and the
other half is critical.
how do we create smaller and cheaper forces that can be so flexible,
ready, and deployable that they can fight and defeat any aggressor
in any fight in every kind of war at once?
do we maintain an all-volunteer force - the willingness to stay in
military careers for the years required to be fully effective - and
cut spending? What are the details of the human factors necessary to
make such a strategy workable?
short the devil lies in the details, none of which will really be know
before the budget, tangible force plans, manpower plans, procurement
plans, and details on how US forces and force capabilities will change by
mission and deployment become clear. Moreover, it is the changes during
the next few years that count - not speculation about a future 10 years
from now where the only certainty is that every estimate made now will
prove wrong when the future actually occurs.
"Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century
Defense," the brief strategic guidance memno released after
Secretary Paqnetta's remarks, can be downloaded here:
The US Defense Budget is
analyzed in detail in a number of studies by the Burke Chair:
Defense Budget Cuts and Non-Traditional Threats to
US Strategy: An Update and is available on the CSIS web
National Security Implications of a Balanced Budget Amendment
is available on the CSIS website at:
The Coming Challenges in
Defense Planning, Programming, and Budgeting:
This brief analyzes the budgeting and planning challenges the Department
of Defense (DOD) faces at it enters FY 2011. In particular, it focuses on
the budgeting and planning challenges raised by rising Operations and
Maintenance costs, sustained high tempo of operations, rising Military
Personnel costs, procurement process inefficiency and expanding
entitlements for military personnel and their families. This study is
available on the CSIS web site at http://csis.org/files/publication/101110_FY2011_Coming_Challenges_Def.pdf.
Uncertainty: This brief focuses on recent changes in and additions to
the DOD's planning priorities as laid out in the 2010 Quadrennial Defense
Report. Moreover, this brief analyzes how planned outlays stated in the
DOD's FY 2011 Budget Request reflect or fail to reflect these stated
planning priorities. This study is available on the CSIS web site at http://csis.org/files/publication/101110_FY2011_Unplanning_Uncertainty.pdf.
The Growing Challenges in
Defense Spending and the Defense Budget: An Overview,
which is available on the CSIS web site at http://csis.org/files/publication/101015_growing_challenges_defspending.pdf.
It analyzes the impact of growing pressure on the US federal budget from
deficit spending and a potential crisis in entitlements spending that already
affects all government spending and which will begin to sharply
accelerate in FY2014. These pressures have helped lead Secretary Gates to
seek some $100 billion in defense cuts over the next five years, but such
cuts will at most buy time for the FY2012 budget request. It shows that
the proposed cuts laid out to date would only amount to a maximum of
roughly half of the $100 billion under the best possible conditions, and
even if the entire $100 billion cut took place it could not possibly deal
with the broad range of pressures on defense spending. CBO estimates
indicate that they would only amount to something like a third of the
likely escalation in the Department's probable need for funds above the
Department's Baseline budget request, even if one makes extraordinarily
low estimates of the future cost of the Afghan conflict.
The Uncertain Cost of
War(s): A PDF of this brief is available at http://csis.org/files/publication/101011_FY2011.UncertCostofWar.pdf.
It examines possible ways to assess the past and future real costs of the
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The brief focuses on the problem of the
Department of Defense's over-reliance on "emergency"
supplemental funding for Overseas Contingency Operations in Iraq and
Afghanistan and identifies a past budgeting and planning errors that may
have a major impact on future operations overseas.
The Macroeconomics of US
Defense Spending: This brief is available on the CSIS
web site at http://csis.org/files/publication/101108_FY11_macro_defense.pdf.
It begins by comparing US economic prospects and defense spending with
those of the rest of the international community. It then focuses on the
interaction of the US federal budget and defense spending in the context
of the domestic macroeconomic realities which the US faces. In
particular, this brief gives special attention to the potential threat
that rapidly rising entitlements spending and debt service payments pose
to national security.
These issues are addressed
in more depth in US Defense Planning: Creating Reality Based Strategy,
Planning, Programming, and Budgeting, which is available on the CSIS
web site at http://csis.org/files/publication/101015_defenseplanning_reality.pdf.