Posts Tagged ‘AllServices’

Donald C. F. Daniel on Strategic Adjustment and the Benefits of Sequester

August 2013

The adverse consequences of hangings and budgetary cutbacks preoccupy those who face them. There may be no silver lining for those about to die, but there can be for those who must live with less. Cutbacks can force evaluation of priorities and the slimming of organizations whose bloat clouds institutional concentration and hampers agility. The DoD is one such organization: it has too many cooks concocting too many broths that either should be the responsibility of other elements of the US government or of no elements at all. Thus, the sequester can be a blessing.

The DoD is like most organizations; if leaders do not have to make hard choices, they will avoid doing so. Even the hard-nosed Donald Rumsfeld, a man with his own settled views, signed off on Quadrennial Defense Reviews that were criticized for their failure to provide the guidance necessary to choose between this or that entity, program, or provider of services. But such guidance would probably have been superfluous; budgets after all were rising dramatically and (over)matching the increases in demands levied on the DoD. The people asking the DoD to do more were understandably not interested in giving it less to do it with.

Secretary Gates struck the right tone when he did three things. One was to “re-balance” priorities to concentrate on the ongoing wars at the expense of preparing for wars against a future regional hegemon. A second was to cancel hugely expensive programs that were over budget and overdue. A third was to argue for a “whole of government” approach when evaluating who should do what to secure US national interests. He believed that the DoD had taken on or been assigned too many functions which were better suited to State Department, the Agency for International Development, and other civilian agencies. He even did something that many saw as an unnatural act for a department head: recommend to Congress that it re-program DoD moneys to the State Department so that State could better carry out the nation-building that the DoD had been doing.

Gates’ third initiative was the most important. How much of a blessing the sequester will be depends on how well our nation’s leaders (and not just the DoD’s) undertake to prioritize what they want for this country and to specify which department or agency is best fitted to carry it out. Those discussions have remained muted or in the background for too long, and that reality lessens the ultimate utility of the continuous stream of DoD budgetary studies, proposals, and commentaries coming out of the DoD, the Congress, think tanks, talking heads, and pundits. When national security experts (including former JCS Chairman Mullin) tell us that our most important national security priority is to get our economic house in order and that our greatest security threat is our debt, we should acknowledge that the defense budget is more tail than dog.

Too many Americans are not used to thinking that way. The Cold War conditioned many of today’s older Americans in particular (many of whom hold the reins of power) to overvalue the military instrument and to readily accept debt to pay for it—in other words to prioritize military needs over economic considerations. (Indeed, Vice President Cheney went so far as to argue that the Reagan years proved that debt did not matter.) Containment was the overarching national strategy that provided the framework for deciding on the priority to be allocated to the politico-diplomatic, economic, military, public outreach, aid, covert action and other ways to defend and advance US interest. But even then how to choose among these choices was not obvious. It hardly ever is. The original author of containment, George Kennan, was unhappy with the overemphasis (in his mind) on the military dimension of containment as advocated by Paul Nitze, Kennan’s successor as director of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff. After the onset of the Korean War, Nitze’s conception largely dominated thinking through the end of the Cold War even when some Presidents—Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon (with heavy input from Henry Kissinger), and Jimmy Carter (up to the Afghan invasion)—sought to push back.

It was not until the Bush (43) Doctrine of preventive war (supplemented with democracy promotion) that the US had a grand strategy comparable to containment. Depending on one’s point of view, the Doctrine provided the ex ante rationale or the ex post rationalization for the strategically-disastrous Iraq War, but there was no confusion as to the centrality of the military instrument and the need to raise the DoD’s budget accordingly.

We are in a new era, and the sequester is nicely setting the scene to re-evaluate what we are about and how we should go about it. From a top-down perspective, we need for our national leaders to explicitly call for a national discussion. At the top of the agenda is the question: What are my country’s requirements? Reminiscent of Walter Russell Mead’s framework, should we give priority to a Jeffersonian emphasis on internal development and well-being? A Hamiltonian priority on international economic engagement? A Wilsonian priority on instilling American values abroad? A Jacksonian priority on the autarchic preservation of American honor and the achievement of military victory? What is the priority among them? How will we meet them? What ways—economic, politico-diplomatic, military, covert, etc—make the best sense and what are the priorities among them? Each way implies the generation and maintenance of resources and prioritizing among them. Generating resources in turn implies generating the capital to pay for them. In the best of all possible worlds, the capital would be there to allow the process to be top down only from requirements to resources, but that circumstance is rare and there must always be a bottom-up perspective: how much can I afford and how much must I trim my requirements? How much must I scale back on the ways on which I will rely? Which will be favored and within them which resources will I buy and to what extent? What bets will I place when making those choices? Where can I skimp in the purchase of resources in the hope that I will not regret it later? Alternatively how many contingencies—ranging from threats to domestic economic wellbeing to threats to our external influence—am I committing myself to respond to in the hope that I will never have to respond to too many at the same time? Indeed, how much is my commitment stance in any area more bluff than real, more hope than readiness?

The sequester provides an opportunity we should not forego.

Donald C. F. Daniel teaches security studies at Georgetown University. Previously he was Special Assistant to the Chairman of the National Intelligence Council and prior to that he held the Milton E. Miles Chair of International Relations at the US Naval War College, Newport, RI, where he also chaired the Strategic Research Department in the College’s Center for Naval Warfare Studies.

Reasonable Defense: A Sustainable Approach to Securing the Nation

(printable PDF version) (summary) (appendix of tables and charts) by Carl Conetta, Project on Defense Alternatives Briefing Report, 14 November 2012. Provides a detailed strategic argument for the re-balancing of investments in the instruments of national power and offers a new force posture and Pentagon budget appropriate to strategic conditions.  Main report includes 9 tables.  Appendix has 18 additional tables and charts addressing personnel, force structure, and budgets.

The Future of Irregular Warfare

Seth G. Jones. RAND, 27 March 2012.
http://defensealt.org/HzvPUo

Excerpt:

By early 2012, there were approximately 432,000 counterinsurgency forces in Afghanistan – approximately 90,000 U.S. soldiers, 30,000 NATO soldiers, 300,000 Afghan National Security Forces, and 12,000 Afghan Local Police. In addition, the United States spent over $100 billion per year and deployed a range of sophisticated platforms and systems. The Taliban, on the other hand, deployed between 20,000 and 40,000 forces (a ratio of nearly 11 to 1 in favor of counterinsurgents) and had revenues of $100-$200 million per year (a ratio of 500 to 1 in favor of counterinsurgents).

A New Challenge for Our Military: Honest Introspection

David Rothkopf. Foreign Policy, 19 March 2012.
http://defensealt.org/GSUypF

Excerpt:

Certainly there has been national debate about whether we should have been involved in those wars, one that has belatedly delivered the message to our political leadership that it is time to bring our troops home. But about one crucial array of issues concerning our involvement we have been stunningly silent: the competence of our military leaders, the effectiveness of the strategies they have employed, and the very structure and character of our military itself.

FY 2013 Program Acquisition Costs by Weapon System

Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), February 2012.
http://defensealt.org/ymU504

Vimy Paper 2012: The Strategic Outlook for Canada

Paul Chapin and George Petrolekas. CDA Institute, February 2012.
http://defensealt.org/xSKPtu

The New US Defense Strategy and the Priorities and Changes in the FY2013 Budget

Anthony H. Cordesman with Bradley Bosserman. Center for Strategic & International Studies, 30 January 2012.
http://defensealt.org/xpBqhn

Excerpt:

The US must fundamentally rethink its approach to “optional wars.” It is far from clear that it can win the Iraq War, rather than empower Iran, without a strong military and aid presence. It will decisively lose the Afghan and Pakistan conflict if it does not quickly develop plans for a military and diplomatic presence, and help to aid Afghanistan in transitioning away from dependence on foreign military and economic spending during 2012-2020. US troop cuts are not a transition plan, and focusing on withdrawal is a recipe for defeat.

That said, the US cannot, and should not, repeat the mistake it made in intervening in Iraq and Afghanistan. It must deal with nontraditional threats with a far better and more affordable mix of global, regional, and national strategies that can deal with issues like the turmoil in the Middle East, and South and Central Asia, and terrorism and instability on a global basis. It must rely on aiding friendly states, deterrence, containment, and far more limited and less costly forms of intervention.

Regaining Our Balance: the Pentagon’s New Military Strategy Takes a Small Step

Christopher Preble and Charles Knight. Huffington Post, 20 January 2012.
http://defensealt.org/ysCbHQ

Excerpt:

Balance depends on what you are standing on. With respect to our physical security, the United States is blessed with continental peace and a dearth of powerful enemies. Our military is the best-trained, best-led, and best-equipped in the world. It is our unstable finances and our sluggish economy that make us vulnerable to stumbling.

Unfortunately, the new strategy does not fully appreciate our strengths, nor does it fully address our weaknesses. In the end, it does not achieve Eisenhower’s vaunted balance.

__________________________________________________