Posts Tagged ‘ForceStructure’

Will the U.S. make needed changes to national strategy?

A new Quadrennial Defense Review and a new National Security Strategy are expected early this year. These iterations of routine official documents arrive in the context of a slow wind down of the post-9/11 wars, the problematic strategic legacies of these military interventions and a sluggish economic recovery from the Great Recession. Together these conditions obligate the United States to consider very substantial adjustments to strategy and force posture.

Last July “senior defense officials” gave a briefing on the Strategic Choices and Management Review which Secretary of Defense Hagel had initiated earlier in the year. One official fielded this question: “So have you guys looked at the active-reserve component force mix?”

Response: “… the short answer really is that we’re going to continue to look at the proper balance between the active and reserve, even under reduced fiscal levels, because it’s a way we have to get to a balanced budget.”

Recently Inside the Pentagon reported that “The Quadrennial Defense Review is expected to be largely silent on the topic of senior-level guidance for balancing active and reserve forces, which means the operational model that grew during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars would remain untouched, according to defense observers and a former senior official.”

While strategically the Obama administration appears committed to avoiding long military occupations and counter-insurgencies, the Pentagon isn’t going to change its active/reserve force composition that has been atuned to support these sort of interventions. The Pentagon will forego one of the best ways available for achieving a more economical military posture: relying on a strong strategic reserve for infrequent medium and large scale wars while sizing the active force to meet a variety of smaller scale contingencies and for sustaining skilled cadre available to lead and train reserves in a rapid scaling up of the total force in the event of more demanding contingencies.

Today the risk of a large-scale war is very low and a force posture with a strong strategic reserve will be more cost effective than maintaining a comparatively large active duty force. Unfortunately, the Pentagon is still addicted to preparation for constant global military activism. The ongoing financial burden on the nation of this posture is a poor strategic choice.

Retired Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor has presented a reform proposal which could complement a more robust strategic reserve by providing more combat power in a smaller active duty force structure. Macgregor argues for his force reform which “…preserves depth in the force and provides more ready, deployable combat power at lower cost… designed to cope with the unexpected, ‘Strategic Surprise’; a ‘Korean-like Emergency’ in 1950 or a ‘Sarajevo-like’ event in 1914, not counterinsurgency and nation building.”

In October the Army War College published a book of selected presentations from a November 2011 symposium at the National Defense University called “Forging an American Grand Strategy: Securing a Path Through a Complex Future”. The symposium’s chair and the editor of this anthology Sheila Ronis, writes, “The National Security Strategy is the closest published document that represents a comprehensive discussion of where the country is going and what it wants to accomplish… it is neither sufficiently long term nor a true strategy that links resources with objectives over time. It represents, at best, a list of aspirational goals by an administration.” An updated National Security Strategy has been promised by the White House in 2014.

Former Ambassador to NATO David Abshire argues that, while the President has constitutional authority over military strategy, when it comes to the nation’s grand strategy (which includes all the goals of national effort) the President’s power is limited to being “Persuader in Chief.” In that regard it is notable that President Obama has not been particularly inclined to take up the challenge of persuading his nation of national priorities and the requisite investments needed to obtain them. Abshire’s observation is all the more significant when he raises “the threat” of America’s decline as a global power. He says, “America’s decline… will be the result of diminishing economic strength and competitiveness, not global politics.” Abshire is not the first to make this point. Yet, it remains notable that our national government’s default investment program remains military power, not economic strength.

Former Bush National Security Council member Peter Feaver says a “velvet covered iron fist” is the first pillar of a ‘discernible’ U.S. grand strategy. He writes, “The ‘iron fist’ built a military stronger than what was needed for near-term threats to dissuade a would-be hostile rival from achieving peer status. ‘Velvet’ accommodated major powers on issues, giving them a larger stake in the international distribution of goodies than their military strength would command to dissuade a near-peer from starting a hostile rivalry.”

Putting aside for now reasonable doubt as to whether a ‘stronger than needed’ military dissuades arms racing and hostility, this grand strategy formulation begs the question of what is the ‘velvet glove’ accommodation of China’s Pacific interests that will complement the ‘iron fist’ of the announced military ‘pivot to Asia.’ While Washington politicians are loathe to talk of accommodation of foreign powers, we very much need thoughtful discussion of what are the preferred accommodations to Chinese interests in the region. One such contribution is made by Amitai Etzioni in the Survival article cited below.

A short article appearing this past June in The Diplomat is notable for summing up (rhetorically at least) recent Navy/Marine Corps operational strategic thinking regarding their role in the Pacific. It speaks of new ‘revolutionary’ assets that will “dramatically enhance the power of the distributed force” — “a 21st century attack and defense enterprise.” “Inherent in such an enterprise is scalability and reach-back. By deploying the C5ISR honeycomb, the shooters in the enterprise can reach back to each other to enable the entire grid of operation, for either defense or offense.” Readers will have to decide if this extravagant language usefully describes new strategic elements or is, perhaps, reflective of baroque conceptual mannerisms favored by 21st Century Pentagon culture.

 

 

Sources: News and Commentary

 

The Diplomat: America’s Pacific Force Structure Takes ShapeRobbin F. Laird
“The strategic thrust of integrating modern systems is to create a grid that can operate in an area as a seamless whole, able to strike or defend simultaneously.” (06/28/13)

Trouthout: Making Trouble – and Alternatives – in Asia Joseph Gerson
“The US must pivot diplomatically, not militarily. Campaigning to reinforce US hegemony in Asia and the Pacific will be no more successful than it has been in the Middle East…” (12/6/13)

New York Times At War blog: A Plan for a More Powerful Military That Costs LessDaniel Davis
“Under the auspices of the Mitchell Institute, a nonprofit policy group founded by the Air Force Association, representatives of the Army, Air Force, and Navy presented a reorganization plan called the Macgregor Transformation Model. The plan is named after its architect, Douglas Macgregor, a retired Army colonel who is the author of several books on reorganizing the military and also a decorated combat veteran. Mr. Macgregor says his plan can produce an increase in combat capability, even with smaller budgets.” (12/10/13)

Defense News: Next US Strategy Carries Heavy ExpectationsPaul McLeary and John T. Bennett
“The United States will have to adjust its military ambitions to reflect the cuts the Pentagon will have to make, said Frank Hoffman, a former Pentagon official and now senior research fellow at the National Defense University. There is little doubt that the American military will remain the most powerful military force in the world, he said. ‘You’re coming from a position of very dominant overmatch. Now it’s retaining overmatch and focusing on the things that are really important to you, and that’s what the [Asia-Pacific] rebalance is all about, maintaining overmatch.'” (12/11/13)

Breaking Defense: Budget Deal: Does the Pentagon Really Need an Extra $20 Billion?Bill Hartung
“Throwing an extra $20 billion at the Pentagon now may just postpone a necessary rethinking of how we structure our armed forces and what we expect of them in a world where traditional approaches no longer work.” (12/12/13)

Foreign Policy: The Little Deal is a Big DealGordon Adams
“…the Pentagon loves this deal… Sequester is kicked away for two years. Congress, being devoted once again to the short-term, is now likely to be kicking this budgetary device off into the future forever. Nobody knows what will happen two years from now, but you can bet that sequester is deader than a doornail.” (12/13/13)

Inside the Pentagon: No New Impulses Expected From QDR to Sort Out Active-Reserve Balance (subscription) (12/19/2013)

USA Today: Army and National Guard cross swords over troop cutsTom Vanden Brook
“Guard leaders maintain that the Army could be cut to as few as 420,000 soldiers if the Guard is allowed to expand.” (12/24/2013)

Los Angeles Times: Americans favor not isolationism but restraint – Benjamin H. Friedman and Christopher Preble
“Restraint aims to preserve U.S. power rather than expend it through occupation of failing states such as Afghanistan and the perpetual defense of healthy allies.” (12/27/2013)

 

 

Sources: Reports, Journal Articles, and Books

 

Oxford University Press: Strategy: A HistoryLawrence Freedman (September 2013)

Army War College: Forging an American Grand Strategy: Securing a Path Through a Complex Future. Selected Presentations from a Symposium at the National Defense University — Sheila R. Ronis, editor. (10/22/13)

Foreign Affairs: Defense on a Diet: How Budget Crises Have Improved U.S. StrategyMelvyn P. Leffler
“Defense spending will not be slashed but simply decline a bit — or possibly just grow at a slower rate.
This shift should not become a cause for despair but rather be treated as a spur to efficiency, creativity, discipline, and, above all, prudence. Past bouts of austerity have led U.S. officials to recognize that the ultimate source of national security is domestic economic vitality within an open world order — not U.S. military strength or its wanton use.” (Nov/Dec 2013)

Mitchell Institute: Macgregor Transformation Model (briefing slides) – Douglas Macgregor (11/19/13)

Stimson Center: The Softened Slope for DefenseRussell Rumbaugh (12/12/13)

Congressional Budget Office: Projected Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2014 to 2023.
Nuclear forces will cost $570 billion over the next ten years. (12/19/2013)

The National Interest: America UnhingedJohn J. Mearsheimer
“Probably the most serious cost of Washington’s interventionist policies is the growth of a national-security state that threatens to undermine the liberal-democratic values that lie at the heart of the American political system.” (01/02/14)

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.

__________________________________________________

Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense

Department of Defense. 05 January 2012.
http://www.defense.gov/news/Defense_Strategic_Guidance.pdf

Strategic Adjustment to Sustain the Force: A survey of current proposals

Charles Knight. Project on Defense Alternatives Briefing Memo #51, 25 October 2011.
http://www.comw.org/pda/fulltext/1110bm51.pdf

Excerpt:

…modest changes to U.S. military strategy and global posture implemented over the next ten years can reliably offer deficit-reducing savings from the Pentagon budget ranging from $73 billion a year to $118 billion a year.

To achieve the savings only requires the application of different means to attaining strategic goals. That is precisely what any good strategy does when conditions change.

Panetta to U.S. Army: Branches Must Cooperate on Cuts

Andrew Tilghman. Defense News, 12 October 2011.
http://www.defensenews.com/story.php?c=LAN&s=TOP&i=7935114

Excerpt:

Panetta said the Army should expect reserve-component troops to be a vital part of the future force.

“As we draw down from these wars, we need to keep the Guard and the Reserve operational and gaining experience. This is the best investment we’ve made over the past 10 years,” he said. “We need to continue to be able to maintain that as a valuable asset because the reserve force has a special role to play as a force that gives the nation strategic depth in the event of crisis, access to unique civilian skill sets that can be useful in modern conflicts and as the Army’s bridge to a broader civilian population.”

Advice to the Pentagon: Stop Fiddling, Come to Grips With Impending Fiscal Doom

Sandra Erwin. National Defense , 10 June 2011.
http://defensealt.org/HtE3zx

Excerpt:

Not only are there internal disagreements within the Pentagon and the Obama administration over what the military services will be doing in the future, but factions within Congress also will be pushing individual agendas. “In Congress, you have 535 individuals and every one of them thinks they’re in charge,” O’Keefe said. “If you don’t have some benchmark to work with to start the discussion,” the Pentagon will lose control over what gets cut in future budgets.

“If there is no strategic framework, that is what will happen: The process takes over,” said O’Keefe. Defense leaders should come up with a reasonable strategic framework as early as possible that they can sell to Congress, he said. “Absent that, it is going to be the programmers and bean counters driving the train to meet a number.”

A coherent message from the Defense Department is “missing right now,” said John J. Hamre, president of CSIS and former deputy defense secretary.

“What are we really trying to plan for, as a Defense Department, that is good for 20 years?” he asked. “Are we going to get the hell out of these wars and never fight them again? What are we preparing for?” he added. “That, I think, is the work for the next six months.”

There has to be a sense of urgency about articulating a plan for the future of the U.S. military, because increasingly the American public is losing patience with seemingly endless wars and gridlock over how to move forward, Hamre said

Overseas Base Closure List

Carlton Meyer. G2mil.com, June 2011.
http://www.g2mil.com/OBCL.htm

Excerpt:

Here is a list of outdated U.S. military bases overseas that can be promptly closed to save billions of dollars each year…

Close Outdated U.S. Military Bases in Japan – Futenma & Atsugi

Pull Aircraft and Airmen Out of Osan – now in a kill zone

Cut Army Fat in Korea – 8th Army and Daegu

Vacate Two Army Bases in Germany – as once planned

Close Torii Station – a U.S. Army base on Okinawa?

Vacate RAF Lakenheath – the Russians aren’t coming

Close Gitmo, the Entire Base – it has no purpose

Close Chinhae Tomorrow – it commands nothing

[There is more argumentation about each of these at the source.]

News Analysis: Obama’s Proposed $400 billion Security Spending Cut

On Wednesday April 13th 2001, President Obama announced an initiative to roll back planned security spending by $400 billion over the next 12 years. The nature of these “savings” is not yet clear. Nor is it clear how much will be subtracted from the Pentagon’s spending plans.

Nonetheless, Secretary Gates and the Chiefs are not pleased and have begun to make noise about risks to security. Apparently, they were not briefed on the proposal until Tuesday.

Part of the initiative is to begin a “fundamental review of America’s missions, capabilities, and our role in a changing world.” What and how much is subtracted from the Pentagon will depend on this review. Notably, the United States just completed a Quadrennial Defense Review last year. What the President proposes is some sort of “second look.” The President, Secretary Gates, and the service chiefs will be the prime movers of this process. How deep their “second look” will go is unclear. And it seems battle lines are already being drawn.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Pentagon spokesperson Geoff Morrell said the review would likely affect the 2013 budget. It will not be ready by June, when congressional debate of the 2012 budget commences.

How open will the review process be? We don’t yet know. But the experience of recent defense reviews is not encouraging. Still we should welcome this first step and strive to open up the process. The need for a rethinking our defense strategy and posture was emphasized in the 2010 report of the Sustainable Defense Task Force:

[I]n order to ensure significant savings, we must change how we produce military power and the ways in which we put it to use. Significant savings may depend on our willingness to:

    Rethink our national security commitments and goals to ensure they focus clearly on what concerns us the most;
    Reset our national security strategy so that it reflects a cost-effective balance among the security instruments at our disposal and uses those instruments in cost-effective ways; and
    Reform our system of producing defense assets so it.

News links on President Obama’s proposed rollback in planned security spending, his call for a strategic review, and the Pentagon’s reaction:

DOD: Finding More Savings In Defense Budget Means Nixing Missions. Christopher J. Castelli. Inside Defense, 13 April 2011.

Obama Calls for Sweeping Review of U.S. Military Strategy. Sandra Erwin. National Defense, 13 April 2011.

Pentagon warns on big defense cuts. Missy Ryan and Jim Wolf. Reuters, 13 April 2011.

Defence chief warns against planned cuts. Daniel Dombey and James Politi. Financial Times, 14 April 2011.

Events frequently overtake long-term Pentagon planning. Megan Scully. Government Executive, 14 April 2011.