Posts Tagged ‘ForceStructure’

Future Defense Budget Choices Require Clear Strategic Priorities

Daniel Goure. Early Warning Blog, Lexington Institute, 03 September 2010.


The United States cannot afford and the people will not pay for a military that can do battle with uncertainty.

As a consequence of the need to do battle with uncertainty, emphasis was placed on a military that can cover all bases and do all things. This would not be a wise strategy even if resources were unconstrained. Not all threats are equal. Nor are all interests equally important. Finally, it is possible to make reasoned and reasonable judgments regarding how the future security environment will unfold and define a set of demand signals that would require shifting strategic priorities.

In the past, when U.S. leaders refused to make choices they allowed the military to shrink symmetrically, by cutting every program or service a little. That approach is self-defeating. It makes no sense to keep a so-called full spectrum military but continually reduce it in size.

Editor’s Comment:

Relevant passages from the archives ($3 trillion later):

Carl Conetta and Charles Knight. “Dueling with Uncertainty”, February 1998.

There is no escape from uncertainty, but there is relief from uncertainty hysteria. It begins with recognizing that instability has boundaries — just as turbulence in physical systems has discernible onset points and parameters. The turbulence of a river, for instance, corresponds to flow and to the contours of the river’s bed and banks. It occurs in patches and not randomly. The weather also is a chaotic system that resists precise long-range forecasting, but allows useful prediction of broader trends and limits.

Despite uncertainty, statements of probability matter. They indicate the weight of evidence — or whether there is any evidence at all. The uncertainty hawks would flood our concern with a horde of dangers that pass their permissive test of “non-zero probability.” However, by lowering the threshold of alarm, they establish an impossible standard of defense sufficiency: absolute and certain military security. Given finite resources and competing ends, something less will have to do. Strategic wisdom begins with the setting of priorities — and priorities demand strict attention to what appears likely and what does not.

The world may be less certain and less stable today than during the Cold War, but it also involves less risk for America. Risk is equal parts probability and utility — chances and stakes. With the end of global superpower contention, America’s stakes in most of the world’s varied conflicts has diminished. So has the magnitude of the military threats to American interests. This permits a sharper distinction between interests and compelling interests, turbulence and relevant turbulence, uncertainties and critical uncertainties. And this distinction will pay dividends whenever the country turns to consider large-scale military endeavors, commitments, and investments.

Among the visions that guide present policy, one is absent conspicuously: a world in which economic issues have displaced military ones as the central focus of global competitions and concerns. Failing to engage this prospect, the recent defense policy reviews are oblivious to the opportunity cost of military spending. And it is this lapse that gives license to their speculative methods and overweening goals.

The United States continues to invest more of its national product in defense than does its allies, more than the world average, and much more than its chief economic competitors. By disregarding the requirements and consequences of increased global economic competition, present policy makes an unacknowledged bet about the future: The Soviet Union is gone and no comparable military challenge to the West exists, except as distant possibility. Nonetheless, the American prospect depends as much as ever, if not more, on the specifically military aspects of strength. Of this much, the uncertainty hawks seem certain.

Independent QDR Panel Calls For Increasing Size Of Navy, Bolstering Procurement

Jason Sherman, Inside Defense, 26 July 2010.

A bipartisan independent review of the Obama administration’s 20-year blueprint for the Defense Department calls for increasing the size of the Navy to a 346-ship fleet and increasing the U.S. military’s posture in the Western Pacific to counter China’s growing influence in the region, according to a draft report of the Independent Quadrennial Defense Review Panel. obtained a draft copy of the report titled “The QDR in Perspective: Meeting America’s National Security Needs in the 21st Century.”

The 20-member blue-ribbon panel — co-chaired by former Defense Secretary William Perry and Stephen Hadley, former national security adviser to President George W. Bush — also finds a significant increase in funding is needed to bolster capabilities necessary to counter anti-access challenges, strengthen homeland defense; and to deal with cyber threats.

The panel’s report argues that a centerpiece of the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review — a force-planning construct that downplayed the significance of preparing to fight and win two, nearly simultaneous major wars, a bedrock of defense planning since 1993, in order to prepare U.S. forces to deal with a wider set of possible contingencies — is unreliable. Instead, the independent panel recommends the Pentagon adopt force levels required by analysis conducted 17 years ago.

The “panel recommends the force structure be sized, at a minimum, at the end strength outlined in the 1993 Bottom-Up Review,” an assessment prepared by then-Defense Secretary Les Aspin, which Perry then worked to implement during his 1994 to 1997 term as secretary. “We further recommend the department’s [weapon system] inventory be thoroughly recapitalized and modernized,” states the draft report.

Funding to pay for these capabilities, as well as to recapitalize equipment consumed in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, will require resources beyond the $100 billion efficiency savings recently directed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, according to the report.

The “panel believes that substantial additional resources will be required to modernize the force. Although there is a cost to recapitalizing the military, there is also a price to be paid for not recapitalizing, one that in the long run would be much greater.”

Tasked by Congress — and composed of members appointed by lawmakers and Gates — the panel’s report delves into nearly every dimension of the U.S. military enterprise — from personnel policy to weapons acquisition to defense policy formulation — and offers an “explicit warning” about the shape of U.S. weaponry after a nearly a decade of persistent conflict.

“The aging of the inventories and equipment used by the services, the decline in the size of the Navy, and the growing stress on the force means that a train wreck is coming in the areas of personnel, acquisition, and force structure,” states the draft report.

The draft document argues that the Pentagon’s force-structure plans “will not provide sufficient capacity” to deal with a major domestic catastrophe while also conducting contingency operations abroad. The panel also asserts that the recently established U.S. Cyber Command should be prepared to assist civilian authorities in defending this domain “beyond” the Defense Department’s current role, to support civilian agencies.

The Pentagon’s 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review did not include a force-planning construct that explicitly quantifies the number and type of contingencies for which the U.S. military must prepare, removing a formula the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines have relied on since the end of the Cold War to justify their force structures and their investment plans, an omission the independent panel laments.

The Pentagon’s 1993 Bottom-Up Review, the first major assessment of the the U.S. military’s needs after the fall of the Berlin Wall, advanced a requirement to fight and win two major-theater wars nearly simultaneously, a construct that was incorporated in the 1997, 2001 and 2006 QDRs.

“The 2010 QDR, however, did not endorse any metric for determining the size and shape of U.S. forces,” states the independent panel’s draft report. Rather, it put diverse, overlapping scenarios, including long-duration stability operations and the defense of the homeland, on par with major regional conflicts when assessing the adequacy of U.S. forces.”

The current size of U.S. ground forces “is close enough to being correct,” according to the draft report.

In addition, the panel argues that the Army is “living off the capital accumulated” during the Reagan administration. “The useful life of that equipment is running out; and, as a result, the inventory is old and in need of recapitalization,” states the draft report, which calls for inventory replacement on a one-for-one basis “with an upward adjustment in the number of naval vessels and certain air and space assets.”

A larger Navy and Air Force, according to the panel, is needed to protect U.S. interests in the Pacific region.

“The force structure in the Asia-Pacific needs to be increased,” states the draft report. “The United States must be fully present in the Asia-Pacific region, to protect American lives and territory, ensure the free flow of commerce, maintain stability, and defend our allies in the region. A robust U.S. force structure, one that is largely rooted in maritime strategy and includes other necessary capabilities, will be essential.”

The panel advances recommendations to reform the structure and organization of both Congress and the executive branch in order to improve oversight of national security matters. The panel also advances suggestions for the Defense and State departments to shore up “institutional weaknesses of the existing security assistance programs and framework.”

Debt, Deficits, and Defense: A Way Forward

Report of the Sustainable Defense Task Force. 11 June 2010.
full report:
executive summary:


Putting America’s defense establishment on a more sustainable path may require curbing some of our commitments abroad, adopting more realistic military goals, or putting greater emphasis on more cost-effective instruments of power.

C-SPAN video of the report release briefing hosted by Rep. Barney Frank, U.S. Capitol Visitors Center, 11 June 2010.

Photos of the report release briefing, U.S. Capitol Visitors Center, 11 June 2010.

Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) 2010

Office of the Secretary of Defense, 01 February 2010. Hosted on the Commonwealth Institute website.

Quadrennial Defense Review 2010

Army Data Show Constraints on Troop Increase Potential: Escalation in Afghanistan Could Leave Few Brigades in Reserve

Spencer Ackerman. The Washington Independent, 18 November 2009.


[Lawrence] Korb … said a more realistic troop increase for Afghanistan would be 10,000 soldiers until the drawdown of troops from Iraq “begins in earnest.” There are currently 120,000 U.S. troops remaining in Iraq, almost twice the total in Afghanistan, though Gen. Raymond Odierno, the commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, told Congress in September that he plans to reduce that total to around 50,000 by August 30, 2010. Alternatively, Korb said, Obama could speed up the pace of redeployment out of Iraq in order to relieve the stress on the force… But under current Pentagon policy, soldiers would still need to receive at least 12 months of recuperation time back in the U.S. before potential assignment in Afghanistan.

Keeping the aircraft carrier fleet afloat

Christopher M. Lehman. Boston Globe, 14 October 2009.

Editor’s Comment:
It has been several decades since simply counting the numbers of weapon systems or platforms has been anything like a reliable measure of military power. In a modern military effective power is achieved by the combination of well-trained men and women, advanced communications, agile allocation of forces, precision controls and, of course, good weapon systems and appropriate platforms for this complex package.

Christopher Lehman’s op-ed in defense of the eleven carrier fleet (Boston Globe 14 October 2009) fails to mention, let alone assess, any of these crucial aspects of the modern Navy. Nor does he mention the numerous expeditionary strike groups, surface action groups, and missile-armed submarines that also project American power around the globe. And he does not mention that a term of preference in today’s Navy is “network-centric.”

Although the number of platforms (ships) in today’s Navy is considerably fewer than during the Cold War, the firepower on today’s collection of ships has more than doubled, and is still growing. And that is only a starting place for measuring the effective power of the Navy. Reducing the size of the carrier fleet by one or two flattops is not a high risk proposition for the national security of the United States.


Reader Comment from a letter to the Boston Globe:

Isn’t it inappropriate for the Globe to publish an oped advocating the construction of aircraft carriers when the author works at a consulting firm that represents Northrop Grumman, the company responsible for carrier construction? In Christopher Lehman’s Oct. 14 oped, “Keeping the aircraft carrier fleet afloat,’’ the Globe did not bother to disclose the author’s financial stake in the position he was arguing, which would have helped readers evaluate Lehman’s credibility (or lack thereof) as a dispassionate analyst.

Lehman doesn’t base his case on military or strategic grounds, conceding at the very beginning that “the United States does not need aircraft carriers to counter those of other countries.’’ Instead, he asserts that carriers are valuable as power projectors that the United States uses to affect crises “without releasing a single weapon.’’ In other words, while carriers might not actually do much militarily, they make us feel like we’re shaping outcomes. Proponents of building more carriers can then cite such shaping, which is impossible to prove or disprove, as evidence that we need more carriers.

Lehman also points out that carriers both act as “levers of American good will’’ and are being built by many other countries, including some considered potential future adversaries of the United States. On the first point, humanitarian missions are not sufficient justification to build $11-billion-per-ship carriers that spend most of their time floating around in the middle of the ocean. Other ships are more practical. A carrier is a weapon of war, and arguments that try to frame it as anything else are disingenuous. On the second point, Lehman implies that because other countries build carriers, the United States should build them, too. “Keeping up with the Joneses’’ is the antithesis of strategic thinking, particularly when the United States already maintains such a large advantage in military capability.

— Travis Sharp, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, Washington, D.C.

Possible Savings from Decreasing the Aircraft Carrier Battle Fleet

Stephen Abott. Budget Insight, 08 October 2009.

For background and an assessment of the carrier “requirement” see

U.S. Army To Switch 2 Heavy Brigades to Strykers

Gina Cavallaro and Kris Osborn. Defense News, 01 Oct 2009.