Posts Tagged ‘QDR’

Asia Pivot and Air-Sea Battle: Precipitating Military Competition with China?

by Carl Conetta, 03 March 2014

Will China come to pose a peer military threat to the United States?

The Obama administration’s 2012 Strategic Defense Review and the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) turn on this eventuality. Both the so-called “Asia pivot” and the evolving Air-Sea Battle (ASB) operational concept are meant to preclude it. But they may serve to precipitate it, instead.

The Pentagon’s tilt toward Asia finds strong support in the US Navy, while Air-Sea Battle enthuses the Navy and Air Force alike. ASB, and its link to US-China contention, provides a bulwark against defense budget retrenchment as well as a rallying cry for a defense industry that fears a return of Pentagon modernization spending to pre-Iraq War levels.

Whether or not China develops into a peer military rival, it does pose a critical challenge to America’s current defense strategy. Ever since publication of the first QDR in 1997, US strategy has premised itself on global military primacy. All four QDR’s to date have taken primacy to be the cornerstone of American security and, thus, a vital security interest in itself. But the usefulness of this formulation has depended on the unipolar nature of global relations since the collapse of the Soviet Union. That condition is now coming decisively to an end largely due to the rise of China and other big, rapidly developing nations. Both the Asia pivot and the ASB concept represent efforts to manage this emergent reality and forestall the end of the ‘American Century.’

Also central to the “QDR consensus” has been the notion that the United States should work to prevent the rise of unfriendly regional superpowers or, failing that, join with allies to balance against them. China has been the focus of such efforts in Asia. Its potential for becoming a regional hegemon is readily apparent. Today, China accounts for two-thirds of the total population and 55 percent of the economic strength of the 10 nations that border the Yellow, East, and South China Seas.

Successive US administrations have hoped that a combination of close-in military presence, engagement, and activism might convince China’s leaders to be more accommodating. At the same time, talk of China as an emergent military threat or likely competitor has been ubiquitous in America’s security policy debate (and in QDR’s after 2000.) It’s hard to find evidence that the net effect on the Chinese, if any, has been positive. Indeed, there has been unparalleled growth in Chinese defense spending and modernization efforts since 2001. Also, US-China military tensions may be contributing to rather than dissuading China’s strong and growing interest in exerting more control over its maritime perimeter.

Many analysts see America’s “Asia pivot,” announced in 2011, as largely a change in military priorities. Some additionally question the substance of this military shift. (The Air-Sea Battle concept is subject to similar doubts.)

It’s true that the pivot involves little increase in America’s military presence in Asia. But this is occurring in the context of a longer-term reduction in America’s military presence abroad and a rollback in the overall size of US armed forces to levels current in the late 1990s. Relatively speaking, Asia is being privileged.

The pivot is also continuing a trend toward a more flexible and distributed presence abroad, but with greater emphasis on the South China Sea and Indian Ocean. And it is giving greater emphasis to alliances and cooperation with nations along China’s trade routes south of the Tropic of Cancer. If America’s Asian interests previously centered on Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, they today more evenly mirror the contours of China.

In sum, the pivot is optimizing America’s military posture for Asia and for US-China competition, but doing so within the context of mild reductions in US military spending and force size. Also key to this optimization is the ASB concept.

Like the pivot itself, ASB has a long pedigree. It draws on Cold War concepts of deep attack — especially Air-Land Battle — and reflects more recent interest in net centric warfare and precision attack. ASB responds specifically to the prospect of US adversaries developing capacities to effectively contest or deny US forces safe entry to areas of conflict.

w-airSeahttp://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/what-is-air-sea-battle/2012/08/01/gJQAlGr7PX_graphic.html

Relevant adversary capabilities include anti-ship cruise and theater ballistic missiles, weapons of mass destruction, quiet attack submarines and small fast-attack ships, precision munitions and smart mines, long-range drones and stealthy combat aircraft, and systems for space, cyber, and electronic attack. Networked with these would be relatively sophisticated command, control, surveillance, reconnaissance, and target acquisition systems.

Against this, ASB would orchestrate US forces to blind and disrupt enemy networks, destroy or disable enemy launchers, and shield US assets from enemy aircraft, missile, submarine, cyber, and space attack. Central to the concept is early (possibly pre-emptive) deep attacks on an enemy’s homeland. Success in breaking an enemy’s longer-range and maritime “kill chain” would presumably allow the main body of US forces to control and safely operate from areas closer to the enemy homeland, with potentially devastating effect.

The ASB initiative seeks to preserve the type of advantage the United States enjoyed in its two wars with Iraq, which depended on having or establishing secure operating bases nearby. Given significant investment, that goal might be within reach for fighting a nation like Iran. China, by contrast, poses a considerably greater challenge that is further complicated by Chinese nuclear capabilities.

ASB critics have pointed out that the effort so far seems more rhetorical than material. And, indeed, the ASB office is a small one with few modernization programs to call its own. But this misses its chief purpose, which is to promote a unifying vision that shapes, coordinates, and channels already existing service efforts. Today, the ASB concept serves as a rationale for Air Force and Navy modernization programs valued by one study at $525 billion over ten years. These programs include many space, cyber, and missile defense efforts as well as long-range strike and reconnaissance platforms and munitions of many types.

A more prescient critique sees the ASB concept as incompatible with any coherent strategy — essentially, an unusable tool — because it depends on early, large-scale attack on the strategic assets of a nuclear armed nation. Under what conditions would a president walk down this path? As one leading analyst puts it:

You don’t conduct widespread bombing campaigns against the homelands of nuclear powers!

Advocates respond that ASB is not specifically about China. And it is certainly true that the concept has application on smaller scales. Still, the influence that the idea is exerting on Pentagon planning and resource allocation only makes sense with a peer contender in mind.

ASB’s emphasis on early, deep attack with the goal of rendering an adversary vulnerable to the full brunt of American power will likely put a use-it-or-lose-it hair-trigger on US-China military confrontations, should they occur. It will certainly accelerate the current US-China and East Asia arms race spiral. However, as one top Navy official points out, “Air-Sea Battle is all about convincing the Chinese that we will win this competition.” Achieving a degree of arms race dominance that can actually convince others to quit the race has been a strategic conceit of the QDR consensus since 1997. It apparently doesn’t work.

This also seems out of touch with economic trends and with the fact that China presently devotes much less GDP to defense than does the United States. It has lots of room to grow. Moreover, China’s interest in its maritime perimeter will almost certainly grow to surpass America’s interest in patrolling seas so far distant from its homeland.

There are more practicable alternatives to ASB that emphasize blockading Chinese maritime trade at some distance from the mainland, in the case of war. Some see using America’s own anti-access and area-denial capabilities to impede any Chinese aggression. Both avoid the costs and provocations of deep attack and big battles near the Chinese shore. And both would allow for more graduated responses. Some alternatives suggest stationing more of America’s assets “over the horizon,” where they would be safer from Chinese preemption while retaining the capacity to rapidly surge forward.

But critics say these alternatives might weaken the credibility of America’s military commitment. Moreover, one purpose of credibly threatening to disable China’s maritime defense and control capabilities is to gain more leverage over China generally, not simply in military confrontation.

It may be that the most realistic and sustainable alternative would be to exit the QDR consensus altogether and adopt a more broadly cooperative approach to integrating China and reducing regional tensions. This would imply de-emphasizing new military initiatives while ramping up inclusive diplomatic ones. Success would hinge on the possibility that China’s recent regional assertiveness has more to do with US-China military contention than with intractable regional differences. America’s Asian military posture should reflect the fact that no one wins from conflict in this region. Minimally, this means adopting a posture with lower escalatory potential than Air-Sea Battle.

News and Commentary – sources

China-US Focus: “What Asian Pivot?” Benjamin Friedman, 13 November 2013.
http://www.chinausfocus.com/foreign-policy/what-asian-pivot/

The National Interest: “How to Win a War with China,” Sean Mirski, 01 November 2013.
http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/how-win-war-china-9346

The National Interest: “Sorry Air-Sea Battle Is No Strategy,” T.X. Hammes, 07 August 2013.
http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/sorry-airsea-battle-no-strategy-8846

Foreign Policy: “Escalation Cause: How the Pentagon’s New Strategy Could Trigger War with China,” David C. Gompert and Terrence K. Kelly, 02 August 2013.
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/08/02/escalation_cause_air_sea_battle_china

Breaking Defense: “Glimpse Inside Air-Sea Battle: Nukes, Cyber At Its Heart,” Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., 09 July 2013.
http://breakingdefense.com/2013/07/glimpse-inside-air-sea-battle-nukes-cyber-at-its-heart/

Huffington Post: “Why America’s Strategic Rebalance Is Really Just Retreat,” John Feffer, 28 January 2013.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-feffer/americas-strategic-rebalance_b_4680035.html

Thomas P.M. Barnett blog: “Nice critique of the sheer – and reckless – overkill that is ASBC,” 10 August 2012.
http://thomaspmbarnett.com/globlogization/2012/8/10/nice-critique-of-the-sheer-and-reckless-overkill-that-is-asb.html

Time.com: “AirSea Battle: The Military-industrial Complex’s Self-serving Fantasy,” Thomas P. M. Barnett, 08 August 2012.
http://nation.time.com/2012/08/08/airsea-battle-the-military-industrial-complexs-self-serving-fantasy/

Washington Post: “U.S. model for a future war fans tensions with China and inside Pentagon,” Greg Jaffe, 01 August 2012.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-model-for-a-future-war-fans-tensions-with-china-and-inside-pentagon/2012/08/01/gJQAC6F8PX_story.html

Key Reports and Journal Articles – sources

G2 Solutions: “Air-Sea Battle FY2014: Concepts, Key Programs and Forecast, Executive Summary,” November 2013.
http://www.g2globalsolutions.com/Executive Summaries/Air Sea Battle FY 2014 Exec Sum.pdf

IISS Strategic Comments: “China’s defence spending – new questions,” 02 August 2013 (subscription).
http://www.iiss.org/en/publications/strategic%20comments/sections/2013-a8b5/china–39-s-defence-spending–new-questions-e625

Yale Journal of International Affairs: “Who Authorized Preparations for War with China?” Amitai Etzioni, 12 June 2013.
http://yalejournal.org/2013/06/12/who-authorized-preparations-for-war-with-china/

Air Sea Battle Office: “Air Sea Battle: Service Collaboration to Address Anti-Access & Area Denial Challenges,” May 2013.
http://www.defense.gov/pubs/ASB-ConceptImplementation-Summary-May-2013.pdf

Woodrow Wilson Center: “Dealing with Rising China,” J Stapelton Roy, November 2012.
http://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/policy_brief_dealing_with_a_rising_china.pdf

Strategic Forum: “Offshore Control: A Proposed Strategy for An Unlikely Conflict,” T.X. Hammes, June 2012.
http://www.ndu.edu/press/lib/pdf/StrForum/SF-278.pdf

Congressional Research Service: “Pivot to the Pacific? The Obama Administration’s
Rebalancing’ Toward Asia,” Mark E. Manyin, et. al., 28 March 2012.
https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R42448.pdf

U.S. Department of Defense: “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” January 2012.
http://www.defense.gov/news/defense_strategic_guidance.pdf

Foreign Policy: “America’s Pacific Century,” Hillary Clinton, 11 October 2011.
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/10/11/americas_pacific_century

China Leadership Monitor: “China’s Assertive Behavior-Part Two: The Maritime Periphery,” Michael D. Swaine and M. Taylor Fravel, 21 September 2011.
http://www.hoover.org/publications/china-leadership-monitor/article/93591

Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment: “Airsea Battle” (slide presentation), Jan Van Tol, et. al., 18 May 2010.
http://www.csbaonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/2010.05.18-AirSea-Battle-Slides.pdf

Foreign Affairs: “The Geography of Chinese Power: How Far Can Beijing Reach on Land and at Sea?,” Robert D. Kaplan, May/June 2010.
http://www.cerium.ca/IMG/pdf/Kaplan_How_far_can_Beijing_reach_on_land_and_at_sea.pdf

Project on Defense Alternatives: “A Prisoner to Primacy,” Carl Conetta, 05 February 2008.
http://www.comw.org/pda/0802bm43.html

U.S. National War College: “A New Air Sea Battle Concept: Integrated Strike Forces,”
Commander James Stavridis (U.S. Navy), May 1992.
http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA436862

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)

Keep Pentagon Cuts in Perspective: What the administration proposes is hardly dramatic

Carl Conetta. Project on Defense Briefing Memo #53, 05 January 2012.
http://www.comw.org/pda/fulltext/1201bm53.pdf

Excerpt:

The roll back in spending plans and the actual cuts to the budget are sufficient to engage every office and program in the Pentagon. That makes for a contentious debate as well as a load of fodder for partisan politics. It will help if we can keep things in perspective. The cuts we face today are far less dramatic than those following the Cold War. Aggregate budget authority during 1991-1996 was nearly 20% lower in real terms than during 1987-1990 – a decline five times greater than what the administration today proposes. Given our nation’s current economic straights, Pentagon advocates should actually breathe a sigh of relief.

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

Going for Broke: The Budgetary Consequences of Current US Defense Strategy

Carl Conetta. PDA Briefing Memo #52, 25 October 2011.
http://www.comw.org/pda/fulltext/1110bm52.pdf

Excerpt:

The sharp rise in the Pentagon’s base budget since 1998 (46% in real terms) is substantially due to strategic choice, not security requirements, per se. It reflects a refusal to set priorities as well as a move away from the traditional goals of military deterrence, containment, and defense to more ambitious ends: threat prevention, command of the commons, and the transformation of the global security environment. The geographic scope of routine US military activity also has expanded.

companion piece: The Pentagon’s New Mission Set: A Sustainable Choice?, by Carl Conetta. An updated and expanded excerpt from the Report of the Task Force on a Unified Security Budget (USB) for the United States, August 2011. http://www.comw.org/pda/fulltext/111024Pentagon-missions.pdf

Looking to Trim the Defense Budget? Start with the QDR.

Abu Muqawama. Center for New American Security, 13 October 2011.
http://www.cnas.org/blogs/abumuqawama/2011/10/looking-trim-defense-budget-start-qdr.html

Excerpt:

Yesterday’s announcement that the Department of Defense will form a “Strategic Choices Group” to identify priorities and risks ahead of $450 billion in potential cuts to the budget is the latest example of the worthlessness of the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). A strategic document would necessarily identify risks and priorities, but since the QDR does neither, the Department of Defense has to establish an entirely new working group to do just that.

See also: Is the QDR ‘a PR stunt’ or a sincere effort to reconcile posture and budget with strategy?

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

The U.S. Defense Budget: Get Real, Pentagon

Defense News editorial, 16 May 2011.
http://rempost.blogspot.com/2011/05/us-defense-budget-get-real-pentagon.html

Excerpt:

There is an old Washington saying that no money is less real than out-year money. This means that anything that is beyond the immediate spending bill is purely notional.

Requirement control is a popular method of limiting the costs of new weapons, but it’s equally important to control the growing number of missions.

The first step should be to ensure the roles-and-missions review ordered by Obama slashes unnecessary and costly redundancies in capabilities.

Second, the Pentagon must avoid doing what it did – portraying soft numbers as hard ones that do little other than expose it to criticism.

Lastly, to make wise cuts, the Pentagon must improve its internal financial management processes to pinpoint what it’s spending and how. Without hard data, it’s hard to come up with hard savings.