06/30/2011 The Pentagon is presently under-going the “mother of all budget drills” in order to find $400B over the next twelve years. We hope the cuts will be based on a long-term strategic review of our national interests and what we want our military to do in the years ahead. DOD has already undergone a stringent “efficiencies” review to reduce waste, streamline organizations, and increase so-called tooth-to-tail ratios. We suspect there is little else in the efficiency category that can be wrung out of the DOD budget – given they just saved $35B over five years.
We also hope the DOD civilians who are leading this review look really long-term to evaluate our interests, understand how we must change our force structure to position us for the future. They should begin with the understanding that we have consistently been wrong in our forecasts of future threats … and that all wars of the future will not look like Afghanistan or Iraq do today.
What are the elements of a new strategy?
First, we would argue the US Grand Strategy remains essentially the same today as it has been since the end of WWII. That is we want to fight our enemies away from US shores with the understanding that the fighting abroad protects US citizens and takes the war to our adversaries.
Secondly, there are some principles we should apply to the review.
- The most affordable and effective war we fight is the one we don’t fight. Deterrence has proven effective … not just with nuclear weapons, but with conventional ones. If the US remains strong, our potential enemies will think twice before challenging us. The cost of their competition with our first-rate military may be out of their reach.
- Regime removal and occupation is not in our national interest. We do not excel at building nations, creating workable institutions, educating populations on the benefits of the West … and doing so through the eyes of our culture biases. It is better for us to remove barriers to development, take our hands off the bicycle of the nation-child, and let the country embrace democracy and build institutions in their own way.
- The best way to secure our interests, minimize casualties, and do so in a cost effective way is by air, space, cyberspace, and naval power. This requires up-front investments in military hardware, education, and training. It builds our industrial base (the aerospace industry is responsible for $53B per year in positive trade balance each year), keeps us on the cutting edge of technology advances, inhibits a technology break-out by our adversaries, encourages our children to study math and science, and provides the economy with well-paid jobs. To neglect this sector would be a strategic mistake.
None of the above is meant to detract from the sacrifices of our brave men and women in harms way. Visiting Walter Reed is perhaps the best way for us to see the results of a strategy of projecting vulnerability. We have to change that concept … and the sooner, the better.