The Way Ahead: Rethinking Budget Choices


by Robbin Laird

A time of budget constriction is a time for thinking; not shrinking from innovation.

And as the U.S. shifts its strategy, post-Iraq and post-Afghanistan, highlighting agile forces, which can accelerate innovation in con-ops, training and equipment is crucial.

As Secretary Wynne has highlighted in his recent piece, investing one million dollars per F-22 or so in MADL would allow the F-22 to get back on track as the tip of the spear of the USAF core competence on combat enablement for the joint force, rather the USAF simply being the Greyhound bus to the US Army.

MADL investment would allow as well further enablement of the F-35 being deployed soon. The MADL-enabled F-22 can become a fully engaged asset, not just a day 1 of a war asset.

At the heart of moving forward is leveraging the new platforms and shaping new con-ops.  The task is to get better capability out of current forces as one shapes a new paradigm for combat operations.

A time of budget constriction is a time for thinking; not shrinking from innovation. At the heart of the decade ahead is the ABSOLUTE requirement for a clear commitment to innovation. Credit Image; Bigstock

The Bold Alligator 2012 exercise is an example of the way ahead; the USN-USMC team is shaping a new approach to maneuver warfare from the sea.

This approach features moving the Gator navy from a Greyhound bus to a strike force from the sea.

Leveraging the sea base to shape a new approach to maneuver warfare will be a key innovation opportunity in the decade ahead for the US and its coalition partners.  For example, for the USMC, the VM-22 and the supply ships can be conjoined to allow the USN to buy the cheapest ships as part of the combat force, because of the speed and range of the VM-22 to connect to the fleet.

The performance of the BACH1-11 in the exercise also suggests a way ahead.  The F-35 combat systems will allow the USN-USMC amphibious force to see, manage and organize the entire maneuver space.  This capability will allow significant innovation across the spectrum of warfare.

At the heart of the decade ahead is the ABSOLUTE requirement for a clear commitment to innovation.  For the USAF, this means recovering the F-22 combat team as a tip of the spear force.  This has clearly been lost, as the F-22 force moved from the Middle East prior to Libya rather than being a definitively combat element for the Libyan operation.  If this is an example of “leading from behind,” it is time to lead from front.

Rather than to isolate and to put this system into the “Cold War” systems locker, the F-22 combat team – pilots, logisticians and commanders – needs to be put center stage leading the USAF into the F-35 360 combat system era.

By the way, folks who keep commenting about the F-22 as a cold war system, need to get real.  This is a 21st leading combat capability, notably MADL enabled.

This is not about money.  It is about leadership.

As the Honorable Bill Anderson has noted:

The leaders willing to stand and face the firestorm that will be necessary to position our Air Force to continue to do the job in the 21st century will learn from direct line of fire experience that “command is lonely”.  They will have to practice the principle that leadership does not emerge from blind obedience.  They will have to be willing to sacrifice themselves and their careers for the greater good of the Air Force and, more generally, the security of the United States and our allies.  As I was reminded recently, physical courage is not moral courage, so courage on the battlefield does not necessarily equate to the kind of courage required of leaders who will rebuild US air power.  These extraordinary individuals may well be hard to spot.  Is there a Billy Mitchell among us to claw back up that slippery slope?’s-leadership-stupid/

It is about focus.  It is about leveraging the new while generating innovation throughout the combat system enterprise.

This is something Secretary Wynne has always understood.  It will be decisive that others need to put “Wynd” in their sails and to put the future into the present, rather than drifting away into the past, and to strategic irrelevance.

A notable example of thinking that amazes is the concept that the US carriers will be flying F-18s indefinitely.  Of course, the USN can fly F-18s forever off of their carriers. The point is why?  As the Chinese add hypersonic missiles to the strike force, it would be interesting to know how those F-18 enabled carriers remain viable?

Why not move forward?  Link Aegis to F-35 and get on with it.  My article on the Long Reach of Aegis really underscored the significant opportunity the USN has for INNOVATION leaderhip.  Why withdraw into the past?  Why not grasp the future, leverage the new and re-build strategic capability worldwide.