A New US Defense Strategy for a New Era

On November 15, 2012 by stratagem

Source: Yahoo News

The Landscape

Before developing its recommendations, the Advisory Committee examined the current international and domestic environments as they pertain to defense planning.

International

Threats to US interests are changing rapidly. Russia does not pose, and is unlikely to pose, the threat it once did.  China, though growing in economic and military might, has a complex relationship with the United States, which offers as much reason for hope as fear.  The US is also ending a decade of involvement in the Middle East and South Asia, wars that cost trillions of dollars and more than 7,000 American lives. At the same time, civil wars and unstable political situations remain in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia. Terrorist attacks also continue to unsettle these regions. Still, these threats of instability are ones to be managed rather than solved through prolonged military engagement.

Operational

US military involvement since the end of the Cold War has highlighted the nation’s comparative military strengths and weaknesses. The US is unrivaled in its global flexibility and reach. Its intelligence and reconnaissance assets as well as air, naval, and ground forces can reach anywhere in the world with unparalleled speed and power. At the same time, US capabilities to fight unconventional wars on the ground, to defeat insurgencies, to stabilize governance, and to ensure security for societies in distant regions are limited, at best.  This is not because of any deficiencies in, nor malpractices by, the US armed forces.  The task of imposing order, providing good governance, and inculcating democratic values in foreign, undeveloped societies riven by internal conflicts is simply too hard a task, and not one for which military forces are particularly well-suited.

Fiscal

The US currently faces an unprecedented fiscal crisis driving reductions in government spending, including defense spending. These pressures are most clearly visible in the sequester provision of the Budget Control Act which, if implemented at the start of 2013, would cut the defense budget by ten percent overnight. This cut would constitute one of the most dramatic defense budget reductions in history.

Advisory Committee Recommendation: Shift to ‘Strategic Agility’

In light of a rapidly changing global security environment and rising concern about long-term US debt and deficits, the Defense Advisory Committee met over the course of a year to examine and discuss US defense strategy. The result is a new national security strategy that it calls “Strategic Agility” – designed to strengthen US military superiority while meeting realistic budgetary expectations.

The report highlights ten operating principles that emphasize relying on smaller military units that can be based in the United States and rotated quickly to more austere bases around the world; rebalancing US forces to focus on Asia rather than Europe; and strengthening technological and scientific assets to ensure that the United States maintains its technological edge against all other nations. Key recommendations in the report include:

  • The US should maintain space, air, and naval forces superior to those of any potential adversary.
  • The US should maintain robust and technologically advanced special operations forces to counter terrorists and criminal enterprises, protect US citizens overseas, and for other contingencies.
  • The US should strongly resist being drawn into protracted land wars.  The United States must maintain competent ground forces as a deterrent, and ground force deployments may be necessary to fulfill commitments to allies, but such deployments should be conducted only as part of joint operations to achieve the rapid defeat of the enemy’s forces and the equally rapid withdrawal of US forces, as was done in the first Gulf War.
  • The United States must prioritize funding in research and development budgets, especially basic research in science and technology in pursuit of advanced military capabilities.
  • The US should revise the Cold War nuclear planning assumptions it still uses, which would allow reductions in the size of nuclear forces, preferably through a new treaty with Russia.  Such cuts would free resources for the conventional forces actually used to defend American security.
  • The US should implement long-standing proposals to utilize manpower more efficiently, to reform personnel compensation systems, and to streamline the system used to acquire equipment, goods and services.

By taking these steps—obvious steps to most—the United States can free up resources to devote to defense capabilities that better contribute to US national security.  The US owes a huge debt to all those who have served in the nation’s wars, and particularly to the men and women who have served repeatedly in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This sacred debt can be honored by implementing more effective policies that better care for our service members, even while freeing needed resources.

To read the full report, please visit www.stimson.org

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