Analyst: 2014 Defense Review Offers Opportunity for Real Reform
“We have a very capable force today. But the QDR is supposed to look out into the future, 20 years in the future and detect trends in the threats, trends in technology and where we should put our resources to be prepared for those future threats.,” Mark Gunzinger, author of “Shaping America’s Military: Toward a New Force Planning Construct, said June 13 during a presentation of the report.
“We need to decide what capabilities we need for the future, before we decide what cuts we’re going to make today,” added Gunzinger, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, the Washington, D.C.-based think tank that published the report.
Gunzinger’s concern is that the QDR that is scheduled to be published in 2014 will simply cut the current military down to a size that is affordable based on the current constrained fiscal environment. Mandated by law, next year’s QDR is the first in 11 years that will be drafted without a seemingly endless pot of money to fund its objectives. In fact, this and the next QDR fall squarely into a timeframe when Pentagon officials can count on shrinking budgets.
“The QDR could become another budget-dominated drill, which could lead the U.S. military to cut force structure, personnel and programs resulting in a force structure that is a smaller version of what we have today — a force structure that is, frankly, best prepared for fading threats,” Gunzinger said. “You should invest in the future first, before you balance the budget.”
Gunzinger contended that the Defense Department’s 1993 Bottom-Up Review may have been the "last time the Pentagon created a new vision for how the U.S. military should prepare to meet the nation’s security challenges.”
Conducted at the end of the Cold War, that review replaced preparing for all-out war against the Soviet Union with the ability to defeat two major cross-border ground invasions similar to the first Gulf War.
The next 20 years likely will not pose Soviet Union-like threats, nor will they mirror the past 12 years of combat in dual prolonged wars against entrenched insurgencies, he said. Therefore, the two-war planning construct is outdated and insufficient to plan for the next 20 years, as the QDR is required to do.
“Not every service has to have the canonical two-war capability,” he said. “DoD needs to maintain that full spectrum of capabilities, not each and every service. That assumption alone could drive some changes in investments and free up resources for higher priority capabilities.”
“Every service should [not] focus its capabilities on the exact same contingencies,” he added. “There are some scenarios that the Air Force is better suited for and some that our ground forces and expeditionary forces are better suited for.”
The next force-planning framework should be complemented by a new set of strategic concepts for each of the military services that “describe how, when, and where each anticipates they will need to defend the nation against future threats,” Gunzinger wrote.
For example, a new strategic concept for the U.S. Army might shift its planning toward developing a mix of land-based offensive and defensive capabilities that could help create a more stable military posture in the Western Pacific and the Middle East.
The Navy should focus on explaining how it plans to maintain it’s offensive capabilities in a world where most potential adversaries can be counted on to have ballistic missiles that can keep carriers far at sea, Gunzinger said. That includes getting serious about adopting an unmanned carrier-based aerial vehicle and learning how to deter network disruptions from a technically advanced enemy, he said.
Together with the Navy, the Air Force could be the nation’s “swing force” to rapidly deploy between theaters to deter two simultaneous conflicts. The Air Force also should focus on long-range strike capabilities to reduce its reliance on costly and vulnerable overseas bases and airstrips, he said.
The Army, Gunzinger said, has an opportunity to explain how a future force will be more capable of imposing losses on enemies in an air-sea battle scenario that doesn’t initially include a large-scale ground assault, perhaps by investing in conventional intermediate range ballistic missiles, he said.
The QDR will give Marine Corps officials an opportunity to enshrine the role they have been clamoring for — to move away from acting as an auxiliary land army and return to being the country’s rapid crisis-response force,” Gunzinger said.
“The services do need new strategic concepts,” he said. “This QDR is an opportunity for the services to get together and jointly create new visions … that will map out how, when and where they will help defend the nation.”