Thursday, January 06, 2005

 

Weekly Standard Piece On The Next Defense Review.

Read it here.

Good piece. I'll add a few observations of my own:

-- Nice bit about the "spectrum of conflict." I've discussed that metric (I called it a threat quadrant, but the same concept) on Garfield Ridge before, back when discussing the controversy over uparmored Humvees.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that the spectrum of conflict measurement must be scaled for time. Meaning, today's spectrum could look very different than the spectrum in 2020.

Why do I bring this up? Because there are two types of planning in the Pentagon: strategic planning, and war planning.

In strategic planning, you want to stretch that spectrum towards a far out end point. You're basically giving your military services a strategic roadmap of what the situation ten, fifteen, or twenty years from now might look like. The Pentagon must go that far out in its planning, because acquisition programs take that long to get fielded. If it's going to take me fifteen years to develop, procure, and deploy a new jet fighter/bomber, I'm certainly going to want to take my best guess at what the threat environment will be like in 2019.

The peril here? Try this planning exercise in 1938. Or 1987. Or 2000.

It's simply impossible to predict the future to an exact point. That's why the Pentagon so often plans for the *worst* case scenario, and not the likeliest. Why? Because they hope that by preparing for the worst threat, they can make do with what they have if forced to fight a lesser threat.

Bottom line, as Secretary Rumsfeld stated so controversially, you go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you want.

Now, I mentioned war planning. Here is where a revision to the spectrum of conflict is more important. You may not be able to build the forces you need quickly enough to face a new threat, but you may be able to modify their deployment. Or implement new training. Or reorganize their force structure.

Basically, by having a more realistic (we hope) model of what conflicts today and in the near future will look like, we can at least take steps in the interim to address those challenges.

-- It's always nice to see Loren Thompson quoted. While as a transformation zealot he gets things often wrong, I can't really complain about him: he was a graduate professor of mine, and a very good one (and a nice guy to boot).

What Thompson and others who share his opinion worry about is that by cutting future acquisitions we're mortgaging the house in order to pay the rent. It's a real fear, as there is never enough money to go around. However, in the defense of this Pentagon, they have a better idea of where to steer the transformation effort than previous Administrations, who usually took the route of least political resistance.

That said, it must be acknowledged that in the prelude to this latest QDR there is still an element of that "planning for the worst case scenario" bit I described above. Meaning, the military force under consideration would probably *still* be less than ideal in a counterinsurgency situation like Iraq.

Is that a failing? Perhaps. But again, the force must be shaped to face the threats of ten, fifteen and twenty years from now. That threat may involve another counterinsurgency. However, that threat might also involve operations in the Taiwan Straits. Or WMD containment operations in South Asia. Or counterforce nuclear options in North Korea. Or anti-terrorist operations in the Philippines.

In the meantime, the war planners work to see how they can solve the puzzle of the war we're in with the puzzle pieces that came in the box. Not all the pieces will fit, but we won't have the luxury of making new pieces that do, not for a very long time.

---
This posting was made on my personal computer.

Comments:
Dave, I gotta tell you, I really appreciate this stuff. I've learned quite a bit from reading this sort of thing on your site. Thanks a lot.
 
Sure thing Miguel, glad you appreciate it.

Everybody's got to know something about something. For me, it was either national security strategy, or Precious Moments figurines.

I'm still not certain I chose wisely.
 
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