Another promising weapon. Another worrying gaggle of mixed directions, uncertain focus and a lack of strategy.
That's the story of Prompt Global Strike, touted as the answer to one of the country's most vexing problems -- how to take out high-value targets far behind the lines and way beyond line of sight with accuracy and great speed. The Government Accountability Office looked at the Pentagon's stop-and-go efforts on this critical capability in a report released yesterday. The report was requested by three stalwart supporters of PGS, Reps. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) , chairwoman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, Terry Everett (R-Ala.), ranking member of the subcommittee, and Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), formerly a senior member of the subcommittee and now chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
The GAO told them there is no official DoD definition of global strike. The different combatant commanders support different approaches. Global strike does not figure in "any existing or proposed joint doctrine publications." Regional commanders and service officials believe that the Strategic Command -- lead proponent for the capabality -- needs to work with them more "to mitigate any misconceptions commands may have about global strike, particularly in light of frequent staff turnover." Those who would use the capability "have not widely participated in joint exercises and other training, which can increase their understanding of global strike." Correcting these would help the Pentagon better plan and develop a system and how to use it, the report says.
Plus the Pentagon needs to conduct a comprehensive assessment of possible systems because it "has not yet begun to develop a prioritized investment strategy," so it doesn't know what choices to make. From past conversations with staff and with intelligence officials it's clear that one of the biggest hurdles for Prompt Global Strike isn't the weapon itself -- though that ain't simple -- it's having the intelligence and a way to link the intelligence with the weapon system. After all, this approach is meant to come up with something that can kill someone or take out a WMD facility pretty much anywhere in the world within half an hour. Perhaps DoD could use that definition and get started?
UPDATE: One congressional aide told me: "Global strike, particularly long-range conventional prompt global strike, hasnt come very far since its inception in the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review. One of the reasons is that the Administrations preferred approach - Conventional Trident Modification -- was a non-starter with a majority of congress. It took DoD a number of years before this fact set in. There now appears to be consensus in Congress for this type of capability; it will be up to the next administration to put forth a technically and operationally viable concept that is also politically acceptable."
-- Colin Clark