Blueprints for a future military are piling up fast in Washington, D.C. It seems like not a week goes by that a new report isnt released by one think tank or another with the hope of grabbing the attention of defense aides with the incoming Obama administration. While some of these reports are eminently discardable, others actually have some value, if not for their prescriptions, then at least for who wrote the report.
An example of the latter is a new report titled Building a Military for the 21st Century, put out by the Center for American Progress, a largely Democratic staffed think tank that is also pulling double duty with the Obama transition team. For that reason alone it might carry more weight than others. So lets unpack this one.
The report could be called a progressive agenda, as it aims to rein in defense spending, which it says is out of control, and calls for cutting the familiar list of gold plated weapons systems dreamed up during the Cold War. It says lack of fiscal discipline has created an environment where the services are free to spend as much as they want and buy whatever new weapon they fancy.
One of the most important ongoing debates in defense policy circles is over the types of wars the U.S. likely to fight in the future. One camp says protracted counterinsurgency campaigns in failed or failing states on the order of the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will dominate. The other says the military must prepare for full scale conventional fights against a regional power, which basically comes down to one of three countries: China, Russia or Iran. The answer to that question reveals where an individual or institution is going with force structure recommendations.
The CAP report comes down squarely in the counterinsurgency and irregular warfare camp. While proficiency in conventional fire and maneuver skills, this applies to the ground forces of course, cannot be allowed to lapse, preparedness for stability operations should take precedence.
CAPs solution for bringing defense spending under control is a little fuzzy. They say pulling troops out of Iraq will save $140 billion over the next two years, although $22 billion will need to be redirected to operations in Afghanistan; much of the hoped for savings will come from cutting or slowing development of costly weapons programs.
Read the rest of this story over at DoD Buzz.
-- Greg Grant