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Vice Chair Cartwright Tells Services to Wake Up to Reality of Smaller Budgets

The point man in charge of requirements at the Pentagon, vice chair of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Hoss Cartwright, just told the services to “wake up!” at a CSIS sponsored conference in Washington, DC. In the real world, not the fantasy bubble of never ending defense budget increases, there are such things as economic dislocation, fiscal deficits and resource constraints, he said.

“You are not going to have 300 to 500 ships. You are not going to have thousands of fighters.” At the same time, America must try and reverse its course of the last decade, which was bringing us to the point where we would have one ship on each coast and one plane on each coast, and focus on quantity to help reverse that stark reality: “We need quantity more than we need that high end exquisite capability. If we can’t figure out how to get to that we’re living in denial of the world we’re in and hoping for the world we want to have in front of us.”

He echoed a theme that we’re hearing more and more from top military leaders, particularly SecDef Robert Gates, in recent weeks: we must think in terms of partnering and building coalitions. Defense planners too often look at a military challenge and say the U.S. military must buy up weapons in sufficient number to meet that challenge (think the rise of China).

That way of thinking must change, said Cartwright. “The reality is we don’t fight alone, we don’t deter alone, we don’t assure alone, everything is done in partnership, everything is done in coalitions… we tend to want to build and buy and field everything ourselves.” That path is no longer affordable.

Cartwright has always struck me as one of the smarter strategic thinkers around. He gets the economic strength equals military strength equation that too many today fail to recognize. “You cannot build strategy in the absence of resources,” he said.

Much more coverage of the CSIS conference on international security at DOD Buzz.

-- Greg Grant

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