Archive for the 'Quadrennial Defense Review' Category



SECDEF Gates on the Navy and Marines

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 4 months ago

Before we address the issue of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ position on the sea services, let’s debunk the mythical notion that either the military or the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan is bankrupting the country (or even demanding the lion’s share of money).  From CATO (h/t Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit).

That’s quite enough said about that.  On to the sea services.

“Our current plan is to have eleven carrier strike groups through 2040,” Gates said. But a look at the facts is warranted, he added. The United States now has 11 large, nuclear-powered carriers, and there is nothing comparable anywhere else in the world.

“The U.S. Navy has 10 large-deck amphibious ships that can operate as sea bases for helicopters and vertical-takeoff jets,” he said. “No other navy has more than three, and all of those navies belong to allies or friends.”

The U.S. Navy can carry twice as many aircraft at sea as the rest of the world combined, Gates said. Under the sea, he told the group, the United States has 57 nuclear-powered attack and cruise-missile submarines – more than the rest of the world combined, and 79 Aegis-equipped surface ships that carry about 8,000 vertical-launch missile cells.

“In terms of total-missile firepower, the U.S. arguably outmatches the next 20 largest navies,” Gates said. “All told, the displacement of the U.S. battle fleet – a proxy for overall fleet capabilities – exceeds, by one recent estimate, at least the next 13 navies combined, of which 11 are our allies or partners.”

The United States must be able to project power overseas, Gates said. “But, consider the massive overmatch the U.S. already enjoys,” he added. “Consider, too, the growing anti-ship capabilities of adversaries. Do we really need 11 carrier strike groups for another 30 years when no other country has more than one?”

The Marine Corps is now 202,000 strong. It is the largest force of its type in the world, and exceeds in size most nations’ armies. Between the world wars, the Marine Corps developed amphibious warfare doctrine and used it to great effect against the Japanese during World War II. Whether that capability still is needed, however, is worthy of thought, the secretary said.

“We have to take a hard look at where it would be necessary or sensible to launch another major amphibious landing again – especially as advances in anti-ship systems keep pushing the potential launch point further from shore,” Gates said. “On a more basic level, in the 21st century, what kind of amphibious capability do we really need to deal with the most likely scenarios, and then how much?”

The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) will take a particularly tough beating over the course of the next several months and years, but the Marines have rolled out their case.

The Marine Corps unveiled its new $13 billion landing-craft program on Tuesday, a day after Defense Secretary Robert Gates questioned the Pentagon’s need for it …

“Secretary Gates has placed his marker, and he’s not in favor of continuing the program,” said Dakota Wood, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and a retired Marine officer. “The Marine Corps is going to have to come up with a whale of a rationale to convince him otherwise.”

The need, the Marines say, stems from their need to replace its Nixon-era Amphibious Assault Vehicles. The new vehicle will allow Marines to land on a hostile shore, a capability needed, for example, in the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Somalia in the 1990s and civilians from Lebanon in 2006, said Lt. Gen. George Flynn, who leads the Marine Corps Combat Development Command. The amphibious capability also forces adversaries to undertake “costly defensive measures,” Flynn said.

Analysis & Commentary

The issue of expense of military hardware, systems and size has nothing to do with overspending.  It pertains to the relative commitment of this particular administration to national defense as opposed to government-run, government-administered programs and subsidies.  We have the economy to support an even larger military than we currently have.  What we don’t have is the national will.

Aircraft carriers, as much or more than any other military hardware, is a way of projecting power across the globe.  My support of them is well known, and my support for the F-22 program has been made clear.  In fact, I have proposed an increase rather than a decrease in Carrier battle groups.  The size of the Marine Corps is not a problem for the national economy, and it’s easy to question expenditures for a strong national defense while comfortably enjoying the peace and security that it has brought.

But this isn’t the same thing as questioning the need for the EFV and the forcible entry doctrine of the Marine Corps.  I have taken the doctrine to task.

I do not now and have never advocated that the Marine Corps jettison completely their notion of littoral readiness and expeditionary warfare capabilities, but I have strongly advocated more support for the missions we have at hand.

Finally, it occurs to me that the debate is unnecessary.  While Conway has famously said that the Corps is getting too heavy, his program relies on the extremely heavy Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, that behemoth that is being designed and tested because we want forcible entry capabilities – against who, I frankly don’t know.

If it is a failing state or near failing state, no one needs the capabilities of the EFV.  If it is a legitimate near peer enemy or second world state, then the casualties sustained from an actual land invasion would be enormous.  Giving the enemy a chance to mine a beach, build bunkers, arm its army with missiles, and deploy air power, an infantry battalion would be dead within minutes.  1000 Marines – dead, along with the sinking of an Amphibious Assault Dock and its associated EFVs.

No one has yet given me a legitimate enemy who needs to be attacked by an EFV.  On the other hand, I have strongly recommended the retooling of the expeditionary concept to rely much more heavily on air power and the air-ground task force concept.  It would save money, create a lighter and more mobile Marine Corps (with Amphibious Assault Docks ferrying around more helicopters rather than LCACs), and better enable the Marines to perform multiple missions.  I have also recommended an entirely new generation of Marine Corps helicopters.

This is not suggesting that the Marine Corps in any way needs to have its funding cut or decrease its size.  It is to suggest that the money might be more wisely spent in other areas.  The mission still isn’t clear.  Above it has been suggested that the Corps needs the EFV for withdrawal of forces (such as from Somalia) or evacuation of civilians (such as from Lebanon).  But this explanation doesn’t comport with the facts of the program.  “The Corps aims to buy a total of 573 EFVS. This would give it the capacity to amphibiously transport eight infantry battalions of about 970 Marines and sailors per battalion, the Congressional Research Service said in a report dated August 3, 2009.”

We don’t need 573 EFVs and eight infantry Battalions to evacuate civilians from Lebanon.  The Corps obviously plans to replace its amphibious transport of Marines (currently with the LCAC) with the EFV.  The Corps also plans to continue its doctrine of amphibious-based forcible entry.  But as I have pointed out, there is no reason that this cannot be done via air and a new helicopter fleet.  If the plan is to be prepared to invade a near-peer via an amphibious landing, this is lunacy and madness.  If the plan is to save ships by allowing them to be 25 miles offshore, this is naive and sophomoric.  The Navy had better be designing better counter-measures.

While there is every good reason to be more efficient in both military spending and non-defense spending, there is no good reason to cut funding to the Corps.  But the Corps needs to rethink its basic doctrine and reassess the real need for the EFV.  Going in the direction of a lighter, air-sea-based, rapid reaction force has its merits, and should warrant some attention.  Gates should hear fresh thinking from the U.S. Marine Corps, not warmed over 60 year old doctrine.  It’s too bad that the QDR, that brainchild of Michelle Flourney,  is such an incredible waste of ink and paper.  It would have been a good repository for fresh thinking.

Department of Defense to End Preemptive Military Strike Doctrine

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 10 months ago

From Bloomberg:

The Pentagon is reviewing the Bush administration’s doctrine of preemptive military strikes with an eye to modifying or possibly ending it.

The international environment is “more complex” than when President George W. Bush announced the policy in 2002, Kathleen Hicks, the Defense Department’s deputy undersecretary for strategy, said in an interview. “We’d really like to update our use-of-force doctrine to start to take account for that.”

The Sept. 11 terrorist strikes prompted Bush to alter U.S. policy by stressing the option of preemptive military action against groups or countries that threaten the U.S. Critics said that breached international norms and set a dangerous precedent for other nations to adopt a similar policy.

The doctrine is being reassessed as part of the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review of strategy, force structure and weapons programs. Hicks is overseeing the review.

Commentary & Analysis

Kathleen Hicks is currently Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Forces.  She is a major actor in the ongoing Quadrennial Defense Review 2010.  When referring to the co-called Bush doctrine of preemptive military force (or otherwise anticipatory self defense), she is referring to the doctrine outlined in a Bush speech at West Point in 2002.

For much of the last century America’s defense relied on the cold war doctrines of deterrence and containment. In some cases those strategies still apply. But new threats also require new thinking.

Deterrence, the promise of massive retaliation against nations, means nothing against shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend. Containment is not possible when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies.

We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best. We cannot put our faith in the word of tyrants who solemnly sign nonproliferation treaties and then systematically break them. If we wait for threats to fully materialize we will have waited too long.

Homeland defense and missile defense are part of a stronger security. They’re essential priorities for America.

Yet the war on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge.

Ms. Hicks is no neutral observer in the DoD deliberations going on to set strategy, decide force size, select weapons systems and allocate dollars.  Her position has been made clear.

The election of Senator Obama fewer than twelve hours ago has already elicited an outpouring of good will from throughout Africa, Europe, and South Asia, and in Afghanistan. In defense and security circles, we’ve spent the last five years arguing over how to win the War of Ideas against radical Islamists.

I think the answer to that debate is now at hand. The election of Barak Obama is the most profound American idea since the onset of the so-called Global War on Terror. We are indeed at a crossroads. The Obama team must seize on the momentum of this day in crafting its national security policies, freeing the terms justice, freedom, and democracy from their association with preemption, hegemony, and hubris. Ideas, after all, can only be sustained through action.

This is a well worn theme, and Senator Byrd in his pre—Iraqi war resolution address to Congress quoted from a Congressional Research Service September 18, 2002 report that said “The historical record indicates that the United States has never, to date, engaged in a ‘preemptive military’ attack against another nation.  Nor has the United States ever attacked another nation militarily prior to its first having been attacked or prior to U.S. citizens or interests first having been attacked, with the singular exception of the Spanish—American War.”

But such a position is remarkable for its ignorance of American history.  When Continental Congress formed (then two Battalions of) the U.S. Marine Corps on 10 November, 1775, they knew exactly what they were doing.  They had the British model throughout their very own history from which to learn, and that model was entirely imperialistic.

From the first attack on Tripoli in 1805, to the 1871 attack on the Han River forts in Korea, to the 1899 attack on Filipino insurgents at Novaleta (and further engagement of the insurgents in 1901 on Samar), to the 1914 landing in Mexico at Veracruz over an issue with German weapons, to the 1915 engagement in Haiti, to World War I and World War II, and so on and on the list goes, America has a robust history of intervention, anticipation and preemption.

Whatever position is taken on Operation Iraqi Freedom or any other campaign, the question is one of agreement or lack of it for a particular action.  The paradigmatic actions of the Corps is not in question.  Their use was set into motion before the declaration of independence.  Max Boot argues that:

… we have often sought out battle, not waited for it to come to us. Many such interventions have been undertaken as part of America’s long-standing commitment to act as a global policeman. Between 1800 and 1934 Marines staged 180 landings abroad. Some were in response to attacks on United States citizens or property but many were launched before such attacks had occurred.

In the 20th century, these interventions often became quite prolonged. Woodrow Wilson sent Marines to occupy Haiti and the Dominican Republic in 1915 and 1916, respectively. They wound up staying for 19 years in the former, 8 years in the latter. In neither case had there been a direct attack on the United States. Wilson acted for a variety of motives, but probably uppermost in his mind was a concern that Germany might exploit the political instability on Hispaniola to establish a naval presence that might threaten the Panama Canal.

Are these pre-emptive interventions a relic of bygone imperial days? Not quite. Witness the United States landings in the Dominican Republic in 1965 and Grenada in 1983. What were these if not pre-emptive assaults? In the former case, President Johnson feared that Communism might take root in the Dominican Republic; in the latter, President Ronald Reagan, regardless of what he said about imperiled medical students, feared that the Soviets might make use of an airfield being built on Grenada.

The Cuban missile crisis fits a similar mold. President Kennedy resisted calls to invade Cuba but he did not stand idly by waiting for Soviet missiles to be activated. He sent the Navy to quarantine Cuba, an act that easily could have sparked World War III. Kennedy acted even though there was no immediate or likely threat the missiles would have been used against the United States.

Robert Kaplan’s magnificent book Imperial Grunts has a stunning introduction entitled “Injun Country” (one cannot claim to understand the global war on terror before reading this volume). It’s a very erudite discussion of the roots of imperial defense of the homeland, and not just for Great Britain. Its orientation is America, and her defense began soon after she was a country by ensuring that her battles were on the periphery of the domain in the West between the U.S. Army and the Indian nations.

The turn of the century found the United States with bases and base rights in fifty-nine countries and overseas territories, with troops on deployments from Greenland to Nigeria, and from Norway to Singapore. Even before the 9/11 attacks, special operations command was conducting operations in 170 counties per year. Defense of the realm is not a new phenomenon in American history.

But regardless of the position one takes on imperial defense of the homeland, the troubling aspect of the news about the QDR is that a Deputy Under Secretary of Defense is deciding on issues of strategy, funding, force alignment and weapons with at least one purpose of removing the doctrine of anticipatory military action.  Once the doctrine is removed, the capabilities are sure to follow.  After all, that is the purpose of the Quadrennial Defense Review.  This administration’s presence may very well be felt in the military for many administrations to come.


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