Very interesting – I don’t know about focusing the whole military on this type of thing though – it seems China should more prominently figure into our strategy and future plans. This also seems to continue with the administration’s focus on “rogue states” and how to deal with them.
However, I think it’s very good to try to anticipate the types of future conflicts that seem most probable, and to institutionalize the lessons we’ve been learning in Iraq and Afghanistan.
What do other people think?
Big Military Shift
In New Document
Drive for Pre-emptive Force,
Wider Influence Will Trigger
Changes in Strategy, Budget
By GREG JAFFE
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
March 11, 2005; Page A1
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld outlines in a new, classified planning document a vision for remaking the military to be far more engaged in heading off threats prior to hostilities and serve a larger purpose of enhancing U.S. influence around the world.
The document sets out Mr. Rumsfeld’s agenda for a recently begun massive review of defense spending and strategy. Because the process is conducted only once every four years, the review represents the Bush administration’s best chance to refashion the military into a force capable of delivering on the ambitious security and foreign-policy goals that President Bush has put forth since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It is being conducted by senior members of Mr. Rumsfeld’s staff along with senior officers from each of the armed services.
Mr. Rumsfeld’s goals, laid out in the document, mark a significant departure from recent reviews. Deeply informed by both the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and by the military’s bloody struggle in Iraq, the document emphasizes newer problems, such as battling terrorists and insurgents, over conventional military challenges.
Mr. Rumsfeld’s approach likely will trigger major shifts in the weapons systems that the Pentagon buys, and even more fundamental changes in the training and deployment of U.S. troops throughout the world, said defense officials who have played a role in crafting the document or are involved in the review.
In the document, Mr. Rumsfeld tells the military to focus on four “core problems,” none of them involving traditional military confrontations. The services are told to develop forces that can: build partnerships with failing states to defeat internal terrorist threats; defend the homeland, including offensive strikes against terrorist groups planning attacks; influence the choices of countries at a strategic crossroads, such as China and Russia; and prevent the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by hostile states and terrorist groups.
“The question we are asking is: How do you prevent problems from becoming crises and crises from becoming all-out conflicts?” said one senior defense official involved in writing the guidance.
At its heart, the document is driven by the belief that the U.S. is engaged in a continuous global struggle that extends far beyond specific battlegrounds, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The vision is for a military that is far more proactive, focused on changing the world instead of just responding to conflicts such as a North Korean attack on South Korea, and assuming greater prominence in countries in which the U.S. isn’t at war.
The document comes early in the review process, which is conducted at the behest of Congress. Each of the military services already has assembled a large staff to craft plans for attacking the key problem areas identified by Mr. Rumsfeld.
When complete, the review will be sent to Congress, likely early next year. Congress doesn’t have a vote on the secretary’s review, which will be used by the administration to guide its decisions on strategy and spending over the next several budget cycles. The review is unlikely to require any major changes in overall defense spending, which is projected to grow through at least 2009.
But it is likely to trigger some nasty political battles, and potentially pose challenges to defense contractors. The core problems outlined in Mr. Rumsfeld’s review, for example, don’t seem to favor the F/A-22 jet, made by Lockheed Martin Corp., which is the Air Force’s top priority. “I think you are likely to see the Air Force push back hard to preserve the F-22,” said Loren Thompson, chief operating officer at the Lexington Institute and a consultant to several of the military services. “Unfortunately, you can’t find a lot of justification for more F/A-22s in the problem sets the services are being asked to address.”
Already, the review is prodding the services to question the need for expensive weapons systems, like short-range fighter jets and naval destroyers and tanks that are used primarily in conventional conflicts. “A big question is exactly how much is enough to win the conventional fights of the future, and where can we shift some resources to some of these less traditional problems,” said one person involved in drafting the guidance.
The Wall Street Journal reviewed a summary of the document and spoke with several officials who contributed to it.
Mr. Rumsfeld has made transforming the military a priority since the Bush administration took power. But in recent years that push took a back seat to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Inside the Pentagon, the review is widely seen as Mr. Rumsfeld’s last big push to instill his views. Many insiders speculate that he will leave early next year when the review is completed; he has repeatedly dismissed all such speculation and refused to comment on his plans.
Mr. Rumsfeld’s guidance pushes the services to rethink the way they fight guerrilla wars and insurgencies. Instead of trying to stamp out an insurgency with large conventional ground formations, the classified guidance urges the military to come up with less doctrinaire solutions that include sending in smaller teams of culturally savvy soldiers to train and mentor indigenous forces.
The U.S. would seek to deploy these troops far earlier in a looming conflict than they traditionally have been to help a tottering government’s armed forces confront guerrillas before an insurgency is able to take root and build popular support. Officials said the plan envisions many such teams operating around the world.
That represents a challenge for a military already stretched thin by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There aren’t currently enough of these specially trained soldiers and Marines to make the strategy work.
In the past decade, the U.S. military has shied away from helping allies battle internal threats out of concern that U.S. forces would get mired in endless internal conflicts. Instead, the military has focused on helping allies ward off cross-border aggression by selling them higher-end weapon systems.
But the new plan envisions more active U.S. involvement, resembling recent military aid missions to places like Niger and Chad, where the U.S. is dispatching teams of ground troops to train local militaries in basic counterinsurgency tactics. Future training missions, however, would likely be conducted on a much broader scale, one defense official said.
Of the military’s services, the Marines Corps right now is moving fastest to fill this gap and is looking at shifting some resources away from traditional amphibious-assault missions to new units designed specifically to work with foreign forces. To support these troops, military officials are looking at everything from acquiring cheap aerial surveillance systems to flying gunships that can be used in messy urban fights to come to the aid of ground troops. One “dream capability” might be an unmanned AC-130 gunship that could circle an area at relatively low altitude until it is needed, then swoop in to lay down a withering line of fire, said a defense official.
The shift is reminiscent of the situation in the early 1900s, when Marines fought a series of small wars in Central America and were frequently referred to as the “State Department’s soldiers.”
At the same time the U.S. military re-equips itself to deal with low-tech insurgent threats, it also is seeking to dissuade rising powers, such as China, from challenging U.S. military dominance. Although weapons systems designed to fight guerrillas tend to be fairly cheap and low-tech, the review makes clear that to dissuade those countries from trying to compete, the U.S. military must retain its dominance in key high-tech areas, such as stealth technology, precision weaponry and manned and unmanned surveillance systems.
Write to Greg Jaffe at firstname.lastname@example.org