HASC chairman proposes defense strategy for next president

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Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas. Stars and Stripes file photo
Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas. Stars and Stripes file photo

HASC chairman proposes defense strategy for next president

by: John Ingle | .
Times Record News | .
published: August 22, 2016
 Budget cuts, downsizing and rising global threats have put the next president of the United States in a precarious position when it comes to national security and defense, U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry asserts in a paper published in the magazine "Foreign Affairs."
 
The House Armed Services Committee chairman from Clarendon, Texas, co-authored the article with Andrew Krepinevich Jr., a national defense expert at Leesburg, Virginia-based Solarium and a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. The piece offers their thoughts on a defense strategy the new president will need deploy to successfully protect the country and its interests.
 
"With the current approach failing, the next president will need to formulate a new defense strategy," they wrote. "It should include three basic elements: a clear statement of what the United States seeks to achieve, an understanding of the resources available for those goals, and guidance as to how those resources will be used."
 
Their strategy, they contend, if followed will go toward preventing power grabs by other countries such as Russia and China, and allow continued access to the worlds unowned oceans, air space and space.
 
Primary areas of concern, aside from the United States proper, include Europe, the western Pacific and the Persian Gulf. U.S. involvement in Europe during World War II, Korea and Vietnam on the Pacific Rim, and Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan are examples.
 
Not only does the country face physical threats from outside, but defense cuts have put the military resources at risk of not being able to meet the needs required for defense.
 
"Yet even as the challenges to U.S. security grow, Washington continues to cut its military spending," they said. "Between 2010 and 2015, the U.S. defense budget fell by over 14 percent in real terms, and by roughly 30 percent as a percentage of (the gross domestic product), and it will likely fall further over the next decade, as interest payments on U.S. government debt rise."
 
They continued, "But Washington needs to do more than simply spend more money on defense. It needs a strategy that allocates these dollars more efficiently and in ways that create a more effective military."
 
The authors suggest the next president should first focus on the threats Russia and China pose, and secondly on threats from Iran and radical Islamic groups. To achieve this, the military should take up a "one-and-a-half-war posture" that will allow them to quickly deploy forces to Europe or the Middle East.
 
But, instead of waiting, for example, for China to become more aggressive in the region, they recommend the next president begin work on increasing ground forces in Japan, the Philippines and possibly Vietnam before the option becomes more difficult to do so or is no longer available.
 
The same could be done in Europe to address Russian "proxy forces" that go "beyond its boarders" like in Crimea and Ukraine.
 
Another focus of the new strategy is working toward the United States maintaining its technological military advantage as other countries look to close the gap.
 
"To sustain its advantage in key areas of competition, the U.S. military will have to develop new operational concepts — the methods by which it organizes, equips and employs forces for deterring an enemy or prevailing against one should deterrence fail," the said. "Above all, this means ensuring that the military is focused on the right set of challenges, such as the A2/AD (anti-access/area-denial) threats in those region where the United States has vital interests."
 
A2/AD includes technologies "such as long-range precision-strike weaponry, antisatellite systems, and various cyberweapons."
 
Part of the problem, though, is how long it takes for new technologies from the private sector to reach the military. They said officials at the Defense Department "push new systems' performance characteristics to an extreme," often resulting in blown budgets.
 
"Compounding the problem, Uncle Sam too often spends, relatively speaking, thousands of dollars ensuring that it doesn't get cheated out of nickels and dimes," they said. "It's past time to reform that system by setting more realistic requirements and speeding new equipment into the field."
 
The pair also suggests that a new nuclear age has begun, one in which precision-guides armaments and cyberweapons have entered the fray as methods to potentially disrupt any early warnings of attacks. They also indicate the United States under the Obama administration has continued to count nuclear weapons as done in the Cold War instead of focusing and adjusting to the new nuclear age.
 
"A key initial step toward adapting the U.S. nuclear arsenal involves developing detailed plans to address various plausible crisis scenarios — ones involving the United States, China, and Russia; the possible use of nuclear weapons by minor powers such as North Korea; or a conflict between two nuclear-armed states, such as India and Pakistan," they said.
 
But, there is good news, the authors noted. A bipartisan Congress exists in Washington, D.C., on the matter of restoring defense funding levels to those proposed by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates in 2012. If those levels are reached again, they said, it would put the nation's military in a better position to address security concerns at "a reasonable level of risk."
 
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