What Is The Requirement?
By American Security Council Foundation ASCF December 5, 2013
Region: Middle East
Recently, a local newspaper published a 12-page special section entitled ''Aerospace, Defense and Homeland Security.'' Twelve members of Congress were among those who wrote columns regarding their concerns about our capabilities in those general areas, as these capabilities have been affected by past and current budget appropriations - and might be affected in the future.
Without exception, the columns identify a large number of objects requiring attention: burgeoning terrorist threats to our homeland, the aging of our air fleets and the erosion of our air superiority, the growing demands of cyber security, the impact of sequestration on the training and readiness of our forces, and the repercussions straining the economy as contracts are cancelled or not renewed and jobs are lost. Overall, the shrinking of our defense budget and the reductions of the armed forces' size and strength will require extraordinary effort, innovation and determination to maintain the quality and mission capabilities of the total force while ensuring the continuing application of new technologies to modernize air, sea and landpower.
Those eloquent and astute expressions of concerns create a prospect of serious challenges for the maintenance of our security and the ability to project military power in the coming years as we attempt to restore our country to economic health. But there is one great question that no one seems to address: What is the grand requirement for identifying the military forces that will be capable of guaranteeing our national security and protecting our national interests? Considering the enormity of the current threats to our well-being, how many ships and carrier task forces and Marine divisions does the Navy really need? How many intercontinental ballistic missiles and squadrons of bombers and fighters will satisfy Air Force mission demands? And, of course what is the end strength and structure of the Army that will provide a reasonable risk land power capability?
The constitutional responsibility for answering those questions rests with Congress. For many years, however, that responsibility has been expressed by DoD, the office of Management and Budget, and the White House staff. No one asks what the requirements are, only what we can have for the dollars we want to spend. Even the Quadrennial Defense Review, originally meant to be a statement of requirements, soon became an accommodation document explaining how well we would fare with the resources made available, a regurgitation of the services' annual POMs (program objective memorandums).
The profusion of threats guarantees that all our armed services face challenges that require serious attention. The greatest threat for which we have to prepare is the worldwide expansion of terrorism, a growth industry promoted principally by Islamist groups of varying strengths, capabilities and locations. Nevertheless, we are still at war in Afghanistan, and we are still being challenged by a growing Chinese military and a Russian resurgence that threatens its neighbors and maintains a world-class nuclear missile delivery capability. Iran and North Korea have become nuclear threats, the Middle East is in turmoil, and terrorist entities are infiltrating Africa and Latin America. There is no dearth of potential crises that might require a military response to protect our interests or those of allies whom we are treaty-bound to assist.
In the face of that situation, we already know that budget allocations of the past two years are reducing the Army to the inadequate size of pre-9/11 and providing little capability to repair the damages and restore the systems lost during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We already know that sequestration will reduce the Army to pre-World War II conditions and the portent of disasters comparable to the early years of that war. We already know that Army leaders must try to balance the retention of structure with the cost reductions promised by ''hollowing'' the force. We already know that a serious crisis involving a major power combination will require a mobilization for which there are no plans and no legislation to draft an Army or to energize industry to wartime production. We already know that the time required to react to any serious crisis will be more costly and will assume greater risks.
Congress should be aware that the policy of ''peace through strength'' requires an anvil of strength before the hammering of peace promises can be dealt with successfully. It is past time for them to ask what the size and structure of that anvil need to be. It is also past time for the services to have such a study at hand in the event that Congress asks.
Gen. Frederick J. Kroesen, USA Ret., formerly served as Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army and commander in chief of U.S. Army Europe. He is a senior fellow of AUSA's Institute of Land Warfare and Vice President of the American Security Council Foundation
Reprinted with permission from ARMY Magazine, Vol. 63 #12, copyright 2013, the Association of the United States Army.