By John Ubaldi–To view the unadbridge version go to In Homeland Security News—
Never in recent memory has America faced such immense global challenges, but is the United States prepared for what confronts the country today?
Is America’s preeminent global military advantage declining and will others overtake the U.S.?
Since the end of the Second World War, America built a world system where prosperity, freedom, and security can be obtained by all, which also gave huge benefits to the U.S., this was all predicated by a military unmatched by any peer competitor. Today, the U.S. is being challenged by authoritative regimes of Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.
These regimes seek to neutralize the U.S. technological advantages and are seeking their own advanced weapons systems and utilizing asymmetric tactics that neutralizes America’s technological advantage. This tactic by our adversaries is currently being conducted across multiple regions and across a variety of economic areas normally dominated by the United States.
America Could Lose the Next War
At the beginning of November, the United States Institute of Peace issued a report conducted by the National Defense Strategy Commission, which argued that America confronts a grave national security and defense threat, with this threat metastasizing the U.S. military advantages have eroded with the strategic landscape becoming increasingly more threatening. If the United States does not show greater urgency and seriousness in responding to this crisis and does not take decisive steps to rebuild its military now, the damage to American security and influence could be devastating.
The proliferation of advanced technology has allowed other nations to challenge the U.S. that was un-thinkable in the past, decisions made by both Republicans and Democrats and the effects of the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011, coupled with the failure to pass timely appropriations have eroded and weakened America’s once vaunted military.
The Decline of the U.S. Military
Sharp decreases in the military has hampered the size, modernization, and readiness of the armed forces, and the report highlighted that the U.S. military could suffer unacceptably high casualties and or loss of major capital assets in its next conflict. It might even struggle to win, or the unthinkable lose a war against China or Russia. The United States is particularly at risk of being overwhelmed should its military be forced to fight on two or more fronts simultaneously.
U.S. Lacks Detailed National Defense Strategy
One of the first aspects the report highlights articulates a deficiency that has expanded in recent decades that the U.S. has not developed a comprehensive National Defense Strategy (NDS) goal that is in line with the current national security strategy and real-world challenges.
Military Analyst Anthony Cordesman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies mentioned that for several decades, American strategic planning has been little more than a facade for annual line item budget debates.
“Arguably, U.S. strategic planning peaked when Harold Brown was Secretary of Defense in 1981. From that point onwards, efforts to create and manage U.S. national security using some effective linkage between strategy and real-world planning, programming, and budgeting activity steadily declined.”
The past few decades the military budget has focused primarily on annual expenditures by each military service and agencies without contemplating or incorporating it into a comprehensive strategic national security strategy which focuses on real-world contingencies currently faced by the United States now and into the future.
U.S. Faces many Global Challenges
The 21st century has opened up numerous challenges for the United States, how would the U.S. plan on dealing with China who currently is increasingly exerting its influence by utilizing military, paramilitary, and diplomatic measures challenging the United States in the Asia Pacific region and other geo-political regions of the world.
China has invested billions in modernizing its nuclear and military forces at the same time the U.S. has failed to modernize its own military capabilities especially after seventeen years of continued conflict.
America’s former Cold War foe Russia has been pursuing its own regional ambitions and polices enacted by the Obama administration, which allowed Russia back into the Middle East for the first time in forty years. Russia has for the past few years pursued various polices that have contested the U.S. in the region, created havoc for America around the periphery of NATO, threatened NATO countries in Baltics, and hope to at the very least weaken U.S. influence.
Russia and China aren’t the only headaches for the United States, other regional challengers are close to having the capability to strike the United States, such as North Korea who consistently has been trying to develop the capabilities to strike the U.S. by investing in ballistic missile technology when perfected would eventually complement their nuclear weapons capabilities.
Iran has been a thorn in the U.S. side since the Islamic revolution in 1979, as Tehran has been striving to perusing its own nuclear ambitions be a nuclear power and the controversial nuclear deal signed by the Obama administration gave Tehran the capital it need to continue and expand its regional hegemon ambitions, but only delayed its reconstituting its nuclear program to a later date.
Since the September 11th attack the threat from radical jihadist groups has not declined but morphed and expanded beyond the Middle East, and now has expanded into the African continent and into the western Pacific region.
U.S. Technological Advantage Eroding
The United States has built its armed forces around being the most technologic advanced military in the world, but this is being eroded as other nations such as China, have been making enormous investments in technology, especially around artificial intelligence (AI). What Beijing can’t gain on its own it steals valuable intellectual properties of a desired company and or gains it by committing cyber-attacks against key U.S. companies.
In 2013, the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, chaired by former Director of National Intelligence Admiral Dennis Blair and former US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, estimated that the theft of IP totaled US$300 billion (A$412 billion, €257 billion) annually, and that 50–80% of thefts were by China.
The most serious threat faced by the U.S. revolves around the budget, the United States national debt hovers around $22 trillion and growing, this provides a serious challenge to modernizing the military to face current real world threats now and into the future.
The one aspect the report didn’t delve deeply in is the federal debt and its impact on the Pentagon. The focus should have mentioned how the U.S. needs a comprehensive 21st century spending overhaul of the federal government and one that that includes the Pentagon.
Pentagon Has Had Numerous Defense Weapons Fail
Far too often the Pentagon has wasted billions on weapons systems that never lived up to their costly expenditures, as Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Davis noted in Armed Forces Journal, titled “Purge the Generals,” he listed an exhaustive short list of Pentagon failures:
- The RAH-66 Comanche armed reconnaissance helicopter (launched in 1991 and canceled after $6.9 billion spent)
- The XM2001 Crusader mobile cannon (launched in 1995 and canceled after $7 billion spent)
- The Future Combat Systems (launched in 2003 and canceled after $20 billion spent)
This is not only systemic to the Army, but all branches of the armed forces have wasted billions that could have been used in other more areas such as readiness and modernizing the military.
In 2011, the Defense Department cancelled the Marine Corps’ expeditionary fighting vehicle after the Pentagon spent $3 billion, even the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, has the Navy finally admitting that his program has been a colossal failure due to massive cost overruns and billions wasted on ships that were designed primarily to protect coastal regions.
The intention was to build 30 ships at a cost of $200 million each. So far, only about four have been built costing around $1 billion each.
Far too much debate centers around cutting the defense budget, but very little discussion on reforming Pentagon spending, one only has to examine the Department of Defense procurement and acquisition system. This is not only broken it’s a colossal failure that only wastes billions, and examples are abundant such as the cost overruns for the Joint Strike Fighter, commonly known as the F-35 costing just under $100 million per plane, its continued escalating cost’s make it the most expensive weapons system.
Congress Also Culpable for Pentagon Waste
You can’t blame just the Pentagon for the bloated defense budget. Lawmakers are equally culpable. In 1961, President Eisenhower gave his famous farewell address, warning of the military-industrial complex, but a draft version had it listed as the congressional military industrial complex, this phrase was later omitted as being to inflammatory.
Examples abound with Congress of both parties protecting their own districts and states with costly weapons systems the Pentagon neither askes for or wanted. This was on full display when then Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno informed Congress in 2013 that the Army didn’t need any additional M-1 Abrams tanks, this fell of deaf hears as lawmakers appropriated $436 million money which Odierno said could be used for other more pressing projects.
This is just one example of how Democrats and Republicans utilize the Pentagon as a job program for their states and districts, without ever considering its real impact on American national security.
This is only the tip of the iceberg of wasteful spending but as the Pentagon begins planning on FY2020 national security strategy it needs to align its strategy around real world threats now and into the future and fully embrace a reform of the Pentagon acquisition and procurement systems.
One only has to look back into history when the U.S. after World War II, dramatically reduced military spending leaving it unprepared for the Korean War, because of the wrong strategic policy decisions many U.S. military personal paid the ultimate sacrifice for short-sided decisions, so we must not repeat this mistake.