Yesterday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gave one of the most sweeping speeches of the Post-Cold War era on American national security. Building off themes established in the 2008 National Defense Strategy written under President Bush, Secretary Gates presented what he described as “a budget crafted to reshape the priorities of America’s defense establishment. … a holistic assessment of capabilities, requirements, risks, and needs for the purpose of shifting this department in a different strategic direction.”
The key assumption running through the Gates/Bush 2008 National Defense Strategy, is that “Although U.S. predominance in conventional warfare is not unchallenged, it is sustainable for the medium-term given current trends.” Really? “Medium-term” means the next 10 to 15 years. Considering America’s aging military equipment, projected shortfalls in fighter aircraft, attack submarines, aircraft carriers and the rate at which China is building a military that seeks to offset American power with high-end asymmetric capabilities, Gates supposition that American conventional power will remain an effective deterrent is questionable at best.
Following this theme, Gates said yesterday that America’s “conventional modernization goals should be tied to the actual and prospective capabilities of known future adversaries, not by what might be technological feasible for a potential adversary given unlimited time and resources.” This contention is fundamentally flawed. A defense budget, especially one that attempts such a fundamental strategic shift, cannot afford to be tied to the present and “prospective” threats America faces. The unpredictability of future events combined with the decades-long cycles it takes to buy sophisticated military equipment means that the U.S. must plan for the future with a focus on the core capabilities the nation will need to remain prepared for any type of future military operation.
Should the defense budget Obama submitted to Congress be implemented along with the many ill-advised cuts outlined by Gates, America’s ability to project power throughout the global commons and maintain its military primacy across the spectrum will be doubted by friend and foe alike. A narrowly-focused approach that looks only to the present and what we can hope to predict of the future is a strategy unbecoming of a nation that counts itself as the world’s indispensable nation. This path will ensure America becomes a declining military power.
- The Obama Administration’s response to North Korea’s missile launch has been completely incoherent.
- Evading warships from more than a dozen nations, including the United States, Somali pirates seized five ships in 48 hours this weekend.
- Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) on Monday became the first Senate Democrat to oppose the card-check bill heavily backed by unions.
- A White House sponsored health care event in Los Angeles was heavy on calls for ‘universal coverage’ but light on details on how to get it done.
- Completely unlike the Obama Administration auto bailout, Russia’s auto bailout is protecting jobs, not efficiency.