Today, the Obama Administration released its new National Security Strategy (NSS), replacing its predecessor that was issued in May 2010.
As the top national-level document framing the president’s approach to national security, it must necessarily address the range of issues that affect the United States’ core interests, to include economic, foreign policy, and physical security matters.
Indeed, more than two-thirds of the document, 19 pages, discusses topics other than physical security. But what is quite surprising is how little attention is paid to the actual ability of U.S. military to deal with the very real threats raised in the seven pages devoted to concerns such as terrorism, homeland security, weapons of mass destruction, and conflict prevention.
In fact, barely three paragraphs are provided that speak to our national defense capabilities, but within this short space three sentences tell one everything they need to know about the misguided notions the Administration has when it comes to providing for the defense of America’s vital national interests.
On page 8, the NSS states:
If deterrence fails, U.S. forces will be ready to project power globally to defeat and deny aggression in multiple theaters…As we modernize, we will apply the lessons of past drawdowns. Although our military will be smaller, it must remain dominant in every domain. With the Congress, we must end sequestration and enact critical reforms to build a versatile and responsive force prepared for a more diverse set of contingencies.
Think about that for a moment. When all else has failed to keep wars from occurring, the military must be ready to conduct operations anywhere in the world, potentially in multiple theaters; remain dominant in every domain (air, land, sea, undersea, space, cyber), account for an expanded set of possible contingencies…but do so with a SMALLER force.
This strategy bets military success on technological superiority, with no explicit acknowledgement of the critical role that capacity plays in military operations, especially those that involve losses due to enemy action.
A force small in numbers can still spread itself over a wide area to pose problems for the enemy (offensively and defensively) but each element is now that much smaller and thus less able to have a military effect on the battlefield.
Conversely, to achieve the mass often necessary for some types of operations, the force must stay together meaning it doesn’t have the ability to do other things in other places. In both these instances—spread out in several very small clusters or kept together in a single larger cluster—any combat losses quickly degrade the ability of the force to continue effective operations (it automatically has even less combat power) and to sustain operations over time.
The NSS stipulates that the U.S. must be able to defend its security interests globally, but accepts a smaller force and presumes a smaller force will be effective in doing so.
In reality, a smaller force—if used at the same or higher level of employment as it is today even for ‘presence missions’ or to ‘build capacity with allies’—will be further worn down and will be ill-suited in capacity and readiness to wage high-end conflicts of any duration.
High use of a small force results in degraded readiness, prematurely consumed life-span for primary platforms (ships, planes, vehicles), increased maintenance costs, and accelerated modernization (replacement) demands in that you have to replace worn-out stuff that much sooner.
This is something our competitors will pick-up on right away and an issue that should concern every American.
There is growing alarm about the impact sequestration levels of funding have had and will continue to have on the ability of our military forces to defend America and protect our country’s interests.
The president and Congress simply must work together to rectify this situation as quickly as possible. Not to do so means placing our military in harm’s way without the resources to accomplish the missions it is called upon to perform, the most egregious of sins when it comes to our nation’s security.