The Effectiveness of The Defense Sector After January 2013Editorial by Richard Kaplan | Washington DC | Monday November 19th, 2012
January 2013 will be a critical period for the Department of Defense if the Congress and the White House fail to reach an agreement on future decrements to Government spending to reduce the Nation’s budget deficit that is now the largest in our Nation’s history. If the “Fiscal Cliff” cannot be avoided, in January 2013 the Department of Defense, along with all other Government departments and agencies, will face significant budget and personnel reductions. For the Department of Defense, this process has been referred to as “Defense Sequestration.” What this process could mean to the military services is major reductions and perhaps cancellations in “Research, Development, and Acquisition Initiatives” for new weapons programs, a significant reduction in the “Defense Contractor Workforce,” those highly skilled individual’s that provide so much of the technical expertise that the Department of Defense needs to accomplish its Mission. Having said this, I would take this opportunity to inject some realism into the concern about Defense Sequestration. The one process that the Department of Defense and the military services accomplish better than any other military force in the World in “Contingency Planning.” From the moment that the disagreement began between Congress and the White House over attempts to reduce the budget deficit, the Planning Staff’s within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Military Service Staff Secretariats, began planning for the impact of budget reductions on the military force structure, as well as the impact on personnel readiness. To his credit, President Obama has announced that there will be no reductions of active duty military personnel. In addition, Defense Contractor Organizations, who had been planning on significant personnel staff cuts, and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management planning for a possible “Reduction in Force” of Government Civil Servants, may not see those at all. The Pentagon has circulated a number of draft reports that outline how any budget reductions can be absorbed without reductions in personnel strength. I cannot speak to the activities of other U.S. Government Departments and their planning process, however, I assume that they are exploring all available options to avoid a “Reduction in Force.” What will a reduction in military spending really mean to the Department of Defense? Well, one positive aspect is that it will require the Department to become more “cost conscious” with regard to the Research, Development, and Acquisition Initiatives it undertakes. I hope it will lead to more aggressive oversight of the activities of Defense Contractors, some of whom are notorious for squandering scarce defense dollars. In addition to the concerns already expressed, the most significant issue for the Defense Department to come to grips with is, how they will respond to National Security Threats in the “Post 2014 time period after U.S. Forces are withdrawn from Afghanistan. There have been significant concerns expressed in Professional Military Journals, that the military force structure has been “reduced” to a level where it might be difficult for the U.S. to respond effectively to some threats to our national security. The number of active Army Divisions is an excellent example. Over the past 10 years, the ability of the United States Military to prosecute ground campaigns in both Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as to honor all of our other worldwide military commitments, forced the Department of Defense to place more reliance on Reserve military forces at any time since World War II, with some National Guard and Army Reserve Units undertaking multiple deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Of course it is understood that is the function of Reserve and National Guard Forces, however, in reality, the level of training for these troops (one weekend a month, and two weeks per year), is hardly satisfactory to place these forces in a major conflict situation with a military force from say China, Russia, or North Korea. Herein also lies the problem with our active military forces. During the Cold War (1945-1990) for example, the U.S. Military operated on a “Two and a Half War Strategy.” In other words, the U.S. would maintain a “Force Readiness Posture” that would allow us to fight two major conflicts and one minor one simultaneously. We no longer have this capability and have not for several years. As I have mentioned previously, the current force structure has been so severely degraded that it will be impossible to address many future contingencies that require large ground forces to be deployed. In defense of these reductions, some military theorists argue that “Force Multipliers” can be used including airpower and other sophisticated weaponry. But, what happens if you face an adversary with equally powerful weapons in addition to large conventional forces (i.e. China or Russia). Could the United States be compelled to escalate a conflict to a higher threshold? It is a tragedy that the national security of the United States has to be reduced to a “numbers game.” What price can the Congress and the White House place on the Freedom and Democracy of the American People, not to mention the great number of other Nation’s that depend on a “Strong America” to support our existing Alliance Agreements and Mutual Defense Pacts. Currently, it is the plan within the Department of Defense to increase funding for U.S. Special Operations Forces. This would be a prudent approach if all future conflicts are similar to Iraq and Afghanistan where the adversary is not a professionally trained soldier. In reality, events in the world rarely happen the way that you would like them too. Is there in fact a “guarantee” that all wars in the future will be counterinsurgency operations? Do we want to gamble the security of the United States on that assumption, or – should we be prudent and maintain a force structure capable of responding to any contingency. What I would like to see as a citizen and taxpayer, is the maintenance of a force structure capable of responding to any threat to the security interests of the United States and those of our Allies. I would also like to see increased spending on new weapons programs and capabilities that put in place within the force structure the best and the brightest of what American engineers and scientists can develop, so that battle casualties and collateral civilian deaths during any conflict can minimized. This of course is just one man’s opinion.