Some Concerns on the Current Defense Posture of the United States
Richard Kaplan | Refugee Camps – Afghanistan | Monday October 27th, 2014 : 15:30:27
During the past ten years there have been some dramatic reductions in the defense posture of the military forces of the United States, including reduction in the number of combat brigades, a 25 percent reduction in our submarine fleet, as well as a significant reduction in the training, readiness, and equipment holdings of our Reserve and National Guard units. In addition to reductions in our conventional forces, the United States has just reduced its nuclear arsenal in response to the latest Strategic Arms Treaty to 800 warheads (after we learned that the Russians have been cheating on the Intermediate Nuclear Arms Treaty). These actions beg the question, can the United States still “Maintain Peace Through Strength,” which was the major national security doctrine during the Reagan Administration.
Given the recent actions of Russia in the Crimea and in Ukraine, as well as the growing conventional and nuclear capabilities of China and North Korea, can the military forces of the United States response to aggression at the same level at which it is offered given our current force structure. In the event of a major superpower confrontation, does the United States still maintain the necessary Strategic Lift capability to move both forces and additional equipment beyond current (Pre-Positioned Configurated Unit Sets) to Europe or Asia. Do U.S. defense industries have the ability to surge production of critical military material (given the experience of the U.S. Army in trying to obtain additional armor for Humvee’s during Operation Iraqi Freedom). Most importantly, can the U.S. military rapidly expand conventional forces with the current number of basic training centers currently in operation.
Has the global threat environment evolved to such an extent that the United States, with its worldwide security commitments no longer need to maintain a current force mix that can respond to aggression at any level along the “Conflict Spectrum.” Are the military forces of the United States preparing for combat just with International Terrorist Organizations, or response to War’s of National Liberation, and ignoring the possibility of a large scale superpower confrontation. The current U.S. and Allied Air Campaign again the Islamic State (IS) is an excellent example. While the Obama Administration does not want to commit ground troops to this fight, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey argues that any campaign against IS cannot be won without the introduction of ground troops. While there has been some success in halting the movement of IS forces toward Baghdad, there are indications that IS fighters are integrating themselves into the local population, and thus becoming harder to attack from the air. If this trend continues, it will become necessary to deploy ground troops in a counterinsurgency role to destroy the IS organization.
The arguments in the above paragraphs notwithstanding, some would argue that because of the current economic situation, not only in the United States, but in Europe, has created an atmosphere of constrained economic resources that have necessitated reductions in national defense spending. While this may be true at certain levels, this of course also begs the question, how much are citizens willing to devote in defense of their national security. In the United States since September 11, 2001, most Americans would agree that the world has become increasingly dangerous, not only from global terrorist organizations, but from certain nation state actors such as Russia, China and North Korea. While it is clear that the U.S. Department of Defense is trying to provide the best defense posture it can in an atmosphere of constrained defense spending, in addition to Congressionally mandated sequestration, I can’t help but feel that there is a lack of appreciation on the part of both the Senate and Congress for the current and future global threat environment. I can only hope that as the U.S. economic outlook improves, that additional defense authorizations will be provided to the Department of Defense so that once again the hallmark of our military doctrine will be “Peace Through Strength.”
This article was written to stimulate debate on issues relating to the current and future national security environment as it pertains to the defense posture of the United States. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the views of any organization or institution to which the author is affiliated.