HomeSSQArticle Display
Strategic Studies Quarterly

Volume 08 Issue 3 - Fall 2014

Commentary


Austere Defense: Challenges and Opportunities

W. Michael Guillot

Surviving the austere defense years will require an internal partnership between the DoD, Congress, the defense industry, and the American people. The partnership will necessitate a new approach to how the United States views its defense expenditures—more as the foundation of national security and much less as direct support to a particular constituency. In practice this idea can be translated into several reasonable solutions, including reassessing short-term risk versus long-term strength, accepting best military advice while acquiescing to divestitures, and effectively executing the austere defense cuts required by current law through 2019 and beyond.

Measuring Military Power
James J. CarafanoThere is an unprecedented need for tools that provide a transparent, standardized assessment of US military power over time. A common baseline that describes how much hard power the United States actually has in relation to its vital interests would help discipline the defense sufficiency discussion. The first challenge in grading “military power” is to ask if it can be effectively measured. A second issue will be deciding what to measure. This measure might be limited to clearly definable elements of military power: force structure, modernization, readiness, and sustainability. These factors would have to be part of an annual assessment to determine how US military power is changing over time. A common measure would at least give all sides in the strategy debate a shared platform from which to address the needs for a future military.

Strategy and Force Planning in a Time of Austerity
Brig Gen Michael J. Meese, USA, Retired

GEN Colin Powell once stated, “All of the sophisticated talk about grand strategy is helpful, but show me your budgets and I will tell you what your strategy is.” What General Powell meant was that the definition of the US role in the world and its strategic goals flow from budgets, not the other way around. This commentary fleshes out Powell’s observation by focusing on the “means” part of the ends, ways, and means of strategy to explain how austerity affects force planning and strategy. It then describes today’s austere budgetary environment by first examining budget reductions as a general matter and concludes with the current strategic options that will likely characterize the contemporary discussion of US strategy and force planning.

Stephen D. Chiabotti

Education is the engine of military innovation, creating knowledge capital that is the military answer to austerity. Military education is absolutely essential to conceptualizing and implementing productive change in US security, because we cannot train innovators. Educated men and women sense changes in the security environment that affect the international balance of power. Their horizons are broader than those defined by doctrine and standard tactics, techniques, and procedures. They understand the intricacies of civil-military relations so essential to funding, as well as the moral and ethical boundaries to action. Education is the key to dealing with austerity, because as budgets shrink and capabilities decline, knowledge capital earned in the interim will become critical to US national security.

FEATURE ARTICLE

 

Rethinking Readiness
Todd Harrison

The role of readiness as part of defense strategy is especially important today given the evolving threat environment and the impact of sequestration on defense spending. The trillion-dollar question for defense is: How can resources be allocated most effectively to achieve the readiness required by strategy? The question of how to achieve readiness is fundamentally one of resource management rather than strategy and is of great importance in an austere defense environment. The DoD should use existing METLs to identify the key tasks required of each unit in support of overall defense strategy. From these key tasks, it should develop quantifiable performance measures, using objective standards. Now is the perfect time to rethink how readiness is funded because budgetary and legislative constraints are likely to force the military to cut readiness resources. If the US military does not take advantage of this opportunity to rethink how it postures readiness, an adversary may do so and use its readiness advantage to challenge the United States in peacetime competition or in actual conflict.

PERSPECTIVES

Budgeting for Austere Defense
Mackenzie Eaglen

US defense leaders were not wrong when they forecasted the devastating implications sequestration—coming on top of previous reductions in spending—would have upon the national defense. Rather, these implications have been obscured, spread thin over many priorities, and in some cases forestalled through a series of budget deals, temporary measures, and special exemptions. These actions have created a sort of sequestration purgatory where clear consequences of funding shortfalls are becoming increasingly visible, but the full sequestration bill has yet to come due. In the absence of the intense pain of sequestration in one event or one fiscal year, lawmakers and even Pentagon officials have become sensitized to accept sequestration as the decade-long baseline for austere defense spending. A more logical, responsible, and acceptable path is to reverse course now, before it is too late. A good point of departure would be to return Pentagon spending to the path set by Secretary Gates in FY 2012—about $100 billion dollars per year above where we currently stand for 2015.

Politics and Defense Capabilities: Local Interests versus Strategic Imperatives
Brian Davis

The larger issue threatening US national security is that members of Congress use the military procurement process as an economic stimulus for their districts. For Congress, “to support and defend the constitution” seems to mean stabilizing local economies and creating constituent jobs; while to military personnel charged with protecting the people, it means acquiring specific capabilities for the national defense. But if elected officials are, in fact, more concerned with local economics and constituent jobs, a conflict of interest arises. As a result, the United States must reassess the degree to which politicians may alter the national security roadmap.

DOWNLOAD FULL EDITION
 Download in PDF Format Download in IBook Format   Download in Nook Format Download in Kindle Format 

USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.

Join the Strategic Conversation

Visit the Air University Press on FacebookFacebook Logoand Join the Strategic Conversation.

What are your thoughts on SSQ?

Air University Press Logo
600 Chennault Circle
Maxwell AFB, AL 36112-6010