Washington D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon released the following statement today regarding the President’s new defense strategy:
"This is a lead from behind strategy for a left-behind America. The President has packaged our retreat from the world in the guise of a new strategy to mask his divestment of our military and national defense. This strategy ensures American decline in exchange for more failed domestic programs. In order to justify massive cuts to our military, he has revoked the guarantee that America will support our allies, defend our interests, and defy our opponents. The President must understand that the world has always had, and will always have a leader. As America steps back, someone else will step forward.
"An honest and valid strategy for national defense can't be founded on the premise that we must do more with less, or even less with less. Rather you proceed from a clear articulation of the full scope of the threats you face and the commitments you have. You then resource a strategy required to defeat those threats decisively. One does not mask insufficient resources with a fuzzy world view and a strategy founded on hope and a hollow force. "
Key Questions Raised by President’s New Defense Strategy
Today, the Department of Defense released new strategic guidance, “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense”. This guidance is the culmination of an internal review directed by the President in April, 2011 following his direction to cut at least $400 billion from the military over the next 12 years. While cuts of this magnitude were always on the President's agenda, and would likely have been reflected in his FY13 budget submission, the Budget Control Act of 2011 enacted defense cuts proposed by the President. The strategic guidance released today provides the Administration’s vision for implementation of these cuts.
Unfortunately, the Administration’s framework for implementation fails to learn from the lessons of past, is a significant departure from the strategy embraced by previous administrations – both Republican and Democratic, and fails to acknowledge the perilous global security environment, which may be the most dangerous we have witnessed in a generation.
Embraces the False Proposition that the Deficit Problem can be Solved on the Backs of the Military. It is undeniably a national imperative to reduce the deficit. But the only federal spending the President appears willing to reduce is that for our military. We do not have to accept greater national security risk to reduce the deficit. It is not, as the document puts it, a “national security imperative” to reduce the deficit “through a lower level of defense spending.”
Ignores our Continued Commitment of Forces in Afghanistan. The strategy fails to acknowledge the nearly 100,000 forces who continue to fight in Afghanistan or the impact these austerity measures will have on their ability to successfully complete their mission, return home safely, and be reset. Instead, the President appears fixated on ending our mission to save money. In addition, the Administration has yet to examine how “…this strategy will influence existing campaign and contingency plans.” Rather, the President appears willing to embrace a strategy with an undetermined level of strategic and military risk.
Repeats the Mistakes of the Past. The United States did not choose the time and place of 9/11 attacks. We will not have the luxury of choosing a future conflict, but we do have the ability to prepare for the possibility – if we choose. The military responded admirably in 2001, but our force was ill prepared and too small. The last ten years of war have taught us this lesson. After every major conflict in the last century, the United States has cut its military, only to have to painstakingly rebuild it the next time our security is threatened. Sadly, this strategy repeats the mistakes of the past. The guidance states, “…U.S. forces will no longer be sized to conduct large-scale, prolonged stability operations,” despite the fact that our mission in Afghanistan is not over and that history has taught us this is a perilous course – expensive in both lives and treasure.
Major Departure from Two War Strategy. This strategy appears to walk away from the long standing commitment – across both Republican and Democratic Administrations -- to size the force to respond to two near-simultaneous major contingency operations. The guidance states, “Even when U.S. forces are committed to a large-scale operation in one region, they will be capable of denying the objectives of – or imposing unacceptable costs on – an opportunistic aggressor in a second region.” This appears to differ significantly from the previous defense strategy, most recently released by this Administration as part of the February 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, which stated, “…U.S. military forces must plan and prepare to prevail in a broad range of operations that may occur in multiple theaters in overlapping time frames. This includes maintaining the ability to prevail against two capable nation-state aggressors…”
Anti-access & the Asia Pacific. The ability to ensure U.S. dominance in power projection is a priority that spans domains and regions, but is particularly critical in the Middle East and Asia Pacific. Nevertheless, this guidance does not appear to prioritize capabilities to overcome anti-access/area denial challenges; rather, it merely states that Department of Defense “will invest as required”. This is concerning, particularly in light of the strategy’s vision for a reduced global posture, which helps to ensure our ability to project power. While the strategy plans to rebalance forces toward the Asia Pacific, it provides no commitment to provide additional capabilities to this under-resourced region. Rather, the shift toward Asia appears to come at the expense other regions, most notably the Middle East. This is a dangerous shift.
Reduction in Nuclear Deterrent. The current security environment has unprecedented levels of proliferation, from Iran to North Korea, and with the very real possibility of proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction to non-state actors. The strategy does not make clear how a smaller nuclear force, in terms of both numbers and role in U.S. strategy, will provide a successful deterrence. The strategy is also silent on the importance and planned investments in modernization, which is key to maintaining a credible deterrent that can be deployed forward.
Retreat from U.S. Global Force Posture. The strategy abandons a half a century of U.S. global force presence, on the seas and at the invitation of our allies, that has been the guarantee of global security and has ensured continued U.S. economic supremacy. This forward presence also forms the underpinning of the United States’ ability to project power. The strategy fails to provide alternatives to mitigate the risk created by the vacuum, other than unidentified “creative solutions” that the guidance acknowledges will be required.
Enduring Risk for the Industrial Base. By embracing “reversibility” as a key part of the decisions that resulted in this strategic guidance, the Administration openly acknowledges that it is assuming greater risk. This includes not only strategic and military risk, but risk for the industrial base. The only mitigation provided within this guidance is that “the Department will make every effort to maintain an adequate industrial base and our investment in science and technology.” It is clear that the cuts will come at the expense of not only today’s military, but the future force. The lack of sustained investment will result in the shuttering of elements of the industrial base and the divesture of capabilities that may not be reversible in time.
COURTESY OF HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE
CHAIRMAN BUCK MCKEON (R-CA)