02 February 2006

DOD Plans To Keep Status Quo

The Department of Defense's major planning document is the Quadrennial Defense Review and it will be released next week. The New York Times has an advance copy. At one point, this plan was expected to be a major transformation of the U.S. military.

Donald Rumsfield has been very poor in his conduct of the Iraq War and "war on terrorism," but has distinguished himself, until now, in long term planning for the military's future, shifting the military from a Cold War oriented service fiefdom approach to procurement, to a major rethinking of the military's capabilities, major weapons systems and personnel policy. Major weapons system like the Comanche reconnaisance helicopter and the Crusader mobile howitzer have been cancelled. Other new systems like the DD(X) destroyer and F-22 fighter have been greatly scaled back in terms of number of units to be purchased. The Army's Future Combat system purchase plan was slowed down, but pushed very hard. Some Army units like artillery, air defense and armored units, have been scaled back, to make way for more infantry, more intelligence offiers and more Special Forces. New weapons system initiatives have begun, like the Littoral Combat Ship, and others that were in their infancy when Bush took office like unmanned aerial vehicles and the Stryker Armored Personnel Carrier have received major boosts. The Army has been slated to have its divisional structure scraped and replaced with a structure that uses a Brigade, which is about a third smaller, as the primary command and support resource nexus, and has also adopted a policy of keeping people together in the same unit for extended period of time rather than incessantly suffling people from one unit to another. A complete replacement of all existing small arms used by the Army with more modern, lighter and more reliable models was planned (but just recently delayed indefinitely). Given this track record, more major initiatives were expected in 2006. But, bogged down in trying to manage the Iraq War, this ambitious agenda stalled in the face of opposition from more cautious military officers and analysts.

The 2006 QDR does "expand the number of special operations troops trained in psychological warfare and civil affairs by 3,700." and it "calls for doubling the procurement of attack submarines, from one a year to two, by 2012, and arming submarine-carried Trident missiles with conventional warheads." The plan would "reduce the number of National Guard combat brigades from 34 to 28", but this may not fly politically. A plan to require the Air Force and Navy to buy the same version of the F-35 fighter plan crashed and burned. But, it makes few other bold changes according to the Times. As one writer for the Washington Monthly sums it up:

Is America actually at war? We have a war president, war hawks, war planes, war correspondents, war cries, even war crimes — but do we have war?

....Iraq is not a war, because, though we have savage assault, we have no enemy. The war on terrorism is not a war because, though we have an enemy, the muscle-bound Pentagon offers no authentic means of assault.

It would be easy to dismiss this as pedantry if it weren't for one thing: it seems as though the Pentagon pretty much agrees. In this year's Quadrennial Defense Review there are no terminations of major weapons programs and, apparently, no serious changes planned in the way the military operates.

It is also worth recalling that while the Reserves and National Guard have been called up regularly, that the overall armed forces active duty personnel size remains virtually unchanged from the levels set by President Clinton at the end of the Cold War as part of the "peace dividend", despite the fact that the Army, and to a lesser extent the Marines, are deeply stressed. Indeed, the Navy and Air Force both plan to lay off tens of thousands of soldiers over the next several years.

UPDATE: The Denver Post has more specifics.

The bottom line is "a 2007 budget that seeks a nearly 5 percent increase in Defense Department spending to $439.3 billion."

The plan calls for an increase in special operations forces by 15 percent, including the establishment of the first Marine Corps commando unit.

And there will be a one-third increase - a jump of 3,700 - in troops assigned to psychological warfare and civil affairs units.

That would include efforts to communicate better with people in countries where the military is deployed, said Ryan Henry, principal deputy defense secretary for policy.

There also will be a new five-year, $1.5 billion program to develop medical countermeasures for bioterrorism threats.

The plan, called the Quadrennial Defense Review, will reduce the number of Minuteman III land-based nuclear missiles from 500 to 450, and calls for the conversion of a small number of nuclear missiles aboard Trident submarines to non-nuclear ballistic missiles. . . .

As part of the effort to focus the military more toward handling terrorists, the plan calls for doubling purchases of unmanned aircraft, particularly for surveillance; developing a new long-range bomber force; and building strong partnerships with other nations and other U.S. government agencies.

While no major programs are eliminated, the review would scale back the number of B-52s to 56; reduce the number of Navy aircraft carriers from 12 to 11, a proposal rejected by Congress last year; and cut the Air Force by 40,000 jobs.

The defense budget, meanwhile, would include $84.2 billion for weapons programs, a nearly 8 percent increase, including billions of dollars for fighter jets, Navy ships, helicopters and unmanned aircraft. The total includes a substantial increase in weapons spending for the Army, which would get $16.8 billion in the 2007 budget, compared with $11 billion this year.

In short, a plan more notable for what it doesn't say than for what it does.

No comments: