Monday, February 10, 2014

No American National Defense Staff: No Coherent Defense Strategy

Like the British in the run-up to WW I, Americans spend a great deal of time congratulating themselves on defeating enemies that are the contemporary equivalents of the Sudanese Tribesmen at Omdurman in 1999 while dismissing (as most Europeans did before 1914) the possibility that large, powerful, modern Nation States and their supporting allies would ever actually engage in war.  Asking people to ponder the seemingly incomprehensible—Real War—is not rewarded with much attention on the hill or coverage in the press.  Here is a statement of part of the problem from this month’s AFJ:
U.S. casualty lists since 9/11 show that more than 6,700 Americans were killed and more than 45,000 wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Yet in contrast to the major battles of World War II, Korea, and even Vietnam, the vast majority of these casualties were caused by improvised explosive devices during mounted and dismounted patrols, sniper fire, hit-and-run ambushes, accidents and “friendly fire” from some Afghan troops.”[i]
The point is simple.  When it comes to military power, we Americans are living in fantasy land.
We are the only modern scientific-industrial state without a national defense staff and a chief of defense with the authority to act on behalf of the president and SECDEF to determine strategic military requirements, plan and conduct military operations.  Instead, we revel in the absence of national leadership and strategy, an environment that encourages destructive inter-service fights for resources, needless military redundancy and political tampering on the Hill with defense spending for self-enrichment and political benefit.  Like the British in 1914, we’ve got something akin to a war cabinet, but no national defense staff capable of assisting the President and the SECDEF with the execution of their responsibilities. 
Like the British War Cabinet in 1914, our appointed and elected leaders referee  the fight among the services.  In the run-up to 1914, the competition was between the Army and the Navy with the Navy routinely capturing the resources.  Today, the inter-service competition is won by the service or services offering the best spending opportunities to congress and industry, preferably F-35 like programs that are too big to fail.  As a result, too few people are willing to accept or even address the vulnerabilities, let alone, the irrelevance of their pet rocks.
Instead, we are maintaining an Army that now consists of more wheeled armor and infantry than it does of survivable, tracked mobile armored firepower.  We are investing in a weak, infantry-centric Marine Ground Force that is designed to assault defended beaches, a mission Marines have not executed for 60 years.  We are funding prohibitively expensive aerospace programs like the F-35 and ship building programs like the LCS or slow diesel mini-carriers for the Marines that are excessively vulnerable to any opponent with a modicum of capability and add no useful capability to the Navy.  Meanwhile, we are investing defense dollars in ASB’s precision-guided munition salvo for use against a continental opponent, China, that will absorb the strikes like a sponge absorbs water.
Without defense reform led by people other than the usual suspects inside the beltway, the American people are screwed.  It’s that simple.  Cheers, Doug


  1. Thank you for this post. With respect to spending on interdepartment and inter services competition over their 'pet rocks' I found the following astonishing.

    "Myth 2: The intelligence community is underfunded. This is frankly an incredibly shocking statement...and it comes from the Director of National Intelligence, General James Clapper. In his words:

    “Never before has the IC been called upon to master such complexity and so many issues in such a resource-constrained environment...”

    Apparently General Clapper never learned to never say, “Never say never.” As the Washington Post describes later describes:

    “Spending in the most recent cycle surpassed that amount based on the $52.6 billion detailed in documents obtained by The Post, plus a separate $23 billion devoted to intelligence programs that more directly support the U.S. military.”

    That’s $75 billion on intelligence, by my calculations. To be clear, the U.S. spends more on intelligence than every other country in the world--besides China and Russia--spend on all their military spending. The United Kingdom has the third largest military spending in the world, and it only spends $60 billion per year on its whole military.

    Worse, in historical terms, the amount spent on intelligence rivals any time during the Cold War. In other words, far from being “resource-constrained”, the intelligence community has never had as much money on hand as it does now.

    Frankly, General Clapper can only get away with calling the budgeting environment "resource constrained" because a majority of our representatives don't have the ability (or the time) to read the secret IC budget . He can only get away with it because academics can't chart the budget historically, or in detail. He can only get away with it because think tanks and lobbyists funded by defense and intelligence contractors spread this myth through reputable journalists."

    - See more at:

  2. Does anybody else realize how self-inflicted all of these problems have become?

    Speaking as a non-American, there are times I wonder if anybody recognizes this, but pretty much every major problem over the past 30 to 40 years that the US has faced is largely self-inflicted.

    This includes in the military
    - Worn out equipment that is not replaced
    - Endless cost overruns of expensive, ineffective weapons
    - Excessive careerism
    - Declining quality of training
    - Broken military procurement
    - No real focus on warfare; a peacetime garrison mentality

    In the civilian world
    - Hallowing out of the manufacturing base
    - Financial deregulation
    - Corporate tax evasion
    - Political corruption
    - Declining education standards
    - Destruction of the middle class

    The relative gains as a whole that the rest of the world has made on the whole could have been largely averted.

    Ok this is not a comprehensive list, but the point is how appallingly self-inflicted these are. Most alarming of all is a collective inability to think, to self-reflect, and to correct previous mistakes.