Friday, March 12, 2010

Preparing to Fail in Two Contingencies

The QDR sets assumptions for force planning (or force rationalization, depending on how you want to look at it). Fine. But how can Defense Department officials perpetuate this fiction?

Rather than focusing on preparing to fight two major wars at the same time to achieve these goals, the military instead must prepare to "succeed in a wide range of contingencies," the official said.

While this decision signals a major change in a policy that has been the staple of U.S. force planning since the 1990s, the official emphasized that this new direction was, in fact, a continuation of the previous administration's work in the 2006 QDR.

We're just now stopping the assumption that we can fight two wars at once? Oh, please!

We have not had a two-war strategy for a very long time. That 1990s strategy called for us to be able to fight two wars nearly simultaneously. That is, if two enemies attack at once, we hold in the less important theater while we focus on the most important one and win there; after which we shift resources to the holding front and win there. I think the last round of the QDR we changed "nearly simultaneously" to "in overlapping time frames," which is the same thing.

The danger in not undestanding that we are continuing the same assumptions we've had for fifteen years is that by trying to argue that only now are we reducing our warfighting goal from two wars to less than that is that it will be used to argue we need less capability. After all, the reasoning could go, why prepare for two war-level forces as we did in the past when we no longer need to fight two wars?

The problem is, we never planned to fight two wars. So we cannot justify reducing defense spending on the assumption that we don't need to achieve as much.