- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 13, 2001

The Bush-Cheney administration made a lot of its supporters very nervous last week when it signaled that there would be no immediate increase in defense spending and perhaps none for the rest of fiscal 2001. After all, study after study has shown the armed forces have been seriously underfunded and overutilized for the past decade and Mr. Bush had made a point during the campaign of pledging to fix what is known to ail the military.

By week's end, however, the administration was putting out the word that the promised help for the men and women in uniform was on the way, after all. The new team clarified that it would not only be seeking additional sums for pay, housing and re-enlistment incentives in next year's budget. It would also be willing to seek additional funding in the course of this fiscal year if warranted by a fresh review of strategy and force structure that was ordered by Mr. Bush and expected to catalyze a wholesale transformation of the Defense Department.

Fortunately, the task of completing such a sweeping, yet expeditious review has been given to a man who has trained for most of the past 50 years for just this moment: Andrew Marshall, the Pentagon's legendary director of Net Assessment.

Mr. Marshall is one of the unsung heroes of the Cold War. Since he joined the Defense Department in the mid-1970s, and during his prior service at the Rand Corp., he has been the principal patron of outside-of-the-box thinking within the U.S. national security community. He has consistently challenged the conventional wisdom, often recognizing before the rest of the military establishment the declining utility of existing weapon systems and the need to develop and field new capabilities suited to a changing world.

Working almost entirely outside of public view, Andy Marshall has spawned not only creative ideas; he has been a mentor to a generation of first-rate strategic thinkers and sponsored some of the best security policy research at the nation's academic institutions. While the worst of the many defense secretaries under whom he has served have ignored him and, in one case at least, tried to get rid of him by banishing him from the Pentagon, the best including the only man to hold the position twice, Donald Rumsfeld have prized and benefited greatly from his counsel.

Now, the nation as a whole stands to be the beneficiary of Mr. Marshall's wisdom and unsurpassed corporate memory. These are among the points we must hope his strategic review will underscore:

• The threat from China: Few senior officials have better understood and done more to document the determination of the People's Republic of China to anticipate and prepare itself for conflict with the United States. He grasps the danger the Chinese might pose to U.S. interests in Asia and beyond including outer space and his recommendations about the sizing and equipping of America's military will surely reflect the need to be able to contend with the growing asymmetric and other threats from China.

• The need for urgent deployments of missile defenses: Andy Marshall has long appreciated the risks associated with America's present, absolute vulnerability to missile attack. He also understands, as Secretary Rumsfeld noted recently, that an anti-missile system need not be perfect to have strategic value. The new Marshall Plan should give urgent priority to beginning the deployment of a global missile defense, starting with the approach that promises to be the fastest, most flexible and least expensive: adaptation of the Navy's Aegis fleet air defense ships.

• The requirement for safe, reliable and effective nuclear forces: During his Rand years, Mr. Marshall was a specialist in nuclear weapons matters. Although it is not entirely clear at this writing whether the study President Bush has commissioned to determine the future size of the U.S. deterrent will fall within his mandate, Mr. Marshall certainly appreciates that the quantity of nuclear arms the nation needs is only part of the calculation. Quality also matters and the arsenal must be modernized and tested if it is to remain viable for the foreseeable future.

• Transformation cannot be accomplished on the cheap: President Bush clearly hopes to reconfigure the U.S. military so as to enable it to meet tomorrow's challenges. Andy Marshall assuredly will have many ideas for doing so some of them brilliant, many of them heretical, all of them probably controversial. Still, he would be the first to acknowledge that,even if one envisions revolutionary changes in the weapons of the future (for example, an Army built around lighter, more mobile yet more lethal weapons than main battle tanks and tracked infantry fighting vehicles or a Navy weaned from large carriers in favor of arsenal ships and submarines), the military will have to maintain and operate the preponderance of what it has for at least the next decade or so.

This is more than a matter of correcting current, egregious shortfalls in spare parts and other training- and combat-related gear. There will have to be some interim modernization since the generation of weapons Mr. Bush talked about skipping during the campaign was actually skipped during the last decade. Recapitalization of the armed forces must go forward apace to offset the effects of looming block obsolescence of much of the Pentagon's hardware.

All these steps, to say nothing of the research and development and procurement costs associated with the next generation of military hardware simply cannot be paid for within existing budget limitations. What is more, the increased funding needs to start right away. It will fall to Andy Marshall to help the new Bush-Cheney team and the nation appreciate these facts of life.

For most of the past half century, Andrew Marshall has been a man ahead of his time. Thanks to George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, his time has come.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is the president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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