- The Washington Times - Friday, August 24, 2001

"Ready, aim, fire," the Pentagon saying goes, generally works better than "ready, fire, aim." In prioritizing the objectives of the ongoing defense review, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld will need to take keen aim before firing or else his vaunted transformation will be badly off the mark. To ensure it is on track, four key points need to be targeted.
First, understand the real 21st century Pentagon missions. Historically, the Department of Defense has been responsible for deterring enemies and winning wars. In the 21st century, that mission has crucially expanded. Most importantly, the United States, as the most dominant factor in a globalizing world, has the unprecedented opportunity to organize regional interconnected security networks that minimize the prospect of the use of force. Those networks can be formal, such as NATO in Europe, or informal as in Asia. Such networks also will enhance the ability of the United States to respond to new threats of cyber attack, terrorism, chemical and biological weapons and missile proliferation.
Second, stay forward. The United States has vital interests in four areas Europe, the Middle East/Gulf, Asia, and Latin America. We operate in each regularly, and our allies depend on our being able to support them in time of need. Generating a positive future depends importantly on establishing strong coalitions in the present. There could be some adjustment in the precise numbers of forces in each area. The crucial issue for the review is not the exact number, but rather whether the Pentagon will maintain a substantial global forward defense strategy for all its vital theatres. We may win our wars even if we have to deploy from the United States, but we will not have to fight most of those wars if we stay forward, build coalitions, and make the use of force by potential adversaries obviously less potent and attractive.
Third, define transformation to include people. Until now, most commentary on transformation has focused on the prospect of new weapons systems. But a fundamental transforming element of the U.S. military victories in Kosovo and the Gulf has been the extraordinarily well-trained and well-qualified people in the military. There is no doubt that technological advantage is of great consequence. But people are of even greater importance. The fact, therefore, that much of the proposed defense budget increase will go to people is not at the expense of transformation. It is part of transformation.
A people-first orientation has two consequences. Since the military needs to be forward to meet its key global engagement mission, as well as its deterrence and war-fighting requirements, it also needs to be explicitly designed as an expeditionary force. This, however, is an expeditionary force of married military that requires the support that normal American families need. Most importantly, family-friendly, efficient personnel rotation systems need to be established but achieving such systems will require a larger force structure. Additionally, a people-oriented system demands sophisticated soldiers, airmen, sailors, and Marines, each of whom takes a long time to build. Force structure cuts, once taken, cannot be quickly turned around.
Fourth, balance the risks correctly. At least two changes in force structure are important. Critical is a shift to a fully expeditionary military able to move promptly to respond to required missions. But also important is to recognize that experience has shown that the current forces are tightly stretched. During the Kosovo conflict, force trade-offs among areas were difficult, and the Kosovo after-action report called for increases, not decreases, in specialized units. Certainly, until it is clear that global engagement, deterrence and war-fighting missions could be met with fewer than existing forces, any reductions ought to be deferred.
The force needs also to be modernized as much as possible with new transforming systems now becoming available, particularly stealth aircraft, advanced precision-guided munitions, new sensors, advanced communications and battle management systems. An additional $10-30 billion annually could be utilized. Whether this needs to be entirely new resources depends on how much of the current budget is necessary to develop a people-oriented expeditionary force system that meets global mission requirements.
One last point: Much of the excited chatter about transformation has come from those who want "something new" but who have left "new" undefined. Cutting the existing force in favor of undefined, still-undeveloped weapons systems is akin to drawing for four-of-a-kind when dealt a full house. While continued new resources are required (and possibly expanded), they first should be for people and then for modernization, rather than for undefined research and development.
The balance of risks strongly favors global engagement with a modernizing force, not a "ready, fire, aim" transformation focused on research and development. Defense judgment day is here. The right calls need to be made.

Franklin D. Kramer is a partner in the law firm of Shea & Gardner and a former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs.

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