- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 29, 2001

Don't destroy the fundamentals of national security strategy

Having arrived at the Pentagon after 25 years in industry, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has brought in veteran corporate players as his senior advisers to help establish a new strategic direction for the Pentagon. But corporate searches for new directions have not been uniformly successful. Fifteen years ago, senior Coca Cola strategists, after a fundamental searching review for new directions, brought forth the fiasco of "New Coke." New Coke failed because the strategic reviewers ignored the fundamentals of their core business. To avoid a New Coke national security strategy, four fundamental rules need to be followed.
First, dont do less with more. The Pentagon now has a budget of approximately $310 billion, supporting a military of some 1.4 million personnel. With the desire to add some $20 billion for the "transformation" and acquisition of major weapon systems, pressure will build both to reduce forces (particularly the Army) and to limit missions. But the United States is the worlds superpower with worldwide responsibilities. The ability to meet those responsibilities requires a substantial force structure, one that not only can deal with worldwide problems but also can train for them while retaining key professionals by ensuring them some time at home. Reducing the force would put great stress on an overburdened military. In fact, the Pentagons analysis after the Kosovo conflict called for increasing some elements of the force.
Missions likewise should remain broad. A fundamental difference between the Cold War and the 21st century is that the military can be used to shape a world in which the use of force becomes less probable. As the dominant superpower, as well as the leader in both democracy and economic prosperity, the United States is in the enviable position of having most countries wanting to partner with us. Leveraging that desire allows the United States to establish a series of regional security communities some formal like NATO, some informal as in Southeast Asia all linked by the involvement of the United States. The more extensive this linked network, the less likely force will be used against the United States, its allies or friends. And if force does become an issue, an established network make deterrence or, if necessary, war-fighting more effective.
Second, dont forget Europe. In an era of globalization, the notion that one critical geographical area can be emphasized at the expense of another should be questioned on its face. In reality, the United States has vital interests in four regions Latin America, Europe, the Middle East/Gulf, and Asia. Europe, which contains the bulk of our key allies and NATO our most successful alliance, provides a bedrock on which other policy initiatives can be based. To be sure, Asia is also crucial. The importance of five treaty allies, including Japan and South Korea, close friends such as Singapore, and extensive international trade cannot be overemphasized.
Additionally, China offers a challenging and complex strategic situation for the United States. But international security is not a zero-sum game for the United States. Rather, success depends on a globalized cumulative effort. Emphasize Asia but dont de-emphasize Europe and the most successful multilateral alliance in history.
Third, dont substitute slides for systems. Transformation of military technology "skipping the next generation" is very much on the minds of the Pentagon strategic reviewers. Further, they have the slides to prove the benefits of achieving transformation. It is true historically that military success often has been the result of achieving technological change. But the history of weapons systems also shows that development generally progresses slowly. Precision guided munitions, which were regularly used in Kosovo conflict, took more than 25 years to move from slides to weapons. Airplanes and computers are further examples of systems that took long to develop their military potential. Transformation is a good idea in concept. In the meantime, however, the challenges of the here and now need to be engaged, deterred and defended.
Fourth, dont forget the real threats. Much of the rhetoric of the strategic review has centered around missile defense. The potential for missile attacks is real enough and missile defense can be worked into a sensible security strategy. After all, the ABM treaty itself explicitly allows for maintaining certain kinds of defenses. But as important as missile defense is, there are other more immediate problems. Cyber attacks on the Pentagon now occur some 30,000 times a year, to say nothing of the multitude of attacks on civilian sites. Criminal enterprises move drugs and money in ways that are destabilizing in Eastern Europe, Latin America and Southeast Asia. Terrorist acts, such as the bombings of our embassies in Africa or of the USS Cole, affect the United States ability to project not only our forces but our diplomacy. In developing our national security strategy, it is critical to deal with these issues, providing appropriate resources for them as well as for missile defense.
When corporate strategists came up with New Coke, that was good material for comedians. Getting the core security fundamentals right will ensure that we do not have a New Coke national security strategy about which nothing would be funny.

Frank Kramer was assistant secretary for international security affairs from 1996 to 2000.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide