Pentagon Procurement & Civilian Military Relations: The Key to Winning ‘The Long War’

The key to understanding how large monolithic bureaucratic institutions like State, Pentagon and Defense work in tandem with Congress and the White House is to uncover the small yet vital liaisons that work between them.

Why is this important?

Because the lessons of the Cold War, particularly how the US won is instructive for how the west, and specifically the United States must go about shaping Executive Strategy.

I am not advocating the elimination of the separation of powers. I am advocating for strong, informed, determined guidance from the highest levels of civilian leadership in shaping American policy outcomes for ‘The Long War.’  At present, we don’t have an engaged and informed Executive interested in shaping strategy thwarting emerging threats.  Entire fiefdoms (massive monolithic bureaucracies) have co-opted the entire procurement process.  This will leave the US weaker as we engage enemies in combat with archaic war strategies and force posture inconsistent with winning.  For the revolution in military affairs un-managed from the ardent affairs of political strategy will usher in defeat.

More for less cannot win ‘The Long War.’

The QDR, the ‘Quadrennial Defense Review’ was originally envisioned as a long term planning document outlining threat assessments, military strategy, force structure and budgets all inline with establishing blueprints for defense spending.

The last QDR lacked any longterm vision and served as a justification for current defense plans and programs.

Both Congress and Pentagon have forgotten the original intent of QDR.  QDR 2014 will be the last time the Pentagon has to ‘get it right’ before Capital Hill throws out the process altogether.  In 1996, Congress directed the Secretary of Defense to undertake the first QDR.  The act called for an inclusive comprehensive investigation of: defense strategy, force modernization and force structure components.  A revised program was put together in 2005 asking that future QDR expose the following:

Strategy and required force structure,

Scenarios of national security threats,

Non-war operations on force structure,

Technological developments and their impact on force structure, (I would add: the impact on force ‘culture’),

Requirements needed for engagement lasting more than 120 days,

Air/Sealift capabilities,

Forward presence, pre-positioning and anticipatory developments necessary for anticipated conflicts, and finally- – –

Anticipated resources needed to shift between multiple theatres.

We should note that the 1996 legislation created the National Defense Panel, a review panel critiquing all findings.  In 2012 Congress withstood this arrogated attempt to usurp its authority and asked the following:  the QDR must outline its

Assessment of assumptions, strategy and risks associated with anticipated conflicts,

Multiple force structures needed for a variety of threats,

Analysis of Cost,

Analyze trends, asymmetries and operational concepts that characterize the military balance of with potential adversaries, focusing on strategic approaches of possible opposing forces.

As of this writing, the QDR needs to anticipate both the revolution in military affairs for the Pacific theatre, however, it must anticipate the impact such digital revolution will have in Muslim conflicts, especially throughout Central/South Asia.

Note:  the last QDR fell short of its mandate, for it only recognized what it sought as important:  the revolution in military affairs!

As of this writing, the services cannot build stable long-term plans because it will not do tough political work and examine its love affair with overt mass and technology.  Here’s an example:  in 2010 the QDR proposed to retain and institutionalize C.O.I.N capabilities without proposing either larger budgets or force structure.  In early 2012, the Pentagon abandoned the two-war construct and deemphasized C.O.I.N.

The absence of clear force planning construct will fatally weaken the United States.

The QDR must assume a larger budget, larger force structure, multiple theatres, C.O.I.N. & limited R.M.A.  The ever growing assumption of risk is inevitable.  So are budgets!

The QDR must test its analytical assumptions!

Here’s a place to start:  realism!

The United States is operating with a force structure that is destabilizing.  It’s substantially smaller than the first QDR begotten during the Clinton Administration.

We have The Long War, a rising China, a resurging Russia, and much older platforms.

The force is stressed, tired and demoralized.

The acquisition system is broken and cannot be fixed without a stable funding plan.  Sequestration and the debt ceiling are harbingers of a declining power!

Perhaps ever-greater forms of centralization are not sufficient!

What’s required is determined guidance from the highest levels of civilian leadership.

In a word:  Congress!

About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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