Commentaries on security policies and procurement

Will START Talks Go MAD

By Baker Spring on Friday, February 26th, 2010

Will START Talks Go MAD

Russia has tried to use these treaty talks to lock in its nuclear advantages and take away any potential American defenses, and our side seems ready to agree it will neither improve nor expand its existing system for countering long-range ballistic missiles. Meanwhile, true to Obama’s dream, the U.S. government doesn’t seem to think that having the ability to inflict widespread damage on Russia would be essential to an improved bilateral relationship.

Paying More, Buying Less

By Winslow Wheeler on Friday, January 29th, 2010

Paying More, Buying Less

Much will be made of a few reluctant acknowledgements of reality. The Navy won’t plan on, for now, a new cruiser it can’t afford even under the wildest budget growth assumptions. The Army will continue redesigning the vehicles for its “system of system” target hunting technologies that we now know can’t find even primitive enemies. The Air Force will have to wait, but just a bit, for a new bomber to try, yet again, to attack what it called decades ago “critical nodes.” The Marine Corps will declare a return to its amphibious warfare heritage: to fight its way onto hostile shores — something it has not done since 1945.

US Less Dominant But So What

By Joan Johnson Freese on Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

US Less Dominant But So What

Last week several respected Washington defense analysts told the House Armed Services Committee that we are in decline while Asia is on the rise. While most military analysts watch China closely and never forget the always ambitious Russians, few have been willing to tell Congress or anyone else that what the Chinese might call US hegemony is on the wane. Such an essential critique invites a closer look and requires debate. Our first critique is from two respected scholars, one from the Naval War College and the other from Harvard’s Kennedy School and the war college. Their conclusion: the end of the world is quite a ways off, though US power is in “relative decline.”

More Troops Won’t Fix Afghanistan

By Rick Ozzie Nelson on Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

More Troops Won’t Fix Afghanistan

A major troop buildup in Afghanistan would prolong the war at a moment when the U.S. should be looking for ways to end it. Worse, military escalation could further destabilize South Asia and hinder the Obama administration’s larger efforts to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat” al Qaeda. How might things unravel? Consider the last eight years of conflict in the region. In 2001, U.S. troops and their allies routed much of the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

IW Needs Armor, Firepower

By Colin Clark on Monday, November 16th, 2009

IW Needs Armor, Firepower

A key part of the seemingly endless debate about Afghanistan and Pakistan — not to mention Iraq — has been just what forces are needed to succeed. Most analysts agree that mass — numbers of troops — is one key to success. Most thinktank analysts agree that a counterinsurgency (COIN) approach is best. Deploy close to the people and clear, hold, build. The part that doesn’t get a lot of attention in the public debate is just what it takes to do to the “clear” part. Read Doug MacGregor’s pungent comments on what he thinks the US needs to send.

Win 100 Battles With No Losses

By Dean Cheng on Friday, November 13th, 2009

Win 100 Battles With No Losses

With President Obama heading to China as part of his sweep through Asia, it’s a good time to assess the recent and groundbreaking visit of Gen. Xu Caihou, the Chinese equivalent of the defense secretary to America. The Chinese put on a full-court propaganda press, filled with images of PLA troops helping the afflicted and laced with declarations of China’s peaceful intentions. We turned to Dean Cheng, one of the top analysts on the Chinese military who recently joined the right-wing Heritage Foundation, for his more independent assessment.

Hill Pork Meisters Retreat, A Little

By Winslow Wheeler on Sunday, October 18th, 2009

Hill Pork Meisters Retreat, A Little

The House and Senate Armed Services Committees have taken a small but significant step to eliminate – well, almost – one of the most outrageous congressional behaviors in defense legislation. The appropriators have not — yet. It will be interesting to see what the appropriators do. We should all pay attention.

Buying Smart When Money is Tight

By Robbin Laird on Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Buying Smart When Money is Tight

As the Obama Administration shapes the acquisition approach of the Department of Defense for the years to come, hard choices will be taken. Among the key drivers will be Afghanistan, Iraq and the operation and shape of power projection forces. Finally, how the administration approaches the re-shaping of US expeditionary and power projection forces will have a fundamental impact on the US posture.

Holes in US Defense Umbrella: Wynne

By Mike Wynne on Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Holes in US Defense Umbrella: Wynne

One of the debates bubbling beneath the surface over the last few months has been about just what effects Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ program cuts, combined with a flat defense budget projected for the next five years, would have on America’s ability to project power. Former Air Force Secretary Mike Wynne argues in a commentary that the administration is schizophrenic about its national security approach. On the one hand, the State Department is offering the broadest defense umbrella it can to friends and allies. On the other hand, Gates is cutting crucial systems that would help the US extend and maintain that umbrella.

QDR An Honest Review? Rep. Akin

By Congressman Todd Akin on Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

QDR An Honest Review? Rep. Akin

Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Congress and the American public that the Quadrennial Defense Review would answer many tough unanswered policy and acquisition issues. Now Rep. Todd Akin, ranking member of the House Armed Services seapower and expeditionary warfare, accuses the senior Pentagon leadership of using the QDR “to evade any question they did not want to answer.” Akin calls for his colleagues to pass language ensuring that an independent National Defense Panel will offer “balance” to Gates’ review. Read his commentary.

Stop the F-22 Now

By Commentary on Monday, July 13th, 2009

Stop the F-22 Now

UPDATED: Obama Reissues F-22 Veto Threat in Letter to McCain; Levin and McCain File Amendment To Stop Plane; POGO Tracks Votes

The Senate should debate the F-22’s fate this week . Sen. John McCain, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services committee, has pledged to lead the fight against the F-22, which the committee approved over the objections of McCain and Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the committee. Following is an op-ed by Winslow Wheeler and Pierre Sprey calling for an end to a plane they argue doesn’t work nearly as well as claimed and is far too expensive.

Gates Cuts Leading to ‘Strategic Drawdown:’ Wynne

By Commentary on Monday, April 13th, 2009

Gates Cuts Leading to ‘Strategic Drawdown:’ Wynne

Former Air Force Secretary Mike Wynne argues below that Defense Secretary Gates’ acquisition decisions last week reflect that the United States is focused so intently on “becoming the armed custodians in two nations, Afghanistan and Iraq” that the country is engaging in a “strategic drawdown.” Although the decision to curtail F-22 production attracted much ink in the last week, Wynne argues that the F-22 decision– while important — must be analyzed together with Gates’ other decisions to understand that the Pentagon is “reducing the President’s options to protect U.S. interests.”

DoD Failing To Build Good Strategists

By Commentary on Monday, March 30th, 2009

DoD Failing To Build Good Strategists

America has done a lousy job of ensuring we have a crop of well trained and experienced strategists and must act to fix this. That is the conclusion of Barry Watts, one of the leading US experts on transformation and its discontents and a top analyst of weapons systems. Few failures are as fraught with consequences as poor strategic decision making. We may have the best weapons and and best trained troops, but if we use them badly the results are unlikely to transcend the abilities of the fine men and women who serve in the military. The last decade should be ample proof of the poor quality of our national security strategists.

When Satellites Collide! How to Avoid.

By Commentary on Friday, March 20th, 2009

When Satellites Collide! How to Avoid.

Anti-satellite weapons. There. We’ve got your attention. The topic we are really discussing — space situational awareness (SSA) is something lots of people know very little about because almost everything about it is so highly classified. Read on for a proposed international plan to lessen the chances of satellites colliding.

Is Levin-McCain Bill the Right Path?

By Commentary on Thursday, March 12th, 2009

Is Levin-McCain Bill the Right Path?

Congress is awash in acquisition reform, as it was the last time a Democrat was elected president. Robbin Laird, a defense consultant with a wide practice, wonders whether acquisition reform serves the country or may saddle it with aging and technically inferior weapons.

Insurgents Offer Tough Air Critique

By Commentary on Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Insurgents Offer Tough Air Critique

Tough love remains one of those concepts our society embraces mostly in the negative. It’s just, well, too tough. The following commentary certainly constitutes a fine example of tough love, coming from two of the country’s more distinguished military and airpower analysts. Essentially, Robert Dilger and Pierre Sprey argue that the country should scrap plans for the F-35 and F-22 and build what they call “austerely-designed and affordable aircraft tailored to missions that actually win wars…”

Security Policies We Can Believe In

By Commentary on Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

Security Policies We Can Believe In

The increase in piracy off the Somali and Yemeni coasts has prompted international shipping companies to call for a blockade of the region. Some companies have already decided to go round South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, incurring huge cost increases as high as 30 percent, rather than risk piracy. Defense consultant Robbin Laird writes about what the Obama administration should do to address this crisis.

Raid Pentagon Spending Or Leverage It?

By Commentary on Monday, October 27th, 2008

Raid Pentagon Spending Or Leverage It?

The debate about guns or butter hotted up last week, with Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) calling for an enormous decline in defense spending of 25 percent and the head of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, Rep. John Murtha (D-Penn.) saying money for weapons will have to come from spending slated to fund more Army personnel. Defense consultant Robbin Laird weighs in on the likely impacts of the financial crisis on defense spending.

Fight For Space Assets, Don’t Just Deter

By Commentary on Friday, October 24th, 2008

Fight For Space Assets, Don’t Just Deter

Remember the Chinese shooting down their weather satellite? Remember the Chinese using a laser to paint a US satellite? Remember the US shooting down its own crippled spy satellite, US 193? The debate about how to protect space assets is heating up and one of the top national security space experts, Bob Butterworth, weighs in below for what I will call (in the best Chinese tradition) the third way, arguing that space defense does not require weapons in space.

Former AF Leader on Georgia: What Must be Done

By Commentary on Monday, September 8th, 2008

Former AF Leader on Georgia: What Must be Done

In one of our periodic commentary pieces, former Air Force Secretary Mike Wynne tells us what the US and its allies should do in the wake of the Russian incursion: “Russian actions challenge the West to revisit its ability to defend the states bordering Russia, including the new states of NATO, against Russian military petro-power. Beyond Georgia or Europe, there is the question of the credibility of Western responses to states like Russia that take into their own hands the fate designing borders. After all, the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein led to a unified Western response to restore the territorial integrity of Kuwait. But to do this required a 6-month military buildup before a response could be generated.”

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