By Sebastian Sprenger
A think tank with close ties to the Pentagon has published a vision of U.S. future warfare dominated by sophisticated air and naval weaponry, to be financed by cutbacks in ground forces and associated equipment.
The analysis by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments is meant to offer a solution to the Defense Department’s search for a new “offset” strategy. Such a strategy would aim to preserve U.S. combat power with less money, fewer forces and a growing global parity in military technology, defense leaders have said. CSBA previously has been a driving force behind the Pentagon’s exploration of an “Air-Sea Battle” concept and its core tenet of breaching sophisticated defensive systems of future adversaries.
The new paper by analyst Robert Martinage, a former top Navy official, is titled, “Toward a New Offset Strategy — Exploiting U.S. Long-Term Advantages To Restore U.S. Global Power Projection Capabilities.” It builds on the think tank’s body of work devoted to promoting stand-off combat in highly contested areas — a form of conflict that U.S. forces have not had to face in Iraq or Afghanistan.
As the Pentagon invests more heavily in platforms like a new long-range bomber, the Navy Unmanned Combat Air System and a next-generation MQ-X drone, leaders should “divest legacy capabilities that are likely to depreciate over time,” according to the report.
Among proposed reductions are the Marine Corps Amphibious Combat Vehicle, which Martinage says should be canceled altogether, and an unspecified number of Army brigade combat teams plus requisite “planned modernization.” Additionally, proposed for cuts is the amount of F-35 fighter jets the Pentagon wants to buy, with the “possible” elimination of the carrier variant. “At least” one aircraft carrier also should be divested, according to the analysis.
The number of brigade combat teams in the ground service is a key parameter for determining how many vehicles — and what types — the Army will ultimately need. Service officials have said they are making end-strength reductions in line with spending limits of the 2011 Budget Control Act.
The Marine Corps is currently working on the acquisition of version 1.1 of the Amphibious Fighting Vehicle. Officials were expected to publish a draft request for proposals from industry by the end of the month, Inside the Navy reported earlier this month. As envisioned by the service, two contractors would begin making 16 prototypes each in early fiscal year 2016.
According to the CSBA study, additional funds for building a “global surveillance and strike” network should come from cuts to excess basing infrastructure in the United States as well as reforms aimed at curbing costs for medical care and retirement payments to military members. Congress has previously blocked Pentagon proposals to that effect.
“While many elements of the U.S. military would have important roles to play in a future GSS network, it would rely disproportionately upon air and maritime forces in general and unmanned platforms in particular,” the report states.