By Kori Schake, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is the author of “State of Disrepair,” which is about strengthening American diplomacy, and co-author of the study, “National Defense in a Time of Change.”
In the near term, the threats to our interests are numerous small-scale contingencies against militaries not our equal but with pockets of high-tech or disruptive capabilities, like nuclear weapons, cyber or accurate ballistic missiles. In the longer term, there is the potential for China to become a military threat that could challenge us across the military spectrum.
A redesigned military should not be saddled with the dysfunctional weapons acquisition system and unnecessary basing structure it is laboring under.
That argues for a military with the ability to quickly send small and highly trained forces into contested territory and adapt to the nature of each fight. It argues for continuing to explore ways to provide protection against ballistic missile and cyber attacks on our country and our allies. It argues for preserving and enhancing our own pockets of high-tech and disruptive capabilities, like persistent surveillance, cyber, precision stand-off strikes and rapid integration of intelligence into current operations. It argues for reducing our reliance on forward stationed forces, and the vulnerability of those forces to attack. And it argues that ground forces of the magnitude necessary for sustained land warfare or counter-insurgency could be shifted to the reserves.
Two things we would never, never do if we were designing our military from scratch would be to saddle it with the dysfunctional weapons acquisition system and unnecessary basing structure it is laboring under. The acquisition system results in weapons that are insufficiently innovative and too expensive — no actual business could stay in business if it were subject to the procedures the Congress imposes on the Department of Defense (and D.O.D. does itself no favors in the credibility department by being unable to pass a standard audit of its finances). Our military is also stuck paying for 30 percent more bases than it needs. Fixing those two elements of our military would free up more than enough money to buy the force we need within the Budget Control Act top line.