Crafting Defense Strategy from an Astrategic Security Strategy
The last of my four pieces analyzing the revised National Security Strategy has posted at RealClearDefense.
The last of my four pieces analyzing the revised National Security Strategy, “National Security Strategy to National Defense Strategy,” has posted at RealClearDefense.
President Obama released the first National Security Strategy in five years last Friday. As I’ve argued elsewhere, it’s more a wish list than a strategy. That’s a shame because Obama has articulated a much more nuanced view of national security in various speeches and interviews and this was a missed opportunity to put that vision down on paper. Given that it serves as the basis for crafting our National Defense Strategy and dozens of other policy documents across the interagency, that’s a problem.
The setup is rather wonkish, laying out the NSS requirements set out in the landmark Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 and how it in turn leads to a National Defense Strategy, a National Military Strategy, and other follow-on reports. This is important because,
All of these documents are part of the planning phase of the Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Execution (PPBE) System that determines which programs are developed to meet military strategy requirements and how much funding they receive.
Naturally, if the foundational document – the NSS – is flawed, it will create ripple effects throughout this chain and either misinform or fail to inform the programming, budgeting and execution phases.
While there’s room for quibbling here and there, most of that agenda is sufficiently aspirational that it enjoys widespread support on both sides of the aisle. The problem, however, is that it’s all but useless as guidance. If everything is a priority, nothing is.
What, precisely, isn’t the U.S. military going to be prepared to do? The watchword in DoD planning documents in recent years has been “risk.” Given substantial budget cuts, there will simply be less military capability to bring to bear in achieving the perfectly desirable goals laid out in the NSS. Which ones are urgent and which will be put off for another day? Where can we risk a shortfall in capability, and where is it absolutely vital that we be able to answer the call to respond?
Alas, I conclude, it may not matter all that much:
It’s possible that these issues will be rendered less pressing by the late release of the document. DoD is less able to avoid complying with the law than the White House, so the QDR was released last March and won’t be revised again until the next presidential administration—and quite probably the next NSS. The National Military Strategy was last revised in February 2011. There’s certainly enough time to issue an update between now and the end of the administration’s term. Perhaps, given the lack of useful guidance, the Pentagon will simply punt until 2017. Given that real decisions need to be made on personnel structure and weapons systems, that would be a bad outcome, indeed.
Much more, naturally, at the link.