SECDEF Condemns ‘Next-War-itis’
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is working to change a defense culture that looks too much at fighting the next war to justify expensive, cutting-edge systems that may not be justifiable. Or, as the headline writer of Thom Shanker‘s report puts it, “Gates Wants Weapons to Be Useful in Current Conflicts.”
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates issued a clear warning to the military and its industrial partners on Tuesday that expensive, new conventional weapons must prove their value to current conflicts, marked by insurgency and terrorism, if they hope for a place in future budgets.
In his most direct comments to date on the expected division of labor across the military, Mr. Gates said that the Army and Marine Corps would continue to carry the brunt of the nation’s combat effort. The Air Force and Navy, he said, would be cast as “America’s main strategic deterrent” against potential adversaries such as Iran, North Korea and China.
“I have noticed too much of a tendency towards what might be called ‘Next-War-itis’ — the propensity of much of the defense establishment to be in favor of what might be needed in a future conflict,” Mr. Gates told a conference here sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative policy institute. “Overall, the kinds of capabilities we will most likely need in the years ahead will often resemble the kinds of capabilities we need today,” he added.
Those comments are certain to alarm advocates of the newest generations of high-tech and high-cost weapons programs, in particular the Army’s Future Combat Systems and the Air Force’s F-22 advanced warplane. Both have come under the scrutiny of Pentagon budget officers questioning whether either would be required for missions similar to the current operations in Iraq or Afghanistan. The Army program, whose total cost could exceed $200 billion, “must continue to demonstrate its value for the types of irregular challenges we will face,” as well as for the full-spectrum of conventional conflict for which it was designed, Mr. Gates said.
The defense secretary also criticized a budget process that he said results in the production of fewer, but more expensive, warships, warplanes and armored vehicles.
This, obviously, is directly counter to his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld’s, vision. And pretty much the entire history of the Department of Defense.
He’s absolutely right. Unfortunately, unless John McCain wins in November and reappoints him, he’s not going to be able to see this vision through. And, quite possibly, he won’t succeed even under those circumstances, as the military bureaucracy, relevant congressional committees, and defense contractors (the iron triangle which constitutes the “military-industrial complex Dwight Eisenhower warned about) will be four square in opposition.
via Abu Maqawama