Hedging the Future

The quasi-long awaited “Defense Budget Priorities and Choices” is out – you can get the whole thing here.

It is a very mixed and curious bag – but with the expected budget stress, the outlines on page 5 & 6 will get a lot of journeyman discussions from the maritime side of the house;

  • Maintained the current bomber fleet
  • Maintained the aircraft carrier fleet at 11 ships and 10 air wings
  • Maintained the big- ‐deck amphibious fleet
  • Sustained Army and Marine Corps force structure in the Pacific, while maintaining persistent presence in the Middle East
  • Budgeted to forward station Littoral Combat Ships in Singapore and patrol craft in Bahrain
  • Funded development of a new afloat forward staging base that can be dedicated to support missions in areas where ground- ‐based access is not available, such as counter- ‐mine operations

  • Funding for the new bomber
  • Design changes to increase cruise missile capacity of future Virginia- ‐class submarines
  • Design of a conventional prompt strike option from submarines
  • Upgraded radars for tactical aircraft and ships
  • Improved air- ‐to- ‐air missiles
  • New electronic warfare and communications capabilities

  • Retiring 7 cruisers early 6 did not have ballistic missile defense (BMD) capability, and the seventh with BMD capability is in need of costly hull repairs
  • Slipping a large deck amphibious ship (LHA) by 1 year
  • Slipping 1 new Virginia class submarine outside the FYDP
  • Reducing Littoral Combat Ships by 2 ships in the FYDP
  • Reducing Joint High Speed Vessels by 8 in the FYDP
  • Retiring 2 smaller amphibious ships (LSD) early and moving their replacement outside the FYDP

On balance – reasonable stuff; but for me not the most interesting. No, something else on the bottom of page 4 & the top of page 5 had me going back and reading it thrice over; IV & V of the major tenants from the President’s strategic guidance. Ponder with me.

IV. No longer size active forces to conduct large and protracted stability operations while

retaining the expertise of a decade of war

V. To the extent possible, structure major adjustments in a way that best allows for

their reversal or for regeneration of capabilities in the future if circumstances


So, whoever managed to get “V” put in there – drop me a line. Next time I’m in DC, I will personally deliver to you a bottle of Catoctin Creek Mosby’s Spirit.

Well played sir/madame; well played – you’ve bought us some wiggle-room until we get through the Present Unpleasantness.

Let’s parse that a bit. What is “IV” saying? Well, it is more of a political vice strategic statement. It states that we don’t WANT to be able to do something. The fact it might be a need, possibility – or given the unbending lessons of history – a significant likelihood – does not matter. No, a structural change is wanted by the present Administration to bind itself and following Administrations from being able to something.

In other words – like a kid who does not want to mow the yard anymore, stomps his feet and yells at Mom & Dad that, “I hate mowing the yard; I threw the lawn mower in the lake!” – the Obama Administration has decided that it doesn’t want to even have the possibility to do something it thinks is icky.

Interesting. Like the kid and the yard; you can do what you want with the lawnmower and stomp your feet flat – but the grass will continue to grow and eventually either you will be forced to get a new mower or fix the old one and cut the yard – or the adults will have to get someone better (and more expensive) to do it anyway.

That is what “V” is saying. It is the adult’s clause. The adults are saying in effect, “Yes, we know we can’t quite avoid putting IV in as it is one of the boss’s pet projects, but we won’t be hasty and prevent more mature people from coming along here and cleaning up this mess at a later date. We will do what we can to make sure those who follow will at least have a framework to build what is needed when situations allow. Sorry future – but elections have consequences.”

Good googly moogly we’ve seen this movie before.