There was much to
like about George W. Bush's speech at the Citadel yesterday on U.S. defense
policy. It displayed an understanding of the importance of continued U.S.
world leadership, the inability of the current force to meet all its missions,
the need to restore and respect the core values of military culture, and
the promise of the dawning "revolution in military affairs"
to maintain the battlefield edge enjoyed by American troops today. The
necessary next step will be to explain just how much in the way of additional
resources is needed to address the militarys requirements and to
provide a more fully worked-out national security vision to justify any
The speech had several
strengths. Among them:
Bush characterized the current moment as the "era of American preeminence,"
marked not merely by the preeminence of America power but by the victory
of American ideals. It is encouraging to hear a political leader who
does not shy from the responsibilities of preeminence but welcomes the
challenge to "turn these years of influence into decades of peace."
decline. Bush accurately diagnosed the disease of today's military forces:
declining readiness rates, slowed equipment modernization and a declining
quality of military life resulting from the growing gap between the
aims of U.S. defense strategy and the capabilities of our armed forces.
He also understands that the effects of these problems are exacerbated
by the administrations disdain for military culture and the resulting
problems in civil-military relations.
military. While expressing his admiration for those "who willingly
accept the burdens and dangers of service," Bush served notice
that he will not be satisfied simply to preserve the status quo. His
promise to inject a spirit of innovation in the Pentagon carried with
it an implied threat: "I intend to force new thinking and hard
choices." Indeed, the passages on innovation, or the revolution
in military affairs, provided the most thoroughly developed ideas in
the speech. In spotlighting new weapons like the "arsenal ship"--
a stealthy vessel packed with cruise missiles and capable of massive,
long-range precision strikes -- and promising to increase research funding
and to commit 20 percent of procurement spending to leap-ahead systems,
Bush lends impetus to the stalled effort to transform the U.S. military
to meet future challenges.
speech left unaddressed three issues which are key to achieving his goal
of maintaining American preemince.
Bush left unaswered the fundamtental question -- whats worth fighting
for? What to make, for example, of Bush's complaints about "open-ended
deployments" of U.S. forces? Bush supported our intervention in
Kosovo, and he was right to do so. It is unclear from the speech whether
Bush merely wants to bring clarity to the Balkans mission, or to withdraw
U.S. forces from that troubled region as soon as possible. What other
missions would he suggest we withdraw from? We no longer have troops
in Somalia or Rwanda, and we are about to withdraw from Haiti. Does
he intend to scale back the no-fly-zone operations over Iraq? Pull our
two hundred-man commitment from East Timor? Draw down the American garrisons
in Korea or Europe?
The balance between
today's needs and tomorrow's requirements? Despite the need to build
a very different military for the future, U.S. forces cannot afford
to call a time-out from our current commitments around the world while
they investigate the promise of new technologies. Keeping the American
peace requires extraordinary efforts today as well as for tomorrow.
And even for todays responsibilities, our forces are in disrepair
and too small -- the Joint Chiefs of Staff estimate that today's unfunded
requirements exceed $150 billion over the course of the six-year defense
program. Such shortages need to be addressed immediately. Preserving
the peace requires a revitalization of the current military as well
as the creation of new kinds of forces.
How much increased
defense spending? A failure to invest significant additional funds in
defense would undermine Bush's call to extend American preeminence.
The Pentagon's money woes cannot be solved by greater management efficiencies.
Simply matching the last Bush defense budget -- that enacted under his
father in 1992 -- would cost $50 billion above what the Congress will
approve for defense in FY 2000. Hundreds of billions of dollars in planned
investments have been postponed during the Clinton years. As Bush noted
in Charleston, not since the attack on Pearl Harbor has defense spending
been such a small proportion of U.S. gross domestic product.
preeminence cannot be sustained, let alone transformed for the future,
on the cheap or by technology alone. At the Citadel, Bush sketched a vision
of American geopolitical leadership for the coming century. He should
begin now to build the political consensus to realize this vision and
provide the necessary resources.