We just recently discussed the CSBA proposed offset strategy but it warrants a bit of a follow up. It’s become clear in recent days that Hagel and Work are going to commit the
to exactly this offset path and that greatly worries me. US
Setting aside the asymmetric punishment aspect that is highly questionable and renders the entire strategy suspect, the execution of the strategy seems to be focused on information, networks, data, and surveillance at the expense of high explosives. Consider where the armed forces are already heading.
- The Marines are shedding tanks and artillery in favor of lighter weight, mobile vehicles.
- The AF wants to drop the A-10.
- The Navy has terminated production of Tomahawk missiles with no replacement.
- The mainstay of future aviation is a lightweight, short ranged surveillance and communications node rather than a kick-butt combat aircraft.
- The AF has only 19 B-2 bombers and 180 F-22 fighters.
- The Navy is prematurely retiring combat stores ships that are needed to support sustained combat operations.
- The Navy has dropped another air wing, down to 9 now. That’s effectively dropping a carrier since a carrier is useless without an air wing.
- The Navy is retiring the SSGN submarines with no replacement.
- The Army is being gutted in terms of personnel.
- And so on …
The trend is clear. The armed forces are getting lighter and moving their emphasis away from high explosives and towards information and mobility. Don’t get me wrong, information is extremely valuable – critically so, in fact. The problem is that at some point you still have to blow things up. Taking the current trends to their logical conclusion, we’re running the risk of having a force that can observe with perfect awareness while the enemy crushes us because we don’t have enough armor and big enough explosives.
Now consider where the rest of the world is going. Not a day goes by without reading about another country buying/developing main battle tanks, supersonic missiles, more and larger artillery, theatre ballistic missiles, long range bombers, highly capable frigate/destroyers, etc. The rest of the world is gearing up for serious, high end combat. We’re gearing down for information, mobility, crisis response, and humanitarian assistance.
Lastly, bear in mind that this offset strategy and implementation is being overseen by Hagel and Work. I would be hard-pressed to name two less competent people. Work, in particular, has demonstrated that he will ruthlessly crush any opposition. As we proceed down the offset path and it becomes evident that there are flaws in the strategy and implementation, will we or the military leadership hear about them or will people in the military be so intimidated that they’ll meekly and quietly go along while our military capability goes down the drain? This is exactly what happened with the LCS which was Work’s pet project. He demonized opposition despite the overwhelming evidence that the program was badly flawed. Is this the leadership we can depend on to take us down an already suspect path?
The risk in all of this is that we wind up with an entire military that’s essentially the LCS. Remember all the things the networked, nodal, information-centric LCS was going to do? It was going to dominate littoral combat for generations to come. The reality is that it turned out to have no combat power, whatsoever. Now, we’re looking to strip down our military combat power in favor of information, networks, and surveillance. Do you see the parallel?
Let’s be fair, here. The offset strategy is not an official program, yet, and even if it were there are no specific details published. Perhaps I’m jumping the gun and worrying about nothing or worrying about things that aren’t going to happen the way I’ve laid out. Perhaps we’ll talk about this for a year or two, not much will happen, and then new leaders will take over and things will go in a different direction. On the other hand, what if I’m right? Time will tell.