Friday, January 19, 2018

What The National Defense Strategy Should Have Said

As you just read, ComNavOps reviewed the National Defense Strategy and found it to be “absolute garbage”, to quote myself.  Seriously, though, how bad was the unclassified version of the National Defense Strategy?  Well, the best way to answer that is to point out the things it should have addressed and then you can see the magnitude of the deficiency by the absence of those items in the document.

As a reminder, here are some of the general objectives of the administration’s geopolitical National Security Strategy (NSS) as described in a previous post and review. (1)  Included with them are some of the specifics that should have been addressed in the military’s NDS.

  • Deploy a layered missile defense aimed at Iran and NKorea – How?  Land based in neighboring countries?  Sea based?

  • Control weapons of mass destruction – What military options are there for controlling weapons of mass destruction?

  • Strengthen border control and immigration policy – How will the military contribute to border control? 

  • Eliminate terrorist safe havens – How?  Establish a lower tier military force (Super Tucanos, for example) for these lower threats?  What forces will we use?  Does this mean incursions by us into harboring countries?

  • Reestablish military overmatch – How?  What forces or capabilities will we focus on strengthening?

  • Improve readiness – How?

  • Reverse the decline in size of our military forces – How?  Will the Navy stop retiring ships before their service life has expired?  Will the Navy stop deferring maintenance?

  • Modernize the military – In what areas?  What weapons will we pursue?

The NSS, as you’ll recall, addressed specific regional concerns and stated,

“The United States must tailor our approaches to different regions of the world to protect U.S. national interests.”

The military strategy should have addressed those specific regions and threatening countries.  For example,

China – What are the military options to oppose China’s illegal militaristic expansionism?  What military options exist to counter China’s proliferation of illegal artificial islands?  What force structure is needed to penetrate China’s A2/AD zone?  What forward presence can actually be an effective deterrent, if any?  How will we respond to China’s seizures of our military assets?  How can we prevent our assets from being seized?

NKorea – What military options exist to eliminate the threat of NKorean nuclear weapons?  What can the military do to impede NKorea’s nuclear missile development, such as shooting down NKorean test missiles?  What force structure and size is needs to be stationed in SKorea in order to counter NKorea?  Where and how will we resupply our forces in SKorea in the event of war?

Taiwan – How will we protect Taiwan?  What military support can we offer?  Do we have a plan to defend or retake Taiwan when the inevitable invasion occurs?  What force structure do we need to defend Taiwan?  How will we effectively employ the Air Force given the scarcity of bases in the region?

Russia – What military options exist to counter Russia’s militaristic expansionism?  What force level do we need to maintain in Europe to provide an effective counter to Russian’s forces?  How will we respond to Russia’s unsafe harassment of our military forces?

Iran – What military options are there to prevent Iranian harassment and seizures of vessels in international waters?   What military options exist to eliminate Iran’s nuclear threat?  What force structure and size is needed to defeat Iran?

And the list goes on …

All of these questions and many, many more should have been addressed but none were.  That should illustrate just how worthless the NDS is.  I understand that detailed, specific information has to be kept secret – besides, that’s operational level planning, not strategy.  For example, the strategy should  say something like, “we will curtail NKorea’s nuclear missile development by stationing ballistic missile defense ships off the coast and shoot down all missile launches”.  That’s a strategic level statement.  The operational level would deal with the number of ships needed, where to place them, how to sustain them, what backup they need, etc. and much or all of that would, appropriately, be classified.  However, the basic, strategic statement of intent should be public knowledge – partly to inform our citizens who are being asked to support and pay for all this and partly to let NKorea know what they can and cannot do.  The NDS should have been packed with those kinds of statements and it had none.


(1)Navy Matters, “National Security Strategy”, 20-Dec-2017,


  1. Well, as mentioned,there is the classified version which supposedly will talk about options and "give or take" capabilities, numbers, what programs might be kept or canceled, etc....I wasn't a big fan of NSS and NDS seems just to be a continuation of a collection of big words, I'll wait to see what the DoD budget in the next couple of years will look like, that's really when reality will sink in, where is this administration and Congress putting the money to work....For me, that's where I will judge it because they can talk all they want about stopping Russia or China but if it's still just more F35s and LCSs, we know that ain't happening.....

    1. What kinds of things would you expect to see in the budget if a useful and realistic strategy were in place? In other words, what will you be looking to see that would make you feel we were on a better track?

    2. IMHO, a better track would be to get the heck out of Syria, Iraq, stop sending SF and SEALS all over Africa NOW and stop deploying for at least 6 months to give US forces breather. In the mean time, that would give leaders a baseline and just deploy then facing our "existential threats" (phrase has been so overused it has lost all meaning but I diverge...) which according to the new NSS is Russia and China....or at least that is what Mattis was saying. The way I see it, our military strategy has been since the fall of the Cold War to be everywhere, everything, anytime...and that has completely failed. So if the NSS/NDS says to focus on Russia/China, that's where the main focus of money should be going with some leftover for the other scenarios. ARMY should focus on Russia, NAVY should focus on China would be a good start, that's it. STOP trying to be everything! AS for programs, we can't shut down everything and start new, we need to buy something BUT if we still see the SAME NUMBERS of F35s or LCSs,new bombers, new tankers buys, then what difference does all these fancy papers do if the numbers never change?!?

    3. "get the heck out of Syria, Iraq, stop sending SF and SEALS all over Africa"

      Okay. Of course, anywhere we aren't, terrorists can begin to build up a presence. How do you propose to deal with that if we're not deployed "everywhere"? Obviously, dealing with terrorists after they're established is harder than before. I'm not necessarily disagreeing, just trying to establish the bounds of involvement that you propose.

  2. "Okay. Of course, anywhere we aren't, terrorists can begin to build up a presence."

    We need a new turn of mind, and one firmly rooted in our Constitution and common sense. Representative John Duncan has a few shots to take:

    Tony Cordesman also has a cudgel:


    1. Those articles are well and good, very good, in fact, but contain no solutions. In fact, the second, discussing the strategy, is guilty of the very crime it accuses the strategy of which is a lack of specific, actionable solutions! The first article also offers no specific solutions. The guy doesn't want to spend as much money on the military but offers no specifics about what to decrease spending on or how to go about it.

      My question remains, "anywhere we aren't, terrorists can begin to build up a presence", so how do we deal with that? Being "everywhere" is one way to deal with worldwide terror. Pulling back and waiting for a terrorist stronghold to appear and then decisively attacking it is another. Emphasizing cultural and economic actions is another although there is little evidence that that is an effective approach.

      So, I repeat, how do we deal with terrorism if we don't want to be globally deployed?

    2. "We need a new turn of mind"

      We do! In the previous comment I posted and re-posted the question about how to deal with terrorism if we don't want to be globally deployed all the time. I also criticized the articles for not offering a solution and then I asked the question but failed to provide an answer. So, here's my answer.

      We don't globally deploy main forces but we do maintain a global intel presence. That would take the form of satellite, signals intercept/analysis, special forces in very small units whose job is to collect intel and stay out of sight - not fight, UAV surveillance, and any other form of useful intelligence gathering. That would hugely reduce our worldwide footprint.

      Then, and this is the key part, when we find a terrorists collecting in groups of more than three, we hit them hard, with total lethality and no regard for collateral damage. We can modify methods and timing to account for collateral damage concerns but we cannot pass on the strike.

      As I've described in posts, we've caused more deaths in the long run by trying to avoid collateral damage than we could have ever caused by striking. An example, is allowing ISIS oil convoys to pass unhindered out of a desire to avoid the deaths of "civilian" drivers. Well, that oil funded the deaths of thousands of other civilians. So much for our collateral damage concerns. The collateral damage from inaction can be worse than the collateral damage from direct action.

      The strikes would largely take the form of Air Force bombing, cruise missiles, and naval bombardment (hey, where's the Zumwalt or the battleships?). It would not take the form of troops.

      We also cannot be concerned with violating national borders. If a foreign country has terrorists growing in it then they either can't or won't act and they forfeit their right to territorial respect - I'm looking at you Pakistan. I'm also looking at Mexico where drug and immigration constitute a major threat to U.S. internal security and well being but that's another topic.


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