Followers of this blog know that ComNavOps has nothing but disdain for former Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work. Work is responsible for the zealous promotion of the horribly flawed LCS, the stifling of opposition, the promulgation of the idiotic Third Offset Strategy, and a litany of other misguided actions. I consider Work to be a grave threat to the security of the
. That said, I’m now going to turn around and
give Work credit where credit is due.
Breaking Defense website has an article with several quotes from Work
that are perceptive and wise and with which I agree completely. United States
Here’s a series of quotes from the article (1). They speak for themselves. The emphasis is mine.
military] can’t build up war-ready forces to deter United States and Russia while
engaging in non-stop operations around the world, the way we have since 1991.” China
“As the White House, Congress, and the Pentagon struggle to restore the
military’s readiness for war,
Work said, they must avoid two great traps. First, he said, we can’t let the insatiable demands of the
theater combatant commanders (COCOMs) siphon off forces from the vital task of
deterring rival nation-states, above all US and Russia . Second,
he said, we can’t let well-intentioned enthusiasm to build a bigger force – as President
Trump and House
Republicans have promised – come at the expense of readiness and
modernization for the military we already have.” China
“During the Cold War, Work said, US policymakers had clarity about the military’s missions. Deterring the
Soviet Union by standing ready to fight it
– primarily with conventional forces in Europe,
but with nukes if necessary – was unambiguously number one. Readiness to
respond to lesser crises such as came second. “Shaping” operations to advance peace,
stability, and democracy around the world came a distant third. In the
years of Vietnam
unipolar dominance after the fall of the US
Wall, however, those priorities reversed, until shaping become the dominant mission Berlin
“In fact, the way the Defense Department works, COCOM commanders could make unlimited demands without paying any of the cost, …”
“Cut presence before cutting maintenance, for God’s sake!” fumed Work.”
Compare those quotes to ComNavOps’ statements in a recent post about the Combatant Commanders (see, “Combatant Commanders and OpTempo”).
“The entire Combatant Commander setup is geared towards inflated requests, reverse incentives, and leads to premature wear and tear on the military. There is nothing wrong with having a CC as a regional subject matter expert but having them divorced from the budgetary, maintenance, and readiness ramifications of their asset requests is a flawed system.”
Work’s observation about shaping having taken precedence over readiness is particularly astute. We have forgotten that the primary mission of the military is to fight wars, particularly peer wars. Deterrence, shaping, presence, or whatever other term you want to use is fine as a lesser adjunct to readiness but not as a priority over it. By losing sight of that main mission, we have allowed Russia and China to make significant progress towards military parity and eventual superiority.
The various military leaders, uniformed and civilian, make the right noises about readiness (remember CNO Greenert’s “Warfighting First” tenet?) but their actions belie the words. We have yet to make more than minor, half-hearted attempts at restoring combat readiness.
We must return combat readiness to preeminence over all other concerns.
Work also correctly notes the debilitating effect of the unbridled requests from the CoComs. The Combatant Commander model of force allocation is horribly broken and is devastating the Navy. We need to abolish the power wielded by the Combatant Commanders, say no to most of their requests, and return readiness to a higher priority than deployment.
Unfortunately, Work being Work, he then proceeds to completely misunderstand the relationship between size of the military and the costs of modernization.
to modernize its
military and increase its size at the same time, said the
secretary of defense , Bob Work.” US
He’s dead wrong. Of course we can increase size while also modernizing. We have more than enough money if we would spend it wisely. The Ford class was a gazillion dollar cluster-spend that gives us no more capability than the Nimitz class. The LCS was a complete and utter waste – a throwaway of an entire class of ship. The Zumwalt is an absolute embarrassment with no ammo to fulfill its designed intent. The F-35 is an aerial train wreck that is decimating the entire military. The Marine Corps is off the reservation with its insatiable desire to become a third air force. We’re on, what, our tenth set of uniforms for the Navy in the last five years? I can go on almost endlessly but you get the idea. Spend wisely and we can modernize and increase numbers.
Compounding the bad, Work then lists the things that we need to invest in. I won’t bore you with the list but, predictably, it’s almost all technology, little of it increases our firepower, none of it improves readiness or numbers, and most of it is highly questionable.
Former DepSecDef Work had at least a few good ideas. We need to restore combat readiness to our top priority, largely abandon “shaping” efforts, and neuter the CoComs. In short, we need to our military’s focus to its primary mission which is to defeat peer opponents.
(1)Breaking Defense website, “‘At War Next Week’: Bob Work On Readiness, Modernization, & COCOMs”, Sydney J. Freedberg, Jr.,