The report, entitled “Force Planning for the Era of Great Power Competition,” was published earlier this month by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), which I have previously called a “think tank’s think tank.” Its main conclusion is that while the U.S. military has focused on preparing for high-end conventional conflicts like the First Gulf War, China and Russia have been crafting strategies to achieve their ends without fighting those wars.
Katherine Blakeley, a research fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said there is “a lot of appetite” on Capitol Hill to pass defense spending legislation before the winter recess. But that doesn’t mean it will happen.
“Right now … they’re focused on figuring out the parameters of tax reform. So much as people might like to get a full-year defense bill settled in December, that will take a backseat to tax reform,” she said.
The big question the Air Force must now answer is whether the legacy JSTARS has enough service life to give the Air Force time to develop a systems-of-systems approach for doing the ground surveillance mission, said Mark Gunzinger, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. The technology is ready, he said, but it will take a big shift in thinking for the service to move from considering platforms to a concept of operations.
Bryan Clark, a retired submarine officer and analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said entering the cruisers into a SLEP is the right idea, but along with that would have to come more careful use of the aging hulls.
“Bath has a history of building frigates in the past and could do so again in the future depending on the naval characteristics the Navy wants on this frigate and then what it looks like in terms of pricing and the capacity of the shipyard to build them while they are also building destroyers,” said Bryan Clark, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington.
The person on whose shoulders the fallout from the staffing shortage rests most heavily is Brian Hook, the head of the department’s office of policy planning. A former adviser to Mitt Romney, Hook was a founder of the John Hay Initiative, a hawkish foreign-policy think tank whose other two founders, Eliot A. Cohen and Eric Edelman, were (and still are) among Trump’s most vociferous critics. Cohen and Edelman put their names on anti-Trump letters during the 2016 election; Hook didn’t.