The Economic Impact of Declining Defense Spending
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The president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Tom Mahnken, recently stated in congressional testimony that “wars of the future may no longer lie that far in the future and that these wars are likely to differ considerably both from the great-power wars of the past as well as the campaigns that we have been waging since the turn of the millennium.” Regardless of which strategy or strategies are chosen by governments in this potential return to great power competition, the competitive edge generated by highly professional military personnel honed to individual and collective excellence must be a foundational element. Mastering the profession of arms will be one of the cornerstones of military organizations that seek to successfully prosecute operations in the age of digital warfare.
In April 2012, when the past regime lost Panatag Shoal, the Washington security think-tank Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) urged: “The United States needs to help the Philippines develop its own set of ‘anti-access/area denial’ capabilities to counter China’s growing power projection capabilities.”
Beyond arguing for a larger fleet, authors of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments report on the potential boost of defense funding, say the Navy needs to be re-structured to meet likely future threats. Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the center, joined Federal Drive with Tom Temin to discuss what that re-imagined fleet would look like.
Not everyone is excited. At the AUSA conference in Huntsville, an analyst, historian and top aide to Milley’s predecessor, retired Col. David Johnson, warns we may have already overloaded Brigade Combat Team commanders with too many capabilities that once were managed by divisions or even corps. “The BCT has become the division… the focal point of just about everything. We ought to challenge that assertion,” Johnson said. “Should we keep pushing capabilities down to the BCT or relook the role of divisions and corps, and focus the brigade on the close fight?”
Because companies won't hire excess workers in advance, they will have a huge challenge in expanding their workforces rapidly if a shipbuilding boom materializes, said Bryan Clark, who led strategic planning for the Navy as special assistant to the chief of Naval Operations until 2013.
Dealing with problems associated with operating and building a fleet can be so self-absorbing that one could miss how changes in the strategic environment are increasing the need for maritime thinking and sea power in general. Unfortunately, Western navies are not well disposed to understand and relate the broader implications of those changes to naval purpose – which of course must be defined before embarking on efforts to redesign and recapitalize the fleet. In terms of time and talent, the focus is on finding high-tech solutions to operational-level problems. In these naval institutions, that which is learned and inculcated is limited to that which is useful in the context of naval operations. While strategic and economic history is not thought to be of much use, it is precisely the kind of knowledge needed to understand such implications and think in maritime terms