Threat Scenarios and the Quadrennial Defense Review
[the last of the Early Bird posts for today . . .] I'm posting this article in its entirety as the website, though free, requires registration. There is much here to discuss. My comments in brackets between paragraphs. ----------------------------------------- Defense News November 22, 2004 Pg. 1 US Revises Threat Scenarios Will Guide Military Restructuring, Weapon Choices By Jason Sherman The Pentagon is building a classified catalogue of new planning scenarios that will play a central role in restructuring the U.S. military and determining weapons and technology are needed for the war on terrorism in coming years. Dozens of scenarios that the U.S. military must prepare for — such as the collapse of a government possessing nuclear weapons — will be narrowed down in coming weeks. Eventually, these new “irregular, catastrophic and disruptive” scenarios will have a place alongside traditional war plans — such as potential conflict with North Korea, China or Iran — in guiding the agenda for the 2005 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), a sweeping assessment of U.S. military strategy, force structure and equipment. [Good that they are revising planning from mere invasions and invasion-defense. There is too much going on to just rely on those plans.] Overseeing this effort is James Thomas, deputy assistant secretary of defense for resources and plans. [Couldn't find this gentleman's bio on the DoD website, which is highly unusual. Perhaps they keep him locked in the library making strategy.] A concerted effort was launched this spring to identify a bundle of new scenarios — between five and 20, according to one defense source — to deal with a wider range of threats identified in the classified 2004 Strategic Planning Guidance. This policy calls for U.S. forces to better prepare for a wider range of challenges, including “irregular, catastrophic and disruptive” threats. [They've used "irregular, catastrophic, and disruptive" twice without defining yet -- poor reporting.] “What we’re looking for is greater variability within the scenarios we consider to make sure we are cross-preparing our force so that it remains highly adaptable as things pop up,” a senior defense official said. “We want to make sure we’re not just balancing risk against the things that are familiar, but also considering things less familiar and increasingly likely.” Key to the effort is to avoid tilting the U.S. military too much toward any given scenario. The United States is well positioned to deal with only one of these emerging threats — countering an enemy that attacks with conventional air, sea and land forces — and Pentagon planners admit that scenario is unlikely. More likely, according to sources familiar with the classified planning guidance, are attacks that aim to erode U.S. power in unconventional ways, such as the irregular warfare of the insurgency U.S. forces now face in Iraq. [Compared to many of the options to erode US power that are on the horizon -- like critical infrastructure attacks, bio-tipped cruise missiles, etc -- the "unconventional" and "irregular warfare" of the insurgency looks pretty darn normal to me.] Less likely, but of growing concern, are “catastrophic” threats that aim to paralyze U.S. leadership and power with surprise attacks on symbolic and high-value targets, as with the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Pentagon officials believe a ballistic missile tipped with a chemical, biological, nuclear or radiological weapon could deliver such an attack with devastating results. [There is something very important to be said about all of this, but I'll wait for the end of the article.*] Disruptive Technologies The challenge that presents the least likely threat — but that, if realized, could render the United States most vulnerable — is from “disruptive” technologies. These include new breakthroughs in sensors, information technology, biotechnology, miniaturization on the molecular level, cyber operations and directed-energy weapons — capabilities so spectacular they would quickly give an adversary an edge. [So basically, "disruptive" means, a technology that a rival develops and employs faster than we are able to even conceive of it and mitigate against it. They must have all of the immigrant talent that attends our research universities and then returns to their home countries in mind.] “There’s a feeling that the scenarios the Pentagon has come up with — Korea, China, Taiwan, the Persian Gulf — are the old tried-and-true, comfortable scenarios,” another defense source said. The size and structure of the force, weapons programs and mix of capabilities will not change if these standard planning scenarios don’t change, he said. “There are a lot of scenarios that are quite plausible and are quite demanding … that need to be addressed [and] would lead to very different kinds of force structure requirements” than those now envisioned, the source said. One such scenario being considered, according to sources familiar with these efforts, is the challenge of dealing with a failed nuclear state — possibly Iran in the future, Pakistan in the near term or even North Korea and Russia at some point. “You would have some peculiar requirements that just don’t get addressed in these other generic scenarios, requirements that would be critical to protecting our security. Those are the kinds of scenarios that Jim Thomas is trying to put into the mix,” the defense source said. [Note that they don't say what these requirements are. That means either they don't even know, or more likely, they don't want to let the cat out of the bag.] The current framework for designing the size and shape of the U.S. military, as well as the mix of weapons and technology, was outlined in the 2001 QDR. That review set the foundation for the “1-4-2-1” national military strategy, shorthand for: defending the United States (1); maintaining forces capable of deterring aggression in Europe, Northeast Asia, Southwest Asia and the Middle East (4); being ready to simultaneously combat aggression in two of these regions (2); and maintaining a capability to “win decisively” in one of those conflicts (1). Clark Murdock, a defense strategy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the unorthodox planning scenarios the Pentagon is developing could be the basis for abandoning the current national military strategy. [Abandoning the current strategy would be a poor decision. Enhancing it to include many possibilities is a better one.] “This is a way of looking at something to replace the 1-4-2-1 construct,” Murdock said. Frank Hoffman, a research fellow for the Marine Corps, also feels the Pentagon needs to plan for scenarios that are much more complex than conventional battles on the books. “The operational environment for future scenarios is more than just military forces, and involves a more integrated approach, and not just in the so-called ‘post-conflict phase,’ “ Hoffman said. [Bingo! Wouldn't you know that the Marine advisor is the one to pre-empt my major comment coming below.] “The next QDR needs to get beyond just a Defense Department approach,” he said. “We need to master multi-agency operations in very complex scenarios. Tomorrow’s contingencies present a much more complex situation with a wide range of hostile, friendly and neutral players.” [Ahem . . . "jointness" anyone? This is the wave of the future, and we need to paddle out and shred it, not get caught inside -- to use some surfing analogies.] To win support from the services and Joint Staff for moving in a new direction, new defense planning scenarios must be vetted through a process dubbed the “analytic agenda,” which involves the Joint Staff and other parts of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Several new scenarios already have worked their way through this procedure. But some on the Joint Staff wonder if there is enough time for the more radical — and controversial — scenarios to be considered before the high-level meeting planned for Jan. 27 in which the 2005 QDR agenda will be set. [Answer: no, there is not enough time. You all move too slowly. Faster in everything please.] While many in the services are eager for a new strategy, some of the new scenarios call into question the relevance of some of the core capabilities the U.S. military has spent decades and billions of dollars building pre-eminence in. [Which might these be? If they are truly irrelevant, then we shouldn't do them. Make some bold adjustments, gentlemen!] Still, Michele Flournoy, another defense strategy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former Pentagon official in the Clinton administration, said the military is keen for a new strategy. “The services are fairly eager for some new guidance to assist in making choices about where to place emphasis versus where to take risk because they cannot do everything equally well across the waterfront,” Flournoy said. “Even with a $400 billion-plus budget, they are going to have to make choices about where to take risk.” ------------------------------------- Here's Chester's big thought for today: As I've mentioned in the context of making intelligence agencies work together more cohesively, "jointness" is what is needed in an interagency way as well. Consider that the War on Terrorism (or against Islamic Fascism) is not merely a military operation, as has been mentioned numerous times by many thoughtful people. But there are few ways to get the various agencies that have key roles to work together in anything other than an ad hoc fashion. We should fix this problem now before even more complex security challenges reach up and bite us you know where. Here are some of the agencies necessary to fight a war against terror: -The DOD -CIA -the remainder of the intelligence agencies -Homeland Security -FBI -hundreds of local law enforcement and emergency personnel -The Dept of Energy -The Dept of the Treasury -the CDC and other such agencies -of course the State Department These agencies are not used to working together. When they do so, they fail as often as they succeed. "Jointness" as a concept, mandated by clear legislation, is necessary to our national survival. I'll be developing this thought over the coming months. Last fall I sat down and wrote out a pretty long outline about the whole topic and would like to explore it further in these pages.