Academic journal article Military Review

Toward a Strong and Sustainable Defense Enterprise

Academic journal article Military Review

Toward a Strong and Sustainable Defense Enterprise

Article excerpt

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is undergoing a defining time of transition. After 13 years of war fought by an all-volunteer force, we are reshaping our defense enterprise to adapt to a fiscal environment plagued by constant uncertainty and declining resources, and to a strategic environment shaped by a historic realignment of interests and influences around the world.

The Defense Department is grappling with downward budget pressures, cumbersome legislative constraints on how we manage our institution, and the unpredictability of both continuing resolutions and the threat of sequestration. At the same time, enduring and emerging powers are challenging the world order that American leadership helped build after World War II. In the Middle East and North Africa, the order within and between nation-states is being recast in ways that we have not seen for almost a century, often leaving dangerous ungoverned spaces in their wake. In West Africa, a virus one-thousand times smaller than a human hair has, in less than a year, infected over 17,000 people, killed over 6,000, and shaken governments and health care systems alike. In Europe, Russia's invasion of Ukraine represents one of the most blatant acts of state-on-state aggression on that continent since the end of World War II. And in the Asia-Pacific, competition between rising powers threatens to undermine the stability that has allowed the region to prosper and thrive for decades.

We are at the beginning, not at the end, of this realignment. And as Henry Kissinger writes, only "a subtle balance of restraint, force, and legitimacy" will help forge a new order--an order that will be years, and probably decades, in the making. (1) This means that DOD's missions and focus will continue to be marked, and defined, by transition.

As these dynamics unfold, the U.S. military is addressing today's crises and security challenges around the world--degrading ISIL, helping stop the spread of the Ebola virus, and reinforcing our NATO allies. (2) Few would have predicted these missions a year ago; uncertainty is the only certainty in an interconnected world of 7 billion people.

The Defense Department must be prepared for the challenges of that uncertain future. We face the rise of new technologies, national powers, and nonstate actors; sophisticated, deadly, and often asymmetric emerging threats, ranging from cyber-attacks to transnational criminal networks; as well as persistent, volatile threats we have faced for years.

Our long-term security will depend on whether we can address today's crises while also planning and preparing for tomorrow's threats. This requires making disciplined choices and meeting all our nation's challenges with long-term vision.

That is what DOD is doing today. We are not waiting for change to come to us--we are leading change. We are taking the initiative, getting ahead of the changes we know are coming, and making the long-term investments we need for the future.

This is happening in two important ways. We are investing in our nation's unrivaled capacity for innovation, so that in the face of mounting challenges, our military's capabilities, technological edge, strategy, and readiness will continue to surpass any potential adversary. And we are investing in reforms to our defense enterprise, to ensure that our military's foundation is reliable, agile, accountable, and worthy of the men and women who serve in it. Sustaining both investments will require significant leadership--and partnership--in the years to come.

Pursuing Innovation

Today, our military has nearly 400,000 personnel stationed or forward deployed in nearly 100 countries around the world. This continued forward presence--with its unmatched technological and operational edge--has helped anchor America's global leadership for decades.

However, the superiority of our forces has never been guaranteed, and it is now being increasingly challenged. …

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