The Bush-Cheney administration made a lot of its supporters very nervous on Feb. 6 when it signaled that there would be no immediate increase in defense spending -- and perhaps none for the rest of fiscal 2001. After all, study after study has shown that the armed forces have been seriously underfunded and overutilized for the last decade. President Bush made a point during his campaign of pledging to fix what is known to all the military.
A few days later, however, the administration was putting out the word that the promised "help" for the men and women in uniform was on the way after all. The new team clarified that it not only would be seeking additional sums for pay, housing and reenlistment incentives in next year's budget, but it also would be willing to seek additional funding during the course of this fiscal year if warranted by a fresh review of strategy and force structure. Such a review was ordered by Bush and is expected to catalyze a wholesale transformation of the Defense Department.
Fortunately, the task of completing such a sweeping yet expeditious review has been given to a man who has trained for most of the last 50 years for just this moment: Andrew Marshall, the Pentagon's legendary director of net assessment.
Marshall is one of the unsung heroes of the Cold War. Since he joined the Defense Department in the mid-1970s, and during his prior service at the Rand Corp., he has been the principal patron of "outside-of-the-box" thinking within the U.S. national-security community. He consistently has challenged the conventional wisdom, often recognizing before the rest of the military establishment the declining utility of existing weapons systems and the need to develop and field new capabilities suited to a changing world. Working almost entirely outside of public view, Marshall not only has spawned creative ideas but has been a mentor to a generation of first-rate strategic thinkers and sponsored some of the best security-policy research at the nation's academic institutions. While the worst of the many secretaries of defense under whom he has served have ignored him and, in one case at least, tried to get rid of him by banishing him from the Pentagon, the best -- including the only man to hold the position twice, Donald Rumsfeld -- have prized and benefited greatly from his counsel.
Now, the nation as a whole stands to be the beneficiary of Marshall's wisdom and unsurpassed corporate memory. These are among the points we must hope his strategic review will underscore:
* The threat from China. Few senior officials have better understood and done more to document the determination of the People's Republic of China to anticipate and prepare itself for conflict with the United States. He grasps the danger the Chinese might pose to U.S. interests in Asia and beyond -- including outer space -- and his recommendations about the sizing and equipping of the U.S. military surely will reflect the need to be able to contend with the growing asymmetric and other threats from China. …