The Pentagon's road map into the near future illustrates again
how conservatively military people think.
The map was made public Monday under the official title of the
Quadrennial Defense Review. It's a guide to spending priorities -
and thus, to military strategy - in the coming lean years of
Basically, the review boils down to: Same Old Stuff, Different
One Force, Two Wars
When work started on the review, some people thought the
Pentagon might scrap its insistence on being ready to fight two
wars at the same time. But two-wars-at-once remains in the new
This strategy is formally known as Two MRC - "major regional
conflicts," clashes of Desert Storm proportions. The Pentagon wants
to be able to counter the Iraqis (or Iranians) while simultaneously
clobbering the North Koreans.
Trouble is, one Desert Storm badly strained the armed forces in
After Desert Storm, some military people questioned the two-war
strategy. They called it an unlikely scenario that put impossible
demands on the armed forces.
Even so, the Pentagon is sticking with the two-war strategy,
probably out of conservative pessimism.
Military people always plan for the worst case; they look at an
enemy's capabilities, not his intentions.
Yes, the Iraqis and the North Koreans are unlikely to make
mischief at the same time. But they can, and that's what military
people plan for - wh at an enemy can do, not what he's likely to do.
Why? Because war is, very literally, a matter of life and
death. Planners who cut corners and guess wrong can kill a lot of
Thus, the two-war strategy. It sends a message to the Middle
East and North Korea: If one of you starts a war, the other
shouldn't bank on a distracted America.
Whether Monday's review fortifies the message with enough
people and money remains an open question.
Sacrifice And Salami
On Friday, Defense Secretary William Cohen said, "We are not
going to have any salami-slicing." But Monday's review gives off a
strong whiff of salami.
Salami-slicing is the bureaucrat's term for across-the-board
budget cuts, in which sacrifice is doled out in equal portions.
Salami-slicing causes less ruckus than hacking some programs
entirely so that others can be kept (or added) in their entirety.
But Monday's review lets the services keep their pets:
The Navy and Marines will get their new F/A-18E, the Super
Hornet, albeit in reduced numbers.
The Air Force will get its new F-22 Raptor, in reduced numbers.
The Navy will keep all 12 of its carrier battle groups while
mothballing some surface ships.
The Army will keep all 10 of its divisions.
The Marines will keep all three of their divisions.
The big aerospace firms will get, at some point early in the
coming century, the Joint Strike Fighter - still a futuristic paper
design up for grabs between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, with
millions at stake for a huge supporting cast of subcontractors.
Given the tight budgets, something will have to give.
The Navy, Air Force and Army will shed more than 58,000 people.
If that falls short of paying for the force structure and new
weapons, the services probably will cut their budgets for training
Pilots fly fewer hours; soldiers maneuver less often; sailors
stay at sea longer; efficiency and morale fall together. Some
military people would rather hang on to older weapons and spend the
savings on tough training. …