Gates Eyes Next Generation Warfare

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Landis82, Apr 11, 2009.

  1. A good read on Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates "transforming" the military into a threat based platform in order to deal with future conflicts and hybrid wars. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was suppose to lead the concept of military "transformation" back in 2003, but was unable to get much done. Now, it is up to Robert Gates to lead the charge.

    Gates Budget Eyes Next Generation Warfare

    by David S. Cloud

    When he came in as defense secretary during the Bush administration, Robert Gates defined his job as fixing the war in Iraq.

    Now he is attempting to do something far more complex: refashion the Pentagon budget for the next war.


    The $534 billion blueprint released by Gates this week proposed curtailing several major weapons systems, which has prompted cries of protest from lawmakers whose states are likely to lose jobs.

    But that outcry has largely obscured something more significant that Gates did with the budget: He laid out for the first time the Obama administration’s perceptions of the most pressing threats it faces abroad and how it intends to deal with them.

    In doing so, Gates is taking sides in the debate over the size and scope of future conflicts — advancing the idea that the next U.S. war could resemble both a conventional war and an insurgency at the same time, a so-called hybrid war that would make some of those big weapons systems so prized in Congress obsolete.

    The fact that Gates is at the center of this debate is in many ways a surprise, even to him. He rarely devoted much attention to the budget for the first few years of his tenure. He didn’t expect to be around long enough to restructure what the Pentagon buys. He didn’t have Rumsfeld-like ambitions to “transform” the military. He expected to leave the Pentagon at the end of the Bush administration.

    But when he became the lone holdover in President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, Gates found himself in the rare position of being able to shape the new administration’s first defense budget in a way that would have been impossible if Obama had chosen a new defense secretary.

    “The secretary came in fundamentally to fix the war in Iraq,” said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell. “But as he did that, he discovered there were bigger problems that somebody needed to fix — and that somebody became him.”

    Gates decided to begin the planning necessary to position the military for this different type of conflict, one that military strategists are calling a hybrid war. It’s a term that has taken hold at the Pentagon over the last year as strategists have studied how war has evolved even since the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

    Gates told reporters this week that he thought the idea that wars can be neatly categorized as either conventional or irregular “is quite artificial.” He added: “You may face at the same time an insurgent with an AK-47” backed by a government that can strike with a “highly sophisticated ballistic missile.”

    That is not exactly the enemy the U.S. has been battling in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are both much closer to pure insurgencies than the hybrid wars that Gates is describing.

    But it’s not hard to find a potential foe in the Middle East that might use a combination of conventional and unconventional tactics in a war with the United States. Iran is the country with the most capability to fight in this way, military strategists say.

    The chances of a U.S. military strike against Iran has certainly diminished since Obama took office, and Gates himself has made clear that he favors exhausting diplomacy, sanctions and other nonmilitary steps as the U.S. searches for a way to halt what it contends is Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

    Yet the Pentagon also sees its job as planning for the worst-case scenario, which a hybrid war with Iran might well be.

    It has a conventional military, which though considered mediocre in many respects, possesses high-tech weapons, including cruise missiles and air defense systems. But Iran also has the ability to strike using unconventional tactics, including terrorist strikes around the globe, stepped-up support for insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, and with waves of small speed boats attacking U.S. naval ships in the Persian Gulf.

    In a war with Iran, “you would have to destroy the Iranian air force and negate the missile threat. You’d also have to deal with Iranian small boat attacks, and you’d also have to be prepared to deal with terrorist attacks,” said Andrew Exum, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank, and a former Army officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Gates also grew concerned that the lessons the military was learning in Iraq about what it took to succeed against an insurgency would be shunned as those wars wound down. He worried that the Pentagon bureaucracy, Congress and major defense contractors would return to what they felt most comfortable doing — preparing for large-scale conventional war.

    If future wars are likely to be hybrid wars, the Pentagon has to prepare for fighting conventionally and unconventionally at the same time, Gates says. He is quick to point out that the budget recommendations he laid out this week hardly represent a radical shift away from buying large high-tech weapons systems.

    But it was about as much as the hidebound military services and their defenders on Capitol Hill could possibly stand in their jealously guarded weapons programs. And it will take considerable pressure to keep Congress from restoring many of the cuts.

    “The point is, marginal is revolutionary in this building,” said Morrell. “Even a slight adjustment in the allocation of dollars is revolutionary in the Pentagon.”

    The changes Gates is seeking in most cases appear to be driven at least as much by the fact that several major weapons systems he is proposing to cut have gone wildly over budget, making them unaffordable as the defense budget shrinks in coming years.

    The plan would halt the Air Force’s F-22 fighter after buying 187 of them, terminate the Army’s high-tech Future Combat Systems vehicle program, scale back missile defense to focus on medium and short-range missiles, and halt construction of the latest generation of Navy destroyers.

    It would also increase spending on the F-35, an even more advanced fighter than the F-22, and keep the current 11 aircraft carriers in the U.S. fleet until 2040, when the number would drop to 10.

    To beef up the military’s unconventional capabilities, the budget proposes to spend more on training crews for flying and maintaining unmanned drones and helicopters, building new Navy vessels designed to operate closer to shore, and training more special operations troops.

    Taken together, said Tom Donnelly, a defense strategy expert at the American Enterprise Institute, the recommendations represent a modest rebalancing of Pentagon priorities to increase unconventional capabilities. But he said it appeared the recommendations were driven more by the need to hold down defense spending than by meeting the requirements of future hybrid wars.

    The danger, Donnelly argues, is that what the Pentagon ends up with is not adequate either for the conventional or the unconventional threats the U.S. would face in a war against a foe like Iran.
  2. Thank God for Bush otherwise Obama wouldn't have anyone worth a shit in his Cabinet.

  3. As much as it pains me to say it, keeping Mr. Gates in his position was a very strategic and non-partisan decision by Mr. that gave me a fleeting moment of hope that Mr. Obama would rise to his rhetoric...that said, the above statement is spot on.

    Given the long history of military procurement being driven by political agendas instead of military objectives, I would regretfully agree with the quoted statement above.

    My gut tells me the next major conflict will be a hybrid of unconventional forces backed by heavy iron from a conventional force........or it could just be the macaroni salad from last night !
  4. It's not just Obama's having pursuaded Robert Gates to stay on that makes the President look extremely intelligent, but look at his appointments across the military and intelligence spectrum . . . General Jim Jones as head of the NSA, General Eric Shinseki as head of the VA, etc.

    As for Bush's appointment of Donald Rumsfeld, that might just go down as the most "boneheaded" Presidential appointment ever.
  5. I would tend to agree with your statement regarding his appointments in the Defense - Intel chairs (only!)...however, Mr. Panetta at CIA didn't make much sense to me, as the CIA has been plauged with political type appointments for decades....also, General Shinseki seems almost wasted at the VA....I would have loved to see him as DOD Deputy Director for TRADOC or something along those lines.
  6. Shinseki is the only military general to stand up to Rumsfeld and Bush and publicly tell the world that we needed a lot MORE troops in Iraq back in 2003. After he made his statement, Rumsfeld and Bush essentially demoted him and put him out to pasture

    He's a great man and I'm glad that he is still a member of the active military.

    I understand your point, but let's not discount the importance of the VA - - - especially when the amount of soldiers coming back home with head trauma is off the charts, and the suicide rate is going through the roof; already 53 suicides in the first three months of this year.

    In many ways the VA has been stuck in the "stone-age". I have full confidence in General Shinseki shaping and transforming the VA into a much more responsive agency that meets the needs of our soliders. I also believe that's why the President put him in that position.
  7. Thank you, "wasted" was a poor choice of a word...I was thinking of the Generals' expertise in other aspects of the military.....but either way, I agree, General Shinseki is a straight shooter.