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Collectively, the services and the Defense Department need to undertake major management reforms, cutting overhead and adopting policies modeled on best practices from the business world. As the recently appointed president of Business Executives for National Security, I am all too aware of how many industry best practices the Defense Department needs to embrace: less overhead, less infrastructure, and more agile, smaller headquarters. Each of these and more are specific recommendations in the new report.
Of course, whenever an officer from one service endorses a plan that would focus funding on his or her service at the potential expense of others, there is understandable suspicion that the strategy is little more than a grab for an increased share of the defense budget.
The emphasis on naval air and special operations capabilities in strategic agility, however, isn’t about competing with the Army and Marine Corps; rather, it’s about investing in the joint force to ensure it has the assets necessary to execute operations across the conflict spectrum.
In missions from special operations strikes to all-out war, ground forces’ abilities to land by sea or air, to move about the battlefield without threat from aerial attack, to receive consistent flows of supplies, and to call in reliable air support all depend on naval and air forces that can penetrate and defeat enemy defenses.
As nations acquire increasingly sophisticated fighter aircraft, air defense systems, anti-ship missiles and other anti-access and area-denial capabilities, the need to invest in naval and air capabilities is intensifying. This global reach and capacity to strike remains an effective counterterrorism tool as well. We cannot hope to address all conditions that create terrorists, but we must be ready to strike when we learn of a consequential threat.
By holding out for an end to the sequester, rather than strategically bringing our defense strategy and budget under the sequester caps with targeted budget cuts, our leaders are by default creating an American military that is increasingly vulnerable to emerging and future threats.
Retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Norton Schwartz served as the chief of staff of the Air Force from 2008 to 2012. He now serves as president and CEO of Business Executives for National Security.