Strategic Defense: The Path to Joint Force 2020
Back in May, General Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke at the Joint Warfighting Conference. He discussed his vision of what the military will look like in 2020 or as he called it Joint Force 2020.
“Today’s security paradox, though, doesn’t call for larger or a smaller military. Instead, it calls for a different military, one capable of deterring, denying and defeating threats across the entire spectrum of conflict. What does this mean for the force? The joint force we have is in need of reset. The joint force we will need does not yet fully exist.”
He went on to say that 80% of the force either already existed or was programmed. How can the military reinvent itself under those circumstances? He indicated:
“That said, we do have a perishable opportunity to be innovative in two ways. We can significantly change the other 20 percent of the force that’s not already programmed or in existence, and we can change the way we use the other 80 percent”.
He went on to provide some more thoughts on how this might work to build a strong military in 2020.
“Of course, we’re only really starting that long intellectual journey. But for today, I’ll lay out some initial thoughts about how that 20 percent that I mentioned might change and how it’s likely to, in turn, change the way we use the other 80 percent.
So let’s start with cyber. Cyber is one of those areas where our actual capabilities are beginning to resemble science fiction. In the future, cyber will become both a stand-alone war-fighting instrument with global reach, and it’ll also be a ubiquitous enabler of the joint force. It will be both part of the 20 percent that’s new and part of what allows the other 80 percent of the force to be used differently.
To make cyber a reality, we need to do two things. We need to continue aggressively pursuing new offensive and defensive capabilities. We need cyber to be wired into the whole force right away. If you recall when we stood up special operating forces, we made it a specialized community that grew up in parallel to the conventional force, and then later on, really only about the last 10 years did we fully integrate it into our joint force. Well, we can’t afford to do that with cyber. We’ve got to integrate cyber right from the start.
There are several other emerging capabilities that will play outsized or oversized or more important roles in Joint Force 2020. Clearly, ISR and long-range strike are two of those. So is undersea technology, where we do enjoy an overmatch capability against all adversaries. Unmanned technologies are on the rise, and they’re gaining importance not only in terms of effectiveness, but also in terms of their versatility and value. In an era of fiscal constraint or a new fiscal environment, a platform that offers those traits will almost always be the right one in which to invest.”
In June, Undersecretary of the Navy Robert O. Work gave an excellent talk at the Current Strategy Forum at the Naval War College. He mentioned up front the concerns many have with budget cuts and a Navy that has shrunk to 286 ships the smallest number since World War I. He argued that technological advances have magnified the effectiveness of the Navy. “The power of the network is far greater than the sum of the parts.” The concept as I understand it looking at just numbers doesn’t give you a sense of how effective todays modern platforms are. Using the advances in technology you can link all of the platforms together thus dramatically increasing the effectiveness of the Navy Marine team.
I still have some major concerns over the future of our military. In a recent article he wrote for Defense News, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee added his voice to the growing number of government officials sounding the alarm about potential $492 billion in additional cuts to the defense budget if the sequestration process happens. Secretary of Defense Panetta has been quoted as saying: “We’d be shooting ourselves in the head” if we allowed that to happen.
The Senator went on to talk about impact. One in particular jumped out at me:
“Fleet size: Currently, the Navy can meet only half of combatant commander requests for naval support. Under sequestration, the Navy fleet would drop to 230 ships, well below the statutory requirement.”
This would seem to contradict Undersecretary of the Navy Work’s views. I have no doubt there are a lot of smart people looking at this and similar issues. I’m also sure we will be seeing a lot more debate on this topic.
Gail Harris is a Truman Security Fellow.