Deep and long-term budget cuts could be the best thing to happen to the U.S. defense enterprise in decades.
Austerity should enforce long-overdue change in the relative size and influence of air/space, land and sea forces. For the last decade of mostly land combat, the ground forces have dominated discussion of strategy, and the doctrine that no war can be won except by taking and holding ground has become a shibboleth to which all who aspire to be “joint” must pay homage.
U.S. Army and Marine strategists today are simultaneously challenging the Air-Sea Battle (ASB) concept, which U.S. Air Force and Navy planners developed to counter anti-access threats, and trying to shoehorn infantry and amphibious forces into a central role in ASB. But it is hard to argue with Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments President Andrew Krepinevich, who says: “If the Marines and the Army landed on the coast of China, it would be a story on page A17 of The People’s Daily.”
The tough lesson of Iraq and Afghanistan is that “invasion is not a business we can afford to be in,” Krepinevich says. One reason that defense cuts look as scary to the industry as they do is that personnel costs have ballooned, to sustain recruitment and retention through the longest and largest combat deployments ever attempted without conscription. Consequently, budget cuts will fall heavily on procurement.