April 15, 2009

Horowitz and Shalmon in Orbis

Looking back, it was a serious mistake of me to have been talking about the budget without simultaneously talking about the article written by my friend Mike Horowitz and Dan Shalmon in the most recent issue of Orbis. (To be fair, Mike has probably forgiven me already. My negligence pales in comparison to the start the Red Sox are having, so he has other issues.) Mike and Dan argue the following:

At present, the dominant strands of defense strategy debates feature COIN advocates that wish to transform the American military to focus more on counterinsurgency and irregular wars and traditionalists who seek to return the American military to focusing exclusively on conventional wars. This debate presents a false choice. The national strategy of the United States calls for remaining actively engaged around the world, which will sometimes require using military force abroad. It is necessary, in a world of limited budgets, to move beyond the COIN v. Conventional War debate, especially because by embracing a zero-sum vision of future war, and trading one capability for the other, it makes facing the neglected threat more likely. Given uncertainty about the future security environment and the future character of war in the information age, a hedging strategy seems prudent. By optimizing different aspects of the military for different campaigns, recognizing significant differences in the types of campaigns that are most likely at different levels of intensity, investing in defense systems with applicability to both COIN and conventional campaigns, and bolstering funding for basic defense science research, the United States can ensure that it remains the leading global military power not only for this generation, but also for the next, as well.

One insight they have that is of particular relevance to the debate concerns R&D. If we're going to reduce spending on weapons already being produced, fine. But if we do that, we should if anything increase what we're spending on R&D for the next generation of weapons. We appear to be doing the opposite.

...investments in basic defense science are essential. As is logical, given that the United States is fighting two wars, increases in defense spending in this decade have gone mostly towards personnel, as well as operations and maintenance (O&M). Between the ‘‘peace dividend’’ taken at the end of the Cold War and the budgetary focus of this decade, investments in basic research and development for the weapons of the future has suffered. While the FY2009 budget contains an increase of 2 percent in the base DOD budget to $76.9 billion, current defense projections call for a 20 percent decrease in research and development from FY2009-2013, with the savings going into procurement for existing weapons systems. If anything, uncertainty about the future character of war should lead to a greater emphasis on research and development spending.

The rest is password-protected. But I bet if you ask Mike Noonan really nicely...