One month ago, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter sent a stinging letter to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus entitled “Program Balance.” The memo offered a stark reminder that Budget Control Act-imposed defense shortfalls will change much more than just the endstrength of our land forces. Secretary Mabus was ordered to re-program the Navy’s 2017 budget to place a higher priority on advanced warfighting capabilities while cutting the number of planned ship purchases by 12, thus curtailing the number of ships available for presence operations. The language used in the memo includes an implicit strategic decision that is about more than just the relative slicing of the budget pie. Carter goes on to say that a combination of higher advanced capabilities and the posturing of the force will be enough to compensate for decreased naval presence around the world. This statement betrays either a misunderstanding of the characteristics of naval presence or a dangerous devaluing of its role in our nation’s overall military strategy. Others, perhaps anxious to defend their own strategic agendas, have promoted Carter’s arguments.
Read the full op-ed at War on the Rocks.