If confirmed as defense secretary, Ashton Carter will need all his abundant experience to tackle the major challenges the Pentagon faces in trying to maintain America’s military edge. Indeed, Carter’s most important legacy will hinge on how much success he has in aligning the defense budget and procurement priorities to the needs of the era.
The military force the Pentagon has traditionally planned to build is not one that will keep our military supreme. Indeed, the United States is no longer the only international actor to employ stealth fighters, satellites and long-range precision-guided munitions. Dozens of countries are embracing unmanned systems and the globalization of the defense industry means that technological advances will come fast and furious even outside the U.S. If left unaddressed, these trends could mean that the U.S. may find itself outclassed in serious fights in the Western Pacific, Eastern Europe and beyond.
Carter’s top priority should therefore be on arresting the decline of America’s military technological edge. In fact, Carter’s legacy depends entirely on what he is able to accomplish this year. The president’s fiscal 2016 budget request is already in, and the 2018 budget will be submitted after the next president is elected. That means that the fiscal 2017 budget could be the only one Carter will be able to really control.
Read the full op-ed at Defense One.