February 23, 2022

Don't Trust the Process: Moving from Words to Actions on the Indo-Pacific Posture

By Chris Dougherty

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks.

Far from being a deterrent to aggression, American military bases in Asia are a tempting target. U.S. Indo-Pacific bases are vulnerable to myriad Chinese attacks. Threats to airbases are especially worrying since they host so much concentrated U.S. combat power, incentivizing a Chinese first strike. Actions to address these problems have been tardy and insufficient, despite repeated Pentagon statements prioritizing U.S. posture in the region.

Few defense analysts focused on the Indo-Pacific would quibble with these statements, yet these problems continue, and solutions remain unclear. Two recent War on the Rocks articles by my colleagues Stacie Pettyjohn and Dustin Walker aptly describe the Pentagon’s failure to improve U.S. posture in the Indo-Pacific. Pettyjohn cites a Cold War-era Air Force chief of staff who emphatically argued for airbase resiliency in Europe as a model for today’s senior leaders to advocate for passive defenses. Walker prods the secretary and deputy secretary of defense to take a more aggressive role on force posture. Both argue that these problems cannot be solved absent senior leader engagement.

Moving from words to poured concrete requires subordinate organizations and processes to execute guidance and policies.

I agree with both authors that senior leader engagement is necessary, but I believe the Pentagon also needs to reform the processes and organizations responsible for overseeing posture. Secretaries and service chiefs should prioritize posture, but they can’t fix this issue without help.

Fixing the Indo-Pacific posture will require targeted policies to incentivize the implementation of posture initiatives in the near term in addition to long-term reforms to ensure that posture considerations have a more prominent role in the defense budgeting process.

Read the full article from War on the Rocks.

  • Commentary
    • The Atlantic
    • December 5, 2022
    How to Stop the Next World War

    Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has given us a glimpse of what the return of industrial-scale warfare would mean....

    By Robert O. Work & Eric Schmidt

  • Commentary
    • War on the Rocks
    • December 1, 2022
    The Kadena Conundrum: Developing a Resilient Indo-Pacific Posture

    This article originally appeared in War on The Rocks. The long-standing debate over whether the United States is prioritizing China and the Indo-Pacific region has reignited o...

    By Stacie Pettyjohn, Andrew Metrick & Becca Wasser

  • Reports
    • November 17, 2022
    Precision and Posture: Defense Spending Trends and the FY23 Budget Request

    This report examines the fiscal year (FY) 2023 defense budget request and assesses whether it sufficiently resources what was known of the Biden administration’s national defe...

    By Stacie Pettyjohn & Hannah Dennis

  • Commentary
    • Foreign Policy
    • November 10, 2022
    Welcome to the New Age of Nukes

    Nuclear weapons are back, and in a disturbingly visceral way. Vladimir Putin’s saber-rattling—“this is not a bluff” he said, warning of nuclear use in Ukraine—has sparked conc...

    By Richard Fontaine

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia