March 15, 2017

Paul Scharre before the Subcommittee on Airland of the Senate Armed Services Committee

Future of All Arms Warfare in the 21st Century

By Paul Scharre

Adapting the Force to Emerging Challenges

Chairman Cotton, Ranking Member King, and distinguished Senators, thank you for inviting me to testify today.

We are at a time of both risk and opportunity for the U.S. armed forces. Budget cuts instituted under the 2011 Budget Control Act have harmed military readiness and delayed urgently-needed modernization. The United States has fallen behind in adapting to challenges from other nations. Russia and China have developed a suite of capabilities, broadly labeled “anti-access / area denial” (A2/AD), that threaten traditional forms of U.S. power projection. In order to remain relevant as a global power, the United States must adapt to these challenges. At the same time, the United States must also find more cost-effective means of conducting day-to-day operations, such as countering terrorism and providing a stabilizing presence in key regions around the globe.

To accomplish these and other high-priority missions, such as defending the homeland from ballistic missile attacks from rogue nations, the U.S. military must continue to evolve and adapt. Congress, working with the Trump Administration, has an opportunity to reverse the harmful budgetary cuts under the Budget Control Act (BCA). In addition to a sustained increase in defense spending above BCA levels, the Department of Defense (DoD) needs a predictable and stable budget in order to plan future activities.

With additional resources, DoD should prioritize (1) restoring readiness by funding maintenance and training and (2) modernizing the force to adapt to emerging challenges. U.S. forces cannot be considered “ready” if they are prepared for the wrong threats. U.S. forces must be trained, equipped, and postured to meet the challenges posed by China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and violent extremism. Greater capacity alone cannot meet these challenges. The force must evolve its capabilities and operational concepts.

DoD should pursue a disciplined modernization strategy that focuses investments on high-payoff capabilities that can deliver the most value in countering A2/AD challenges. This approach should leverage existing programs wherever possible in order to maximize the efficient use of scarce resources. DoD should also capitalize on emerging technologies such as robotics and automation to increase operational effectiveness and decrease costs. Finally, DoD should improve its ability to conduct day-to-day activities, such as countering terrorism, in a cost-effective manner by investing in a “high-low mix” of forces: a small number of highly capable assets for countering sophisticated adversaries and larger numbers of lower cost assets for routine operations.

The remainder of this testimony will outline key initiatives DoD should pursue to adapt the Air Force and Army to these challenges.

The full testimony is available online.

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