Defense Secretary Robert Gates yesterday said the military must prepare for long-duration air and sea warfare to defeat enemies, yet his overall strategy retires hundreds of strike aircraft and cancels new ships.
In presenting his Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), Gates appears to have lost his bet, for now, on the mass-produced F-35 Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force strike fighter.
In defending his decision last year to end production of the superior F-22 stealth fighter, he pointed to an increased buy of F-35s to fill the gap.
But yesterday, in presenting his four-year plan for weapons-buying and manpower, Gates admitted the F-35 program is off-track, so much so that he fired the program manager.
“The progress and performance of the F-35 over the past two years has not been what it should – as a number of key goals and benchmarks were not met,” Gates said.
He said he is withholding $614 million in payments to prime contractor Lockheed Martin.
“The taxpayer should not have to bear the entire burden of getting the JSF program back on track,” he said. “Accountability is not just about holding contractors responsible. The Department of Defense also bears responsibility for the JSF’s troubling performance record.”
There are other contradictions.
The (QDR), the first overall defense strategy from President Obama, pledges to “expand future long-range strike capabilities.”
Yet last year, Gates significantly delayed development of a new long-range bomber that could deliver those types of strikes, be it a terrorist camp or nuclear missile launch site.
Gates is also delaying construction of a new aircraft carrier, and a new-age command ship, the LCC, and canceling outright a new missile cruiser, the CG(X). He is also going along with a 2008 decision to stop procurement of a futurist destroyer, the DDG 1000, at three.
But with ships and warplanes on the chopping block, the QDR still asserts the Obama-directed Pentagon will push air and sea power in tandem.
“Operations over the past eight years have stressed the ground forces disproportionately, but the future operational landscape could also portend significant long-duration air and maritime campaigns for which the U.S. Armed Forces must be prepared,” the QDR states.
Press reports had said that Gates would drop the two-war capability that has shaped the 1.4 million active force and its weapons the past several decades.
The QDR, however, does not drop the two-war requirement. It expands on them. Here is the mission statement:
“In the mid- to long term, U.S. military forces must plan and prepare to prevail in a broad range of operations that may occur in multiple theaters in overlapping time frames. This includes maintaining the ability to prevail against two capable nation-state aggressors, but we must take seriously the need to plan for the broadest possible range of operations.”
Those include defeating the al Qaeda terror network, supporting “fragile” states [read Yemen] endanger of failing and responding to a terror attack on the homeland.
The Pentagon’s new buzz words are “Prepare,” Prevent and Deter” and “Prevail.”
The mission that seems to be repeated most often in 105-page QDR is finding and deposing of loose nukes [read Pakistan and North Korea].
Although the administration voices confidence that Pakistan’s government is in control of its 80-plus nuclear warheads, privately it worries the country could go the way of revolutionary Iran, placing Islamabad’s nukes in the hands of radical Islamists.
U.S. special operations forces, which will continue to grow under Obama, have a contingency plan to enter Pakistan to secure the arsenal if a downfall appears imminent.
The QDR states the threat this way:
“The instability or collapse of a WMD-armed state is among our most troubling concerns. Such an occurrence could lead to rapid proliferation of WMD material, weapons, and technology, and could quickly become a global crisis posing a direct physical threat to the United States and all other nations.”
“Locating, securing and neutralizing weapons of mass destruction, key materials, and related facilities in the context of loss of control of such weapons or materials, and thwarting the potential for non-state adversary to acquire them.”
The Pentagon is establishing a new unit, the Joint Task Force Elimination Headquarters, that will plan and train for covert missions to seize atomic weapons.
For an administration that seems in denial about China’s burgeoning military and expansionist desires, the QDR is interesting for where it discusses Beijing.
In a section titled “Deter and Defeat Aggression in Anti-Access Environment,” the QDR discusses three countries, renegade states North Korea and Iran, and China.
The section states, “U.S. forces must be able to deter, defend against, and defeat aggression by potentially hostile nation-states. This capability is fundamental to the nation’s ability to protect its interests and to provide security in key regions.”
After a paragraph discussing North Korea and Iran in “their defiance of international norms,” it next addresses China:
“China is developing and fielding large numbers of advanced medium-range ballistic and cruise missiles, new attack submarines equipped with advanced weapons, increasingly capable long-range air defense systems, electronic warfare and computer network attack capabilities, advanced fighter aircraft, and counter-space systems. China has shared only limited information about the pace, scope, and ultimate aims of its military modernization programs, raising a number of legitimate questions regarding its long-term intentions.”
There is irony in the Obama QDR. As a U.S. senator, Obama served as one of the Democrat’s chief war critics. He essentially said the war was a waste of time.
But his QDR says a democratic Iraq will help bring stability to the region.
“In Iraq, years of effort and a critical shift toward a population-centered counterinsurgency strategy have helped enable the Iraqi government to take the lead in protecting its people and providing essential services. A sovereign, just, and accountable Iraqi state capable of sustaining national unity can serve as a long-term U.S. partner, and will buttress America’s strategic goals and those of its allies. As the responsible drawdown of the U.S. military presence proceeds, U.S. forces will continue to play important roles advising, training, and supporting Iraqi forces.”