Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Strategy or Technology

What is more important - to have technology match your national strategy - or to have a national strategy to match the technology you want?

What happens when you can't do either?

There are a lot of things floating around in what looks more and more in contradiction to each other. Guilty as charged, I've been doing it as well. Argue for or against this program or that - but not really tying it directly to a larger picture.

I've tried to make sure I keep the two tied together (mostly because they are self-reinforcing for my position, ahem) - but I could do better. What about the larger national security community?

We have a maritime strategy published, but not referenced much or talked about anymore. We have a lot of discussion about Air-Sea Battle Concept, Pacific pivot, etc.

On the Navy side of the house, almost disconnected to the Fleet we are building, we have discussion on how a 3-ship Class of DDG-1000 can change WESTPAC. We have carriers full of short legged light fighters without real organic tanking capabilities. We talk the wide WESTPAC and IO, but we almost seem to be building a Fleet for the Mediterranean.

We talk about LCS, a kind of ship uniquely unsuited for WESTPAC compared to other options. Speed and shallow draft mean little. Great littoral battles from the Savo Island to the gun-run off Haiphong - all done with deep draft ships with the ability to fight hurt and punch hard - things LCS cannot do. Other recent littoral battles from San Carlos Water to Five-Inch Friday .... again no use for LCS type ships.

Basing LCS in Singapore? Really? Does anyone remember the still applicable tactical and operational problems of that location against a land power with regional naval reach? HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse anyone? The ABDA Fleet?

But anyway ... I drifting towards the LCS windmill again. Bad me, but I think the following from Kate Brannen at Defense News helps explain why LCS just doesn't fit among other things worth pondering.
"... technology is not a panacea," Thomas X. Hammes, a retired Marine Corps colonel and a a senior research fellow at the National Defense University, aide. " It is a tool. And like any other tool, sometimes it's appropriate and sometimes it's not. But don't shape your force structure around technology. Shape your force structure around strategy."
"If we're walking away from a focus on the human element and we're going back to our cultural default position, which is techno-centric warfare, then that gives hope to the enemy that we'll put our resources on high-tech gizmos that they can generally ignore, if they're a competent military. Then, they can focus on the things they do well, which is to dig in, to conceal, to use disinformation as a weapon, to use public opinion as their offensive strategy and to wear us down until we get tired and go home. (MG Robert Scales, USA (ret) )
This is really two articles in one.

The first is outlined above, but there is a good tie in about the disconnect WRT our Pacific Focus, Air-Sea Battle Concept, and others. Everyone knows that it is designed against China - but then we say things like this by CAPT Philip DuPress, USN and Col. Jordan Thomas, USAF in Armed Forces Journal.
Let us say at the outset what Air-Sea Battle is not. It is not a strategy, it is not designed to threaten other nations and it is not just the manifestation of traditional joint operations.
If you have a battle concept that isn't involved with a larger strategy and isn't built around threatening anyone - then either you are stuck in PAOisms or you are wasting everyone's time with academic games.

Let's go back to Scales again,
"Somebody tell me why we're going to fight China? Give me a reason; tell me a set of circumstances,"
We can all come up with one or two - but I like what Hammes has to say on the topic;
... relying of stealthy U.S. bomber aircraft to penetrate every-thickening Chinese air defenses would give China geographic and cost advantage. Instead, he proposes an alternative military strategy he's calling offshore control. If China were to start a conflict, the U.S. cold work with willing offshore Asia-Pacific countries to help interdict Chinese exports.

Hammes says this approach minimizes escalation and instead represents a slow, tight squeeze on China's economy.

It does not require extensive investment in next-generation weapon systems, but could better serve U.S. strategic goals.
And given our economic issues .. may be more affordable. If you have limited access ashore around China, then there is only one way to contain it; above, on, and under the sea.

As the great philosopher said - no one wants to get involved in a land war in Asia anyway.

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