Now that president Obama’s inauguration festivities are over, and the capital is probably nursing a few hangovers (or for those of us who trekked down to the Mall yesterday, regaining some feeling in our wind-whipped faces), it’s time to get back to work.
One of the biggest tasks ahead for the Obama administration is, of course, fighting the two wars while making sure that the military is equipped to meet future threats. In a nod to this task, as Michael Bruno pointed out yesterday, the administration posted a list of military priorities on the White House Web site that should set tongues wagging.
First up is finding ways to take care of the grunts on the ground, with a eye solidly fixed on counterinsurgency and the “human terrain”:
Rebuild the Military for 21st Century Tasks: Obama and Biden believe that we must build up our special operations forces, civil affairs, information operations, and other units and capabilities that remain in chronic short supply; invest in foreign language training, cultural awareness, and human intelligence and other needed counterinsurgency and stabilization skill sets; and create a more robust capacity to train, equip, and advise foreign security forces, so that local allies are better prepared to confront mutual threats.
Expand to Meet Military Needs on the Ground: Obama and Biden support plans to increase the size of the Army by 65,000 soldiers and the Marine Corps by 27,000 Marines. Increasing our end strength will help units retrain and re-equip properly between deployments and decrease the strain on military families.
While these operations are the “graduate level of warfare,” the team still sees a need for big-ticket weapons programs—but first it’s going to have to decide which one to keep, and which to kick to the curb, in a tightening budgetary picture.
There will be a review of weapons programs, the document promises, due to a need to “rebalance our capabilities to ensure that our forces can succeed in both conventional wars and in stabilization and counter-insurgency operations. Obama and Biden have committed to a review of each major defense program in light of current needs, gaps in the field, and likely future threat scenarios in the post-9/11 world.”
And they’re looking at you, Air Force. The administration is placing a premium on preserving “our unparalleled airpower capabilities to deter and defeat any conventional competitors,” which includes things like Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and electronic warfare capabilities, “to essential systems like the C-17 cargo and KC-X air refueling aircraft, which provide the backbone of our ability to extend global power.”
There’s also a little something for the swabbies, with an emphasis on “replacing aging ships and modernizing existing platforms, while adapting them to the 21st century. Obama and Biden will add to the Maritime Pre-Positioning Force Squadrons to support operations ashore and invest in smaller, more capable ships, providing the agility to operate close to shore and the reach to rapidly deploy Marines to global crises.”
Of course, while all this might sound doable on Day One, when the bill for the financial bailout comes due, some of these initiatives might fall by the wayside. Still, as a set of very general priorities, it sounds pretty good, though some might wonder what some specifics might looks like, particularly when it comes to things like the Future Combat Systems, the DDG-1000, F-22 and F-35 programs. Time will tell.