Saturday, January 31, 2009

Agenda, Section Two: Defense

On to the second installment of my commentary on the Agenda section of the revamped White House website. There's a lot going on here, with aquite a few categories to look at .

Heading 1:

Invest in a 21st Century Military

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.

A bland first statement, and really no different from policy of the last, oh, month or so. Okay, I'm being sarcastic. Bushco rarely looked to use the innovative officers and resources that they had available, instead preferring to to relegate them to useless training positions and deny promotion. Sure, Gates worked on turning that around, but it's not a quick goal. Actually having people capable of implementing this will be a bonus. It's going to require some top brass turnover, though.

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.
Trying to do this with two wars going, with serious abuses of policy against what is required of current enlistees? Good luck. You're going to have to de-bungle VA and military disability, up compensation, and get the hell out of Afghanistan and Iraq before you get near this goal.

Leadership from the Top: President Obama and Vice President Biden will inspire a new generation of Americans to serve their country, whether it be in local communities in such roles as teachers or first responders, or serving in the military to keep our nation free and safe.
This is Obama's national service meme, with military service added as an option. I can see spillover here, and there's no drama. However, I don't see how we're having two non-veterans at the top of the list manages that particular bit of inspiring.

Lighten the Burdens on Our Brave Troops and Their Families: The Obama-Biden Administration will create a Military Families Advisory Board to provide a conduit for military families' concerns to be brought to the attention of senior policymakers and the public. Obama and Biden will end the stop-loss policy and establish predictability in deployments so that active duty and reserves know what they can and must expect.
This relates back to my comments on the recruitment. Ending stop-loss and abuse of the reservists is going to be key to retention and recruitment, but reasonably managing withdrawl from current commitments makes me think this one isn't happening anytime soon.

Heading 2:

Build Defense Capabilities for the 21st Century

Fully Equip Our Troops for the Missions They Face: Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe we must get essential equipment to our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines before lives are lost.
Sound bite.

Review Weapons Programs: We must 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.
Good move. As cool as stuff like the Joint Strike Fighter is, it isn't what we need in the modern military. I'll admit that basic research needs to retain funding, but things like A-10 Warthogs, Preadator drones, and chemical sniffers are more likely to be helpful in modern warfare. Hell, Silly String is more practical. Let's aim the research funds in the right direction and turn loose.

Preserve Global Reach in the Air: We must preserve our unparalleled airpower capabilities to deter and defeat any conventional competitors, swiftly respond to crises across the globe, and support our ground forces. We need greater investment in advanced technology ranging from the revolutionary, 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.
See above. Air is faster than naval transport, and is our best bet for rapid response to developing situations. Navy power is good for long-term projection, but when you just have to be there tomorrow, blasting the hell out of something, this is the way to go.

Maintain Power Projection at Sea: We must recapitalize our naval forces, 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.
Adjusting Naval forces for more rapid deployment is a good thing. Aircraft carriers + missile boats+ rapid deployment fleets = long-distance, flexible power.

National Missile Defense: The Obama-Biden Administration will support missile defense, but ensure that it is developed in a way that is pragmatic and cost-effective; and, most importantly, does not divert resources from other national security priorities until we are positive the technology will protect the American public.

The only saving grace of that statement is the last sentence. Missile defense doesn't work. It has never worked. It openly antagonizes people we currently have no argument with. Drop it. This is a sop to the fact we've already wasted insane amounts of money on it. Hopefully, they can get a look at the results, and quietly drop the damned thing.

Ensure Freedom of Space: The Obama-Biden Administration will restore American leadership on space issues, seeking a worldwide ban on weapons that interfere with military and commercial satellites. They will thoroughly assess possible threats to U.S. space assets and the best options, military and diplomatic, for countering them, establishing contingency plans to ensure that U.S. forces can maintain or duplicate access to information from space assets and accelerating programs to harden U.S. satellites against attack.
Not bad. There are treaties preventing the weaponization of space, but nothing defending assets located there. Given our dependence on satellites, this is a good move.

Protect the U.S in Cyberspace: The Obama-Biden Administration cooperate with our allies and the private sector to identify and protect against emerging cyber-threats.
Quick! Summon the Roberts women! Good idea, anyway. This is basic.

Heading 3:

Restore the Readiness of the National Guard and Reserves

Equip, Support, and Modernize the National Guard and Reserves: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will provide the National Guard with the equipment it needs for foreign and domestic emergencies and time to restore and refit before deploying. They will make the head of the National Guard a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to ensure concerns of our citizen soldiers reach the level they mandate. They will ensure that reservists and Guard members are treated fairly when it comes to employment, health, and education benefits.
Adding the head of the Guard to the Joint Chiefs is a good move, given the level of actual military involvement they've had lately. As for the rest, there's no way it's happening until we reduce our commitments and up recruiting, as stated above.

Heading 4:

Develop Whole of Government Initiatives to Promote Global Stability

Integrate Military and Civilian Efforts: The Obama-Biden Administration will build up the capacity of each non-Pentagon agency to deploy personnel and area experts where they are needed, to help move soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines out of civilian roles.
This seems like a decent way to limit disruption when deployment occurs. I'm interested in seeing how this will play out.

Create a Civilian Assistance Corps (CAC): Obama and Biden will create a national CAC of 25,000 personnel. This corps of civilian volunteers with special skill sets (doctors, lawyers, engineers, city planners, agriculture specialists, police, etc.) would be organized to provide each federal agency with a pool of volunteer experts willing to deploy in times of need at home and abroad.
Interesting. There are a lot of cases where civilian deployment is appropriate. This is an intriguing way to go, and I look forward to more news. Sending in non-military relief in a disaster might be a way of projecting influence and image without the baggage that the military carries.

Heading 5:

Restore Our Alliances

Engage Our Allies in Meeting Our Common Security Challenges: America's traditional alliances, such as NATO, must be transformed and strengthened, including on common security concerns like Afghanistan, homeland security, and counterterrorism. President Obama and Vice President Biden will renew alliances and ensure our allies contribute their fair share to our mutual security.
This boils down to two things: First, we need to stop being autocratic douchebags, moving unilaterally in foregin policy. Second, we need to whip NATO in the ass and get them going with us on real strategic concerns of the new century. We aren't working on the Chimperor's agenda anymore, and they need to acknowledge it and step up.

Organize to Help Our Partners and Allies in Need: The Obama-Biden Administration will expand humanitarian activities that build friendships and attract allies at the regional and local level (such as during the response to the tsunami in South and Southeast Asia), and win hearts and minds in the process.
This is where I see the civillian assistance corps mentioned above really coming in to its own. The USA really needs to get its humanitarian cred back. Projecting that image will be almost as effective as projecting any kind of military force, because it wins hearts and minds. The better we are perceived, the less we have to fight.

Heading 6:

Reform Contracting

Create Transparency for Military Contractors: President Obama and Vice President Biden will require the Pentagon and State Department to develop a strategy for determining when contracting makes sense, rather than continually handing off governmental jobs to well-connected companies. They will create the transparency and accountability needed for good governance, and establish the legal status of contractor personnel, making possible prosecution of any abuses committed by private military contractors.
In other words, private contractors will actually be held accountable for money, results, and actions taken. As of this writing, they've already dropped Blackwater. A necessary step, overall, because we are going to have to rely on contractors of all stripes for a long time. paring down the abuses will be key to restoring accountability and trust on all sides.

Restore Honesty, Openness, and Commonsense to Contracting and Procurement: The Obama-Biden Administration will realize savings by reducing the corruption and cost overruns that have become all too routine in defense contracting. This includes launching a program of acquisition reform and management, which would end the common practice of no-bid contracting. Obama and Biden will end the abuse of supplemental budgets by creating a system of oversight for war funds as stringent as in the regular budget. Obama and Biden will restore the government's ability to manage contracts by rebuilding our contract officer corps. They will order the Justice Department to prioritize prosecutions that will punish and deter fraud, waste and abuse.
In other words, we will no longer operate under the, "You know Dick Cheney? Here's $300 billion" school of defense bids. Reform long overdue, but given that Obama's already ignored his new rules on hiring lobbyists for someone in this field, I'm not holding my breath.

Well, that's the end of the "Defense" agenda, as it stands. Stay tuned for the next segment, "Disabilities".


Other posts in this series can be found at the Agenda Index.

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