Korea

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The Army announced new assignments for ten generals this afternoon, but two in particular stand out as signs of the times. They’re sending a battle-hardened artilleryman from the 82nd Airborne Division to the No. 2 job in South Korea and a veteran acquisition officer to Afghanistan. Moving Maj. Gen. Harold Greene from the Army’s acquisition… Keep reading →

ROK Korea - Utah Army National Guard training

WASHINGTON: Two years ago, the Obama administration announced its “Pacific Pivot” (hastily renamed a “rebalance”), but crises keep yanking US attention back from a rising China to the unstable cradle of civilization (as we predicted at the time): Iran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz to oil traffic, Syria disintegrated into an increasingly sectarian… Keep reading →

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WASHINGTON: As the crisis over China’s self-declared “air defense identification zone” hits its tenth day with no signs of de-escalation, leading Republican lawmaker Rep. Randy Forbes questioned an apparent concession by the administration over commercial flights. Meanwhile, South Korea is contemplating expanding its own long-standing ADIZ to challenge China’s — but it might do so in a… Keep reading →

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REAGAN LIBRARY, SIMI VALLEY, CA: Sometimes you have to listen closely to the soft-spoken Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Sometimes the Commandant of the Marine Corps says “hey, Sydney!” and hands you his message on a plate. But this Saturday, both Army Gen. Martin Dempsey and Marine Gen. James Amos were talking about… Keep reading →

An Army M2 Bradley trains at the National Training Center in California in January. Since then, budget cuts have forced the Army to cancel most such exercises.

UPDATE: Odierno Clarifies. It May Be Three Brigades WASHINGTON: The Army has had to cancel so much training that only two of its 42 combat brigades are ready for combat, Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told reporters at the Association of the US Army conference here today. It’ll take until June to get a… Keep reading →

US advisors train South Korean troops in 1952. 61 years later, Seoul remains reluctant to take full command on the peninsula.

WASHINGTON: For six decades, Americans have been in charge of the joint US-Korean headquarters that would control both countries’ forces in the event of war. The South Koreans were supposed to take over the Combined Forces Command in 2015, but now Seoul is getting cold feet about ending the Cold War arrangement – and Korea’s new… Keep reading →

CAPITOL HILL: The commandant of the Marines told Congress today that his service could not handle even one major war if Congress doesn’t undo the $500 billion, 10-year cut to defense spending known as sequestration. The Navy, for its part, would have only one aircraft carrier ready to “surge” in a crisis instead of two or three, allowing it to reinforce only one war zone at a time.

A central tenet of American strategy has been the ability to fight and win two major wars in two theaters at the same time since World War II. How well the military could actually meet that requirement has been open for debate, but it was always upheld as the official ideal — until January 2012, when the Obama administration’s Defense Strategic Guidance downgraded the goal to, in essence, win one, hold one. Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: For all the budget hawks and foreign policy doves out there who think that the automatic cuts called sequestration might actually be a good way to reduce our military spending, Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno has a message: We already gave at the office.

“I want to first remind everybody that sequestration is not the first set of cuts we have taken in the military,” Gen. Odierno told the audience at the Brooking Institution this morning (click here for video of the hour-long talk). In 2010, then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates cancelled a host of programs — including the Army’s flagship Future Combat Systems — that would have cost, over time, an estimated $300 billion. In 2011, the Budget Control Act cut another $487 billion over ten years. “We are now just beginning to implement that almost $800 billion worth of cuts now,” said Odierno. “We’ve just begun to see the impacts.” Keep reading →

ARMY WAR COLLEGE: Hours before Pyongyang conducted its latest nuclear test, military officers here at the Army War College began waging a wargame whose classified scenario is transparently concerned with North Korea. That is not happenstance.

[Click here for more coverage of the Army's "Winter Wargame"] Keep reading →

The pivot to the Pacific started more than a century ago. The United States first became a Pacific power in 1898, the year the US first annexed Hawaii and then gained Guam and the Philippines (as well as Puerto Rico) from Spain after a “short, victorious war.”

The United States is at a turning point as it contemplates the way ahead for its defense and security policy in the Pacific. With the decline of the physical number of platforms and assets, our ability to project dominant power out from the West Coast of the United States and Hawaii is increasingly in question.

The simple, inescapable reality imposed by the sheer size of the Pacific Ocean is that the continental United States is many miles from the Western Pacific. In previous articles for AOL Defense, I have looked at the US and the Pacific seen from a perspective east of Hawaii, but now turning to Hawaii and further west, where the challenge is to shape a credible presence and projection of power in the region for the 21st century.

If the projection of power is seen to be about pushing platforms and capabilities out from the continental United States (CONUS), Alaska and Hawaii, we face significant challenges dealing with the growth of Chinese power and the needs for interoperability and support to empower both our allies and the United States operating in the region.

But if a different approach is shaped, one which rests increasingly on a plug-in strategy, the challenge is manageable. US allies are shaping new defense and security capabilities for the 21st century, investing resources into the re-crafting of their capabilities going forward. How can these efforts be combined more effectively going forward so that both the allies and the US end up collectively with significantly expanded but cost-effective capabilities?

Evolving Capabilities and New Approaches

The evolution of 21st century weapon technology is breaking down the barriers between offensive and defensive systems. Is missile defense about providing defense or is it about enabling global reach, for offense or defense? Likewise, the new 5th generation aircraft have been largely not understood because they are inherently multi-mission systems, which can be used for forward defense or forward offensive operations.

Indeed, an inherent characteristic of many new systems is that they are really about presence and putting a grid over an operational area, and therefore they can be used to support strike or defense within an integrated approach. In the 20th Century, surge was built upon the notion of signaling. One would put in a particular combat capability – a Carrier Battle Group, Amphibious Ready Group, or Air Expeditionary Wing – to put down your marker and to warn a potential adversary that you were there and ready to be taken seriously. If one needed to, additional forces would be sent in to escalate and build up force. With the new multi-mission systems – 5th generation aircraft and Aegis for example – the key is presence and integration able to support strike or defense in a single operational presence capability. Now the adversary can not be certain that you are simply putting down a marker.

This is what former Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne calls the attack and defense enterprise. The strategic thrust of integrating modern systems is to create an a grid that can operate in an area as a seamless whole, able to strike or defend simultaneously. This is enabled by the evolution of C5ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Combat Systems, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance), and it is why Wynne has underscored for more than a decade that fifth generation aircraft are not merely replacements for existing tactical systems but a whole new approach to integrating defense and offense. When one can add the strike and defensive systems of other players, notably missiles and sensors aboard surface ships like Aegis, then one can create the reality of what Ed Timperlake, a former fighter pilot, has described as the F-35 being able to consider Aegis as his wingman.

By shaping a C5ISR system inextricably intertwined with platforms and assets, which can honeycomb an area of operation, an attack and defense enterprise can operate to deter aggressors and adversaries or to conduct successful military operations. Inherent in such an enterprise is scalability and reach-back. By deploying the C5ISR honeycomb, the shooters in the enterprise can reach back to each other to enable the entire grid of operation, for either defense or offense.

US allies in the Western Pacific already possess Aegis systems and will most likely add F-35s to their operational inventory, if the United States can have the imagination to shape an integrated attack and defense enterprise with those allies, significant capabilities for defense can be made available to both allies and the United States at the same time. For the allies, their own capabilities would be individually augmented, but the foundation would also be created for de facto and explicit integration of those assets across the Western Pacific. By being able to plug into the F-35 and Aegis enabled honeycomb, the United States could provide force augmentation and surge capability to those allies and at the same time enable forward deployments which the United States would not own or operate.

In effect, what could be established from the United States perspective is a plug in approach rather than a push approach to projecting power. The allies are always forward deployed; the United States does not to attempt to replicate what those allies need to do in their own defense. But what the United States can offer is strategic depth to those allies. At the same time if interoperability and interactive sustainability are recognized as a strategic objective of the first order, then the United States can shape a more realistic approach than one which now rests on trying to proliferate power projection platforms, when neither the money nor the numbers are there.

Now let us apply this approach to a strike and defense enterprise to some fundamental geo-political realities. As things stand now, the core for the US effort from Hawaii outward is to enable a central strategic triangle, one that reaches from Hawaii to Guam and to Japan. This triangle is at the heart of America’s ability to project power into the Western Pacific. With a 20th century approach, one which is platform-centric and rooted in step by step augmentation of force, each point of the triangle needs to be garrisoned with significant numbers of platforms which can be pushed forward. To be clear, having capability in this triangle is a key element of what the United States can bring to the party for Pacific operations, and it remains fundamental. But with a new approach to an attack and defense enterprise, one would use this capability differently from simply providing for push forward and sequential escalation dominance.

Rather than focusing simply on the image of projecting power forward, what is crucial to an successful Pacific strategy is enabling a strategic quadrangle in the Western Pacific, anchored on Japan, South Korea, Australia, and Singapore. This will not be simple. Competition, even mutual suspicion, among US allies in the Western Pacific is historically deep-rooted; as a former 7th USAF commander underscored, “history still matters in impeding allied cooperation.” But in spite of these challenges and impediments, enabling the quadrangle to do a better job of defending itself and shaping interoperability across separate nations has to become a central strategic American goal.

This will require significant cultural change for the United States. Rather than thinking of allies after we think about our own strategy, we need to reverse the logic. Without enabled allies in the Western Pacific, the United States will simply not be able to execute an effective Pacific strategy. Full stop. We are not about to have a 600-ship navy, and putting Littoral Combat Ships into Singapore is a metaphor for the problem, not the solution.

Robbin Laird, a member of the AOL Defense Board of Contributors, is an international defense consultant and owner of the Second Line of Defense website.


Figure 1 Intersecting and Converging Capabilities: A Strategic Triangle with a Strategic Quadrangle Keep reading →

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