Wednesday, July 7, 2010

AirSea Battle: 21st Century Power-Projection

I have written a couple of articles recently that were critical of the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates. My specific concerns were his statements regarding the possible re-defining of the role of the U.S. Marine Corps and the reduction or elimination of its amphibious operations capabilities. To my surprise, these articles generated some very interesting responses. These included a discussion of the evolution of America’s basic strategic planning during the second half of the 20th century (the years since World War II) and how our needs must be readdressed and redefined in light of the changing geo-political environment and the acquisition of high technology weaponry by other countries (specifically China and Iran).

The reality is that since World War II the United States has been a global power. Our global interests include maintaining key trading routes and access to those routes and resources, and defending the common interests of our allies and partners. Our ability to project and sustain military power is essential to these interests. The Soviet Union once posed the major military challenge to US power-projection capabilities. We managed to avoid a major war, but the US military’s ability to project and sustain large forces overseas was tested by limited wars in Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf, as well as in numerous other, smaller conflicts. For several years, following the Soviet Union’s collapse, the US military’s power-projection capabilities were effectively uncontested.

That situation is now changing and may have significant consequences for US security. The spread of advanced military technologies by other militaries, especially China’s People’s Liberation Army and Iran’s military and Islamic Revolutionary Guards, and the ability of the US to preserve military access to two key areas of vital interest, the Western Pacific and the Persian Gulf, is being increasingly challenged.

Both countries claim benign intentions, but since intentions can change overnight (especially in authoritarian regimes), one must pay close attention to their military capabilities. Unless Beijing and Tehran change their current course, or Washington undertakes actions to counterbalance the effects of their military buildups, it is practically certain that the cost incurred by the US military to maintain access to these two areas of vital interest will rise sharply, and possibly much sooner than anyone expects.

This is where a new concept called "AirSea Battle" comes in. Recently the United States Air Force and Navy agreed to address the issue of preserving American power-projection capabilities in the face of the military challenges posed by China and Iran. The new AirSea Battle concept is being developed with all these considerations taken into account and balancing our increased technological capabilities with a pragmatic admission of increased budgetary constraints. This is an essential process and one that is somewhat overdue. That said, I am still concerned that an over-reliance on high tech capabilities will result in our losing the US Marine Corps amphibious assault capability and that would be a tragic and potentially costly mistake. The growing threat of smaller conflicts requiring littoral response capabilities (recently acknowledged by the Navy when an entire new line of specialized warships such as the new USS New York, were developed) has increased and will continue to increase, at least in the foreseeable future.

Have a look at this interesting You Tube Clip:

On This Day in History:
1668 Issac Newton receives MA from Trinity College
1846 US annexes California
1865 Lincoln's assassination conspirators hanged
1908 The Great White Fleet leaves SF Bay


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