The U.S. military is already unaffordable -- and yet it needs to be larger to sustain America's global leadership, especially in the face of a rising China. That's the bottom line from a congressionally chartered bipartisan panel, co-chaired by Stephen Hadley, George W. Bush's national security adviser, and William Perry, Bill Clinton's Defense secretary. The report, released July 29, is the independent panel's assessment of and commentary on the Pentagon's own Quadrennial Defense Review, released earlier this year.
The Hadley-Perry "alternative QDR" deliberately looks 20 years out and particularly emphasizes building a larger Navy to counter the rising power of China. (Panel members include longtime expert blog contributor Maj. Gen. Robert Scales. The full document can be found here.)
On one hand, the panel writes, the military needs both more manpower and more modern equipment: "There is a significant and growing gap between the 'force structure' of the military -- its size and its inventory of equipment -- and the missions it will be called on to perform in the future.... [So] we propose an alternative force structure with emphasis on increasing the size of the Navy." On the other hand, the panel acknowledges, we cannot pay for what we already have: "The [currently planned] force structure, not including the additional increments the panel believes necessary, will be unsustainable unless growth in defense entitlements, increases in overhead costs, and cost overruns of major acquisition programs are all brought under control."
Frequent expert blog contributor Gordon Adams, among others, has already blasted the Hadley-Perry report for making the underlying assumption that the U.S. can and should continue to invest heavily in being a "global policeman." Is Adams right that the Hadley-Perry report calls for an unaffordable answer to the wrong question? Or are the report's authors correct when they argue that the U.S. must be the leading guarantor of global security? And if the U.S. must lead, has the Hadley-Perry panel laid out the right path to doing so?