One of the many bumper stickers/intellectual short-cuts I love is this: when everything is priority one, nothing is priority one. A variation on the theme is ‘when everyone is responsible, no one’s responsible.’
So what will be the DoD priorities that emerge under the Panetta-led Department of Defense? How about better addressing those threats that can wreck our society/economy/nation in short order, such as nuclear war (requires investment in missile defense and civil defense), near-peer conflict (the China syndrome), and homeland defense? These issues lead to a corollary: regarding defense, where are we overinvested and where are we underinvested?
From DoDBuzz, reporting on the observations of Todd Harrison, Senior Fellow of Defense Budget Studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments:
…we are relatively over-invested in these type of counter insurgency capabilities; things like MRAPs, things like unprotected UAVs, like Predator or Reaper. I don’t know that we’re going to need 65 Predator orbits in the future, but we’re going to have them. So, we have all these investments that we may not need anymore.
Where are we under invested? We’re under-invested in long-range systems, in systems that are designed to operate in non-permissive environments where people are actually trying to shoot us down or keep us out. So, I think we’ve got to shift our focus on investments into longer-range systems at the higher-end, that can operate at denied environments. You can still do that in a down-budget environment but it forces some hard decisions in other parts of your budget in terms of what size of ground force are you going to maintain?
This is the bill coming due on Gates’ ‘fighting and winning the wars we’re in.’ For Panetta (and the defense community writ large), it becomes the challenge of investing in the capabilities that will allow us to deter war, and should deterrence fail, to win those conflicts.