The following Twessay (that’s right, I made up a word for Twitter Essay or a Long Form Tweet) on force structure and defense spending is written in response to a piece on @WarOnTheRocks by @staciepettyjohn and @becca_wasser… .
This piece itself appears to be a response to an earlier piece on at WOTR… with which I am far more in agreement.
I realize the Titan who runs WOTR will upbraid me for not submitting this as an essay, but I have a short attention span and needed to get this off my chest. I recommend re-rolling it with @threadreaderapp or one of the other services that do this for you.
As I have in the past, my approach to discussing this piece will be to take it as it comes, with direct quotes and discussion thereof. And here…we…go….
“This (Integrated Deterrence) expansive and ill-defined concept does not promote confidence that the Department of Defense is likely to set clear priorities in its strategy”. Couldn’t agree more. We’re off to a great start.
“The Biden administration should narrowly focus the Defense Department on high-end deterrence against China and Russia instead of strategic competition”. As I will come back to many times in this Twessay, I believe this is exactly what the Biden Team is doing.
“This strategy would enable the dual nuclear and conventional modernization that is desperately needed to strengthen deterrence, both now and in the future, at current levels of defense spending” I simply don’t accept this limitation.
I understand the desire to be responsive to the resources provided, but if the resources provided are a large part of the problem, starting from square one in this manner is overly limiting.
“Urgent change at a significant scale is required to secure the nation today and tomorrow, but this will not occur if the next National Defense Strategy promotes too much of the same.”….as long as it doesn’t cost any more?
“This was due in part to the fact that while the 2018 strategy prioritized high-end deterrence, it also stressed the “reemergence of long-term strategic competition” with China and Russia.”
Whether it was in the 2018 strategy or in the current administrations musings, the continuing attempt to separate out deterrence and competition befuddles me. The military’s role in strategic competition IS deterrence.
“Now there are calls for the 2022 National Defense Strategy to further widen its aperture so that it not only identifies strategic competition and warfighting as core missions…” Any effort to eliminate or diminish strategic competition from the military’s responsibilities will…
…by definition, reduce the effectiveness of its deterrent value. Because deterrence is the product, the end-state—of effective competition.
“Congress, for example, has provided an additional $24 billion increase to the Fiscal Year 2022 defense budget to buy more aircraft, ships, and weapons that might not be needed or even wanted.”
And this was done in no small measure because the general thrust of this essay was rejected.
“It is an open question whether the Biden administration takes the good from the 2018 National Defense Strategy — the hard choices made to explicitly prioritize preparing for war against China — and improves on it, or whether the Department of Defense returns to strategy-making…
…as a device to achieve consensus” Aside from the essay’s doubts about “integrated deterrence” as a term, this is not an open question. Integrated deterrence is the smokescreen that OSD is using to de-emphasize military competition EXACTLY as this article would advocate.
“Trying to straddle all of these competing demands would likely result in a force-planning construct that aims to compete day-to-day while simultaneously building readiness and capability to deter China and Russia, with an emphasis on China”. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!
This is EXACTLY what is required, and what the previous article on WOTR advocated for.
“Such a strategy seeks to do it all — hedge against multiple threats while competing today and deterring the wars of tomorrow.
It raises the level of ambition for and demands on the U.S. military because of the multiple threats that they will need to both compete against and deter.”
The continuing distinction between strategic competition and one of the primary ways the military contributes to it—deterrence—escapes me.
“Although this approach sounds like a prudent way of hedging against future uncertainty, it will result in a force that cannot defend the homeland or American allies against a Chinese or Russian attack.” WITHIN CURRENT RESOURCES! If it is prudent, then we should pay for it.
“Additional resources are not going to resolve this dilemma. If extra funding is used to buy more capabilities that are not relevant to high-end deterrence, they may exacerbate this problem over time and further entrench constituencies opposed to the changes needed.
Additional capacity also increases the likelihood that defense leaders take their eye off the Indo-Pacific and employ military forces in other regions for missions that can be fulfilled by other parts of the government.
Time and time again we have seen the Department of Defense struggle to multi-task.
It has taken a herculean effort by multiple administrations to shift the defense bureaucracy’s focus to China…” 1) so don’t buy capabilities not relevant to high end deterrence (which is a way militaries compete) 2) As for the employment of military forces, this is a political…
…decision 3) DoD struggles to multi-task? Does anyone really believe this given the mind-numbing number and variety of things DoD does EVERY SINGLE DAY? And 4) what “herculean” effort?
This administration is awash with the same people who in the Obama Administration put the clamps on talk and planning that was considered provocative toward China.
“The force associated with this strategy could contest, but not halt, an invasion of Taiwan or the Baltics, and it could not overturn a sub-conventional land grab in either region.” Does it contest it more than the current force?
Does it raise the cost of the decision to initiate?
“The department’s senior leaders should embrace some near-term risk and make the hard choices needed to set the future force in the right direction.
This means sacrificing capacity and the ability to fight simultaneous wars to maintain enough forces with enhanced capabilities to win one large fight against the most consequential threat..” The extent to which the authors believe they are raising controversy here is notable.
They are essentially advocating exactly what this administration is trying to do.
“this strategy could simultaneously fund nuclear and conventional modernization and enable a deterrence-by-denial strategy against China and Russia” This claim is worth investigation.
My sense is that without military competition, deterrence by denial is impossible. Some version of deterrence by punishment may be available, but with its concomitant weaknesses.
“The strategy narrowly defines the military’s role to warfighting and eschews the concept of competition, which primarily occurs in the non-military realm and is the responsibility of other parts of the government.”
1) competition IS part of deterrence and 2) that part of the strategic competition carried out by the military is unique and cannot be accomplished by any other part of the government, unlike many non-military aspects.
“Because it enhances deterrence, this strategy can reduce the risk of a conflict with China and Russia in the near term and over the long run.
It makes key investments in existing capabilities, mainly advanced long-range munitions and enablers, and improvements in posture to strengthen deterrence now.” I simply don’t accept that this approach enhances deterrence.
Also how is “improvements in posture” NOT military competition?
I hope this Twessay continues the excellent dialogue occurring about these questions. Fin.

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