FPIF News Conference: Critiques of the Defense Department's Strategic Review

(The following is an edited version of a Federal News Service transcript of an FPIF-cosponsored press briefing at the National Press Building in Washington, DC on May 14, 2000. For more information, also see FPIF Briefing Book: Bush Administration's Strategic Defense Review at

(To listen to C-SPAN's RealAudio version of this press briefing, click on this link:







THERESA HITCHENS:I first want to thank you all for coming. I'm Theresa Hitchens, the senior advisor at the Center for Defense Information, and I'll be moderating our discussion today about the Bush administration's defense review.

Before I introduce our illustrious panel, I'd just like to give you a quick overview of the landscape that we're facing right now. President George W. Bush and new Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have unleashed a massive exercise to review the breadth of U.S. defense policy and posture. This effort, which covers everything from the current nuclear arsenal to readiness and personnel, is being undertaken in a series of seemingly unrelated studies by at least 17 and, by some accounts, 21 different panels.

Unfortunately, these deliberations, led by Rumsfeld's hand-picked advisers, many of whom come from the defense industry, are largely taking place behind closed doors without much input from Congress and the military services. Various leaks to the press up to now paint a somewhat chaotic and uncoordinated picture, including inconsistencies in recommendations.

Rumsfeld himself has not yet explained how he intends to integrate the findings of these various groups, nor have Pentagon officials adequately explained how the findings of this review are going to be meshed with the already ongoing, congressionally mandated Quadrennial Defense Review that is supposed to be taking a clean-slate look at future U.S. defense strategy, doctrine, and posture. Nor do we know precisely how the decisions of either over-arching review will be plugged into the three different sets of budget activities the Bush administration now is grappling with. We may not ever know, in fact, as recent press reports have quoted Pentagon officials as saying that the results and recommendations of the various Rumsfeld panels may well not be made public.

Suffice to say that the future of defense policy and posture cannot and should not be debated in a vacuum. At the dawn of the 21st century, the United States faces many fundamental questions. As the lone superpower, we also bear many responsibilities.

U.S. decisions about the size of its nuclear arsenal, the benefit of multinational arms control treaties, the deployment of missile defenses and space-based weapons all will have major impacts on the security of the entire globe.

The revamped force structure and funding priorities set by the Pentagon now will have ramifications for the U.S. national budget for decades to come. There is discussion among some in the Bush administration and Congress of striving for a goal of $400 billion a year in defense spending--an unprecedented high point and above the average spent during the dark days of the cold war, when U.S. leaders believed we were locked in an existential life-and-death struggle with the Soviet Union.

In Washington there seems to be an unspoken consensus that the defense budget is on an upward trajectory. There is wide agreement that the problems in readiness and the ever-increasing costs of high- tech weaponry make this all but inevitable. But there's been little serious reflection about why this is so and how it is that the world's dominant power must outspend every other nation on Earth to maintain its security. The proposed U.S. defense budget for 2002, $325 billion, is far above the combined spending of any of the countries the Pentagon considers potential adversaries--Russia, China, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria--who together spend only $116 billion, or about 36 percent of the planned U.S. budget. Russia, the next-highest spender, has an annual defense budget of about $7 billion, only slightly larger than that of the Netherlands.

There has also been little discussion of the strategic rationale--the who, what, where, and why of our security policy--that should guide current and future leaders. What are our vital interests in the 21st century? Who or what are the potential challenges to them? What foreign and security policy approaches, besides the direct use of force, can help ensure U.S. interests and a peaceful world?

Nor has there been any serious discussion about how the United States will afford the continuing increases in the defense budget, with defense spending already eating up more than half of the nation's discretionary budget. Is this possible at the same time as President Bush is promising a tax cut, when the economy is on a downward slide, and with the impending retirement of the baby boom generation?

We hope that this panel will challenge some of the conventional wisdom and help spur debate about the fundamentals of U.S. defense strategy, policy, posture, and spending.

First at bat we will have Cindy Williams, who is a senior research fellow at the Security Studies program of MIT, and author of "Holding the Line: U.S. Defense Alternatives for the Early 21st Century." She was previously assistant director for national security at the Congressional Budget Office and before that was at the Pentagon's Program Analysis and Evaluation Directorate.

Following Cindy will be Larry Korb, vice president and Maurice R. Greenberg chair, director of studies, and director on national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. With previous stints as director of the Center for Public Policy Education and senior fellow at Brookings Institution, Larry also had direct experience at the Pentagon, as assistant secretary of Defense from 1981 to 1985. Larry will talk about the current status of the U.S. military and take a look at "transformation" for the future.

Next is Bill Hartung, who is a senior research fellow at the World Policy Institute at the New School for Social Research, a member of the advisory committee for the Foreign Policy In Focus Project, and co-author of "Tangled Web: The Marketing of Missile Defense, 1994 to 2000." A long-time expert on cost, contractors, and key constituencies in weapons acquisition, Bill will attempt to shed some light on the political and economic costs and benefits of national missile defense and space-based weapons.

Batting cleanup is John Gershman, who is the Asia Pacific editor of Foreign Policy in Focus and a senior analyst with the Interhemispheric Resource Center. He writes on U.S. security policy in Asia, with an emphasis on U.S.-China relations--for example, author of "Still the Pacific Century? U.S. Policy in Asia and the Pacific." He will talk about the growing U.S. obsession with China as a possible peer competitor in the geostrategic realm.


I thought I'd focus in on the budgetary side of the ongoing review by Secretary Rumsfeld. Unfortunately, I don't know any more than you do about what size of a budget increase Secretary Rumsfeld might ultimately ask for, and certainly not what size of budgetary increase the Office of Management and Budget and the president will agree to, and ultimately what will be sent over to the Hill.

But the things I've been hearing are: maybe they would ask for a $20 billion-a-year increase over and above what's already in the program. Some people are even saying they might be asking for a $50 billion-a-year increase.

I want to talk about the same things, the same questions that I am asking myself right now about the sports car I'd like to buy: Can I afford it, and do I need it? So let me talk about can the nation afford a $20 (billion) to $50 billion increase in defense spending.

My simple answer is yes, we can afford it. We're running large surpluses. But we can't afford that and everything else that we are saying we want to do with the surpluses.

If you look at the budget resolution that Congress passed last week, there's a plan for a large tax reduction, there's a plan to increase the Medicare spending by adding a prescription drug benefit, there are several other smaller initiatives. When you total up the size of lost surplus, because of that budget resolution and the interest that will be lost because we're running a larger debt than we would under the initial assumptions of the surplus, we would end up spending all but $500 billion of the surplus--the surplus that's projected outside the Social Security and Medicare trust funds--all but $500 billion over the 10-year period.

Now there are a lot of other claimants for that $500 billion. There's a lot of pressure to change the rules on the Alternative Minimum Tax, so that it won't hit as many people as it's going to once the tax cut is enacted. Probably the level of spending by claimants other than the Defense Department, plus the foregone interest, will come to something like $850 billion over the 10-year period, before you even start adding money for defense.

So yes, we can afford to add money for defense, but we have to trade it off against all these other needs, and in the end, we're going to have to decide as a nation which are our top priorities for federal spending.

On the second point: Do we need to add so much extra; do we need to add any extra for defense? My answer is a resounding no. And I say this against a backdrop of several analyses, including my own, that tell us that over the long term, keeping and equipping today's forces would cost tens of billions of dollars more annually than we're spending today. Keeping today's forces and equipping them along the lines of the plans that the Defense Department currently has would cost substantially more than we're spending today. But the question is whether that's what we want to do.

First of all, I think it doesn't make sense to keep all of today's forces. If the Rumsfeld review comes out with a strong look toward Asia, it strikes me that we aren't going to need as many Army forces as we have, and we will want to start emphasizing Air Force and Naval forces because those are the types of forces we would need to fight in Asia.

We have to ask ourselves seriously whether the level of National Guard Combat Divisions that we're keeping is warranted in any way. We should be asking ourselves whether we need all the aircraft carriers we have, or simply on efficiency grounds whether we shouldn't be trying to operate them in a more efficient way.

Another problem with thinking that we have to spend all this extra money just to keep the forces that we have is that the estimates of how much money it would cost assume that every single item of equipment we have in stock today has to be replaced with a new item off a new line. And that doesn't make sense to me either. First of all, some items shouldn't be replaced at all, either because we are eliminating the units that those items belong to, or because the replacement items are so good, so effective, that we won't need as many items in the future. It's also possible that we should be looking hard at refurbishing some items rather than replacing them, or replacing them off existing lines rather than wholly new lines.

Now, I'd refer back to the two points that Theresa made about spending: Do we need to spend more than six times as much as any other nation in the world, and do we need to spend more than the substantial increment we already spend above the level of total spending by our allies? Do we want to spend more than we spent on average during the cold war, because we're just about back to the cold war average level of spending today. Adding $20 billion a year is going to put us well into Reagan territory; adding $50 billion a year is going to put us nearly at the peak levels of spending during the Reagan years.

So my answer to "Do we need to spend additional money?" is absolutely not; we do not need to spend additional money over and above what we're spending today in real terms.


The problem that Don Rumsfeld faces is that during the campaign there were a lot of statements made, and having been through campaigns, I know it's very easy to make these statements, but then, of course, you have to govern, because a lot of the campaign rhetoric, particularly as regards the state of defenses, was disingenuous.

The Bush team was saying how bad things were in the military, and you all remember some of the exaggerated rhetoric, but they were only proposing small amounts of money to fix them. I always thought it was rather ironic that Al Gore, who was saying how wonderful things were, was proposing to put in twice as much money as the Bush team.

We all know that Don Rumsfeld, both from his confirmation hearings and the first Cabinet meetings, tried to get a big plus-up in defense, but was not able to because they did not want to stamp out the message or interfere with the message on the tax reduction.

Now, the studies that they're doing are a way of buying time, because this was what the president has been able to say when people keep talking about him fulfilling his campaign rhetoric, that first we have to do a study. If in fact they had let Andy Marshall do the study and then tried to implement what we all know Andy has been talking about for several decades, I think they would have been fine. But by creating all of these other panels, they're basically stepping on their own message, because a lot of them are coming up with contradictory statements. The problem they're going to face when they come out, they're going to have to admit that they either were wrong in the campaign or that they're wrong now, when Rumsfeld comes forward with what's going on.

Now, the fact of the matter is that the relative position of the U.S. military has never been better, and a lot of the statements notwithstanding, this is not 1939 where our military ranked between Portugal and Romania. The fact of the matter is that while we do have some challenges, and every organization has challenges, our relative position has never been better, and these problems, or challenges, are not going to be solved, nor should they be solved, by adding more money. If, in fact, we do add more money to the defense budget, we will be rewarding those who have not responded adequately to the end of the cold war in the last decade.

Now, what do I mean? Well, first of all, if you take a look at the three major items in the defense budget--procurement, pay, and readiness--in terms of procurement, we've been in an arms race with ourselves. I'll never forget, I think it was Jim Lehrer interviewing Don Rice when he announced that we were going to build the F-22, and I'm paraphrasing, Mr. Lehrer said, "Well, exactly what threat is this to deal with?" And Secretary Rice, then secretary of the Air Force, said, "Well, it's to keep up with the next generation of Soviet fighter." Mr. Lehrer said, "Well, there is no next generation of Soviet fighter." And he said, "Well, it has to keep up with the French Mirages." And he said, "Well, aren't they our allies?" And then finally, he said, "It has to deal with the F-16s," and Mr. Lehrer quite correctly pointed out that those were American planes which, in fact, we were selling around the world. Similarly, with the V-22, we provided no alternative in case that very risky technology was not able to come into being.

In terms of pay, we spend an awful lot of money on pay, but we don't get what we need for it. In fact, the pay system, I hope that Dave Jeremiah's panel does come out and do something about that, because it essentially has remained unchanged since about 1922, as far as I can figure out. And if you take a look at one way in which we wasted money in the last decade, it was by changing the retirement system for people, for 20 years, from 40 percent back to 50 percent when no money had been set aside in the accrual account, and that was not why people were complaining about the situation in the military.

And then, finally, in terms of readiness, you take a look at the number of people that have been deployed, outside the routine deployments to Europe and Asia, it has averaged about 40,000 people during the last decade; that includes the Persian Gulf.

That is not a very taxing requirement for an active-duty force of about 1.4 million, and Reserves of 700,000 to 800,000. It's a management problem because you have high-demand, low-density units, and somebody during the last decade should have been making sure the money went to the units that you're leaving.

Now, what I worry about is that we may end up with the worst of all possible worlds; the Rumsfeld review will come out and say we need to transform and we need to buy new weapons, but they won't eliminate the old.

Now, what do we do? I think we recognize there's no crisis. We have lots of time to make the adjustment. We need to downgrade the requirements for the two-war strategy. During the decade of the 90s, what the military was arguing we needed to prevail in those two wars, actually the demands increased even though the likely opponents in Iraq and North Korea declined. And it has become the "Holy Grail" that you have to be ready to meet these rigid requirements, and anything else will cause a readiness crisis. And that, of course, led to the statement by then-Governor Bush in the campaign about the two Army units not being ready because they were off in Bosnia. And then, obviously, we have to do something about the high-demand, low-density units, which will involve reorganization, putting money into them and also changing the active/Reserve mix.

In terms of procurement, we are where we are, and I would urge the administration to do the silver bullet strategy with things like the F-22 and even the V-22, if we can ever make it safe, to get some return for your money and do what we did with the 117-A's by buying a couple of squadrons. Go back until you figure out what you can do to buy F-16s, the (Block Six ?), the F-15Es, Blackhawks to beef up the Marine helicopter force, and, yes, move to things like arsenal ships and unmanned aerial vehicles.

And then, finally, another area that there's no need to rush, given the behavior of the North Koreans and their willingness to suspend testing until 2003, and that's national missile defense. Cindy didn't mention it, but if you go for a crash program in national missile defense as well as space-based weapons, that could exacerbate the budget problem.

And that's a good segue into my colleague, who is going to talk about national missile defense.


If I were going to do this as a screenplay, I would call it "Eight Days in May" because on May 1st, President Bush outlined his vision on missile defense, to the extent that he has put any specifics behind it, and then on May 8th, Secretary Rumsfeld reiterated the findings of the panel that he had chaired, prior to coming in, on national security uses of outer space.

But unlike the original movie, "Seven Days in May,"--where you had this right-wing head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Burt Lancaster, spoiling to dump a liberal president--in the Bush administration, the liberals are the military guys--Colin Powell, who supported the Comprehensive Test Ban, who wanted to pick up the talks with North Korea, and not let that trail go stale. They are the ones who are fighting against the civilian ideologues for some kind of more balanced policy.

I think the good news should come first, which is that President Bush said he's for significant reductions in U.S. nuclear forces, down perhaps to 1,500 or less, which is quite a contrast with what Republicans on the Hill have been saying for many years, and goes further than anything Al Gore was willing to say on the campaign trail. He also talked about the need to de-alert U.S. forces. So I think we should take him up on those proposals, and I think they could be carried out whether or not he pursues missile defense, and they'd be good for our security.

The problem comes when you get into missile defense itself. And I just want to tick off a few issues raised by the president's proposal. First of all, I think it's important to realize that it's not inevitable. They've been trying to spin this as something that's going to happen, that must happen, that the world must--will just have to--adjust to. But you may remember we did deploy a missile defense system in the 1970s for a few months, called Safeguard, and our secretary of Defense at that time, Donald Rumsfeld, pulled the plug on that.

We've spent $70 billion, since Reagan's missile defense speech, with very little to show for it. So it's not like we've been letting this project languish in some corner somewhere. We've put real money behind it and had very little in the way of concrete results. The system also is not necessary at this moment. The Rumsfeld commission on ballistic missile threats vastly overstated the potential threats to the United States basically by engaging in worst-case scenarios: by saying, well, what if the North Koreans bought a missile with a warhead strapped on it from China, wouldn't that be quicker than building their own? This is sort of the level of the logic that was used to get us worked up about the third world missile threat. But our own top analysts in the U.S. government on these matters said that a ballistic missile is the least likely method that a country would use to deliver a ballistic missile to the United States because it has a return address; whatever country chose that route would have a devastating counterattack facing them. So I think the threat has been exaggerated.

Also, the Bush thinking on this is not new. Although he's turned some nice phrases about getting away from the grim premise of mutually assured destruction, basically he's talking about a modified version of deterrence. And if you press them, they say, well, even if the system's not perfect, it will make an adversary think twice. So let's break that down a little bit: the same adversaries who are not going to be deterred by the fact that we could destroy their country are going to be deterred by the fact that we have this unworkable defense system that we're going to slap together in two years. So somehow, when they think about missile defenses, they're much more concerned and logical than when they think about having their country blown up. So I think there's a missing logic in that particular aspect of the Bush plan.

Finally, we're not going to be any safer if they put this thing up. There was a leak to the Los Angeles Times last year of a government assessment of the likely effects of deploying a missile defense system quickly, and they found that among the most likely results would be significant buildup in Chinese ballistic missile forces; Russia would probably modernize and keep its forces on hair-trigger alert; and there'd be probably a concomitant buildup in India and Pakistan, looking to the Chinese buildup, and probably more sales of nuclear materials and such to the Middle East. So you've got all these risks up front for a system that's unproven.

The Clinton version, which was much more modest than what Bush has sketched out, failed in two out of three tests, and the one that succeeded, experts like Ted Postal have argued were in fact rigged to make it so easy as to not really tell you anything about how such a system would perform in the real world.

The popular alternatives: the space-based laser isn't even ready to be tested until 2012. The idea of boost-phase intercept from the sea sounds great, but basically it exists only as a concept. There is no missile to go with that, there's no ship to go with that. A lot of the conservative enthusiasm for sea-based missile defenses kind of papers over that little difficulty: that basically we haven't even designed the missile that would go with such a system yet.

Finally, it's not going to be cheap. I'm guessing, from the various Rumsfeld reviews and the leaks, that they'll probably go up from $5 billion a year on missiles defenses of all kinds to probably $10 billion a year, and if they actually deploy anything that has elements on the land, at sea, and on aircraft, eventually in outer space, you're probably talking about a major multiple of the Clinton system, which was estimated to cost $60 billion over 20 years or so, for the land-based component. So I would think that the Bush plan could easily cost $180 billion. $240 billion; could become a significant drain on the Pentagon budget. So unless they go for the big increase, the $400 billion a year, there's going to be a lot of in-fighting about whether there's room for this if companies have to give up, you know, cranking out F-22s and bending metal on current projects to make room for missile defense.

Finally, it's not a smart thing to do. President Bush talked about rethinking the unthinkable. Well, I think he should rethink again. What we really need is to look at prevention first. Our strategy shouldn't be: Let's sit back and assume that countries are going to get missiles and launch them at us and then hope for the best, that our defense system will intercept them. We should be taking assertive measures to prevent them from getting those missiles in the first place, and that means taking those talks that the Clinton administration had made progress on with North Korea, taking those up and constructively moving forward to put limits on the Korean missile program and missile exports. That means using economic tools. It means cooperating with our allies to limit technology; it means getting some sort of inspections regime back up and running in Iraq. And none of those things are going to happen if we take a unilateralist approach that says: We're going to walk out from the ABM Treaty, we're going to tell the rest of the world what the new rules are of the road when it comes to nuclear weapons.

So I think the moderates--back to my eight days in May theme--the Colin Powells and the pragmatic people in the administration need to get a hearing and are going to have to have some support on Capitol Hill and from the society at large if Bush is going to craft a more pragmatic policy here, where we can get the nuclear reductions, where we get a safer world without all these risks, without all these costs, without putting so much emphasis on a dangerous, unproved approach like missile defense.


When we were discussing, the group of us, a few days ago on how to start, we all thought that it would be important to emphasize the good news that we saw in this, and everyone identified the various, kinds of good news components that we saw; the de-emphasis of the two-war scenario and so forth. Unfortunately, I tried to look for some good news in terms of what is expected to emerge out of the strategic review in terms of how the United States is approaching Asia in general and China in particular and, unfortunately, I couldn't find any.

I'm going to focus my comments primarily on the component of the review that's been most closely identified with Andrew Marshall, which will be the strategic review. And I think it's now become, kind of, the conventional wisdom of everyone that Asia is going to be the new focus of, area of operations for the U.S. military; or, the report is going to outline Asia as the focus of operations, from Korea, Taiwan, Central Asia, the South China Sea, et cetera. And China is identified as the kind of emerging peer competitor, with two dates that are usually thrown around as key threshold dates.

One is 2005, which some--I think incorrectly--but nevertheless some analysts identify as the period of time in which China could actually launch a successful invasion of Taiwan. And the other is in the neighborhood of 2015-2020 when China's GDP, depending on how much you believe the growth predictions, would rival the U.S. GDP in purchasing power parity terms. China would potentially have asymmetric warfare capabilities that would enable it to threaten the United States and prevent it from participating in a defense of Taiwan. It would be able to assert its regional hegemony in the South China Sea, South Asia, and elsewhere. And so those dates are kind of taken as threshold dates against which the U.S. needs to hedge now.

And so the strategy is--to the extent there's good news-that there's a recognition that China does not pose a strategic threat to the United States at this very moment. But it is the closest thing to an emerging peer competitor that is seen on the horizon and that hedging needs to begin now against the emergence of the threat.

The overall policy, to the extent that it has a framework, is the awkward name of "congagement." So you continue to engage in economic terms, and you try to hedge that with some form of containment.

With the strategic review, the containment side is going to feature heavily in this, because, except for military-to-military contacts, the Pentagon doesn't really have that much to offer in terms of other forms of engagement. And so the strategic review is going to really be the containment component of this "congagement" strategy with China.

The main components of that, I think, some people have already mentioned here: increased push on not only national but theater missile defense, revitalizing the bilateral cold war museum alliances in Asia, de facto deputizing of Japan and Australia to serve as increasingly important actors advancing the U.S. agenda in Asia.

One new development, which has already begun, is increasing military-to-military ties with India. Armitage was there chatting about missile defense. Harry Shelton is either there now or is planning to be there. And there's already discussions on reducing what's left of the paper sanctions vis-a-vis India and a real scaling up and ramping up of military-to-military ties with India.

Other components on the agenda, which again were foreshadowed in the recent Taiwan arms sales approval, include increasing military-to-military ties. This is something that's been identified in RAND Corporation--in particular, various war-gaming scenarios. One of the key obstacles to effective U.S. deterrent vis-a-vis Taiwan is the lack of interoperability between U.S. and Taiwanese military forces. And this was why Aegis was so important to China in the debate over Taiwan arms sales. It's not the military balance that was critical; it's the political--the nature of the political relationship between the U.S. and Taiwan. And the briefing on the PAC-3, which was part of the deal in the Taiwan arms sales, is a sign of closer military-to-military ties with Taiwan. The implementation or the deployment of the Aegis would have required an even greater level of military-to-military contact, and that is really the key issue that China is trying to prevent, and that I think many forces within the Pentagon--less within the Pentagon in terms of the services, more in terms of the civilian ideologues, would like to promote--Wolfowitz as well as Marshall.

What are the problems with this approach? I just want to identify four very quickly. First, the main problem is reality. We can see the numbers over there. China does not pose, even in the most hyper scenarios of where the Chinese military budget is going to be, the nature of the strategic threat to the United States. China is not going to pose a significant strategic threat to the United States. To the extent that asymmetric warfare issues are involved, it's not just a question of China, it's a question of U.S. hackers posing asymmetric warfare threats. And so the kind of strategies that one needs to pursue to defend against disruptions of power grids and the information technologies in the United States are things that have much greater significance than China per se.

Another threat, also related to reality, is that pursuing this strategy outlined here--basically targeting China as an inevitable enemy--is that we eliminate the progress that was made, albeit small, under Clinton, both in the de-escalation of tensions in the Korean peninsula and in the agreements made with China over nonproliferation of missile technologies. Those will be out the window in response to the Taiwan arms sales. Probably some time later this year, China will probably be transferring technology in a tit-for-tat fashion. And so I think we've already seen, in some sense, the Marshall review is going to formalize what has already existed in Bush administration practice, which is an early form of containment against China, and it's an approach, I think, that's totally inappropriate, both in the current situation as well as any kind of realistic projections for the future.

The second component that's problematic with this approach is managing the internal contradictions. At some level, the Bush administration would like to have a China that joins the WTO, that's open to foreign investment, that treats Boeing as well as it treats Airbus, and at the same time ramp up a military and diplomatic strategy that effectively targets China as an enemy. And I think that's an internal contradiction that's impossible to manage in the short to medium term. And this is a contradiction that's reflected within the administration itself, between the civilian ideologues that Bill was referring to, and the Powell forces, the more moderate, more engagement forces. And so I think the ultimate result of this kind of strategy is increased incoherence in Bush administration policy toward Asia. But it's a policy of incoherence that's characterized by a strong dose of belligerence and militarism, which is not appropriate for promoting security in the region.

The third thing that's wrong with this strategy is that it represents a failure of vision. It's a post-cold war strategy that's unilateralist, that's belligerent and militarized at a time when the main challenges that need to be addressed require a multilateral approach. They require an approach of cooperative security, and they require a skillful combination of diplomatic as well as military technological approaches, not one that puts the military first and the other things farther behind.

Finally, and in some sense for me the most concerning problem with this strategy is if we look at how the Bush administration has managed China policy to date, it would be a laughable farce if it wasn't so serious. The Bush administration still lacks people with significant China expertise at the top level of the administration, and it seems to me to lack--CEOs' management styles aside--the sophisticated kind of management techniques that would be necessary to make an engagement strategy work.

Engagement requires a very well-calibrated combination of engagement, hedging, containment strategies that this administration seems totally incapable to manage. If we look at the first three months of the administration, we have Bush's backing and forthing on U.S. policy toward Taiwan; we have approving the sales of diesel submarines without checking with the Netherlands and Germany as to whether they would make such submarines available; we have initial response to the spy plane fiasco; and we have the whole folderol around suspending military contacts. This does not bespeak of an administration that has a skillful management style that's necessary to manage debates and policy instruments within the administration itself, let alone with the kind of coordination that would have to take place with its allies.

So on all these scales, I think the kind of strategic proposal that's likely to emerge out of the Marshall report is going to simply reinforce the rogue elements of the Bush administration, and the likely impact is actually going to be increasing insecurity in the region as opposed to increased security.


Q: Are there are reports the administration may cut personnel numbers sharply?

MR. KORB: I think if they downgrade the two-war strategy or what it needs to be able to fight those potential two wars, that that makes a great deal of sense. I think you can cut people. I think you could also reduce, for example, your deployments in Europe--I don't know why we still need 100,000 people on the ground over there in Europe 10 years after the cold war, particularly when the Europeans are going to develop their own defense identity. And I think you can also cut back the Marine presence on Okinawa. So I think if you do those things and you have a more realistic war-fighting scenario, yes, you can cut people to free up money to do lots of things.

Q: Since you specifically mentioned the airplanes here, I'd like to ask you a question about that. The Air Force response to the argument is that it is short-sighted to say that we don't need the planes. Twenty-five or 30 years from now the threat is going to be different. How do you see that argument?

MR. KORB: Well, in two ways. I mean, I did mention that I would use the silver-bullet strategy. I would do what we did with the 117-A's. And so if, in fact, you did get involved in a situation in which people did have these sophisticated air defenses, you could use the F-22 and its stealth capabilities to go in, as we did with the 117-A's at the beginning of the war in the Persian Gulf. But remember that the 117-A is mainly to get you air superiority. That's what you're paying all of the money for, not to avoid the missiles. It's to be able to deal with another plane in the sky.

The F-22, what you're paying for is air-to-air capability, to dogfight with other planes, and that is not the same threat. The F-22 is not very good at providing support to ground forces, which is another mission that you need. If, in fact, you said to me, If you wanted to have a new plane, would you go for the F-22 or the Joint Strike Fighter? I would go with the Joint Strike Fighter in terms of cost and the likely ways in which I would use it.

Q: Regarding missile defense, can you talk a little bit about our allies and, with the talks going on, where they're actually going to be able to collaborate on missile defense with the United States?

MR. KORB: Well, if you're asking me, and Bill is the person handling that, they don't have enough money to do it. I mean, particularly the Europeans. I mean, it would be very difficult for them to put up their "fair share" of it which is, I think, one of the reasons why they're not very enthusiastic about what's happening.

MR. HARTUNG: Yeah, the way I read the European mood is it's sort of like the United States is the bull in the china shop, and the question is, do you confront it head-on or do you try to calm it down? And so I think a lot of this talk about consultations and, you know, let's see what you have in mind, is not because they've suddenly come on board with missile defense, it's because they're trying to figure out the best way to keep the U.S. from bolting from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

Q: Can I ask you about pay for a second? If you don't believe that pay needs to be increased, what do you think about the billion-dollar promise from the president to the troops? Do you think that that is an unneeded amount of money, or is it a political payoff, or is it going to something useful?

MR. KORB: Well, a billion dollars is not going to deal with the fundamental problems that you have in the pay system. For example, what we should have done 15 years ago, and people urged the military to do, was to go to a contributory retirement system, just like federal civil service employees have. You do not need to make people serve 20 years before they get anything; you ought to vest them earlier. Your ground troops are like running backs in football; after five or six years you want to make them eligible for a pension and get the new team in there. If they choose to stay and do other things, well then, obviously, that's something different, but you don't have to reward them. Similarly with pilots, 12 to 13 years, and allow them, then, to be vested in a retirement and allow them to go on. If they choose to stay, then obviously you let them, but you don't have to continue to reward them because they are not--in most cases--basically in the cockpit.

You ought to privatize--you know, let them do the same sort of health system as federal civil service employees. I mean, the federal civil service does a terrific job with retirement and health. There's no reason why you can't do that. And similarly, with housing, you'd be much better to privatize it or just give people an allowance and let them move into the civilian economy. Those are the types of things that I'm talking about. A billion dollars spread across 1.4 million active is not going to give you much of a return, in my view.

MS. WILLIAMS: You know, that billion dollars at the beginning of the administration, it sounded like there might be some decision to spread that billion dollars among the people with the specific skills that the military is losing rapidly because they're not competing economically with the pay that those people could get on the outside, especially information technology skills, advanced technology type skills. It looks, from the leaks coming out now from the panel that's considering that inside the Pentagon, that that won't be; that that billion dollars will be spread like peanut butter across all skill areas, with some ranks and some year groups potentially getting more of it than others, but no emphasis on what people do or what skills they bring to the table. To me, this is just more of the same. It's exactly the opposite of the direction that Larry is saying we need to go. We need to make it more possible in the military for people with advanced skills to want to stay because they feel they're getting a fair level of pay.

There was a very interesting survey by the General Accounting Office last year that asked military people, basically, are you thinking of staying in the military or are you thinking of leaving? If you're thinking of staying in, what are the five top things that keep you? If you're leaving, what are the five top things that are driving you out? It turned out that the top thing driving 30 percent of the military to want to leave was pay. That's bad. But the top thing keeping 20 percent of the people in the military wanting to stay, 20 percent, was pay, and the next two top things were pay related; there were either retirement pay or the security that the military offers. That tells me that some people in the military today are underpaid, relative to their civilian counterparts. But many of them are paid very fairly. So to the extent that we have pay raises, it would be a much better thing if we could shift those pay raises to pay for the work that is more valuable on the outside, that today is spread across people in the military who couldn't earn as much as they're earning in the military if they went outside.

MS. HITCHENS: Before Dr. Korb goes, I actually want to take advantage of the podium and ask a question to all the panel, that he could start. You mentioned that you thought that we might get the worst of all possible worlds. In other words, we get requirements for new weapons and no real cuts in other weapons. And I want to ask you and the rest of the panel, do you see the reviews that are going on now as real, or do you see them as rubber-stamping concepts that Rumsfeld and the Bush administration have already come in to office with?

MR. KORB: I think there was an attempt to do something real in the beginning, because if you look at what President Bush said in the campaign, he did talk about transforming the military. And I think putting Andy Marshall in charge of the review initially was an attempt to look at things differently and not what Cindy calls simply reinforce the Treaty of the Potomac, where everybody gets, you know, a certain share of the budget.

However, when you appointed the 16, 17, 20 other panels--I'm not quite sure--what you did then is you set yourself up for a situation in which some of the other panels, the conventional forces for example, says, "Well, you really do need all these weapons, and you know, you ought to accelerate the buy on the F-22"--that if in fact you don't take that suggestion, that will be out there; the supporters of that within the services and the Congress and the general public are going to be able to rely on that. And so that's where I think you cause problems. And I don't know; maybe at the end of this, Rumsfeld will come out and be able to demonstrate that by doing this, he's able to make the changes that are necessary within some reasonable budget constraints. But I don't know if in fact that's going to happen.

MS. HITCHENS: Cindy, do you want to give an opinion on that, as a budget specialist?

MS. WILLIAMS: Well, I think the review is real, and that doesn't mean that the outcome is going to be anything like what I would I wish for. But when the president said during the election campaign that our military is still organized more for cold war threats than for the challenges of the new century, and when he said he planned to use the present window of relative peace to skip a generation of weapons systems, I think he really meant it. And I think Secretary Rumsfeld wants to do what's right by the administration. The administration wants a tax break. The administration does not want to spend a lot of extra money on defense.

Now where I ask myself whether the outcome is going to be real, then you get into questions about, well, how could they fudge this stuff about the money and at the same time have the program that Larry's talking about, that keeps everything we were going to buy before and then adds some new things to it? And probably the way they can fudge it is the way we always try to fudge it, and that's to hope for a lot of savings from efficiencies. And I'm concerned that that's a very likely move because it's always what you have to reach for if you're trying to square a circle as difficult as this one; that people will reach for efficiency savings, they'll say something like we're going to save 30 percent of our operating and maintenance budget because we're going to really turn the defense into a business. This would be a very likely thing for them to say because there a lot of businessmen there and it does seem as though if you would just follow the path of businesses in America, you could save that much, either by outsourcing or becoming more efficient, by losing some bases. My concern is that the promises of those savings are very rarely achieved. So I'm worried about that.

Q: Larry, let me ask you about the politics of this. The polls show that Americans would rather spend money on almost anything than the military. So what does it look like in the Congress?

MR. KORB: Bill Hartung once introduced me as the last of the Eisenhower Republicans. I don't see that many in the Congress. Now, it's true that the American people do feel like that, but it's not an intense feeling and it is not something that they're going to make people pay a political price for at the present time.

What concerns me is that the bill offered by, for example, Senator Landrieu to add $100 billion to defense over the next 10 years during the tax cut debate, and most of the Democrats voted for it, very few of the Republicans did. Now, if Bush and Rumsfeld come out and want to add more money to defense either now or when they send up the 2003 budget, it's going to be very hard for the Democrats to say no, we're not going to give it to you, because most of them are already on record as wanting to add that money. And I think what you have is a situation where the Republicans, ever since Reagan, see themselves as the party of low taxes, high defense spending, right to life and national missile defense, and the Democrats don't want to be seen as weak on those issues and so they are not putting up opposition to it.

MR. HARTUNG: I think you may see more argument about the composition of the Pentagon budget than the top line. I was encouraged to see that Tom Daschle, Dick Gephardt made fairly strong statements after Bush's missile defense speech, certainly stronger than they made when there was a Democrat in the White House. Senator Levin has talked about maybe going after some of the funding for some of the more egregious tests. And so I think there may be a fight waiting to come because of the way Rumsfeld has done the review, sort of in secret, keeping the Joint Chiefs at a distance, keeping the Hill at a distance. Once he comes out with stuff, then the games will begin. You know, if they cut shipbuilding, they'll hear from Warner, they'll hear from Lott. If they cut the F-22, they'll hear from the Texas and Georgia delegations.

So a lot of it's going to depend on how high can they go on the numbers for defense and still fit in their tax cut and everything else. If they go high enough, they can buy off all of these contending forces. If they have to set some sort of reasonable limits, then there will be a fight about what comes first. And the industry--you know, although missile defense and militarization of space could be a gravy train of the future, they don't want to cut off the gravy train of the present in the F-22, in the metal bending programs. So I think that the key point--depending where they set that top number--will depend on how much leverage and how much infighting there will be over the composition of the budget.

Q: The question is, if we do that, what does that do to the NATO alliance and with the European Defense Initiative? Will that send a message to NATO, our allies…that they can do what they want?

MR. GERSHMAN: While I wouldn't claim to be an expert on European politics and NATO, and there may be someone else who's better placed on that. So let me speak, actually, to the easier side of it, which would be the Asian countries. I think they would see it as a sign of what they had feared was a drift under the Clinton administration away from the historical alliances, and so they would see that as a relatively positive development. In some sense, it builds on the developments in the latter part of the Clinton administration, with the renewal of an access agreement with the Philippines after the bases had been kicked out in the early '90s, increasing ties with Singapore.

The big issue, I think, is really India and what does increased U.S. military-to-military and strategic ties with India mean. India's so far the only country that I know of that has sort of endorsed missile defense--and what it means for the historic alignment of the U.S. vis-a-vis Pakistan and India.

So I think, in some sense, there's going to be more disorder there in terms of a sense that there's a shuffling of the deck, in terms of where the U.S. comes down, in very weird ways. Nepal is asking China to help out and engage in counterinsurgency against Maoist guerrillas in Nepal. So it's a very interesting backing and forthing in South and Central Asia, and I think that's where there's going to be a little bit more disruption.

MR. KORB: I think it's time for Europe to grow up. I think it's great that they want to develop their own defense identity, and we should encourage that. We can't have it both ways. We can't complain they're not doing their share and then, when they try and do it, say, "You're undermining NATO." And NATO is not a military alliance anymore. I mean, NATO is basically a way to incorporate the former members of the Warsaw Pact and maybe even former parts of Soviet Union into the Western world. If in fact you do focus more on Asia, it's not necessarily bad. In fact, I would say that in terms of our emphasis on Europe, a reduction is long overdue. I think we made a terrible mistake in '97 when the French wanted to take over CINCSOUTH as the price for coming back into the alliance, and we didn't let them. I would have said, "Great idea--you guys build some ships and get out there and take care of it, and we're going to put our fleet in the Persian Gulf or in the Western Pacific where it's much more needed."

MS. HITCHENS: Can I just say a few words on that, as I have had some experience in the NATO arena recently, working for the British American Security Information Council. My concern is not so much a shift in focus from Europe to Asia, but it's the ongoing difficulties in the NATO alliance that started with the Kyoto Treaty and is sort of going through, with the question of whether or not NATO expands, how we're dealing with Russia, NMD. There are a whole lot of issues that are right now dividing the United States from its European allies. And Europe is still our biggest trading partner. I mean, we have a lot of interest in Asia, but Europe is still very, very important. It's important strategically for what happens particularly with Russia, and it's important economically.

And there is a lot of concern right now in Europe that the Bush administration is ignoring its concerns and acting in a very unilateralist manner, and really not paying much attention to the concerns of its allies, and I think that that's a negative trend and something that we have to be careful about.

Q: I would definitely ask the distinguished members of this panel to throw a light on this very crucial backdrop regarding South Asia.

MR. GERSHMAN: Well, I think part of the problem is that South Asia, with the exception of Pakistan, historically was a strategic backwater for the United States, and in some sense it's South Asia plus Central Asia has become more strategically central. However, I think the U.S. is in a bit of a conundrum as to how actually to proceed. I think to the extent that it has proceeded, it's largely not been very good, in the sense that it has not really tried to promote regional multilateral initiatives that would address the promotion of confidence-building measures, threat reduction, so on and so forth. The U.S. has I think in some ways already made the decision that Pakistan is a potential entrant into the rogue states of concern and, in that sense, the shift that really began at the end of the Clinton administration is continuing as a recognition that the blow-back from the UN alliance with Pakistan during the cold war is potentially going to be a new potential missile threat for U.S. interests. And this is all, of course, connected with Afghanistan and the connection to Osama bin Laden and the Taliban and so forth.

But basically, I think the U.S. does not have a strategic framework, an operative, coherent, strategic framework for how to engage the region. However, unilateralist approaches don't work. Secondly, its unwillingness to recognize that China is implicated in the South Asian context and that the U.S., as far as I can tell, has consulted with almost everyone--including my great-aunt--about missile defense, but has not consulted with China. And so it's very difficult, I think. I think it's entirely reasonable for China to conclude that, in this sense, well, if the U.S. is talking to everyone else about missile defense but us and North Korea, you know, who is this really aimed at?

Regarding South Asia, the U.S. has not really decided what its interests are. Is the dominant interest about oil--let's get in there, let's do the deals, and whatever it takes to do the deals--or is it a question of this kind of nefarious Islamic threat in some way, shape, or form, which would require a different set of alliances, which would perhaps require allying with Hindu fundamentalism, as opposed to Islamic fundamentalism? And so, in my view, that region is a single arena of just policy incoherence and will be, I think, for the foreseeable future.

MR. HARTUNG: I think the problem is the Bush administration seems to be tilting toward India as a way to put pressure on China, just as they tilted toward Pakistan during the cold war to deal with the Afghan issue. And I think when you do that kind of thing without thinking it through, there can be a lot of unintended consequences, as we saw in the case of U.S. arming of some of the fundamentalist Islamic groups which are now U.S. adversaries around the world. So I think when the U.S. looks at China, I think they have to think a few steps ahead, because if China starts building up its nuclear forces because of a missile defense deployment, India is going to feel threatened by that. The United States will be put in a position of, "are we going to help India with its nuclear program? Are we going to look the other way?"

I think we'd be much better served by a more cooperative approach that tried to broker some discussions among India, Pakistan, China, major players like Russia, which is a big arms supplier to India. But that would require a different framework--to use the president's word--that involved some sort of cooperation among key parties in that region, rather than the U.S. sort of just setting down marching orders and hoping for the best.

Q: On missile defense, the Bush (ministers ?) to Asia and Europe apparently have not been able to give many details on the NMD project. When do you expect us to know more about it, in terms of technical aspects and what the project would mean?

MR. HARTUNG: It's my sense of it--and Cindy may have a take on it, too--but what Rumsfeld has been saying is, "Well, we want to pursue many possibilities." Maybe we'll pump more money into space-based lasers or airborne lasers, interceptors from the sea, and then we'll sort of see which of those are working and integrate them into the system. So I think that will be one element.

It will be sort of like in the Reagan era. They had this thing called the horse race, where they were, you know, funding different technologies for missile defense, and they were sort of seeing which ones were the best. But as Joe Cirincione, from the Carnegie Endowment, pointed out, they had the horse race, and all the horses died. I mean, none of the systems worked.

I think in this case the thing to worry about in the short term is whether they'll go for some sort of quick and easy deployment, just to say they've done it, just to get the ABM Treaty out of the way. And they're getting pressure from the right to do that. That would be a way to sort of settle the issue that the U.S. was going forward, but anything they could deploy in a few years' time would be next to useless in terms of the technology against, you know, ballistic missile threats. So I think that it's still in the balance for that question of when and under what circumstances might they walk out of the ABM Treaty. In the meantime, I think they will be throwing research money at a lot more areas and in a lot higher amounts, higher levels.

MS. WILLIAMS: I can say a few things about the money side. We're starting to hear now that they'd like to move on all fronts. They'd like to consider a layered defense. And I would not be at all surprised to see them say that we should start with the sea-based, because there's a view among conservatives that that's the cheapest, easiest, most surefire way to get started. It's also a surefire buster of the ABM Treaty, so it's reasonable way for them to start. But they'll do substantial research and development for the other layers as well.

The total bill that you're hearing people talk about is an addition of about a billion dollars a year over the next six years for missile defense altogether. So that includes both national missile defense and theater missile defense. The problem with those estimates is, as Bill says, you don't get to deployment for a long time. You're still in the early research phases of a lot of these. And so the out-year bill could be enormous, compared with the Clinton plan.

So where people are used to CBO estimates of $40-$60 billion for the Clinton plans, you could easily see $100 billion or more for a layered defense, and a lot more if you start building weapons in space, which some people think that they're drifting toward. But as far as the actual timing of the specifics, my sense is during this month, there should be a discussion at least of the major elements. But the actual spending plan for those major elements over the next six years, you may not see fully together until January of 2002, when the 2003 budget is submitted on the Hill.

(Copyright 2001 Federal News Service, Inc.)


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