Budget challenges, a shrinking military force, and unrestrained growth in personnel and operations has plunged the Pentagon into a state of crisis. This comes at the same time that the United States is facing unprecedented challenges to our national security. These were the themes of my presentation during a panel discussion at the Center for New American Security’s (CNAS) Annual Conference in Washington on June 11, 2014.
The topic for the panel was Strategic Risk and Military Power: A Briefing to the Next President. As new geopolitical challenges surface almost daily throughout the world, including Ukraine, islands in the East China Sea, and most recently Iraq, it is clear that national security issues will be the most critical for the incoming president. The next Administration will have to get the Pentagon, reeling from budget pressures, sequester, and government shutdowns, back to its regular business. As a starting point, the next Administration will have to develop a strategy that takes into account the world as it is.
The new Administration must accomplish three critical steps in its first year in office. These are: lead a strategy review unbounded by the Budget Control Act and reflective of the new security environment; end sequester through its first budget request; and begin negotiations with Congress on benefits and reforms. Accomplishing these will be difficult and cost the new Administration considerable political capital.
The President, must, however, find a way to work with Congress to undo the sequester knot. This is not a partisan problem. Working together, our leaders must find a way to break the Budget Control Act’s yoke burdening our military and restraining our power.
Military leaders warn that our country is in a period of significant risk. The next crisis will not occur at a time of our choosing. The question is whether we will be prepared to deal with it.