Cartwright says force-sizing overhaul due

(MILITARY TIMES)   Over the next few years, the military is likely to become engaged in a number of hot and cold conflicts, each spanning five to 10 years, meaning the Pentagon must “adjust” its decades-old force sizing and basing constructs, says Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

Since the Cold War, the Pentagon has used a so-called “force-sizing construct” that focused on a need to fight two conventional wars at once, while also placing emphasis on “the most deadly” threats to American national security, Cartwright said Thursday in Washington.

But the world has changed in major ways, meaning the two conventional war-based approach is no longer a good fit, according to defense officials. Those changes are the reason senior Pentagon officials are examining whether the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review should include a new force-planning construct, as well as a new plan for how American bases, troops and combat equipment are located around the globe.

“It is clear we are going to have conflicts whose character will not be the same” as the ones on which the Pentagon has for decades based its force planning and global basing postures, Cartwright said. “It’s clear [U.S. forces] will be engaged in operations that [each] last five or 10 years — and that is fundamentally different that in the past.”

Such conflicts are the “most likely” ones the military will fight in coming years, he said during an appearance at a Center for Strategic and International Studies forum. Senior Pentagon officials are mulling whether these conflicts — not conventional ones against peer militaries — should garner the majority of the military’s planning focus.

Plus, he said, officials have concluded that “the level of lethality” potential foes bring to the fight is no longer tilted so excessively toward conventional threats.

For those reasons, Cartwright said, “it is my opinion … that we have to adjust the balance” between focusing resources and effort on the “most likely” and “most deadly” threats as part of the QDR process.

The QDR will examine what future threats the military will have to combat, “and how we must be postured to do those things.”

Altering the force-sizing construct will affect which weapons the services buy and how the military is positioned around the world.

Cartwright said QDR study participants must look at the benefits and drawbacks of how American forces and gear are based, including: permanent, prepositioned and rotational basing.


The vice chairman also said the military must shift from developing new and expensive weapons aimed at taking out a specific threat to focusing on how platforms fit into “the IT world.”

On defense acquisition, “we’re at a crossroads” that incorporates all of American society. The nation is fundamentally “an industrial society,” but must adjust to a global change that “the competitive advantage is on the IT side.”

The same is true for DoD, he said.

“When [the services] build a plane, you build it for a threat,” Cartwright said. “You can only update it every four or five years. … So the utility of that plane is limited in an IT world.”

The model for where the military must go in terms of new weapon systems lies in how it has come to use unmanned aircraft.

Like with UAVs in Iraq and Afghanistan, the most important feature of future U.S. weapon systems will be their “ability to gather information to help solve problems,” the vice chairman said. He also touted the ability of UAVs to take on multiple missions, depending on a commander’s needs like ISR gathering today and targeting tomorrow.


Additionally, Cartwright said he continues to press for development of a new weapon that would allow Washington to take out a fleeting target in a manner of minutes.

Cartwright said he has concluded conventionally armed bombers are “too slow and too intrusive” for many “global strike missions.”

Cartwright for several years has advocated for a “prompt global strike” weapon, which would be ultra-fast and fitted with a conventional warhead.

Congress, due largely to worries that other nations, like Russia, would be unable to quickly determine whether an in-flight warhead was nuclear, has refused to fund the program.

Cartwright said even congressional skeptics of the idea realize there is a “military requirement” for such a fast weapon to take out fleeting targets.

The requirements for such a weapon are “starting to emerge,” he said.

“At the low end,” a PGS weapon would probably need to be launched and hit a target within “one hour,” Cartwright said. “At the high end,” the time frame could be as short as “300 milliseconds.”

The military might need a “hypersonic” weapon that would travel in the exoatmosphere to take out a limited number of fleeting targets, he said.

Finally, Cartwright told the audience the Pentagon is examining a new concept, called “extended deterrence,” something “we’re trying to force into the QDR.”

The idea would be to field a weapon so effective that it would dissuade enemies from carrying out a specific activity, while also “not starting a nuclear arms race” and “giving allies comfort.”

The options for an “extended deterrence” capability, he said, are not limited to nuclear-armed weapons.

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