It just so happened that I was walking with Mark Sedwill the other day and one of the brief topics that we discussed was the future of the American Military is these austere times. After we parted this subject had me thinking: What is the US military going to do with a massively reduced budget?
The US has always been capable of conducting two large scale campaigns and the size of its military greatly increased after 9/11. However that capability is now no longer affordable and the public have no stomach for such prolonged campaigns anymore. We all know the strategic objective is difficult to achieve if you lose one side of the trinity of war. But if you lose two sides, the government and the public then a radical new strategy is going to be needed.
If the US can no longer fund long term campaigns how can it defend its overseas assets and territories and help support its allies and the greater concern of protecting the commons. The so called ‘boots on the ground’ solution is now seen as the final option when you have exhausted all other alternatives. The more favourable option, in the eyes of the military, is the controversial use of drones, and other forms of aerial assets. Both of these options, however, fall into the category of deterrence through punishment. That is to say if an aggressor attacks and achieves its objective, the countermeasures would be of such severity that the aggressors ultimate losses would completely outweigh the gains of reaching their initial objective.
The first form of defence should be along the A2/AD capabilities. If a highly efficient and capable A2/AD network could be put in place, then this will act as deterrence through denial. Why would a potential aggressor attack your assets or allies if they new it was impossible for them to breach your A2/AD defence and achieve their objective.
Ultimately researching, developing and implementing new innovative A2/AD network is going to be costly, however by downsizing the army it can afford these costs. We only have to look at how effective the Stuxnet virus was to understand how capabilities need to remain fluid. There is also an economic advantage, because as you create new A2/AD capabilities any potential aggressor has to research and spend a vast amount of money in finding ways to counter these new capabilities. Even if they find a countermeasure, they will either have limited funds to conduct a campaign or will be behind the technological A2/AD curve again.
Has future military campaigns changed? We have gone from the industrial interstate war of the pre 1990s to counterinsurgency/regime change war amongst the people of the last 20 years to this new kind of in/tangible warfare by defence.