Lynn: Cut Defense, But Learn From Past Disasters

WASHINGTON, Oct. 5, 2011 — The Unit­ed States is “0 for 4” in man­ag­ing defense draw­downs, and can draw four lessons from those past fail­ures, Deputy Defense Sec­re­tary William J. Lynn III said today on his final full day in office.

Lynn, who will turn over the job to Ash­ton B. Carter tomor­row, offered advice on nation­al secu­ri­ty in times of bud­get aus­ter­i­ty in a keynote speech at the Cen­ter for Amer­i­can Progress here. Secu­ri­ty begins with a strong econ­o­my, Lynn said, and the nation’s cur­rent deficit cri­sis demands action. Strong mea­sures and painful cuts are called for, and defense cuts must be part of a solu­tion, he acknowledged. 

The cen­tral chal­lenge, Lynn said, is man­ag­ing a defense slow­down with­out endan­ger­ing nation­al security. 

“Our abil­i­ty to exert glob­al influ­ence will be threat­ened if we do not reduce the deficit,” Lynn said. “No great pow­er can project mil­i­tary force in a sus­tained man­ner with­out the under­pin­nings of a strong economy.” 

While the econ­o­my is the well­spring of the nation’s mil­i­tary might, past efforts to strength­en the nation’s bud­get through defense cuts have result­ed in fias­co, he said. 

Mil­i­tary draw­downs after World War II, Korea, Viet­nam, and dur­ing deficit-reduc­tion efforts in the 1980s all caused dis­pro­por­tion­ate loss of mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ty, Lynn said, cit­ing the first engage­ment of the Kore­an War: the 1950 Bat­tle of Osan, bet­ter known as “Task Force Smith.” 

Less than five years after the defeat of the Axis pow­ers, Lynn recount­ed, “Teenagers fresh from basic train­ing, led by offi­cers who lacked com­bat expe­ri­ence, found them­selves fac­ing a numer­i­cal­ly supe­ri­or North Kore­an force. With only 120 rounds of ammu­ni­tion each, two days of C‑rations [and] six anti­tank shells, our forces were sim­ply unable to stop the North Kore­an advance.” 

The result­ing deba­cle led to the deaths of many young Amer­i­cans, he added. 

“Each time we reduced the defense bud­get, we cre­at­ed holes in our mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ties that we had to buy back lat­er at great cost,” he not­ed. “When we were lucky, that cost was in dol­lars; when we were not lucky, that cost was in the lives of our troops.” 

Lynn said he draws four lessons from pre­vi­ous large defense cuts:
— Make hard deci­sions ear­ly;
— Admit the need to elim­i­nate mis­sions and pro­grams;
— Keep reduc­tions bal­anced among force struc­ture, oper­at­ing accounts and invest­ment accounts; and
— Don’t cut too much too fast, espe­cial­ly in core mis­sion areas. 

Post­pon­ing cuts to low­er-pri­or­i­ty pro­grams in hopes of high­er bud­gets lat­er is “reck­less and intem­per­ate behav­ior,” Lynn said, and would divert pre­cious resources from high­er-pri­or­i­ty needs. 

“The net result is wast­ed spend­ing and less capa­bil­i­ty,” he said. “It is bet­ter to have a small­er, but more ready, force and few­er, but health­i­er, programs.” 

Accom­mo­dat­ing cur­rent bud­get reduc­tions, which Lynn iden­ti­fied as “north of $450 bil­lion over 10 years,” will force dif­fi­cult choic­es in force struc­ture, mod­ern­iza­tion and per­son­nel, he noted. 

The deputy sec­re­tary said the Defense Depart­ment must reduce troop lev­els while retain­ing the abil­i­ty to con­fig­ure forces for emerg­ing threats, trim mod­ern­iza­tion pro­grams while pre­serv­ing key cyber­se­cu­ri­ty and long-range strike capa­bil­i­ties, reduce the civil­ian work­force while avoid­ing demor­al­iz­ing fur­loughs, and make sen­si­ble adjust­ments to mil­i­tary pay and ben­e­fits with­out break­ing faith with mil­i­tary mem­bers and their families. 

Defense lead­ers act­ing judi­cious­ly can make those cuts with­out endan­ger­ing the nation’s secu­ri­ty, Lynn said. 

Under the Bud­get Con­trol Act of 2011, the so-called con­gres­sion­al “super­com­mit­tee” — the Joint Select Com­mit­tee on Bud­get Reduc­tion — must by Nov. 23 rec­om­mend steps to reduce the deficit by $1.5 tril­lion over the next 10 years. If the com­mit­tee does­n’t make such a rec­om­men­da­tion, a sequester mech­a­nism built into the act will trig­ger $1.2 tril­lion in addi­tion­al spend­ing cuts. DOD would then face more than $1 tril­lion in cuts over 10 years, which would be “cat­a­stroph­ic,” the deputy sec­re­tary said. 

“Seques­tra­tion would leave us with the small­est Army and Marine Corps in decades; the small­est Air Force in his­to­ry, and the small­est Navy since [William] McKin­ley was pres­i­dent,” he not­ed. McKinley’s admin­is­tra­tion ran from 1897 to 1901. 

“The mind­less process of sequester would force us to make equal cuts to every pro­gram, regard­less of their impact or the pri­or­i­ty of that pro­gram,” he added. 

Hav­ing served at the Pen­ta­gon as direc­tor of pro­gram analy­sis, comp­trol­ler and deputy sec­re­tary, Lynn said, he has learned one thing above all else: “Ser­i­al and dis­pro­por­tion­ate reduc­tions to dis­cre­tionary spend­ing have dis­as­trous results. You can­not plan a defense pro­gram and build a strat­e­gy around a mov­ing target.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →