February 07, 2006
Posted by Nicholas Beaudrot of Electoral Math
Sources tell The Hill that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is considering a proposal to eliminate the office of the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict (ASD SO/LIC) and spreading its responsibilities across other Pentagon offices.
Words fail me. When you're fighting a low-intensity conflict, why would you want to have specialists who spent their time thinking about low-intensity conflict? The DoD further rattles the saber, claiming that Rumsfeld could abolish the position without congressional approval [Insert NSA spying jokes as necessary]. American foot soldiers find themselves in more and more low-intensity conflicts: post-invasion Iraq, Somalia, Rwanda, peacekeeping in the Balkans, etc. The fact that we could do a better job reducing casualties does not mean the solution is to eliminate the office that spends its day thinking about those sorts of fights; it's to replace the staff with new blood that's ready to break out of the cold-war mentality.. Thankfully, the proposal has yet to reach Rumsfeld's desk, and cooler heads are prevailing on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Elsewhere, I must respectfully dissent from Robert Farley's faint praise [UPDATE: link fixed] for Rumsfeld's effectiveness at the Defense Department. His utter contempt for post-war contingency planning has left an insufficient number of soldiers in harm's way with insufficient body armor or armored Humvees. The Military Police still don't get enough respect to match their efforts in Iraq. Meanwhile, despite the obvious importance of the Army and Marines, procurement plans for the expensive F22 fighter and DD(X) destroyer go unchecked. I'm all for a strong defense, but I think we'll have enough lead time to build new ships and planes should China suddenly get very bellicose. I Eeven the small things have gone wrong; DARPA has moved away from longer-term, blue sky research towards short-term work for defense contractors. The DoD continues to fight increases in pay and surivor benefits. And so on, and so on.
Bringing the Pentagon brass to heel on a series of bad policy priorities does not rank as an accomplishment.
February 7, 2006 | Permalink
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In defense of my defense...
I suspect that no Secretary of Defense could have killed either DD(X) or the F-22. The services want them desperately, and the supporters of the services in Congress want them desperately. I simply don't think that their cancellation is, at least at this point, a meaningful possibility. Indeed, if you really think that DD(X) and F-22 are bad (and I do), Rummy has done a fair job of cutting down total procurement. So, it's not quite right to describe their development as "unchecked".
As to the Iraq concerns, I concur with your analysis.
I do think that you underestimate the importance of brining the brass to heel, though. Flag officers during the Clinton administration felt free to voice the notion that the Commander-in-Chief was inept and morally degenerate. That has changed, and not just because of the newest occupant of the White House.
Finally, on the Special Ops question, I don't know enough about it to comment authoritatively, but eliminating an administrative layer does not NECESSARILY reflect a lack of interest in a particular project. Given that Special Ops play a rather large role in the QDR, and in Rumsfeld's ideas for transformation, I think it's a bit quick to call him out for not caring about special ops and low intensity ops.
Posted by: Rob | Feb 7, 2006 9:22:06 PM
Incidentally, Nick, you linked to the trackback page, and not my post.
Posted by: Rob | Feb 7, 2006 9:24:53 PM
The CAP QDR suggests that rather than cancelling the F-22, the DoD could realistically pare back its total order of F-22s and have Lockheed-Martin build more F-35s. Again, I don't know if this is feasible or not. As for the DD(X), if it can't be cancelled, it can't be cancelled. That's certainly a fair point.
I'm beginning to wonder whether or not I jumped the gun on this one. It's probably too early to tell whether this is bureaucratic wrangling or a contempt for special operations (my hunch here is that Rumsfeld's frustrations low-intensity conflict). My hunch is that he's more frustrated with the low intensity conflict side of things, which strikes me as vintage "we don't do nation-building" Republican views of the role of the Defense Department.
Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Feb 7, 2006 9:52:54 PM
DARPA has moved away from longer-term, blue sky research
A couple of years ago they started funding mathematics for the first time, starting with the Geometric Langlands Program. One of the biggest results in this area made heavy use of Drinfel'd modules. According to 24, we wiped out 90 of 105 terrorist cells using - yes! - Drinfel'd modules. Your tax dollars at work.
Posted by: Allen K. | Feb 7, 2006 10:16:48 PM
I don't know enough to have an opinion on the matter, but it's worth mentioning that eliminating the office does not mean eliminating the expertise.
Is it better to have a single office oriented to LIC, or to make all offices incorporate that orientation into their mission? I don't know. Do you?
Posted by: Jon Henke | Feb 8, 2006 7:23:26 AM
The stupidest thing about Rumsfeld's approach is that the armed forces do desperately need reform, but Rumsfeld is doing it utterly hamfistedly and mostly in the wrong direction, so when somebody who isn't insane tries to do it properly they'll meet even more resistant. And that's not to mention the billions of dollars of waste.
Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Feb 8, 2006 8:13:39 AM
Errm… we're still talking about the same Rumsfeld who shoved the Special Forces down the Pentagon's throat for Afghanistan and OIF, right? Trust me, Rummy gets it. In fact, I see this as a move to integrate the principles of low-intensity warfare across the military establishment, and not keep them bottled up in one department where they can fall victim to petty bureaucratic games. In other words, more people will have a stake in using special operations, not fewer.
Posted by: Mastiff | Feb 9, 2006 3:41:47 AM
Posted by: judy | Oct 1, 2007 5:12:24 AM
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