TCS Daily

Bush's New Military Strategy Poses Challenges to Service Branches, Congress

By Bill Owens - May 25, 2001 12:00 AM

Defense Central spoke with former senior Pentagon official Bill Owens immediately after President Bush's address to the Naval Academy.

Defense Central: The president said that weapons and methods of the military must change. How must they change?

Bill Owens: They must change along the lines that the president said. First of all, when we think of weaponry, the force needs to be less dependent on size and much more dependent on mobility, swiftness, stealth, precision weapons, and information technology (I.T.). In general, that prescription is right on the mark. That's exactly the right direction to be going.

Defense Central: The president said the military must be defined less by size. Does that mean troop cutbacks?

Owens: I assume that means the size of the force. In the case of the Army, that usually means fewer troops; in the case of the Navy, fewer ships; in the case of the Air Force, fewer airplanes. I assume that that is likely to be the direction the military will go.

It's apparent that without huge budget increases, we cannot maintain the size of the present force. So there is almost an inevitability to it.

What would be really important would be to put money and effort into some of these other areas. The president has mentioned most of those that I would put emphasis on. I'd also put a lot of emphasis on one that he didn't mention. That's the very high bandwidth communications world, which he probably includes under I.T.

In any case, that definition of a new kind of military is probably right if we take it very seriously and put money into those kinds of weapons systems: those with mobility, swiftness, and stealth capabilities; precision weapons and I.T.

Defense Central: The president referred to creativity and innovation. Is it possible in the military, where there are strict procedures and chains of command, to be innovative?

Owens: Those are great words, and I am completely in line with them. It isn't the first time these kinds of speeches have emphasized creativity, the spirit of innovation, and a new culture for the officer corps.

I salute President Bush for making that kind of comment, and he dwelt on it for some significant period of time. But this is not easy. This is a huge bureaucracy that has been built over many, many decades with many traditions of World War II, Korea, even the Civil War, etc.

The traditions, the single-service cultures, and the desire for seeing creativity in the form of evolution rather than revolution - all of these areas can be misunderstood. Or it's very easy to say, "Well, we're doing exactly what the president says right now; we're creative, and we have a spirit of innovation." I don't believe that's true, and I do believe that the president is emphasizing the right things.

Now the question will be, c. Those are big words, and they take big actions to implement.

Defense Central: Will it be possible for the president to implement ballistic missile defenses, as he referred to in his speech?

Owens: I think so. The issue really depends on what you mean when you say ballistic missile defenses.

We've been working on systems that are associated with ballistic missile defense for the last ten years: the Navy Aegis Upper Tier, the Theater High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) missile, the Patriot. These weapons systems are being designed for ballistic missile defense. So, if the president simply continues work on these systems, then, in general, those funding lines are already in place.

If we're talking about a massive amount of funding for a national missile defense, which includes various sites across the United States, radars, big missiles, etc., then the implementation of that to the tune of tens of billions of dollars is going to be a very difficult challenge for the president on Capitol Hill.

Click here to see President Bush's Speech to the Naval Academy


TCS Daily Archives