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“Modest reforms to pay and compensation will improve readiness and modernization. It will help keep our all-volunteer force sustainable and strong. Keeping faith also means investing sufficient resources so that we can uphold our sacred obligations to defend the nation and to send our sons and daughters to war with only the best training, leadership and equipment. We can’t shrink from our obligations to one another. The stakes are too high.”

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey

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A Difference in Opinion

Wars are ending, budgets are falling, and the services are taking a hard look at what the future means for them. Earlier this month saw an interesting contrast in visions for the Navy. 

Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead defended the current strategy at an event hosted by the Aspen Institute.

The pressures of the maritime domain are not going to change…the Navy and Marine Corps provide that off shore option that doesn’t infringe on sovereignty, that can be moved quickly, that doesn’t require basing rights, that doesn’t require over flight rights, and that the Commander-in-Chief can put anywhere he or she wants to put it.

Taking the stage at the same time but at New America Foundation, MIT scholars Sameer Lalwani and Joshua Shifrinson provided interesting contrast to Roughead’s remarks. It’s time for today’s version of “command of the commons” to end, they argued, on the grounds that it’s too costly as well as politically unpopular.  Instead, the U.S. should partner with nations who share an interest in openness to the commons.

We think the US could very simply rely on these regional actors as our first line of defense…The United States could intervene as a security guarantor of last resort. But it would be a security guarantor of last resort. We’d be there in the background and be able to assert dominance, but only if and when a challenge proves so dramatic that it [the US] can no longer act.

This creates a gap in perspective about the Navy we should buy, and it helpfully and interestingly illustrates why $400 billion has become a dividing line in defense savings plans.  Stay under it and stick with Roughead’s approach – no change in strategy required, as we recently discussed.  Go over it and it's time to talk strategy – not necessarily the same one Lalwani and Shifrinson chose, but at least on the same scale.  That’s nothing to be afraid of, but definitely something to keep in mind.