Clinton's Bankrupt National Security Strategy

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Clinton's Bankrupt National Security Strategy

September 27, 1994 17 min read Download Report
Lawrence T.
F.M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy
(Archived document, may contain errors)

September 27,1994 CLINTONS .BANKRUPT NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY INTRODUCTI ON President Clintons performance in making defense policy has been dismal. His much-touted Bottom-Up Review (BUR) of U.S. defense requirements is dead. Practi cally everyone outside the Clinton Administration-and even some senior officials within the Adm i nistration-know that the Clinton five-year defense plan is hopelessly underfunded. Moreover, the President has not kept his promise to maintain the combat readiness of U.S. forces. Because of underfunding, troops are training less, equipment is not being overhauled, and wartime ammunition stockpiles are running low.

Now, with American forces in Haiti and war in Korea still a possibility, the President has issued a national security strategy that ignores what everyone else already has ac- knowledged about A mericas declining military readiness. The new Clinton strategy out lines an ambitious program that ranges from strategic deterrence through offensive nu- clear forces to aggressive participation in international (U.N peacekeeping and peace making operatio n s. As military spending shrinks to levels not seen since before World War II, the Administration is pursuing a bizarre array of additional missions in places like Haiti, Rwanda, and Bosnia posed with the recent publication of defense-related studies by va r ious agencies of the U.S. government The Clinton Administrations failure to provide for the nations defense has been ex 2 1 2 For a full discussion of military readiness, see John Luddy, Stop the SlideToward the Hollow Military. Heritage Foundation Backgr ounder Update No. 209, January 14,1994.

The three reports are: 1) Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Readiness, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology, June 1994 (hereinafter cited as ReadinessTask Force Repo rt 2) U.S. General Accounting Office Future Years Defense Program: Optimistic Estimates Lead to Billions in Overprogramming. July 1994 (GAO Report and 3) A National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement, The White House, July 1994 In June, the D e fense Science Boards Task Force on Readiness published a report identifying some 140 concerns that constitute red fla s for senior defense managers to signal potential problems affecting future readiness whether the Clinton long-term defense budget includ e s enough money to fund the mili tary forces the President says America will need through the end of the millennium. Its conclusion the President has underfunded his forces by an amount in excess of $150 billion Finally, at nearly the same time the GAO was issuing its report, the White House re leased its own National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement, which ig nores both the Readiness Task Forces warnings and the GAOs cost assessment. Boldly declaring that the Administrations five-year defens e budget funds the force struc ture which Clinton has proposed and which the GAO declares will cost another 150 billion, the strategy then outlines an ambitious program that will require a force far larger than the one Clinton has ravaged with over $130 bi llion in funding cuts over the past two years.

The collapse of the Clinton defense program gives Congress an opportunity to step into the national security planning void A serious assessment of what the country needs to fight future wars around the world i s long overdue. This assessment should identify and prioritize national interests and evaluate the threats to those interests. It should in clude an outline for a military force capable of defending against those threats. Finally it must establish the mea n s by which to fully fund this force f Just one month later, the General Accounting Office published its assessment of To obtain this assessment, Congress can r/ Name a bipartisan task force of Members of Congress, Clinton Administra tion officials, and ou t side experts to conduct a thorough review of the nations defense needs I r/ Restore defense spending to 1992 levels, adjusted for inflation, and freeze l it at approximately $298 billion until the task force completes its assessment r/ Withhold funds for o perations other than war, including all multilat eral peacekeeping operations. Such operations were identified as a particu lar concern by the Readiness Task Force and are becoming a large drain on the defense budget. Estimates for the pending peacekeepin g operation in Haiti are as high as $500 million; the Somalia mission cost well in excess of $1 bil lion r/ Conduct hearings examining the Clinton Administrations national security strategy National Security Strategy).

Readiness Task Force Report, p. 7. 3 4 GAO Report, p. 2 2 MILITARY LEADERS WARN ABOUT READINESS The first of three reports calling into question the Administrations defense planning was published in June by the Defense Science Board (DSB) Task Force on Readiness chaired by former Army Chief of Staff General Edward C. Meyer, who was joined by seven retired three- and four-star officers representing all of the armed services.

Former Secretary of Defense Les Aspin established the Task Force in May 1993 to advise the Secretary of Defense [and] to insure that our forces do not become hollow and, where deficiencies may begin to emerge, to suggest corrective actions. Specifi cally, the board was to report to the Secretary [its] findings with regard to the state of readiness.

The task force released its final report in June 1994, concluding that the readiness of todays conventional and unconventional forces is acceptable in most measurable ar eas (emphasis in the original But in an ominous warning, the retired flag officers also determined that there are pockets of unreadiness [forming as] a result of changes tak ing place in the armed forces and the turbulence created by these changes. The task force noted that it had observed enough concerns that [it is] convinced that unless the Department of Defen s e and the Congress focus on readiness, the armed forces could slip back into a hollow status. This is a reference to the late 1970s and early 1980s when the armed forces were not ready to meet most of the major contingencies called for by the National Sec u rity Strategy 96 Concerns raised by the task force included Sustainment of national support for the changing [Department of Defense] mis ion Although the task force cites no specific examples, this apparently refers to the dramatic fall in support for the U.S. mission in Somalia once U.S. objectives changed from feeding the hungry to nation building. It was during the nation-build ing phase that over two dozen Americans died at the hands of rival warlords. Sensing similar dangers in Haiti, 73 percent of Am e ricans opposed the Administrations pol icy there just one week before U.S. troops occupied that country The maintenance backlog due to operations other than war [e.g peacekeep ir~g As a result of their growing peacekeeping role, in addition to their more t radi tional responsibilities for overseas presence and training for war, the armed services are finding less time to conduct routine maintenance. Not cited by the task force is the example of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. After a routine six-month o v erseas assignment in the Mediterranean, the normal one-month downtime for rest and IOU tine maintenance was cut to just a few days when the unit was immediately rede ployed off the coast of Haiti to support operations there9 5 6 7 Zbid.,p. 13 8 Ibid..p. 1 9 9 Memorandum for the Chairman, Defense Science Board, toThe Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition May 19,1993.

Readiness Task Force Report Executive Summary, pp. i-iv.

John Luddy, Sudden Marine Deployment to Haiti Shows How Thin Navy is Stretched, Her itage Foundation FYI, July 12, 1994 3 Because these increased operations are taking place as budgets are falling, the task force also identified a common but disturbing trend among military commanders us ing operations and maintenance (O&M) funds-supposed l y needed to keep our forces trained and equipped-to pay fact-of-life bills [such as] utility bills, port op erations, etc Support] units equipment availability for two nearly simultaneous [major re gional conflicts (MRCs The two-MRC requirement comes from Clintons 1993 Bottom-Up Review of military requirements, but the task force throughout its report expresses skepticism of the armed forces abiiity to execute the BUR requirements given the rapid down sizing of the military and the addition of such mission s as 12 peacekeeping and peace enforcement Reduced readiness due to reduction in training tempo.13 Again, the task force cites no examples, but consider the following: In pursuit of its HaiWCuba containment strategy, the Clinton Administration has filled t h e U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with nearly 60,OOO refugees from both countries. This has ef fectively shut down the primary training facility for the Atlantic Fleet. Hundreds of ships will lose the opportunity to conduct important damage contro l , gunnery, and combat team training As noted, the Readiness Task Force takes aim at the September 1993 Bottom-Up Re view, the Clinton Administrations blueprint for future forces. The BUR calls for an ex pansion of military missions to include significant U .S. troop participation in global peacekeeping and humanitarian operations in addition to the more traditional missions of overseas presence, power projection in times of regional conflict, and strategic deter rence. Without providing a systematic assessm e nt of the BURS requirements the task force nonetheless warned that the recent nuclear standoff and potential for war in Korea reinforces the need for a reappraisal of the requirements defined in the BUR. l4 This is doubly disturbing in view of the fact th a t conflict in Korea was one of two contingencies postulated by Pentagon planners when they developed the Bottom-Up Review in the first place. Nonetheless, it is clear that the experienced officers who authored the task force report were skeptical of the B U R as a useful planning document 10 CLINTONS NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY IGNORES READINESS WARNINGS The work of the Readiness Task Force was hampered by the Clinton Administrations lack of a published National Security Strategy, required by law each year.15 The task force specifically criticizes the Administration for this, noting that the Department of 10 Readiness Task Force Report, p. 15 11 Ibid p. 20 12 Ibid p. 11 13 Ibid,p. 34 14 Ibid p. 3 15 100 STAT. 1075, Sec. 104 (a)(2 Public Law 99433, Department o f Defense Reorganization Act of 1986, October 1 1986 4 Defense and the Congress need formal publication of a National Security Strategy from the White House that defines the administrations security policies in this changed world.16 Then, in July, nearly t hree years into Clintons term (and after having reduced the de fense budget by over 130 billion the White House finally filled this gap with publica tion of A National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement.

Despite doubts cast on the Bottom-Up Re view by the Readiness Task Force, the Presi dent-in his .National Security:Strategy.reaffm the findings of the BUR, which deter mined that the U.S. must be prepared to fight two major regional wars nearly simultane ously In an unequivocal statement of sup p ort for the BUR, the Administration declares that The President has set forth a five-year defense budget that funds the force structure recommended by the [Bottom-Up] Review, and he will draw the line against further uts that would undermine that force st r ucture or erode military readiness. 19 The Administration then outlines the tasks that the U.S. armed forces can expect from their commander in chief. At the top of the list is dealing with Major Regional Contin gencies (MRCs Seemingly undaunted by the wa r nings of its Readiness Task Force that lack of spare parts, maintenance time, and training will make the two-MRC strategy difficult to execute, the administration proclaims that maintaining a two war force helps ensure that the United States will have suf f icient military capabilities to deter or 18 defeat aggression by hostile powers Expanding Commitments for a Shrinking Force. The Clinton strategy also outlines other military missions to be assigned. These include responsibilities for permanent over seas p resence in Asia and Europe, strategic deterrence, and Contributing to Multilateral Peace operation To this end, U.S. forces must be prepared to broker settlements of internal conflicts and bolster new democratic governments.2o While the document is vague as to what this might mean, the failed U.S. mission to Somalia and the occupation of Haiti seem to meet the definition.

The Readiness Task Force undoubtedly was recalling the Somalia mission when it warned about the importance of sustain[ing] national supp ort for the changing [Depart ment of Defense] mission. Over three dozen American soldiers were killed in Somalia while trying to broker a settlement of internal conflict, and the generals and admirals who authored the task force report worried that the ma i ntenance backlog due to op erations other than war would drain combat readiness? These operations, of course, are precisely the multilateral peacekeeping and peacemaking operations called for in the National Security Strategy. 16 Readiness Task Force Repo r t, p. iii 17 National Security Strategy Report, p. 2 18 Ibid p. 7 19 Ibid p. 7 20 Ibid p. 7 21 Readiness Task Force Report, p. 19 5 The Clinton Administrations strategy thus does nothing to assuage the concerns raised by the Readiness Task Force, whose re port it seems to have ignored altogether.

By reaffhg the primacy of the Bottom-Up Review as a planning document, the Clin ton strategy adds missions like as U.N. peacekeeping, peace enforcement and other op erations to the overseas military presence and strategic deterrence missions. This mis mat c h of expanded commitments and shrinking capabilities was certainly on the minds of Readiness Task Force members when they declared the need for a reappraisal of the requirements defined in the Bottom-Up Review.22 CONGRESS TO CLINTON YOU CANT PAY FOR YOUR S TRATEGY The ReadinessTask Force doubted the militarys ability to meet the demands placed on it by the Bottom-Up Review. Given the Administrations reaffirmation of the BUR in its National Security Strategy, therefore, it would seem that the White House has sim ply ignored the concerns of its own panel of distinguished military officers.

The Administration will have a far more difficult time ignoring another challenge to its BUR, however. On July 29, the United States General Accounting Office (GAO) pub lish ed its own assessment of the BUR at the bipartisan request of Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and William Roth (R-DE) and Representatives John Conyers (D-MI and John Kasich (R-OH The GAO study is a damning indictment of the Bottom-Up Review and the Natio n al Security Strategy which is based on it. Eschewing the more cautious tone of the Readiness Task Force report, the GAO concluded that the difference between the amount budgeted for the BUR force and the amount that the force actually will cost (over five years) could be in excess of $150 billion.23 The conclusions in the GAO study are similar to those reached in other independent assessments of the Clinton defense budget shortfall. In January 1994, The New York Times editorialized that As Mr. Clinton must know, these [Bottom-Up Review] force levels will end up costing far more than his proposed $260 billion-a-year budgets over the next five years. In March 1994, defense budget analysts at The Heritage Founda tion concluded that the cost overrun could be as high as $100 billion.24 The General Ac counting Office thus confm the Heritage conclusions.

The GAO has concluded that further cuts will be necessary if the Administration is un willing to reduce spending elsewhere to account for this $150 billion defense shortfall.

In other words, at least some of the security commitments outlined in the Administra tions own Bottom-Up Review and National Security Strategy will have to be dropped as unaffordable.

Notwithstanding the Presidents declaration in his National Security Strategy that he will draw the line against further cuts, however, some of his senior advisers have be 22 Zbid p 3. Task force 23 GAO Report, p. 2 24 Baker Spring, Clintons Defense Budget Falls Far Short, Heritage Foundation Buckgrounder Updure N o. 217, March 15 1994, p. 2 6 gun to back away from the principles underlying that strategy. In an interview just four days before the public release of the GAO report, Secretary of Defense William Perry es sentially endorsed the findings of the Readiness Task Force and acknowledged that the BUR force will not be able to fight two wars at once for at least several year If this is true, the National Security Strategy released within days of Penys interview is plainly wrong insofar as it accepts the two-war s trategy. Moreover, evidently in re sponse to the GAO findings, Deputy Defense Secretary John Deutch in late August or dered all of the armed services to plan for the possible cancellation or delay of nearly every large new weapons.system in the planning o rdevelopment stages.26 Thus, the Presidents promise to draw the line against further cuts has already been broken UNDOING THE DAMAGE NATIONAL SECURITY PLANNING THAT WORKS The actions of Peny and Deutch are the coup de grace for the Bottom-Up Review.

They c onfirm what the Readiness Task Force could only suspect: that Clintons National Security Strategy, based on the now-discredited Bottom-Up Review is dead on arrival As a direct result of the Clinton Administrations failure to define Americas post-Cold War g lobal security interests-and to outline a military force capable of defending those interests-the worlds only superpower lacks a viable security strategy. Faced with a nu clear stand-off on the Korean peninsula, the occupation of Haiti, and the proliferat ion of nuclear material from the former Soviet Union, the commander in chief has no blueprint to help ensure a safe and prosperous future for America.

Congress can step into this national security planning void and force the President to face the reality h e thus far has failed to address. Specifically, Congress should consider d Naming a bipartisan task force of Members of Congress, Clinton Admini stration officials, and outside experts to conduct a thorough review of the nations defense needs The changes i n the national security landscape with the end of the Cold War are no less profound than those the country faced at the end of World War II. The U.S. has emerged as the most powerful nation on Earth, with interests spanning the globe. The na tion responde d to the vast changes in the world after World War II by completely reor ganizing the national security establishment. The Secretary of Defense, Central Intelli gence Agency, and National Security Council were established; the wartime-created Joint Chiefs o f Staff were made a permanent body; the United States Air Force was cre ated as a separate armed service. Even the Congress was reorganized, with the Senate and House Armed Services Committees being formed from a larger number of separate committees. Many of these changes were embodied in the National Security Act of 1947 25 William Matthews, 2 Wars Are Now Too Many, Navy Times, July 25, 1994, p. 26 26 John Mintz, Defense Memo Warns of Cuts In Programs, The Washington Post, August 22,1994, p. Al 7 A simila rly comprehensive examination of our post-Cold war national security needs is long overdue Thus far, this has been done only piecemeal. The Bottom-Up Review being the most recent-and most inadequate-response to this need.

Congress has established a vehicle for such an examination in the Commission on Roles and Missions of the Armed Forces, created with passage of the 1994 Department of Defense Authorization bill. With seven members, including former Secretary of De fense Les Aspin and other distinguished c i tizens with service in government, the armed forces; or the defense industry the commission is charged with reviewing the types of military operations that may be rkquired in the post-Cold War era 27 It must report its findings to Congress, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by May 1995.

Congress should consider expanding this commission to include members of the House and Senate, members of their professional staffs, and civilian and military Ad ministration officials. This commission could conduct a thorough, bipartisan, zero based review of Americas defense requirements, identifying and prioritizing U.S. inter ests around the world and outlining the foreign and defense policies available to ad vance and protect those interests This commission also should outline the military force structure capable of adequately defending those interests which it determines are vital to maintaining U.S. security. With all of the questions being raised about whether an inva sion of Hai ti is in the national interest, such an exercise would establish clearer criteria for the use of force.

At the same time, Congress might consider establishing a second commission to con duct its own independent assessment. Modeled on the mid-1970s Team B r eview of U.S. intelligence estimates regarding the former Soviet Union, such a competitive re view process would enhance the comprehensive analysis of US. strategic requirements needed with the end of the Cold War d Restoring defense spending to 1992 leve l s, adjusted for inflation, and freezing it at approximately $298 billion until the task force completes its assessment This would erase the more than $130 billion in Clinton defense cuts-more than dou ble the amount the President promised during the 1992 campaign. The defense budget would be frozen at $298 billion, up from $263 billion as outlined in the 1995 Defense Authorization Act.

The end of the Cold War admittedly means that the U.S. need not spend as much on defense as it once did, but the 1995 budg et represents the tenth straight year of declining defense budgets. If the Clinton plan for defense spending is fulfilled, by 1997 the U.S will be spending just 60 percent of what it did at the peak of the Reagan build-up in 19

86. As a percentage of the value of all goods and services produced in the U.S. econ omy, the worlds only superpower will be spending less to defend itself in 1997 than in 1939, two years before Pearl Harbor 27 Commission on Roles and Missions of the Armed Forces Fact Sheet, July 2 6 .1994 8 The concerns raised in the Readiness Task Force report tell the story. Repair backlogs lack of spare parts, increasing operating tempo leading to sinking morale, and lower quality recruits are symptoms not seen since the time of the hollow forces in the 1970s. Add to these the expanded commitments brought on by peacekeeping, peace en forcement, and humanitarian operations, and adversaries and allies alike will begin to question the value of a U.S. military commitment.

Congress should immediately re store funding for key programs that contribute di rectly to the militarys ability to wa e war. Such programs, all of which are in danger be cause of the Clinton cuts, include: 2f The Navys A-6E htruder allweather strikebomber The Armys Comanche attack hel i copter The Air Forces F-22 jet fighter The Marine Corps V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor troopcarrying aircraft These programs either will be terminated in the 1995 budget or were identified in the memo by Deputy Defense Secretary Deutch to the armed services in re sponse to the General Accounting Office study on BUR funding.

Congress can send a strong signal that it fully understands the breakdown in national security planning by funding these programs in future budgets, starting with 19

95. One obvious place to find the offsets required to afford such programs would be in non-de fense expenditures in the defense budget. In 1993, the General Accounting Office re ported that the Pentagon spent $10.4 billion on non-defense items ranging fro m The World University Games 6 million) to Prostate Disease Research 2 milli~n As worthy as these programs may be, the crisis in defense planning dictates that they be paid for out of a budget other than the Pentagons d Withholding funds for operations oth e r than war, including all multi lateral peacekeeping operations The 1995 Department of Defense Authorization Act takes a tentative step in this direc tion by requiring the Secretary of Defense to report to Congress within six months on the inconsistencies between the BUR and the Administrations defense budget propos als. This provision is too timid, as it only expresses the sense of the Congress that the Secretary of Defense should conduct such a review; it should be made binding by em ploying Congresss po w er of the purse. Congress can force the Department of Defense to return to first principles: defending U.S. citizens and territory and preparing for war overseas in defense of U.S. interests. No more funding should be appropriated for 28 For a full discus sion of declines in warfighting capability, see Baker Spring, me Folly of Clintons Defense Plans for Korea, Heritage Foundation Buckgrounder Update No. 2

28. June 28,1994, and John Luddy, In A War With North Korea,The Navy Could Come Up Short, Heritage Fou ndation Executive Memorandum No. 388, September 9,1994 29 For a full discussion, see John Luddy, This is Defense? Non-Defense Spending in the Defense Budget, Heritage Foundation FYI No. 14, March 30.1994 9 peacekeeping and other non-traditional military m i ssions until additional funds can be al located from cuts elsewhere in the governments budget r/ Conducting hearings examining the Clinton Administrations national se curity strategy President Clintons first report on national security strategy raises man y unanswered questions. For example, the Administration must clarify what it means when it says it is prepared to use US. troops to broker settlements of internal conflicts. Which con flicts? Under what circumstances? With what kinds of forces? For what pu r pose Is the U.S. to become the worlds policeman, intervening in civil wars where no national inter ests are at stake? The Administration must also address the concerns of its own Readi ness Task Force: Will the increased tempo of operations drive good peo p le out of the military? Will there be enough training time? Are there enough spare parts and supplies for a military large enough to do everything asked of it? Will the American people sup port fundamental changes in the militarys missions CONCLUSION Pres i dent Clinton has avoided making the tough decisions on national defense ex pected of him as commander in chief. He has budgeted too little money to pay for his de fense plan, expanded military commitments while cutting defense spending, and devel oped a N ational Security Strategy that is both confused and unworkable. Congress should consider stepping in and getting the Pentagons house in order. With the U.S. oc cupying Haiti, it is time to stop and rethink a defense strategy that clearly is bankrupt.

LawrenceT. Di Rita Deputy Director of Foreign Policy and Defense Studies 10


Lawrence T.

F.M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy