A National Security Agenda for the New Secretary of Defense

Report Defense

A National Security Agenda for the New Secretary of Defense

February 10, 1994 13 min read Download Report
John Luddy
William E. Simon Fellow in Religion and a Free Society

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2/10/94 214




(Updating Backgrounder 957, "Thumbs Down to the Bottom-Up Review," September 22, 1993) The uncontentious confirmation hearings and unanimous Senate approval of Secretary of Defense William Perry last week belie the challenges that face him as President Clinton's third choice to head the Pentagon. It remains an open question whether he can do what Les Aspin was unable to: develop a defense policy to address America's global interests despite the low priority the Administration places on defense. It is unlikely that Secretary Perry will be any more successful than his predecessor unless the President fun- damentally alters his Administration's approach to national security planning.

Scrapping the "Bottorn-Up Review" The first among Perry's priorities should be to dispense with Aspin's Bottom-Up Review of United States defense strategy and requirements. Conducted last year by the Department of Defense, this review was an attempt by Aspin to establish a new force structure for the U.S. military following the Cold War. The findings of the review, released on September 1, were based on faulty assumptions. For example, Aspin asserted that the U.S. must be able to address four dangers to American interests around the world. Two of these dangers-the threats posed by the spread of weapons of mass destruction and regional aggres- sors-are relevant and deserve the attention of the Secretary of Defense. The other two-threats to democracy in various countries around the globe and slow economic growth at home-have no place in military or security planning and will lead to the inappropriate application of military force. The threat to democracy was cited as a reason for engaging in "peacemaking" operations in places such as Somalia and Haiti. But Americans saw in 1993 how faulty that rationale was for deploying troops overseas. As a result of poorly conceived military operations based on the flawed assumptions of the Bottom-Up Review, for ex- ample, about two dozen U.S. soldiers died in Somalia while trying unsuccessfully to establish democracy in that war-ravaged nation. In addition to flawed assumptions, the Bottom-Up Review is marred by contradictory findings. The Heritage Foundation conducted a detailed analysis of the Bottom-Up Review and identified a number of shortcomings. I The two principal ones, which alone justify scrapping the Bottom-Up Review, are:

I See Lawrence T. DiRita, et al., "Thumbs Down To The Bottom-Up Review," Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 957, September 22, 1993.


1) The force outlined in the Bottom-Up Review is too large to be purchased under President Clinton's f ive- year defense budget. This fact seemed to have been an issue in Aspin's departure. The week before his resignation, he was embroiled in a public dispute with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget over the need for an additional $30 billion to $50 billion over five years to pay for the Bottom- Up Review force.

2) The force is too small to address the two "nearly simultaneous" major regional conflicts it is expected to handle. Once the forces for each conflict were allocated as outlined in the Bottom-Up Review, the U.S. would be left with no forces in reserve for a crisis of any size anywhere else in the world. Nor would there be additional forces to relieve those engaged in the two major regional conflicts which Aspin says the U.S. must be prepared to face.

As Perry develops a new blueprint for the nation's defense to replace the Bottom-Up Review, he must start with a new assessment of militarily significant U.S. vital interests. Those interests are to:

V protect America's territory, borders, and airspace; prevent a hostile, hegemonic power from arising in East Asia, Europe, the Persian Gulf, or Latin America; defend access to foreign trade; V protect the lives and well-being of individual Americans against such threats as drug trafficking and terrorism; and V maintain access to resources.

Perry must build a military force adequate to defend these vital interests. He should establish a minimum strength or "floor force" below which U.S. forces will not be allowed to fall. This minimum force, as deter- mined by Heritage Foundation analysts in their comprehensive review of national security priorities, con-2 sists of 16 Army divisions, 21 Air Force tactical wings, 400 Navy ships, and 177,000 active-duty Marines. By fielding a force of this size and providing necessary funding, Perry can avoid the contradictions found in the Bottom-Up Review.

Regaining Control of the Defense Budget Another priority for Perry should be to regain control of defense spending. Many in Congress are express- ing concern that the Clinton Administration is cutting defense too quickly. Three senior Republican Senators-Bob Dole of Kansas, Pete Domenici of New Mexico, and Strom Thurmond of South Carolina- stated in a December 13 letter to President Clinton: "As Commander-in-Chief, we know you will not delegate responsibility for our national security to those responsible solely for budget matters." The Senators are alarmed that Clinton's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is exercising too much influence over defense spending and is thus becoming the main bureaucratic force behind defense reductions. A major reason for the failure of the Bottom-Up Review was the insistence by OMB Director Leon Panetta that Aspin not exceed annual spending limits regardless of the findings of his comprehensive review of force requirements. Thus, instead of a "bottom-up" review, Aspin actually conducted a "top

2 See Kim R. Holmes, ed., A Safe and Prosperous Anzerica: A U.S. Foreign and Defense Policy Blueprint (Washington, D.C.: The Heritage Foundation, 1993).



down" review, starting with the budget he was allocated and determining a strategy and force structure to satisfy that budget. Perry should heed the Senators' warning and commit himself to a defense budget that will fund the "floor force" outlined by Heritage analysts. Only a force at least this size is adequate to defend America's interests around the world. To do so, Perry should seek a defense budget that will average $280 billion per year over the next five years. To do this, of course, President Clinton must abandon one of the assumptions of the Bottom-Up Review: that the primary cause of the country's fiscal woes is a bloated defense budget. That assumption is hard to justify. Defense spending has declined steadily since its peak in 1986; it would have declined by 40 percent by 1997 even with the much smaller cuts proposed by the Bush Administration. With defense spending fall- ing at such a rate, it cannot reasonably be argued that defense spending is the cause of America's economic troubles.


Reversing the Downward Spiral of Military Readiness Yet another priority for Perry should be to prevent budget cuts from endangering the combat readiness of U.S. forces. In May 1993, Secretary Aspin observed that "right now, we've got the best, most ready force in the world .... To keep it that way, we're going to have to do something that has proved very, very difficult in the past, and that is we're going to have to maintain readiness during a major drawdown of our forces."3 Aspin's promise to maintain the combat readiness of U.S. forces has been echoed by Secretary Perry, who declared during his confirmation hearings that "readiness is my first priority. 994 But there is evidence that Aspin's earlier promises are already being broken. For example: X The Army's budget for modernizing its forces, based on requirements identified during the Persian Gulf war, is under-funded by $1 billion.5 X For the first time in ten years, less than 90 percent of the Marine Corps' equipment is ready to go to war; 6the Marines' backlog in some maintenance categories has gone f rorn zero to $160 million in just two years. 7 X Because of a budget shortfall of $765 million, the Navy has a backlog of 150 aircraft and 250 aircraft en- gines in need of maintenance. 8 These figures reflect the declining combat readiness of U.S. forces, and these forces will become even weaker if the Bottom-Up Review is implemented. 9As already noted, the Bottom-Up Review Force (BURF) will be spread too thin for its size and capability, and will not be sufficient to defend America's global interests. Worse yet, the Clinton Administration hopes to find budget savings in critical procurement and development accounts, which will slow the modernization of the force by delaying the purchase of ad-


3 David C. Morrison, "Ringing Hollow," National Journal, September 18, 1993, p. 2242. 4 United States Senate, Committee on Armed Services, Answers to Advance Questions by Dr. William J. Perry, reprinted in Inside the Pentagon Special Report, February 3, 1994, p. 10. 5 "$1 Billion of Army Modernization Plans Unfunded," Inside the Pentagon, July 7, 1993, p. 5. 6 General Carl E. Mundy, Jr., Commandant of the Marine Corps, statement for the record for the Senate Armed Services Committee, May 19,1993. 7 Margo MacFarland, "Nunn WarnsThat Outlay Problem in '95 Could Be Even Worse Than'94," Inside the Navy, June 21, 1993, p. 17. 8 Admiral Frank B. Kelso, IL statement for the record for the Senate Armed Services Committee, May 19, 1993. 9 For a full discussion of U.S. military readiness, see John Luddy, "Stop the Slide Toward A Hollow Military," Heritage Foundation Backgrounder Update No. 209, January 14, 1994.



vanced weapons and technology. In the fiscal 1993 budget, for example, procurement spending was reduced by 17 percent. This will have an impact on military readiness. On top of this procurement reduction, Congress imposed a steep 11 percent real reduction in the research and development (R&D) budget in fiscal 1994, a reduction far larger than that proposed by the Administra- tion. The deep cuts in procurement and R&D, combined with the overcommitment of forces embodied in the Bottom-Up Review, is a recipe for military disaster and the needless loss of American lives. With his considerable experience managing several defense technology companies, Perry should know first hand how important it is for the U.S. to maintain its lead in military technology. The military must not return to the "hollow force" of the 1970s, when U.S. forces looked strong on paper but were nonetheless un- able to respond effectively if called to war. To avoid a weakening of America's combat capability, the Clin- ton Administration and Congress together must: Budget $1.4 trillion for defense from fiscal 1993 to 1997, or approximately $280 billion per year. Restore the proven ratio of two procurement dollars for every one dollar spent on research and develop- ment. This balances the modernization of today's force with the development of the force of tomor- row.


Scrap Aspin's Readiness Task Force. This group is composed of eight retired senior officers who are supposed to warn if spending cuts are having an adverse impact on readiness. This merely creates another layer of bureaucracy where none is necessary. The service chiefs have statutory respon- sibilities for leadership of their respective services, and it is they who should warn the Secretary if readiness is being sacrificed.


Reversing Decisions That Weaken U.S. Missile Defenses Aspin established anti-missile defense priorities that are both misdirected and under-funded. By focusing almost all funding on developing defenses against short-range ballistic missiles, the Administration is ignor- ing the importance of defending U.S. territory against long-range ballistic missiles. Moreover, Aspin has proposed reducing the budget for missile defense by almost $23 billion, or by over 50 percent, during the period from fiscal 1995 through fiscal 1999. Even high-priority "theatee' defenses against short-range mis- siles will be cut by $4.5 billion over the same period. The U.S. has only the most limited anti-missile capability, and U.S. territory is defenseless against long- range missile attacks. This comes at a time when a prominent Russian politician, Vladimir Zhirinovsky- whose party won the largest share of the vote in Russia's December 12 parliamentary election-has begun rattling the nuclear saber. Zhirinovsky, for example, identifies Los Angeles and Washington as potential nuclear targets if the U.S. challenges Russia's "right" to "carry out its great historic mission and free the world of wars." 10 Although Boris Yeltsin still controls the nuclear arsenal of the former Soviet Union, Zhirinovsky may be a candidate for the Russian presidency in the next election. Without U.S. missile defen- ses to deter him, a future President Zhirinovsky may present an American President with a cruel dilenima: pay the extortion he has threatened or sacrifice cities like Los Angeles and Washington. Removing this vul- nerability will at a minimum require that Perry restore full funding to the anti-missile effort and proceed quickly with the most promising technologies for effective missile defense: space-based systems.

10 For a discussion of Zhirinovsky's writings, see Ariel Cohen and Melana Zy1a, "Zhirinovsky in His Own Words: Excerpts from The Final Thrust South, " Heritage Foundation FYI, February 4, 1994.



Restoring Strength to U.S. Naval Forces

The end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union have made the world a somewhat safer place. With no other single power able to challenge it on the battlefield or on the high seas, America's need for an Army, Air Force, and Navy designed to fight a large and extended campaign is greatly reduced. At the same time, there remains greater uncertainty on the geopolitical landscape. This puts a premium on mobile, flexible forces. Such forces can be tailored to a specific crisis, transported to it quickly, and rein- forced with heavier forces if necessary. Naval forces provide this combination of forward presence, mobility, and flexibility. A strategy that rests on the ability to project military power to important regions of the world depends on a strong Navy. But the Aspin plan for naval forces is inadequate. The Bottom-Up Review force envisions 346 ships and 11 carriers, but overcommits that smaller number to two "nearly simultaneous" regional con- flicts and an aggressive peacekeeping agenda. Put simply, Aspin's Navy could not cover all of the contin- gencies envisioned in his Bottom-Up Review. Perry can resolve this problem by declaring that he supports a 400-ship Navy with 12 active aircraft carriers.

Ending Use of the Military for Social Experiments Secretary Perry will have to deal with the consequences of Clinton's ill-advised campaign to end the military's ban on homosexuals in the armed forces. Since a stricter version of the ban was passed into law last fall, the Clinton Justice Department has been timid in exercising its responsibility to prosecute open homosexuals in uniform. For example, after a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court ruled, in a case last November involving a homosexual former Naval Academy midshipman, that the homosexual ban was unconstitutional, the Clinton Justice Department refused to appeal the case to the full circuit court. At least three prominent Senators on the Armed Services Committee-Chairman Sam Nunn (D-GA), Dan Coats (R-IN), and Strom Thurmond (R-SC)-have indicated that they may re-open debate in the Senate if the Administration fails to fully enforce the ban. I I The American people, the Administration, and above all the armed forces do not need a new fight on this issue. Perry, therefore, must reaffirm the Defense Department's sound arguments for the ban, and pressure the Administration to enforce it to the utmost. As for assigning women to combat positions, much damage has already been done. To accommodate the career aspirations of women officers, restrictions on women combat pilots in the Navy and Air Force have been lifted; the Pentagon is still considering allowing women into ground combat assignments in infantry, artillery, and tank units. Experience has shown that the introduction of women into combat units reduces military readiness for a variety of reasons, including the innate physiological differences between the sexes. Moreover, in the one historical case where women were deliberately placed in combat-in Israel during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War-they were removed within weeks. The reason: It was clear that men reacted to the presence of women by trying to protect them and aiding them when they became casualties instead of con- tinuing to attack. The Israelis also learned that unit morale was seriously damaged when men saw women killed and injured on the battlefield. 12

11 Rowan Scarborough, "Two GOP Senators Set To Revive Debate on Gays in Military," The Washington Times, January 7, 1993, p. 3. 12 Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces, International Trip Report, September 14-27, 1992.



There is not a single argument based on national security or military readiness which supports the idea of placing women in combat units; until one is made, this social experiment must be reversed. As Secretary of Defense, Perry must take this message to the President. Within the Defense Department, he should also: V Overturn Secretary Aspin's decision to rescind the "risk rule," which prevents the assignment of women to military units where there is substantial risk of direct contact with the enemy; \u239\'95 Postpone any further action regarding women until full Senate hearings are held on this issue; \u239\'95 Review the findings of the 1992 Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces, which recommended against assigning women to combat aircraft and ground units; it Review physical and performance requirements to ensure that men and women are held to the same high standards; and of Ensure that women and men are subject to equal disciplinary standards.




The very fact that Secretary Perry was Clinton's third choice for the post in one year indicates much dis- array in the Administration's national security policy. The President's discomfort and lack of interest toward the military is palpable. The press widely reported the comment of one Administration adviser, who wished to remain unnamed, who noted the obvious during the selection process for Aspin's replacement:


They really just wanted to get the Pentagon off the screen. Every time it was on, it was trouble that interfered with the President's agenda. Their attitude was, if they could subcontract out the Pentagon, they would. 13


The President's responsibility as Commander in Chief is enshrined in the Constitution. No other duty is more important for a U.S. President-not reforming health care, welfare, or even stopping domestic crime, as important as these issues are to the American people. History will hold the President, not his secretary of defense, accountable for the type of disaster seen last year in Somalia. More such disasters surely will come unless Secretary Perry can convince the President to turn around his defense policies. If the events of 1993 failed to teach the President this lesson, then tyrants around the world such as North Korea's Kim II-Sung and even Russia's Vladimir Zhirinovsky may do so. John Luddy Policy Analyst

13 Ann Devroy and Barton Gellman, "How Search Finally Led To Perry," The Washington Post, January 25,1994, p. Al.





John Luddy

William E. Simon Fellow in Religion and a Free Society