Forbes: Defense Hampered by Inability to Formulate Strategy
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
WASHINGTON — A lack of strategic thinking is hampering the ability of the United States to meet the defense challenges it faces in the world, a former House Armed Services Committee member said.
“The thing that worries me most is our inability to formulate, articulate and implement strategies,” former Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., now a senior distinguished fellow at the U.S. Naval War College, said June 27 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. “If we don’t change how we do those strategies, I think we’re in for some very, very difficult times.
“It doesn’t do us any good to [have] fancy strategies that we keep in a safe somewhere,” he said. “We’ve got to be able to implement those strategies. Until we can articulate those strategies, we will never be able to implement them.
“We’ve got to be able to articulate if we want to get the funding; if we want to get the American people, our allies, our enemies to understand the importance of that strategy,” Forbes said. “Congress has to play a role in it.”
Forbes, a former chairman of the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee, also warned of the erosion of the U.S. margins of military superiority.
“For most of us, in our lifetime we lived in a time when the United States was not only the major superpower but it was the only superpower, and as we begin to see that eroding, we sometimes forget the deterrent factor that that single category had and how that is shifting,” he said.
Forbes also noted that the United States has had five major advantages that enabled it to provide for its defense and that of much of the world: geographical, economic, technological, industrial and military. He said that these advantages were being lost in part by the cost of U.S decisions, right or wrong.
“It takes options off the table of how we deal with threats,” he said.
He acknowledged that the United States still has technological advantages but “that margin is narrowing every single day.”
Forbes said that not only is China improving its military technology, it is also fielding it in great numbers.
He also said that “we also look at our own obsession here with making sure that companies don’t get profits such that most of the innovators in the private sector no longer even want to deal with the Department of Defense.”
Forbes gave his support for a 355-ship Navy, pointing out that China “will be there in 2020.”
He said that in 2007, the Navy was able to meet 90 percent of the validated requirements of combatant commanders, but that in 2016 was able to meet only 42 percent.
Forbes also said the future of aircraft carrier rests on the capabilities of the carrier air wing, and that future unmanned systems will enable submarines to “fight like carrier groups.”