Sunday, October 25, 2009

"The Pentagon's Wasting Assets", by Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr., An Article Review


I found this to be an interesting piece of writing in which the author posed arguments with which I tend to agree. In his article Andrew Krepinevich illuminates how the United States’ failure to address its aging and antiquated strategies, equipment, and tactics has had a negative impact on our ability to effectively engage in the conflicts of the twenty-first century. Mr. Krepinevich discusses the effects of western technologies, eastern stratagems, power projection, irregular forces, virtual forces and the imperative to adapt to illustrate his point. By reviving an old Cold War term, “wasting asset”, he demonstrates how it is irresponsible to “remain reluctant to engage in the hard thinking necessary for anticipatory transformation” or to prepare “for emerging challenges by identifying new capabilities to offset or replace those that are progressively wasting.” In my opinion, Mr. Krepinevich does an excellent job of emphasizing how failure to adapt could result in the United States’ ineffectively addressing the enemies of the future.


The author states that, “Just as it took over half a decade of effort to address the United States’ loss of its nuclear monopoly, a strategy to address the United States’ current wasting assets will not be crafted overnight.” And when developing this strategy he believes the United States should focus on several areas, such as cyberspace, guerilla warfare, and specifically Iran and China, which pose formidable challenges for us. The global spread and availability of a wide variety of technological assets, and increasingly adaptive thinking in a swiftly changing geopolitical environment are “rapidly eroding the advantages the U.S. military has long enjoyed.” Simply put, much of our current equipment and strategies, designed for Cold War linear conflicts, is inappropriate for the types of engagements we are facing today, and further, for those in the future. He offers several solutions to this dilemma: 1) the U.S. should conserve the majority of its assets for direct combat operations and should provide small, highly equipped, highly skilled forces to advise foreign, indigenous militaries, 2) lessons learned by engaging irregular forces must be institutionalized, 3) resources should be allocated for the development of better “hunter-killer” unmanned aircraft; and, 4) the U.S. should continue to engage its partners in the Middle East to reassure them that it is our intention to maintain a stable balance in the region and not to “generate a threat.”


Mr. Krepinevich’s arguments have implications for all five civil affairs core tasks, but perhaps most significantly Nation Assistance (NA). The goal of NA is to promote long-term regional stability. NA, Security Assistance (SA) and Foreign Internal Defense (FID), two sub-components of NA, are dependent upon our ability to develop agreements with host nation governments. Our ability to achieve these goals is firmly vetted in our ability to think adaptively and divest ourselves from antiquated equipment, technology, and to abandon military strategies that are no longer applicable in an environment of asymmetric combat. If we cannot achieve stability, the agreements we foster will never achieve their desired long lasting effects.


Since the beginning of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, I have deployed twice as a reservist. Now I’m on the docket to deploy a third time. When I return from this third deployment, should I keep my duffle bags mentally packed and by the front door? Are we stuck? Did we forget the lessons of Vietnam? What is the way ahead? The short answer as posed by Mr. Krepinevich and one I agree with is the “lessons learned by the U.S. military and the capabilities developed in waging irregular warfare” must be institutionalized if we expect to not repeat the mistakes of the past.

Krepinevich, Jr., Andrew F. “The Pentagon’s Wasting Assets, The Eroding Foundations of American Power.” Foreign Affairs 88.4 (2009) 18-33.