Global Posture Mediocrity

  • by Pete O'Brien
  • 12-07-2021

What is the Global Posture Review (GPR)? A global posture review is an opportunity to take a fresh look at what we’re doing and how we are doing it, to make adjustments that account for recent changes in the geopolitical environment. Given all the changes we’ve seen in the last year, a GPR represents an opportunity to clean out some of the cobwebs at the Pentagon and State Department.

The GPR was directed by President Biden a few weeks after taking office, with guidance that“…asserts that the United States will lead with diplomacy first, revitalize our unmatched network of allies and partners and make smart and disciplined choices regarding our national defense and responsible use of our military. Nested within this guidance, the global posture review assesses DOD overseas forces and footprint along with the framework and processes that govern our posture decision making."

The review itself hasn’t been released, but comments from various Pentagon officials are disturbing. Of note, was this paragraph, which, as CDR Salamander pointed out (a tip of the hat to the Commander), says volumes about what’s wrong with DOD:
But rather than a large shift in resources and plans, the review, which looked at US troop locations and capabilities across the globe, ultimately concluded that no major strategic changes are needed, aside from “operational level adjustments we have already announced and a couple of other changes that are still being developed,” a senior defense official told reporters during a Monday briefing. What findings backed up those conclusions, however, is not clear, as the department declined to make a version of the review public.

In short, everything is swell.

Before the US got involved in WWII there were a series of meetings between the senior leadership in Britain and the US to decide how we would, in fact, fight the global war that became World War II. It was decided that the general thrust would be summed up with “Europe first.” This was in keeping with the ground that had been plowed by Churchill in his dealings with Roosevelt, as well as the concerns the US Army had to fight their war first, the Navy’s war second. 

In fact, the US had been working on this plan in one form or another since President Roosevelt - Theodore Roosevelt - had first identified Japan as a strategic concern of the US four decades before WWII. Throughout that period there had been work on a series of war plans that would attempt to answer how the US might fight a war in Europe or in Asia, or in both at the same time. 

Unlike the common conception that the Army and Navy leadership prior to WWII were sclerotic, the planning and preparations were nothing short of genius, particularly given the budgets they had to work with.

The planners worked out in great detail what would need be done to win this global war, industrially and militarily; mines that needed to be dug, power plants that needed to be built, machines built so that we might build new weapons, technologies that needed to be developed, people trained and equipped, etc., etc., etc. They also worked out the basic operational movements, securing the flanks of Europe, the conduct of landings, the movement across the Pacific. Much would change over time, but, as Admiral Nimitz noted, nothing that took place in the war had not already been addressed at war games at the war colleges, with the sole exception of the Kamikaze.

But the plan, as comprehensive as it was, required hard strategic choices, and the leadership was willing to make them, decisions that over time cost hundreds, even thousands of lives.

That the Army and Navy were not given the funds to prepare properly until after the US had been bloodied is subject for another day, but it’s worth remembering that a 4-star admiral was fired 10 months prior to the attack Pearl Harbor because he vociferously questioned the President’s order placing the fleet in Hawaii, and were also able to recognize that no matter of effort would save US forces in the Philippines in 1942. Hard choices…

Returning to the GPR, we find this statement from the press conference:
The main outcome of the review is the return to normal of determining military posture around the world and tying that to America's strategic alignment, an official speaking on background earlier in the day said. "The GPR has strengthened our decision making processes by deliberately connecting strategic priorities, global trade-offs, force readiness and modernization, interagency coordination and allied and partner coordination to global posture planning and decisions," the official said. 

This is precisely the problem: a return to normal. This is “normal?” And all the choices made in the last 30 years were perfect, even in light of recent developments?

For the last 20 years we’ve been fighting a global war; the fleet and the army are both stretched very thin; we have an air force whose aircraft average ages continues to rise, and our forces are seemingly locked into a circle of deployments that stretches back decades, leaving the US in strategic fetters.

In the 9 months since the GPR was ordered we’ve seen Russia concentrate forces around Ukraine, China moving to take advantage of political developments in Africa, China moving to establish a presence in a port on the west coast of Africa - on the Atlantic, Iran clearly intent on a nuclear weapons capability, the confused US exit from Afghanistan, and continued inability to secure our own borders, hyper-sonics, etc., etc. Yet none of those are apparently any cause for the US to reconsider its current disposition of forces, or its current plans for force size, systems procurement, etc…

If this administration were going to take the China threat seriously, take seriously these rapidly evolving geopolitical situations, the GPR was an opportunity to start. But, it seems the Pentagon and Foggy Bottom have abandoned any effort to show any leadership, and instead have chosen to pass pablum to the President and to the American people. And when this mediocre strategic vision comes home to roost, the officers who did this will all be safely retired, hauling in big salaries with this or that defense contractor.