An Improved Pacific Pivot

The Obama Administration and Defense Department have not provided a clear or consistent strategy on its “pivot” to the Pacific, and the Pentagon should make strategic changes to better position its force to face threats in the region, according a congressionally mandated report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies released Wednesday. The report also found that defense budget cuts are limiting the department’s ability to rebalance its forces. In several speeches, DOD and White House officials have provided disparate priorities on the shift toward the Pacific. Going forward, the Pentagon needs to better align its strategy with allies, strengthen ally partner capacity, expand its military presence, and accelerate the development of new capabilities and concepts, it states. “There is no substitute for being there,” CSIS fellow John Schaus said in unveiling the report. Specifically, the Air Force should move away from its model of keeping its forces in a small number of large bases in the area. “These facilities become increasingly vulnerable, and could be seen as a valuable target,” Schaus said. Instead, the Air Force should operate from smaller bases spread around the region. The service should also develop new air combat systems, such as penetrating intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms and improved manned/unmanned teaming to respond to increased anti-access, area denial threats from China. (See also Don’t Call it a Comeback from the July 2015 issue of Air Force Magazine.)