Reshaping for Tomorrow

The US military services need to take advantage of the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review to carve out new, forward-looking missions or risk becoming simply smaller—and increasingly irrelevant—versions of themselves, according to Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments Senior Fellow Mark Gunzinger. During a talk on Monday in Arlington, Va., sponsored by AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies, Gunzinger offered suggestions on how the services could adjust their contributions. The Air Force needs to “rebalance” its fleet with fewer fighters and more bombers since it will probably have to fight from far away, he said. It will need “more resilient” forward bases and more advanced remotely piloted aircraft and should seek to “dominate the electromagnetic spectrum” since “that’s where they’ll be fighting,” he asserted. The Navy will likewise have to adjust the carrier air wing with more RPAs, exploit new cyber and directed-energy weapons, modularize its subs for more kinds of missions, and “develop the right…magazine” of precision-guided munitions. The Army need not feel locked out of AirSea Battle, Gunzinger said, and should invest in more tactical ballistic missiles, missile defenses, and land-based sea-denial capabilities with directed energy, rail guns, and missiles, all to deal with anti-access situations. As for the Marine Corps, its F-35B short-takeoff airplanes can complicate enemy calculus by operating where there are no air bases, he said during the Aug. 19 event. The marines should also pursue new operational concepts that bypass—rather than hit head-on—an enemy’s strongest coastal defenses.