Book Excerpt from “Resourcing the National Security Enterprise” (Chapter 8)

In chapter 8, “Strategic Choices in Defense Force Structure,” Michael Linick discusses the complexities of resourcing national strategy to meet various security demands. Linick writes that “planners deal with tremendous uncertainty” and that the “bridging of ends, ways, and means is often missing or poorly articulated in DoD strategies.” Arguing that planners need to keep four pillars of defense planning in mind—force size and composition, force posture, force modernization, and force readiness—Linick draws out a framework that national security professionals can use to more effectively discuss strategy:

The four pillars of strategic planning discussed are not offered as a substitute to a nuanced understanding of the multiple entrenched and intertwined process that constitute defense strategic planning. Instead, they are meant to suggest a framework within which national security professionals can have a more effective discussion of strategy. DoD experts often work inside programmatic stovepipes. Thus, these experts can say, with some level of certainty, how a change to the budget for spare parts will affect readiness or how moving a squadron from Germany to the United States will affect deployment timelines in the event of a Baltic contingency. They also know where the DoD does or does not have technological overmatch or how much it will cost to grow the force by 10,000 spaces. But these same experts are not able to explain—and often are not even asked to think about—how their recommendation in one program area (e.g., modernization) may affect another (e.g., posture).

There are officers both in the OSD and the military services that do have the responsibility to integrate across these trades, but outside of a major effort like the SCMR, those discussions are often perfunctory, and the analysis is not rich. DoD budgets have a certain path dependency. On an annual basis, they can only be changed at the margin, although admittedly, in some years the margin is significantly larger than in others. As such, the focus tends to be on the marginal changes at the program level.

Teaching analysts and strategists to think in terms of the four pillars is critical to linking the ends, ways, and means of defense strategic planning. Requiring budget proposals and strategies to expressly discuss priorities in terms of size, posture, readiness, and modernization as well as the trades between them can only help elevate the quality of understanding of what a budget does do and what the strategy demands—and whether the two are in balance.”

Resourcing the National Security Enterprise: Connecting the Ends and Means of US National Security by Susan Bryant and Mark Troutman is available in hardcover, paperback, and digital editions. It is part of the Cambria Rapid Communications in Conflict and Security (RCCS) Series (General Editor: Dr. Geoffrey R.H. Burn).

Michael Linick is a Senior Defense and International Policy Researcher at RAND and an adjunct assistant professor in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University. A retired US Army colonel, he holds master’s degrees from Georgetown University (national security), Catholic University (world politics), and the US Army War College (strategic studies). At RAND, his publications include The Evolution of US Military Policy from the Constitution to the Present, The US Department of Defense’s Planning Process: Components and Challenges, and the game Hedgemony: A Game of Strategic Choices.