The U.S. Secretary of Defense has
ordered the service chiefs and their subordinates to cut back on developing
weapons and tactics for the next war (wherever and whatever it might be), and
concentrate on the current ones. This directive is based on the assumption that
the U.S. military can already defeat any potential foe, and the near future
appears to include more irregular fighters and terrorists, than masses of tanks,
modern aircraft and high tech warships.
America's likely foes (North Korea, Iran, China) have conventional weapons that
are a decade or more behind what the U.S. has now. Against all three, American
air, naval and nuclear weapons power is overwhelming. It's long been U.S.
policy to avoid wars that involve lots of ground troops. The current operations
in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, involve only about 200,000 troops at any
one time (out of 1.2 million soldiers and marines available), and a casualty
rate that is less than half what was suffered in Vietnam, Korea or World War
II. The Department of Defense wants the troops to become more effective at
dealing with irregulars and terrorists. The current war is giving the ground
troops invaluable combat experience, making American ground forces the most
capable on the planet. The idea is to capitalize on that, not new, untried and
very expensive technology.
Army has been trying to get more money for what it calls FCS (Future Combat
Systems). This includes new vehicles, weapons and electronic devices that take
advantage of the latest technologies. Many in the Department of Defense see
this as another procurement boondoggle (along with the F-22 and the navy's new
destroyer). So money is being cut back for the FCS. The army is not complaining
too loudly, because the hundreds of billions it is getting to support
operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, is also paying for new, state-of-the-art
gear. This is stuff that is being tested in combat, and what passes muster
becomes the most effective gear available.