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Gen. Cartwright: “It’s Not about the Platform”

May 14, 2010

For years now I have been accusing Marine General James Cartwright, also Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, of taking ideas almost verbatim from New Wars concerning military reform (for proof see here, here, and here). Looks like he is up to his old tricks again  at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and thank goodness!

Our first reaction in the military to a problem is go build something. Okay? The problem is competitive advantages out there in the battlefield is in a 30-day cycle, not a 30-year cycle. Took us 15 years to design the Joint Strike Fighter. It will take us another 10 to field it and then we expect 30 years of life out of it.

Go back to a gent by the name of Fuller that basically focused on the idea and construct that if you’re going to do grand strategy, your first objective is to appreciate the commerce and financial position of your nation. And this nation along with the world is going through a global economic crisis, okay?

…Wake up, you’re not going to have 300, 500 ships. You are not going to have thousands of new aircraft unless we change the way we’re doing business because just saying I need it and therefore it’s important and therefore you’re going to provide it is not going to go much further. And you cannot build strategy in the absence of resource. It’s just a fact. And to do so is perilous for the country.

…You’ve got to focus your resource and your capability and your intellectual capital on the fight that you’re in. You can wish for another future, but you cannot get there unless you can take care of the present…You must win that to get to the next one.

We tend to want to build and buy and field everything ourselves. We want it to be the best that could possibly be out there and now, quite frankly, pick your service – we’ve got a ship on each coast, we got an airplane on each coast. That’s the direction we’re headed. They’re the best in the world but there’s only a couple of them and yet the world we face is a hugely dispersed and diffused threat.

We need to be in a lot of places. We need quantity more than we need that high-end exquisite capability and if we can’t figure out how to get to that, then again, we’re living in denial of the world we’re in, hoping for the world we want to have in front of us.

In the world we’re living in, you can also get weapons of mass destruction from the single terrorist. You’ve got to acknowledge that fact and you’ve got to acknowledge that one size does not fit all. An offensive-only strategy will not work, nor will a defensive-only strategy work. You have to be able to tailor it for the world that you’re actually in, not the one you wish you were in.

It is not the platform anymore. The platforms just eclipsed in their value in the first or six years and they become obsolete. It’s the intellectual capital, our ability to upgrade and our ability to turn them fast enough to be inside of the adversary’s decision moves.

…It’s a question of balances. It’s not a question of either/or. And so the balance, right now, is moving more towards what used to be called the lower end of the spectrum, but stability operations, influence operations.


Come to think of it, maybe New Wars was channeling Gen. Cartwright and never realized it!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. RTLM permalink
    May 15, 2010 3:07 am

    Hire this man.

  2. Mike Burleson permalink*
    May 14, 2010 2:17 pm

    Hudson-LOL. I think we are all just watching the same trends. History repeats itself again.

    Gravy, and now the repercussions of fighting attritional warfare with high tech platforms is spreading to Canada.

  3. Hudson permalink
    May 14, 2010 2:04 pm

    Mike, I should think you would be flattered that someone in the Joint Chiefs is a regular reader of NWs. Of course, you could sue…!

  4. May 14, 2010 1:01 pm

    At least you have a ship on each coast we have the ship here in the uk–same problems high end gold plated platforms we cant afford.

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