Small Wars Journal

All Eggs in One Basket?

With Easter approaching next weekend I am reminded of the words of wisdom “to not put all your eggs in one basket”. Such a simple lesson seems to be easily forgotten. In the April 3rdForeign Policy posting LT Doug Rabb seems to want all the military eggs in one basket – the Navy’s basket. His article: A view from the High Seas: The Navy is now more important than other services because it provides unfettered presence  wants the Navy to lead Defense Department’s “pivot” to the Pacific and the Navy should get the majority of Defense Appropriations. This strategy strikes me (a retired Army COL) as narrowly focused and risky for our nation. Our nation needs much more than presence, just being there is not enough. I don’t believe that Navy alone can solve the current issues in Crimea and Ukraine or can successfully deter either North Korea or radical Islamists. Sooner or later our nation will have to do something beyond just being there and nothing speaks louder than having our troops on foreign soil.  I subscribe to a much more balanced approach for DoD’s strategies and appropriations and think we need to be ready for many different threats; whether they be threats of irons, threats from the shadows, or threats coming through silicon. Yes – the Navy does have its own Air Force on their carriers and their own land force with the Marines, but I still support the strategy of Goldwater-Nichols and the concept of employing a joint force.

My frustration with this myopic strategy was compounded by a second article that the same day in Breaking Defense, Hard Corps: Marine’s ‘Expeditionary Force 21′ To Be ‘Fast, Austere, & Lethal,’ And Expensive. This article lays out the new Marine strategy EF21 for future wars and the expeditionary role the Marine intend to fill. However, due to A2AD threats the Navy wants to keep amphibious ships more than 65 nautical miles from the shore while the Marines need the amphibious ships within five nautical miles of shore to be able to project the combat power ashore. Yes, tilt-rotary aircraft can carry equipment, but only as long as you don’t need anything heavier than a jeep.

So, I’m left looking at a strategy with a service that wants to go it alone as the self declared most important service, but their strategy has a gaping hole – a 60 nautical mile wide hole. Now, with this single service strategy (a single basket with a hole in the bottom) we are being encouraged to put all our military eggs into that basket. By having multiple baskets (services) we can keep all our actual or potential adversaries off balance. Hopefully, rational decisions can be made to maintain the balance among DoD’s military services and appropriations – as we all stay “afloat” and out of single basket with holes.

The opinions expressed are the author’s alone.