Strategy, Scenarios, and the Global Shift in Defense Power
As countries redefine what their armed forces are expected to be ready for, they are reexamining their strategic posture. This reexamination typically happens following major geopolitical changes, such as after the end of the Cold War and again after 9|11—for example, in the United Kingdom, with the Strategic Defense Review in 1998. Most recently, the United Kingdom conducted the Strategic Defense and Security Review in 2010. Other countries, such as the United States, examine their requirements on a regular cycle (as in the Quadrennial Defense Review) but also look more broadly when circumstances require it, such as in the US defense department’s defense strategy review in 2012. Likewise, France is revisiting its white paper on national defense and security, which was last reviewed by the government of President Nicolas Sarkozy after his election and Germany, has recently completed a comprehensive review of its defense strategy.
However, change in broad government policy often takes far too long before it is translated into detailed expectations for individual units. For instance, the layout of military bases in some European countries is still designed for redundancy in case of attack by the erstwhile Soviet Union. One example of adapting to changed requirements came about when the United Kingdom moved to prepare for “most likely” rather than “worst case” scenarios. This reduced its need for dispersed airbases, allowing it to scale back its aircraft support infrastructure. “Depth repairs” are now conducted at a single location—Royal Air Force (RAF) Marham for Tornado aircraft and RAF Cottesmore for Harrier aircraft—and now only “forward repairs” are made at operational squadrons. As a result, along with a number of other changes, the cost of operating Tornado aircraft was halved.
Defense by the Numbers: Combat Awe
Adapting forces to the changing demands of government policy requires first ensuring that the strategic direction is clear, and then converting the strategic direction into specific and detailed requirements for personnel training, equipment, logistics support, maintenance, stock holdings, and infrastructure at the level of individual units. Based on this, a plan can be developed for adapting each capability and for the force as a whole, thereby releasing no-longer-needed resources.
By creating defined readiness levels and understanding in detail the implications of moving from one level to another for each force; it is possible to create a much more open debate and a much more flexible defense budget. In the most extreme case, countries such as Switzerland and Israel that depend heavily on reserves for the bulk of their combat power are able to make personnel flexible while reducing the life-cycle cost of equipment by keeping it in humidity-controlled storage. The United Kingdom has adopted a variant of this approach called whole-fleet management, in which training and operational fleets are separated, with the operational fleet maintained as a reserve fleet.