TO: President-elect Donald Trump
Secretary of Defense (nominee) Gen. James Mattis
National Security Advisor (designee) Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn
CC: Director of Central Intelligence (nominee) Cong. Mike Pompeo
Director of National Intelligence (nominee) Sen. Dan Coates
SUBJECT: Restoring America’s Defenses
Americans pay little attention to the war in which we are engaged for several reasons, first among which is that only about one percent of America fights, lives and dies in it. The war was brought to our homes, cities and streets by the 9/11 attacks, but you already understand that it began long before. It began with the 1979 Tehran hostage crisis and took many lives in the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing. The war was only later declared in Osama bin Laden’s 1996 fatwa against America.
Though Congress authorized military action against al-Qaeda and other 9/11 terrorist participants in those attacks, we have never declared war against them or the nations that sponsor them.
Some of you understand that the principal lesson of Vietnam is that if you don’t fight a war in a manner intended to win it decisively you will lose it inevitably. That is why we are losing the war being waged against us by the terrorist networks and the nations that support them.
We were deflected from victory by President Bush’s nation-building strategy which gave the enemy control of the pace and direction of the war. Our forces have been further hobbled by the politically correct means in which we have fought the war.
The war against Islamic terrorists and terrorist powers is not the only conflict in which we are engaged. Cold wars are going on with Russia, China and Iran (which, of course, is also the world’s principal sponsor of terrorist networks). Americans aren’t thinking about those wars either. The media, the Democrats, and the Republican establishment all share responsibility for that fact.
It’s your collective job to win these wars and to deter or defeat the other threats. To do so will require you to do at least three things simultaneously and which you should begin immediately: (1) derive a national military strategy and budget to win these conflicts from an intensive analysis of intelligence on our enemies’ intentions and capabilities; (2) conduct the kind of intense ideological war that President Bush shied away from and Mr. Obama surrendered preemptively; and (3) act on the “personnel is policy” lesson we learned during the Reagan era.
Each will require months or years to accomplish. But every one of these tasks must be done if we are going to restore our nation’s security.
Even some die-hard Democrats will admit that rebuilding our military and intelligence capabilities is necessary. But how?
We really don’t know how many or what types of ships, aircraft, satellites and people we need. The Quadrennial Defense Review, or QDR, is supposed to be based on the analysis and required to be the foundation of our national defense strategy as well as the defense budget. But the QDR has become a bloated bureaucratic exercise diverted from facts by politics. The 2012 QDR was used by the Obama administration to justify defense cuts that had already been decided in disregard of actual requirements.
You need to re-create and modernize the Reagan era “Defense Guidance” process. It examined the best intelligence available to determine which threats are most serious and needed to be deterred or defeated. On the basis of that determination, a national defense strategy can be derived and from that a defense budget to decide what assets we need. That budget will implement the strategy by defining what we need and don’t have, what we have that we don’t need and what it costs to implement these decisions.
That, needless to say, will have to be accomplished in secret and, when the defense budget is ready to send to Congress, an unclassified version of the new “defense guidance” should be drafted and published.
Unless this is done, there will be no way to determine how to recreate our defense structure. Hard decisions will have to be made, such as on continuation of the F-35 program. You may recall that about three years ago the then-commander of the Air Combat Command, Gen. Mike Hostage, said the F-35s were “irrelevant” to warfare unless the few F-22s we have were flying with them to defend them. We are planning to buy over 2,400 F-35s. We have only 187 F-22s. The numbers just don’t work.
I have seen estimates that the F-35 will absorb at least fifty percent of the Air Force and Navy acquisition budgets for decades. We can’t afford to spend that much on one system (especially one that chronically under-performs mission requirements) when so much more is needed.
The same goes for too many other ill-planned weapon systems, such as the Littoral Combat Ship and the 1970s vintage DDG-51s. If you perform the analysis required by a “defense guidance” process, you will find that it’s necessary to reduce or terminate those and other programs in order to afford others.
The second step, as I’ve written since 2006, is to begin the ideological war Gen. Flynn has called for in his book, The Field of Fight, which he co-authored with my friend Michael Ledeen.
What Gen. Flynn understands you will all have to come to understand: that we cannot win the war against Islamic terrorism unless we win both the kinetic and ideological halves of the war. As Gen. Peter Pace wrote in his 2006 “Chairman’s Guidance” when he became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, what we say and what we write is as important as how well we shoot.
President Bush mistook the imposition of democracies on Middle Eastern nations (whose religious culture cannot possibly accept them) to be the center of gravity in this war. It isn’t. The enemy’s ideology is, and it must be defeated. No matter how many terrorist networks we destroy others will pop up to replace them as long as they are propelled by the poisonous ideology of Islamism.
This, too, will have to be done partly in secret. One or more “presidential determinations” will be necessary to authorize the covert actions invented by our best psychological warriors and intelligence and military analysts to conduct the ideological war. The other half of the ideological war will be entirely public. It will have to be conducted by all of our national leaders including the president personally.
The full power of the president’s office and media presence will have to be used frequently and consistently to speak the truth about our enemies’ ideology. We cannot otherwise convince the world that it is a morally bankrupt failure. All of you will be required to back him up in your own speeches and to seek others in Congress and elsewhere to publicly condemn the Islamist ideology. Which brings us to the third action you need to take.
Please never forget the axiom “personnel is policy.” There are hundreds of generals and admirals who gained high rank over the past eight years. There is also a plethora of senior civilian employees who have done the same. You will need to fire many of the senior military and fire or otherwise rid yourselves of the senior civilians who aren’t on board with your agenda or that agenda will die a slow and painful death.
Remember Gen. Lloyd Austin? When he was commander of CENTCOM, he and other senior leaders required intelligence analysts’ superiors to change analysts’ findings in order to create intelligence reports that told the White House a story contrary to the facts in order to support Obama’s policy. Austin is the best example of people who need to be fired or retired. You understand that the problem remains in many other parts of DoD and the intelligence community.
You’ll have to start at the top. Some of the Joint Chiefs of Staff may have to be retired quickly. Gen. Mattis will decide who stays and who goes, including his fellow Marine, Gen. Joe Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
Last September, a debate between Gen. Dunford and Gen. Ray Thomas, commander of Special Operations Command, was reported regarding the new classified national military strategy Dunford was writing. Previous NMAs made no mention of Islamic terrorism or its ideology.
Thomas and his staff were reportedly pushing Dunford to include a statement on Salafi jihadism in the new NMA. Dunford was considering whether to do so. If he decided to exclude the statement on Islamist ideology — thereby rejecting the implied need to defeat it — he should be retired and a new CJCS found who’s on board with the president’s and Gen. Flynn’s strategy.
There will be hundreds of others, both civilian and military, who won’t be on board and you’ll not be able to rid yourself of them all. But there’s an answer to that.
Every major initiative should have assigned to it a team of “implementers” who operate directly under the Secretary of Defense or the DCI. These should be the arm-twisters, the people who can charm, cajole, and otherwise run over or around the bureaucratic (both military and civilian) obstacles to accomplish the initiative.
The intelligence community will also have to be reformed. It has failed too consistently to predict our enemies’ actions. As I have written, too, since 2006, the intelligence community needs to be reformed as DoD was in the Goldwater-Nichols bill to force a culture of cooperation. Nothing short of that worked to compel inter-service cooperation in the military and nothing less will work on the intelligence community. That will require legislation modeled after Goldwater-Nichols.
Neither American public opinion nor the American economy is ready to accept and sustain these efforts. Those who say the American people are war weary are only partly right. Americans are wearied by endless wars that don’t result in victory. Leadership can fix that but not easily or soon.
The bottom line is that any restoration of American strength depends on restoration of our economic strength. That defense and foreign policy can only be effective if they are planned and acted on together is so obvious as to be a cliché. But it’s a cliché that nevertheless must guide you. Moreover, they both are dependent on economic prosperity, which is within the president’s powers to restore if Congress can be led to cooperate. If America’s economy does not prosper, neither can our national security or foreign policies.