3. An important part of America's future military capabilities are replacing older equipment from past decades while adding new capabilities. Prime examples are acquiring newer attack submarines, advanced fighters like the F-35 and missile defenses. Would sequestration place any such acquisitions in jeopardy? Would the sequester endanger any other investments in future capabilities?
The sequester could certainly stretch out the fielding of weapon systems such as the F-35, a new bomber, and the Littoral Combat Ship, driving up program costs and possibly reducing the numbers of systems that we can ultimately afford to buy. It will also reduce the likelihood that DoD could take advantage of new technologies that could lead to future capabilities with very high payoffs. For example, with funding, DoD could soon field game-changing directed energy weapons such as high-power lasers that could defeat air and missile threats for pennies per shot compared to hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars now needed to buy a single air defense missile. With an adequate budget, the U.S. military could also begin to replace current-generation UAVs that are not suitable for operations in contested airspace with stealthy unmanned vehicles that could fly from land bases and aircraft carriers to reach targets across distances that far exceed the ranges of manned fighters without refueling. Plainly stated, while the sequester will degrade our military’s current readiness, it also threatens its future preparedness to operate in a world that is becoming more, and not less dangerous.
Mark Gunzinger has served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Forces Transformation and Resources. He is the principal author or co-author of multiple Defense Planning Guidance directives, key strategic planning documents that shape DoD force planning. A retired Air Force Colonel and Command Pilot, he joined the Office of the Secretary of Defense in 2004. He was appointed to the Senior Executive Service and served as Principal Director of the Department’s central staff for the 2005–2006 QDR. Following the 2006 QDR, he was appointed Director for Defense Transformation, Force Planning and Resources on the National Security Council staff.