Cutting Budgets but not Effectiveness

February 2, 2012 --

Africa, Skye Herrick

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In an age when Congress is embroiled in budget battles, and the most pressing concern of the Pentagon is slashing hundreds of billions from the military budget, many question the continued effectiveness of the armed forces.  With a redistribution of power in the Middle East, and expanding Chinese power in the Pacific, not only does the Pentagon have to slash programs, it must also transfer men and arms to the Pacific to buoy nervous allies there.  One of the most difficult challenges the US military faces is not from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard or guerrilla insurgents but from the tax-payers back home.

A few days ago, a small Special Forces team left an almost unheard of military base in Djibouti and showed a new face in America’s emerging military structure.  Their mission was to rescue two hostages from the grip of Somali pirates and to neutralize any enemies that presented themselves.  The mission was a stunning success with no known complications. Camp Lemonnier, the secluded military base in Djibouti where the mission originated, boasts only 3,500 personnel, and most of these are concerned with improving relations with the local population, digging wells, vaccinating animals, providing medical check ups and training local police and security forces.

Camp Lemonnier is the new model of small, isolated military bases around the world.  These bases are intended to serve as “lily-pads’’ or launching points for strategic strikes, like the Somali rescue operation.  The hypothesis is that by creating these lily-pad bases in strategically important areas, the United States can spread its forces more thinly, cover more ground and still protect both the United States’ and her allies’ interests.

One reason for this switch is the change in how warfare is prosecuted.  In the past 10 years, the world has seen a continued decrease in conventional military operations and instead has seen a rise of guerilla or insurgent warfare.  When prosecuting a guerilla war, the United States must be capable of launching quick strikes that cut off the heads of the enemy wherever they are found.  These tactics have proved extremely effective, for example through the deployment of UAVs in Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other locations around the world.  The face of war is changing, and the United States military is changing with it.

With the change to smaller, more dispersed military bases, the United States will need to control the shipping lanes ever more closely.  Since World War II, the United States has reigned supreme on the seas and in the skies. Under the new paradigm, naval and air forces will quickly allow the United States to focus it’s efforts in problem areas.  More efficient supply lines will be needed, and coordination between the branches of the Federal Government will have to increase as more personal from different branches are required to work more closely together.  The switch to smaller bases signals a change in the way the United States prosecutes wars, but it also means that our allies and our interests will not be abandoned as we tighten our purse strings back home.

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