Bob Work’s Advice for the Pentagon

May 17, 2013 8:49 AM
Former under secretary of the Navy Bob Work. US Navy Photo
Former under secretary of the Navy Bob Work. US Navy Photo

Bob Work — the chief executive officer of Center for a New American Security and former under secretary of the Navy— gave Pentagon leaders advice on how the services should innovate in a time of austerity in Thursday remarks at the EAST: Joint Warfighting 2013 symposium in Virginia Beach, Va.

Work said the greatest threat to U.S. security would be not taking advantage of the current drawdown in resources to create a force structure that makes sense for security threats. The second greatest threat was the current climate of political indecision in Washington.

The only bipartisan agreement in Washington was between conservative budget hawks and liberals interested in increased social spending — both groups want defense budget cuts.

Work was convinced the bottom in Pentagon funding cuts had not been reached and advised the military, “to quit whining about sequestration.”

He advised military funding going forward should emphasize naval and projection forces. He said an ideal Pentagon budget in the era of austerity should remain consistent for naval, aerospace and special operations forces; for the U.S. to take some risk with reducing ground forces and increase funding for cyber operations.

Along with technical innovation, U.S. forces should begin experimenting with new unit structures to maximize the utility of military assets. Work used the example of French and English navies in the late 1800s. The French were the first navy to employ a steam powered battleship in 1850, the first mechanical submarine in 1863 along with other naval innovations. Despite the French’s technical innovations, the British Royal Navy was the better force because it perfected using the available technology and experimented with how its units were composed.

With 12 years of fighting, the U.S. has been unable to experiment with its structures due to war fighting commitments. With two thirds of forces forward and one third in a surge posture, the military’s deployment schedule doesn’t allow for organizational experimentation.

Work also said the U.S. is unlikely to go to war with China, though they remain, ” tough competitor.”
The United States Naval Institute and AFCEA co-sponsored the symposium.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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