Stratcom Advocates for Current, Future Capabilities
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb., April 2, 2013 Faced with shrinking budgets and an ever-growing appetite across the military for the capabilities U.S. Strategic Command provides, the Defense Department is relying on Stratcom itself to help determine what assets are needed and where to dedicate them.
U.S. Strategic Command serves as the Defense Department’s global synchronizer for capabilities that affect every combatant command: space, cyberspace, missile defense and intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance, among them. Here, the sun sets over some of the assets that provide those capabilities at Forward Operating Base Sharana in Afghanistan’s Paktika province, Nov. 5, 2012. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Raymond Schaeffer
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
U.S. Strategic Command serves as DOD’s global synchronizer for capabilities that affect every combatant command: space, cyberspace, missile defense and intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance, among them.
The problem, explained Kenneth Callicutt, the command’s director of capability and resource integration, is that there simply aren’t -- and never will be -- enough of any of these to satisfy every combatant commander’s requests.
“Every [combatant commander] wants more,” he said. “But there are only so many Aegis ships and only so many radars that can be deployed.”
More than 1,000 miles from the Capital Beltway and relatively insulated from political pressures, Stratcom leaders weigh requirements against assets to determine the best way to allocate what’s available.
“We take the viewpoint of how to do this globally, taking into account everyone’s requests,” Callicutt said. “What we try to build is a common understanding of where we can get the best bang for the dollars we are spending to solve the common set of problems, and to synchronize those efforts across the department.”
It’s an effort he said involves continuous communication with combatant commands to assess what they need now and how they expect those requirements to change in the future.
“We have a full team here that walks through that analysis each year and looks at current allocations,” Callicutt said. “But our advocacy role also looks to the future,” influencing the Pentagon’s acquisitions and investments in development programs.
Prioritization that factors in both short- and long-term requirements becomes particularly important in times of constrained resources, Callicutt said.
“In this fiscal environment, you’re often left with a tradeoff between modernization and readiness,” he said. “And in many cases, as you focus on training and the ability to do something now, the tendency is to sacrifice investment or buying modernization equipment.”
That can have significant consequences in the future, creating capability gaps in vital areas that can’t be filled quickly or easily. Callicutt noted, for example, that fielding new satellites and other space-based systems typically takes 25 years. The design, development and deployment timeline for nuclear weapons can be even longer, approaching 35 years, he said, as in the case of the replacement for the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine.
“So we maintain a very long time horizon here,” Callicutt said. “The Defense Department relies on us to keep that longer-term view.”
“The No. 1 concern, from our perspective, is to ensure we always have the required capabilities,” said John Dodson, chief of staff for capability and resource integration. “You always want, whoever your adversary is, to have an upper edge. That’s how it has always been in history and will remain the future. And a big part of that is ensuring that you are state of the art.”
“So part of what we do here in our advocacy mission is to try to keep the balance” between current and future requirements, Callicutt said, and ensuring investments in modernization aren’t dangerously deferred.
“I don’t think we can, for the good of this nation, pay later, because our grandchildren will be the ones paying, with high risk,” Callicutt said. “So we have to continue to prepare for the future while at the same time, executing today. And how to do that has to be an informed discussion.” That discussion involves the combatant commands, the services and Pentagon leaders, he added.
“One of the biggest contributions Stratcom brings to this discussion is its global view,” Dodson said. “It enables us to synchronize and optimize the capabilities out there. For the Defense Department, that is huge.”