Defense officials said Wednesday that they’ve invited the Army to join what had previously been an exclusive club for naval and air power as DoD stands up a new office dedicated to its elusive “Air-Sea Battle” concept.
The officials, who briefed reporters at the Pentagon under ground rules they not be named, said former Secretary Gates’ original mandate for “Air-Sea Battle” only went to the Secretaries of the Navy and Air Force. But now “We are actively seeking to pull the Army onboard so we can be a four-service office,” one official said.
As a quick update for your PowerPoint org chart, the defense officials said the Air-Sea Battle Office would comprise about 15 total people reassigned from the services. A separate Pentagon announcement said it would include “a minimum of two field grade officers or civil-service grade equivalents” from the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps — but the written announcement did not mention the Army.
AirSea Battle is both a doctrinal shot across the Chinese bow telling them the US will have a valid strategy in place to counter any Chinese expansionism and their access-denial strategy. How valid that strategy will be remains to be seen.
Doctrine drives acquisition, to a great extent. And leaving the Army out of the picture had a domestic political component. The Army has been in the budget crosshairs for a while now. The services see the defense budget as a finite pie, and if the emphasis goes to the Air Force and the Navy, it’s coming out of the Army’s slice.
The Army has been down this road before, most visibly in the Eisenhower “New Look” era, and each time, it has come back to bite the country in the ass when the Army was committed, and there just weren’t enough trained troops available.