A Risk-Based Approach to Strategic Balance

  • December 01, 2010
  • COL John A Mauk

The United States requires a national security strategy and a force posture that reflect the nation’s economic and emotional capacity to implement the strategy. Recently published strategic concepts fail to accommodate these requirements. Current Secretary of Defense guidance to the Services is to develop a strategically balanced joint force capable of spanning the full spectrum of conflict. The U.S. Joint Forces Command interpretation of the Department of Defense vision is to expand military capability in an economic environment where defense budgets will almost certainly contract. In response, U.S. Joint Force and Army Capstone Concepts articulate the development of a force that is not optimized toward specific threats but rather depends on rapid adaptability to threats as they are revealed. These concepts demand vigorous debate on their risk and affordability implications. This paper explores a risk-based approach to a strategically balanced force that assesses alternative postures and the viability of competing force concepts in mitigating national risk in a resource-constrained environment. This assessment also examines alternate definitions of balance and the continued relevance of U.S. conventional capabilities and nuclear deterrence.