Hiding from Hard Choices: Risk and Defense Strategy

  • Lieutenant Colonel Clifton Brian Trout

The United States (U.S.) military is at an inflection point. Facing an increasingly complex security environment and declining budgets, military leaders must make hard choices in order to build and maintain the joint force the nation needs. With an anachronistic view of risk, a bias to procure the most technologically advanced high-end platforms, and a floundering defense strategy, the U.S. military is struggling to adapt to the current environment. Fundamental changes must be made to the way the military manages risk, allocates resources, and develops strategy. First, we must identify and determine an acceptable level of risk while finding innovative and balanced approaches to risk management. Second, we must adjust our acquisition strategy and resource allocation model to allow for offsetting ways and means. This includes a healthy high-end/low-end platform mix. Third, we must develop a strategy that aligns ends, ways, and means in a realistic and prioritized manner. This may require adjustments of desired ends, innovative use of reduced means, and ways that shares the burden with friends and partners around the globe.