What the US would need to beat China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and Salafist-jihadi

RAND evaluates the capabilities of current and programmed U.S. forces to meet the demands of conflicts that could arise involving any of five potential adversaries:
North Korea,
Iran, and
Salafist-jihadi groups worldwide.

The report finds that U.S. forces today are larger than necessary to fight a single major war, are failing to keep pace with the modernizing forces of great power adversaries, are poorly postured to meet key challenges in Europe and East Asia, and are insufficiently trained and ready to get the most operational utility from many of its active component units. The report recommends a host of enhancements to the capabilities and posture of U.S. forces and offers three alternative force planning constructs to help ensure that defense resources are, in the future, applied to the highest-priority needs.

Nextbigfuture observations on the RAND report

The RAND report does not address the skyrocketing cost problems for US military hardware. The US is overpaying for the F35 and most of the other new military equipment. The US would be able to afford 50% more fighter aircraft if they did not cost $100-300 million each have very high operating costs. The US is paying a premium for stealth planes and the stealth capability could soon be made less useful with new quantum imaging satellites and other technology.

If the US is looking at staying ahead of China, then the key is not surging military spending over the next twenty years. The key is having a stronger US economy over decades. It is not whether the US should spend $580 billion per year or $630 billion per year through 2025. If the US economy has GDP growth at 1.5-2% per year while China is at 4-7% per year then China’s will pass the US economy in 2025. If the US GDP were growing at 4% per year while China grows at 4-7% per year then China might not pass to 2035.

In the future, the US will need stronger cooperation with allied countries.

The US will be able to address Russian aggression in the Baltics by pre-deploying more armored units into those countries and working with a stronger military from allied countries.

It is clear that while the US could defeat China with a long and nearly all out war over Taiwan or the South China Sea, it also seems clear that the US will not step up that effort over Taiwan or the South China Sea. Those issues are clearly not important enough to the US for the level of effort and cost that would be needed. Having the capability to stop China taking over Taiwan would be like some other country stopping the US from being able to invade Cuba.

Taiwan is economically integrated and dependent upon China already. 20% of Taiwan’s male population works in China. Taiwan is highly dependent upon trade and tourism with China.

China absorbs 30% of Taiwan’s exports. This is about the level trade dependence that Canada has with the USA.

If the US was willing to go the wall over Taiwan then the US would have a large US base in Taiwan. Just like there is a US base in South Korea with about 30,000 soldiers or the bases that the US had in Western Europe.

Nextbigfuture does not believe that the US is actually willing to go the wall over Taiwan. I think the US is willing to talk about going to the wall over Taiwan to justify larger military budgets. Nextbigfuture does not believe that Taiwan is willing to go to the wall over Taiwan. Taiwan has chosen economic integration. If Taiwan really wanted a perpetual divorce or independence, then why does 10% of the population live in China ?

The US does have to be ready to fight North Korea, Iran, and Salafist-jihadi and whatever capabilities they develop.

RAND recommendations

RAND considers that with budget limits then the US should drop the two wars at the same time requirement and focus on a force capable of defeating any single adversary. This is preferable to a force whose capabilities against the most-capable adversaries are in question, it makes sense to start small and specify the forces and capabilities appropriate for defeating aggression by any single adversary, while also meeting other important needs.

RAND thinks modernizing to be more ready against improving capabilities of China and Russia would mean the US can handle North Korea and Iran.

RAND recommends increasing special operations forces from 70,000 to about 75,000 to 80,000 for handling ISIS and other terrorists.

RAND recommends fixing the readiness and training problem. There needs to be increased spending on training, maintenance, spare parts, and munitions. The importance of superior training will only grow as the proliferation of advanced technologies gives adversaries access to more capable weapons and support systems.

Priority Enhancements to U.S. Forces and Posture vs China
• Accelerated development and fielding of a longer-range, fast-flying radar-homing air-to-surface missile* and a longer-range air-to-air missile*
• Forward-based stocks of air-delivered munitions, including cruise missiles (e.g., JASSM, JASSM-ER, and LRASM)*, SAM suppression missiles (e.g., HARM, MALD)*, air-to-air missiles (e.g., AIM-9X and AIM-120)*
• Prepositioned equipment and sustainment for ten to 15 platoons of modern SHORADS for cruise missile defense
• Additional base resiliency investments, including airfield damage repair assets and expedient aircraft shelters, and personnel and equipment to support highly dispersed operations
• Accelerated development of the Next-Generation Jammer*
• A high-altitude, low-observable unmanned aerial vehicle system*
• More resilient space-based capabilities (achieved by dispersing functions across increased numbers of satellites and increasing the maneuverability, stealth, and “hardness” of selected assets)*
• Counter-space systems, including kinetic and non-kinetic (e.g., lasers, jammers) weapons*

Priority Enhancements to U.S. Forces and Posture vs Russia

• * = Items listed under “China” that are marked with an asterisk
• Three heavy brigade combat teams and their sustainment and support elements forward based or rotationally deployed in or near the Baltic states
• One Army fires brigade permanently stationed in Poland, with 30-day stock of artillery rounds; one additional fires brigade set prepositioned
• Forward-based stocks of artillery and multiple launch rocket system rounds; anti-tank guided missiles
• Forward-based stocks of air-delivered anti-armor munitions (e.g., SFW/P3I)
• Station or rotationally deploy eight to 12 platoons of SHORADS forces in NATO Europe
• Increased readiness and employability of mechanized ground forces of key NATO allies

Priority Enhancements to U.S. Forces and Posture vs Iran
• Improved, forward-deployed mine countermeasures
• High-capacity close-in defenses for surface vessels

Priority Enhancements to U.S. Forces and Posture vs North Korea
• Improved ISR systems for tracking nuclear weapons and delivery systems
• Exploratory development of boost-phase ballistic missile intercept systems
• Continued investments to improve the reliability and effectiveness of the GBI system to protect the United States

Priority Enhancements to U.S. Forces and Posture vs Salafist-Jihadi Groups
• Improved intelligence collection and analysis capabilities and capacity
• Acquire next-generation vertical takeoff and landing aircraft
• Acquire light reconnaissance and attack aircraft
• Develop powered exoskeleton (also known as the Talon Project)
• Develop swarming and autonomous unmanned vehicles

Overall enhancing military technology

The US will have to continue to make robust investments in military-related technologies, while also becoming much more opportunistic and efficient in exploiting emerging dual purpose technologies.70 DoD has already taken a number of steps to accelerate the process of U.S. military innovation. These steps include the creation of the SCO in 2011 and the ongoing initiative to enhance collaboration between the OSD R&D community, especially DARPA, and U.S. information technology industries.

The success of the Third Offset and DoD’s overall program will depend in large measure on the extent to which DoD is able to address the following military challenges that face U.S. forces today or are likely to emerge by the mid-2020s:
• building a C4ISR infrastructure that is very resilient to near-peer attacks through the space domain and cyberspace
• training the joint force to operate in an environment with a highly degraded C4ISR infrastructure
• fielding forces that can detect, identify, locate, track, and damage or destroy mobile military assets, such as mechanized ground force units and surface ships, even in circumstances in which U.S. forces lack air superiority
• defeating through active defense and counterforce mobile ballistic and cruise missiles that may be nuclear armed.
• developing new ways to rapidly suppress and neutralize dense networks of modern SAM systems
• ensuring that forward-based forces on land and at sea can sustain operations even in the presence of repeated attacks with accurate ballistic and cruise missiles
• providing a strategic air and sea logistics lift capacity that can operate in an A2/AD military environment.