Third and least visible is a looming personnel crisis. For the past dozen years, no expense has been spared in providing for the U.S. military. Expectations are high for continuing compensation and recognition for service. But as mundane, boring peacetime duties take precedence over preparing for and engaging in combat, many will choose to leave the service. This raises profound questions over the future of the all-volunteer force.
In 1970 at age 49, Admiral Elmo “Bud” Zumwalt became the youngest Chief of Naval Operations in history. At the time, Zumwalt saw the Navy in desperate straits. The Soviet Union was modernizing at a rapid rate. Many of the Navy’s 900-plus ships were relics of World War II. The Vietnam War was creating personnel crises that Zumwalt feared would become mutinous if not corrected immediately. And the Nixon administration was cutting back on defense spending.
Zumwalt initiated Project 60, perhaps the most effective strategic-planning exercise the Pentagon had seen since World War II. In it, The CNO redefined the Navy’s four missions as deterrence, power projection, sea control, and presence. He cut the service almost in half to recapitalize and modernize the Fleet with both high-value units and new technologies, and he instituted dramatic changes in personnel policy.
Today, the Navy and Marine Corps need a Project 60 for the current realities. Given the administration’s strategic review completed last year, with its pivot to Asia and the impending Quadrennial Defense Review ( QDR ), the chances of starting, let alone completing, another study are slim. Yet the bureaucratic ponderousness of the QDR , combined with an already falling Damoclean fiscal sword, will almost certainly lead to massive cuts. Nonetheless, we need to develop an alternate and bold plan along the lines of Zumwalt’s Project 60.
The challenge is great and the opportunities greater, but one conclusion is strikingly obvious. With a more complicated, complex, and interconnected world; budgets that will only shrink; and fewer armies, navies, and air forces to fight, we must use brainpower rather than firepower to ensure our security. Here, the Naval Academy motto, “Ex Scientia Tridens,” could not apply more: Sea power through knowledge. A Project 60–like exercise is the best means to accomplish that objective.