February 1, 2011
Leed and Moody identify a broader construct for how to more accurately evaluate the true cost and operational risks associated with capability reductions—in this instance, for amphibious capabilities. Their report focuses on the often-overlooked but strategically important impact of capability reductions on strategic-shaping—that is, preventative—defense missions as a complement to traditional decisionmaking that emphasizes the impact on combat missions. It illustrates that U.S. amphibious capabilities make substantial contributions to shaping activities and that reductions in those capabilities would likely result in lower savings than typically forecast and/or increased operational risk. The costs and risks vary by region, mission set, and the exact nature of the capability reduction, but the report lays out a framework for how the Defense Department can objectively evaluate those risks to account for them in the decisionmaking process. Incorporating these considerations as part of resource decisions must become routine if a preventive strategy is ever to truly take hold.
Implementing the recommendations of this study will decrease the likelihood of making decisions that might eliminate or reduce capabilities without fully appreciating their potential impact. In the amphibious case explored here, the indications are that this impact—depending on the exact nature of the cuts—could be significant. Policymakers have never made these decisions lightly, but they can be enabled to make them on the basis of a more complete set of information.