Monday, August 6, 2012

Think Tank Draws Up War Plans For China

Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post wrote an article last week on the so-called Air-Sea Battle concept which essentially focuses on a possible war with China.  He highlights the involvement of a defense think tank called Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA).  Here are some excerpts:
[Andrew] Marshall’s small office in the Pentagon has spent the past two decades planning for a war against an angry, aggressive and heavily armed China.
A former nuclear strategist, Marshall has spent the past 40 years running the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment, searching for potential threats to American dominance. In the process, he has built a network of allies in Congress, in the defense industry, at think tanks and at the Pentagon that amounts to a permanent Washington bureaucracy.
Most of Marshall’s writings over the past four decades are classified. He almost never speaks in public and even in private meetings is known for his long stretches of silence.
His influence grows largely out of his study budget, which in recent years has floated between $13 million and $19 million and is frequently allocated to think tanks, defense consultants and academics with close ties to his office. More than half the money typically goes to six firms.
Among the largest recipients is the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a defense think tank run by retired Lt. Col. Andrew Krepinevich, the Harvard graduate who wrote the first papers for Marshall on the revolution in military affairs.
In the past 15 years, CSBA has run more than two dozen China war games for Marshall’s office and written dozens of studies. The think tank typically collects about $2.75 million to $3 million a year, about 40 percent of its annual revenue, from Marshall’s office, according to Pentagon statistics and CSBA’s most recent financial filings.
Krepinevich makes about $865,000 in salary and benefits, or almost double the compensation paid out to the heads of other nonpartisan think tanks such as the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Brookings Institution. CSBA said its board sets executive compensation based on a review of salaries at other organizations doing similar work.
The war games run by CSBA are set 20 years in the future and cast China as a hegemonic and aggressive enemy. Guided anti-ship missiles sink U.S. aircraft carriers and other surface ships. Simultaneous Chinese strikes destroy American air bases, making it impossible for the U.S. military to launch its fighter jets. The outnumbered American force fights back with conventional strikes on China’s mainland, knocking out long-range precision missiles and radar.
 Here is more about Air-Sea Battle and CSBA's involvement:
Although the Pentagon has struggled to talk publicly about Air-Sea Battle, CSBA has not been similarly restrained. In 2010, it published a 125-page paper outlining how the concept could be used to fight a war with China.
The paper contains less detail than the classified Pentagon version. Shortly after its publication, U.S. allies in Asia, frustrated by the Pentagon’s silence on the subject, began looking to CSBA for answers.
“We started to get a parade of senior people, particularly from Japan, though also Taiwan and to a lesser extent China, saying, ‘So, this is what Air-Sea Battle is,’ ” Krepinevich said this year at an event at another think tank.
Soon, U.S. officials began to hear complaints.
“The PLA went nuts,” said a U.S. official who recently returned from Beijing.
Told that Air-Sea Battle was not aimed at China, one PLA general replied that the CSBA report mentioned the PLA 190 times, the official said. (The actual count is closer to 400.)
Inside the Pentagon, the Army and Marine Corps have mounted offensives against the concept, which could lead to less spending on ground combat.
There was certainly some push-back from the Washington Post story.  This post from Aviation Week calls the WPost article "controversial" and suggests that the WPost is essentially labeling Marshall and CSBA as "neo-Strangeloves."

The site Information Dissemination calls Jaffe's article a "timid hit-piece."

Here is some praise for the WPost article from Thomas Barnett.