Defense, Intelligence, and Humanitarian the “new normal” in 2015
WASHINGTON — Despite all of the talk in the Pentagon and among the defense intelligentsia in Washington about the "new normal"— the present era of battling Islamic extremists while putting out security and humanitarian brushfires across the globe — there has really never been a "normal" year when it comes to national security.
And 2015 will be no different. The rise of the al-Qaida offshoot in Iraq, the Islamic State, — or Daesh, as US policymakers are increasingly referring to it — has prompted Washington to send 3,100 troops back to Iraq, with other allies offering about 1,500 more troops to help advise and train Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
The air war over Iraq and Syria will also continue as the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria appears content to allow the Islamic State and other rebel groups battle among themselves in a bloodletting that continues seemingly without end.
Add to this the rise of a belligerent Russia at NATO's doorstep, which has caused Pentagon planners to rethink key elements of the US military's withdrawal from Europe.
The Pentagon has stepped up its training schedule with Eastern European and Baltic allies, who are eyeing their eastern borders nervously after Russia's annexation of Crimea and underground war in Ukraine.
All this occurs while 10,000 US troops remain deployed in Afghanistan, a peaceful "rebalance" to Asia continues apace, and US Africa Command oversees increased operations in the continent. Any "peace dividend" that the Pentagon could have expected after 13 years of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan can pretty much be forgotten.
And still, there are the modernization and budgetary fights in Washington to contend with.
While the White House insists on budgeting as if the Budget Control Act (BCA) and its attendant budget caps don't exist, some big bills are coming due in 2015.
The Air Force is expected to kick off an expensive Long Range Strike-Bomber program, begin flight testing of its KC-46 tanker, and the Marine Corps begins flying its version of the F-35 while wrestling with a new amphibious vehicle concept.
Likewise, the Navy will begin budgeting for its $100 billion SSBN(X) Ohio-class replacement ballistic missile submarine this year, while testing will begin on the first Zumwalt-class destroyer. The sea service will also finish retiring the last of its frigates, leaving the littoral combat ship as its primary small combatant.
The Army is also kicking off its Armored Multipurpose Vehicle effort and awarding a contract for the much-anticipated Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program, which will eventually provide the service with 50,000 vehicles.
So it's another year of "new normal" for a building that has never seen anything else.
By Defense News Staff