Anthony Cordesman is by any rational measure an expert in defense, security, and intelligence issues. Virtually his entire career has been devoted to the study and analysis of these issues, yet he would probably be the first to note that he has also never stopped learning new things about all of them. All this is by way saying that this 2007 book that he authored is well worth reading and pondering.
Cordesman argues that the entire U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is dysfunctional to such an extent that U.S. security is at risk. He documents his claim in 11 chapters organized as `challenges’ to be over come. His central theme, however, and one that is revisited in almost every chapter is that for too long the civilian and military leadership of DOD has failed to link strategy, force plans, programs, and budget. Rather, these core DOD processes are each executed in a vacuum. Strategic goals do not inform organizational structuring of military forces or military design and procurement programs. The procurement programs in turn are not informed by either proposed or actual military force structure or operational doctrines. Strategy, force plans, and programs are not reflected in accurately in budget formulation. The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) appears to be incapable of integrating these processes. DOD civilian management has equally failed to integrate these core processes. This across the board failure of leadership has been most clearly demonstrated in the congressionally mandated Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) that should have uncovered this lack of integration and argued for tying the budget formulation process directly to the design of force structures and programs designed to equip those structures. Instead the QDRs have steadily declined in quality to the point that the 2010 QDR was so badly formulated as to be palpably worthless.
Cordesman has done a good job in documenting the problems within DOD and has buttressed his argument with numerous charts and graphs. Still this book is a rather dry read although it is a very important analysis of the flawed processes by which DOD is trying manage the defense of America. It should also be noted that Cordesman and his two co-authors do not work for the government. Cordesman holds the Chair for Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a widely respected Washington think tank. CSIS published this study.