Tough Talk

By Marjorie Censer / March 10, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon must return to the three key principles: Focusing on actions rather than intent; decisive leadership; and meaningful strategy based on detailed plans and budgets, according to Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

In a speech delivered today at a National Defense University conference, Cordesman calls the Pentagon the “worst-run department in our history," citing “critical problems” in manpower numbers, the balance of active and reserve forces and deployment cycles. According to a transcript of the speech, he calls jointness a farce and says the current wars were undertaken without a clear plan for ending the conflicts and bringing stability.

Though Cordesman blames DOD's national security team, he also says “the problems we face are part of a defense culture that has been building for a long, long time.”

He calls for a return to a time in which only actions mattered. “It does not matter a damn what Secretary Gates or Admiral Mullen tried to do. It does not matter a damn how difficult the circumstances were, are, and will be,” Cordesman said. “There is only one test: What did you do that served the broader national interest of the U.S. successfully during your tour of duty?”

The Pentagon also requires decisive leadership, even above improvements in process, according to Cordesman's speech. He argues that top military and civilian decisionmakers let “the underbudgeting of procurement, force plans, and manpower grow,” and did not make difficult but necessary choices and trade-offs.

Finally, Cordesman calls for “meaningful strategy” based on accurate plans.

“Now, strategy seems to at best be the conceptual underpinning of our defense posture and at worst a series of phrases and buzzwords that often seem to contribute nothing,” the transcript reads.

"We can't afford to go on the way we have been operating,” Cordesman concludes. “We can't afford to waste the world's best military on the world's most mediocre leadership and try to keep solving our problems by throwing money at them.”