As we enter 2019, the Pentagon will have quite a few resolutions.
The five-sided building will be left leaderless at a time of massive change, huge budget threats and growing concerns over China’s Asian dominance and Russia’s continued aggressive resurgence.
So, here are some of the resolutions the military’s leaders are sure to be tucking away as they ready for New Year’s Day.
Find a new boss: The fiery departure of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is made even more complicated by President Donald Trump giving him the boot two months early. Mattis planned to stay until the end of February, giving Trump time to find his secretary.
Instead, Trump told him to get out by Tuesday. While Mattis will have a deputy running the place as acting defense secretary, few will want to make big decisions in the absence of a permanent replacement.
Trump has a few options to pick from, but many of them are retired generals and Trump seems to have tired of star-wearing leaders.
One answer for the president may come from Congress. GOP members of the House Armed Services Committee have stood by his defense policies andlargely stood by him through turbulent times.
If Trump is serious about a separate Space Force, he could tab Alabama Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers.
Rogers came to Colorado Springs two years ago to sound the call for a new space service, an idea that Trump later embraced. He’s also a senior member of the Armed Services Committee who has shown an ability to work with Democrats. Now in the minority, Rogers might jump at the chance to push Space Force from the top seat in the Pentagon.
Manage change: Trump has called for the removal of U.S. troops from Syria and a drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Those actions might sound easy to outsiders, but they are absolutely terrifying to Pentagon leaders. Since 9/11, the Pentagon has known nothing but constant warfare.
From lieutenants through generals, it is a culture accustomed and acclimated to war. Peace is not their profession.
And ending war is a messy proposition. Bringing U.S. troops home is unlikely to cause peace to break out in either Afghanistan or Syria.Instead, we are leaving rival factions to fight it out without us playing referee in the ring. It’s an end game that looks a lot more like Vietnam than World War II, and Pentagon brass aren’t happy. Getting the Pentagon and the White House to agree on strategy moving forward is key.
Manage money: Whoever gets picked to run the Pentagon will also need to fend off major threats to the Defense Department budget. Automatic cuts approved in the Obama era are back on the table and could carve $50 billion from Pentagon coffers. There’s also a coming dispute between House Democrats and Republicans in the Senate over military spending.
While Trump has called to boost Pentagon spending to $750 billion, the 2020 budget is just as likely to shrink.
Keep your eyes on the ball: With all the other issues the Pentagon faces, keeping focus on America’s top rivals could be tough. It looks like 2019 will be a year of distractions, which could give Russia and China chances to advance their agendas at America’s expense.
Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240 Twitter: @xroederx