Aussie Eavesdropping on DOD Budget

Sam Rogevveen and Rory Medcalf offer some thoughts over at the Interpreter on what the recently announced U.S. defense budget looks like from an Australian perpsective. Here’s Roggeveen:

. . . [T]o the extent that Gates has decided to cap America’s ‘big war’ capabilities — by cuttingprograms like the F-22 and the Zumwalt-class destroyers and slowlyreducing the number of aircraft carriers — he is signaling that the not intending to increase America’s margin of superiority againstChina. Indeed, given the leaps China is making, he is effectivelychoosing to reduce that margin.

It’s really not that surprising or radical — the U.S. simply does nothave the capacity to maintain the margin of superiority it had overChina, say,a decade ago. But it does bring Australia’s defence dilemmainto sharper relief. Bring on the White Paper.

And here’s Medcalf:

. . . I suspect that Gates’ apparent sense of moderation about militarycompetition with China could have quite a different effect: the lessworried he seems to be, the more concerned America’s Asian allies –including Australia — will become. At one level, it would seem oddindeed if smaller powers like Australia began putting greater faith inexpensive sea- and air-combat platforms just when the superpower hasbegun to question the wisdom of such narrowly-focused investment.

Then again, perhaps Washington has a deeper logic at work. The more itcan disconcert its allies, the more they are likely to spend on sharingthe costly burden of hulls in the water and jets in the air.

Interestingly, while Europe is in the same situation of limited defense spending, its strategic vision has increasingly converged with that outlined by Secretary of Defense Gates. That could change, though, should relations with Russia grow more confrontational.

I think there’s still some ways to go before, a) the U.S.’ margin of superiority over China becomes alarming; and b) the U.S.’ posture towards China reaches Alfred E. Neumann proportions.

But it’s a good reminder that our internal COIN vs. Conventional debate has global implications, and that we’re not the only ones paying close attention to it.