Situation Report

Obama or Romney: winners take all

Obama or Romney: winners take all

Romney or Obama, the Pentagon will continue to take that proverbial hill. It will manage the drawdown in Afghanistan, mind the Middle East, and focus much of its efforts on Asia. But while the third presidential debate suggested there is little light between the two candidates on big issues of foreign policy and national security, each will emphasize different initiatives. FP National Security took a look at what they will be.

An Obama win means the Pentagon will focus on military reform, the use of drones will continue to expand and the defense industry will probably see an end to the sequestration saga sooner.

On military reform: Obama and the Joint Chiefs of Staff spent much of last fall crafting a $525 billion defense budget for 2013 that shrinks the size and projected growth of the U.S. military over five years and has the blessing of the Pentagon’s top brass.

On drones: Both candidates support the use of drones, but Obama’s interest in their use, which minimizes politically unpalatable boots-on-the-ground, will likely spur the replacement of some of today’s slower drones with stealthy, jet-powered models that can survive against modern air defenses.

On the defense industry: The water cooler wisdom is that if Romney wins, Congress will give sequestration a holiday to allow him time to get settled before any real decisions get made. An Obama win would mean, potentially, resolution to the budget issues on the existing schedule — by the end of the year. Obama surrogates feel the president has leverage to break the deadlock if he wins.

On Afghanistan: Obama will likely hold to his deadline of 2014 but work feverishly to establish a post-2014 troop presence. But he won’t have to listen as closely to his liberal base, which thinks the 2014 pullout is not fast enough. So in a second term, Obama might be more willing to listen to the recommendations of his commander, Gen. John Allen, who is expected to want to slow the withdrawal of troops as much as possible. Allen will submit his recommendations later this month.

A Romney win means that shipyards, the Joint Strike Fighter, service end-strength, missile defense, and Centcom will all probably do better.

On ships: Romney’s ambitious defense plan is seen as unrealistic by some because it would increase spending $2 trillion over the next decade. But even if Congress agreed to a fraction of that, shipbuilders like General Dynamics, Huntington Ingalls, and Lockheed Martin could see a lot more business.

On the F-35: Although Romney said he’d boost F-22 production, we hear from Loren Thompson that he actually meant the F-35, which makes far more sense. It’s unclear if Romney means increasing the buy of 2,400 or simply protecting it from ambitious budgeteers who think the U.S. could do with fewer of them. Either way, it could mean a big win for Lockheed Martin, which makes the F-35.

On end-strength: Romney wants to increase the size of the force by 100,000 troops despite the high cost of personnel, which is making the Pentagon uniforms cringe.

On missile defense: Romney will likely revisit Obama’s dismantling of Bush 43’s anti-ICBM plan, which would have put ground-based interceptors in Poland.

Welcome to Monday’s edition of Situation Report, where we’re always taking the hill. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at And sign up for Situation Report here: or just send me an e-mail and I’ll put you on the list.

FP National Security looked at the defense ads playing around the country, in which Democrats leverage the unimpeachable attributes of military vets to warn against electing Republican senators and Republicans warn of huge job losses that would follow cuts to the Pentagon budget.

As Sandy fades from memory in Washington, there are still enormous needs in New Jersey and New York. The Pentagon continues to send thousands of Guardsmen to the troubled region. The National and Air Guard has deployed a total of 7,611 "boots on the ground," Situation Report was told this morning, across Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and West Virginia. (And the Guard is deploying from Alabama, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maine, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, and West Virginia.)

So far, U.S. Transportation Command has delivered 117 power restoration vehicles and 244 technical personnel from March Air Force Base, Calif., and Phoenix, Ariz. to Stewart Air National Guard Base in New York. On Sunday, there were another 11 flights scheduled.

Regardless of who wins, foreign policy on Capitol Hill is going to look different. The Senate is likely to remain in Democratic hands and the House in Republican ones, but it’s the makeup of key committees and their chairmen that could change, as the Cable’s Josh Rogin reports. "[I]nfluential leaders are exiting Washington, and a new crop of national security lawmakers is looking to fill their void," he writes. "The result could be a Congress that has less experience and fewer incentives to work across the aisle or cooperate with the executive branch, playing an increasing role of the spoiler in foreign policy."

People like Minority Whip Jon Kyl, Joe Lieberman, and Richard Lugar are all leaving the Senate, for example. And at the SASC, ranking Republican John McCain has reached his term limit and will have to forego his committee post if the Dems retain control of the Senate.

And at least one analyst thinks the power on Capitol Hill rests not with the committees so much anymore, but with the influence one senator can have in thwarting a major piece of legislation or holding nominees. It empowers senators like Rand Paul and Jim DeMint, who use their power "liberally" to stop nominations and are "generally unmoved by the ire of their colleagues," Rogin writes.

The CFR’s James Lindsay on the power of no: "Congress far less often shapes policy in a positive direction. Their main method of effectiveness is to say no. The greatest impact will be with those who are willing to use their ability to slow things down."

The Senate will take up the nominations of Dunford and Allen on Nov. 15. The Senate Armed Services Committee meeting that day will amount to the first public hearing on the state of Afghanistan in many months. Gen. John Allen has not provided much testimony on Afghanistan since he’s been ISAF commander, and his confirmation hearing to be Supreme Allied Commander Europe and head of U.S. European Command will give senators a chance to grill him. And his presumed successor, Gen. Joe Dunford, another Marine, who has been studying up on Afghanistan, will have to frame the way he sees the U.S. presence in the final stages of security transition. Dunford, who has not commanded in Afghanistan before, traveled there this fall.

It’s likely the new Central Command head, slated to replace Gen. Jim Mattis this summer, won’t be a ground guy. The thinking is that the head of Central Command, responsible for Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and the Middle East will be someone who thinks more in terms of what air or naval power can do, especially in a potential conflict with Iran. That would probably decrease the chances of someone like Gen. Lloyd Austin, currently the Army’s vice chief of staff, who is in the running, and increase the chances of an Air Force or Navy type. The WSJ’s Julian Barnes floats some names: the Navy is putting forward Adm. Bill Gortney, the former top aide to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and now the head of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. The Air Force is likely giving the nod to a relative unknown, Gen. Mike Hostage, who now heads Air Combat Command and was a former head of Centcom’s air component. "Current and former defense officials say the White House should turn to an Air Force general or a Navy admiral to lead the command, bringing a different kind of strategic thinking than ground officers," Barnes writes.

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