EDITOR'S DESK: BRAC plans should look further East
One thing always amazes me about the periodic DOD recommendations to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission: No matter how many places the Defense Department shuttered or threatened the last time around, there are always more outdated or redundant locations.
This time the list includes Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and the Army's base in Fort Monmouth, N.J. Walter Reed people have done pioneering work in telemedicine, and Fort Monmouth is home to many electronics, IT and engineering functions. In both cases, the activities would be moved to other locations. That raises the question: Is the military trying to achieve cost savings, or a physical alignment with its strategy for the next 50 years?
Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld keeps talking about the need to get away from Cold War strategy and focus on 'extremists' such as the insurgency we're now facing in Iraq. But the real challenge of this young century might just feel a lot like the Cold War.
They don't talk about it much, but top DOD thinkers know the real deal ahead is China. That's not a particularly profound revelation. All you have to do is read the papers to understand that China will be our economic and military rival, likely within the lifetime of the younger end of the baby boom.
For a great synopsis of the China threat, check out Robert D. Kaplan's article in the June issue of The Atlantic, 'How we would fight China.'
The future contest will fully resemble neither the Cold War with the Soviets nor the so-called asymmetric struggle with terrorists, but it will rely heavily on information superiority. Literally, the nation depends on cybersecurity, continued improvement in digitally controlled weapons, data analysis, and secure but ubiquitous communications.
Moreover, in China the United States would be dealing with a true world power, with world-class industrial, intellectual and political savvy. Any BRAC move that misses this will be misalignment indeed.