If you haven't seen LTG David Deputa's piece on why the F-35 (among other systems) is critical to our future strategy despite budget constraints (entitled: New Capabilities, New Constraints Call For New Concepts In 2013) you need to read it. Key points:
To attain superior U.S. warfighting capabilities at less cost in the future will require more than new technology, adjusting manpower, or altering the number or type of widgets we operate. It will require applying concepts of operation enabled by information age capabilities in new ways. Information-centric, interdependent, and functionally integrated operations are the keys to future military success. This will require an agile operational framework for the integrated employment of U.S. and allied military power. This will entail a shifting away from the conduct of warfare segregated by the separate domains of land, air, sea, space and cyberspace-while still retaining those competencies-to truly integrated operations based on the functions of global situational awareness, strike, maneuver, and sustainment.The F-35, as noted, is a critical and key component in this strategy that changes how we approach war.
Linking operations across all domains with accurate information can be the basis for an omnipresent security complex that is self-forming, and if attacked, self-healing. This kind of complex could deter war where possible and win it where conflict is inevitable. The central idea is cross-domain synergy, the complementary rather than merely additive employment of capabilities in different domains such that each enhances the effectiveness, and compensates for the vulnerabilities, of the others. An example would be F-35 Joint Strike Fighters used to cue Aegis missile defenses to engage adversary anti-ship ballistic missiles launched against US aircraft carriers.
For some, the image of network-centric warfare suggests an overreliance on digital systems and centralized switching and focus. The reality is the opposite. It is about enabling disaggregated, distributed operations over a fluid operational area. It is about combining digital tools with effective distributed decision-making. It is more akin to a honeycomb than a network.But it has to have "enablers" to allow that "linchpin" to be applied. Thus the F-35 which becomes a key node in this new concept of "enhancing the effectiveness" and "compensating for the vulnerabilities" of other systems. Call it the "linchpin" for the "linchpin". It is one of the critical pieces that enables this strategy to work and, as LTG Deputa notes in his piece, considering the synergy it helps create, it is "eminently affordable" even in this era of limited budgets.
This kind of "complex" is not just about "things." It is about integrating existing and future capabilities within an agile operational information framework guided by human understanding. It's an intellectual construct enabled by technological infrastructure-and it's eminently affordable. It simply requires application of what has historically been the linchpin of American military success: military leadership that encourages innovation, prudent risk-taking, and foresight.
Without it and its capabilities, the integration of "existing and future capabilities within an agile operational information network" becomes very difficult if not impossible to stand up.