September 1, 2011  

In this issue

The Navy’s submarine fleet is a key component of America’s ability to project power overseas. In an era of tighter budgets, however, some observers have advocated supplementing the all-nuclear submarine fleet with diesel-electric subs, known as SSKs. These boats — smaller, cheaper and stealthy — would save money and provide capabilities the Navy currently lacks, they argue.

In this month’s cover story, retired Rear Adm. John Padgett, president of the U.S. Naval Submarine League, takes a hard look at the claims made by SSK advocates. While acknowledging that conventional submarines can be formidable weapons, he finds their considerable shortcomings make them poor investments as power-projection platforms.

The relief of Gen. Stanley McChrystal last year as commander of the Afghanistan war kicked off a re-examination of civil-military relations that continues to this day. Greg Foster offers 10 propositions for achieving true maturity in relations between military leaders and civilian officials. Bernard Finel, meanwhile, takes issue with the lavish praise bestowed on Robert Gates for his tenure as defense secretary. A clear-eyed assessment, Finel argues, reveals a record of failure that has harmed the Defense Department.

In a pair of Perspectives, Keith Brown proposes a new type of war game — one based on budgets — to make defense acquisition more efficient and ensure that war fighters get the tools they need, and Noel Williams casts a critical eye on the emerging Air-Sea Battle operational concept, which is intended to counter China’s anti-access and area-denial capabilities.

In June, President Obama outlined his plans for withdrawal from Afghanistan. In this month’s Irregular Warfare column, Dan Green offers his take on what Taliban and al-Qaida leaders, as well as a senior Pakistani intelligence officer, might tell their subordinates in light of those plans.

Finally, in a heartfelt essay, contributing editor Joe Collins offers an appreciation of Army Gen. John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who died in July. Collins, who worked with Shali, as he was known to colleagues, reveals a dedicated soldier of great humanity and insight.

— Jack Wittman, assistant editor