The CSBA analyst acknowledges such changes will be difficult as the Pentagon begins implementing $350 billion in budget cuts that will span a decade. (The department claims that will equal a real-world cut from planned spending of over $480 billion.)
"Achieving this within an increasingly constrained budget will require defense planners to make difficult decisions," Gunzinger writes, "the United States cannot meet the challenges that Iran could pose to its vital interests in the Gulf by simply spending more and adding new capabilities and capacity."
With most of Washington – and the GOP presidential candidates – debating whether the United States should use military force to halt Tehran's nuclear ambitions, the report paints one of the first sketches of how a U.S.-Iranian conflict might play out.
The Pentagon will need to change how it fights and what it buys – even amid declining annual budgets – to deal effectively with Iranian systems fielded in recent years, says CSBA. These weapons and supporting platforms are tailored to significantly hinder the U.S. military's ability to move freely within an enemy's territory – including the air, at and under the sea, and increasingly in cyberspace.
The report from comes just weeks after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called a nuclear-armed Iran a "red line" for Washington and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey revealed Pentagon officials are examining Iran strike options.