Hans Binnendijk

Military transformation is the act of creating and harnessing a revolution in military affairs. It requires developing new technologies, operational concepts, and organizational structures to conduct war in dramatically new ways. The United States is undertaking such a transformation to tackle its 21st century missions. A properly transformed military can develop significant advantages over a potential enemy. But the process also introduces risks that, if not properly managed, could dangerously undermine military capability.

This book, therefore, sets out the arguments for a purposeful and measured transformation that relies on sound experimentation as the basis for change, rather than the riskier strategy, proposed by some, of skipping a generation of technology. We argue that change must tie all of the services together in joint transformation efforts. Similarly, we must not neglect our coalition partners. A successful transformation will be one that has been conceived broadly to include homeland defense, space, cyberspace, and, though they may seem mundane, crucial reforms in weapons procurement and logistics.

Historically, revolutions in military affairs have had a powerful impact on both society and the nature of warfare. For example, effective development of the stirrup after the 8th century in Europe allowed mounted warriors to dominate their immediate regions and contributed to the development of the feudal state. Feudalism in its turn was destroyed when improved artillery in the early 15th century meant that castles could be successfully attacked. The development of large sailing ships armed with numerous cannons in the early 16th century facilitated the growth of European colonialism. Napoleon’s levée en masse and the rise of the large “citizen army” helped create modern nationalism. In the mid-19th century, improvements in rifling, breech loading, and repeating rifles led to mass carnage on the battlefield, which spurred the development of defensive trench warfare. In the 1930s, improvements in armor, sea power, and air power returned the initiative to the offense. Nuclear weapons produced the Cold War: for four decades, the most powerful offensive weapons were dominant but could not be used for fear of massive retaliation.

Three examples illustrate the power that technology and new operational concepts can have on the battlefield. At Crécy in 1346, the English king Edward III deployed his longbowmen, protected by dismounted knights, in a new form of combined arms warfare. Against them, the French army under Philip IV lost more than 1,200 knights. Nearly 70 years later, King Henry V used similar tactics at Agincourt, this time on the offensive. France was again defeated, and England was able to lay claim to large portions of France.

Napoleon standardized his equipment so that broken matériel could be quickly repaired, and he developed new ways to package food. He was thus able to field his large citizen armies with reliable equipment for long periods of time. These innovations, plus his brilliant use of the cannon, let Napoleon dominate Europe militarily, until he overreached.

Germany and France had equivalent equipment at the outset of World War II, but Germany concentrated its armor and combined it with attack aircraft and radios in the new operational concept called blitzkrieg. Meanwhile, France planned to re-fight World War I more effectively; its armor was dispersed throughout its forces, and it relied excessively on the Maginot Line and the Ardennes as buffers. While only a small fraction of the German force was organized for blitzkrieg (10–15 percent), this was enough of a spearhead to let the Germans overwhelm France in a matter of weeks. Eventually, Hitler also overreached.1

Not all efforts to combine new technology and operational concepts are successful; not all result in victory. During the 1950s, for example, the United States set out to transform its military with new nuclear capabilities. Tactical nuclear weapons were integrated into many military units; operational concepts envisioned the early use of nuclear weapons on the battlefield. By the mid-1960s, however, it became clear that use of these weapons would be limited, both by deterrence and by world opinion. The nuclear weapons that had been placed at the core of the new force could not be used. The military that had been built in the 1950s around nuclear weapons found itself fighting in Vietnam without them. This lesson must be kept in mind as the United States proceeds with a new military transformation.

The Basis of Transformation

Today’s military transformation is based on many new technologies, and perhaps the most important is information technology. The impact of information on the battlefield was first displayed during Operation Desert Storm with new and highly accurate precision strike weapons. Two years later, Alvin and Heidi Toffler pointed out that nations make war the way they create wealth.2 Just as the agricultural and industrial ages each had their own distinctive style of warfare, now the information age calls for transformation to a new kind of information-based warfare.

Accordingly, in the mid-1990s, the Joint Chiefs of Staff published Joint Vision 2010 and Joint Vision 2020 to guide military change in the information age. The underlying theory was that the U.S. military would be able to use a system of systems to concentrate long-range firepower, instead of massing battle platforms against key enemy nodes. American firepower would be brought to bear concurrently rather than sequentially to cause the quick collapse of an enemy’s resolve. The key concepts involved going beyond mobilization and mass to emphasize speed and information.

The transformation effort was started by the Clinton administration and boosted by the Bush administration. The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) 2001 created new goals for transformation: to protect the homeland and our information networks; to project and sustain power in distant theaters and deny our enemies sanctuary there; and to leverage information and space technology. The events of September 11, 2001, refocused elements of military transformation on homeland security. By the end of 2001, a new transformation budget had been earmarked and a “Transformation Czar” was appointed at the Department of Defense (DOD).3

Meanwhile, each of the military services has been developing new operational concepts to implement Joint Vision 2020. The Navy has focused on network-centric warfare, using new information technologies to link the forces together digitally. The Air Force has concentrated on effects-based operations, which assess how best to destroy the connections between elements of an enemy’s political and economic networks with minimal collateral damage. The Army has focused on rapid and decisive operations, that is, reaching the conflict quickly and acting before the enemy can react. Elements of these three strategies are merging together. This book is designed to consider where we should go from here.

How the Book Is Organized

Part I of this book explores the foundations of today’s military transformation: new missions, new technologies, and new operational concepts. Part II assesses the progress that is being made in this effort by each of America’s military services. Part III analyzes the coordination and integration of these separate service efforts, while noting the capabilities gap being created with our allies. Part IV reviews broader aspects of military transformation, particularly those arising after the September 11 attacks.

Part I—Foundations of Transformation

Developing the capability to perform necessary missions more effectively and with fewer casualties is the underlying purpose of military transformation. Chapter 1 by Sam Tangredi argues that decisions on how to transform must follow from a careful consideration of the priorities of these objectives and missions. During the Cold War and for the past decade, priorities were determined by the spectrum-of-conflict model, which placed a premium on high-intensity conflict, despite its low probability of occurrence. As a result, the 1990s witnessed a readiness-versus-engagement debate that deprecated the value of military involvement in operations other than war. Tangredi argues that, especially after September 11, the United States needs to adopt a new hierarchy-of-missions model that identifies survival interests, vital interests, and value interests. Resource allocations should be made based on this hierarchy of missions. The QDR 2001 moves U.S. strategy away from the task of winning two major theater conflicts nearly simultaneously and allows the military new flexibility to deal with a broader array of missions. It thus implicitly moves in the direction of a new hierarchy of missions. Tangredi believes that the National Military Strategy and Joint Vision 2020 must also be adjusted to account for these new missions because they put too much emphasis on fighting major theater wars against a similarly organized opponent.

Technology is the great enabler of military transformation. Chapter 2 by Thomas Hone and Norman Friedman reminds us that militarily significant technologies have often developed simultaneously in different nations, and it is the side that can use the technology most effectively that gets the edge. The process of transformation, consequently, requires developing a vision of how new technologies might benefit the military, funding the research and development of new technologies into weapons, maintaining an industry that can produce equipment embodying the new technologies, developing service doctrine to use those technologies effectively, and training troops to use the new capabilities. None of these steps can be skipped.

Hone and Friedman demonstrate dramatically how even a wildly imaginative vision could become reality by looking back a century to H.G. Wells’ novel War of the Worlds. In this novel, the Martian enemy uses space capabilities to support its military campaigns; it fires heat rays and chemical weapons; it dominates the battlefield with armored walking machines; it possesses a global command and control system. One hundred years ago, these ideas were at the furthest reaches of fiction, yet today, the United States possesses each of these capabilities in various forms. Chapter 2 projects the impact of emerging technologies over time and identifies dozens of potentially transformational technologies, many of them, especially in the information area, developed primarily by the commercial sector. Hone and Friedman suggest that DOD needs to rely more on the commercial sector as it develops its concepts of network-centric warfare.

What should be the strategy for transformation that is based on the demands of new missions and the capabilities of new technologies? Chapter 3, which I wrote with Richard Kugler, explores both the evolutionary and the revolutionary approaches that have tended to clash during the past decade, both within DOD and at the national level. Reviewing a century of history, the chapter concludes that neither extreme makes sense by itself. The key lesson from World War II is that getting operational concepts right is as important as possessing new technology. The lesson from the attempts at building a force around nuclear weapons during the first decades of the Cold War is not to base a wholesale transformation on a single design concept or technology. The lesson from the post-Vietnam period is that a pluralism of ideas and organizations, though turbulent, may yield a better outcome than a single plan controlled from the top.

Applying these lessons, the chapter argues for a blend of the evolutionary and revolutionary approaches and notes that the 2001 QDR moves in this direction. Such a purposeful and measured transformation should have certain characteristics. It should:

  • rely heavily on vigorous experimentation to test new concepts and technologies before deployment
  • maximize joint experiments and operations
  • focus as much on the medium term (6–10 years) as on the long-term
  • reengineer the current force to get results in the medium term
  • blend a high-tech spearhead force (perhaps 10 percent of the overall force) with improved legacy systems
  • hedge against possible failure of experimental systems.

The chapter ends with an examination of 10 operational concepts that are being considered by defense analysts to build and employ a transformed force.

Part II—Transforming the Services

Part II analyzes the transformation now taking place in the services, beginning with chapter 4 on the U.S. Army by Thomas McNaugher and Bruce Nardulli. The Army is considering the most ambitious transformation of any of the Armed Forces. Its post-Cold War missions have shifted dramatically from tank warfare on the plains of Europe to rapid and decisive operations in distant and hard-to-reach theaters. The Army experimented with digitization in the 1990s, inserting computers into armored vehicles and infantry platoons in an effort to provide a common operational picture and lift the fog of war. The focus, however, was still on heavy divisions. Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan has demonstrated both the strengths of the Army’s Special Operations capabilities and the limits of using existing heavy legacy forces for operations that require agility.

The Army plans to deal with this transition by proceeding on three parallel tracks, developing simultaneously an Objective Force for the long term, a medium-term Interim Force, and a Legacy Force to hedge against the risk of failures or shortcomings with the other two. The key element in the Army’s long-term vision is the Future Combat System: small (16–20 ton) vehicles networked together will replace both the 70-ton M–1 Abrams tank and the 32-ton M–2 Bradley fighting vehicle. The Army is betting that dramatic improvements in information technology, sensors, active protection systems, robotics, and weapons technology can replace heavy armor and existing firepower. The authors argue that there is risk in this approach and that if these technologies develop too slowly, evolutionary options remain open. For example, the Army could rely more on prepositioning of equipment, using the Interim Brigade Combat Teams as the Army’s rapid early-deployment force, examining more joint force options, and considering a mixed hybrid force rather than the homogenous divisions envisioned for the Objective Force. The authors argue that, with regard to the war on terrorism and homeland security, the entire relationship between Army Special Operations Forces and regular forces must be reexamined and that National Guard and Reserve units may need reorganization to pursue homeland missions. The Army will have the opportunity to hedge its technology bets and consider reorganizing for new missions as its transformation proceeds.

The mission of the naval services—the Navy and Marines—has changed even more fundamentally than that of the Army; the Cold War mission of controlling the high seas has given way to a mission of facilitating intervention on shore. The Navy also has become a prominent air force; in fact, virtually every ship serves as a platform for aircraft and missiles. Chapter 5 by William O’Neil points outs that the Navy has adapted to this new mission and capability by using existing naval platforms in new ways. The Navy must be inherently conservative about change because its platforms take from 10 to 15 years to conceive and build, and they must last for another 35 years. Much of the change required for the Navy to perform new missions better has therefore taken place with information technology, both to link dispersed ships together for a more coordinated network-centric striking capability and to provide greater accuracy for its missiles.

O’Neil assesses issues that will determine the future shape of our naval forces and concludes that the Navy is currently on the right track. He discounts concerns that the Navy will not be able to gain access to a potential enemy’s littoral to support land-based operations, arguing that no potential enemy has spent the resources to gain a capability even remotely like that of the former Soviet Union during the Cold War. While it is true that mines, missiles, and small, fast craft are relatively cheap and improving in capability, American counters to these threats have improved even faster. He sees no need, therefore, to reshape U.S. naval strategy to deal with a threat that appears relatively insignificant. He rebuts arguments for smaller carriers and a proposed fleet of smaller, faster boats designed to operate in littoral regions. He sees a clear role for unmanned vehicles both in the air and under the sea but cautions against using these systems for operations such as close-in air support. He argues that, despite the advent of highly accurate missiles, carrier-based aircraft will remain at the core of naval strike capabilities. The Marines, he notes, have adapted doctrine to develop an expeditionary maneuver warfare capability, but he cautions that future plans of the Corps rely heavily on short takeoff and vertical landing aircraft (for example, the Osprey and Joint Strike Fighter) that are vulnerable to technical and budgetary problems. In an appendix to this chapter, Bing West further analyzes the Marine Corps concept of expeditionary maneuver warfare. After September 11, the Navy has taken on yet another new mission: supporting the Coast Guard in efforts to protect our own littoral from terrorist attack.

During the past two decades, notes David Ochmanek in chapter 6, the Air Force has made remarkable strides in dominating air operations, controlling and exploiting space, identifying potential targets in all weather conditions, and attacking both moving and fixed targets with high precision. Whereas during the Vietnam War it took a rough average of 170 bombs to destroy a small fixed target, today it takes just one bomb, which can be delivered by a stealthy B–2 loaded with 16 such weapons. The Air Force has already employed many of the advantages that are flowing from modern technology, and thus its future transformation plans will be evolutionary compared to those of the Army.

The Air Force now operates in three domains at once: air, space, and cyberspace. Ochmanek says that the key question for the future Air Force is whether, in the face of looming new threats and resource constraints, the United States can retain its current degree of dominance. The answer to that question depends on how well the Air Force can meet certain challenges, such as overcoming antiaccess capabilities, destroying small mobile targets, operating despite advance air defenses, destroying deeply buried facilities, assuring continuity of space operations, halting ground invasions from the air, and improving both command and control as well as deployability. Ochmanek assesses three key choices facing the Air Force in its efforts to meet these challenges. First, despite the recent successes of bombers in Kosovo and Afghanistan, Ochmanek argues against dramatically decreasing fighters and increasing bombers (currently at a 9 to 1 ratio) and suggests instead that more needs to be done to assure forward basing and to harden forward aircraft shelters. Second, he argues that the Air Force continues to need both stealthy penetrating platforms and standoff weapons, such as cruise missiles, because many missions require that aircrews get close enough to observe their targets. In the short run, the Air Force needs to replace its depleted inventory of cruise missiles, while, in the longer run, unmanned combat air vehicles may be able to perform many of the more dangerous missions now flown by fighter pilots. Third, Ochmanek argues that, despite the potential advantages of developing a space strike capability, it will be too costly and will remain vulnerable to antisatellite weapons. He concludes that straightforward improvements to the Air Force seem to offer more leverage than wholesale changes in force structure and operational concepts.

Part III—Coordinating Transformed Military Operations

Part III focuses on how to assess and coordinate transformation programs, how to integrate the efforts of the individual services, and how to bring American allies along. In chapter 7, Paul Davis distinguishes between changes required in the medium term, which need careful management and pragmatic engineering, and those that will be required further out (between about 2010 and 2025). Changes that are further out require exploratory experiments and wide-open research and development. Drawing lessons from business and the history of World War II, Davis presents 10 principles for future transformation. Among them, he urges fully exploiting technology, anticipating the nature of future warfare, securing political and economic support for transformation, organizing around the capability to accomplish particular military operations rather than open-ended functions, and laying the groundwork for later adaptations. Applying these principles to the current era, he expresses concern that there is no broad and systematic DOD effort to understand future warfare, that there may be excessive focus on a particular notion of war, and that a better analytical system is needed to assure that good options are generated. Davis proposes a new mission-system analysis that would allow the Secretary of Defense to use capabilities-based planning to consider a wider array of alternative plans for future force structure. To help implement this approach, Davis suggests establishing rapid-exploitation laboratories that bring together operators, technologists, and analysts to pursue mission-oriented concepts through rapid prototyping and spiral exploration.

To achieve its full impact, military transformation in the information age must be joint, not centered separately in the different services. Indeed, the Joint Staff champions efforts to integrate the capabilities of the individual services, while the Joint Forces Command has overall responsibility for joint experimentation and for forming joint force packages. Chapter 8 by Douglas Macgregor calls for a bolder approach. Supported by two recent defense reviews by David Gompert and James McCarthy, Macgregor argues that the United States must abandon the World War II mode of relatively independent, sequential missions accomplished by service components under a regional warfighting commander in chief. He calls for rapidly deployable standing joint forces made up of units from different services that train and exercise together and use common command and control, intelligence assets, and logistics systems. Echelons would be reduced, and a pool of available land, naval, and air forces would be created on a rotational readiness basis. Joint operational concepts are needed so that all parts of the force see the same scenario. The multitude of single-service component commanders, Macgregor concludes, should be supplanted by joint command and control elements.

Transformation creates issues that affect our allies, as Charles Barry explores in chapter 9. Unless it wishes to become an isolated superpower, the United States will probably fight future battles as part of an international coalition, based in large measure on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies. But the recent wars in the Persian Gulf, Kosovo, and Afghanistan have demonstrated that a significant gap exists between American and allied capabilities. The problem lies both with constrained European defense budgets (together, only about half the size of the U.S. budget) and with differing visions of the European role in the world. Barry argues that this gap may be smaller than is normally believed and that a concerted program of action can close it without bankrupting European treasuries. Without such an effort, however, the gap will grow to the detriment of the Alliance.

Barry reviews the current status of Europe’s militaries and concludes that their armies and navies have modernized many of their legacy forces. The real problem, however, rests with airpower, secure communications, command and control, and logistics. Even airpower may improve as the Eurofighter and Joint Strike Fighter come on-line. One problem is that Europe’s energies are focused on equipping the European Rapid Reaction Force, which is designed primarily for peace operations rather than high-intensity conflict. There is no vision in Europe of how to transform its militaries for major combat missions in cooperation with the United States. Barry proposes a set of initiatives aimed at correcting this situation.

Part IV—Broader Aspects of Transformation

Part IV reviews broader aspects of military transformation. The attacks of September 11 pierced America’s sense of invulnerability and made strengthening the homefront the Nation’s highest priority. In chapter 10, Michèle Flournoy presents a three-pronged strategy to manage the new risk from terrorism. First, prevention must be carried out in an aggressive and proactive manner, potentially even including offensive action. Key to the success of preventive efforts is engagement abroad and better intelligence. Acknowledging the difficult intelligence problem presented by trying to penetrate small cells in more than 60 countries around the world, she argues that the job can be done better by aiming data collection at the right target, better interagency and international sharing of data, more rapid fusing of data, and more effective red-teaming to predict terrorist moves.

Second, Flournoy calls for a strategy of protection, including missile defenses, massive manhunts when necessary, and day-to-day security measures. These efforts require better coordination among an array of Federal, state, and local offices. The problem is so complex that clear priorities must be set. Third, a response strategy must include training and equipping first responders and improving procedures for continuity of government and for restoring the provision of essential services. A priority should be placed on countering the bioterrorism threat. Flournoy calls for a major public-private initiative on the scale of the Apollo Program to deal with it. She does recommend several other initiatives to be undertaken by the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security but also argues that, in the long run, a more comprehensive office is required. She also recommends establishment of a new commander in chief (CINC) for Homeland Defense and urges efforts to prepare elements of the National Guard for homeland security missions. Many of these suggestions have now been adopted by the Bush administration.

The new focus on homeland security has implications for transformation of U.S. strategic forces. It has reinforced the Bush administration’s interest in building missile defenses, and in the process, transforming the nature of nuclear deterrence. The administration has taken three key steps in this effort: deciding to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, issuing a new Nuclear Posture Review, and agreeing with Russia to dramatic reductions in deployed force. Taken together, these steps suggest an alternative paradigm for strategic stability; though somewhat vague, it appears to be based more on defense than on mutual assured destruction. In chapter 11, Peter Wilson and Richard Sokolsky review both the offensive and defensive elements of the equation and conclude that much of the Cold War theology still governs American strategic planning.

With regard to missile defense, the Bush administration has set aside the ground-based midcourse intercept architecture of the previous administration in favor of an intensified research and development (R&D) program and the prospect of a multilayered architecture that is as yet undefined. Missile defense technology has demonstrated some successes in the hit-to-kill concept and the airborne laser, but there have also been setbacks such as the Navy Area Wide System and the Space-Based Infrared Sensor System. Wilson and Sokolsky argue that the deployment of space-based weapons would constitute crossing a red line that might provoke a dramatic reaction from the Russians and others. On the offensive side, they applaud the agreement with Russia to reduce U.S. operationally deployed warheads from about 6,000 today to a range of 1,700 to 2,200. However, they are concerned that the remaining force will not be taken off alert status and that the eliminated warheads will not be destroyed but placed in a ready reserve. Therefore, the hair trigger remains in place, and the cuts could be too easily reversed.

Space forces have contributed greatly to the acceleration of U.S. military transformation. They have shifted from a nearly exclusive focus on strategic uses and preconflict intelligence to integration with theater forces as part of the operational targeting sequence. In chapter 12, Stephen Randolph argues that, because of resource pressures and competition from less expensive capabilities such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), American space forces will probably not see a major expansion in mission areas over the next few years. Randolph also points to three reasons why America’s near-absolute dominance in military space capabilities during the past decade may be coming to an end: commercial capabilities with military applications that are available to all nations, the growing utility of small and less expensive satellites, and growing efforts by potential adversaries to exploit the vulnerabilities of the U.S. space force. In 2000, the Space Commission examined these trends, and many of its recommendations for organizational change have now been adopted; however, it may be some time before those reforms yield concrete results.

Randolph examines the immediate challenges now facing the space force, including both further integrating space and theater forces as well as maintaining control of space and, if necessary, denying space capabilities to adversaries. He notes that the international legal regime governing the deployment of weapons in space is surprisingly permissive, in part because cost-effectiveness considerations have in the past prevented pursuit of many options. He concludes that development of conventional precision-guided weaponry delivered from space might be the most promising potential mission for space-based weapons. But the costs of deploying weapons in space remain nearly prohibitive, and, moreover, exploitation would require a breakthrough in launch technology. Given resource restraints and the failure of the commercial sector to contribute as much as anticipated to technological development, it will be important for the United States to continue to invest in space R&D, to retain trained personnel, and to support the domestic industrial base.

Military transformation is enabled by new information technologies, and in chapter 13, Jacques Gansler reminds us of the vulnerability of the domain of cyberspace. Computer networks control our Nation’s power grids, natural gas pipelines, and transportation systems. “E-government” is booming, and DOD is increasingly dependent on information networks in peace and war. These networks offer high-value, low-risk targets to a broad array of potential attackers with a diverse range of motives. The Internet
is most vulnerable, but even Defense networks might be penetrated. Gansler notes that the Pentagon expects about 40,000 attacks annually, most of which are unsuccessful. But large-scale exercises, such as ELIGIBLE RECEIVER 97, and real-world attacks, like the one that began in 1998 and has apparently been traced to Russia, make it clear that new steps must be taken to protect America’s growing dependence on cyberspace. Gansler proposes a public-private sector partnership to provide new protection. The goal of Gansler’s proposals is to create an Internet infrastructure that is “highly automated, adaptive, and resilient to all types of attacks.” But with at least 20 nations developing information warfare doctrine and with new capabilities available to terrorists, the United States remains extremely
vulnerable to these “weapons of mass disruption.”

The military transformation process will be successful only if defense research and development and defense procurement processes are tightly coupled. In chapter 14, Mark Montroll examines the defense R&D complex and concludes that both government and commercially run efforts are experiencing serious problems. Government laboratories face the aging of an expert workforce without adequate replenishment, along with a scarcity of infrastructure resources. The consolidation of commercial defense firms during the past decade has increased corporate debt and reduced industry willingness to carry out R&D without financial support from government. Several efforts have been undertaken during the past decade to transition promising technology into the force more quickly. Programs—for example, the Advanced Technology Demonstrations, Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrations, Joint Experimentation Programs, and Future Naval Capabilities program—have yielded successes, such as the Predator UAV, but too many constraints still exist in the acquisition process, and funding is often unavailable even for very promising initiatives. Although useful acquisition reforms have been made, the rate of technological improvement now vastly outpaces Federal ability to incorporate it into the force. To speed the process, DOD is increasingly using prime contractors that are responsible for producing much of the research and development, but industrial constraints on sharing the technology often limit collateral benefits for other defense purposes. Montroll suggests that the Pentagon might learn from the practices of commercial firms that systematically conduct wide searches to identify and acquire the technologies needed from outside.

Joint Vision 2010 called for the development of “Focused Logistics” in an effort to streamline the support required to project military force. In chapter 15, Paul Needham describes the various initiatives being undertaken by the services to reduce their logistics footprint in-theater by as much as 50 percent. These reforms draw from an array of commercial business practices, such as the anticipation of demand and just-in-time logistics dependent on rapid delivery of orders. Most of these reforms are enabled by information technologies that expedite the ability to reach back to storage areas in the United States. Other reforms include charging the regional CINCs for transportation costs in peacetime as a way to encourage cost-effectiveness. But Needham also points out that many of these new business practices could increase the vulnerability of forward-deployed units in wartime should the just-in-time system break down. These risks must be balanced with the advantages of adopting commercial practices.

A Note of Caution

The transformation process has already had a profound impact on the way in which America fights, and more improvements can be expected. Resources will remain constrained, even with the $48 billion defense increase requested by the Bush administration in early 2002 (of which less than $10 billion is for new procurement). By 2007, DOD’s procurement budet is expected to increase to $100 billion annually, and its R&D budget to $60 billion—big increases in both areas. But resources are not the whole answer; indeed, many ardent military reformers even fear that the budget increases will take pressure off the Pentagon to reform. Sound operational concepts and new organizational structures may be more important than new weapons to the medium-term transformation.

Even if transformation is successful, this same success may raise certain risks. First, if the American military appears able to win victories at low cost, war might become a preferred instrument of diplomacy rather than an instrument of last resort. This situation would lead to an unhealthy militarization of American foreign policy. Second, there are some contingencies for which even a transformed military may be inadequate, and leaders must understand these limits and not be rash. Such contingencies include preventing a terrorist attack on U.S. interests, fighting in certain types of terrain, and sustaining conflict against a large enemy that is unwilling to capitulate despite battlefield losses. Third, America’s capability might reduce the military need for allies and lead to an inclination to go it alone. This trend could lead to diplomatic isolation. Fourth, U.S. military dominance could breed resentment abroad and result in the accumulation of more enemies, and fifth, highly autonomous systems inherent in the new force increase the risk of friendly fire casualties. None of these risks is cause enough to slow down efforts to develop the best military possible, but dealing with those risks will require prudence on the part of America’s political and diplomatic leadership. America cannot afford to overreach.

A key question is this: Will transformation enable the U.S. military to retain its status as the world’s best fighting force? The answer is: Yes, but only if transformation is carried out wisely and effectively, and only if due regard is given to the constraints that will continue to face the exercise of military power. It is with these cautions in mind that we explore the issues of transformation of the U.S. military at the beginning of the 21st century.



 1. See H.W. Koch, History of Warfare (London: Bison Books Limited, 1987); and Andrew F. Krepinevich, “Cavalry to Computer: The Pattern of Military Revolutions,” The National Interest 37 (Fall 1994), 30–42. [BACK]

 2. Alvin and Heidi Toffler, War and Anti-War: Survival at the Dawn of the Twenty-first Century (Boston: Little, Brown, 1993).[BACK]

 3. On November 26, 2001, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld announced the establishment of the Office of Force Transformation within the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the appointment of VADM Arthur K. Cebrowski, USN (Ret.), as its director, reporting directly to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense.[BACK]

Table of Contents  I  Chapter Two