Chapter 3—
Choosing a Strategy

Richard L. Kugler and Hans Binnendijk

What strategy should guide the transformation of U.S. military forces in the years ahead? What basic philosophy, goals, and actions should animate the process of changing U.S. forces so that they are prepared for the future? These weighty questions require answers. Transformation is too important to be left to chance or to the vagaries of politics. It is a dynamic that can be pursued in more ways than one and that can succeed or fail. It definitely requires a guiding hand. To help shed light on this issue, we begin by exploring the nature of transformation and the U.S. historical experience with it. With the stage thus set, we then analyze key strategies for pursuing transformation and present a set of new operational concepts for carrying it out.

The Department of Defense (DOD) intends to pursue transformation in meaningful ways, but a debate is raging over the best strategy for doing so. The debate is polarized between two quite different strategies: one evolutionary, the other revolutionary. Focused mostly on the coming decade, the evolutionary “steady as you go” strategy proposes to transform in ways that, although important, are small in scope, slow-paced, and limited in vision. While this strategy seeks to acquire weapons now emerging from the research and development pipeline, it does not invest heavily in futurist technologies, and it proposes mostly modest changes to legacy force structures, platforms, and operations. By contrast, the revolutionary “leap ahead” strategy proposes to move in faster, bolder, and riskier ways. Focused mainly on 10 to 20 years from now and beyond, it wants to skip emerging weapons in favor of exotic technologies, while carrying out radical changes in U.S. forces and doctrines. A responsible case can be made for each strategy, but the tensions between them must be resolved if transformation is to unfold smoothly and not be ripped apart by two incompatible visions at war with one another. Embracing one strategy at the expense of the other could leave the Armed Forces shortchanged in the future—either by not changing them enough or by changing them too much in the wrong ways.

Instead, this chapter suggests that the United States should pursue a sensible blend of both strategies: a purposeful and measured transformation. This strategy aspires to keep U.S. forces highly ready and capable in the near term, to enhance their flexibility and adaptability in the mid-term, and to guide their acquisition of new systems prudently in the long term. While this strategy relies on emerging weapons to modernize U.S. forces, it urges vigorous experimentation with new technologies as they become available. It seeks ways to reorganize and reengineer traditional force structures so that they can perform joint operations more effectively in the information age. It also employs new operational concepts to guide the creation of future combat capabilities that meet the challenges ahead.

The transformation strategy that we urge is neither a slow crawl ahead nor a blind leap into the distant future but instead a deliberate and well-planned march into the 21st century. It offers a way to balance continuity and change so that American forces remain superior in the coming years, while they gain the new capabilities needed to handle a widening spectrum of contingencies, missions in new geographic locations, and growing asymmetric threats. Above all, this strategy reflects awareness that transformation should be neither taken for granted nor pursued in simplistic ways. Because it is so vital, it demands careful analysis and wise judgment.

Modern military forces are complex institutions that can be thrown off kilter by imprudent meddling. Worse, they can be badly damaged if they are reshaped to fit some new, single-minded design that does not turn out as hoped. In transforming U.S. forces, the goal is to strengthen them for dealing with a complex and dangerous world, not simply to take chances in the mistaken belief that radical approaches are necessarily better than tried-and-true practices. New ideas should always be subjected to careful appraisals of their consequences—both good and bad—before they are adopted. If the dilemma is deciding whether to mimic a timid ostrich or an aggressive hawk, the answer is to behave like an owl, wisely seeking an intelligent blend of continuity and change, at a pace that is fast enough to be meaningful yet slow enough to be managed effectively. A purposeful and measured transformation is a strategy for an owl.

Bringing Transformation into Focus

The difficult challenge facing DOD is to pursue transformation while also attending to the rest of its agenda, which includes keeping the Armed Forces ready for near-term crises and balancing its investment priorities. Transformation clearly is important, but what exactly does it mean? Transformation often is used as a rallying cry to promote one particular theory of defense reform, but this is a misleading use of the term. Official DOD documents use the term in a generic sense rather than as an endorsement of any particular approach. The dictionary does likewise; it defines transformation as a “substantial change in appearance, nature, or character.” Changes of this sort can occur in more ways than one, but for a true transformation of a military to occur, it must be guided by coherent rules or concepts, and it must produce alterations in structures and functions that are major, not minor.

Normally, transformation occurs in response to new strategic conditions abroad or to changes bubbling up from within the military, or—as is the case today—to a combination of both. It involves a process of change that is more profound than normal, steady-state modernization, which occurs as new weapons and capabilities evolve in the natural course of events, with mostly incremental consequences. Rather than business as usual, transformation represents an effort to prepare military forces to be different than in the past and to wage war differently as well. Almost always, military forces are trying to improve themselves, but they seek to transform themselves only at widely spaced intervals when new technologies and requirements make the step desirable, necessary, or unavoidable.

Some proponents interpret transformation mainly as a process of acquiring new weapons platforms to replace the tank, fighter plane, or aircraft carrier. While some traditional platforms may need replacing or modification, this interpretation of transformation is too restrictive and serves one particular reform agenda. A military establishment might, in fact, retain its legacy platforms while changing in so many other areas (for example, doctrine, organization, and operations) that it emerges as heavily transformed. Indeed, this has been the common approach to transformation pursued by the U.S. military, which has undergone several waves of major changes in the past 60 years without switching platforms. A good example is the U.S. Navy. Two decades ago, it rejected calls for converting to small carriers or even replacing carriers with land-based aircraft for maritime missions. It was widely accused of a hidebound unwillingness to break free from the past, but it changed in so many other ways, including technology and doctrine, that it became transformed in warfighting capabilities.

In today’s setting, transformation is aptly portrayed as a wide-ranging process of adjusting to the imperatives and opportunities of the information age. Such a transformation often begins with the arrival of new technologies, such as modern computers and information warfare systems, but it does not end there. Depending upon how far it is pursued, it can lead to changes throughout a military establishment; it might or might not involve new platforms, but it is often carried out in multiple different ways. To a degree, the process is driven by its own momentum, but military establishments have a wide range of choice in determining the breadth and pace of transformation. This discretion should be guided by a transformation strategy: it is important to how the process unfolds and critical to whether it is carried out effectively.

Transformation does not boil down to a choice between doing nothing and changing everything or between crawling ahead slowly and leaping forward at blinding speed. Transformation can be partial yet meaningful. For example, it might fully alter only 10 to 20 percent of the posture, while modestly changing most of the remainder, and still produce a big improvement in combat capabilities. It could also be phased to unfold gradually as a choreographed sequence of events and to build on its achievements steaüily as it unfolds. We argue for a purposeful and measured transformation anchored in such a vision of a careful, well-planned process. It starts with partial but pivotal changes and then expands to pursue broader departures as they prove their worth.

As table 3-1 suggests, transformation can take place within three categories of “inputs” (that is, the combat forces and their assets) and a fourth category of “outputs” (the military capabilities and combat performance of the forces). Each has multiple important subcategories. Transformation might have a significant impact on only some of these categories and subcategories, or most of them, or all of them. The critical relationship is that between inputs and outputs: between force characteristics and battlefield performance. A big change in one force characteristic, but not others, might produce little impact on battlefield performance. This transformation would be ranked as minor. By contrast, a large number of modest changes in multiple force characteristics could produce big changes in battlefield performance. This would be a truly major transformation, even though its surface manifestations might appear minor.

A partial, limited transformation could occur if a military force acquires new technologies (such as new command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance [C4ISR] systems and smart munitions) but does not change in other significant ways. A more ambitious transformation might replace old weapons with new weapons but not acquire different platforms. An example is buying new artillery tubes or jet fighters whose capabilities permit different tactical uses than before. The combination of new technologies and weapons might lead to new operational doctrines for employing forces on the battlefield but not produce major alterations in force structures and organizations, such as the mix of divisions and air wings. Alternatively, a military might alter its structures and doctrines but not its weapons. As a result of such changes, a military force might improve greatly in combat power and versatility, enough to “transform” what counts: its operational style, battlefield performance, and ability to win wars. Yet to the casual observer, its outward appearance might not be much different from its predecessor.

A more profound transformation occurs when a military force employs new technologies and weapons to make major changes in platforms, such as replacing manned fighters with robot-piloted aircraft or heavy tanks with lightweight, wheeled vehicles; in force structures, such as replacing carrier battlegroups with patrol boats and submarines or armored divisions with brigades that operate only deep-strike missiles and attack helicopters; or in operations. Such changes would greatly alter the force posture’s internal characteristics, including its physical structure and outward appearances, as well as its battlefield performance. Sweeping changes of this sort, which occur infrequently, involve radically different technologies, forces, and approaches to warfighting, and exemplify defense transformation at its most dramatic. But they are not the only type of transformation to occur or to be sought. The limited, partial transformations occur more often, but when they elevate military capabilities or alter the face of war, they are portentous developments in themselves.

Because any ambitious transformation, either partial or whole, cannot be carried out overnight, its timelines are important. A partial transformation is normally pursued in the near term and mid-term, over a
period of 5 to 10 years or so. This tends to be the case if it employs technologies and weapons that already exist or will be procured during this period, and if it does not undertake significant alterations in force structures and platforms. It may set the stage for a bigger transformation later, but it might instead be self-contained. A wholesale transformation typically takes longer to carry out—15 to 20 years or more—and produces radically different forces that meet new strategic needs in the long haul. A key feature of a radical transformation is that it may deliberately bypass improvements in the near term and mid-term in order to pursue long-term goals. Especially if resources are limited, partial changes in the mid-term might not be a transition step but instead a barrier to achieving bigger changes in the distant future.

The specific features of both partial and wholesale approaches are crucial in determining how the future is to unfold. Because these two approaches have different timelines, in theory they can interlock together in supportive ways, with a partial transformation laying the foundation for bigger changes later as new technologies emerge. Such complementarity is not, however, automatic or easily achieved. Indeed, partial and whole transformations can be competitive, with each consuming so many resources and energies that it stymies the other. This presents defense planners with hard choices. Complementarity must be deliberately sought by designing these two approaches to work together.

ýegardless of whether transformation is partial or whole, it is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Its success is measured by its capacity to produce better forces, greater capabilities, and higher performance, not by the extent to which it overturns past practices. As a result, it must be pursued with strategic goals and coordinated plans foremost in mind. No military establishment can expect to remain current with modern warfare by sticking its head in the sand like an ostrich, denying change in the hope that it will go away. But a full-scale hawkish transformation should be pursued only when it makes strategic sense, not in response to a mystical faith that radical change always begets big progress.

Historical Legacy: Transformation Strategies in the Industrial Era

The strategic challenges facing the U.S. military today can be illuminated by surveying the historical record of transformations during the 20th century. While today’s information era is different from the industrial era, the rich experiences of the past century provide useful guidelines for thinking about how to act now. History is said to be rife with examples of militaries that transformed themselves wholly and quickly and then triumphed in war against opponents who failed to do so and suffered calamitous defeat afterward. Closer examination of the historical record, however, suggests a more complicated reality. Some successful transformations were less complete and one-sided than is often supposed. Others brought unanticipated troubles rather than spectacular benefits. Still others succeeded as a result of multiple activities carried out in partial ways at moderate pace, rather than a single design pursued wholly at breakneck speed. The bottom line is that both a strategy of changing slowly and one of leaping ahead boldly often fail. The successful transformations, as this historical review reminds us, were those that unfolded in purposeful and measured ways.

Transformation in World War II

Napoleon often is credited as the creator of modern armies and warfare, but transformation in the industrial era has its main origins in the last few decades of the 19th century. The Prussian Army used modern artillery and other new weapons to win a series of wars, especially the clash with France in 1870 that unified Germany, making it Europe’s dominant military power. Afterward, armies everywhere viewed newly emerging technologies—the telegraph, railroads, mobile artillery and infantry, the machinegun, airplane, and naval dreadnought—as heralding the domination of fast-paced offensive campaigns as key to winning wars quickly. Virtually all European forces prepared accordingly, but when World War I erupted in 1914, it surprised them by turning into a lengthy defensive stalemate of trench warfare and bloody attrition. The German Army was ultimately defeated in 1918 by an imposing coalition of Britain, France, and the United States, but it collapsed from exhaustion rather than being defeated by bold strikes and maneuver. The experience taught the lesson that wholesale military transformations sometimes produce results quite different from the visions of their designers.

World War II proved to be the opposite of stalemate; new technologies and military doctrines combined to restore offensive warfare to dominance on land and at sea. The paradigm case of successful transformation is often said to be the Battle of France in May 1940, when the German Wehrmacht overpowered French and British forces in only 6 weeks. A popular interpretation holds that the Germans won because, in the inter-war years, they wholly transformed their forces by adding large numbers of tanks and airplanes to their inventories. By contrast, it is said, the French and British clung to old forces and a defensive mentality that was manifested in the outdated Maginot Line. Closer inspection shows, however, that the forces of both sides were more similar than is commonly realized. The Germans attacked with 136 divisions, mostly infantry units with horse-drawn artillery. They fielded about 3,000 combat aircraft and 3,000 tanks, but these assets provided only 20 to 25 aircraft and tanks per division: small numbers compared to today. Their tanks, moreover, were mostly light models, not the feared medium and heavy tanks used later in the war. The allies defended with 142 divisions (104 French) aided by 2,700 tanks and 2,000 combat aircraft. Thus the modern technology of the two forces was similar in size, quality, and composition. In essence, this was a parity fight; contrary to popular lore, it was not a contest in which the allies were grossly outnumbered and outclassed because they had turned a blind eye to transformation.

The outcome turned not on big differences in forces and technology but instead on operational doctrines and the manner in which battlefield maneuvers were conducted. Sensing an opportunity to win quickly with a bold offensive, the Germans pursued a battlefield strategy of blitzkrieg. Rather than distributing their tanks across the entire posture, they concentrated them into a few units, and they learned how to blend their armor and airpower together in combined arms operations. They concentrated large forces in the Ardennes forest, employed them to penetrate thin allied defenses there, and then advanced rapidly into the rear areas, where they maneuvered speedily to unravel allied defenses. The French and British were vulnerable to this attack not because they were hunkered down in the Maginot Line. It covered only southern France, not the northern battlefield where the main fighting occurred. The primary reason was that as they advanced most of their northern forces into Belgium along the Dyle River on their left flank, they withheld few operational reserves at their center, especially tanks and aircraft, thereby exposing themselves to the German thrust through the weakly defended Ardennes.

The effect of the Ardennes breakthrough was to fracture the allied defense posture in half, allowing the Germans first to trap the northern component at Dunkirk and then to destroy the southern component in the aftermath. Sensing their danger early in the battle, the allies tried to maneuver forces to block the penetration but failed. Had they withheld more reserves and been able to use them well, they might well have stopped the German advance. The main lesson is that while the Germans had transformed only partly, they had done so wisely. They not only acquired enough new weapons to wage an offensive campaign but also created a new operational doctrine for using them decisively. While the British and French were not blind to the new era of warfare, they had pursued their own partial transformation unwisely. They acquired enough new weapons and technologies but failed to use them effectively.

The Germans also used blitzkrieg warfare to drive deeply into Russia when they launched Operation Barbarossa in mid-1941. In the process, they surrounded, cut off, and defeated in detail huge portions of Russia’s unprepared army. But by 1942, Germany’s main enemies—Russia, Britain, and the United States—were learning how to cope with blitzkrieg warfare. Over the next 3 years, they used their modern weapons to craft mobile offensive campaigns that allowed them to overpower and ultimately defeat the outnumbered Wehrmacht. While tanks and aircraft played big roles in their counterattacks, such traditional weapons as infantry and artillery, plus potent logistic support and industrial production, carried a great deal of the load as well. World War II in Europe was fought with a mixture of old and new technologies. Radar was one new technology that greatly changed warfare, and there were many others as well. In the end, nonetheless, the outcome was driven by sheer numbers and mastery of modern doctrine, not by technological supremacy or different levels of physical transformation. Indeed, the Germans fielded the best-quality hardware and lost anyway because they had bitten off more than they could chew.

Combat in the Pacific theater also reflected a blend of the old and new. Japan initially gained the upper hand, but the United States ultimately rallied to win. Popular lore holds that the Pacific war ushered in the era of aircraft carriers and long-range airpower and brought the fading era of battleships to an end. It is true that aircraft carriers were hugely important in such key battles as Pearl Harbor, Midway, the Marianas, and others. But battleships and other surface combatants dominated the critical Solomon Islands naval battles of 1942, and they greatly influenced the decisive naval battle of Leyte Gulf in 1945. Along with carriers, their firepower support was vital in allowing the U.S. Army and Marine Corps to carry out their island-hopping campaign throughout the war. From Guadalcanal and Tarawa to Iwo Jima and Okinawa, the many bitter island battles were fought primarily with infantry soldiers and artillery. As in Europe, the Pacific war was waged by the Americans and Japanese, nearly until the end, with parallel technologies and weapons, and with partly transformed forces.

Nuclear Transformation: The First Two Decades of the Cold War

Shortly after World War II ended, the Cold War broke out. Because the conflict with the Soviet Union initially was political, the United States disarmed and also slowed the process of transforming its military forces with new technologies and doctrines. When the Korean War erupted in 1950, jet aircraft were used for the first time in large numbers, but otherwise that conflict was waged with weapons, forces, and doctrines inherited from World War II. The big change came after the Korean armistice was signed, when the Eisenhower administration decided to nuclearize the American defense strategy. This effort was driven by three goals that reinforced each other: strengthening U.S. forces by equipping them with nuclear firepower; deterring Soviet aggression in Europe at a time when North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) conventional forces were too weak to halt a major attack; and buying security on the cheap because nuclear weapons were less expensive than conventional forces. The result was to propel the Armed Forces into a wholesale transformation driven by a single-minded design anchored in exciting new technologies and weapons systems. This ambitious effort was carried out in just a few years: never before have U.S. forces been changed so totally and quickly under a single organizing principle. This design concept proved short-lived, however; it produced the wrong forces for the new strategic circumstances that were to unfold in the 1960s.

To carry out its strategy of massive retaliation, the Eisenhower administration procured a large force of over 2,000 nuclear-armed strategic bombers, with emphasis on the B-52. Later it also started to deploy intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), which were intended to supplement the bombers, not replace them. It authorized deployment of 7,000 tactical nuclear weapons to Europe to permit NATO to use rapid escalation to halt aggression. As a logical byproduct of this effort, it worked with the military services to reconfigure their conventional combat forces for nuclear war. The Air Force was especially nuclearized. Its new fighters of the 1950s were designed mostly to shoot down enemy nuclear bombers and to conduct tactical nuclear strikes in the enemy’s rear areas. The Army was also affected; its new Pentomic divisions were so tailored for nuclear operations that they could not mount much of a conventional defense. The Navy was similarly influenced, as its carriers, aircraft, and other combatants were redesigned for nuclear strike operations at sea or on land. The consequence was a gleaming new U.S. military posture, primed for nuclear war, but incapable of fighting serious conventional wars. The same was true for European forces in NATO.

Almost overnight, however, massive retaliation was invalidated as an all-purpose strategy when the Soviet Union surprised the West by making fast progress nuclearizing its own strategy and forces. By the early 1960s, it was poised to begin procuring large numbers of ICBMs and SLBMs; it had already begun to deploy several hundred medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles targeted on Western Europe and to distribute 6,000 tactical nuclear warheads to its ground and air forces. The effect was to cast a bright spotlight on the Warsaw Pact’s imposing superiority in the conventional war arena. The Soviet nuclear buildup meant that the United States and its allies became less able to deter conventional aggression by threatening nuclear escalation. This step now became too risky because the Soviets were capable of retaliating with devastating nuclear counterblows. The Berlin crises and Cuban missile crisis exposed the dangers inherent in this situation. Alarmed, the Kennedy administration felt compelled to pursue a major rebuilding of U.S. conventional forces to deter nonnuclear attack and to broaden its options. All four services were suddenly instructed to reverse course by retailoring their forces, weapons, and doctrines for traditional warfare. In addition, the Kennedy administration had to initiate a bruising debate with the European allies to persuade them to abandon massive retaliation in favor of a new strategy of flexible response, one that mandated an expensive buildup of their own conventional forces. For both the United States and NATO, the 1960s were largely spent trying to recover from the setbacks of their nuclear transformation during the previous decade.

Because the reform process was far from complete by the mid-1960s, the United States fought the Vietnam War with forces that were halfway between a design for nuclear war and one for conventional war. For the most part, U.S. forces were well equipped and enjoyed major technological advantages over the enemy, yet they suffered from some liabilities of the past. For example, U.S. air forces were not well designed for conventional bombardment missions, and ground forces lacked special logistic assets for expeditionary operations. Smart munitions did not appear until late in the conflict. Many innovations had to be made as the war unfolded, in use of helicopters, forward air controllers, and sensors, for example. More important, forces from the four services were not well prepared for joint operations and often encountered trouble working together. Beyond this, overall U.S. military strategy was flawed. Victory could not be achieved through gradual escalation and sustained attrition warfare against a stubborn North Vietnamese enemy that refused to be driven from the battlefield. U.S. forces returned from Vietnam frustrated by their inability to translate sophisticated technology into decisive victory, but in the agonized political climate of the early 1970s, little was done to recover from the damage, much less to prepare for the future.

Building Modern Transformed Forces: The Past Quarter-Century

In the mid- to late 1970s, heightened Cold War tensions helped propel U.S. military forces back along the path of rehabilitation and progress. Several factors combined together to accelerate the process. Key was the worried atmosphere that permeated DOD, which translated into a desire to improve U.S. forces in big ways. Senior civilians helped set the stage by urging innovation, and senior military officers, determined to recover from Vietnam, shared the sentiment. The Carter administration began to set strategic priorities by focusing on NATO and later the Persian Gulf. The Reagan defense buildup of the 1980s provided the funds needed to fuel an ambitious effort to enlarge U.S. forces, improve their training and readiness, and procure new weapons. New technologies emerging from the research and development process enabled the U.S. military to modernize with an entirely new generation of weapon systems that were significantly better than their predecessors. The services began developing vigorous new doctrines for battlefield operations that promised to take full advantage of the weapons being procured. The result was a process of fast modernization and enhanced readiness that, by the late 1980s, had strengthened U.S. forces significantly. Although force structures and platforms did not change a great deal, major improvements were made in munitions and sensors, command and control systems, missiles and other technologies, doctrine, and operations.

Where the nuclear transformation of the 1950s had been driven by a single design, this transformation was quite different. Its guiding theme was better conventional forces, but its varied and broad-based efforts were driven by multiple different designs and theories, not all of them initially well coordinated with each other. A number of innovative ideas came from outside the services and even outside the Department of Defense. The four services were highly influential; each often marched to the beat of its own drummers, competing with the others while fighting off unwelcome challenges to its traditional structures yet responding to new technologies and doctrines emerging from within its ranks and elsewhere. Meanwhile, the defense industries produced new technologies and weapons at often bewildering speed in ways that steadily broadened the range of operational choices available to the services, sometimes pushing them in unanticipated directions. A good example is the cruise missile, which appeared as new technology bubbled upward, rather than resulting from a new strategy imposed from the top down. By contrast, the new fighters and tanks were products of a strategic design, but when their capabilities became apparent, they were employed to create fresh, unanticipated doctrines.

Strong efforts were made in the Planning, Programming, and Budgeting System and the joint planning arena—by many authorities in the Office of Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the services, and the regional military commands—to discipline this transformation and guide it in sound directions. But even so, its chief characteristic was pluralism in its ideas and organizations, reflecting the dynamics of economic markets and democratic politics, rather than control from atop by any single plan. While this process was turbulent and confusing, it worked. It produced the best military forces in world history: transformed forces that were well aligned with new directions in defense strategy for the 1990s, not out of phase with them.

This process worked effectively, despite its lack of central control, because it was guided by a set of new operational concepts developed by the Pentagon and the armed services as transformation was getting under way. These new concepts not only provided direction to each service but also imparted a sense of direction to joint planning and overall U.S. military strategy:

  • “power projection and rapid reinforcement” called for a better capacity to deploy U.S. forces swiftly to Europe, Asia, and the Persian Gulf
  • “maritime supremacy” called for the Navy to switch from defensive missions to offensive operations aimed at sweeping the seas of enemy blue-water navies
  • “expeditionary operations” encouraged the Marine Corps to evolve beyond amphibious assault to become a more flexible, multipurpose force
  • “multimission air operations” led the Air Force to broaden beyond air defense to pursue interdiction, close air support, and other contributions to the land battle
  • “operational art” led the Army to move away from linear defense toward mobile reserves, maneuver, and powerful counterattacks
  • “AirLand battle” provided a concept for coordinating ground and air missions in attacking enemy forces.

It is noteworthy that the successful transformation orchestrated by these concepts was carried out in the face of a determined Soviet buildup of its “antiaccess” and “area-denial” capabilities, aimed at preserving the Warsaw Pact predominance in Europe. The Soviet navy acquired a blue-water capacity with Backfire bombers, attack submarines, and missile-carrying surface combatants to challenge NATO for control of the North Atlantic. On the European continent, the Soviets created a huge force of theater missiles and tactical nuclear systems, 500 medium bombers, 4,200 combat aircraft, and nearly 100 heavily armed divisions capable of a blitzkrieg offensive. Rather than respond to this threat by resorting to a standoff defense strategy from the sea, the United States and its European allies asserted their strategic interests by pursuing a stalwart forward defense of NATO borders. The result was a sustained peacetime competition between the two military alliances that saw NATO strengthen its position, ultimately checkmating the growing threat and establishing a robust defense posture. Had war erupted in the early 1970s, the Warsaw Pact would have been expected to win, but if it had occurred in the late 1980s, NATO would have acquitted itself far better and perhaps won the contest. This dramatic change in the force balance may well have played a major role in the Soviet Union’s decision to throw in the towel in 1990. By any measure, the U.S. and NATO military buildup accomplished its political and strategic purposes.

Because U.S. defense strategy in the Cold War’s final stages became increasingly global, a key strategic innovation was better strategic-mobility assets for rapid reinforcement. Heavily a product of civilian leadership, the acquisition of better airlift, sealift, and prepositioning permitted faster power projection and overseas deployment from the United States, thereby contributing greatly to improved force balances in Europe and the Persian Gulf. The U.S. Navy, shaking off challenges to its traditional force structures, built new carriers, F-14 and F-18 fighters, Aegis defenses, cruise missiles, surface combatants, and submarines. As a result, it rebuffed the Soviet threat and emerged as dominating the North Atlantic and other seas as well. Meanwhile, the Marine Corps broadened beyond traditional amphibious assault missions to perform a wide variety of other ground and air operations. The Air Force acquisition of new F-15 and F-16 combat aircraft, the A-10 tank-buster, airborne warning and control systems (AWACs) and joint surveillance and target attack radar systems (JSTARS) C2 capabilities, improved avionics, smart munitions, and cruise missiles greatly enhanced its capacity to win the air battle, perform strategic bombardment against enemy rear areas, and contribute close air support to the ground battle. The Army’s goal was to transform its infantry-heavy forces from the Vietnam era into a modern force of armored and mechanized units. Patriot missile batteries, which replaced the I-Hawk system, provided greatly improved air defense; improved artillery systems and better munitions significantly enhanced its ability to generate large volumes of accurate, lethal fires; Abrams tanks and Bradley infantry fighting vehicles provided the enhanced tactical mobility, survivability, and firepower to permit it to transition away from stationary linear defense to mobile maneuvers and mastery of the operational art. The combination of stronger air forces and ground forces greatly enhanced the capacity of the U.S. military not only to defend against strong attacks but also to pursue offensive operations against them.

ýhe transformation of U.S. forces was accompanied by efforts to upgrade allied forces in Europe and to strengthen alliance-wide interoperability. The acquisition of new combat aircraft and naval combatants contributed to the growing combat power of NATO more than is commonly realized. U.S. improvements led the way by blending together continuity and change to create stronger forces with a growing capacity for joint operations. The extent of these gains in modern warfare was put on display in the Persian Gulf War of early 1991, when U.S. forces led a large, multinational coalition to inflict decisive defeat on a well-armed Iraqi adversary. The Desert Stormýsuccess was massive, but it was no accident, and 10 to 15 years earlier, it would not have been possible to such a decisive degree. The same was true of the many other successful American crisis operations that occurred in the 1990s, including in Kosovo where U.S. airpower won a war virtually on its own.

This U.S. military transformation was heavily influenced by new technologies and weapons, but it was anchored in efforts to make effective use of traditional force structures and platforms and in concerted attention to training, readiness, and skilled personnel. It focused on acquiring capabilities that were linked to well understood operational concepts that reflected a clear understanding of modern war’s political and military dynamics. Overall, it was not an impulsive effort, but instead the culmination of a long, well conceived, well funded transformation lasting over a decade. Its positive impact on U.S. defense preparedness is the central military lesson of the Cold War’s final climactic years.

Managing Change: Transformation for the Information Era

Today, the U.S. military stands on the brink of another transformation of special importance. In the early 21st century, warfare is in transition from the industrial age to the information age. Managing this transition effectively is vital to preserving American military superiority. The historical lessons of the past can be drawn upon to help illuminate the path ahead. Nonetheless, the transformation strategy chosen for the coming period must make sense for reasons of its own.

The imperatives of transformation are clearest when a military finds itself lacking modern weapons and facing strong enemies capable of defeating it in battle. The opposite situation exists today. The U.S. military is easily the world’s strongest, armed with weapons and capabilities that far overshadow those of any potential rival. The challenge facing it therefore is not one of scrambling its way to the top, but of staying there. The absence of a clearly identified threat against which to counterbalance, or some other clear strategic guidepost to follow, means that the United States will need to set its own relative standard regarding how its forces should change. Setting such standards is difficult because the future of defense technology and warfare is so cloudy. Nobody doubts that major changes are in the wind. Several decades from now, U.S. forces will be very different from those of today. But in the coming 10 to 20 years, the proper mix will be hard to determine and will shift over time. For these reasons, crafting a sound transformation strategy requires making tough judgments about how the process of change should unfold.

Strategic Framework for Transformation in the Quadrennial Defense Review

A principal motive for transforming U.S. forces is to take advantage of the changes unfolding in military technology, doctrine, and weapon systems. Equally important, global security affairs are changing in ways that are rapidly altering future U.S. military requirements. Globalization is making the democratic community more prosperous and secure, especially in Europe, but also in Northeast Asia, the two geographic focal points of U.S. defense strategy during the Cold War. As the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) Report 2001 points out, however, globalization and other dynamics are creating a vast southern belt of instability that stretches from the Balkans and Middle East to the East Asian littoral. There and elsewhere, the danger does not derive from any single threat, such as a new superpower rival, but rather from troubled economic conditions and chaotic security affairs, which combine to produce a diverse set of threats. One threat comes from regional rogues, such as Iraq, that are willing to pursue aggression against their neighbors. Another threat comes from terrorists, their sponsors, and the anti-Western ideologies motivating them. A third threat comes from the ongoing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and lethal conventional weapons. A fourth comes from struggles over energy supplies and other natural resources, including water. A fifth comes from the upsurge of ethnic warfare in troubled states. A sixth threat might come from China, should it pursue geopolitical aims in ways that menace U.S. interests and regional stability.1

According to the QDR Report 2001, this multiplicity of dangers and threats means that the spectrum of operations facing U.S. forces is steadily widening. While being prepared for major theater wars (MTWs) will remain important, contingencies at the lower end of the spectrum have been steadily increasing in recent years. These include ethnic wars, counterterrorist conflicts, limited crisis interventions, and peacekeeping. The future may also witness wars at the higher end of the spectrum, including against WMD-armed opponents, coalitions of countries opposed to the United States, or perhaps even China. The prospect of a widening spectrum of conflict, better-armed enemies, and operations in new, unfamiliar geographic locations promises to confront U.S. forces with stressful demands and requirements unlike those faced since the Cold War ended. Whereas U.S. force operations during the Cold War were mostly positional and continental, they seem destined to become more mobile and littoral. Indeed, the U.S. overseas presence is likely to see its mission shift from local border defense of allies to serving as regional hubs of power projection in ways that interlock with forces deploying from the continental United States.

As the QDR Report 2001 reveals, the old preoccupation with being prepared to wage two concurrent MTWs is giving way to a more flexible construct. The new emphasis will be on maintaining multiple capabilities, not on dealing with single threats or contingencies. A new force-sizing standard apparently will call upon U.S. forces to be capable of conquering enemy territory in a single big MTW, while mounting a stalwart defense in a second regional conflict and carrying out multiple smaller-scale contingencies (SSCs). This standard and related calculations likely will generate requirements for forces similar in size to those of today, but with the capacity to operate successfully in a wider set of circumstances than regional wars in the Persian Gulf and Korea. Regional commanders in chief (CINCs) will be called upon to design a diverse set of operation plans (OPLANs), campaign plans, and strike packages so that they can handle the widening array of new challenges in their areas of operations. Forces stationed in the United States will need to become capable of deploying responsively to support these CINCs and their missions. Whereas earlier CINC force operations tended to be small or large, they will increasingly require medium-size packages whose mix of ground, naval, and air forces is tailored to the situation at hand.

The new U.S. defense strategy articulated by the QDR Report 2001 mandates that forces remain highly capable in the near term and beyond. U.S. forces will need to be well trained, highly ready, well equipped, sustainable, and able to carry out modern joint doctrine. To retain a sizable margin of superiority over adversaries, they will need to improve their capabilities in these areas as the future unfolds. They probably will not require a breakneck qualitative buildup akin to the Reagan era, but they will require the steady improvements that accompany robust modernization and preparedness efforts. The amount of increase needed in any single year might not be large, but over the course of a decade or so, the total increase could be substantial, forces that are perhaps 25-50 percent stronger than now. Meeting this goal will require persistent efforts by DOD, adequate funding, and innovation.

As the QDR Report 2001 says, the future will require more than the steady amassing of greater combat capabilities in a technical and mechanical sense. It also will require that U.S. forces become highly adaptable, flexible, and agile. This especially will be the case in the mid-term and beyond, when current global conditions could mutate in major ways. Rather than being rigidly fixed for a narrow set of contingencies and response patterns, U.S. forces will need to be able to operate in a wide set of crises and to respond in diverse ways that change greatly from case to case. They will need to be able to react adroitly to surprising events, to shift gears abruptly, and to perform strategic U-turns gracefully. These characteristics necessitate that U.S. forces provide a flexible portfolio of assets and modular building-blocks that can be combined and recombined to meet fluctuating situations and operational needs.

These emerging requirements, and the strategic conditions that generate them, mean that transformation cannot be single-dimensional in its thinking. Only a few years ago, transformation was seen in mostly linear terms, as an exercise in balancing readiness, modernization, and futurist technological innovation. This agenda will remain important, but emerging global security conditions necessitate that transformation also be carried out in ways that respond to new strategic challenges, missions, and international imperatives. The act of designing U.S. forces to handle changes that both bubble up from below and emerge from abroad greatly complicates how transformation must be planned. Transformation, moreover, cannot focus on only one time frame or strategic goal; it must ensure that U.S. forces become steadily more capable from the near term onward, acquire greater flexibility and adaptability for the mid-term, and absorb the exotic new technologies, weapons, and doctrines that will become available in the long term. Achieving all three of these goals necessitates a transformation strategy that is sophisticated, balanced, and multifaceted. The looming challenge will be to carry out this complex transformation with the resources that will be available, to set priorities in sensible ways, and to distribute shortfalls so that the risks in any single period, and in any functional area, are properly balanced.

“Steady As You Go” Strategy

A “steady as you go” transformation strategy would aim to achieve a slow, evolutionary march into the future. Inspired by the time-honored slogan, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” it is anchored in the premise that because U.S. forces are already the world’s best by a wide margin, they do not need a major face-lift or overhaul. Instead, this strategy is based on the assumption that U.S. forces require only a gradual increase in capabilities that comes from steady-state modernization without big, hasty changes in platforms, structures, and operational concepts. Under this strategy, transformation will remain an element of DOD planning, but not the most important venture. Barring a major upsurge of new funds for acquisition, its pace will be similar to that of recent years. A decade or so from now, U.S. forces will be better armed than today, but their core features are likely to be mostly similar to now.

While this strategy may not inspire visionaries, it has several advantages. It is manageable because it does not overburden DOD. It allows U.S. forces to maintain their high readiness and to modernize gradually without subjecting them to an avalanche of difficult changes. It is prudent because it does not bet the future on risky, unproven ideas that could have negative unintended consequences. This strategy also is feasible because it can be carried out with the resources that realistically can be expected to be available. It will command the support of the military services and CINCs. It will allow the services to purchase significant numbers of new weapons now emerging from the research and development (R&D) pipeline, thereby recapitalizing their rapidly aging inventory. This strategy provides room to adopt new ideas and technologies as the services verify their merits. It can be safely relied upon to deliver its goods. Provided future defense budgets are big enough to support both readiness and accelerated modernization, it will produce the steady but meaningful increases in capabilities that it offers.

The drawbacks of this strategy are equally obvious. By preserving U.S. forces mostly as they exist today, this strategy may suffice for the near term, but its suitability for the mid-term and long term is suspect. While it will elevate U.S. force capabilities in a technical and mechanical sense, it might not produce the gains in flexibility, adaptability, and agility that are needed for the mid-term and beyond. It might not improve U.S. forces in the specific ways that will be mandated by growing adversary threats. For example, it might not adequately enhance their capacity to overpower antiaccess/area-denial threats. It runs the risk of perpetuating problems that are already evident with existing force structures, such as the Army’s ponderous, slowly deploying formations. It might not robustly pursue joint operations, information-era networking, and new doctrines. It might overlook opportunities to strengthen U.S. forces through innovative programs and faster pursuit of exotic new technologies, weapons, and platforms that could become available in the long term.

Those who support this strategy assert that DOD and the services already have transformation well in hand and do not need to accelerate or greatly alter it. Critics deride this strategy as too stodgy, perpetuating industrial-era forces in the information era. Perhaps they are too harsh; this strategy can be pursued faster and more aggressively than a turtle-like crawl into the future. But transformation does require a powerful strategic vision and a coherent plan for making defense changes that are not only desirable but also necessary. U.S. forces cannot afford to stand pat or to act as though the coming era will reward business as usual. The steady as you go strategy suffers from the risk that it will neglect the future, not master it.

“Leap Ahead” Strategy

The “leap ahead” strategy is the polar opposite of “steady as you go.” Leap ahead embodies revolutionary goals, bold agendas, fast progress, and big changes. Rather than focusing on the near term or mid-term, it is occupied with radically transforming U.S. forces for the long term. Some of its proponents argue that U.S. forces should focus intently on just one or two new operational concepts; examples are standoff targeting and Asian littoral operations. Others go considerably further. They calculate that the coming 10 to 15 years will provide a strategic pause, a period of lessened international dangers that will enable U.S. strategy to focus on preparing to meet greatly enhanced threats in the distant future, including China’s potential emergence as a military power and WMD proliferation to several regional rogues. Accordingly, they are willing to accept smaller forces and less modernization in the coming decade to fund new technologies and forces that can defeat future threats. An extreme version of this strategy calls for DOD to skip virtually the entire generation of weapons now emerging from the R&D pipeline in order to release funds for speeding the march into the distant future. Such Pentagon perennials as the F-22, the Joint Strike Fighter, Crusader, Osprey, DD-21, and the new CVNX carrier could fall victim wholly or partly to this reprioritizing.

A centerpiece of leap ahead is a bigger R&D effort in such areas as ballistic missile defenses, information systems, space assets, and a host of exotic technologies. The strategy argues that traditional platforms are dinosaurs that will be extinct 2 or 3 decades from now. Accordingly, it calls for vigorous development of new platforms and force structures. For the Air Force, it would replace today’s fighters with strategic bombers, unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs), and cruise missiles. For the Navy, it would replace today’s big carriers and associated battlegroups with smaller carriers, arsenal ships and submarines that fire many cruise missiles, mobile off-shore bases, high-tech surface combatants, littoral ships, and fast patrol boats (such as those proposed as part of the Streetfighter concept). For the Army, it would bypass the Interim Force’s mix of heavy, intermediate, and light units to accelerate conversion to a mobile, high-tech force based on ultra-light forces and deep fires: an advanced version of the Objective Force now being pursued.

A main attraction of the leap ahead strategy is its innovativeness, creativity, and forward-looking mentality. It shakes off preoccupation with the near term to focus attention on the distant future, its new technologies, and its new forms of warfare. This strategy’s attitude of being willing to upset applecarts and to accept high risks in pursuit of big payoffs is commonly portrayed as a healthy antidote to bureaucratic conservatism. By opening the door to an exciting new era of high-tech forces, leap ahead offers a path for the U.S. military to break away from the traditional practices of the past. Its emphasis on a few bold operational concepts offers a way to design future forces to wage war differently than now and to channel the acquisition of new technologies so that they combine together to produce integrated doctrines.

The drawbacks of this strategy become evident when its details are subjected to scrutiny. A main liability is that it may mortgage the near term and the mid-term in order to invest in the distant future. What will happen to U.S. security if the future produces major conflicts and wars in the next 10 to 15 years, not a strategic pause of relative peace? Will U.S. forces possess the necessary capability and flexibility if the world remains dangerous in this period? If not, this strategy has potentially fatal flaws. This strategy also risks tearing the U.S. military apart in order to pursue ideas that may prove to be poorly conceived or simply infeasible. Some of its operational concepts may make sense but only as contributions to a larger enterprise. As single-minded designs, they could leave the U.S. military less flexible and adaptable than today. This strategy’s emphasis on exotic new technologies sounds appealing in principle, but many of them are unproven and untested. Indeed, a number are little more than glimmers in the eyes of scientists; they may prove to be infeasible or ineffective even if they are fully funded. This strategy could also leave the U.S. military in trouble in the distant future. How are the services to gauge technological directions if they do not acquire the weapons now emerging from the R&D pipeline, learn from their features, and make informed judgments about follow-on efforts? In addition, this strategy also suffers from imposing political problems. It is not likely to elicit the enthusiastic support of the services, which will be the institutions responsible for bringing it to fruition. If added atop the existing defense budget, its high costs could break the bank. If it is funded by imposing draconian cuts elsewhere, it could produce an unbalanced defense program, resulting in big losses of valuable capabilities in exchange for pursuing distant visions that could prove ephemeral.

Proponents praise this strategy for its daring vision. Critics regard it as an uncharted leap into the unknown, and perhaps into a bottomless void. The truth of the matter is hard to know without embracing the strategy in order to see if it works. But there are ample reasons for being skeptical of its sweeping formulations and alluring promises. Today’s U.S. forces became the world’s best not because they lurched ahead or embraced single-minded designs but because their improvements were carefully planned, tested, and evaluated as they became available. Nor did DOD lose sight of its multiple goals, its need for balanced forces, and its responsibility to protect national security across all time periods, not just the distant future. To the extent that these lessons apply in the future, the leap ahead strategy suffers by comparison. Parts of this strategy may make sense, but wholly buying into it is a different matter.

Purposeful and Measured Transformation

Our preferred strategy aims for a sensible blend of “steady as you go” and “leap ahead” because this is the best way to pursue transformation safely and effectively. If carried out wisely, this strategy is capable of eliciting the support of the services, achieving success with the budgets likely to be available, and accelerating effective reforms while keeping U.S. military strength intact. In balanced ways, this strategy strives to achieve all three key goals of keeping U.S. forces ready in the near term of 5 years, enhancing their flexibility and adaptability in the mid-term of 6 to 15 years, and acquiring exotic new technologies especially for the long term. This strategy’s key feature is its explicit focus on the mid-term, which becomes not only a core planning concept in its own right but also a bridge for linking the near term with the long term.

By focusing on the mid-term, this strategy provides targets and milestones for gauging how improvements in the near term and beyond can be orchestrated for steady improvement of U.S. military capabilities, flexibility, and adaptability. It provides a solid framework for gauging how long-term changes and new technologies can be pursued with firm standards and concrete goals. Under its guidance, long-term planning no longer involves a great leap from near-term capabilities into a hazy future. Rather it becomes a well-focused exercise for determining how to build upon mid-term achievements to pursue the further improvements needed afterward. In essence, this strategy helps provide binoculars for seeing the future with enough clarity to know how to prepare.

Joint operations will be key to future defense strategy and missions, and thus one of this strategy’s principal aims is to develop better forces and assets for this purpose. In modern warfare, each service requires contributions from the others in order to carry out its missions. Naval and marine amphibious forces are critical to securing access to littoral areas so as to allow ground and air forces to deploy safely. They also provide fully one-third of U.S. tactical air power and deep-strike assets for intense combat once deployment is complete. Ground forces require help from air power to degrade enemy maneuver forces and logistic support, while air forces benefit when ground forces compel the enemy to mass its forces, thereby exposing them to air attack.

Equally important, joint operations generate greater combat power and battlefield effectiveness. They permit integrated campaigns that create maximum leverage and firepower through coordinated missions. Modern warfare places a high premium on swift, simultaneous missions carried out by multiple components, rather than the slower-unfolding, sequential missions of the past. Speed and simultaneity by jointly operating forces are used to fracture the cohesion of enemy forces, disrupt their battlefield strategy, and leave them vulnerable to the effects of maneuver, fire, and shock action. They have become vital to winning quickly and decisively, with few losses to American and allied forces. Creating a better capacity for joint operations can be pursued through such steps as acquiring new C4ISR systems, developing information networks, pursuing joint doctrines, and perhaps establishing joint task forces at key commands.

In its efforts to develop a better capability and adaptability for joint operations, this transformation strategy does not tear apart existing force structures on the premise that because they worked effectively in the past, they cannot work in the future. But neither does it stand still in this arena. Instead, it seeks to pursue a responsible, well planned effort to reorganize and reengineer current structures in order to make them better attuned to the information age. It uses as a model the ways in which many U.S. business corporations have pursued reengineering of their structures and functions in order to compete more effectively. They have stripped away redundant management layers, abandoned unproductive enterprises, created interlocking information networks rather than hierarchical organizations, and focused organizational functions on profitable business outputs. Reengineering must be handled carefully in order to enhance existing practices rather than destroy them, but if carried out wisely, it can produce constructive innovations. U.S. military forces can profit from similar reorganization and reengineering to enhance their combat power, even in the years before new weapons and exotic technologies arrive on the scene.

Critics often say that the Army is the service that is most in need of such changes in order to replace its big, ponderous forces with streamlined combat and support units that can deploy swiftly and strike lethally in a joint setting. One idea, for example, is to replace the Army’s existing corps of three divisions (105,000 soldiers) with a smaller corps of 5 to 6 brigade-sized combat groups totaling 65,000 troops. As other chapters of this volume suggest, similar thinking can also be applied to the Air Force, Navy, and Marines, and to the DOD domestic infrastructure. In the Navy, for example, reengineering might involve stationing Marine infantry units on carriers and configuring amphibious assault ships to operate as small aircraft carriers. Efforts to develop new ideas and experiment with them already are under way by the Joint Forces Command and the services. The issue is whether, and in what ways, these efforts should be accelerated or changed. A general guiding principle stands out. The services should not be hostile to change and innovation, but instead welcome it as the best way to prepare for the 21st century of warfare. Clearly, they should not embrace new ideas for their own sake because new ideas are not necessarily good ideas. But they should experiment vigorously with attractive ideas and, when these ideas show merit, adopt them in a careful manner.

A purposeful and measured transformation also means that the U.S. military will need to modernize its weapon systems soon, not in the distant future. Many current weapons are still the world’s best, but most were bought years ago and are anchored in technology developed in the 1970s. Many will soon be approaching the end of their useful lives, and some will shortly become either obsolete or too costly to maintain. Others will lose their competitive status on the battlefield as enemy forces acquire new technologies capable of shooting down U.S. aircraft, destroying U.S. tanks, and sinking U.S. ships. Critics who argue that the coming generation of technologies should be skipped in order to pursue future exotic systems often fail to remember that the armed services already have skipped a generation because they procured few new weapons in the late 1980s and 1990s. The extended “procurement holiday” of that period forecloses another lengthy holiday in order to energize the R&D process for distant achievements. If such a holiday were taken, U.S. forces would find their capabilities increasingly eroding in the dangerous period ahead as they wait for exotic weapons that will become available only in the far distant future.

Air modernization is the highest priority and most expensive program, but the ground and naval forces will need modernization as well. Critics often deride the new aircraft and other weapons now emerging from the R&D pipeline as merely “legacy” systems rather than as transformational platforms. But their capabilities are often so significantly advanced over existing models that they make the term legacy seem suspect. As past experience shows, there is nothing wrong with perpetuating legacy platforms if the result is to acquire new technologies and subcomponents that produce impressive capabilities that meet future requirements. The real issue is not whether these new aircraft and other weapons should be procured but instead whether enough of them can be bought with the funds likely to be available. Fiscal realities may conspire to slow the purchase of these new weapons, but this does not erode their military worthiness for the coming era.

In the view of this transformation strategy, the need to acquire new weapons emerging from the R&D pipeline does not negate the powerful reasons to consider alternative platforms and to pursue exotic technologies. Such new platforms as UCAVs, lightweight armored vehicles, and new naval combatants offer the potential to enhance U.S. combat capabilities, not as substitutes for legacy platforms but as complements to them. The same applies to such new technologies as robotics, new computer systems, ultra-smart munitions, hypervelocity missiles, electromagnetic rail guns, directed energy weapons, and nanotechnology. This transformation strategy calls for relevant new platforms and technologies to be funded, developed, tested, procured, and deployed as they mature, but they should not be acquired wholesale simply for their own sake. As they become available, they can be subjected to cost-effectiveness evaluation and integrated into the evolving force posture accordingly.

What kind of force posture will a purposeful and measured transformation likely produce in the mid-term and somewhat beyond? In addition to being more capable and adaptable, the posture will be aligned with new U.S. defense strategy and future missions. It is likely to deploy similar manpower levels and combat formations as today, but it will have different internal characteristics. Perhaps 10 to 20 percent of the posture will be radically transformed in order to carry out demanding new operations in special areas (discussed below). It will possess ultra-high-tech weapons, brand-new structures, sophisticated information systems and networks, and specialized capabilities. The remainder of the posture may be labeled legacy forces, but they will be different from current forces in key ways. They will have reengineered structures, they will be equipped with new weapons and support assets, and they will be better tailored for joint operations. This, of course, is a snapshot of the posture at one point in time. The posture will be evolving continuously as the future unfolds, gradually incorporating more changes in structures, technologies, and weapons. But if this snapshot accurately portrays the mid-term, it offers promise that U.S. forces will be significantly improved, still superior over opponents, able to win their wars, and transformed in the ways that count.

New Operational Goals to Guide Transformation

If a purposeful and measured transformation is to succeed, it must be guided by sound operational concepts that specify how U.S. forces should be prepared, deployed, and employed for combat missions and warfighting. A critical task is to evaluate new concepts to determine whether they fit sensibly into overall defense strategy and transformation goals, will actually produce their advertised capabilities in cost-effective ways, and can be blended together to provide wise guidance for building forces and allocating resources.

Joint Vision 2020 (JV 2020), a document produced by the Joint Staff in 2000, currently provides the main intellectual leadership for defense planning. Focused on joint forces for full-spectrum dominance, its core strategic concepts call for decisive force, power projection, overseas presence, and strategic agility. Based on this strategic architecture, JV 2020’s key operational concepts include information superiority, dominant maneuver, precision engagement, full-dimensional protection, and focused logistics. Within the military services, such concepts as rapid decisive operations and effects-based operations have gained prominence as ways to help supplement JV 2020.2

While JV 2020 remains valid, recent defense reviews have produced a new set of operational concepts that are potential candidates for inclusion. Each of them is significant individually, but seen collectively, their importance grows. Many offer potent ideas for guiding transformation, acquiring new technologies, and creating new force structures. Virtually all of these concepts focus on keeping U.S. forces superior to future adversaries, mostly through acquiring new technologies and systems. They reflect presumptions that future adversaries will be stronger than now; will have access to information era systems; and will employ asymmetric strategies to help foil U.S. operations. In particular, they presume that future enemy forces will launch swiftly unfolding strikes in order to win quickly before U.S. forces can arrive on the scene. As a result, these concepts call upon U.S. forces to deploy swiftly and to win decisively, with minimum American and allied casualties. They thus seek to dominate future wars by controlling them, defeating enemy forces operationally and destroying them, occupying key territory, and producing favorable political outcomes.

The new operational concepts can be grouped into two categories (see table 3-2). The first category provides concepts primarily for building transformed forces through new technologies and reengineering of structures. Owing to their general characteristics, such forces could be employed in combat in a variety of different ways. The second category provides guidance on more specific ways to employ these forces in crises and wars. All 10 concepts can be considered goals of transformation. See the appendix to this chapter for a detailed discussion of each concept.3


These new operational concepts are key to forging a purposeful and measured transformation because they provide a concrete sense of how future forces should operate and of the capabilities that will be needed. Their main thrust is to prepare high-tech combat forces, with advanced information networks and space assets, backed by strong mobility forces and lean logistic supply units. Their offensive measures will create jointly operated forces from all services that can strike lethally at long range while dominating close engagements on the battlefield itself. Their defensive measures will help protect U.S. forces against new-era threats, especially weapons of mass destruction and antiaccess/area-denial threats. Their emphasis on developing a wider network of bases and facilities, including along the Asian littoral, will help enable U.S. forces to operate in new geographic locations. The effect will be not only to create better capabilities in a technical sense but also to enhance adaptability, especially in contingencies at the medium-to-high end of the spectrum.

Nevertheless, these and other new operational concepts must be evaluated carefully to ensure that they make strategic sense, will produce new capabilities required by the armed services, and fit together to provide a coherent approach to warfighting. If they prove out, these concepts offer a new strategic vision for building and employing future U.S. forces, strengthened in multiple ways to carry out demanding missions through new-era joint operations. They will need appropriate weapons, technologies, and other assets for these new missions and operations, and therefore the transformation process must be accelerated. But this vision does not require a frantic leap into an uncharted future. It can be accomplished through a purposeful and measured transformation focused on the mid-term that embodies a mixture of continuity and change through a combination of upgraded legacy forces and some ultra-sophisticated forces.

This appealing vision of enhanced American technological prowess should not lose sight of equally important strategic judgments: that the Armed Forces must remain well trained and well led, that wars will remain contests of willpower, and that U.S. combat operations will always need to be guided by well conceived political and military goals. Moreover, this vision has important global political implications that need to be recognized and handled wisely. The idea that the United States is assembling swift, high-tech strike forces backed by missile defenses will be welcomed by some countries, but it already is triggering apprehension in others, including allies and adversaries. Diplomacy will be needed to underscore that the United States is behaving responsibly, not like a rogue hyperpower with a unilateral agenda. Embedding American defense preparations in multilateral security ties, interoperability with allied forces, and partnership relations can help reduce apprehension. The larger point, of course, is that strongly transformed forces will help enhance the credibility of the United States abroad, strengthen its capacity to mold peacetime security affairs in ways that safeguard its interests, and defeat enemies that threaten the safety of the American people.

Notwithstanding their many attractive features, these concepts should not be viewed as a cure-all or as offering a stand-alone defense strategy. While they mainly focus on wars at the high end of the spectrum, most do not pay comparable attention to the lower end, where force improvements may also be needed. Their preoccupation with new technologies for strike operations, if carried too far, might risk overlooking the many other types of warfighting and the need for well prepared forces that are ready in many ways. These concepts will need to be accompanied by measures in such mundane and often-neglected areas as logistic support, maintenance, and war reserves. Otherwise, they could create forces that possess glittering new technologies but lack the overall wherewithal to fight effectively.

These concepts and related transformation endeavors must be accompanied by a sound resource strategy and balanced investments. Adequate defense budgets will be needed: sustained increases that permit new ventures. Absent major reductions in other areas, nonetheless, fiscal constraints will be tight for many years, and priorities therefore must be set. None of these concepts offers a free lunch; all of them require investments in new capabilities. Fortunately, several of them are not very expensive. They can be carried out adequately with funding support that is consistent with foreseeable budgets. The exceptions are missile defense, space assets, and air modernization, all of which carry big price tags if pursued fully. In these and other costly programs, investment decisions will need to be made with a balanced focus on high-leverage payoffs and cost-effectiveness. Otherwise, spending on a few big-ticket concepts could leave the others starved for funds.

If savings must be found, the answer is not necessarily neglecting these concepts or slashing combat forces, which consume only one-third of the DOD budget. Equal or greater savings likely can be found by controlling the spiraling operations and maintenance (O&M) budget, trimming manpower across DOD, and reengineering domestic support structures. A great menace to affording transformation is the rising cost of the defense budget in other areas. DOD operating costs today (per capita spending for O&M and military manpower) are about 25 percent higher than a decade ago in constant dollars. Per capita spending on O&M today is fully 50 percent higher than a decade ago. Today, the annual O&M budget of about $125 billion is fully double the procurement budget, which stood at only about $62 billion for fiscal year 2002. In the 1980s, procurement spending was the same size as O&M budgets, not far smaller. Today’s procurement budgets are far short of the amount needed to fund a major acquisition effort for transformation. Bigger procurement as well as research, development, test, and evaluation budgets are expected in the coming years. Unless ways can be found to stem the rising tide of operating costs and the domestic defense infrastructure, a successful transformation will be difficult to achieve regardless of how many new concepts are created.

Even if adequate funds are available for transformation, the need for a coherent plan and program will not go away. The strength of these 10 operational concepts lies not in their individual features, but in their capacity to work together to create a composite theory of force preparedness and employment doctrines. Any effort to pursue only a few concepts, while neglecting the others, could produce an unbalanced force incapable of the full-spectrum operations required by future strategic challenges. For example, preoccupation with missile defenses, standoff targeting, and littoral maritime operations could result in inadequate forces for direct crisis interventions. Likewise, an emphasis on forcible entry and deep strike, to the exclusion of close combat capabilities, could result in a lack of strong ground forces.

The armed services will be best served by investing wisely in a full set of valid new concepts in affordable, well planned ways, while attending to the other aspects of defense preparedness. In the final analysis, a strong military posture will be marked by the capacity to perform many missions and operations effectively, rather than a few superbly and others poorly. This is a central lesson of the past decades, during which the United States struggled hard to build its superior forces of today. It likely will prove to be the guiding beacon for building and using transformed forces for the 21st century.

Appendix: Key Features of New Operational Concepts

This appendix provides additional information on the characteristics, attractions, and potential drawbacks of 10 proposed new operational concepts.

Joint Response Strike Forces for Early Entry Operations

The concept of joint response strike forces for early entry is anchored in the premise that U.S. forces must become better at deploying to a crisis in the early stages, during the critical initial days and weeks. It calls for configuring a portion of the military posture for rapid deployment followed by the demanding defensive and offensive operations that take place in the early stages, often in the face of enemy surprise attacks aimed at winning before large U.S. reinforcements arrive. Some proponents argue that this concept could result in creation of standing joint task forces in the major theater commands and the continental United States (CONUS), charged with deploying rapidly and fighting aggressively. Irrespective of command arrangements, this concept calls for joint forces configured for early entry, capable of halting the attack, seizing the initiative by degrading enemy forces, striking such initial targets as WMD systems, and securing rear areas for later-arriving reinforcements. In the view of its proponents, the strength of this concept is that it could focus defense planning on “tip-of-the-spear” forces, with the remaining forces providing multiple powerful shafts. Its drawback is that it could result in insufficient attention to follow-on reinforcements that could also be critical to winning.

Forces that will begin arriving within 2 to 4 days and complete their deployment within 30 days must be highly ready, capable of moving rapidly, and unencumbered by ponderous logistics. Limited in size and often outnumbered, these forces must be equippedýwith advanced information systems, modernized weapons, and ultra-high-tech systems that provide high lethality, survivability, and tactical flexibility. Air forces would require stealthy interceptors and fighter bombers, supported by AWACs and JSTARS, and ample stocks of ultra-smart munitions. Perhaps three to six fighter wing equivalents, backed by strategic bombers, could be needed for a single operation. Naval forces must be capable of potent littoral capabilities for initially defending zones of joint operations, supporting troop movements ashore, and bombarding enemy forces from long distances. A carrier battlegroup, an amphibious ready group, and other specialized combatants usually will be needed. Ground forces must be capable of protecting air bases and seaports, conducting active reconnaissance of enemy forces, and engaging in blocking actions and limited meeting engagements when necessary. These will be light mechanized forces—lean enough to deploy swiftly but strong enough for intense combat—or lean armored units, coupled with air assault and deep fires assets: at least a division and preferably a corps for a single operation.

Enhanced Information Systems and Space-Based Assets for Force Networking

While information operations are already a staple of JV 2020, the proposed new guiding concept calls for accelerated efforts to develop new systems that could further enhance combat operations. Its ultimate goal is to network all joint forces fully so that they can work together in conducting high-speed, simultaneous, and decisive operations. This network would bring all forces—across all services and missions, from top to bottom of the command structure—into close contact in ways providing high coordination even if the forces themselves are widely distributed. This concept calls for a network of interlocking information grids that provide dominant battlespace awareness: an intelligence grid, a communications grid, an engagement grid, and a logistic support grid. It also calls for strong information warfare assets: the capacity to defend U.S. networks against enemy attacks and to degrade enemy networks.

This concept, moreover, envisions greater use of space-based assets. Modernized satellites for communications, navigation, and intelligence surveillance will be needed, with systems capable of operating in all weather conditions and linked directly to thý deployed forces. Also envisioned is a global satellite system that provides near-real-time targeting data: a JSTARS in space. If weapons in space are deployed, they are likely to be limited initially to missile defense systems, but in the distant future, other strike assets and transport systems might be deployed there. Greater reliance on space will necessitate defensive systems for protecting against enemy interference, coupled with capabilities to degrade the enemy’s use of space. Overall, the strength of this concept lies in its capacity to move U.S. forces more boldly into the information age with technologies that enemies will be hard-pressed to match any time soon. But preoccupation with information systems and space should not come at the expense of neglecting combat forces and weapons. Seeing the battlefield better than the enemy does will not, itself, guarantee victory.

Accelerated Deployment of Theater Missile Defenses for Force Protection

The recent effort to accelerate deployment of missile defenses is a major departure in U.S. defense strategy and an important part of transformation. Currently, public attention is focused on national missile defenses (NMD) and other homeland defense measures. However, the deployment of theater air and missile defenses (TAMD) may be more important for facilitating overseas military operations. Whereas NMD will protect U.S. territory, TAMD will protect the Armed Forces in war zones from attack by theater ballistic missiles and cruise missiles armed with WMD or conventional warheads. TAMD also will help protect allied countries and their forces. Currently, several systems are being developed. Lower-tier systems would provide defense against short-range missiles: the primary system is Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3). Upper-tier systems would defend large areas against medium-range and intermediate-range missiles: included are Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), the Navy Theater Wide System, and airborne lasers.

Decisions have not yet been made on the exact mix of systems, but deployment likely will unfold faster than for NMD. The combination of NMD and TAMD defenses will enhance the capacity of U.S. forces to operate safely in an era of accelerating WMD proliferation. The risks are threefold: missile defenses will not be foolproof even against limited threats; they will complicate political relations with allies and other countries; and costly options could result in funding shortfalls for other combat forces. A consideration for future force operations is that missile defense deployments will not take place in a strategic vacuum. During the Cold War, American strategy relied on several key concepts to integrate its use of conventional and nuclear forces, such as extended deterrence, forward defense, flexible response, graduated escalation, and massive retaliation. Over the past decade, conventional wars have been waged outside the shadow of nuclear escalation. In the future, conventional wars likely will be waged against enemies possessing WMD systems. A new set of integrated concepts for determining how to handle escalation will be needed, but unlike the Cold War, missile defenses will be a factor in the equation.

Realigned Overseas Presence and Better Mobility for Swift Power Projection

The concept of realigned overseas presence and better mobility for swift power projection calls for switching overseas presence away from lingering Cold War missions toward the new missions and strategic geography of the future. It would focus the U.S. presence in Europe (109,000 troops today) away from NATO border defense and toward becoming a hub for power projection into distant areas, not only on Europe’s periphery but in the greater Middle East and Persian Gulf as well. It also would use a reengineered U.S. presence to help guide allied forces into their own transformation. While it will continue defending on the Korean peninsula until a peaceful resolution is achieved there, this concept would launch similar changes in the American posture in Asia of nearly 100,000 troops, to focus on new power-projection missions along the Asian littoral and in South Asia. The result might be fewer troops in Europe and more in Asia; more important, the forces would be reengineered for swift deployments to distant areas, and they would be equipped with information-era structures and assets for new missions, which often will be mobile and littoral, not stationary and continental. Along with these changes to forces would come efforts to develop better access to bases, facilities, and infrastructure along the unstable southern belt.

This concept also calls for stronger strategic-mobility assets to speed the deployment of CONUS-stationed forces and logistic support assets to crisis zones. It would invest in more prepositioning of equipment and stocks afloat and ashore, bigger and faster transport ships, improvements to existing heavy air transports, better offshore logistic support, and faster offloading abroad in places where access to big ports and airfields is limited. As new technology becomes available, super-heavy air transports and ships might also be acquired. Overall, the combination of a realigned overseas presence and better mobility for swift power projection offers promise in the mid-term, and this concept can be mostly carried out with existing or emerging technologies. But altering overseas presence can alarm countries losing U.S. forces as well as those gaining them. In addition, while modest increases to strategic mobility forces are affordable, major improvements could be expensive.

Interoperable Allied Forces for Multilateral Operations

The concept of interoperable allied forces for multilateral operations recognizes that most U.S. combat operations will be multilateral, often involving major participation by allies and partners. Accordingly, it calls for efforts to reengineer and improve their forces so that they can operate with American forces that are undergoing transformation. This concept emphasizes the need for allied information systems and networks that can interoperate with U.S. networks. In the coming era, interoperability will mostly be a product of establishing connectivity between American and allied information nets, rather than acquiring identical weapons and munitions. This concept also envisions allied improvements to provide better expeditionary forces, power projection assets, long-distance logistic support, modern weapons, and smart munitions. It aims not for mirror images of the Armed Forces, but instead for allied forces that can participate as team players, often carrying out niche missions of their own.

In Europe, this would involve a follow-on to the NATO Defense Capability Initiative (DCI). Adopted in 1999 as a multiyear plan, DCI was broadly cast and is now stalling. A new initiative would focus more narrowly on configuring modern allied forces for networked operations and for new expeditionary and projection missions. Such a plan could be integrated with European Union efforts to create multilateral forces of its own. In the Persian Gulf, this concept takes advantage of improving Saudi and Kuwaiti forces, and those of other friendly countries, to provide better niche assets in such critical areas as initial defense, suppression of enemy antiaccess efforts, and support of U.S. reinforcements. In Asia, it envisions the forces of Japan, South Korea, Australia, and other countries gradually becoming better at power projection, new missions, and interoperability with the Armed Forces. Overall, the idea of better and more interoperable allied and partner forces makes strategic sense and is vitally necessary if future U.S. military strategy is to succeed and burdens are to be shared fairly. But this concept faces political constraints. Convincing these countries to respond with bigger defense budgets and improved forces is easier said than done. Even when allied and partner forces are militarily capable, multilateral combat operations can be difficult to carry out. When allied forces fall short in their missions, American forces must pick up the slack or risk damaging battlefield setbacks.

Maritime Littoral Operations for Projecting Power Ashore

Ever since the Cold War ended and the Soviet naval threat disappeared, the U.S. Navy has increasingly focused on littoral operations. In the past decade, the Navy has played important littoral roles in Desert Storm, Kosovo, the Balkans, peacekeeping, enforcing no-fly zones in the Persian Gulf, and helping deter MTW aggression by Iraq and North Korea. Such missions will continue, but new maritime littoral operations will be different and more demanding. These operations increasingly will focus not just on controlling littoral waters but also on using the littoral to project naval and marine power ashore in support of joint campaigns. In the coming years, these naval missions will be conducted against enemies that may possess missiles, mines, and submarines capable of threatening American ships. Naval forces, supported by joint assets, will be operating along the vast Asian littoral for the strategic purpose of reassuring allies and friends, protecting critical sea lines and commerce zones, and dissuading China from pursuing excess geopolitical ambitions.

The combination of heightened threats and new emphasis on Asian littoral missions has given rise to a mounting debate over the Navy’s future. One issue is its size: whether it should stay level at about 300 ships, grow, or decline as a result of slow shipbuilding. Another issue is the nature of the Navy’s future ships: whether big carriers and traditional combatants should dominate or, instead, the Navy should procure different platforms. A third issue is political: determining how to employ Asian littoral operations in a manner that advances American interests and regional stability rather than inflaming tense situations. Resolving these issues wisely will be key not only to charting the Navy’s course but also to carrying out U.S. defense strategy and foreign policy in an era of accelerating globalization.

Standoff Targeting and Forcible Entry for Antiaccess/Area-Denial Threats

The operational concept of standoff targeting and forcible entry is focused on overpowering antiaccess or area-denial threats so that the Armed Forces can gain decisive entry into hot crisis zones. Its two components are intended to work together on behalf of the same strategic purposes. Whereas standoff targeting helps suppress enemy defenses, forcible entry operations complete the job and establish U.S. forces at forward locations in the crisis zone. The challenge is to integrate these two components with their relative contributions in mind.

Standoff targeting involves using strategic bombers, cruise missiles, and future exotic systems to bombard enemy targets from long distances. The use of strategic bombers to support theater campaigns is hardly new; the United States employed B-52s in Vietnam and made significant use of bombers and cruise missiles in Desert Storm and Kosovo. The idea has gained added prominence recently for two reasons. Some analysts fear that in future conflicts, American forces either will lack access to forward bases and infrastructure or will be unable to operate safely against enemy antiaccess/area-denial threats. In addition, the existing forces of nearly 200 bombers and ships with cruise missiles can generate up to one-fourth of the military’s air-delivered firepower. The growing accuracy of smart munitions is giving them the capacity to carry out lethal bombardment campaigns on their own, from rear bases and outside enemy threat envelopes. A key effect can be to help suppress enemy defenses, thereby allowing other U.S. forces to converge. The time has arrived to make full use of these increasingly effective assets in American plans for future theater war.

Standoff targeting clearly has a contributing role to play in future defense strategy. At issue is whether it should be supplementary to or a replacement for traditional forward-deployed forces. Arguments against relying too heavily on this concept are severalfold. The act of abandoning forward commitments in favor of rearward stationing could unnerve allies and friends that rely on American security guarantees, while suggesting to adversaries that the United States is losing the willpower to resist them. Some analysts dispute the notion that forward bases will often be lacking, and they assert that future enemy threats can be readily overcome. They note that the act of relying heavily on standoff targeting could necessitate a big increase in associated forces, perhaps requiring more B-2 bombers and cruise missile ships in numbers that divert major funds from other combat forces.

Forcible entry asserts that U.S. military strategy should remain anchored in forward operations but acknowledges that future antiaccess/area-denial threats will necessitate a concerted effort to become better at directly inserting combat forces in the face of opposition. Supporting this concept is historical legacy. The Armed Forces have been operating successfully against such threats since World War II. The threat posed by Soviet forces during the Cold War was considerably more potent than that likely to be mounted by future rivals any time soon. Nonetheless, the combination of enemy ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, submarines and mines, and WMD systems means that future crisis interventions in many places will be more difficult than those of the past decade, when little opposition to U.S. deployments was encountered.

Forcible entry will require a joint, coordinated effort by all services. The challenge will be to improve the forces in ways that are effective, balanced, and affordable. Better standoff targeting and other strike assets will be needed to help suppress enemy defenses. The Navy will require better networked defenses against cruise missiles, ballistic missile defenses, and other threats. The Air Force and Army will need to become proficient at swiftly deploying stealthy air interceptors and Patriot batteries. The Army and Marines will need to be able to deploy light, dispersible forces in the early stages. Airfields, ports, and other infrastructure will require hardening. Improved capabilities will be needed for offshore logistics and force projection into unprepared areas. Often lost in the clamor for expensive programs in this arena is recognition that better allied forces potentially can carry much of the early defense load, thereby easing the forcible entry challenge for American forces.

Enhanced Tactical Deep Strikes for Effective Use of Joint Air Assets

The concept of enhanced tactical deep strikes aims at upgrading the capacity of forward-committed U.S. forces to conduct lethal air bombardment of enemy formations in their rear areas. While strategic bombers and cruise missiles can help, a deep strike campaign would be carried out primarily by tactical air forces, multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) with Army tactical missile systems (ATACMs), attack helicopters, and long-range artillery. Major progress has been made recently in strengthening the Armed Forces in this arena but further gains are possible. JSTARS and navigational satellites permit near-real-time targeting, including targeting against mobile ground forces. Such munitions as the joint air-to-surface standoff missile (JASSM), the joint direct attack munition (JDAM), the joint standoff weapon (JSOW), sensor-fused weapons (SFW/Skeet), and the brilliant anti-tack munition (BAT) permit highly accurate, lethal strikes against a wide spectrum of targets, including armored vehicles. The F-22, Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), and F/A-18 E/F provide stealthy aircraft for suppressing enemy air defenses and carrying out major bombardment using the full spectrum of modern munitions. As UAVs and UCAVs mature, they can complement these combat aircraft in useful ways.

As these systems are acquired, deep strike campaigns will become an increasingly important part of operational strategy for keeping enemy forces at bay, destroying them rapidly, and winning wars decisively. Effects-based targeting can help determine optimal ways for allocating strikes against enemy forces, infrastructure, and industry, thereby further enhancing the effectiveness of deep strikes. Yet deep strike campaigns cannot win wars on their own. Especially in conditions where the weather is bad, the terrain is difficult, the enemy must be overpowered in a few days, or territory must be occupied, strong ground combat forces will be needed. For deep strike campaigns to succeed, smart munitions must be available in adequate quantities, and air forces must have the support assets and spares needed to generate high sortie rates. Because shortfalls already exist, buying sufficient stocks of smart munitions is a critical priority. Modernization with new combat aircraft is important, but the high cost of buying several thousand new models will necessitate a resource strategy of phased procurements to ensure affordability.

Decisive Close Combat Operations and Deep Maneuver for Ground Assets

The concept of decisive close combat operations and deep maneuver focuses on ways to strengthen Army and Marine forces for close combat and deep counterthrusts so that they will continue to enjoy superiority over enemy forces in situations where crushing, fast-paced ground campaigns are needed, accompanied perhaps by war-termination efforts that occupy enemy territory. Currently, active Army forces provide four light divisions (infantry, airborne, and air assault) and six heavy divisions (armored and mechanized). In its Interim Force plan, the Army intends to reconfigure six brigades with light armored vehicles so that they can deploy rapidly, including aboard tactical air transports. In pursuing its Objective Force over the long term, the Army plans to create new fighting vehicles that will replace heavy tanks and artillery tubes with weapons that weigh far less but have comparable firepower and survivability. This vision depends heavily on major progress in exploratory research and development programs that will take years to develop, and even then could encounter serious trouble in creating new ground weapons that are light but survivable, powerful, and embedded in protective systems. Until then, the Army may be well served by anchoring its plans on Interim Forces, keeping its tanks and other weapons, and making better use of prepositioning to be able to deploy faster than now. Heavy forces with prepositioned equipment often can deploy faster than light forces, with no prepositioning, from CONUS.

Some critics argue that today’s focus on technology should be accompanied by continuing efforts to reorganize and reengineer Army force structures. Progress in this area could help reduce the Army’s multiple command layers and large logistic support assets, while creating new combat formations for swift maneuvers and decisive strikes in joint operations. The Army and Marines are not pursuing near-term modernization with full suites of new weapons, but they are seeking new helicopters and artillery tubes plus upgraded tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. Progress in these programs will be needed as part of any effort to pursue this operational concept.

Deliberate and Sustained Operations

The previous nine concepts assume that the Armed Forces will swiftly deploy to a crisis and then launch aggressive operations aimed at rapidly overpowering the enemy and attaining decisive victory within a few days or weeks. Afterward, American forces presumably would withdraw from the scene as soon as possible. Such short, explosive, high-tech wars may be common in the future most of the time, but U.S. defense strategy should also plan for other types of wars. Some conflicts may be marked by deliberate operations aimed at controlling a crisis over a lengthy period, rather than overwhelming enemy forces immediately. An American presence may remain for a long time in order to exert control over political aftermath.

Deliberate operations may not be the preferred norm of American military strategy, but they can be made necessary by a host of considerations: crises that build slowly, allies that balk, physical constraints that prevent U.S. forces from deploying fast, enemies that refuse to be beaten, or wars interspersed with periods of diplomacy. Sustained operations can occur not only as a result of wars dragging on without a conclusion but also as a result of political decisions to occupy the territory of a defeated enemy as part of war-termination policies. Today’s no-fly zones in Iraq are an example of compelled political settlements that require an enduring postwar presence on friendly soil. Peacekeeping, of course, is a hallmark of deliberate sustained operations. This concept calls attention to the need for the Armed Forces to remain prepared for these operations, even as they acquire greater capabilities for winning rapidly and decisively. Remaining prepared for such operations requires a focus on traditional combat forces (for example, infantry), logistic support units, and war reserve stocks that otherwise might lose favor in a defense strategy focused on winning rapidly and decisively. It also necessitates remaining aware that modern war may not always take the form that American plans, forces, and technology want or expect.



 1. See Department of Defense, Quadrennial Defense Review Report (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 2001). [BACK]

 2. See Joint Staff, Joint Vision 2020 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, June 2000). [BACK]

 3.For more analysis, see Hans Binnendijk and Richard L. Kugler, Adapting Forces to a New Era: Ten Transforming Concepts, Defense Horizons 5 (Washington, DC: Center for Technology and National Security Policy, National Defense University, October 2001). [BACK]

Table of Contents  |  Chapter Four