Classical Military Instruments

Instruments: Land Forces
Aerospace Forces
Maritime Forces


Throughout history, the power of a nation has been cast in terms of the size and competence of its armed forces. Although a powerful military could not be sustained over the long haul without a prosperous economic base, it has been unusual to describe a country's power in terms of its economic output or its dominance of key industrial or trade sectors. More typical is Machiavelli's observation, "Good soldiers will always procure gold." That is no longer the case. A number of instruments of national power described in preceding chapters depend far more on economic size and vitality than on brute force of arms.

Nevertheless, military forces remain the most visible instrument of national power, and the effectiveness of many other instruments depends implicitly on their being backed by strong military forces. Thus, a great deal of truth remains in
Frederick the Great's observation, "Diplomacy without military force is like music without instruments."

During the Cold War, the focus of U.S. force planning was on the global competition with the Soviet Union and its allies. The United States planned for high-intensity warfare against the large and relatively modern forces of the USSR. The geographic focus was on the defense of Central Europe, with a secondary focus on other regions, such as the Persian Gulf and Korea, where the United States had strong economic or diplomatic ties. The Clinton administration is the first since 1945 to shift the primary focus of its defense policies and budgetary decisions away from the threat posed by a large peer competitor. In 1993, Secretary of Defense Les Aspin's Bottom-Up Review changed the rationale for sizing and equipping U.S. armed forces, charging them with maintaining the capability to execute two nearly simultaneous major regional contingencies against competent, well-equipped regional powers.

Since it takes decades to conceive, develop, procure, and integrate a major new weapons system into the operational forces, the bulk of the equipment in the U.S. armed forces--and, indeed, most of the major procurement programs in progress or under consideration in the mid-1990s--were conceived during the Cold War, and are therefore geared toward high-intensity warfare against a major peer adversary. For the foreseeable future, consequently, the U.S. military will be adapting forces configured for high-intensity global warfare to other types of missions that it may be called upon to undertake. Meanwhile, each service is struggling to change its focus from warfare against a peer superpower to preparation for a wide variety of missions.


Land Forces

The land forces of the U.S. military are composed of the U.S. Army and the land elements of the U.S. Marine Corps, both of which have attack helicopters integrated into their forces to provide mobile fire support. The Marine Corps also operates fixed-wing aircraft to support its ground forces.

U.S. Active Force Structure Trends

Cold War Land Forces. Traditionally, land forces are the largest component of the armed forces in terms of manpower. Throughout the Cold War era, the massive ground forces provided by the United States and its allies were at the heart of the strategy to contain the expansion of the Soviet Union in Europe--and, to a lesser extent, to contain the expansion of communism in Korea and Southeast Asia. This defensive strategy required large forward-stationed forces that could be augmented by U.S.-based forces and were prepared to defend territory defined by specific treaty commitments.

The resultant force structure was configured for high-intensity warfare against the massive, heavily armored forces of the Soviet Union and its allies. U.S. military leaders acknowledged the possibility of a relatively long mobilization time and believed that massed firepower was the key to a successful defense against Soviet aggression. As a result, the U.S. Army maintained a large active-force structure backed by almost as many reserve forces, which would be available within several months of the decision to activate them. There was considerable concern that the amount of dedicated airlift and sealift available to transport this force to an overseas theater on a timely basis was inadequate. The solution was to work toward pre-positioning equipment for six divisions in Europe to augment the almost five division equivalents already in place.

The biggest land forces procurement programs of the 1970s and 1980s strengthened the capabilities to fight a high-intensity war against a large, heavily armored adversary. These procurements were the Abrams main battle tank, Bradley armored fighting vehicle, and Apache attack helicopter. Other major programs included a high procurement rate of TOW anti-armor missiles and armored self-propelled artillery. These programs upgraded key weapons systems to yield better protection (more capable armor and a smaller signature), more accurate and lethal firepower against armored targets, and greater maneuverability on the battlefield.

Shifting Emphases. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the requirement to fight two nearly simultaneous major regional contingencies has become the planning standard that determines the requirements for ground forces. The result has been a shift to mobility and rapid response capabilities.

Defense Budget Authority by Department

(billion FY 96 $)

The Army has responded with a number of initiatives. These are explained in Force XXI, the Army's statement on how to shape the context for the future. Broadly stated, the Army aims to exploit information technologies in order to fight more efficiently and maintain higher performance levels in both good conditions and bad. Within this context, the Army has a number of initiatives already well underway to respond to the new strategic environment.

The old assumption that the U.S., as part of NATO, would have

DOD's National Defense Budget Authority

(in billions of FY 1996 Dollars)

to counter a massive land invasion of Western Europe has disappeared. In 1995, thinking holds that U.S. armed forces are most likely to fight a classical ground war remote from the places where U.S. land forces are routinely deployed (Korea remains an exception). The Army has begun to respond by transforming itself from a largely forward-positioned force ready to fight high-intensity armored warfare in Europe to a power-projection force based largely in the United States. This is most evident in the drawdown of the Army forces in Europe.

The Army's Force XXI

The Army has produced a report, Force XXI, to serve as a concept for full divisional operations for the Army of the early twenty-first century. It focuses on two key issues:

Power Projection. The Army notes that in 1989 it set in motion a withdrawal of large portions of its forces stationed overseas. It plans to go from 200,000 troops to 65,000 in Europe, withdraw its 10,000 troops from Panama, and thin out its forces in Korea. As an alternative, the Army is rounding out plans to be capable of deploying forces from the United States to respond to regional conflicts. It is closing in on a goal to project the following forces rapidly anywhere in the world when called upon:

* A light brigade in four days.

* A light division in twelve days.

* A heavy brigade afloat in fifteen days.

* Two heavy divisions from the United States in thirty days.

* A five division corps in seventy-five days.

The capability to achieve this goal depends on both sealift and airlift. The United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) has the responsibility to ensure that its components--the Army's Military Traffic Management Command (MTMC), the Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC), and the Air Force's Air Mobility Command (AMC)--can transport the required forces.

Advances in Technology. The battlefield is being transformed as advances in technology are yielding new combat capabilities. The Army notes five key areas of rapid change that provide insights into the emerging battlefield:

* The increasing lethality of weaponry is forcing units to disperse on the battlefield, complicating command and control of the forces.

* A greater volume and precision of fire from greater ranges in all weather conditions is increasingly possible.

* Integrative technologies such as digital communications and global positioning will provide the commander the opportunity to better organize and control his forces.

* Smaller forces will be more capable of concentrating increased firepower with greater accuracy on their targets.

* There will be a great advantage to the commander who can make the battlefield more transparent to himself and more opaque to the enemy.

These insights, the change in the strategic environment, and the influence technology is having on the battlefield are guiding the Army's planning as it develops doctrine, modernizes its equipment, and trains its forces.

Reserve Components

The Reserve components consist of seven organizational elements: the Reserves from each of the four services, the Coast Guard Reserve, and the Army and Air National Guard.

A Reserve component "vision," developed in the mid-1990s, calls for an integrated total force in which the Reserves are active participants in the full spectrum of prospective operations, from humanitarian assistance to regional conflict. In addition, the Army and Air National Guard have a constitutionally mandated role as an organized militia for use in missions assigned them by the states.

In the post-Cold War era, the Reserve components have become a larger fraction of the total force. But like the active forces, the Reserves are being reduced in size and restructured. This has not proven to be an easy task, particularly in the case of the Army National Guard and Army Reserve. Although the Army reached an agreement governing personnel levels and other matters with its two Reserve components in late 1993 (the so-called Off-Site Agreement), key issues remain.

The central unresolved issue pertains to the types of units operated by the Army National Guard. The Guard's eight combat divisions, which collectively account for some 110,000 personnel, have little applicability to the existing national security strategy. They cannot be adequately trained in time to meet the time-lines of the two MRC scenario DOD uses for sizing conventional forces. At the same time, the Army overall is considerably short of support forces (such as MPs, engineers, transportation units, etc.) to prosecute two MRCs. Estimates of the aggregate support deficiency range between 60,000 and 110,000 personnel. Pursuant to a recommendation of the Roles and Missions Commission, DOD is studying ways of restructuring the National Guard divisions to meet some or all of the support shortage. Political considerations and the need to maintain adequate Guard capabilities to perform the wide range of missions for the states will also affect the outcome of this effort, perhaps significantly.

Other initiatives being pursued across all services to enhance the effectiveness of the Reserve components include improving the equipment and increasing the training of the Army National Guard's fifteen enhanced readiness brigades (which do have a potential role in the two MRC scenario); investigating new methods of increasing Reserve availability for a wide spectrum of peacetime uses; and improving the overall integration of the Reserves with their active counterparts (e.g., by increasing the size of active cadres assigned to work with Reserve units).

Overall, the Army's active component was 40 percent smaller in the mid-1990s than it was a decade earlier, as the result of budget pressures and the changing strategic environment. The reserve component was reduced by a smaller amount. Savings from cuts to reserve units are smaller, and there is considerable political resistance in Congress and from state governments to cutting National Guard forces. Consequently, the reserve component accounts for proportionately more of the combat force structure than was the case during the Cold War. To take better advantage of this pool of combat potential, the Army has selected fifteen brigades from the National Guard whose readiness and equipment will be enhanced so that they will be ready within ninety days of mobilization to join active-duty forces in fighting a major regional contingency.

Although the absolute size of the Marine Corps has not declined as much as that of the Army, the Marines were a relatively small force to begin with. They never focused primarily on the defense of the central region of Europe against Soviet aggression. They have retained their traditional role as an expeditionary force, and the active structure of three divisions and three Marine aircraft air wings is being maintained with this point in mind.

Together, the land forces alongside aerospace and naval forces prepare to respond to two near simultaneous major regional contingencies in four phases:

* Deterring or Halting Aggression. Land forces, in conjunction with air and maritime forces, close the area of crisis to help allied forces establish a defensive posture to deter or halt the invasion of friendly territory. The Marine Corps can mount a forcible entry operation from offshore, if necessary. Light ground forces flown in by air would normally be the first to deploy, although heavy land forces could be part of the early arriving force if their equipment is pre-positioned in the theater or on ships nearby.

* Force Buildup. Heavy ground forces arrive by air (personnel) and sea (heavy equipment) as reinforcements, typically over a period of one or two months. During that time, preparations can begin for a counteroffensive, since by this point the aggressor has most likely lost the initiative on the ground.

* Counteroffensive. In a large-scale air and land counterattack, heavy land-force units go on the offensive to outmaneuver, envelop, and destroy enemy forces.

* Ensuring Postwar Stability. Some land forces will often remain to secure borders or occupy territory and deter another attack by the aggressor.

M-1A1 Abrams tankd breeches a berm during maneuvers, Operation Vigilant Warrior in Kuwait

The degree of confidence the U.S. can have in winning two nearly simultaneous major regional conflicts, should they occur, depends heavily on the conditions under which the U.S. would fight. The size of enemy forces and proximity to U.S. centers of power, amount of warning time, degree of participation by U.S. allies, and length of time separating the outbreak of the two conflicts would have a marked effect on the U.S.'s ability to quickly bring the conflict to a close under favorable conditions.

U.S. land forces in the mid-1990s are capable of executing the missions outlined above against any plausible adversary. Though smaller than at the close of Desert Storm, they are still larger than those of most other nations, and are far better trained and equipped than potential adversaries. If anything, the United States has
increased its lead in conventional-force capabilities over potential foes such as North Korea or Iraq. While Saddam Hussein managed to keep many of his best forces intact, the effects of Iraq's defeat in 1991 and the subsequent economic embargo have prevented him from modernizing and upgrading his forces. North Korea is facing severe economic problems, and a fall-off of aid from Moscow and Beijing has limited its ability to modernize, maintain, and train on their equipment. In short, if faced again with a major regional contingency, U.S. land forces can be expected to outperform the enemy decisively.

A critical element in the U.S. ability to use land forces overseas is airlift, and, to a somewhat lesser degree, specialized sealift. Heavy ground forces bring considerable offensive firepower to the field, but at a price. For the bulk and mass of their equipment and their requirements for munitions, fuel, and other logistical support, considerable inter-theater lift is required to deploy them and to keep them operational. To ease this problem, the Army has taken steps to pre-position equipment closer to possible trouble spots. Equipment for two heavy brigades is being pre-positioned ashore in the Persian Gulf region, and a third heavy brigade set is positioned afloat on ships in the Indian Ocean.

Still, this is only the rough equivalent of one Army division; the Department of Defense estimates that four or five divisions would be needed to fight a major regional conflict. Deployment and support of follow-on divisions is dependent on sealift, which it takes a minimum of several weeks under the most favorable circumstances for a full division to be transported to the theater. It took about two months before the first heavy divisions were in place in the Persian Gulf in 1990. While the United States in 1996 could bring an equivalent amount of firepower to the battlefield with a smaller deployment, the disadvantage of fighting an aggressor in its own backyard with U.S. forces deployed over a long distance in unfamiliar surroundings will continue to present a formidable challenge to land forces.

Aerospace Forces

U.S. fixed-wing combat-aviation forces consist of three major components: the Air Force, Navy aircraft, and Marine Corps aircraft. The latter two typically operate from aircraft carriers and land bases, respectively, although both can operate either at sea or ashore if the operational situation requires it.

U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighter

Cold War Aviation Forces. During the Cold War, U.S. aviation-force planning was largely focused on the Soviet Union, which possessed a large, capable tactical- and nuclear-strike air force. The Air Force and Navy responded by developing a series of air-superiority fighters that incorporated the latest technologies to maintain qualitative superiority over Soviet aircraft.

The Air Force tailored its force to fight in the center region of Europe against numerically superior Warsaw Pact forces. Its missions were:

* Establishing air superiority by shooting down enemy air-to-air combat aircraft, as well as intercepting and downing enemy bombers and strike aircraft.

* Suppressing enemy air defenses by destroying or neutralizing land-based surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft batteries.

* Attacking key installations that supported the Warsaw Pact's war effort, such as enemy airfields, bridges, ammunition depots, and rail marshalling yards.

* Attacking opposing ground forces, as well as providing close air support and battlefield interdiction (attack on targets not immediately engaged on the front lines).

The air-superiority mission was regarded as key. The Soviets and their allies had a large force of fighter aircraft, both interceptor and attack. Without allied air superiority, it would be very difficult to defend or counterattack on the ground, and damage suffered from Soviet air strikes on NATO's rear area could be crippling. This situation led to a force structure that balanced specialized air-superiority and ground-attack aircraft with large numbers of aircraft that could be adapted to either mission.

In the 1970s and 1980s, considerable investment went into ensuring U.S. air superiority: Large numbers of F-15 aircraft were procured, as were the F-16 multi-mission aircraft. The Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) was developed and deployed, and additional funding went into development of air-to-air missiles that incorporated the latest advances in technology.

U.S. Air Force's Global Presence

The U.S. Air Force has developed a white paper, Global Presence, to outline its strategy for the coming years. It is summarized here with key quotes from the document.

During the Cold War, the focus of U.S. Air Force planning was the threat presented by the Soviet Union which had large, relatively modern, and technologically advanced forces. The bulk of these forces were concentrated opposite the center region of Europe. Forward defense, deterring or engaging enemy forces close to their border, was a central component of the strategy to counter and contain the Soviet threat.

In the words of Global Presence, two factors have conspired to change that strategy:

* As the 1980s ended, America moved from the Cold War's bipolar arrangement toward what was perceived to be a new, less-threatening political environment.

* In the face of increasing demands on U.S. military forces, smaller forces, and shrinking defense budgets, we can no longer afford to physically deploy forces in every region of concern.

The Air Force active-force structure has dropped from twenty-five wings in FY 1986 to thirteen in 1995. In the same period, the number of wings forward deployed has decreased from nine to five. At the same time, U.S. military forces are involved in more operations of greater duration than at any time in the past twenty years.

In light of these factors, the Air Force has expanded the concept of presence beyond the physical stationing of aircraft in a region. Global Presence emphasizes that several advances in key areas of technology enhance the Air Force's ability to make its presence felt even from a distance:

* Situational Awareness: advances in information-based technologies allow military forces to monitor and assess most global conditions rapidly and efficiently.

* Strategic Agility: improvements in transport technologies enable rapid responses with a variety of military forces to distant locations.

* Lethality: enhancements in weapons system technologies make it possible to achieve desired effects more quickly and at less cost.

Together, these advances make it possible, unlike during the Cold War, to station forces in the United States while maintaining the capability to project military power worldwide on a real-time basis. A theater commander can call on available airpower based in the United States or in another theater, confident that it will arrive on a timely basis. At the same time, a would-be aggressor would be made aware that although U.S. forces may not be stationed in the theater, they are not far away, and any violation of U.S. interests could be met promptly with U.S. military power.

Naval forces faced similar concerns about establishing air superiority in proximity to battle groups and in the skies over an amphibious landing area. The biggest aviation investment program in the 1970s and 1980s was the F-14 air-superiority aircraft, armed with the long-range Phoenix air-to-air missile. The second-largest aviation investment program was the F/A-18, a multi-mission aircraft capable of supplementing the F-14 and A-6 bomber in the air-superiority and ground-attack roles, respectively. This, together with ship-to-air missile defenses, meant the Navy could maintain a relatively high degree of survivability on the open ocean. However, as naval formations approached shore and came within range of Soviet land-based aircraft and cruise missiles, they would have had their hands full coping with large waves of attack aircraft and--by the 1980s--large numbers of anti-ship cruise missiles. The ability to operate in such a high-threat environment came at a price to other combat capabilities. The need for a heavy emphasis on self-protection left room on the carrier deck and in the surface ships' missile magazines for only a modest number of ground-attack aircraft and land attack cruise missiles.

Shifting Aviation Emphases. No opposing air force currently possesses a capability in terms of absolute numbers or technological sophistication in any way comparable to U.S. air power. The need for large numbers of combat aircraft dedicated primarily to shooting down enemy aircraft is therefore less critical than it was during the Cold War. As a result, U.S. aviation forces are able to focus more of their effort on bringing firepower to bear on the ground quickly and accurately enough to have a significant operational effect on the advance of enemy forces. The trend in future aircraft acquisition programs is to take advantage of advances in smart, precision munitions and multi-mission aviation platforms to focus more heavily on the ground-attack mission while maintaining capability for air superiority.

The Air Force is working to develop capabilities that will have a greater impact on the ground battle in a major regional contingency by developing, with the Navy in most cases, more lethal air-to-ground munitions. In addition, aircraft that during the Cold War had different primary missions are being configured to carry these munitions.

Long-range strategic bombers--including the B-1B, B-2, and B-52H--that can fly directly from the United States are being upgraded to carry advanced precision-guided munitions. This capability will enable operational commanders to call in air-delivered firepower without having to first deploy sea-or-land-based aircraft into the theater. Moreover, it provides a capability to strike targets deep in enemy territory. While these long-range bombers are not intended to match the sustained firepower of tactical aircraft operating in the theater, the flexibility to launch a strike at any place and any time is a meaningful military capability.

Suppression of enemy air defenses can be a slow process. The Air Force is modifying some F-16s to perform the role of neutralizing enemy surface-to-air missile defenses and thus clear the way for ground-attack sorties. To complement this program, the Air Force (together with the Navy, in most cases) is developing a new class of air-to-ground weapons with increased stand-off range and better accuracy. These improvements will allow tactical aircraft to attack heavily defended targets at the outset of hostilities while the campaign to suppress enemy air defenses is ongoing. The new munitions will also extend the combat radius of air-based weapons far beyond the flight radius of the delivery platform.

The largest recapitalization program pursued by the Air Force is the F-22 fighter, which will replace the F-15 air-superiority fighter. The F-22's stealth capability, supersonic cruise speed, high maneuverability, and advanced avionics are intended to ensure the continued superiority of U.S. air power against future advances in the air-to-air capabilities of potential adversaries. The F-22 will have a limited precision air-to-ground capability, carrying two joint direct air munitions (JDAMs) internally or--with some loss of stealth--extra JDAMs externally.

If a host nation is reluctant to let U.S. forces in, or if air bases have to be secured first, the delay in deploying land-based aircraft to a theater could be considerable. Carrier-based naval aviation provides, in addition to long-range strategic bombers, a way to launch air strikes without the need for on-shore facilities or support. Another method under consideration is the construction of a mobile offshore base--a modular assembly of floating platforms that can be positioned to provide a staging platform for aircraft as well as land forces.

The Navy is strengthening its capability to bring effective firepower to bear on land targets. With a greatly diminished threat to its operations on the open ocean, the Navy has turned its full attention to ways to affect battle in the littoral regions. For example, it is reconfiguring the carrier air wing to give it more offensive land-attack power. Other programs include the introduction of Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles throughout the surface combatant and submarine forces, and an upgrade of the F/A-18 aircraft to give it the ground-attack capabilities (including night operations) with precision-guided munitions that it lacked in Desert Storm. An advanced version of the F/A-18 that is to be procured beginning in 1997 will have an extended combat range and carry a larger munitions load, thereby providing a greater power-projection capacity. A portion of the fleet of F-14 air-superiority aircraft is being modified to carry precision-guided munitions for attacking ground targets.

Due primarily to budget constraints and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the missions of U.S. aviation forces have to be done with a smaller force structure. In 1995, the Air Force was about half the size it was in the mid-1980s. Naval air forces have been reduced less and the Marine Corps air forces hardly at all.

U.S. aviation forces should be able to achieve air supremacy over any conceivable adversary for the coming decade and, with the planned modernization programs, to maintain its advantage well into the next century. Once enemy air defenses are suppressed, tactical aircraft and bombers can contribute to the ground battle by direct attack on enemy ground forces. A key priority at DOD is the development and procurement of more effective precision-guided munitions that can kill several armored targets with one launch. This capability will allow U.S. combat aircraft to attack enemy ground forces with improved effectiveness at the outset and enable a response to threatened aggression even before the United States can get ground forces in place.

Still, in the mid-1990s, the amount and type of payload that aircraft can bring to the battlefield, and therefore the number of targets they can strike, is limited. Deployments of aviation forces must be accompanied by land forces if an enemy force is to be driven out of territory it occupies. Aviation forces do not replace land forces, although the impact they can have on the ground campaign is growing.

Space Forces. U.S. space forces exist to perform three major missions: enhancing the capabilities of U.S. or coalition terrestrial forces by supporting their operations from space, ensuring U.S. ability to use space while denying it to enemies, and, finally, providing a supporting infrastructure for U.S. space activities. Space forces supplement and support the terrestrial force structure--allowing more effective and efficient application of such force as their overall numbers decrease. In the future, space forces could evolve into an independent means of applying force, while maintaining the ability to support terrestrial forces--similar to airpower's evolution.

Given rapidly advancing technology, space forces will increase their ability to operate effectively and efficiently. As air, land, and sea force structures decrease, spacepower becomes even more important as a force multiplier. For example, as terrestrial assets become more limited, and more operations are conducted in remote regions around the world, space assets provide vital capabilities such as communication, intelligence gathering, monitoring, surveillance, and targeting. Spacepower offers a readily available global presence infrastructure--a consistent and unobtrusive forward presence.

Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC)

Much military planning is still done by the individual services with the challenges of forging them into an efficient, joint fighting force still left to be solved when the forces are fielded. The Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) of the Joint Staff working with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the military services has introduced a process to plan forces jointly from the ground up. This process begins with key capabilities that are needed in the forces and a multi-service, multi-agency team is formed to analyze which programs best provide the capability. The teams are called Joint Warfare Capability Analysis (JWCA) teams. During the planning cycle for FY 1996, nine teams were formed to analyze the requirements for:

* Deterrance and Counterproliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

* Regional Engagement and Presence

* Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance

* Command and Control and Information Warfare

* Strike

* Land and Littoral Warfare

* Joint Readiness

* Sea, Air, and Space Superiority

* Strategic Mobility and its Protection

The results of this process were reviewed by the JROC, the Chairman and the Vice Chairman of JCS, then reported in the Chairman's Program Assessment. During the planning process to formulate the FY97 program and budget, this document served as a guide to the Secretary of Defense and his staff on requirements as seen by the senior military leaders from a joint perspective. The Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff views the JWCA process as a key mechanism to ensure that "the capabilities of the various key services are integrated to provide more joint, synergistic solutions to military problems." The JWCA process provides a means for the Chairman of the JCS to fulfill the important resource allocation responsibilities given him under the Goldwater-Nichols Act (recently reinforced by the Commission on Roles and Mission).

Major Maritime Forces

The focus of space forces has changed with the demise of the USSR, the rise of regional concerns, and the importance of space-based support to information-based warfare. The lack of communications and other infrastructure in regions where U.S. military forces are expected to deploy (as opposed to the NATO region) has increased demand for the readily available infrastructure of space-based communications, navigation, surveillance, and reconnaissance. Missile warning systems are being redesigned to improve detection of tactical ballistic missile launches, and such information is now being provided directly to the tactical user. Full integration of navigation aids such as the Global Positioning System (GPS) also increases tactical use of support from space.

Military space systems offer useful capabilities to the civil sector--navigation, weather monitoring, and communications. Civil space capabilities, on the other hand, offer military space consumers additional communications surge capabilities, weather monitoring, and multi-spectral remote sensing. The military also uses data from civilian radars for space surveillance. In addition, military, civil, and commercial collaboration may soon result in more effective and efficient spacelift capabilities. In the future, the military could benefit also from civil developments of reusable single-stage-to-orbit delivery vehicles.

The U.S. will enjoy a large advantage in the use of space forces in the foreseeable future. However, other nations have noted the U.S.'s, and its coalition partners', dependency on such forces. They are also realizing the benefits of receiving integral support from space. Maintaining the U.S.'s inherent "high ground" advantage will be important to ensure its, and its allies', future military superiority and ability to achieve national objectives.

Maritime Forces

The United States's maritime forces are provided by the Navy in conjunction with the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard. Maritime forces ensure open access to the world's oceans and project firepower ashore. The ability to operate on the high seas in international waters gives maritime forces the advantage of being free of diplomatic constraints, such as national sovereignty and overflight rights. Their mobility and self-sufficiency mean they can be introduced to or withdrawn from an area with no reliance on host-nation support.

Cold War Maritime Forces. During the Cold War, the Navy focused on control of the high seas to safeguard the U.S.'s ability to reinforce NATO and Pacific allies by sea. The threat on the high seas was defined in terms of the numbers and capabilities of Soviet attack submarines and, in close proximity to the Soviet Union, surface combatants and attack aircraft, including medium-range bombers armed with anti-ship cruise missiles. Against these forces, the United States required considerable defensive capability to protect shipping lanes and its own combatant fleet.

The Marines and Coast Guard also contributed to maritime operations against the Soviet Union, although they maintained a strong planning focus on operations short of high-intensity war. The need to keep the sea lanes open in the face of the Soviet threat led to substantial investments in systems that could detect and destroy submarines in the open ocean and engage attacking aircraft at a considerable distance from the battle group. The force structure included a network of fixed acoustic arrays anchored on the ocean floor to listen for submarines; attack submarines; a large fleet of maritime patrol aircraft that could scan large areas of the ocean for submarines; surface ships with both active and passive ASW sensors as well as point defense against attacking aircraft and cruise missiles; and advanced aircraft that could engage enemy aircraft well away from the battle group, before weapons could be launched.

Department of the Navy's Forward...From the Sea--Presence, Prevention, and Partnership for the Future

The vision that guides the U.S. Naval Service--the Navy and Marine Corps--into the twenty-first century is Forward...From the Sea. It accounts for both the reorientation of the Department of Defense to a regional focus and the absence of a large peer competitor on the near horizon. Forward operations in peacetime and crisis periods are linked with those envisioned for the earliest phases of regional conflict. Recognition is given to the fact that naval forces are primarily designed to fight and win wars, while their day-to-day role is to be engaged forward for the purpose of preventing conflict.

The strategic imperative. Geography mandates the need for naval forces adequate to defend the lines of strategic approach that link the United States to other nations through the free flow of people, natural resources, manufactured goods, and services. Operating close to or in areas of special interest, naval forces can respond to rapidly evolving situations that portend a crisis. If a diplomatic or military crisis occurs, such forces can provide initial and timely means to defuse the situation or control escalation. If fighting breaks out, they provide the means for forcible entry and protective cover essential to the flow of follow-on land-based forces that will be deployed, supported, and sustained from the continental United States.

Peacetime operations and crisis response. Naval forces operate overseas in peacetime to prevent regional conflict. They are visible and tangible proof of U.S. political commitments and military strength. Their presence alone can serve to deter aggressors and maintain stability. They also remind potential belligerents that the entire military force of the United States may be brought to bear. The inherent mobility, flexibility, and self-sufficiency of sovereign naval forces allow unencumbered movement and access between theaters in response to emergent tasking across the entire spectrum of military operations.

Conflict operations. If deterrence fails and conflict ensues, naval forces are prepared to blunt initial attacks and prepare for the transition to high-intensity operations ashore. Inherent in this "enabling" mission are:

* Focused intelligence collection and surveillance.

* Precision strikes against key targets.

* Insertion and support of special operations forces.

* Seizure of ports, airfields, and beachheads ashore.

* Actions to interdict lines of communication.

* Measures to disrupt command and control.

The wide spectrum of operational capabilities of naval expeditionary forces--particularly the power-projection and forcible-entry capabilities embodied in carrier battle groups and amphibious-ready groups--allows seizing and holding of lodgments ashore, and thereby permits the delivery, protection, and support of ground forces and land-based air forces needed to prosecute the subsequent campaign. These versatile naval forces also provide a wide range of additional tactical and strategic options to the joint theater commander during every phase of regional conflict. And through securing the sea lines of communication, naval forces ensure the sustainment necessary for all of the forces involved to complete their mission.

Continued U.S. dominance of the seas and successful naval expeditionary efforts will depend upon application of modern technology and tactical innovation.

An aircraft carrier or amphibious ready group ideally would be escorted by six to eight surface combatants and one or two attack submarines. Surface combatants and attack submarines were also available to protect convoys carrying reinforcements from the United States to Europe or other overseas combat theaters.

By the late 1970s, the Navy concluded that dealing with the Soviet threat required a strong offensive strategy. Newer classes of Soviet submarines had extended the reach and lethality of the USSR's undersea fleet, and the expansion of the Soviet long-range Backfire bomber force (equipped with anti-ship cruise missiles) expanded greatly the area of the ocean in which U.S. and allied shipping was at risk.

Since maritime forces could not be everywhere at once, the Navy developed the Maritime Strategy to carry the battle to the source of the Soviets' combat power. This strategy called for an expanded offensive role for the Navy and Marine Corps. Primary tasks included keeping the sea lanes open for U.S. and allied shipping in wartime. But rather than wait for the Soviets to attack, the battle would be brought to them. The strategy called for a series of operations, including:

* Holding Soviet ballistic missile submarines at risk.

* Destroying the Soviet attack-submarine force with a massive, sustained anti-submarine warfare campaign.

* Sinking Soviet surface ships both at sea and in port.

* Using carrier battle groups and amphibious landing forces to seize or destroy bastions of Soviet naval power, such as Murmansk.

* Threatening the Soviet homeland by striking targets with carrier-based aircraft and long-range cruise missiles or conducting amphibious landings where the Soviet forces were vulnerable in order to divert them away from the battle in the central region of Europe, where the Soviets and their allies were strongest.

This highly aggressive strategy led to an emphasis on offensive systems that could strike first and seize the initiative against Soviet forces. The strategy included attack of heavily defended targets, so considerable attention to self-defense was required to ensure survivability of the battle group as it closed to within attack range.

Shifting Emphases. In the mid-1990s, no nation can mount a sizable naval threat to U.S. forces far from its own shores, thereby easing the task of self-protection and defending merchant shipping on the high seas. This has allowed U.S. maritime forces to work on bringing a greater amount and more precise firepower to bear on the battle ashore.

Joint Operations*

Future military operations will call on the capabilities of all the Services along with support from the defense agencies, other government agencies, and non-government organizations. Pulling these capabilities together for complex, dangerous joint military operations is the responsibility of the [Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff] and the Commanders in Chief (CINCS). They can fulfill this responsibility only if the Services and other supporting organizations provide the capabilities needed.

Operation Desert Storm demonstrated that the military capabilities developed separately by each of the Services are individually superb. But they do not work well enough together. Each Service develops capabilities and trains its forces according to its own vision of how its forces should contribute to joint warfighting. Not surprisingly, the Services' ideas about how to integrate all forces reflect their own perspectives, typically giving the other Services a role supporting the "main effort."

Each Service [has its own warfighting philosophy and force structure priorities] that guide internal decisions on systems acquisitions, doctrine, training, organization, management of forces, and the conduct of operations. Forward...From the Sea; Force XXI; and Global Reach, Global Power [are thoughtful statements of how each Service views its role in national defense]. These Service documents help form a joint vision, but collectively they [do not represent one]. Competing elements exist in these documents that must be reconciled [for a viable joint vision to be realized].

Basically, competition among the Services is a strength. The variety of Service perspectives adds breadth, flexibility, and synergy to military operations. Nevertheless integrating their warfighting concepts must receive more emphasis. Otherwise, the Services [will] only work to develop the capabilities they need to fulfill their own particular views.

We find a pressing need for a central vision to harmonize the Services' own views. This vision should drive joint requirements and serve as a basis for elevating the importance of joint operations as an essential "core competency" of all joint commanders and agencies.

In addition to the general aim of providing an overarching guide for developing joint warfighting requirements, a unified vision will give the Services guidance regarding the capabilities they should supply to unified military operations. With a common base of understanding, the CINCs and Services can have congruent expectations of the capabilities of forces assigned to CINCs by the Military Departments. The unified vision will provide a framework for the development of the common operational and organizational concepts needed for "baseline" joint force headquarters, and a common base for assessments of current and future joint capabilities.

* Excerpts from Directions for Defense, Report of the Commission on Roles and Missions of the Armed Forces, May 24, 1995, Chapter 2. Text in [ ] has been added by authors.

The Navy and Marine Corps have adopted a strategic vision called Forward...From the Sea in which the focus is on the littoral, or coastal areas, of the globe; in joint operations ashore, the contribution of naval forces will come "from the sea." The Navy and Marine Corps are prepared to provide the initial enabling capability for a joint operation and to continue participation in a sustained effort if necessary. A key element of the vision is the Navy's plan to improve its sealift capability to deliver heavy equipment and resupply major ground and air combat units in the theater of battle.

Operations on the littoral present different challenges than operations in the open ocean, and U.S. maritime forces are in the process of adapting. As maritime forces approach the shore, they come into range of attack from land. An increasing number of states can deploy land-based cruise missiles, whose short flight time poses a tough problem for defensive systems. Mines seeded in the shallow waters of the littoral present a threat to maritime forces operating in geographically restricted waters or approaching the shore to execute an amphibious landing. Mine sweeping is both difficult and time consuming. Lastly, diesel-electric submarines are increasingly making their way into the navies of potential adversaries. These craft are difficult to detect and prosecute, particularly in shallow water, and therefore would complicate maritime operations near shore and in proximity to geographic choke points like the Straits of Hormuz.

It will take a long time to fully adjust the force structure of maritime forces to the demands of the post-Cold War world. Aircraft carriers have a useful life of up to fifty years; major surface combatants and submarines, some thirty-plus years. The Navy faces the challenge of transforming a force optimized to defeat a peer superpower on the open ocean into one that can support regional littoral operations typical of the post-Cold War environment.

U.S. maritime forces are much smaller in the mid-1990s than in 1986. The biggest reduction has come in the number of attack submarines and convoy-escort surface combatants. This reduction reflects the diminished threat to battle groups and merchant shipping in the open ocean.

Guided missile destroyer.

The number of carriers and large-deck amphibious ships that can bring aircraft and forces to a conflict theater has decreased only marginally. Mine-warfare capabilities are increasing. New U.S. surface combatants carry a larger complement of Tomahawk cruise missiles, which can strike targets deeper in enemy territory, than the ships taken out of commission. Overall, the number of Tomahawk land-attack missiles carried by the fleet will actually increase. The principal operational challenge posed by the smaller fleet to military commanders is not so much warfighting, but that a peacetime overseas presence must be maintained at previous or greater levels with fewer ships.

In 1995, almost one-third of all U.S. maritime forces were continuously deployed overseas, even though the U.S. was at peace. A carrier battle group with supporting ships and a Marine expeditionary unit, the core of the Seventh Fleet, are permanently stationed in Japan. The newly established Fifth Fleet is in the Persian Gulf region. The Sixth Fleet, with its home port in Italy, provides a full time presence in the Mediterranean Sea. Increasingly, maritime forces are used to provide a continuous peacetime U.S. military presence in important regions of the world.

Maritime forces have a key role in the U.S. strategy to fight two nearly simultaneous major regional conflicts. Forward-deployed maritime forces would be among the first to arrive in the vicinity of a crisis. Once there, they would establish maritime superiority, initiate mine countermeasures and would be available to immediately strike targets on land with tactical aircraft and cruise missiles. Ships equipped with the Aegis weapons system would provide local air and, in the future, theater ballistic-missile defense. Amphibious assault forces could conduct amphibious operations to establish a secure lodgment ashore in preparation for arriving land forces, or they could threaten amphibious assault to divert enemy attention and tie down enemy forces.


Classical military forces represent a powerful instrument of U.S. national power. With the end of the Soviet Union came the end of the only peer military competitor to the United States. For the immediate future, U.S. forces are far more capable, better equipped, and better trained than any conceivable adversary. In a classical high-intensity military conflict (such as Desert Storm), the nation can have high confidence in the superiority of U.S. forces.

However, in the event of two nearly simultaneous major regional contingencies, U.S. lift capacity would be stretched to the limit to bring heavy Army and Air Force units into the theater and support them. Depending upon the demands of the specific contingencies, other types of capabilities might be seriously stressed. Forces committed to other operations could also retard deployment of needed forces to regional contingencies. With the overseas presence of U.S. ground and air forces reduced by roughly 50 percent since 1986, there is less margin for error in deciding where to deploy the remaining forces, and greater operational demands on those forces still remaining overseas.

Major Recapitalization Programs

(procurement funding in billions of dollars)

Given that major equipment typically lasts decades (and major procurement programs, from conception to deployment, take a decade or more), the major equipment items in the U.S. armed forces will continue for some time to be items conceived and designed for use against the Soviet Union. With only modest amounts of newly designed military equipment being procured, there will be a relatively small turnover of major equipment items in the forces (and U.S. forces will be operating with an increasingly aging capital stock). Further, the major items in the fiscal year 1996-2000 procurement program were originally intended for high-intensity conflict against the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. For example, the primary mission for which the F-22 was designed is air superiority; likewise, the DDG-51 was designed to defend the fleet against massive manned air attacks and cruise missiles, as well as nuclear attack submarines. Fortunately, a weapons system that is useful against one type of threat usually has utility against others. But U.S. military services are inevitably finding themselves in the position of adapting equipment designed to deal with the Soviet Union for use in new types of warfare that were just emerging when the specifications and characteristics of the systems were laid down.

The relatively strong position of U.S. forces in the mid-1990s is not reason for complacency. While U.S. classical military forces should continue to be the world's best well into the foreseeable future, U.S. armed forces may find that they are confronted with innovative warfare techniques and employment strategies for which they are not well prepared or equipped. For example, a nation could well choose to avoid challenging the United States in classical conventional battle by using or threatening to use weapons of mass destruction, sabotaging key automated information networks, or resorting to terrorism and guerrilla warfare tactics.

With smaller forces, the U.S. margin for error in procurement decisions, inefficiency, and duplication has narrowed. Increasingly, therefore, U.S. forces are striving to operate together in a complementary (rather than redundant) and mutually reinforcing fashion. In addition, greater attention is being devoted to planning that examines the capabilities U.S. forces will need to bring to the battlefield across service lines. These efforts are focused on the implementation of key recommendations by the Commission on Roles and Missions with respect to developing improved joint (all-service) visions to harmonize existing service doctrines; strengthening the Joint Warfare Capabilities Assessment (JWCA) process; and increasing the level of joint training.

Looking ahead to the twenty-first century, the U.S. military is scrutinizing the revolution in military affairs, which is discussed in the chapter on emerging military instruments. The willingness of the U.S. military leadership to pursue new opportunities offered by the rapid advances in technology and to embrace new organizational, and operation techniques will go a long way to determining success on the battlefield of the future.

Next Chapter

Previous Chapter

Table of Contents