During the four decades of the Cold War, the United States developed and honed a military force that was highly robust, capable, equipped, trained, organized, and optimized to meet a basic planning template built around global conflict with another military superpower. That all changed beginning in 1989, as interrelated phenomena marking the end of the Cold War shattered the template. Beginning in the early 1990s, the defense planning community sought to forge a new template to replace the one that had previously served so well but was no longer credible.
The initial step was what Colin Powell--then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff--termed the Base Force. Most military planners recognized the Base Force as a transitional device--a force level that could satisfy new demands for reduced defense expenditures without changing the structure or character of the U.S. military. The Base Force was to be the starting point from which the character, size, and structure of future U.S. military forces would evolve, if and when a different consensus on what was needed emerged in the future.
The year-long assessment initiated by the Clinton administration--the Bottom Up Review, or BUR, conducted in 1992 and 1993--was the second step in the transition to a new template and iterated many of the points that girded the Base Force. Like its immediate predecessor, the BUR assumed it was premature to design future U.S. military capabilities against a single, precisely defined contingency. As the Base Force had, the BUR sought to describe the broad capabilities future U.S. military forces should keep through the remainder of this century. The BUR was not a redesign of the existing force so much as an effort to reassert the consensus on what components of the existing force should be kept.
The BUR differed from the Base Force, however. It explicitly rejected a return to the Cold War force size and dropped the notion of reconstitution and the Eurocentric global-war planning scenarios that went with the idea. In their place, it emphasized a planning context of regional conflict, that is, a conflict that would be constrained geographically and that did not carry with it the risk of escalation that earlier, Cold War scenarios did.
The BUR postulated two major regional contingencies that occur nearly simultaneously. This formulation was a planning artifact, designed to require the kind of military capabilities the participants in the BUR believed should be maintained. It was not a prediction that the United States would necessarily face such a demand. Although the BUR architects referred to conflicts in the Persian Gulf area (with Iraq) and on the Korean peninsula, they did so as illustrations of the planning context rather than the specific contingencies for which U.S. forces would be designed.
The planning construct of two nearly simultaneous major regional contingencies in different parts of the world did, in fact, underline the kind of military capabilities most people believed should be maintained. It was, for example, a way of emphasizing a need for robust strategic mobility, something most planners thought would be increasingly important as many U.S. military forces withdrew from overseas bases. The notion of near simultaneity fit with the desire for forces that were globally agile, and the general planning context provided a rationale for maintaining the existing balance and character of the forces. It was a context that justified heavy ground forces (to fight in the deserts of the Persian Gulf area), light ground forces (for rapid strategic mobility and, in part, to deal with the threat of infantry in the rugged hills and urban terrain of Korea), a robust naval carrier force (for global presence and rapid response), and a robust Air Force (for both global response and theater operations against relatively formidable air defense systems). It was a planning context that was demanding, yet not as demanding as the kind of global war postulated during the Cold War. It was, in short, an accurate reflection of the consensus of what was needed at the time (October 1993) the BUR was published.
In retrospect, then, U.S. force planning in the first half of the 1990s is best understood as a transition away from the Cold War consensus on military needs. The underlying theme of those years was caution, played out against an understanding that the defense budget was shrinking. Force planners sought to reduce U.S. military forces without jeopardizing the organization, internal force ratios, doctrine, equipment, or quality of the personnel in the force. They agreed on the capabilities they wanted to keep: high readiness; robust strategic mobility; strong power projection; and potent and balanced ground, maritime, and air power. And they tried to maintain as much of those capabilities as the declining budgets would allow. But while there was widespread agreement that these were desirable traits, a new consensus on how they were to be obtained, how much of each was required, and what the resulting force should look like did not emerge. There has been--and continues to be--less agreement on the size and structure of U.S. military forces needed for the twenty-first century.
Since the early 1990s, there have been a number of public articles and assessments outside the Defense Department that conclude force structure changes are both necessary and desirable. Two factors drive this belief: (1) a concern that the BUR force may be unaffordable; and (2) indications that advanced technology offers much greater military efficiency, particularly if it is combined with organizational adjustments that take full advantage of the new technologies.
Concerns with the affordability of the BUR force are rooted in several issues, one of which is a tension between the existing and future readiness of the force. As of 1996, force readiness was relatively high, largely because defense budgets in the early to mid-1990s allocated considerable financial resources to budget categories that affect readiness--training, maintenance, and quality of life. In contrast, funding levels for procurement--money that goes to buy equipment--fell to historic lows. Procurement funding does two things: it modernizes future forces by introducing new and improved kinds of military equipment, and it recapitalizes the force by replenishing existing equipment. Procurement therefore affects the future readiness of the force, because the older the equipment is, the less ready it will be and the more expensive it is to maintain at high readiness levels. In the early 1990s, much of the capital base of the U.S. military--the tanks, ships, aircraft, and other equipment--was relatively new, largely because of the surge in procurement funds in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The downsizing of the force that began in 1990 cloaked the decline in recapitalization because, as the Department of Defense trimmed force levels, the older equipment went first, leaving the remaining forces with what was relatively new. But the decline in procurement slipped below the level needed to continue to keep new equipment in the force in the future.
As a result, each military service needs a recapitalization funding surge in the first decade of the twenty-first century. A lot of the equipment they have will wear out at roughly the same time, and replenishment will be expensive. The following figure, drawn from the Secretary of Defense's March 1996 Annual Report to the President and the Congress, illustrates the problem for tactical aircraft programs. It shows that it will cost nearly four times as much as was spent on aircraft programs in 1996 to replenish and modernize the equipment in the tactical air forces. Similar surges of recapitalization costs face U.S. ground and naval forces--if the United States decides to maintain the size and structure of is forces at 1996 levels of readiness.
Prospects of block obsolescence, falling levels of readiness, and steep procurement increases lead some analysts to argue that either the defense budget must grow or internal adjustments--which could include changing the force structure--must be taken to assure longer-term readiness. Other analysts argue that the life-cycle costs of new equipment are underestimated, and that procuring, maintaining, and operating the equipment will cost more than currently estimated. If they are correct--and historical experience suggests they may be--then tradeoffs involving the size and structure of U.S. military forces will emerge in the annual budget debates, unless the defense budget rises appreciably in the years ahead.
But few analysts believe the defense budget is likely to increase significantly; most believe it will be driven lower, and they point to a number of straws in the wind as evidence. Instead of paying for contingency operations with supplemental appropriations, as was generally the case in the past, the Congress has required the Defense Department to meet some of the costs of operations in Somalia, Rwanda, and Haiti by shifting funds within its budget. If the Congress deals with future operations in a similar way, this will further constrain the Department's efforts to balance current readiness and future readiness. And many economists believe the national movement toward a balanced budget will generate further pressure for cuts in defense funding. Public opinion polling indicates that while most Americans believe a strong military ought to be maintained, few believe the defense budget will or should increase.
Meanwhile, technological improvements in the late 1980s and early 1990s suggest the United States could dramatically improve the efficiency and effectiveness with which it can use military force. Three areas of military capability are of particular note:
Everyone agrees that systems embodying these capabilities will enable U.S. troops to be more efficient in using military force. That is, with them, U.S. forces will be able to identify and discriminate among potential targets and opponents faster and more accurately, apply military power at greater ranges with more precision, and assess the effects faster and more comprehensively.
Most also agree that the improved capabilities are likely to affect how U.S. forces operate. What is at issue is whether the improved military efficiency and effectiveness will be so much better as to constitute a discontinuous, or revolutionary, change in the normal, essentially linear line of improving force capability.
Some argue it will. They believe that the synergy among these systems represents the technological edge of a revolution in military affairs, and call for integrating such systems into the military as quickly as possible. These advocates of rapid change argue that if the United States can successfully integrate the individual improvements each of these systems promises, the result could be a discontinuous leap in military capability. That is, they speak of an emerging system-of-systems capable of generating such a disparity in military capability between the United States and opponents that the United States would be able to use military forces not only better than an opponent but also differently from that opponent and differently from the way in which military force is used and understood in 1996.
This hypothesis is the foundation of the argument advanced by the advocates of rapid change. They propose that the increasing ability of the United States to collect and process information rapidly from a relatively large area (40,000 square miles) will enable the U.S. military to identify and locate, in near "real time," virtually all friendly, neutral, and opposing forces, facilities, machinery, weapons, vehicles, and units that are militarily significant. That will provide the basis for much more timely and accurate situation awareness than an opponent can obtain--a condition referred to as "dominant battlespace awareness" (DBA). Further processing and computer-assisted correlation, they continue, will allow the United States to convert this edge in situation awareness to "dominant battlespace knowledge"--namely, the ability not only to identify and locate things of military significance, but to discern their relationships to one another and to the operational scheme that drives their activity.
This "knowledge" is not absolute. But it should give the United States a significant advantage via the ability to estimate quickly and accurately the hierarchical relationships among an opponent's forces and the roles or missions the opponent assigns its forces. More important, this level of knowledge will allow the U.S. to give friendly forces missions and targets with the highest payoff. This process, in turn, will generate high leverage from the new class of precision and long-range weapons that are entering the inventories. It increases the probability that such weapons will be used where and when they will most degrade the overall capacity of an opponent--they will tend to be used against the targets that count the most.
Lastly, the system-of-systems postulates a relatively greater capacity to rapidly and accurately assess the effects of engagements and the application of force. That will allow the United States to stay ahead of an opponent, to adapt faster and better to the fluid changes characteristic of conflict, and to operate within the opponent's decision-reaction cycle.
These views and hypotheses are not accepted by all U.S. force planners, and the advocates of rapid change are a minority. But because many in the government share some--but not all--of their views, their argument affects the internal debate over the rate of technological improvement and its implications.
Postulations about the proper structure and character of U.S. military forces in the future are entwined with these discussions in two ways. The first is in cost-effectiveness terms--whether, for example, the improvements promised by the emerging technologies will allow the same or greater level of military output with fewer forces. Some believe the efficiency improvements may allow the size of the force to be reduced without any degradation of military capability. They see technology as a means of offsetting looming budgetary pressures, but they do not believe that it is necessary or beneficial to move quickly toward organizational changes.
There is, however, a contending view. Those who see the emerging technologies as offering more profound changes tend to argue that for the United States to take full advantage of the technological improvements, it will be necessary to alter the existing structure and organization of the force. This group favors accelerating both the introduction of the technologies and making the structural, organizational, operational, and doctrinal changes that would take advantage of the technology as rapidly as possible.
The size and structure of U.S. military forces in the future will reflect myriad decisions dedicated to balancing change and continuity. In the absence of an identifiable threat, and with the satisfaction regarding the military's prowess that has prevailed since Desert Storm, arguments against changing quickly will remain strong. But the sense that a new international era demands a different force structure, and the growing interest in accelerating what is increasingly referred to as the American revolution in military affairs, may bring about changes sooner rather than later. So it is hard to be precise about what U.S. military forces will be like in 2007.
It is easier to indicate a range within which the actual force may emerge. That is the approach used in the following discussion. It describes three notional force structures, circa 2007. Each reflects the kind of force that might emerge as a result of taking three different paths to the future. Each of these notional artifacts is designed to be internally consistent--their components fit together logically--and reasonable. All the models involve responses to improved technology, and the potential of different operational doctrine, as well as the missions U.S. military forces will face over the next decade. Many other "models" could be presented. But, together, The three discussed below span the range of what seems reasonable, and differ from one another largely in terms of how the United States may balance the contending pressures for continuity and change. It is important to note, however, that we neither predict or recommend any of the force structures. They are heuristic devices, offered to illustrate the effects of taking some of the paths available to the United States over the next decade.
The first potential force structure--termed the Recapitalized Force--could emerge, given moderate rates of change between 1997 and 2007. As the name implies, this path emphasizes continuity. It recognizes the difficulty of changing the character of the force rapidly, and the strategic, bureaucratic, and security utility of not changing too rapidly. It begins with the assumption that today's force is very good and seeks to maintain the high quality by adjusting incrementally and carefully to the downward pressures on the budget and to the opportunities afforded by advanced technology. It trades off minor changes in force structure and lower combat readiness for some units to assure the steady recapitalization of a force structure that changes relatively slowly.
A second option, the Accelerated Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) force, reflects a desire to accelerate technological improvement--to build a different kind of force with much greater combat capability. While a decision to pursue this structure would recognize operational demands on the U.S. military in the interim, it assumes the likelihood of a major military conflict is low enough to accept the expense and risk of extensive organizational innovation and experimentation. The Accelerated RMA Force's template for technological advances is what the advocates of change call the system-of-systems in describing the force's technological foundation. It differs from the other two models primarily in the rate at which it seeks to embed these technologies and operational doctrine, and in the concerted effort to introduce concomitant structural changes as early as feasible.
The third option, referred to as the Full Spectrum Force, seeks to maintain and develop the capability to deal with a broad range of requirements while accelerating modernization and technological improvement without drastic structural changes. The path to this option lies between the recapitalization and RMA paths--it seeks to maintain proven capabilities while developing and integrating advanced technology. Driven largely by a sense of broadened missions, it would seek to develop better capability at both the upper and lower areas of the range of mission demand without incurring the organizational turmoil associated with the Accelerated RMA Force.
All three options respond to certain basic factors: budgetary constraints, technological developments, and the mission requirements laid out in the previous chapter. But they would do so differently, and the differences in approach would, over a decade, result in recognizably different, and in some cases radically different force sizes and structures
Each of the military services is changing. In the Army, for example, a general shift in emphasis from attrition to maneuver warfare has dominated force planning since the mid-1970s. The Navy began an equally profound transition of its own in the early 1990s, and, as of 1996, was still in the midst of a doctrinal shift toward littoral operations. Meanwhile, the Air Force is refining its understanding of air superiority and updating strategic bombardment theory. All these internal service discussions are underway within the conceptual constraints of a growing compendia of joint doctrine. Such discussions carry implications for the future, and by drawing from them, it is possible to get a sense of what the salient characteristics of a force based on these ideas would be. This is the essence of the Recapitalized Force of 2007--the path to it would involve evolutionary development from 1997 that reflects a prominent concern with replenishing the force with better equipment within the constraints of a budget that does not rise.
In the mid-1970s, the U.S. Army began a major doctrinal shift from attrition to maneuver warfare. Led by the Training and Doctrine Command, the mainstream of Army thinking moved away from a focus on using heavy fire to avoid losing territory--a concept captured by the phrase "defending with a wall of steel"--toward a focus on attacking the basic weakness of the Soviet operational scheme--the precision and timing required of its attacking echelons.
Army planners reasoned that if the timing of an echelon attack could be disrupted by attacking second and follow-on echelons before they arrived at NATO's forward defenses, the opponent's operational scheme would be defeated. That was the essence of the Army's conceptual shift, for it changed the central purpose of applying force from destroying as many of the opposing forces as possible to disrupting the flow, timing, and precision of the opponent's operation. It was, in purest conceptual form, a shift from the implications of attrition to the behavioral imperatives of maneuver warfare. And this conceptual shift led to the organizational template that was to dominate thinking inside the Army into the mid-1990s.
Until the early 1980s, two approaches vied for this organizational template. The first argued for making ground combat units lighter, bolstering their potential with better situation awareness, and tying them more closely to aviation forces--from both the Army's growing arsenal of rotary-wing attack aircraft and the Air Force's fixed-wing assets. The contending solution called for the Army to move increasingly toward the heavier mobility of armored and mechanized combat forces, carrying a far more potent combat punch. The synthesis of these two concepts emerged in the early 1980s. The U.S. Army decided to alter its internal composition in favor of heavier divisions, build up its attack helicopter forces, and work more closely with the Air Force to develop the details of deep operations. The result was the AirLand Battle, an operational and structural template most dramatically expressed in Desert Storm.
The Army continues to refine the operational concepts and organizational path it undertook in the mid-1970s, referring to this undertaking as Force XXI: The Design of the U.S. Army for the Initial Decades of the Twenty-first Century.
F22 air superiority fighter will
enter U.S. Air Force operations by 2007.
Force XXI maintains the Army's commitment to heavy divisions. With the exception of a new mobile artillery system and the Comanche helicopter (designed for scouting, reconnaissance, and deep attack), the Army plans to build Force XXI on existing kinds of weapons and vehicles, and it anticipates little organizational change. Army planners assume the division will remain the basic operational unit; that divisions of the future will retain essentially the same organization--multipurpose combat units with considerable organic capability--and that the relationship and functional connection between divisions and corps will not change. They posit little, if any, changes in the balance among combat, combat support, and combat service support elements in the active force and anticipate that the level of the active force--ten active divisions and an overall manpower level of about five-hundred thousand--will remain essentially the same well into the twenty-first century.
The greatest differences Army planners see for the future have to do with improved situation awareness and the relationship between active and reserve forces. Under the rubric of the digitized battlefield, the Army is developing a sophisticated information system designed to provide a common, real-time understanding of the battlefield. The Army plans to parallel its development of the digitized battlefield with a far more comprehensive, secure, and dependable command, control, communications, and intelligence (C3I) system than exists in 1996.
Army planners assume, however, that these technical improvements will enhance existing organizations and operations rather than precipitate basic changes either in the way the Army is organized or in how it operates. The technology on which planners are building the enhanced situation awareness is at the forefront of the information revolution. But the dominant Army view is that this technology is best understood as a complement to what has been evolving since the mid-1970s, rather than a fulcrum from which structural or operational changes can or should be made.
The Army's view of the relationship between active and reserve/National Guard components has also been evolving. In the late 1970s, the Army leadership began to transfer combat support and combat service support elements from the active forces to the reserves. In the early 1980s, however, driven by the perceived need to deploy rapidly from the United States to Southwest Asia, the shift of support units from the active forces to the reserves was reversed, engendering greater reliance on the reserves and National Guard for combat units, in the form of round-out brigades. With the end of the Cold War, the trend regarding reserve combat support and combat service support units changed again. As a result, the Army Reserve of the mid-1990s is composed almost entirely of support units, while the National Guard has continued to evolve toward a combat-unit-heavy structure. The National Guard has fifteen enhanced-readiness brigades (performing the same role as the round-out brigades in the 1980s) plus another eight combat divisions.
The Army's interest in restructuring Army Reserves in favor of combat service support units in part reflects its desire to shift the increasing burden of peacekeeping operations to the reserves. Army planners argue that peacekeeping needs are often best met by many of the service support assets that reside in the reserves (transport, engineering, medical services, military police, etc.). Relying primarily on reserve forces for peacekeeping operations, in this view, makes sense for a number of reasons. It allows reserve units committed to peacekeeping missions to hone their particular skills much better than they can do during their normal reserve training, meets the demands of the peacekeeping missions better than with combat units (who are often not trained for the kind of activities peacekeeping many times requires), and frees the active forces to concentrate on honing their war-fighting skills.
Data drawn from the various peacekeeping operations from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s tend to support the view that reserves organized for single purposes--such as civil affairs, engineering, transportation, or military police activities--have done well where they were used. On the other hand, the use of active forces has generally been very successful in what may broadly be called peacekeeping roles. The 10th Mountain Division, for example, served with effect and efficiency in Somalia and Haiti. The dominant trend regarding peace operations, therefore, consists of two tactics. The first is to use particular active units, such as the 10th Mountain Division, as relatively self-sufficient, multipurpose organized units for those missions in which armed opposition is likely. The second is to draw from the reserve forces those support capabilities that may be essential to peace operations.
This approach is not cost free, particularly as long as the Army attempts to maintain a high combat readiness level across the active force structure. As long as the readiness condition of Army units is based on combat capabilities, peacekeeping operations will degrade readiness, for they divert units from training and maintenance. The demand for high readiness, in turn, colors the way the Army deals with non-combat missions; it tries to restrict the readiness degradation these missions impose to as few units as possible. That helps maintain high readiness on the part of most active units--the ones that are not tapped for non-combat operations--but it also creates high operational tempos for those units selected to perform the peacekeeping and other non-combat missions.
The two solutions to this tension used in the recapitalization model are to (1) designate some active units for non-combat missions and focus the training of these units on the skills necessary for non-combat operations, and (2) to accept lower readiness in the active force structure for some units. The second option follows from the first so far as the units committed and trained for operations other than war are concerned. But some relaxation of the required training, maintenance, and unit fill demands associated with high combat readiness could be expanded to more of the active force structure. Reduced readiness, driven by less combat training is a partial solution to the recapitalization surge the Army faces in the first decade of the twenty-first century.
The Army's planning for 2007 posits a force very similar in size and structure to that of 1996. There are, however, two factors that could undercut such a projection. One is the growing need for recapitalization. The other is increasing concern that the mix of heavy and light combat units may not be as justified as was previously believed. The Marine Corps also faces a recapitalization and modernization problem, particularly if the costs of its two major procurement programs--the V22 and the AAAV--limit the numbers procured and the rate at which they are introduced to the active force.
Much of the Army's capital base is modern and relatively new, for, like all the military services, the Army replenished and modernized its equipment during the 1980s and, while downsizing in the early 1990s, purged weapons and equipment inventories of older items. But for several years in the mid-1990s the Army did not replenish major items of equipment, nor does it plan to buy many new tanks, trucks, weapons, or other systems in the late 1990s. As a result, concern about recapitalizing the Army will become more pronounced as the existing inventories wear out, particularly in the first decade of the twenty-first century. The more divisions and other combat units the Army maintains, and maintains at high levels of readiness, the worse its recapitalization crunch will be. This is also the case with the Marine Corps. Reducing the readiness of some part of the active force would help alleviate the pending recapitalization crunch because, if instituted before 2000, it would stretch out the deterioration of equipment and the resulting demand for recapitalization in those units that went to the lower level of combat readiness.
But the most direct means of avoiding the recapitalization surge is to reduce the size of the force. How large the Army and Marine Corps remains, and how they are structured in the future ultimately depends on what the American public wants them to do. Army planners argue that the U.S. Army is the ultimate expression of U.S. military power because only ground forces can control populations and territory. That may be true, but it ties the preferred size of the Army to the size of the population and territory the United States may wish to control, and to the power of the opposing ground forces the Army may have to destroy in order to ensure the desired control. If the U.S. sees the need to control large territories and populations, and believes opposing ground forces are likely to be formidable, then the large size and potency of the U.S. Army makes sense. If U.S. desires are more limited, such power may not make as much sense.
The 1st Armored Division stationed in Tuzla,
Bosnia before moving out to Srebrenica.
The recapitalization model, therefore, assumes some marginal reductions in the active ground forces--both the Army and the Marine Corps--by 2007. These reductions would result from the conscious effort to meet the requirement to recapitalize and modernize the force without demanding a significant rise in the defense budget.
Some reductions of the reserve components of the Army are also consistent with the recapitalization path, but this model does not anticipate significant changes in the total force concept currently defining the relationship between active and reserve components. That is, the Recapitalized Force would still see the National Guard and Army Reserve as combat supplements to the active force. In the case of the Marine Corps, however, this model recognizes the possibility of deviating from the current 3:1 ratio of active to reserve components by adjusting the numbers of regiments in each Marine Division.
In the early 1990s, the U.S. Navy began a transition that was as significant to future operations and force structure as was the transition the Army began in the 1970s. In the Navy's case, the shift involved a reorientation from sea control toward operations in littoral areas; and from the operational and structural implications of what was termed the maritime strategy toward those embodied by the Navy's 1992 white paper, Forward...From the Sea. Among other things, this reorientation resulted in planning decisions to reduce the number of U.S. nuclear attack submarines by roughly half; more closely integrate the operational use of Navy and Marine Corps aviation assets; procure the F/A18E/F rather than a longer-range, stealthier aircraft; accelerate the decommissioning of frigates; and reduce the number of aircraft carriers to eleven, with an additional reserve carrier.
Navy planners, as of 1996, assumed the major structural changes required by the shift toward littoral operations had been completed. Because of the long lead times associated with ship building, their projections of Navy forces in 2007 therefore posited minor modifications to the existing force, although some more significant changes--planned to emerge fully later--would be visible by that time. Basically, however, the Navy on the drawing board derives from the Navy of 1996 and is consistent with the 1996 force structure.
The maritime strategy that drove Navy planning from the early 1970s to the 1990s fit into the planning concept of a global war with the Soviet Union. It assumed the Navy would operate on the flanks of the Soviet Union, far from other U.S. forces and unable either to draw from or support those forces. Joint operations--demanding interoperable communications, logistics, weapons, and coordination among U.S. and allied ground, air, and naval forces, all working in close proximity with one another--simply did not figure greatly into calculations and the design of naval systems.
The shift toward littoral operations in the context of regional (not global) conflicts changed the importance of joint operations and interoperable communications. As a result, by 2007, virtually all U.S. Navy ships will carry communications suites that are interoperable with Army and Air Force components. But joint operations demand more than interoperable communications. If, for example, naval aviation is going to be part of a jointly commanded pool of aviation assets, then the aircraft contributed by the naval component ought to be able to use ordnance similar to that used by other components. In Desert Storm, that was not the case. In 1996, it was more so, and in 2007, standardized munitions will be the norm. And standardized delivery platforms, like the Joint Strike Aircraft, will be about to enter the inventories.
The littoral refers to an area encompassing both land and sea. When the Navy talks about littoral operations it is not just discussing the problem of projecting military power from the sea to the land but is also addressing how the Navy can directly influence the land battle. One organizational change could be an increasing integration of Navy and Marine Corps components. The Navy's decision in the early 1990s to incorporate Marine Corps F18 squadrons into carrier air wings was driven in large part by the desire to spread the Marine Corps aviators' skill in and orientation toward direct support of ground operations throughout naval aviation.
But the general trend toward more direct Navy influence on ground operations is likely to have some other effects too, such as:
Although Navy planners argue that the structural shifts required by the focus on littoral operations are essentially complete and that the existing structure should be maintained pretty much as it is until at least 2007, they also believe some additional hedges against the rise of a naval challenger are necessary. The primary hedge is the roughly annual production of a nuclear attack submarine. The recapitalization path would adhere to the trend currently planned for the attack submarine inventory. It would also supplement this hedge by moving the number of surface combatants slightly below the existing level toward an all aegis equipped surface combatant force with a more robust overall Sea Launched Cruise Missile capability. This surface combatant force could include one arsenal ship.
U.S. Army helicopters operating from carrier flight deck.
The U.S. Air Force's initial response to the end of the Cold War came in the form of a white paper--Global Reach, Global Power--that, coupled with the Desert Storm experience, underlies much of the Air Force's view of the future. Global Reach, Global Power argued the United States would have to maintain its capacity to project military power throughout the world but, in the future, might be less able to rely on the global network of overseas bases it had during the Cold War. The Air Force therefore posited that the nation's ability to project air power in response to new demands would rest on two pillars--modern equipment and new, more flexible organizations. So it proceeded, in the early 1990s, to devise a way to achieve both. But the approach the Air Force decided upon made one key assumption; namely, that the resources the Air Force would have during the remainder of the twentieth century would not grow appreciably.
The commitment to technical modernization was not new, for the U.S. Air Force has long believed that its distinguishing characteristic is its consistent efforts to incorporate developments in aerodynamics, electronics, metallurgy, and computer technology into its operations. In the 1980s, much of this orientation had been focused on stealth and had produced new generations of strike aircraft--the F117 and the B2. By the mid-1990s, the quest for modernization was focused on:
Each of these programs pushes the edge of the technological envelope and, as such, is consistent with the Air Force philosophy of maintaining a strong advantage over the air capabilities of other nations. The recapitalization model would maintain these commitments and trends, but would reduce the numbers of tactical aircraft below the current level by 2007.
As for organizational modifications, the Air Force has been trying to develop more flexible operational entities--similar to the task-organized maritime forces of the Navy. The effort experiments with assembling different mixes of air assets and deploying them rapidly to overseas operating areas. Following Desert Storm, the focus was on what was termed a composite wing, a generic organization designed to carry a broad range of combat and support capabilities with it as it deployed to a crisis. In the mid-1990s, the emphasis has been on air expeditionary forces, units assembled for specific tasks that try to take only those combat and support assets not available in the operating area. Air expeditionary forces tend to be designed to integrate with the assets and capabilities brought to an operation by other service components. The composite wing tended to be designed for independent and self-sustained operations.
The modernization desires of the Air Force are ambitious and expensive, something Air Force planners recognize. Since they do not anticipate a rising defense budget, they plan to meet the costs of modernization in three ways. The first is to cut the cost of infrastructure and basing. Air Force planners believe that by reducing bases and privatizing many of the support functions, they can generate a large portion of the funds necessary to carry out the six modernization tasks listed above.
The second approach is to expand reliance on the reserve force components of the Air Force. Of all the service components, the Air Force has come closest to integrating its reserve and National Guard components into the day-to-day tasks it faces in peacetime, as well as planning for the use of reserves in war. Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard units have gradually taken over significant portions of various roles. As of 1996, the entire air defense mission for the continental United States was, and had been for several years, assigned to reserve components. Air Force and Air National Guard units fly more than half of all air refueling missions, up from less than 15 percent in the 1980s; during conflicts, the reserve components would be expected to fly in more than half of all search-and-rescue and close air support missions. If Air Force planners have their way in the late 1990s, Air National Guard and reserve units will take over more of the support for active units. And some of the long-range planning inside the Air Force envisions altering the breakdown of thirteen active and seven reserve wings in favor of a ten-ten split of the twenty fighter-wing equivalents planned under the BUR force.
The third way the Air Force believes it can resolve the potential conflict between its commitment to modernization and budget limitations is with much greater combat effectiveness. Planners bet the combination of advanced aircraft, such as the F22 or B2, and the new family of precision-guided munitions (PGMs) will, result in such dramatic increases in effectiveness as to reduce the need and costs of maintaining the same force level. Most air power theorists believe a qualitatively new era is emerging in which relatively stealthy aircraft armed with precision-guided weapons change the planning issue from how many aircraft and sorties it takes to destroy a given target to how many separate targets a single aircraft can destroy.
The Air Force's commitment to getting the F22 and the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) into the active inventory as soon as possible is related to the common problem facing all the military services: the prospect of existing inventory wearing out in the first decade of the twenty-first century. The Air Force faces a relatively dramatic increase in the average age of its fighters by 2007. If new aircraft do not replace the existing inventory as the Air Force hopes, the service will face some undesirable choices. It can continue to procure F16 and F15 aircraft to replace the older versions of the same aircraft, and push F22 and JSF procurement farther into the future. Or it can attempt to cut the wear and tear on the existing inventory by reducing flying hours, an option that the Air Force would also prefer to avoid.
The recapitalization path does not anticipate a significant change from the 1996 level of active forces. It would, however, make several modifications to meet the perceived conflict between the service's modernization and recapitalization interests and the constraints on funding.
One would be to adjust the number of active and reserve fighter wing equivalents. The Recapitalized Force model, for example, would shift the mix of thirteen active and seven reserve component wings to eleven active and nine reserve fighter wing equivalents by 2007. Another change would be made to the number of aircraft in each squadron. In 1992, the Air Force reconfigured its fighter force into smaller squadrons. Prior to that decision, the Air Force had usually organized its active fighter aircraft in wings of three squadrons, with twenty-four combat aircraft in each squadron. After 1992, however, most fighter squadrons were reduced to eighteen combat aircraft. By returning to the higher number of aircraft per squadron, the Air Force could generate some savings, primarily from reduced personnel requirements in such areas as command, staff, administration, and maintenance.
While the Recapitalized Force would be similar to the 1996 force, a force reflecting a ten year effort to accelerate RMA technologies would not. To understand why, it is helpful to examine the major element of the Accelerated RMA Force--what Admiral William A. Owens, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, described as the system-of-systems.
The system-of-systems integrates systems that collect, process, and communicate information with those that apply military force. Advocates believe that doing this can produce an enormous disparity in military capability between the United States and any opponent, a disparity that will enable U.S. military forces to operate within an opponent's reaction cycles and apply military force with dramatically greater efficiency and little risk to U.S. forces. The system-of-systems refers primarily to the technical basis of this argument and describes the capabilities that result from the interaction of new ISR, C4I, and precision force technologies.
There is an important corollary to the technical promises of the system-of-systems; namely, that to achieve the promise of the system-of systems technologies, the United States must develop new operational concepts and military organizations that can take advantage of them. In this view, the United States has to move away from a force structure that is too ponderous to operate within the decision-reaction cycle of an opponent, and it must adopt operational concepts that are consistent with the capabilities the technologies offer.
How is a revolution in military affairs accelerated? In the case of the U.S. in the late 1990s, it involves higher funding for particular technologies, more rapid integration of these technologies into the force, and organizational change and experimentation to take full advantage of the new technology. The particular technologies are identifiable and a degree of consensus exists within the Department of Defense and Congress as to what they are. Various "technological road maps" have been published over the last several years, and--while there is no comprehensive agreement on what specific combination of technologies would generate the system-of-systems within a decade--there is a general understanding of the particular means of integrating information collection, processing, and communication at the center of the concept. Studies such as the Report of the Task Force on the Advanced Battlespace Information System describe them in enough detail to identify specific programs that could be accelerated, estimate when the technologies would come to fruition, and roughly assess what it would cost.
The Accelerated RMA model sketched below pushes these implications to their logical extreme. It describes the kind of force structure that could emerge by 2007 given a dominant assumption; namely, that national decision makers would seek to accelerate the American RMA at the fastest rate possible, given the demands of the international security environment. This path involves considerable risk and would not be followed if the decision-makers believe the chances of major armed conflict over the next half decade were relatively high. This is because a conscious and systematic effort to integrate advanced information technology to a force structure that was changing rapidly would involve considerable organizational turmoil and probably reduce operational readiness for some units some of the time. Yet, what is described is not a straw man. It is best understood as an hypothetical description of a force design path at the edge of feasibility--a logical extension into force implications of the line of thought of those who see the American Revolution of Military Affairs as the best course to the future.
In an Accelerated RMA Force, the central mission of U.S. ground forces would remain the destruction of opposing military forces through fire and maneuver. However, RMA capabilities would alter the relationship between these two activities. In 1996, the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marine Corps see fire as the means to close with and destroy the opponent or seize and control territory. But DBK and precision force could change this battle plan: indirect fire--delivered largely from non-organic sources--could become the primary means of destroying the opponent, and maneuver may become the means of directing fire onto the opponent while avoiding his counteractions. Not all ground combat units would be lightly armed or would seek to avoid direct contact with the opponent. Indeed, some ground force units--attack helicopter and armored units, for example--would function primarily as shooters. But all ground force combat units would also serve as sensors for munitions delivered from other sources and platforms--regardless of whether those sources were land-, sea-, or air-based.
Access to RMA technologies points toward more agile ground force combat units. That agility is likely to result in part from smaller units with less organic fire and other combat support--all of which would be available, on time, from non-organic sources. This concept therefore carries significant potential structural changes. Much of the organic structure of the current major combat units, for example, is there essentially to assure that combat support (indirect fire support, combat engineer support, etc.) is available and responsive when and where the maneuver unit needs it. In the American case, one result has been a tradition of relatively robust, full combat spectrum maneuver units. The RMA hypothesis argues that because of better situation awareness, advanced C4I, and longer range precision weapons, it will be possible to increasingly rely on combat support provided from non-organic sources. These sources would, the argument continues, include the assets of other service components. Thus, in the broadest sense, the RMA path is one of increasing jointness and moves toward replacing the asset and capability independence that characterizes the 1996 military structure with greater asset and capability interdependence.
The purpose of these kinds of shifts would be, among other things, to make ground force maneuver units inherently more agile and more capable fast moving, dispersed attack operations. Accordingly, ground forces on the accelerated RMA path would shift toward smaller combat units, organized by task for the particular mission assigned them. The Army division might no longer be the nearly self-contained key combat organization it is in 1996, and the central combat organization in ground operations could devolve downward to the brigade or lower. Some functions and capabilities within the divisions could be assigned to subordinate units. And some of the functions now thought to be organic to various echelons might be reduced dramatically. The air defense of ground units and operations, for example, might be subsumed almost entirely by the Air Force and Navy. Likewise, many of the combat support and combat service support functions currently associated with the divisions, brigades, and armored cavalry regiments, and brigades could move toward greater consolidation inside the ground forces and migrate to other service components.
Greater unit agility, driven by the desire to meet the demands of dominant maneuver operations, could also alter the way in which some functions within the ground forces are conducted. The RMA postulates a high and sustained tempo of ground force operations by mobile combat units. That, in turn, implies a shift from individual to unit replacement, not because of anticipated attrition, but to maintain the tempo of operations. This, in turn, suggests that the ground forces would need a relatively high number of combat units to replace or relieve units as the tempo of operations eroded their effectiveness. These kind of changes, of course, would rest on deep alterations of the existing personnel systems and training processes.
One result consistent with the Accelerated RMA Force would be new structures designed to take advantage of RMA technologies and operate in accordance with RMA concepts. One such structure might be a significantly different combat unit, referred to here as a "maneuver group." The maneuver group might be designed and trained to operate in accordance with some of the organizational implications of the "sea dragon" experiments being undertaken by the Marine Corps. That is, each new group--of roughly 1,000 personnel--might comprise a headquarters--or "combat coordination" authority--and a number of combat teams. The combat coordinators' primary task would be to implement the unit-replacement system that would shuttle the combat teams in and out of their operating areas and to adjudicate among competing fire support requests by the combat teams. The teams would rely largely on non-organic sources of indirect fire support and tactical air transportation. The precise organization of such units is less important for the purposes of describing what could emerge from the accelerated RMA path than underlining the general notion that this route is likely to generate structural manifestations that would appear very different from what exists in 1996.
In short, the accelerated RMA path not only postulates fairly rapid changes, but also posits significant changes that run through current ground force structure and the processes that support the structures. The scope of what is potentially involved therefore makes it unlikely that the United States could complete the kind of major ground force reorganization this path envisions by 2007, for despite the assumption of vigorously pursued change, ten years is probably not long enough to realize all that is implied by a revolution. It is far more likely that, even given an early decision to move in this direction, the U.S. ground force component in 2007 would still have organizations and structures similar to existing ones. Overall, a structural overview of the RMA ground force component, circa 2007, would show a blend of the familiar and the new. The ground forces would in effect be bifurcated into some evolutionary extensions of today's units and radically different organizations designed to operate in new ways. This would pose both management challenges and strategic risks, for if a major conflict were to break out during the transition to the new model, it would catch the United States in the difficult position of being in the midst of considerable organizational change and the decline in overall combat readiness that would probably accompany it.
However, the United States has effected considerable shifts in organization and doctrine within a ten year period in the past. The task of managing even a transition of the magnitude postulated by this model with the minimum degradation of readiness is quite possible. Technically, the military capability of the force would be increasing throughout the transition. But there is little doubt that this path would be challenging.
One hedge against the strategic risks associated with a rapid transition would involve the character and use of the Army Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve and National Guard units that constitute the ground force reserve components. The Accelerated RMA Force model uses these components as repositories of today's structure and doctrine. They would become a primary means of hedging against some of the concerns likely to be generated during the period of rapid organizational, technological, and doctrinal change in the active components--a core around which the nation could field considerable ground force combat capability (organized and operating in today's manner) if that should be necessary for either an unexpected major military contingency or for operations other than war. This would not be done to exempt the active force components from contingencies--for surely they would always possess significant military potency (which would grow rapidly in the last five years of the transition to the RMA model). But the reserve components would be seen in this model as an increasingly different complement to the active force's combat capability, for they would not be modernized or reorganized at the rate or to the extent that the active force components would during the transition.
As a result, there would be a growing divergence between the character of the active and reserve ground force components over the next decade. Near the end of that period, the nation might seek to again bring the reserve components into closer conformity with the structure and doctrine of the active components, which by that time would be nearing the end of the rapid transformation to the RMA model. But the accelerated RMA path carries major changes to today's notion of a "total force" so far as the ground forces are concerned during the ten-year period of transition.
Unmanned vehicle ready for launch from carrier flight deck.
U.S. naval power revolves around the character, mix, and operations of ships and aircraft at sea. This is not to say that ships and aircraft are all that count in naval forces. The Navy's shore establishment--an extensive network of construction, maintenance, training, and housing facilities in the United States and abroad--absorbs nearly half the money the United States allocates to its naval forces and employs most of the Navy's personnel. But the ships, submarines, and aircraft that operate on, over, and under the sea are and will remain the core of U.S. naval power.
Thus, the effects of the RMA on U.S. naval power ultimately depend on how it will alter the character, mix, and operations of this core. And that imposes some important temporal constraints because, while changes in operations and the mix of ships can be made relatively easily, changing the character of the Navy's ships and aircraft is not likely to be done quickly. These temporal considerations are important when the issue is what an RMA naval force could look like by 2007. A decade is long enough to introduce some significantly different naval platform designs to the active force. Indeed, the arsenal ship and mobile offshore base--two platforms that differ considerably from what exists in 1996--could enter active service by 2007. But 2007 is too soon to talk about wholesale revisions of the basic designs of the ships and aircraft.
Nor is it likely that the RMA would alter the way U.S. naval forces organize for operations. While the RMA posits rather dramatic changes in ground force organization, U.S. naval operations already emphasize an organizational flexibility built around mixing various types and numbers of ships for particular tasks.
By 2007, then, the most visible changes associated with the RMA would emerge in what the basic platforms carry, how they operate, and perhaps in the mix of ships and aircraft in the overall active inventory. Some trends consistent with RMA theory and technology are already visible (although initiated for reasons that have little to do with the RMA). The general shift toward operations in the littoral, for example, fits with RMA propositions of operational integration among service components and better ground force access to non-organic firepower assets.
Some of the RMA implications for naval forces are straightforward. Improved communications connectivity with other U.S. forces is one of the most obvious and important. Likewise, an Accelerated RMA emphasis on responsive, accurate, and precise engagement from extended ranges implies rapid buildup of longer range precision-guided weapons inventories and the inventory control improvements needed to make this capability more quickly accessible to a wider range of users. Doing that, however, entails more than increasing the purchase of weapons, accelerating the deployment of the arsenal ship, and increasing the number of vertical launch systems on Navy ships. It also means linking naval strike and air and missile defense systems with those of the Army and Air Force and expanding the Navy's cooperative-engagement concept to encompass ground and tactical air forces. And it could mean much more interest in using Army and Air Force combat systems from naval ships.
The RMA, for example, builds on ideas like mounting the ATACMS on Navy ships or using structures like mobile offshore bases--built and operated by the Navy--as joint-use platforms. It does not argue for subordinating Navy assets to other service components. But the RMA notion of precision engagement will erode traditional boundaries and operational styles. U.S. naval forces would have to pick up some military functions that have traditionally been conducted by the Army and the Air Force.
The most obvious of these is air and missile defense of ground forces. The Navy seems the logical choice for building initial air and missile defenses over land areas in which the United States seeks to project military power. It is also the logical choice for establishing at least initial joint tactical C4I nets in such areas.
Today, the number of active Navy ships is a function of perceived overseas presence requirements and planned patterns and rates of maintenance, deployment preparation, transit, and operational tempo. The overall number of active Navy ships reflects the fact that it takes about five ships to keep one deployed overseas on any given day. There are at least three ways in which the American RMA could affect this ratio and the overall active ship requirement, assuming the peacetime overseas deployment locations present in 1996 remain.
First, mobile offshore bases could be added to the force structure. The immediate effect of stationing an MOB in the Persian Gulf would be to free four carriers for use elsewhere on a day-to-day basis. That, of course, implies--but does not necessarily mean--a potential reduction in the overall number of carriers required by a force that also includes the MOB.
Second, DBK, which exists before hostilities, could affect forward deployments. In the mid-1990s, the United States deploys forward forces for two reasons: to inspire awe of U.S. military prowess, and to deter and respond quickly to particular crises and contingencies. Since response time is a function of the awareness of a pending contingency, there is a tradeoff between the amount of advance notice and the timing of a response. That is, for every day of advance notice DBK generates, the United States can station its naval response force farther away from the potential crisis. Thus, to the extent response time affects forward deployment requirements, DBK may allow a shift away from the forward-deployment hub concept toward fewer hubs or, ultimately, to a different approach entirely--namely, a global surge concept in which naval forces are normally either (1) stationed near the continental United States and surge to the area of concern, or (2) dispersed and moving globally (the interest in building general, global awe mentioned above would drive this pattern). Both of these changes could, but would not necessarily, lead to a reduction in the number of carriers.
Lastly, the kind of overseas presence consistent with the Accelerated RMA Force might differ from the existing understanding of such presence. Carriers are the central component of the U.S. overseas naval presence, in part because they symbolize American military power well. Their deterrent effect is rooted in the destructive potential they carry. But the symbols the United States wishes to cultivate in the future may be different, particularly if Washington wants to replace the idea that U.S. military prowess acts as a shield for allies (the underlying concept of extended deterrence) with the notion that it can empower them. Previously, apprehension over the overwhelmingly powerful Soviet threat bound allies to the United States. In the absence of an analogous threat, a pervasive and clearly overwhelming U.S. naval presence may be more cause for suspicion than for solace. The RMA approach to friendly great powers is to allay their suspicions and undercut any potential desire to compete with the United States, perhaps U.S. naval overseas presence should revolve around smaller force packages that still allow allies to tap into the DBK.
Tier III Minus, or DarkStar, unmanned air vehicle takes off.
DarkStar can loiter over a target area for more than 8 hours,
carrying an electro-optical or synthetic aperture radar system.
Like the Army, U.S. Air Force organization traditionally has been relatively standardized. Terms like "squadron" denote a particular mix of personnel and equipment. Yet, like the Navy, the Air Force increasingly thinks of task organizing for operations. The most obvious example of this approach is what Air Force planners refer to as a "composite air wing." Accordingly, when describing the impact of the RMA on the structure of the Air Force, it is probably best to first discuss the effects in terms of the overall mix of aircraft assets.
While the Air Force is the major contributor to American air power, it is important to note the contributions of the other military components and the services' increasingly overlapping capabilities. Traditionally, air power focuses on two broad missions, each with subcomponents. The United States uses aircraft to support ground and sea operations--by providing close air support (CAS) to engaging units, battlefield interdiction (BI), and air defense. It also uses its air power to provide strategic strike--not necessarily with nuclear weapons, but to destroy the capacity and the will of an opponent to wage war. This second use has involved attacks against what the Air Force calls strategic centers of gravity (normally fixed facilities that constitute important nodes in an opponent's communications, transportation, command and control, industrial production, and electrical power systems) and, more particularly, against the units, equipment, and facilities of an opponent's air power. The latter mission set is often characterized as offensive counter air (OCA) operations. Successful air defense and counter air operations together provide what the Air Force sees as air superiority.
The separation of air operations into two broad classes of activity has never been precisely demarcated (a given bridge can be a battlefield interdiction target and part of the opponent's transportation center of gravity), and there is an overlap in the capabilities that the United States can bring to these missions. The overlap is in part a function of technology--as target-acquisition, timeliness, and precision improve, and the range, precision, and accuracy of weapons get better, more of the air assets of each force component can be used against a wider range of targets.
Air power overlap is a perennial issue in discussions of service roles and missions, and analyses usually conclude that it is not necessarily bad. It provides assurance not only that the missions will be accomplished, but also multiplies an opponent's defensive problems. Still, in an era in which DBK will be shared by all the U.S. military components in a contingency, and the weapons employed by each will be of longer range as well as more accurate, responsive, and precise, it is worth rethinking the issue of how much overlap is too much. The issue is not a simple matter of cost effectiveness. It is also a question of what mix of capabilities results in the best overall synergy of military power--whether assigning air power missions to fewer components offers better overall military effectiveness. As discussed above, shifting air defense responsibility to the Air Force could make Army maneuver units more mobile, agile, and effective in the kind of ground force operations the RMA makes feasible. Similar payoffs exist with air assets, and therefore the Accelerated RMA Force path could reduce or narrow today's air power redundancies superfluous. Accordingly, the RMA model would involve the following functional shifts:
Together, these shifts would have the effect of moving toward specialization.
The greater precision, range, and accuracy of the weapons carried by U.S. aircraft in the future could reduce the need for the numbers of aircraft in the active inventories, particularly if, as in the Accelerated RMA Force model, the aircraft were able to work from a detailed, comprehensive common situation awareness and fit within a command and control system that approached near perfect mission assignment. And, if the numbers of aircraft carriers were reduced, there might be additional considerations why the number of tactical aircraft would go down.
There are, however, some reasons why significant reductions in the numbers of tactical aircraft and longer range bombers might not be made. First, the demand for concurrent operations could work against such reductions. While the shift from sequential to concurrent operations posits potentially shorter conflicts, it also implies very high tempo operations early in the conflict. Concurrent operations and the concomitant rise in air operations tempo, even for limited periods, could require more tactical aircraft than sequential operations. Second, while the numbers of carriers might go down in the Accelerated RMA Force model, the introduction of mobile offshore bases could make relatively large tactical aircraft inventories sensible. Rather than permanently stationing large numbers of aircraft on the MOB, they could be flown to it when needed.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Accelerated RMA Force Model could be an accelerated movement toward unmanned aircraft. Unmanned aircraft would play an important role in collecting information. Of all three force models, the Accelerated RMA Force carries the greatest incentive to rapidly expand the inventory of surveillance and reconnaissance drones. But the interest in unmanned aircraft could also be accelerated by the effort to tie focused logistics to the kind of ground operations envisioned by this model. Focused logistics, in concert with the highly mobile, high tempo operations of relatively small ground force units, could put a premium on numerous, relatively small aircraft capable of delivering logistics support in relatively small packages, but precisely and on time. This posits a growing utility for relatively inexpensive unmanned aircraft as logistics delivery platforms as well as for information collection. Given the expanded situation awareness and precise, real-time tracking capability of the Accelerated RMA Force model, an early significantly greater reliance on unmanned aircraft would be consistent with this force design path.
While the Accelerated RMA Force model deviates greatly in many respects from the 1966 forces, it would maintain some important continuities. One of these has to do with the role of Air Force and Navy reserve components, which, particularly with regard to the Air Force, are often fully integrated into many day-to-day active force air operations. Airlift, for example, currently relies heavily on reserve and National Guard components, and the Air Force has recently successfully experimented with relying on reserve components for aircraft maintenance in both the active and reserve components. This pattern is consistent with the Accelerated RMA Force, for while the model postulates significant differences in the current active-reserve component relationships of in the ground forces, this is not the case with regard to the current manner in which the Air Force, and to a lesser extent, the Navy, uses their reserve components.
The need for continued access to space is also an integral part of the Accelerated RMA Force model, for, of all the models, this one relies on space-based surveillance and communications assets the most. As such, going down this design path would probably elevate the importance of space dominance more than both of the other models. This is also the case with air superiority, which in this model becomes particularly important not only to conform with the concept of full spectrum protection, but because of the shift away from air defense redundancy.
The Full Spectrum Force, as the name implies, would be designed to meet a broad range of challenges and to cope with the prospect of continued ambiguity regarding the security environment in the years ahead. It is also a force designed to bridge the other two force models outlined in this assessment. That is, the Full Spectrum Force would embrace the central thrust of the Recapitalized Force--the effort to maintain the high quality and capability of the existing military force by minimizing disruptive changes to its structure and organization--and seize the promise of advanced technology and the "system-of-systems" that is central to the Accelerated RMA Force. This would involve considerable tension, particularly if accelerating the revolution in military affairs requires organizational innovation. The Full Spectrum Force is in some respects an elegant solution to this potential paradox, for it would be selective in the organizational and structural changes it undertakes. It could be the most expensive force design path, for it would seek to maintain a very robust force structure while modernizing and recapitalizing.
Unlike the Accelerated RMA Force approach that would seek to make widespread organizational and doctrinal changes while accelerating modernization, the Full Spectrum Force would be less committed to rapid organizational change. Yet, unlike the Recapitalized Force, it would seek to accelerate modernization while maintaining a robust force structure.
From a structural perspective, the changes in ground forces associated with the Full Spectrum Force would be similar to those sketched for the Recapitalized Force. There would be a conscious effort to avoid radical, rapid, and disruptive changes to the existing structure. Accordingly, the ground force structure of the full spectrum model would conform much more closely to existing forces than to the more radical design of the Accelerated RMA Force. And, as in the case of the Recapitalized Force, full spectrum ground forces would adjust to readiness of some units and designate some active force units for specialized training--and perhaps equipping--for operations other than war.
But the motivation for making these adjustments would be different. With the Full Spectrum Force, the interest in adjusting readiness would be driven not so much by an effort to free resources for recapitalization, as by a desire to free portions of the force to serve as test beds for integrating advanced technology and as a means of meeting overseas presence requirements. The Full Spectrum Force emphasizes technological improvement, and while it would not undertake organizational changes in parallel with the introduction of advanced technology, it would reduce the readiness requirements on parts of the existing force structure to allow more rapid integration of the new technologies and experimentation with different operational modes.
The more significant aspect of readiness in this model, however, would involve the Army and encompass a different approach to overseas deployments. At present, U.S. Army forces are deployed overseas for two general kinds of missions. Most Army overseas deployments are for general presence purposes or, as most clearly is the case in Korea, to deter and prepare for a major conflict. The second general reason for overseas deployments has been for actual contingencies, often associated with operations other than war. Obvious examples in 1996 of such operations are the U.S. ground forces deployed in the Sinai, Bosnia, or the former Yugoslavia Republic of Macedonia on peacekeeping missions. Although the number of U.S. Marines deployed overseas is less than the total number of Army personnel abroad, the Marines' overseas deployments are devoted to the same two general purposes--presence and contingency operations or preparations for such operations.
But the way the two ground force components deal with overseas deployments differs. Most of the Army forward deployments in Europe, for example, involve permanent changes of station for the individual personnel sent there. The American military infrastructure in Europe is designed to accommodate both the combat, combat support, and combat service support units stationed there and the large numbers of family dependents that accompany the service personnel while they are assigned to forward stationed units. Army units assigned to forward deployments train continually in order to maintain a high degree of readiness. Active Army units assigned to stations in the United States likewise train more or less constantly to maintain a similarly high level of combat readiness, largely to be able to reinforce forward deployed units quickly without deficiencies in readiness. The Marine Corps deals with forward deployments differently. For the most part they follow the Navy pattern of deploying units from home stations in the United States on a rotational basis. This rotational pattern involves a regular and scheduled movement through different levels of readiness. Units train in preparation for overseas rotations, achieving their highest level of readiness upon deployment. Upon rotating back to their home station, their readiness is at a relatively low level and they enter a cycle of training and restoration that returns them to the readiness required to again deploy overseas.
The Full Spectrum Force model would introduce a similar unit rotational scheme for Army forward deployments. Assuming the level of overseas Army deployments would remain similar to 1996, at the end of the 10-year transition to the new pattern, units deployed from home stations in the United States would remain overseas for periods of roughly 6 months before returning to the United States and reentering a training and preparation cycle that would prepare them for overseas deployments up to 9 to 12 months in the future. Like the current pattern associated with the cycle of Marine Corps units, this shift to a unit rotational deployment pattern would carry with it a different pattern of readiness.
The shift would entail important changes. It implies, for example, a reduction of the overseas structure that currently supports accompanying dependents, for this pattern would rest largely on shorter, non-accompanied overseas deployments for Army units. It also allows for the integration on a unit basis of the reserve components, for while the preparation period prior to overseas deployments would have to be longer for reserve and National Guard units, once prepared, these units could fit into the unit rotational patterns for some deployments (such as those associated with the Sinai peacekeeping operations) as effectively as active units.
But the salient implication of this shift would be the requirement for a relatively large active force structure. The unit rotation, pattern associated with this force design path for Army forces would generate the same kind of 3:1 preparing-to-deployed unit ratios experienced by the Marine Corps and Naval forces. Assuming, for example, that the roughly 20-battalion level the Army stations in Europe were replaced by a rotation framework, the Army would have to maintain about 60 battalions in the training and deployment cycle to assure that the forward deployments in Europe were at high states of readiness when deployed. In short, this model ties the level of land forces much closer to the level of forward deployments during peacetime than either the other two models or to the 1996 force. And, as long as those deployments remain at about 1996 levels, the model generates a requirement for a relatively large number of Army personnel.
The Full Spectrum Force would not rule out organizational changes or force reductions. It would, for example, introduce "new maneuver units" similar to those described for the Accelerated RMA Force, although these would be seen primarily as test beds and experiments and would not be as numerous as in the RMA force. The Full Spectrum Force design path would not try to use such changes as a means of accelerating movement toward different operational patterns. Instead, it would adopt a more measured, incremental approach in the same direction--faster and stronger than that adopted by the Recapitalized path, less accelerated than the Accelerated RMA Force design path.
Full Spectrum Ground forces, therefore, would not move as rapidly toward reducing some organic capabilities and assets from major combat units as might be the case with the Accelerated RMA Force. That is, the Full Spectrum model would maintain organic air defense and fire support units with existing organizations and it would retain greater similarity to existing force structure patterns not only because the relatively greater number of units in this model would slow organizational changes, but also because the general shift toward integrated joint operations would not be as rapid. An underlying assumption of this force model is that independent capability that can be coordinated with the capabilities of other force components is better, more assured, and less susceptible to failure than functional interdependencies and near total reliance on other force components for the successful conduct of the function.
While this model would not seek the rapid structural changes associated with the Accelerated RMA Force, it could introduce a limited number of some of the new organizations--"maneuver groups", for example--sketched for the Accelerated RMA Force model. Such new organizations would tend to be treated as test beds, however, rather than accepted immediately as integral parts of the ground force structure.
The Full Spectrum Force is not designed to reduce costs. Although some downward adjustment of ground force levels could occur, any reductions would not be dramatic and would neither generate nor be sought for major cost savings or rapid organizational change. Nor would such adjustments alleviate the pressure for and interest in ground force recapitalization. Instead, the Full Spectrum Force's solution to these pressures would be to increase procurement, without making adjustments to free additional resources. In other words, this model would seek to resolve some of the potential contradictions in the design by at least maintaining the current defense budget level, or raising it. Like both of the other models, the Full Spectrum Force would make reductions in support and infrastructure personnel, relying on improved technology for the former and privatization for the latter. But these reductions would not be as substantial as in the other models.
The Full Spectrum Force Model would seek to maintain the current relationship between ground force active and reserve components. That is, it would continue to see the National Guard and Marine Corps components as potential integral parts of an expanded ground combat force structure, and Army Reserve components as structural combat service support complements to the active structure. This means that the Full Spectrum Force path would involve a concerted effort to roughly parallel modernization in the active ground forces with similar modernization within the reserve components. While this would not require a one-for-one matching with the rates of modernization in the active components, it would require a commitment to assure that the active force does not get too far ahead of the reserve components, and, as such, would loosely link the overall rate of modernization to that achievable for the reserves. It would also mean modernization would be relatively expensive, for integrating system-of-systems technologies to the force structure would have to expand to the reserve structure as well as the active.
The F117 stealth fighter provides precision
strike capabilities in highly defended areas.
As with ground forces, the Full Spectrum Force would not deviate from the existing structure of the naval force as much as the Accelerated RMA Force would, and while the full spectrum approach might reduce the number of carriers or other surface ships, such reductions would not be dramatic if they occurred. This model would, however, introduce both a mobile offshore base and arsenal ships to the Navy force structure.
The MOB would be seen as a means of increasing the deployment flexibility of a robust carrier force rather than compensating for any reduction of aircraft carriers so far as forward presence is concerned, and the introduction of arsenal ships would stem from the interest in accelerating the revolution in military affairs, particularly regarding integrated operations with ground forces. That is, the Navy would use the arsenal ships not only to provide a wide range of missile-delivered ordnance (surface-to-air, and surface-to-surface), but as the fulcrum around which to extend the cooperative engagement concept from the sea to the joint arena encompassing ground operations. Among other things, the arsenal ship would be seen as part of a sea-based air and theater missile defense system for littoral areas and a sea-based fire support base for ground operations.
One of the salient characteristics of the Full Spectrum Force model, then, would be the continued movement toward more pervasive and central joint operational doctrine and capabilities on the part of naval forces. The path to this model would continue to emphasize the focus on littoral operations and this orientation would be bolstered by accelerating the development of improved communications interoperability with ground and Air Force units, the shift toward standardized munitions, and a joint capacity to build shared, real-time situation awareness.
At the same time, this model would maintain a number of the structural and procedural characteristics of today's naval forces. It would, for example, maintain the organizational integrity of the Marine Corps. Unlike the Accelerated RMA Force, this model would not seek the rapid integration of Navy and Marine Corps fixed wing assets into a single naval aviation component. And it would maintain the 1996 emphasis on forward naval presence and quick response to emerging contingencies. This commitment would remain at the core of the model's interest in maintaining a relatively robust naval force structure. It views U.S. naval forces as the most flexible instrument by which the United States seeks to shape the strategic environment and associates this function with the traditional forward presence--show the flag--role assigned to the U.S. Navy. Accordingly, this path would see system-of-systems technologies as essentially a supplemental means of enhancing forward presence naval activity, not as a substitute for or a means of reducing the impact of peacetime operational tempo or the numbers of ships and crews needed to assure a robust naval overseas presence.
The Full Spectrum model would not move as readily or as rapidly to the kind of mission specialization characteristic of the Accelerated RMA Force for several reasons. First, the primacy of independent capabilities would be maintained over the transition period. The general approach would be to increase the individual capabilities and flexibility of the various force components with better communications and shared situation awareness, but not to push this concept toward mission specialization. In other words, this model would welcome mission overlap among Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force assets as a means of increasing the flexibility of American air power, and would not seek to trim the levels of force because of overlapping capabilities. The emphasis would be on maintaining as robust a force as possible while accelerating its modernization, not, as in the Accelerated RMA Force model, attempting to reduce mission overlap and force structure in order to speed modernization. Accordingly, any reductions of numbers of tactical aircraft in the Full Spectrum Force model would be driven by cost-effectiveness calculations, leavened by a strong bias in favor of maintaining a robust overall capability.
The model would, however, continue to push for weapons standardization in parallel with the accelerated effort to move toward larger inventories of stand-off precision weapons. The shift toward standardized munitions would be driven, as in the case of improved communications and shared situation awareness, by the general desire to improve the capabilities of separate component air capabilities as they improve their ability to coordinate and support each other better.
As with the Accelerated RMA Force Model, this force design path would place a great deal of emphasis on assured use of space-based assets and on air supremacy. Therefore, the interest in maintaining a large and robust air structure would be paralleled by rapid modernization both of the platforms and the weapons and systems these platforms carry. This force model would seek development of the F22 and JSF.
It would also seek early increases in the numbers of unmanned aerial vehicles, although the increases would be relegated almost entirely to the goal of increasing ISR capabilities and robustness. Experimentation with the use of unmanned aircraft for logistics delivery would continue, but because the shift toward highly mobile, dispersed operations by ground forces would not be as advanced as in the Accelerated RMA Force model, the Full Spectrum Force model would not seek to accelerate the use of UAVs for such missions or increase the inventories of such aircraft as rapidly.
The character of U.S. military forces has traditionally been influenced by two concerns: the demands of threat, as specified in planning scenarios and other analytic devices, and the constraints of the budget. For most of the latter half of the twentieth century, the threat was relatively easy to define, and because it involved the survival of the nation, threat tended to be the predominant consideration. That is not to say that resource constraints played little role in setting the size of the U.S. military. But with the stakes as high as they seemed during the Cold War, the planning bias was toward committing whatever resources were necessary to counter the potential threat.
Since the end of the Cold War, there has been much less consensus on what threats exist, while a range of problems to which the United States may want to commit military forces seems to have grown. The military missions associated with those many problems are emerging as a force-sizing alternative to specific threat-based scenarios, and, in the absence of a perceived threat to the nation's very survival, budget constraints are increasingly important in wrestling with the difficult question of how much is enough.
The missions outlined in the preceding chapter involve influencing the behavior of various international actors through both impression and the actual use of violence. The former--affecting behavior by influencing the calculations, assumptions, and inclinations of governmental officials or the leaders of other institutions as they decide how to act--falls within the broad category of shaping the international environment. It encompasses the rich theories of deterrence, compellance, persuasion and dissuasion. The character and operations of U.S. military forces have played a salient role in this realm and what U.S. military forces become and do over the next decade will continue to shape the environment, particularly in this single military superpower era. The distinction between shaping the international environment and the actual use of military violence is, of course, fuzzy, for the use of military force has an effect beyond the immediate destruction. Military violence not only directly alters the behavior--sometimes the existence--of those on whom it is focused. It also conditions the behavior of those who witness or are told about it. For the purposes of discussion, however, the following first addresses how each of the force models might deal with those missions that fall within the general category of shaping the environment. The discussion then shifts to a more explicit consideration of how each force model might deal with large powers, regional conflicts, troubled states, and transnational threats by non-state actors.
All three force models--the Recapitalized, Accelerated RMA, and Full Spectrum Forces--could perform the range of presence and war fighting missions discussed in the preceding chapter. But in some cases they would do so differently. These are what those differences might be.
The military forces of the United States are important instruments of the nation's foreign policy. Given the current status of the United States as the world's only military superpower--a status that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future--what U.S. military forces look like and what they do abroad will be an important factor in what other nations interpret as U.S. foreign policy goals, intentions, and its ability to shape the international environment.
The most direct means of shaping the international environment is, of course, through the use of military violence. Historically, this has been one of the primary means of creating or destroying states, shaping their geographical dimensions, and defining interstate relationships. But military forces, and for much of this century, U.S. military forces in particular, have shaped interstate processes, what states do in the world, and to some extent what goes on inside states, by their presence rather than military action. The presence of U.S. forces in Europe during the Cold War, for example, was an important component of the international system that existed then. In 1996, the presence of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf affects the international actions of virtually all the nations in that region and what nations in other parts of the world and non-state actors do, as well. American military forces are deployed or stationed throughout the world during peacetime to provide military presence and in support of a broad spectrum of U.S. foreign policies. Yet, it is important to remember that while the presence of U.S. military forces can serve as a channel for many different kinds of international interactions and relationships, the fundamental and inherent signal carried by military presence involves the potential application of deadly violence.
There are some general presence considerations that would apply to all three force models. U.S. ground forces, for example, would be best for signaling certain things better than either maritime or air forces, regardless of the different ways in which each model would affect the size and structure of its ground force component. The physical presence of U.S. ground forces would remain particularly good at deterring a potential aggressor from invading the country in which the U.S. deploys ground forces, for two reasons. Ground forces constitute an important counter to the primary military forces used in an invasion--the aggressor's ground forces. And, because they are relatively more difficult to withdraw once engaged, U.S. ground force presence constitutes a strong signal to the protected country and to the potential aggressor that the United States will intervene with additional forces to protect the lives of its soldiers or marines. American military "boots on the ground" are and are likely to remain the strongest signal that the United States is committed to the territorial defense of other nations. As such, to the extent that such commitments remain important aspects of U.S. foreign policy, each of the models would have to maintain sufficient ground forces to allow the United States to sustain an overseas ground force presence, and at least some part of those forward deployed ground forces are likely to have to be in addition to what is necessary for strictly war-fighting requirements.
There is another traditional aspect of military presence that would apply to all three force models--the kind of presence that implies a more flexible and ambiguous commitment on the part of the United States. This has usually been associated with the presence of naval forces, something that can be established relatively quickly in new areas. Naval presence carries the implication of considerable military force that can be applied quickly, without the same kind of irrevocable commitment to use it implies the presence of ground forces. For some purposes, this sort of U.S. military presence will remain useful, and all of the models recognizes its utility (although, as described earlier, they may differ in terms of the mix of forces through which naval presence could be provided.) Finally, the global reach of U.S. military forces provides a kind of potential presence beyond that afforded in the immediate vicinity of U.S. forces. This capacity, often associated with the long range strike capabilities of U.S. air forces, long range missile forces, and strategic mobility, plays an increasingly important role in the capacity of the United States to use its military forces for foreign policy purposes. It represents the capacity to use military force virtually anywhere, on relatively short notice, with forces that may be relatively immune to countermeasures or to retaliation.
For almost half a century, U.S. military presence abroad has carried the connotation of direct American military intervention to protect U.S. interests and the shared interests of allied or friendly nations, and the context in which this image has been promoted affected the character of the U.S. military presence. That is, U.S. overseas presence has been conditioned heavily by the bi-polar structure of the international system and by the opposition of a military superpower. U.S. overseas presence tended to be cast in terms of demonstrating the capacity to successfully confront the military power of that superpower. This was certainly the case in Europe, where for nearly four decades the confrontation between NATO and the Warsaw Pact was the most immediate and acute, but it colored U.S. presence operations elsewhere as well. During the confrontation with Libya in the early 1980s, for example, the size and character of the U.S. force contingent employed to deter Libyan military actions in the Gulf of Sidra reflected a desire not only to affect Libyan behavior, but also to keep the Soviets from intervening if the United States and Libya came to blows. Within this context, U.S. overseas presence--often referred to by the descriptive phrase "forward presence"--tended to focus on two aspects: direct U.S. military involvement in a global struggle against an identifiable foe, and linking international security situations to American nuclear power. This policy affected how the United States conducted military-to-military relations with allied and friendly governments. Such relationships focused on cementing the notion of a common struggle against a common enemy, and as such, were often colored by efforts to increase the interoperability of U.S. forces with allied or friendly nations.
With the demise of the bi-polar international structure that so deeply affected what U.S. forces did overseas, the purposes of overseas presence have become more complex. Among other things, the U.S. military forces in presence operations are now used not only for the traditional purposes of deterrence, but also to serve as channels through which other military establishments are introduced to democratic approaches to civil-military relations. Traditional alliance structures are changing, and international security affairs increasingly revolve around coalitions whose members are interested in combined military operations with the United States only for particular situations at particular times.
These trends broaden the purposes of U.S. military overseas presence. The need for forces that can perform the traditional roles of demonstrating an American commitment to protecting shared security interests--with the parallel interest in developing the standardized and interoperable forces that facilitate combined military operations--are increasingly balanced by a U.S. interest in developing unique capabilities that can influence how other nations use their military forces, depending on the extent to which the United States shares or withholds access to those capabilities.
Each of the three force design paths will maintain a capacity to meet the traditional purposes of U.S. military overseas presence. But they differ in emphasis. The Recapitalized Force emphasizes maintaining interoperable forces, to both demonstrate a U.S. commitment to shared security interests and to actively protect such interests in effective combined military operations. While the Accelerated RMA Force also maintains this capability, it leans in favor of developing unique capabilities, which might be shared with alliance members, coalition partners, or other nations, but which are consciously constructed to be superior and different from the capabilities of other national militaries. The Full Spectrum Force falls between these two extremes on this hypothetical spectrum.
U.S. Army forces of IFOR on patrol in Bosnia.
Many of the missions associated with large powers deal with deterrence issues and the political relationships between the United States and such powers. The approach taken by U.S. decision makers armed with the Recapitalized or Full Spectrum Force could differ from that taken if they were armed with the Accelerated RMA Force. In future U.S. relations with large powers, for example, the Recapitalized Force design would emphasize continuing the existing symbiosis between the U.S. and friendly large powers (i.e., alliance partners such as Germany, France, Great Britain, and Japan) and maintaining the strategic rules that exist with potential large-power competitors, such as China or Russia. Indeed, one of the rationales for the Recapitalized Force is that its relatively slow pace of change would avoid rapidly widening disparities between U.S. and allied forces, and therefore help alleviate centrifugal forces in alliances. U.S. allies have structured and designed their own forces in part to fit with U.S. forces, and they understand and are comfortable with the existing structure, character, disposition, and operational mode of U.S. forces. That does not mean Recapitalized Force advocates would not seek to improve U.S. forces, but they would be inclined to tie changes, at least in part, to the rates at which allied forces evolve over the years 19962007.
Similar considerations would go into relating the Recapitalized Force to potential theater-peer competitors, such as China, Russia, or perhaps India. Because the Recapitalized Force design avoids rapid or radical departures from the existing character and capabilities of U.S. military forces, it might be seen--and certainly described by U.S. spokesmen--as relatively stable and consistent with formal understandings (such as strategic arms agreements and the Treaty on Conventional Forces) that work to inhibit arms races. But this specific conformity with existing arms agreements would be backed by a general desire to avoid giving potentially hostile great powers the impression that the United States was attempting to break out of the status quo. In this view, maintaining relatively slow improvement in U.S. military capabilities would be preferable to the potentially destabilizing effects of a concerted U.S. effort to improve its military capabilities rapidly.
The Accelerated RMA Force's more radical deviation from the 1996 military has a different rationale. The Accelerated RMA Force assumes that maintaining alliances would revolve around developing a symbiosis different from that which existed during the Cold War era. With regard to NATO, for example, Accelerated RMA Force advocates would argue that a U.S. military able to provide allies with dominant battlespace knowledge, and thus enable them to use their own forces more effectively, is more assuring in the new age of ambiguous threats than maintaining a force similar to the one built to defend Europe against aggression by a military superpower. In this view, continuity of form and function is less conducive to alliance maintenance than implementing new military capabilities that meet emerging interests, even if these new capabilities increase the disparity between U.S. forces and those of its allies. Advocates of the Accelerated RMA Force might take their cues from the earlier way in which the United States was able to forge its technical lead in nuclear weapons technology into an alliance-enhancing multiplier. They would argue that, while the nuclear umbrella makes less sense in the absence of a superpower confrontation, technologies that help cut through international ambiguities and assist the application of force by allies are increasingly valuable as the bedrock of alliances and coalitions. And, just as the U.S. willingness to share the international utility of nuclear prowess reduced the perceived need by allies to develop their own nuclear weaponry or to try to match the arsenals of the super powers, so too could similar sharing arrangements with an advanced U.S. system-of-systems capability serve as a basis for maintaining existing alliances, build new coalitions, and shape the international environment of the future (without necessitating the costs of trying to match U.S. capabilities).
With regard to dissuading an attempt by a large power to match or surpass the military capability of the United States, advocates of the Accelerated RMA Force would argue it is best to increase the lead the U.S. has in RMA technologies and incorporate those technologies in a compatible force structure and operational doctrine rapidly. Doing so, they would argue, would make any effort to technically match the U.S. more difficult (at least until early into the twenty-first century), thus deterring efforts to match or counter U.S. capabilities because of the costs of trying to do so. Meanwhile, any growing suspicions could be alleviated by the concomitant reductions in force size and with new sharing mechanisms and stabilizing agreements.
In some respects, the Full Spectrum Force might be the most difficult to relate to both friendly and potentially hostile large powers, for it would be characterized by both relatively rapid technological improvement and a relatively large and robust force structure. That is, it would tend to diverge fairly rapidly from the technical base of allied militaries, and, in the eyes of potential rivals, could become relatively threatening because it was getting better and bigger (or remaining at the relatively robust level of 1996). As with the Accelerated RMA Force model, the concerns of allies and potential competitors might be met with sharing arrangements.
In approaching certain missions, the differences between the three forces would be minimal, and, accordingly, the size and structural implications of the missions for all three forces could be quite similar. That would be the case, for example, in deterring the use of nuclear weapons. None of the models posits a radical deviation from the projection of the agreement-constrained strategic nuclear force projections for the next century. Nor do the size and structure of any of the proposed forces suggest a marked shift in the U.S. approach to the strategic nuclear relationship between the United States and other nations.
That is a judgment, of course, and other judgments could lead to the conclusion that the Accelerated RMA Force might increase calls for a national missile defense system. Given the Accelerated RMA Force's greater interest in and capacity for dispersed, standoff offensive operations (all three forces enhance the U.S. capacity for such operations, but the Accelerated RMA Force would produce more capability to conduct them by 2007), nations contemplating a confrontation with the United States might turn to nuclear escalation. That prospect could stimulate a greater interest on the part of the United States in a national missile defense system.
While wider commitment to a national missile defense system might emerge if the United States moved toward the Accelerated RMA Force, it is more likely to stem from other nations' reactions to the Accelerated RMA Force than from anything inherent in the force. Nothing in the character of the Accelerated RMA Force ties it logically to a national missile defense system, nor does it undermine the ABM and START agreements or the U.S. stance on national missile systems.
Each of the force models would be compatible with additional reductions or adjustments in the mix of U.S. strategic nuclear forces. The United States will certainly want to maintain a viable and credible nuclear deterrent to attacks against U.S. territory (a strategic nuclear force that is not vulnerable to a debilitating first use of WMD) and a capability to dominate vertical escalation involving WMD in any regional conflict. This approach ties the size and structure of the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal to the size and character of other nations' arsenals. Given nonproliferation and verifiable reductions by others, the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal could decrease, or the mix of systems could change. But it is unlikely that the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal will be at zero by 2007.
The size of the nation's strategic nuclear arsenal under each of the force models would generally conform to official projections that emerged from the Nuclear Posture Review, published in 1994.
U.S. Marines on amphibious exercises.
In addition to deterrent and assurance missions, each of the three models would have to address several war-fighting missions vis-à-vis large powers. How the United States would use any force model would be a function of the size and character of the opposition, the political goals in the particular contingency, and the environment in which the confrontation took place. Some commonalties in using the different force models would exist, but, more important, the different characters of the forces would give rise to some differences in approach to thwarting large-power military operations.
Each of the forces would be more capable of standoff attack than the existing force. They all would benefit from previous investment strategies that emphasized increased battlespace awareness, target acquisition, communications speed and fidelity, joint operations, and PGMs. But the Accelerated RMA Force would rest on about a decade's effort not only to accelerate building the technical foundation of such capabilities but to incorporate them into structures and operational doctrine.
Differences in approach might be most noticeable with regard to the preemptive use of force. U.S. decision makers, armed with the Recapitalized Force in 2007, would likely deal with hostile military actions that threaten U.S. interests in ways analogous to those used today--particularly if the potential opponent were a large power. They would be inclined to deter such actions by threatening to respond with forces that could prevent the aggressor from achieving its goal or make the cost of achieving its goal too high. This approach would also color the way the United States would undertake overseas-presence missions with the Recapitalized Force. Presence would revolve around efforts to assemble enough visible force before a conflict began to demonstrate the U.S. capacity to either prevent or punish an aggressor's actions. The level and character of the U.S. military presence would be more than bluff. It would be a precursor to the actual use of force and a preparation for the conflict Washington anticipates. U.S. decision makers might consider military preemption. But the Recapitalized Force would not generally push the option of preemption to a more central position.
With either the Full Spectrum Force or Accelerated RMA Force preemption might be more tempting for at least two reasons. First, these models might have a better technical capacity to preempt a potential opponent's military operations--using destructive violence or disruptive information warfare--without generating the kind of collateral damage that would pressure the opponent into an escalatory counterattack. If the greater investment the capacity to develop battlespace knowledge, effective nodal targeting, standoff and precise force application, and earlier warning of pending crises paid off--as anticipated by both these models--preemption might become more central to U.S. views on the use of military force than would be the case with the Recapitalized Force.
Artist rendition of Navy's "Arsenal Ship" concept.
Thus, the U.S. choice of a force model could carry important implications for the way the United States would maintain forward presence and go about thwarting aggression by a large power early in the twenty-first century. Assuming the Recapitalized Force would deal with forward presence in a manner similar to the approach of 1996--that is, to signal a capacity to prevent the success of an opponent's offensive operation--then the size and character of the forces used to provide overseas presence ought to reflect the level of threat from the potential aggressor. If that threat involved large, mobile ground forces, backed by a combined force doctrine and relatively sophisticated equipment, the forces maintaining U.S. forward presence would have to be big enough to pose a credible challenge to a fait accompli by the opponent.
A presence backed by a greater willingness to preempt, however, might not have to be as large, particularly if the preemptive approach included nodal operations designed to minimize collateral damage. The United States would need to make clear its willingness to preempt military actions and to publicize the pre-confrontational actions undertaken by the potential aggressor. This approach would in effect sever the link between the size of the aggressor's force and the size of the U.S. presence.
None of the force models are designed to be able to occupy and control the territory and populations of large powers, such as China or Russia. But the structure and operational doctrine associated with the ground component of the Accelerated RMA Force might make claims that the U.S. has no plan for territorial aggrandizement more convincing than either the Recapitalized or Full Spectrum Forces could. The RMA operational doctrine for ground forces moves further away from the notion that such forces are supposed to seize and control territory or to control large populations.
That suggests decision makers armed with the Accelerated RMA Force might be more willing to commit ground forces to the direct defense of areas subject to attack by large powers and to conduct offensive operations on the territory of a large power. The more conventional structure and doctrine of the Recapitalized and Full Spectrum Forces make them more capable of traditional territorial and population control. Their ground components would be larger and composed of more organizations that previously have been used to occupy and control the territory of other states. In a confrontation with a lesser power, this ability could be an effective deterrent. In a confrontation with a large power, however, a military force that is perceived as designed to occupy territory could make crisis management more problematic. The history of warfare suggests that the threat of physical occupation by an opponent is the most terrifying prospect facing contenders. It is also the threat that inspires the greatest willingness and efforts to escalate the stakes in military confrontations.
Deterrence, assurance, and war-fighting missions involving large powers do not posit small U.S. forces, regardless of how sophisticated or technically advanced those forces may be. The size of U.S. forces need not match or exceed those of other large powers, but as long as the goal is to influence the behavior of powers that can field relatively large, potent military forces, the United States must also maintain robust, large forces. That is particularly the case with power-projection capabilities--potential U.S. military missions associated with large powers require the ability to project significant power overseas, rapidly and effectively. The bottom line seems to be that while the number of U.S. ground forces may not have to grow, major reductions in U.S. air and maritime forces would be highly questionable, given the need for the missions associated with large-powers.
Most of the missions associated with regional conflicts deal with how to use, not just threaten to use, violence. War-fighting in this context would differ in certain respects from thwarting aggression by a large power in a contiguous region. The first, and most important, is with regard to escalation. While the United States would seek to control the level and character of any conflict it enters, its ability to do so is likely to be greater in a conflict with an opponent that is markedly less powerful. This does not mean that a significant regional conflict with a lesser power would necessarily be controllable or easily winnable. Indeed, because of the disparity of power between the United States and, say, Iraq, North Korea, or Iran, these potential regional aggressors might be impelled to escalate to weapons of mass destruction inside the area of contention, use their conventional forces in unconventional ways, or to use WMD against populations in the United States.
The different force models might offer differing benefits to U.S. decision makers contemplating military operations under the threat of in-theater WMD use. If the Accelerated RMA Force was capable of operating in the dispersed, highly mobile form for which it is designed, and if these capabilities were backed by a streamlined, just-in-time logistics system, it might be inherently less vulnerable to such attacks than either of the other force models. But regardless of the potential differences between the force models in the context of a battle subject to WMD use, a lesser power contemplating a fight with the United States must confront one very difficult fact. While it may be able to hurt the United States, kill large numbers of U.S. forces, and attack non-combatant U.S. populations with WMD, it faces the prospect of its own utter destruction.
The second inherent difference in regional conflicts is that the United States will probably have the capacity to reverse any military gain by a lesser power, regardless of the force model the United States moves toward over the next decade. The cost of reversing a lesser power's military gain may inhibit the United States from trying, but any regional power going into a conflict with the United States faces the prospect that keeping the fruits of its initial military success depends on U.S. decision not to contest fully those successes. These considerations lead to some noteworthy potential characteristics of regional aggression by lesser powers. Faced with the prospect that military successes can be reversed, regional aggressors may be more interested in keeping the U.S. from intervening than in defeating U.S. military forces once they have intervened. To do so, they might take one of two basic approaches: The first is to raise the prospect of high costs, perhaps by threatening a protracted, low-intensity conflict or the use of WMD. The second is to conduct military operations with a view to establishing a fait accompli; that is, trying to change the strategic situation quickly, before the U.S. intervenes. For example, the political decision to expel Iraqi forces from Saudi oil fields--after Baghdad threatens it will detonate dirty thermonuclear devices it has implanted in the Saudi oil fields if the U.S. intervenes (thus removing Saudi oil production for a century)--may be a very tough call.
Such fait-accompli scenarios underline the need for U.S. forces that can respond quickly to regional contingencies with sufficient force to undercut an aggressor's options. And that emphasizes the utility of joint forces that are robust enough and large enough to maintain the necessary level of significant forces for a quick response. These scenarios do not necessarily raise the need for large ground forces, although a moderate level of quick-responding ground forces would be a valuable asset in virtually any conceivable regional contingency.
U.S. Army troops on carrier flight deck
during preparations to intervene in Haiti.
In a broad sense, the missions associated with troubled states and transnational threats differ from traditional war-fighting missions in terms of the anticipated intensity of the violence, the legal and political context surrounding military operations, and the character of the organizations and institutions that may oppose U.S. military forces. These are generalizations. Violence in peacekeeping can be quite intense. The organizations that may confront U.S. forces as they conduct counter-terror, counter-narcotics, or counter-criminal operations may be armed with modern and deadly weapons, including WMD.
The need for a quick response, situation awareness, focused logistics, and the precise application of military force can be substantial when dealing with the issues generated by troubled states or transnational organizations. But they are not war-fighting missions and do not normally involve confrontations with opposing military forces. Thus, these missions highlight some differences among the three force models. Because the active components of the Recapitalized Force and Full Spectrum Force are larger, and because their ground forces are organized similarly to existing multipurpose ground structures, they are better adapted to non-war-fighting missions than the Accelerated RMA Force.
Accorded the larger force structures in the Recapitalized and Full Spectrum Forces, U.S. decision makers would tend to adjust the training, equipment, and ethos of active force components in these forces to meet the tasks of operations other than war and peacekeeping. The Recapitalized and Full Spectrum Forces envision designating specific units--such as the 10th Mountain Division--for training and preparation for peace operations. These units would normally be called on for peace operations, and, in the event of conflict contingencies, their commitment to war-fighting tasks would be delayed until any deficits in combat training or readiness were remedied. The relatively larger force structures of these two force models allows reducing readiness with less risk.
In the case of the Accelerated RMA Force, however, the reserve components would be seen as the primary military instrument for use in peace operations. National Guard divisions and brigades would be used as the repository not only for much of the heavy combat potential of existing ground forces during the transition to the RMA model, but as the source of the full-function divisions that carry a broad range of organic capabilities with them. And many of the capabilities needed for peace operations--military police, civil affairs, medical, engineering--would be found in the reserve components of the Accelerated RMA Force.
That is not to say that many of the war-fighting capabilities of the Accelerated RMA Force would not be applicable to peace operations. Because of their potentially greater capabilities in such areas as developing situation awareness and communications, active components of the Accelerated RMA Force could make major contributions to such operations. But other than supplementing the activities of reserve units with such relatively high-tech inputs, the active components of the Accelerated RMA Force--particularly its ground force--would focus on and be trained to carry out war-fighting missions.
Each of the force design paths has certain strengths, advantages, and potential payoffs. Each has risks, weaknesses, and limitations. The previous discussion revealed some of these pros and cons. Here we want to summarize the overriding advantages and disadvantages with each of the force models.
The fundamental strength of the Recapitalized Force is rooted in the quality of today's U.S. military, which, by virtually all measures, is the best in the world and certainly among the best the United States has had in the twentieth century. This force design path sticks to what has been tried, tested, and proved, and, as such, it minimizes the turmoil associated with change. The changes and improvements associated with it are evolutionary and the mechanisms through which they would occur are the traditional ones.
The structural adjustments it would entail are exactly that--adjustments made carefully in order to maintain the essence of what exists in 1996, and, by modernizing and recapitalizing, make it better. This, in turn, would contribute to relatively high readiness. Operational doctrine would evolve smoothly and there would be few, if any, radical shifts in the training or the operations of the force. Of all the models, the Recapitalized Force fits the most comfortably with the way things are done in 1996.
This model would probably cost no more in inflation-adjusted dollars than the present force, and perhaps less. It recognizes the likelihood of downward pressures on the defense budget, but it does not anticipate precipitous reductions over the next decade. As such, it would appeal to important sectors of the American political and economic sectors and would be relatively less likely to focus acrimonious debate.
As its name suggests, the Recapitalized Force would deal directly and probably successfully with one of the major difficulties facing the U.S. military in the future--the recapitalization bulge that is likely to emerge in all the services near the turn of the century unless steps are begun soon to avoid it.
Some of the potential problems with this approach are the obverse of its strengths. While this design path would be the least disruptive to the current structure and pattern of development, it could also miss the potential opportunity offered by the current international security situation. This view depends, of course, on how one interprets the current times, but if we are in a strategic lull that is likely to extend for at least the next half decade, then the evolutionary approach characteristic of the Recapitalized Force rules out the chance of developing, by 2007, a different kind of military that could, a decade from now, be more capable of assuring the kind of military superiority the United States now enjoys because of a coincidence of historic events. This does not mean that the Recapitalized Force would necessarily be ill suited to the future, for it would change over the next decade, albeit in an evolutionary way.
But this design path would maintain the character of a military force designed, honed, and conditioned by an era that has passed. It is essentially a route that would retain the Cold War military the United States built over the last half century into the next, but the strategic viability of this course into the future is questionable on two grounds.
First, because this force design is traditional, potential opponents know both its strengths and weaknesses and may believe they could successfully match or counter it. This does not mean they can, for although its design is familiar, its military potency is high. But at least two asymmetric responses to this design are arguable counters to it: the kind of "national liberation" warfare demonstrated in Vietnam, and the specter of weapons of mass destruction that underlies the "what if WMD had been used in Desert Storm" speculation that captures both professional and journalistic imagination. And there may be enticingly new ways of coping with a Recapitalized Force a decade from now, for this force is essentially a refinement of what some call an "industrial age military". Those contemplating a military confrontation with the Recapitalized Force may believe their best chances for success lie not in replicating the counters that have arguably worked in the past, but in building their military from and consistent with what some call the successor to the industrial age of warfare: the "information" age. And their concerted effort over the next decade to do so might-- by 2007 or shortly beyond--work.
Second, because the Recapitalized Force path involves a more or less linear extension of the Cold War force model, it carries with it some of the less visible assumptions of the Cold War. One of these was the assumption of an ever more dangerous military threat in the future. During the Cold War there was empirical support for such a view, because Soviet military capabilities continued to grow, particularly with regard to the quality and capabilities of their tanks, ships, and aircraft. Over time, a symmetrical assumption tended to characterize U.S. force planning; namely, that it was necessary to match such improvements with similar major platform modernization, and, more importantly, that the resources and budgets to do so would be available in the future.
The Recapitalized Force maintains this assumption. It would be designed to deal with the recapitalization bulge early in the next century that stems from the decline in procurement in the early 1990s. But it does not seek to alter some of the dynamics that created such a pending bulge, because it requires new generations of major weapons platforms--almost guaranteed to be more expensive than those they replace. As such, it carries the inevitable paradox of either demanding significant defense budget increases after 2007, or, by about 2015, facing the same kind of recapitalization bulge the design path was devoted to solving in the first decade of the 21st century. If the United States, by about 2010, faces a theater-peer competitor, armed with impressive industrial age military capabilities, then, the Recapitalized Force design path would have turned out to be a wise strategy. If the world does not return to something similar to the era in which the roots of a future Recapitalized Force were established, moving along such a path could turn out to be a mistake.
F14 Tomcat receives fuel behind catapult
steam on USS Carl Vinson flight deck.
The Accelerated RMA Force is appealing to many of those who believe the foreseeable future offers the opportunity to build the kind of military that best provides U.S. military superiority and will bolster U.S. leadership in international affairs in the next century. Its advocates believe the United States currently leads all other nations in the technologies that promise these outcomes and that it should take advantage of and increase this lead.
This view is rooted in deeper assumptions, including the notion that the world has changed so much with the collapse of the bi-polar Cold War system that the instruments developed to deal with that world are inherently suspect in their capacity to cope with the kind of problems the United States will face in the future. The Accelerated RMA Force, they believe, will be inherently more capable of coping with the wider range of problems the U.S. military is likely to face because that force is consciously designed to be more adaptable to change and better able to cope with ambiguity.
The major concern with this force design path is the basic assumption on which it is founded; namely, that the United States will not face a significant military contingency over the next five or so years. If this assumption is compelling, then the Accelerated RMA path is certainly worth considering--although the path involves rapid change, it would maintain significant military capabilities over its course, probably sufficient to deal effectively with military problems other than what is currently termed a "major regional conflict". But if the United States will have to commit forces to something on the level of another Desert Storm operation sometime in the next half decade or so, then starting down this force design path could be dangerous. It could mean going to war with a force that was smaller, relatively less ready, and changing rapidly--not a desirable way to go to war.
Even if the risk is acceptable, there are other potential negatives with taking this design path. The inherent difficulty with the Accelerated RMA Force is different from that associated with the Recapitalized Force. With the Recapitalized Force the potential problem is not whether the goals associated with it are achievable--they are. It is whether the Recapitalized Force will be worth very much when it is achieved. The problem with the Accelerated RMA Force is not the goals for which it is designed, for greater force adaptability, agility, and technical capacity are universally applauded and the ideas of using military force with greater precision and accuracy, with greater speed, over longer distances, and with less risk have wide support both among American military professionals and within the American public. The problem is whether these goals can be obtained as easily or as quickly as argued by the Accelerated RMA Force path. And that problem is rooted in at least two concerns.
One is technical--whether the technology can provide what its advocates say it can as fast as they believe. This is ultimately a question of systems integration, for the potential power of this force design rests on integrating the various technologies that offer discrete advantages. Systems integration is inherently complex and difficult, however, and it is not enough to point to the specific technologies that promise improved military efficiency. To achieve the promises of these technologies will require writing a lot of computer code, a lot of refining and adjustment, a lot more interoperability than currently exists.
The other concern has to do with human institutions. The technological integration is easy compared to making the organizational and doctrinal changes necessary to reach the full military promise of the technologies, particularly now when the traditional reasons for making such changes in the U.S. military are absent. U.S. military organization and doctrine are not static, as any comparison between what exists now and what existed two decades ago will show. But for most of the last half century, the change has been measured, incremental, and slow. And it has been driven largely by forecasts of future threats, for which there was both an empirical foundation and widespread agreement. This historical driver no longer exists, and there is really no sense that the current force is somehow "broken", despite a vague belief that it may not be well suited for the future.
That makes relatively rapid organizational and doctrinal change harder. The problem is what has to be given up in order to change. The barrier to the accelerated change postulated for Accelerated RMA Force is not getting people to accept the new, but to surrender the old.
C17 and cargo.
The pros and cons of both the Recapitalized and Accelerated RMA Force have to do with trade-offs and balance between contending considerations. The Recapitalized Force, assuming constraints on the defense budget, trades off marginal changes in force structure to maintain and recapitalize the military within what is essentially the same configuration as in 1996. The Accelerated RMA Force trades off significant organizational and structural changes to get to a different, much more potent force sooner. The Full Spectrum Force design path, however, bridges both the desire to incorporate the technological promise of the RMA Force without the organizational turmoil and force structure reductions and the desire to assure sufficient military personnel and units to meet a broadening range of challenges in conventional ways. It does so by maintaining the current structure--but not as much as the Recapitalized Force--and pushing rapidly toward the systems integration at the heart of information age capabilities--but not in the manner, or as fast as, the Accelerated RMA Force. This is a logical approach to the broadened range of challenges the U.S. military may face over the next decade and a good way of hedging against the possibility of a major conflict before 2007. This is because the relatively large and robust force this model maintains would give it the mass and numbers necessary to deal with widespread demands for peace time forward presence and operations other than war without significantly reducing the combat readiness of the large remainder of the force. The size of the force also allows this model to isolate the organizational turmoil associated with rapid movement toward the RMA model to a smaller portion of the force, while spreading at least some of the benefits of the new technologies throughout the force. While the design path to the Full Spectrum Force might not create the kind of new force envisioned by the Accelerated RMA Force path as quickly, by 2007 it would be poised to move rapidly in such a direction. And during the decade's transition to 2007, the Full Spectrum Force would be better able to insure a strong response to any major intervening military contingency.
In short, the Full Spectrum Force is consciously designed to cope with the major theme that emerges from the preceding review of potential flash points in world affairs and the assessment of the kind of military threats the United States may face over the next decade. It provides the continuity with today's doctrine and forces, as well as the force structure and numbers of personnel, to cope with the broadening potential challenges at the lower end of the conflict spectrum. And it improves the capacity of the force to deal with challenges at the higher end, including potential confrontations with theater peers.
But having what is in effect the best of both worlds (today's world in the form of the Recapitalized Force; tomorrow's world in the form of an RMA Force) would be expensive. Precisely how expensive would be a function of the specific force structure and technological changes the design path would require and when they came in. But an effort to maintain a relatively robust force structure and high rates of modernization and recapitalization would be at least as expensive as the 1996 force. Even with savings from administrative and procedural changes--such as additional base structure consolidation and reductions, headquarters personnel reductions, and privatizing--the Full Spectrum Force design path would cost more than either the routes to the other two models and could end up costing considerably more than the 1996 force.
So the central concern associated with this model is whether the resources necessary to move toward it will be available. From the perspective of 1996, it is hard to make a compelling case that they will. Changes in the international environment that result in a growing sense of threat could alter this prognostication, and continued economic growth and widening prosperity would make it easier for the nation to commit more money to defense while keeping defense expenditures to their current relatively low portion of gross domestic product. But such assumptions are challengeable and other phenomena could just as easily increase the political pressure in favor of reducing defense expenditures. And in the face of declining resources--or, a growing belief that the amount of money for defense will go down--it would be very difficult to do what, in essence, the Full Spectrum Force model proposes; namely, to achieve both continuity and relatively rapid change.
A decision that the path to the Full Spectrum Force is too expensive--reached within the next several years--could therefore in effect push the United States toward choosing between the first two force design paths. The real world of force planning and the political and bureaucratic processes that surround the actual arenas in which the real force of the future will be designed will not pose the choice in such a stark manner. But that is, in essence, what it could be.
As in both the other force models, the Full Spectrum Force carries some of its own inherent difficulties. Like the path to the Accelerated RMA Force, the Full Spectrum Force path requires considerable organizational change and promises a bifurcated force structure during the transition. It would seek to buffer the effects of change and associated turmoil by maintaining a relatively robust active-force structure and concentrating the changes in only a portion of the total active structure. But this approach would not alleviate the bifurcated character of the force during the transition, and it might stretch this condition over a longer period of time than the transition to the Accelerated RMA Force.