Executive Summary


U.S. foreign policy will continue to emphasize promoting stability, pluralistic political systems, and market-oriented economic institutions.

Three revolutions have transformed the very nature of the global security environment:

The Strategic Environment

Owing to these three revolutions, the present security environment is far more complex than in earlier eras. It is no longer possible to identify one specific canonical threat. Defense planners now, therefore, confront a broad array of threats that arise from a wide variety of different sources:

The Major Powers

The short period of great-power cooperation may be coming to an end. While ties among the United States, Europe, and Japan are growing stronger, despite some strains, the other great powers, Russia and China, are increasingly suspicious of longer-term U.S. intentions. They also feel they are not being treated as great powers, and both are concerned about their peripheries:

Both are well aware of residual military deficiencies; both are focused on domestic priorities; both wish to avoid conflict for fear of jeopardizing economic development. Therefore, rather than opposing the United States directly during the next decade, China and Russia are more likely to mount a low-intensity strategic competition with the United States designed to reduce or offset U.S. influence in the regions they regard as their special spheres of influence.

Each, however, has growing nationalist movements, so the possibility of conflict, however unlikely, cannot be discounted. If conflict erupts, it is likely to involve specific issues related to sovereignty and to be limited in scope, scale, and duration.

For the next decade at least, neither China nor Russia will be a global-peer competitor of the United States capable of mounting broad strategic challenges. However, either one could become a theater peer with the U.S., possibly presenting graver problems than could a regional power. Both China and Russia are: nuclear powers with ICBMs, space powers with access to overhead imagery and global communications, nations of enormous size with considerable strategic depth, and important leaders of international institutions, well positioned to block UN actions against their interests.

The challenge for Washington, which has become the stabilizer of relations among the major powers, is to:

Significant Regional Contingencies

Although the United States would be vitally concerned about a new Arab/Israeli conflict or a nuclear war between India and Pakistan, the regional conflicts most likely to involve the U.S. military directly remain those in Korea and the Persian Gulf. The threats:

Nonetheless, the "two nearly simultaneous Major Regional Contingencies" concept is a less useful primary planning scenario in 1997 than it was in 1993. The scope and scale of the threat is diminishing:

To deter simultaneous conflict the U.S. could:

Troubled States

Certain states are unable to manage the challenge of ethnic, tribal, and religious competition. The result is internal unrest and human rights violations, ranging from the breakdown of law and order to refugee flows and genocide. Many more such conflicts can be expected during the next decade.

Even though few such situations pose direct threats to vital U.S. interests, the fact that they violate fundamental U.S. values means that U.S. forces will be expected to intervene in a variety of conflict and near-conflict scenarios to make or keep the peace and to provide relief.

Such operations can be carried out with capabilities developed for other purposes once minor modifications are made, though at some cost to overall combat readiness. The issues for the United States are to determine how to respond most effectively and how much of its overall force can be safely allocated to such activities.

Transnational Problems

Security threats associated with terrorism, massive refugee flows, the environment, drugs, and international crime are likely to increase owing to porous international borders and the inability of governments to deal with such problems.

Although international civilian cooperation is the principal approach to dealing with such transnational problems as drugs and crime, the military has a major role to play in combating terrorism. Terrorist attacks on U.S. military forces may increase, particularly in the Middle East.

Military Missions

The need for flexibility. The U.S. military must plan for a broad array of missions rather than for one major mission. Some lower-priority missions may have to be scrubbed because of limited resources.

The need for agility. Agility does not mean that each element of the force can perform all missions, through many units would have multiple missions. In some cases, agility may require a higher degree of specialization, so that the overall force has maximum agility. Agility will require organizational and culutural changes rather than equipment changes.

First: Dealing with Theater Peers

Conflict with a theater peer would differ significantly from conflict with a rogue state such as Iran, Iraq, or North Korea. The theater peer would possess a nuclear option for use against U.S. territory; it could also cause great harm by either nuclear or conventional means to U.S. allies and friends near its borders. Its power, location, and large territory would make it difficult to totally defeat. To deal militarily with a theater peer, the U.S. would have to thwart its ambition by deterrence, both nuclear and conventional--that is, by maintaining an adequate forward presence in concert with regional allies.

The U.S. would also have to prepare to conduct limited operations on the periphery of the theater peer. Those operations would be:

The key is to prepare for such an eventuality without creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. This will require skillful diplomacy as well as a degree of strategic restraint.

Second: Responding to Regional Contingencies

The United States must be prepared to defend and liberate territory by using heavy ground-maneuver units under risk of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons attack. It must also be prepared to operate in concert with ad hoc coalitions, in which some participants are there more for political effect while others bring substantial military assets.

The U.S. must also be prepared to enforce sanctions and embargoes.

Third: Dealing with Troubled States and Transnational Problems

While the main U.S. role in peace operations will be to provide support forces, the U.S. should maintain an on-call ground force capability--that is, be able to deploy forces upon short notice without additional training.

The U.S. military will be called upon to work with law enforcement. In troubled states, it may have to augment local law enforcement temporarily and help rebuild it. In the United States, it will be called upon to assist civilian authorities in countering terrorism and drug trafficking, as well as in managing mass migrant flows.

Force Structure Options

Three models of forces capable of conducting the military missions of the next decade are presented below as heuristic devices, not as prescriptions or recommendations.

The Recapitalization Force Model

This model emphasizes continuity, on the grounds that today's force is very good and that changing its character is difficult. At the same time, the military will face a serious resource problem: as existing systems wear out, large sums will be needed for new weapons. The focus of the Recapitalization Force Model is on recapitalizing, that is, modernizing at a moderate rate. On the assumption that the defense budget will not rise significantly, generating the resources for recapitalization may necessitate some reduction in force size and some sacrifice of readiness.


+ Minimizes the disruption of change.
+ Provides the margin to fund recapitalization while remaining within likely resource constraints.


­ Potential opponents know its strengths and weaknesses and may try to counter it with asymmetrical responses.
­ Reduced readiness for high intensity conflict.
­ U.S. may miss the opportunity provided by the present lack of of a global peer to experiment with information-age technologies.

The Accelerated RMA Force Model

This model assumes a concerted effort to accelerate the integration of system-of-systems technologies into a force structure altered to take full advantage of those technologies. Such a force would fight differently than today's, using concurrent--as opposed to sequential--operations and nodal--rather than attrition or maneuver--warfare.

The Accelerated RMA Model is consistent with large force reductions. The purpose is not to save money but rather to speed the transition to a force organized and operated differently from today's. The force would be smaller and many of the required changes would involve structure and doctrine rather than equipment. Overall, it could cost less than the Recapitalization Force.


+ Great potency for future combat.
+ Small footprint makes it well-suited to an environment with WMD, precision-guided missiles, and terrorists.
+ Less expensive.


­ Systems integration is a high-risk approach, especially if a major crisis erupts.
­ Reserve components would have to provide foot soldiers for most operations other than war.
­ Radically different approach to forward presence might confuse allies and mislead potential adversaries.

The Full Spectrum Force Model

This model calls for maintaining nearly all the present robust force while simultaneously pursuing a modest RMA option. The aim is to slowly integrate system-of-systems technologies as they prove viable but to avoid the risks associated with rapid organizational change. The Full Spectrum Model assumes that adequate budgetary resources would be made available for both purposes.


+ Provides a broad range of capabilities in the short run and advanced capabilities in the longer run.
+ Best design for conducting operations other than war while simultaneously introducing new technology to deal with a theater peer later on.
+ Most consistent with the challenges of the emerging strategic environment.
­ Modernizes more slowly than the Accelerated RMA Force.
­ Relatively greater cost than other options.


In light of the broad array of potential flashpoints, the United States will need to maintain a broad array of military capabilities in the decade ahead. Regardless of the force model adopted, U.S. armed forces will need simultaneously to pursue the prospects of a revolution in military affairs, maintain the fighting strength needed to defeat regional foes, and conduct numerous peace operations.

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