Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has enjoyed a period of military dominance that, with the exception of the brief period at the end of World War II, is unsurpassed in our country’s history. This has given America an opportunity presented to few countries in the course of recorded history: the opportunity to lead the way in creating the conditions for a long peace. But periods of extended military dominance are rare in history, and the current period will likely prove no exception. Nor can the US military’s current advantages be sustained by a business-as-usual approach to defense planning.
The Strategy for a Long Peace presented here does not seek a Pax Americana. Instead, it calls for the US military to transform itself to maintain a significant margin of superiority over any potential rival, while leveraging key alliance relationships to extend our current military advantage and, by extension, global stability.
The Future Security Environment
Defense planning today occurs in an atmosphere of relatively high uncertainty. Although history shows that dominant powers have typically encountered challenges to their position, it is not clear what state or group might pose such a challenge to America’s security, when that challenge might occur, or the form it will take. Several trends do, however, seem clear. One is that the sharp decline in competition among the great powers that followed the Soviet Union’s collapse has begun to reverse. Another trend concerns the rise of great regional powers in East and South Asia. This, combined with the dissolution of the Soviet empire and the promise of an increasingly integrated European Union (EU), makes it likely that Asia will displace Europe as the focal point of greatest economic (and military) potential—and of US security concerns.
We are also experiencing the emergence of a global economy more highly dependent upon access to information, space and fossil fuels. The free flow of commerce increasingly depends not only on free access to the world’s seas, but also to space and the electromagnetic spectrum. The development of major oil and natural gas resources in Central Asia also may find this remote area growing in geopolitical significance.
All this is occurring at a time when America increasingly finds itself leading coalitions of the willing, rather than relying on formal alliances, to conduct peacekeeping and other contingency operations around the world. Yet, at the same time, the United States will most likely find itself increasingly in need of durable and reliable allies. This will stem from the geopolitical and economic trends noted above. But it will also arise because an emerging military revolution (or revolution in military affairs (RMA)) will force the United States to divert increasing levels of resources to defending its homeland, and because sustaining America’s military advantage will require it to transform its military.
The military revolution now under way promises to change conventional warfare on a scale not seen since the period between the two world wars. Such transformations of war typically displace, or even render obsolete, some formerly dominant weapons and forces central to the previous military regime. For example, US power-projection operations will become more difficult to execute as even second-rank military powers develop and deploy anti-access/area-denial capabilities, putting fixed, forward bases (and perhaps maritime forces in the littoral) at high risk for destruction. Meeting this challenge will require the United States to transform both its power-projection forces and its global basing structure. Furthermore, along with reorienting its primary focus from Central Europe to East Asia, the American military also will likely find itself confronting new forms of blockade, the challenge of maintaining US superiority in space, the growing incidence of urban conflict, and the use of information warfare, both as a means of gaining advantage on the battlefield and threatening a nation’s economic infrastructure. To this must be added the need to cope with this military revolution’s empowerment of small groups, to include irregular forces, terrorist groups and transnational criminal organizations, with weapons of mass destruction and disruption.
The QDR: A Flawed Blueprint
Unfortunately, the United States’ current defense program, as developed by the Defense Department’s Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), does not provide the kind of strategic blueprint needed to meet these emerging threats. While the need to transform the US military has been voiced by the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), thus far little has been accomplished toward this end. To paraphrase an old admonition, “Transformation” is something that is heard, but not seen.
Yet, if the US military is not transformed, it may lack the military capabilities needed to sustain a long peace. At the same time, the US military must remain capable of preserving stability all along its transformation path. This means America must maintain sufficient military capability in the form of forces that are ready to address today’s security requirements at an acceptable level of risk.
Some risk must be accepted. America’s wealth, great as it is, is not unlimited. Moreover, while both political parties have essentially stated their willingness to sustain defense budgets at their current level, neither has called for providing any significant increases. Even more sobering, the current defense program suffers from a plans-funding mismatch of some $120 billion over the next six years (using the February 2000 Clinton defense plan as the baseline), with even greater shortfalls thereafter. Furthermore, neither political party appears ready to add the resources required to erase this shortfall. Consequently, the current defense program cannot avoid substantial trimming, even if transformation is not undertaken.
This would be bad news—if the current defense program offered the best way to address America’s security needs. But it does not. The current defense program focuses much of its efforts on creating and sustaining forces that are ready and capable of waging large-scale warfare in two separate theaters in overlapping time frames. This two-Major Theater War (MTW) posture that drives a good portion of US readiness and force structure requirements is an increasingly poor metric by which to gauge the effectiveness of our defense strategy and program. Today’s Iraqi threat is far smaller in scale than that posed in 1991. As for Iran and North Korea, the threats they pose are centered more around embryonic anti-access/area-denial capabilities than on attempts to create their version of a large Republican Guard-like mechanized, heavy land force, or a poor-man’s version of the US Air Force. In short, the kind, or form, of the challenge presented by these rogue states is different from the threat posed by Iraq during the Gulf War. Thus even the Defense Department’s excessive emphasis on minimizing the near-term risks to America’s security is being accomplished in a relatively ineffective manner.
The same can be said of forward-presence operations, the other major generator of US near-term force requirements. The use of Cold War era metrics, such as the number of carrier battle groups and amphibious ready groups forward deployed, still dominate—this, even though other, lower-cost, means of providing effective forward presence are now available.
Of perhaps greatest concern, however, is that the current defense modernization program places far too heavy an emphasis on sustaining an improved version of today’s military—as opposed to a transformed military—as the best means for maintaining US military advantages over the long term.
If one concurs with the authors’ diagnosis of the emerging security environment, the following strategy offers one approach for dealing with it effectively. This strategy employs a range of means to support transformation within projected resource constraints, while also incurring minimal increased risk to near-term US security interests, and addressing the substantial mismatch between the QDR defense program and the budgets projected to sustain it.
Transforming the US military is at the core of our Strategy for a Long Peace. Transformation requires a broad approach, comprising six elements:
* A future warfare vision that will impart direction to transformation efforts. This vision would focus the military on key emerging challenges, such as power projection in an anti-access/area-denial environment, urban eviction and control, space and information control, and homeland defense, and would explicitly anticipate greater future reliance on extended-range power projection, network-based forces, stealth, and unmanned systems.
* Selection of senior leaders based on their ability to effect transformational change. An ability to lead transformation efforts should be a central criterion for selection as JCS Chairman and Vice Chairman, and Service chiefs and vice chiefs.
* Robust funding for leap-ahead technologies and sustained experimentation. To create a portfolio of real transformation options, several billion dollars will need to be added to the science and technology (S&T) accounts over the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP). Among the technologies that should be aggressively pursued are those for distributed, micro-satellite constellations; space-based radars with moving target indicator capabilities; unmanned systems, to include micro-robots and micro-UAVs; performance-enhancing exoskeletons; next-generation stealth, including applications to air mobility aircraft, surface naval vessels and ground combat systems; hypersonics and directed-energy systems; and micro-proximity satellites for space control. To identify the proper mix of new systems incorporating the above characteristics, and the number of legacy systems required to meet emerging challenges, an ongoing series of Service and Joint transformation exercises must be conducted, oriented principally at the operational level of warfare. To this end, a Joint National Anti-Access/Area-Denial Training Center should be established, along with a Joint Urban Warfare Training Center. The military services should establish standing opposing forces at these centers, which can be brought together under Joint Forces Command to form a Joint Opposing Force.
Creation of the organizational slack necessary for innovation and institutional reform of the Department of Defense (DoD), the armed forces and the defense industrial base. Freeing up human resources for transformation will require a critical review of current approaches to overseas presence, existing war plans and higher military education. Measures to increase competition in the defense technology and industrial base, increase incentives for independent research and development (IR&D), and bolster the profitability of new systems development are also needed. As transformation progresses, institutional change will likely be required of DoD and the armed forces, which could range from the creation of a new Service, to new career paths and institutions of higher learning.
A procurement strategy in the near- to mid-term that emphasizes limited production runs of a wide range of new systems and service-life extensions and upgrades of existing systems. Until uncertainty is resolved concerning which new systems will be needed for future operations, and the technological flux likely to be associated with these systems has been substantially reduced, DoD’s procurement strategy should emphasize limited production runs of a wide range of systems. Where force structure concerns mandate expansion in fleet size or recapitalization, service-life extensions (e.g., Los Angeles-class attack submarines) and upgrades to existing systems (e.g., F-16 Block 60s) should be pursued to the maximum extent feasible.
Divestment strategies to eliminate capabilities that are a poor fit with the emerging strategic environment and to free up resources to support transformation. Transformation requires a divestment strategy, irrespective of the size of the defense top line. Divestment will be required to finance transformation, to retire or forego capabilities that are a poor fit with the emerging strategic environment and to swap legacy capabilities for transformational ones.
Meeting Near-Term Security Requirements
A range of initiatives can be undertaken to enable the US military to meet near-term security requirements, within existing and projected budget constraints, while incurring little increase in risk and also enabling transformation. These initiatives include:
Refocusing the Two-War Posture. Greater reliance should be placed on South Korea to provide ground forces for its defense. Similarly, if and when the Europeans field a rapid reaction force, they should be encouraged to make it available for a Persian Gulf contingency.
Restructuring Forward Presence. The Navy should make use of the growing strike capability of its submarine forces and surface combatants to create innovative forward-presence force packages, to include the use of Surface Action Groups (SAGs) and cruise missile submarine (SSGN) Stealth Battleships. Accordingly, the four Trident ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) scheduled to come out of the nuclear deterrent force should be converted to SSGN conventional strike platforms. Air Expeditionary Forces should be used to gap maritime forces, as appropriate. Those NATO allies with sizeable maritime forces should be encouraged to take on a greater role in conducting maritime forward-presence operations in the Mediterranean Sea, enabling US maritime forces to reorient themselves more toward the Persian Gulf, South Asia and East Asia. These initiatives will reduce the stress on carrier battle groups and amphibious ready groups, while enabling the transformation of US maritime forces.
Enhanced Peacekeeping. The Army should orient a significant part of its force structure—six so-called interim brigades—to peacekeeping operations, along with a like number of National Guard brigades, in recognition that such operations are likely to represent an enduring requirement. Efforts also should be made to support the peacekeeping forces fielded by America’s allies—such as Australia and Canada—which play an important role in policing democracy’s empire.
The Strategy for a Long Peace also provides increased funding on a per troop basis over that which is currently projected to ensure that US forces maintain themselves at acceptable levels of readiness.
Military Service Transformation Initiatives
The Strategy for a Long Peace emphasizes developing forces that can best meet the types of emerging challenges noted above. This means forces that can strike with precision from extended range; incorporate stealth into their design; emphasize mobility vice armor for defense; form part of a robust, comprehensive command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) architecture; are capable of defending themselves against a range of electronic and information attacks; avoid reliance on large, vulnerable fixed bases for insertion or sustainment; and avoid overly concentrating combat power in a few platforms.
The Army should proceed with its current transformation effort, but it should be modified to better address emerging threats, as well as existing requirements. This means earmarking one division (and associated National Guard units) to conduct field exercises oriented on solving the anti-access challenge, developing an advanced capability to conduct urban control and eviction operations, and exploiting the potential of ground forces to see deep and engage at extended ranges. Within this framework, the Army should proceed with its Future Combat System (FCS), high mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS) lightweight missile launcher, and the Army tactical missile system (ATACMS) Block IIA missile, and accelerate efforts to develop unmanned combat vehicles, and other forms of robotics. The Service’s mobility requirements should be supported through research and development (R&D) of an Advanced Technology Transport (ATT), Quad-Tilt Rotor (QTR) transport, stealthy air transport for use by special operations forces, and rapid, over-the-beach sealift. The Crusader artillery system does not fit the transformation force characteristic profile and should be terminated.
Navy and Marine Corps Fleet Battle Exercises should be mainstreamed into ongoing fleet training to explore the potential of new means and new forms of operation to deal with anti-access/area-denial threats. To this end, the two Services should accelerate their efforts to determine the utility of the Streetfighter concept, Network-Centric Warfare, and Operational Maneuver From the Sea. The Navy should develop and purchase a small number of Streetfighter combatants and convert four Trident SSBNs to SSGNs, while continuing to develop the CVX and DD-21. New means of conducting strikes at extended ranges, to include the advanced gun system (AGS) and unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs), should be accelerated. To maintain an adequate undersea warfare capability, Los Angeles-Class submarines scheduled to be retired before the end of their useful lives should be refueled and retained in the fleet. A Joint Mobile Offshore Base (JMOB) prototype should be deployed to determine its utility as an alternative to increasingly vulnerable fixed, forward bases.
Reflecting the demands of an anti-access/area-denial warfighting environment, the Marine Corps should proceed with its MV-22 buy, but significantly reduce its purchase of the advanced amphibious assault vehicle (AAAV). Similarly, the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) should be cancelled, with any near-term shortfall in aircraft production gapped by the F/A-18E/F (for the Navy and perhaps, the Marine Corps) and F-16 Block 60 (for the Air Force). Alternate means of survivable strike support—to include land- and sea-based missile forces and UCAVs—should receive increased emphasis.
The Air Force should accelerate its efforts to insure that the US military will dominate any future military competition in space and along the electromagnetic spectrum. Both challenges promise to be daunting, given the difficulty in identifying where the greatest threats may emerge, and how they might manifest themselves. The Service also needs to emphasize efforts to deal with the anti-access/area-denial challenge. The Air Force should accelerate its efforts to develop extended-range, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and UCAVs. Congress should be petitioned to restore funding for the Discoverer II prototype radar satellites. The Service’s long-range, precision-strike systems will likely play an increasingly important role in future operations. At present, the B-2 bomber is the Air Force’s only long-range, stealthy, penetrating strike asset and, as such, an important hedge against the growing vulnerability of forward-based aircraft. Service and Joint exercises should accord high priority to assessing the B-2’s considerable potential for addressing the anti-access challenge. If these exercises confirm this potential, the B-2 production line should be restarted and significant additional numbers of the aircraft procured. Unless the Air Force can demonstrate that the F-22 is both critical and survivable in the emerging anti-access/area-denial warfighting environment, its procurement should be limited to fielding a silver-bullet force.
While deploying an effective national missile defense system in the near term would be highly desirable, it is not a currently available option. Funding should not be siphoned away from national missile defense (NMD) research and development efforts, and into the procurement and maintenance of a system of suspect effectiveness. Rather, promising NMD options should be vigorously pursued with an eye toward exploiting cutting-edge technologies in an effort to develop more effective systems. Any eventual decision to deploy an NMD must account for the potential reaction of other nuclear powers, especially China and Russia.
An NMD deployment decision should be made within the context of a comprehensive approach to homeland defense from a weapons of mass destruction (WMD) attack to include defense against cruise missile attack and covert use of biological and radiological weapons. Increased emphasis must also be given to bolstering the nation’s defenses against attacks on the information infrastructure. To gain a better understanding of missile defense operations and force structure requirements, theater missile defenses—whose performance standards are significantly lower than those for an NMD system—should be deployed as soon as they become feasible.
The Nuclear Forces
The declining capabilities of the Russian nuclear forces, the associated reduced targeting requirements for US nuclear forces, and the growing potential of precision and electronic weapons to cover certain strategic targets once reserved for nuclear strikes suggest that significant funding could be shifted to support transformation initiatives by reducing our reliance on nuclear forces. Accordingly, the United States should take steps to pare its nuclear force levels to 2,500 warheads.
Alliances and Basing
If the United States is to preserve stability in key regions around the globe so as to sustain a long peace, it will find itself increasingly dependent upon allies for support. However, the emerging changes in the geopolitical and military-technical environments will lead America to seek different qualities in its relationships with its allies. A new division of labor will have to be arrived at that takes into account: ally durability and reliability; the new missions brought on by the military revolution (e.g., precision strike, space control, strategic information warfare, ballistic and cruise missile defense, power projection in the absence of fixed forward bases); and the likely shift in America’s principal security focus from Europe to Asia. To this end the United States should accord high priority to:
* exploring the potential to reduce emphasis on transferring advanced military capabilities to allies in lieu of providing such support on a temporary, or loan, basis. Candidate capabilities would include the US global C4ISR, missile defense and high-fidelity training architectures, as well as advanced precision-strike munitions (PGMs).
* supporting the efforts of selected allies to develop advanced military capabilities. For example, assistance might be provided to enable Australia, Israel, Japan, NATO Europe, and the Republic of Korea to develop their own anti-access forces, to include missile defense capabilities. Great Britain might be supported in its efforts to create power-projection forces that can operate effectively against anti-access forces and, along with Australia and Japan, to create forces to frustrate multi-dimensional (i.e., land-, space- and sea-based) blockades and threats to maritime commerce.
* migrating toward a new global basing architecture as a means of: hedging against the likelihood that future alliance relationships will be less predictable than they have been over the past 50 years; countering the growing risks involved with traditional reliance on fixed, forward facilities; and recognizing that Asia, rather than Europe, will more likely be the region where US security interests are at greatest risk.
Restructuring alliance relationships to meet these requirements will take years, perhaps a decade or more, to accomplish. Yet the geopolitical and military revolutions that will likely stress US alliance relationships and key regional military balances are already well under way. Hence it is no exaggeration to say that a strategic assessment of America’s alliance relationships should be undertaken now, while the opportunity to shape the future is at its greatest.