Defense Sufficiency and Cooperation:
A US Military Posture for the post-Cold War Era
Project on Defense Alternatives Briefing Report #9
The proposed defense posture entails a substantial restructuring of America's armed forces -- their roles and missions, organization, routines, and operations -- to be completed during an eight- to ten-year transition period. The goal of the proposed program is twofold: first, to achieve a closer, more efficient, and more economical adaptation of the US military to the post-cold war era and, second, to align America's defense posture more closely with the broader demands of national strategy. Besides restructuring, the program prescribes a significant reduction in the size of our armed forces and military budget. In essence, the option we propose would lead to a smaller military than today's, geared principally toward mid-sized and smaller contingencies, including peace operations and usually involving deployments of 60,000 US personnel or less. Retained would be the capacity to conduct one Major Regional Contingency with a field force that is 85 percent active-component troops. The proposed option is also designed to handle a lesser contingency while conducting a major regional operation; thus, we regard it as a "1.2 MRC" force. However, fighting two concurrent MRCs would require a win-hold-win strategy and would involve mobilizing and deploying 200,000 reservists. Under the plan, active-duty personnel are reduced by 30 percent overall; total force structure is reduced approximately 28 percent; and the defense budget is reduced by approximately 23 percent.
The principal features of the proposed posture are:
The proposed posture reflects the following principles of national security strategy:
The proposed posture reflects a military strategy attuned to the opportunities and challenges of the new era. Among the challenges are new sources of instability, the continuing threat of interstate aggression, and the possible evolution of new forms of threat. However, the present era also poses an opportunity to expand the basis of security cooperation and work more closely than ever before with other nations in restricting aggression and addressing the sources of instability. What the long-term future holds is uncertain, but the steps we take today will help decide that future. America's military strategy charts a vigilant path of progress toward a more cooperative & stable security environment. The strategy embodies three imperatives:
Looking more closely at each of these elements:
The proposed option reduces conventional force structure from current (1997) levels by about 30 percent in terms of major combat units. However, reductions are less pronounced in tactical support units (which, incidentally, include many "shooters," such as artillery and combat helicopter units, as well as electronic warfare and reconnaissance aircraft, strategic lift assets, and other forms of direct combat support). The reduction of nuclear assets is greater than 30 percent. Counting all types of combat and field units, the actual reduction in force structure is closer to 28 percent for the Total Force.
Strategic Forces -- SALT II now (3500 deployed warheads); negotiate to 1500 warheads:
560 air launched cruise missiles; B-52 platform
Air defense fighters: 60 aircraft
US Air Force
Bombers: 76 active component, 36 reserve component; 166 total inventory
USAF Tactical Fighters: 8 active, 8 reserve Fighter Wing Equivalents (USAF FWEs).
22 active, 17 reserve ground maneuver brigades (Approximately 7 active, 5 reserve division equivalents)
USN Tactical Fighters: 6 active, 1 reserve naval air wings (equals 4.2 USAF FWEs).
US Marine Corps
18 active, 6 reserve ground maneuver battalions
USMC Tactical Fighters: 1.35 active, 0.65 reserve USMC air wings (equals 3.7 USAF FWEs)
The proposed posture reduces personnel and force structure over an eight-year period. Overall it prescribes a 35 percent reduction in active-component personnel from 1997 levels, a 23.4 percent reduction in reserve-component personnel, and a 31.7 percent reduction in civilian personnel. Looking at the Total Force of active and reserve uniformed personnel, the reduction from 1997 levels is 30.6 percent. However, the number of full-time reservists will be reduced by only 7 percent during the period, from 150,000 to 140,000.
The option does not reduce force structure as much as it does personnel because it incorporates a number of organizational changes that increase the proportion of personnel serving in the deployable field force (which includes combat, support, and sustainment units). The actual reduction in the deployable field force (including the sustainment pipeline) and counting both active- and reserve-component units is approximately 28 percent. In essence, the posture prescribes that a Total Force with 69.4 percent as many personnel as today's re-allocate enough of its people to ensure a deployable field force that is 72 percent as large as what today's military can manage.
The tables below present three five-year plans. Force reduction occurs in the period 1998-
FY-98 to FY-02 authorization. 051: $1100.5; 050: $1150.4
Note: assuming constant 1997 wage, technology, and material costs, the option's 051 budget would average approximately $192 billion today; average procurement budget would be approximately $42 billion. Under similar assumptions, the 050 budget would average about $197 billion today.
The budgets reflect the effects of a number of non-monetary cost inflators to account for improvements in living standards (and wages) and for the increased costs and capabilities of the material and technology used to fulfil force structure requirements. There are some countervailing tendencies as well:
Because of the effect of inflators there can be no "steady state" budget and a straight-forward comparison of the proposed budget with those of previous years is difficult. However, if the proposed program of restructuring and reductions could be completed with today's wage standards and technology costs held constant, the proposed option's budgetary requirements would average approximately $192 billion (1997 USD), with the procurement portion of the budget averaging approximately $42 billion.
Could you state briefly what distinguishes the proposed defense posture?
Immediately obvious are the reductions it involves, which bring our nuclear and conventional forces down to a size commensurate with the reduced danger of big power and major regional war. The proposal reduces force structure from current (1997 levels) by 28-30 percent. However, as a hedge against the remaining possibility of very large-scale contingencies -- such as major war in two regions simultaneously -- the option retains powerful armed forces reserves.
Second, the alternative recognizes the necessity and fully exploits the opportunity for increased multinational cooperation and burdensharing. This implies a long-term, on-going effort to improve the foundation for cooperative action. The proposed option seeks to create an effective division of labor with our friends and allies.
Third, the option reorients and restructures our military to most efficiently meet the likely threats and challenges of the new era: various "lesser regional contingencies," stability operations, counter-proliferation efforts, and terrorism. Success in some of these missions depends on a capability to deploy light, medium-weight, and "mixed" forces able to operate in a variety of combinations. Stability operations in particular require a greater emphasis on combat support capabilities.
Fourth, with regard to combat operations specifically, the proposed alternative reflects an increased emphasis on firepower, airpower, and information power. Today, these forms of power are more important across the spectrum of conflict. (At the same time, the option is quite selective in how it modernizes the force. It pegs modernization to clear statements of need and, rather then comprehensively pursuing the high-tech path, it seeks "enabling" technologies and favors "modular" upgrades.)
Fifth, the proposal aims to bring the organization and functioning of our military -- not just its technology -- into the "information age," so that it becomes better able to quickly assemble and deploy economical, "tailored" force packages. Information-age organizational principles will also make it possible for our field units to operate in a more dispersed, decentralized, agile, and far-ranging fashion. This capability is important for both combat and stability operations.
Finally, the option seeks to more fully integrate our military power and organization across traditional service boundaries. The nature of modern conflict demands it and the goals of greater economy, efficiency, and effectiveness require it.
What changes in national or "grand" strategy does the proposed option reflect?
In reducing military expenditure it reflects increased attention to the challenge of global economic competition and what it implies for the long-term stability, adaptiveness, and strength of our nation. For the foreseeable future -- the next 20 years, at least -- increased global economic competition and its domestic correlates are framework issues. This does not mean that major military challenges will not occur. They may and we must prepare to meet them. But the life of the nation will not hinge on managing a paramount superpower military contest as it did during the Cold War. So, the proposal partly reflects a re-allocation of our resources among the different forms of "insurance."
Our ability to meet the challenge of rapid global economic and technological change has profound implications for our long-term security -- including our military security. Looking 25 or 30 years into the future, it is impossible to predict with any useful degree of accuracy where, when, what, how, or how many major military challenges might arise -- if any. The only sensible way to manage this type of long-term strategic uncertainty is to (i) keep our eyes fixed on the horizon, (ii) retain an incomparable foundation for military reconstitution, and (iii) take determined steps to ensure the long-term strength, stability, and vibrancy of our economy and society. Our success in managing long-term uncertainty depends most of all on husbanding the fundamentals of national strength because these alone can provide the type and degree of flexibility we need.
Moving to the level of national military strategy -- what distinguishes the proposed posture from the current one?
The alternative reflects a strategy of (i) seeking to deter and defend against present and foreseeable military threats to the nation's vital interests, (ii) taking vigorous steps to create and consolidate new conditions and institutions conducive to a more stable and pacific international environment, and (iii) guarding against the possible resurgence of global or large-scale regional military threats to the nation's critical interests.
In following these imperatives the proposal also makes a distinction between areas or regions that are "core" and those that are not. In core areas it seeks the capability and reserves the right to act with local allies only. With regard to non-core areas and with regard to problems that are not deemed immediate and critical to US interests, it premises action on broad-based multinational cooperation and burden-sharing. This proviso is meant to preclude our finding ourselves in the role of "globo-cop" -- but it is not a "cop out." The second leg of the proposed strategy prescribes vigorous efforts to improve the foundation for effective multinational action. Cooperation is a tool we intend to refine and use more often.
Focusing on the issue of specifically military threats -- what type of threat environment does the option assume? How do its assumptions differ from those informing current DOD policy?
The approach we propose differs from present policy in its assessment of the absolute magnitude of "new era" military challenges and in its assessment of the relative probability (or frequency) of the different types of military challenges.
However, the approach also sees a real likelihood that the rogue giants will attempt to substitute other means of warfare or coercion -- not comprehensively "high-tech" means, but instead: long-range and remote-action "area weapons" -- missiles, mines, and WMDs. And it recognizes that Russia or China could pose a major regional challenge well before crossing the threshold to "peer" status.
In 18 years or so, Russia might reconstitute itself as a major European power, and it could conceivable match the combined military wherewithal of the UK, France, and Germany. This may pose a problem or it may not. It depends on Russia's political trajectory. China, too, could pose in 18 years a different order of security challenge than it does today, if it is so inclined. In either case, however, it will remain possible for our regional allies and friends to collectively match or surpass the power of these states. Should problems arise, we will act to enable a broad, cooperative response. Cooperation, division of labor, and proportionate burdensharing are guideline concepts for dealing with regional problems. Of course, we should not assume future difficulties with Russia or China. Principally, our policy is to draw them in, not write them out.
The proposal sees Lesser Regional Contingencies, low intensity threats (terrorism and insurgency), and "stability contingencies" as continuing to pose as much of a challenge as they do today or even somewhat more. Most of these possible contingencies will not engage American interests in as an immediate and intense way as during the Cold War. Today there is no global game of dominos being played -- only "dominos" standing alone. In some few cases, however -- especially those involving WMDs -- the affect on critical US interests may be direct and immediate, nonetheless. And, more generally, the cumulative effect over time of lesser contingencies could be profound. So our policy is a proactive, preventative one. The option addresses these contingencies directly, but also in the context of trying to consolidate and expand a sphere of peace, stability, and democracy.
What quantitative requirements does the approach associate with these various military challenges and threats?
The proposal sees major MRCs as a type of contingency that we might have to address once every 12-15 years or so. In the two real cases of current concern -- Iraq and North Korean aggression -- the United States might need to deploy 250,000 troops. Of course, other big regional wars may occur, but only a select subset of these would engage our critical interests in a way that could compel large-scale US intervention. The "two simultaneous MRCs" scenario that has driven recent planning is seen as the type of circumstance we might face once every 35 or 40 years -- and probably less often.
During the next decade the likelihood of critical MRCs will further decline; however, ten to fifteen years from now their probability of occurrence may again rise depending on the trajectory of Russia and China. The net requirement for US forces in the case of MRCs will also decrease (with the decrease in Iraqi and North Korean power) during the next decade. More likely than full-scale deployments of a quarter-million US troops will be deterrent deployments of much smaller size.
Turning to stability operations and LRCs (including deterrent deployments and punitive operations): these will typically involve significantly less than 40,000 US troops. At the upper range -- above 25,000 troops -- we should be prepared to undertake as many as eight of these in a decade.
That's about the same rate as during the past 8 years.
A bit more, actually -- but the key thing is not how frequently we commit ourselves. We must be selective -- and today we have more freedom to be selective. But most important, when we decide to act we must act early and bring enough of the right type of capability to bear to ensure worthwhile results.
A lot of recent discussion of force requirements has been stated in terms of how many major regional wars the US military can fight at once -- one, two, etc. How would you gauge the proposed alternative on this scale?
The proposed posture provides a robust "1.2 war" force -- meaning that it can deal with a major regional war in either Korea or Southwest Asia while also conducting a lesser operation (involving less than 40,000 troops.)
Without calling up Reserves?
No. There would be a reserve call-up -- but less than for Desert Storm. In order to deal with two wars, however, we might have to deploy 200,000 reservists. We would have to use those enhanced Army reserve brigades, for instance. And we would choose to adopt a win-hold-win strategy for conducting the war.
But the alternative is not primarily geared toward major regional wars.
That's right. If you want to measure the force in terms of lesser regional contingencies, you could say that it could easily deal simultaneously with three LRCs involving 40,000 troops each -- and mostly active-component troops. So you could call the proposed military either a "1.2 MRC" or a "3 LRC" military. It could even deal with 4 LRCs at once -- but four is a lot more stressful than three -- because of the variety of units that could be needed and the possibility that the LRCs would be far-flung and remote from any good base infrastructure.
Citation: Carl Conetta and Charles Knight, Defense Sufficiency and Cooperation: A US Military Posture for the post-Cold War Era, Project on Defense Alternatives Briefing Report #9. Cambridge, MA: Commonwealth Institute, March 1998.
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