Project on Defense Alternatives

Defense Sufficiency and Cooperation:

A US Military Posture for the post-Cold War Era


Project on Defense Alternatives Briefing Report #9
Carl Conetta and Charles Knight
12 March 1998

(Read the Full Text version)

1. Principal Features

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:

  • An Army of 7 active division equivalents and 17 enhanced reserve brigades;

  • An Air Force comprising 8 active and 8 reserve fighter wings;

  • A Navy with 7 large aircraft carriers, 36 attack subs, 96 major surface combatants, 26 mine warfare ships, and 20 amphibious warfare ships;

  • A Marine Corps of 4 active and 2 reserve brigades plus 2 USMC air wings;

  • A strategic force of 3500 operational warheads based on 41 bombers, 7 Trident subs, and 500 ICBMs -- to be reduced, hopefully within ten years, to 1500 operational warheads based on SSBNs and bombers only;

  • 945,000 active-duty personnel and 690,000 reservists; and,

  • An average annual budget requirement after reductions are complete (circa 2005) of $205 billion (1998 USD).

2. Strategic Guidelines

The proposed posture reflects the following principles of national security strategy:

  • Maintaining America's long-term economic health and social stability are key. The current era presents the nation with both a unique opportunity and an imperative to increase infrastructure and social investment as a matter of national security strategy. This shift in emphasis reflects (i) the reduction in the magnitude and severity of immediate, near-term, and mid-term military threats to the national interest; (ii) the requirements of meeting increased international economic competition, and (iii) the need to maintain social stability and solidarity in the face of rapid economic and technological change. Longer-term strategic uncertainty also provides a reason to cultivate the fundamental sources of national strength. Looking forward 30 years we cannot confidently predict the types of challenges the nation may face; investing in the fundamentals ensures the greatest degree of long-term national flexibility.

  • Increasing our emphasis on nonmilitary & cooperative means for achieving security objectives is key. Increased emphasis on nonmilitary means is consonant with the increased importance of "environment shaping" and conflict prevention, mediation, and resolution. As for increased security cooperation: it is an important national security goal in its own right, serving to reduce the potential for conflict among the cooperating nations. Cooperation is also a key economizing measure, allowing the United States to use its leading international position to "leverage" group action while sharing security burdens.

  • America's armed forces remain pivotal to the nation's national security policy. Although the current era presents an opportunity to fashion a world in which force plays a significantly reduced role, that world does not exist today and will not be easily or certainly attained. America's armed forces are key to meeting the continuing military threats to the nation's core interests and key to guarding against the possibility of new threats in the future. The armed forces will also play a critical role in addressing problems of instability and they will be important in "environment shaping."

  • A reduced threat implies a smaller military and a reduced military budget. The reduction in the magnitude and severity of present threats and the low probability that a new peer or near-peer military rival will emerge during the next 15-18 years permits a reduction in the size of America's military forces and budget. This is also consistent with the national strategic requirement to place greater emphasis on nonmilitary security efforts, which should receive increased funding. And it is consistent with the strategic need to invest more heavily in cultivating the fundamental long-term sources of national strength.

  • Meeting post-Cold War military challenges requires substantial military restructuring. The character of the military security challenges that face the nation have changed dramatically and America's military must adapt accordingly. More than a simple reduction in size, this requires fundamental restructuring of the armed forces and an adjustment in their procurement priorities.

3. National Military 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:

  • Deter and defend against current and likely threats;

  • Create and consolidate the conditions for a more cooperative and stable international environment; and,

  • Guard against a possible resurgence of global and large-scale military threats.

Looking more closely at each of these elements:

  1. The United States seeks though the use of its armed forces to deter and defend against present and foreseeable military threats to the nation, its people, its interests, and its allies worldwide. The United States also cooperates closely with its friends and allies in seeking to secure from military threat vital "world community assets," such as freedom of navigation.

  2. The new era presents a unique opportunity to advance toward a strategic environment in which nations cooperate more closely and in which military force plays a smaller role in international relations. The United States will play a leading role in helping to realize this opportunity in a variety of ways:

    • By seeking to increase the scope and depth of international military cooperation, and to establish a sounder institutional foundation for such cooperation;

    • By joining with others to vigorously address the problems of post-Cold War instability that presently beset several regions of the world. Multinational stability efforts will include measures of conflict containment, limitation (including action against genocide), mediation, and resolution (including traditional peacekeeping).

    • By supporting the gradual negotiated reduction of national arsenals, the implementation of Confidence- and Security-Building Measures (CSBMs) in zones of conflict, and efforts to limit the proliferation of offensive weapons, especially WMDs and their means of delivery.

  3. By no means is success guaranteed in our efforts to foster and consolidate a more peaceful international environment. In light of strategic uncertainty, US military policy includes a variety of steps that guard against a resurgence of major military threats and especially against the possible re-emergence of a peer military antagonist. These steps include:

    • Maintaining a strong and expansible military establishment, a robust training base, and a lively innovative military culture;

    • Adhering to the principles of gradualism and reversibility in implementing the reductions in our armed forces that are dictated by broader national security strategy;

    • Maintaining and strengthening our core alliances and security relationships;

    • Strengthening our national intelligence gathering capabilities;

    • Maintaining the best-equipped and trained Reserve armed forces in the world; and

    • Maintaining a military research and development establishment and a defense industrial base that is second to none by a substantial margin.

4. Force Structure Summary

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
840 warheads; Trident platform
100 nuclear bombs; B-2 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).
Primary Mission Aircraft Inventory (PMAI): 1152 aircraft.

US Army

22 active, 17 reserve ground maneuver brigades (Approximately 7 active, 5 reserve division equivalents)

US Navy

Ballistic Missile Submarines: 7
Attack submarines: 30 active, 6 reserve
Aircraft carriers: 6/1
Major surface combatants: 78/18
Mine Warfare: 13/13
Amphibious Warfare: 20
Logistic ships 40/8
Total Battle Force Ships: 240

USN Tactical Fighters: 6 active, 1 reserve naval air wings (equals 4.2 USAF FWEs).
PMAI fighter aircraft: 252 active, 50 reserve. (USMC provides additional 48 aircraft, counted under USMC total, thus allowing for 50 tactical fighters per carrier).

US Marine Corps

18 active, 6 reserve ground maneuver battalions
(Approximately 1.5 active and .5 reserve division equivalents)

USMC Tactical Fighters: 1.35 active, 0.65 reserve USMC air wings (equals 3.7 USAF FWEs)
PMAI: 264 aircraft.

5. Personnel

Active 945 280 260 95 310
Reserve 690 170 130 50 340

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.

Active Reserve Civilian
1997: 1457 900.9 806
1998: 1390 865.0 755
1999: 1260 835.0 670
2000: 1230 820.0 630
2001: 1200 785.0 595
2002: 1090 750.0 565
2003: 1060 725.0 535
2004: 1040 700.0 490
2005: 945 690.0 550
Change %
-35 -23.4 -31.7

6. Modernization Implications

D-5 missile: cancel
F/A-18E/F: cancel, but buy F/A-18C/D (see below)
F-22: postpone & reconfigure (see below)
V-22: cancel & buy new utility helicopter
AAAV: delay & reconfigure (see below)
Comanche: cancel; Apache & Kiowa Warriors suffice until after 2010
NAS: postpone & reconfigure (see below)
CVN-76: cancel; No new carrier acquisition until 2009
RRF RoRos: cancel
LMSR: cancel last three ships

1998-2002 After 2002
Air power
F-15: 32 16
F-15E: 24 12
F-16: 24 12
F/A-18C/D 84 40
New "high-end" fighter: 510 ac acquired btwn 2004-2020
JSF (USAF & USN): 1854-2054 ac acquired btwn 2007-2026
USMC VSTOL (JSF?): 180 ac acquired btwn 2011-2018
other armed fixed-wing: 100-300 CAS & observation ac acquired 2008-2016
C-17: 30 6
Sea power
DDG-51: 2 2 more by 2006 ends series
Lower cost NAS: 3 2 per year
LPD-17 2 1 more and then terminate
Land Power
USMC AAAV reconfigure 790 acquired 2005-2012
USA LAV 1300 acquired 2003-2010

7. Budget

The tables below present three five-year plans. Force reduction occurs in the period 1998-2005. Modernization occurs throughout the period covered by the plans, but budgeting for modernization "shakes-off" the effect of force reductions in 2004 and begins to show regular, marked increases after 2005. While personnel spending stabilizes in 2005, modernization reaches a plateau in 2011.

Option FYDP 1998-2012 (1998 USD)
98 99 00 01 02 Total
Personnel 68.5 62.5 60 58 54 303
O&M 92 88 86 84 78 428
Procurement 37 36 34.4 35 35.6 178
R&D 30.8 29.3 29 28.4 27 144.5
C&H 8 8.5 11 8 8 43.5
other .7 .7 .6 .6 .9 3.5
051 TOTAL 237 225 221 214 203.5 1100.5
050 Total 249.5 236.5 231 222 211.4 1150.4
As % GDP 3 2.8 2.7 2.5 2.3  

  03 04 05 06 07 Total
Personnel 54 51.7 51 51.2 51.5 259.4
O&M 74 72 70 70 69 355
Procurement 38 39 40 43 45 205
R&D 27 27.5 27 28 28.5 138
C&H 9 7.2 7.2 7 6 36.4
other 1 .6 .8 .8 1 4.2
051 TOTAL 203 198 196 200 201 998
050 Total 209 204 202 206 208 1029
As % GDP 2 * * * 2  

  08 09 10 11 12 Total
Personnel 51.8 52 52.2 52.4 52.6 261
O&M 69.5 70 70 70.5 71 351
Procurement 49.8 54.5 54.8 55.6 55.5 270.2
R&D 28 28 27.5 27 26.5 137
C&H 6 6.6 6.6 6.5 6.4 32.1
other .9 .9 .9 1 1 4.7
051 TOTAL 206 212 212 213 213 1056
050 Total 212.5 218 218 218 217.5 1084
As % GDP * * 1.96 1.9 1.87  

FY-98 to FY-02 authorization. 051: $1100.5; 050: $1150.4

FY-98: 050 = 3.0% GDP; 14.0% national budget
FY-02: 050 = 2.3% GDP; 10.7% national budget
FY-03: 050 = 2.0% GDP; 9.4% national budget
FY-10: 050 = 2.0% GDP; 9.4% national budget

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:

  • The integration of improved communication and computation technologies and the adoption of "information age" organizational structures and routines is assumed to improve efficiency. This partially offsets the inflators associated with the O&M account.

  • The "technology" cost inflator is assumed to produce increases in capabilities that may allow additional reductions in force structure and personnel sometime after 2012.

  • The model assumes that tighter budgetary constraints (compared to the 1980s) and a reduced emphasis on cutting-edge technologies will mitigate technology cost inflation.

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.

8. Discussion of the Proposed Posture

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.

  • It sees little possibility of new "peer military rivals" (comparable to the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact) before 2017 and no possibility that this eventuality might come to pass without a number of long-term warning signs.

  • It assesses the present effective conventional military power of major regional rivals, like Iraq and North Korea, as less prodigious than suggested in recent DOD policy statements.

  • And it sees the threat of large-scale cross-border attack posed by rogue states continuing to decline in the coming years -- especially when it is measured relative to the change in the defense capabilities and potential of our regional allies. This is because today's rogue giants are a residual product of the Cold War.

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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