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US Defense Posture in Global Context: a framework for evaluating the Quadrennial Defense Review

Carl Conetta and Charles Knight

Table Of Contents

1. From BUR to QDR: Coming to terms with change

2. Pivotal Security Concerns

3. Major Regional Conflict

4. Meeting the Challenge of the Future

5. Preparing for a Revolution in Military Affairs


The Quadrennial Defense Review seeks to chart the course of US defense policy for the next eight years and set guidelines for the investment of approximately $2 trillion in national wealth. It also aims to fashion a broad and resilient consensus on national security policy as we enter the 21st century. Thus the publication of the QDR provides a welcome and necessary opportunity to re-examine fundamental issues.

For nearly four years the discussion of US defense posture has stayed within limits set by the conservative challenge to the Bottom Up Review. This challenge is fairly summarized by the assertion that, "The BUR strategy is basically correct, but its planned force will not support the strategy and its proposed budget will not support the force." To less effect, other voices have questioned the strategy or argued that the force exceeded the nation's needs. In the end, policy development has reflected the political balance among an Administration perceived as vulnerable on national security issues, a military establishment enjoying a unique level of public deference, and a Republican-controlled Congress opposed to military retrenchment beyond that prescribed by the former Bush administration.

Defense Secretary Cohen's plan to trim personnel levels by four percent and pare modernization programs accordingly should put to rest one element of the recent debate: the planned budget will now certainly support the planned force. Outside the confines of the recent debate, however, this would not seem an exceptional achievement. Under the Cohen initiatives, America's expenditures per active troop will rise to $185,000 -- fifty percent more than the average spent per troop by Great Britain, Germany, and France. Nevertheless, broader questions about national security requirements and strategy may now come to the fore -- or so they should. Although the post-Cold War discussion of defense policy has been bracketed between assertions that planned budgets provide "not enough" or "just barely enough" resources for defense, global strategic developments suggest the issue is due for reframing. Despite the post-Cold War reductions in the DOD budget, America's share of global military spending increased from 28 to 34 percent between 1986 and 1994. Today the United States devotes about 3.3 percent of GNP to defense; the world outside the United States devotes less than 2.5 percent.1 Among those spending less than 2.5 percent are our NATO allies.

1. From BUR to QDR: Coming to terms with change

In the seven and one-half years that have passed since the fall of the Berlin Wall the United States has witnessed a geostrategic revolution more profound than any in the nation's history. Against this backdrop, the changes in America's security policy and posture seem modest at best. Together, the 1993 Bottom Up Review and 1995 Roles and Missions Report prescribed for the new era a US military remarkably similar to that of the Cold War. The most notable change is in the size of the armed forces -- a one-third reduction in personnel -- and in the amount of military spending, which in 1996 equalled 86 percent of the annual average for the recent Cold War years 1976-1990. (US defense spending is slated to fall eventually to a level approximately 21 percent below the annual average for 1976-1990.) These changes, too, seem unremarkable when viewed in the context of the changes worldwide.

During the Cold War, the Warsaw Pact commanded a military organization of eight million active-duty troops and first-line reserves. More than one million of these stood in high-readiness units within a few days' striking distance of the Western heartland. Today, this former threat is fragmented and withdrawn; The post-Soviet Russian military is unable even to effectively contain the tiny breakaway state of Chechnya. Although the Cold War bequeathed several heavily armed nations in the "third world," the 1991 Gulf War put their true conventional capabilities decisively into perspective.

Today, no other nation even approximates America's singular combination of technological prowess, economic vitality, military strength, internal stability, and geographic insulation. America's substantial security margin is reinforced by the strength of its allies. The NATO and OECD states now constitute three-quarters of the world economy; these states plus other long-time American allies, such as Israel, account for more than 70 percent of world military spending. By comparison, current and potential adversary states -- including Russia and China -- account for no more than 8 percent of military spending. This picture of Western dominance is reflected also in arms transfer trends. Between 1984 and 1994 the US share of the arms export market grew from 24.5 percent to 59 percent; the aggregate share of NATO countries grew from 50 percent to 82 percent. This change occurred in the context of a 73 percent contraction in the market. Thus, not only has the general diffusion of military power slowed dramatically, it has come substantially under the control of the United States and its allies.2

A survey of the strategic landscape suggests that the nation's defense planners have yet to come to terms with the full implications of Soviet collapse. More is involved, however, than the evaluation of the global military environment. Although a realistic appraisal of security threats is essential, defense posture is not simply "deduced" from the character and magnitude of threats. There are many decision points -- choices -- in the formulation of a posture. These bear on objectives, strategy, missions, contingency plans, organization, and ways of operating. In defining national interests and objectives, a nation's leaders can be more or less realistic. With regard to military strategy, operational concepts, and campaign plans, leaders can seek ends that are more or less ambitious. Finally, the way armed forces organize themselves and conduct their day-to-day business can be more or less attuned to the tasks and resources at hand.

Naval aircraft carrier operations provide an example of how the armed forces' preferred ways of doing day-to-day business affects "requirements." The fact that the Navy requires 12 or more carrier groups to have three on station at all times is a function largely of its rotation policies, which focus on ships rather than crews. The Navy could probably make do with seven or eight. Similarly, the fact that each service maintains its own logistics, medical, and communication infrastructures affects overall personnel requirements. And the redundancies can cascade and multiply: for instance, adding more personnel per unit of military strength also increases lift requirements.

Some of these issues involve the definition of service roles and missions, which have eluded any fundamental change. And so we will carry into the next century some peculiarities of our military organization -- such as our having two armies -- that derive from the circumstances of the Cold War and the Second World War. Many of today's redundancies reflect the needs of fighting or preparing to fight an unlimited, multi-theater global war -- the type of conflict that can quickly draw the slack out of a military organization. But whatever the value of such redundancies yesterday, they represent a maladaptation to the security environment today.

In sum, evaluating any "statement of requirements" requires more than attention to present and emerging security concerns. Equally important is an examination of the guiding objectives, axiomatic assumptions, and privileged solutions that help shape such statements.

2. Pivotal Security Concerns

The main features of post-Cold War conventional force policy have developed in response to concerns about several types of security challenges:

  • The near-term prospect of "major regional contingencies" requiring large-scale US intervention against non-peer adversaries such as Iraq and North Korea,
  • The longer-term possibility of a re-emergence of peer competitors to the United States -- comparable in capability to the former Soviet Union,
  • The continuing and possibly growing need to engage in so-called "operations other than war," which include peacekeeping and anti-terrorist operations,
  • The spread of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery; and,
  • The progress and diffusion of a so-called "military technical revolution," which could have profound implications at all levels of warfare.

Subsequent sections of this memo examine policy responses in several of these areas: first, with regard to the "real and present" danger of major regional conflicts; second, with regard to the possible future emergence of a peer military rival to the United States and the implications of a revolution in military affairs.

3. Major Regional Conflict

During the past six years the local military balances in the Persian Gulf and Korea have improved dramatically. In addition, the United States has established a virtual permanent military presence in Southwest Asia, prepositioned more equipment in both theaters, and improved its strategic lift capability. More generally, the combat power of US military units has also increased significantly and will continue to do so with the completion of near-term modernization programs.3 Together these developments should significantly reduce the net requirement for US units slated for large-scale regional crisis response. However, several things stand in the way of a downward revision of "requirements":

  • Regional contingency planning continues to rely on idiosyncratic and outdated planning assumptions and methods; these tend to exaggerate adversarial capabilities while discounting America's unique military strengths.
  • More seriously, regional contingency planning has become detached from a clear statement of national interests; a mismatch is developing between the nation's strategic interests and its military preparations.
  • The Pentagon's approach to conducting regional wars reflects elevated military strategic and operational objectives; in some important respects, we are aiming to do far more in 2001 than we would have attempted in 1991.

3.1 Problems in planning

Few of the major simulation studies that undergird DOD's posture statements have tried to establish the minimum amount of force needed to successfully prosecute wars in the Gulf and Korea. In preparing the BUR, DOD's preferred force package (and size) was treated as an input and then tested for adequacy. Rather than asking "How much is enough," this approach asks: "Is the force we want enough?" The recent Deep Attack Weapons Mix (DAWM) study took exception to this approach, at least partially, and now provides the basis for the QDR force cut proposals. Other, independent simulation studies by the Brookings Institution and the Congressional Budget Office, using analytical techniques like those employed by DOD, have also found that we could do well with less.4

Even the best of force assessment and conflict modeling techniques may suffer from other shortcomings which consistently err in the direction of exaggerating US requirements -- by overstating the combat power of Soviet-type equipment and by failing to take relative troop quality, operational mobility, and C3I capabilities into account.5

More generally, public discussion of "threat state" capabilities has uniformly failed to take qualitative factors into account, relying instead on simplistic troop and equipment "bean counts." The BUR was among the worst offenders in this regard, promulgating the image of generic regional threats wielding huge arsenals of armored vehicles and combat aircraft -- actually, so much dead weight, as it turns out.6

Perhaps the most glaring omission concerns the baseline we have used for six years to determine contingency requirements. DOD has yet to examine openly and vigorously the question, Could the US have achieved what it did in the Gulf War with a significantly smaller deployment of troops and equipment? After all, the November 1991 decision to double the Gulf deployment, proposed by General Powell, had exceeded General Schwarzkopf's request for reinforcements by a substantial amount and seemed excessive to National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft at the time. Since then at least one official study in the public domain -- an examination of the VII Corps battle with the Republican Guard conducted by the Institute for Defense Analysis -- has suggested that the United States did not need the theater level advantage it had in the Gulf in order to achieve the results that it did.7 Nonetheless, the deployment has become a benchmark of sorts in estimating current and future requirements.

The costs and risks of any over-deployment are not only financial in nature, but also military -- and they call into question some readings of the Decisive Force doctrine. As the size of a planned field force increases so does the time needed for deployment. As a battlefield grows more crowded, maneuverability decreases, and susceptibility to friendly fire incidents increases.8 Moreover, a crowded battlefield is a gift to any enemy who relies on inaccurate or indiscriminate "area" weapons -- like Scuds, chemical weapons, and mines. Even a blind shooter is likely to hit something in a crowded room. And when hostilities cease, the problems associated with over-deployment do not. Over-deployment exacerbates the difficulties of redeploying home and adds to the time it takes to return the deployed forces to full readiness.

3.2. Two, Three, Many MRCs? Contingency planning and national interests.

Although the BUR used Korean and Persian Gulf conflicts to define its "two war" requirement, it also described these contingencies as merely illustrative. In DOD's view, the two war requirement is a generic one. As General Powell asserted during a September 1993 press briefing: "we really don't know where the [next such] conflict will occur." Of course, preparing to fight any two of a variety of wars is more costly than preparing for specific instances. A steep cost threshold is passed as soon as preparations look beyond Northeast Asia and the Persian Gulf because these two regions offer important advantages: South Korea is a powerful ally, the Persian Gulf is uniquely suited to airpower, and both regions host prepositioned equipment and have good base infrastructures. And, of course, if the two war requirement is treated as generic, even the disappearance of material threats in either or both the Persian Gulf and Korea might not prompt any reduction in the statement of US force requirements.

Clearly, there is a fair possibility that in the next ten years some major regional war will occur outside the BUR's focal areas -- for instance, a war between India and Pakistan. But should the United States feel compelled to prepare to intervene militarily on a large-scale, and perhaps alone in this or some other unnamed major conflict? Answering this question does not require us to play a guessing game about "where the next conflict will occur." A tough minded appraisal of our critical national interests and vulnerabilities will tell us what we really need to worry about.

The annual cost to the nation of preparing to fight and win a major regional war has been estimated as between $30-$60 billion; thus, maintaining the capability for just one MRC over a 20-year period could cost the nation $1 trillion.9 In the case of actual intervention, the nation would put both its credibility and hundreds of thousands of American lives on the line. Commitments of this scale should serve specific and critical interests only, and such interests do not pop up overnight. Some see the experience of America's entry into the Korean war as offering a relevant counterpoint, but it does not. America's interest in that conflict was a function of the East-West Cold War: it was the nature of that global contest to suddenly and unexpectedly transform local wars of low intrinsic interest to the nation into major battles of position and will. For this reason (among others), the uncertainties of the Cold War period -- although less pronounced than today's -- posed a much greater challenge.

Today, it is unnecessary for the United States to use any nonspecific numerical standard to define major warfighting capabilities -- whether one, two, or more MRCs. Instead, paramount defense goals should be stated in terms of specific regional interests and scaled to meet the probable threats to those interests.

3.3. The expansion of strategic and operational objectives

3.3.1 Military operational issues: must we accelerate the pace of regional interventions?

It is perfectly possible for US military "requirements" to remain static or even increase as the military power of adversary states diminishes. Every incremental improvement in America's relative power position can be translated into more ambitious operational objectives: to fight and win ever faster with less initial loss of territory across an ever increasing range of circumstances and with an ever diminishing degree of risk.

Much of the armed services' present force size, modernization, and readiness requirements derive from a goal of being able to prosecute major regional conflicts within 100-150 days from deployment decision to victory. Today, the Army, for instance, seeks the ability to deploy three full divisions to the Persian Gulf within one month -- about twice the speed of the Gulf War deployment -- and a full 5- division Corps with support elements within 75 days. In a departure from the Desert Shield/Desert Storm model, the services also seek the capability for early counteroffensive action. Goals such as these defined the parameters for recent planning studies that, predictably, found a need for the B-2 bomber fleet and for new strategic lift capabilities, and ruled out greater reliance on Reserve Component combat units.

DOD seeks to double the speed of regional interventions in order to preclude imaginable countermoves by adversaries, such as a rapid and deep Iraqi sweep into Saudi Arabia -- moves they have shown no real capacity to make, even less so today than five years ago. The rationale for boosting US operational objectives borrows from the logic of NATO's Cold War preparations for war with the Warsaw Pact along the former European "central front." During the Cold War, the Warsaw Pact had the capacity to fully test Western strength over months and years. A Western loss of 100 miles along the central front likely would have led to the fall of continental Europe. In terms of America's strategic interests, such a loss would have been incalculable; the cost of reversing it, unimaginable. Thus, the capacity for early counteroffensive action was viewed as key to NATO's ability to "fight outnumbered and win." This approach was very expensive, but the expense was felt by many to be commensurate with the stakes.

There is no valid comparison between the cold war "central front" scenario and any of the regional conflict scenarios we face today. None among our likely regional adversaries can achieve a fast and irreversible fait accompli of real significance. And in no theater are the stakes remotely comparable to those in Europe during the Cold War. Even if Iraq, for instance, could conjure somehow the capability to suddenly push 200 miles into Saudi Arabia, the basic dynamics of the Gulf War would still govern and the eventual outcome of war with the United States would not be in doubt. Yes, the United States would pay some price, but most likely in the currency of time, not lives.

3.3.2 Military strategic issues: How best to fight two concurrent wars?

Considering the challenge of managing multiple concurrent MRCs, there is, again, the option of choosing more or less ambitious approaches. Of course, the two-war problem is contingent on the existence of more than one likely regional conflict scenario in which the needs of local allies, the magnitude of a nearby threat, and the intensity of US interests could combine to compel large-scale (and possibly unilateral) US intervention. The capacity to wage two wars is supposed necessary to ensure that an adversary in one region does not come to see US intervention in some other as presenting an opportunity for aggression. Of course, this assumes adversaries who are sufficiently able and eager to exploit whatever short-term opportunity exists for aggression, come along.

The least expensive way to meet the two war requirement is to maintain only enough active forces to rapidly erect two defensive shields. Reserve combat units would then be mobilized to supplement the active units, freeing some of them for offensive operations. With the completion of war in one theater, some combat units would swing to the other. This approach would certainly put great stress on the armed forces and extend to a year or more the time needed to complete the two wars. But it might allow a 40 percent or greater reduction in the requirement for active-component units. Given that the coincidence of two wars requiring massive US intervention is unlikely even across a 20- or 30-year time span, the savings might be worth the added stresses and risks.

The most expensive way to meet the two war requirement is to maintain enough active forces to conduct complete defensive-offensive operations in both theaters simultaneously. A modest reduction in cost is achieved if some of the active units are dual-tasked -- that is, used as a swing force. This is DOD's chosen alternative. A true and economical half-way point between the least and most expensive options might be approximated if DOD increased the number of dual-tasked units -- the swing force -- and substantially brought Reserve Component combat units back into the picture.

4. Meeting the Challenge of the Future

4.1 Preparing for a future military peer competitor

The prospect of a future global competitor already figures in the rationale for US force structure; the BUR partly justifies its two MRC capability as a hedge against the early re-emergence of a military peer. With an eye on the longer-term -- 15, 20, or more years into the future -- force planners use the prospect of a future peer rival to justify procurement of cutting edge weapon systems, such as the F-22, and the maintenance of an overall posture that can serve as a foundation for a quick return to Cold War levels of military power.

Central to the discussion of the peer competitor problem are two questions: How long before such a competitor might arise? And, How best can present military policy address this eventuality? These two are related because military reconstitution takes time. However, if the present discussion is to produce a prudent and sustainable policy, it must pay better attention to several other questions and issues as well: What can and should US military policy hope to achieve with regard to the emergence of a future peer power? What is the difference between a peer power and a peer military competitor, or between a threat and a potential threat? How should policy reflect an awareness of these differences? The current discussion would also benefit from greater realism about the present limitations of prospective competitors and the hurdles they must leap before they achieve peer status.

The United States cannot hope to prevent the rise of peer powers -- certainly not through any use of US military strength consistent with American values. Nor can the United States hope to sustain indefinitely its present military supremacy. Fortunately, it does not need military supremacy in order to survive and prosper. Even should we decide that maintaining some real margin of military superiority over potential competitors is forever desirable, we could do well for a long time with nothing more than parity.

Today no nation on earth possess, in qualitative terms, one-fourth as much military power as the United States. And large, modern military organizations cannot be built up overnight. The development and integration of advanced weapons systems, for instance, takes three to five times as long today as during the Second World War. Moreover, advanced militaries depend on the existence of advanced industrial and social infrastructures. Hence, any nation seeking peer status with the United States has many benchmarks to pass before achieving even rough parity. A wise hedging strategy would orient on these benchmarks. Passage of a certain benchmark by a potential competitor might signal a halt to the current process of US military retrenchment; passage of a further benchmark might set in motion a reconstitution process.

It would be foolish to focus our concern and resources on preparations to meet a peer military competitor unless or until some potential competitor begins spending 50 percent as much on defense as the United States. Foolish, because the emergence of a peer military competitor is not a certainty, while the existence of near-peer economic competitors is an established fact. Premature and possibly unnecessary preparations for big power military competition will beggar our efforts in the economic realm; our most serious economic competition comes from nations that typically spend far less GNP on defense than does the United States.

4.1.1 Possible contenders: Russia, China, Germany, and Japan

Within US defense policy discourse the leading contenders for the role of future peer military rival divide into two classes, both comprising former military rivals. In the first class, Germany and Japan have the economic wherewithal to support peer or near-peer militaries -- although their recent economic prowess has been married to relatively low levels of defense expenditure. For either to emerge as peer military rivals would require them to undergo (i) a profound strategic and domestic political reorientation, and (ii) a quadrupling of defense expenditures. It is fantasy to think that either could build a peer military in less than 15 years -- if they began today.

The second class comprises China and Russia, whose social-economic conditions cannot presently support peer military efforts.10 The Chinese economy is presently doubling in size every decade and is, by some accounts, already between 25 and 30 percent as large as America's. However, the size and poverty of the population limits both the amount of wealth that can be devoted to defense and China's ability to substitute quality for quantity in its armed forces -- a prerequisite for achieving a peer capability. China's economy would have to quadruple, at least, before it could seriously strive for peer military status. It cannot and will not follow the Soviet Union's sad example of trying to compete militarily with the United States with a GNP only one half as large as America's. Moreover, even when China achieves the requisite economic power, it will not be able to translate it into advanced military power overnight. For China, the option of fielding a military that is roughly equal to that of the United States is 30 or more years away -- assuming that China can sustain its present rate of growth and degree of stability.

Russia might reconstitute itself as a major military power in a 15-year period -- but first it must revitalize its economy and achieve greater political stability. Its future potential is limited by its having a smaller economic, population, and geographic base than the former-Soviet Union. Finally, there are two important sources of Soviet strength that Russia cannot count on: the geographic gains that accrued to the USSR due to its victory in WWII and its leadership position in a world political movement.

4.1.2 Hedging against the reemergence of a peer rival

Realistically, concern about the actual emergence of a new global military rival to the United States should focus on the period after 2017 -- twenty years into the future. Before then, any prospective competitor will have to pass a variety of obvious benchmarks. Given the profound edge in military power that the United States enjoys today, no competitor will be able to sweep suddenly into a position of superiority or even parity. For the planning period covered by the QDR a prudent hedging strategy would comprise (i) maintenance of a reconstitution base from which we could return to Cold War levels of combat power (not personnel or platform numbers) in 10 or so years; (ii) a vibrant and expansible foundation of service schools and training centers; and (iii) a program of military research, development, and prototyping that is second to none.

Given the time frame and uncertainties involved, the most appropriate ways of addressing the peer competitor problem lie outside the province of national military preparations. Twenty years constitute a sufficient gestation period for new cooperative security regimes and institutions, which could narrow the scope of future military competition. It would not be historically exceptional for such efforts to achieve a period of relative international peace lasting 50 or more years -- and the institutional foundation on which to build already exists. Uncertainty about the nature of future competition grows exponentially as we look further into the future. However, this degree of strategic uncertainty is best managed by seeking a type of flexibility that military preparations cannot provide. Our focus should be on husbanding the fundamentals of national strength: a vibrant economy, a responsive polity, a stable but lively civil society, and a dedicated and skilled populace. These "hedging strategies" have the advantage of benefitting the nation and the world even if the prospect of a new aggressive superpower never develops beyond the stage of abstract possibility.

5. Preparing for a Revolution in Military Affairs

The most impassioned concern about future military requirements focuses on a putative Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA). Without question, the rapid advance of information technologies provides an opportunity to alter dramatically the way armed forces perform. However, like discussions of the "information revolution" generally, the RMA debate suffers from a vexing lack of specificity regarding real capabilities and needs. For this reason one analyst concludes that the entire RMA concept "has a bit of a surreal quality."11 Two key questions have been lost in the fervor: first, to what extent and in what ways is the United States already exploiting the RMA? And equally important: Is anyone else?

In the Gulf War the United States deployed the world's first information age military force, demonstrating potentials only hinted at nine years earlier in the Israeli-Syrian conflict over Lebanon. US modernization efforts since the Gulf War will yield another quantum leap in capability by early next decade. No other nation, including our allies, presently has comparable capabilities -- not even scaled down to smaller forces. While some allies possess or are incorporating parts of the ensemble demonstrated in Desert Storm, none has capabilities across the full-spectrum of applications or a comparable ability to integrate the assets they have. Moreover, the progress of modernization programs outside the United States -- most of which are deeply troubled -- suggests that the gap is not closing significantly. 12

Turning to less developed nations and those that today count as potential "threat states", their prospects for substantially exploiting the military-technical revolution are altogether worse. These nations lack the capacity to build, buy, support, or effectively employ cutting-edge capabilities in operationally significant quantities. These shortcomings are rooted in socio-economic conditions that, in most cases, show no prospect for substantial improvement during the next one or two decades. Deprived of superpower patronage, the armed forces of less-developed nations are declining in relative strength, almost without exception. At any rate, they are by necessity fixated on problems of internal instability and old-fashioned cross-border threats, rather than advanced military competition.

Reviewing the state of the competition in light of planned US modernization efforts, there seems little reason to worry about "being left behind" in the RMA. However, many RMA enthusiasts use a different standard to gauge requirements: technical feasibility. In this view, "requirements" reflect the limits of physical principles and imagination. Testing such limits through military research and development efforts may be appropriate during a period of strategic uncertainty. Pushing such limits in procurement programs is another matter.

During the Cold War, the United States sought to procure the most advanced equipment in the greatest quantity that the nation's wealth would allow. This reflected a strategy of matching Soviet quantity with American quality, as well as an awareness that the Soviet Union -- a near-peer power -- was also modernizing continuously. There is no such competition today and none is likely for some time. Buying heavily into new, cutting-edge platforms now is not only unnecessary, it also risks our ability to refurbish the force tomorrow with tomorrow's technology. A sensible interim procurement program would emphasize service-life extension, modular upgrades to existing platforms, and major improvements only at the level of the "system of systems."

One area in which official policy seems immune to the implications of the information revolution is force organization. As information capabilities grow, the need for redundant military structures diminishes. Redundancy in unit structure and platforms is an increasingly outmoded solution to the problem of ensuring that the right force is in the right place at the right time with everything it needs to fight in hand. Structural change is due not only within each service, but also across services. Joint cooperation is more possible and necessary than ever before, and there is an increasing fungibility of air, land, and sea platforms. Among other things, this means that the walls between the services should be coming down. Such changes would imply significantly smaller and more unified armed forces, but there is little official enthusiasm about pursuing this path.


1. World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers 1995 (Washington DC: US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, 1996); and, International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 1996/97 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.).

2. World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers 1995 (Washington DC: US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, 1996.).

3. A review and analysis of post-Gulf War US modernization efforts can be found in Build-Down: US Armed Forces Retrenchment in the Context of Modernization, Project on Defense Alternatives Briefing Memo 8, May 1994.

4. Michael O'Hanlon, Defense Planning for the Late 1990s: Beyond the Desert Storm Framework (Washington DC: Brookings Institution, 1995); and, Planning for Defense: Affordability and Capability of the Administration's Program (Washington DC: Congressional Budget Office, 1994.).

5. Some of these shortcomings are reviewed in a recent article by two former high-ranking DOD officials. See, Zalmay Khalilzad and David Ochmanek, "Rethinking US Defence Planning," Survival (Spring 1997), pp. 49-53. For a critique along similar lines also see, Lt. Col. Steve McNamara (USAF), "Assessing Airpower's Importance: Will the QDR Debate Falter for Lack of Proper Analytical Tools?", Armed Forces Journal International (March 1997), pp. 36-37.

6. For a critique of the BUR's presentation of generic regional threats see, Carl Conetta, "Mismatch: the Bottom Up Review and America's Security Requirements in the New Era," written testimony for the US House Committee on Armed Services, 10 March 1994.

7. The results of this study are presented in Stephen Biddle, "Victory Misunderstood: What the Gulf War Tells US about the Future of Conflict," International Security (Fall 1996), pp. 139- 180.

8. Certain Victory, the official US Army history of the Gulf War, recounts in harrowing detail how the density of US ground forces at times impeded their engagement with the Iraqi Republican Guard.

9. Graham E. Fuller and Ian O. Lesser, Persian Gulf Myths, Foreign Affairs (May/June 1997), p. 43.

10. For an analysis of Chinese and Russian military prospects by a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, see: Russell E. Travers, "A New Millennium and a Strategic Breathing Space," The Washington Quarterly (Spring 1997), pp. 97-114.

11. Travers, "A New Millennium and a Strategic Breathing Space," The Washington Quarterly (Spring 1997,) p. 107.

12. Travers, "A New Millennium and a Strategic Breathing Space," p. 105.

© Commonwealth Institute, 1997

Citation: Carl Conetta and Charles Knight, "Defense Posture in Global Context: a framework for evaluating the Quadrennial Defense Review," Project on Defense Alternatives, Commonwealth Institute, Cambridge, MA USA, May 1997.

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