Former United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C, and receiving the Defender of the Constitution Award.
Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Rumsfeld’s Revolution

A revolution is struggling to be born — a fundamental reordering of America’s military. Nothing similar in ambition has been attempted since the ferocious struggles of 1945-47 that resulted in the National Security Act and the creation of the Department of Defense. In some ways, the campaign of the George W. Bush administration to pull a creaking, reactionary defense establishment into the 21st Century is unique.

The American people must understand what is really going on and what is at stake. They need to evaluate with open-eyed skepticism the gathering opposition to change. They must rise to a most difficult calling: to understand how the revolution being planned under Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will affect them and their posterity. In a summer when the movies portray a complacent America astounded by the surprise of Pearl Harbor, the audience of today must walk back out into the daylight reality facing them as the present generation of Americans.

Some Recent History

When George W. Bush won the presidency, the defense establishment ended eight years of (to borrow from a recent hit movie) “Waiting to Exhale.” Happy days would soon be here again. Had not the new president and, just as important, his powerful running mate, former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, run on promises to restore America’s military? Early on, almost no one had expected defense to become a major campaign issue. Bush and Cheney made it so. They forced into public consciousness eight years of under-funding and over-commitment; of readiness shortfalls and morale shortfalls; of inadequate procurement and neglected R&D; of a military on the verge of implosion. “Help,” they proclaimed, “is on the way.”

They also talked, now and then and somewhat vaguely, about “transforming” the military into a 21st Century high-tech marvel, perhaps even of “skipping a generation” of weaponry. But for the most part, the rhetoric dealt with what people could understand easily, with “beefing up.” And for the most part, everybody assumed that meant money.

The Pentagon certainly did. After two years of dire and well-orchestrated lamentations and prognostications, their wish lists and budget proposals and we-need-it-now supplemental requests were good-to-go the minute the new administration hit town.

It didn’t quite happen the way they expected. First came the surprise appointment of Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. Rumsfeld, who had been leading Bush’s Defense Secretary candidate search until his nomination, had held the job before under President Ford. He’d stayed active in defense affairs ever since, especially as chairman of two influential commissions on ballistic missile defense and space policy. He was widely known and respected as a serious defense thinker and a tough Beltway veteran. This was no novice, no mere political appointee destined to spend his first six months signing papers he didn’t understand. But this was also a man who knew that a Reagan-style buildup – a lot of money up-front on mature technologies to be deployed against a known adversary in a relatively stable world – was inappropriate now. That relatively known world of the Cold War was gone. As for new technologies and the uses to which they might be put – no one (except perhaps those with their own agendas) was sure of much of anything.

The surprising result was that no immediate supplemental appropriations request went to Congress.(1) Conservatives felt betrayed. The Joint Chiefs of Staff felt blindsided. Congress scratched its collective head. But the final Clinton budget authorization for FY 2001, about $296 billion, and the Clinton FY 2002 request of about $310 billion would stand, save for a few minor additions, for at least the next six months.(2)

Then Secretary Rumsfeld provided yet another practical example of that old cliche – be careful what you pray for, you might get it. Ten years of official studies and commissions on defense in the post-Cold War world had yielded little more than increasingly ludicrous apologies for the status quo, plus a couple thoughtful, and therefore mostly ignored, critiques.3 A serious comprehensive review was needed. Everybody said it. Everybody said it because everybody said it.

Secretary Rumsfeld did it. He convened a klatch of high-level, low-visibility study groups to do a confidential defense review. His intent was clear, to get the best independent advice possible while formulating his own agenda, so that he could then send that agenda out into the world of special interests, service politics and budgetary realities. In doing so, and in taking the time he felt he needed, he managed to offend – or perhaps the operative word should be “terrify” – nearly everyone.

How confidential? Even now, nobody is even sure how many groups there are. The Army estimates 11; the Air Force counts 21; the Navy comes in at “about” 20.(4) By late May, so many people were commenting publicly on reports they hadn’t read, reports that might not even exist, that even the Beltway recognized the silliness. One defense analyst, Michael O¡¯Hanlon of the liberal Brookings Institution, summed it well: “So far, the main criticism of Rumsfeld seems to be that he is doing too much listening and not enough leaking.”(5)

More vexing to the Beltway than the lack of leakage was the alleged lack of access. The study panels seem to have studiously excluded active duty officers and other interested parties. Soon after this exclusion became clear, unnamed senior officers were venting their dissatisfaction that they’d been left off and left out. Unnamed Congressional staffers began hinting darkly at various unspecified future retributions. Then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, miffed that Secretary Rumsfeld was not consulting with Congress to his satisfaction, held up confirmation of several senior Pentagon appointees.

Anxious to defuse the tension, Rumsfeld told Washington Post reporter Tom Ricks that during his 115 day tenure he’d met with General Henry Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 91 times. He’d also had 170 meetings with 44 general and flag officers and 70 meetings with 125 members of Congress, excluding phone calls and lunches. He’d also held what quickly became characterized as a “combative” session with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and promised to participate in more such. As for the gripes of unnamed “senior officers” – since there were about 885 relevant generals and admirals “I’m sure there are people who don’t feel involved.”(6)

With the standard leakage worthless, and the interested parties (i.e., those with territory and budgets to protect) increasingly fretful, the rumor mill ran nonstop. The Navy was going to lose some of its carriers, the Marines their Ospreys, the Air Force its F-22s, the Army a couple divisions. Thirty-some different programs were on the chopping block. Rice bowls (Pentagonese for bureaucratic interests) were going to be broken en masse. Nothing was sacred. No one was safe.

But now, after several months of Rumsfeldian silence and Beltway noise, the panels are starting to report out. The first decisions – on restructuring the military space bureaucracy – have been made, and are being implemented. This tandem of revelation/implementation will be a “rolling process” over the next several months, perhaps a year, with or without the promulgation of a new and desperately needed official “National Security Strategy” by the White House.

It will take at least six more months for the real impact to start to become apparent. Two milestones particularly matter. The 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), a Congressionally-mandated Pentagon self-study, is due to report out by September 30th. The 1997 QDR amounted to little more than a premeditated attempt by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to change as little as possible. So far, the current effort has been overshadowed by the Rumsfeld process. To date, the most significant product has been a “working group” report intended to “explore options” – significant mostly as a fine, perhaps final example of post-Cold War status quo-ism.(7)

In late May, however, the Joint Chiefs of Staff decided to revive its own study groups and produce its product on schedule. The 2001 QDR still matters, as validation of the Rumsfeld initiatives . . . or as Pentagon resistance to it. Secretary Rumsfeld has spoken repeatedly of “folding the QDR decisions” into his own studies, and vice versa. If so, it could produce some astonishing folds.(8)

The second marker, far more important, will be submission of the FY 2003 defense budget to Congress late next January or early February. There will be three vital truth-tellers to watch for. Are hitherto under-funded or orphaned activities such as space, missile defense, homeland defense and advanced R&D adequately capitalized? Are there serious cuts in no longer appropriate systems such as the Crusader howitzer, and in construction and maintenance accounts for excess bases? Finally, is there a rational plan for sustainable increases in the total budget that support serious transformation?

At this point, the Rumsfeld tenure has reached the point where it’s possible to ask: Is there a revolution underway? While it’s too early to tell for sure, it seems very likely that there is a desire to lead such a revolution. In anticipation there is already a vigorous counter-revolution developing. Their hope is to strangle this particular Hercules in its cradle.

This much, however, is certain. If the Bush administration proves serious about re-inventing the post-Cold War defense establishment as a fundamentally restructured and re-equipped 21st Century force, including homeland defense and space-based activity, it will be doing something absolutely unprecedented. The most powerful nation on earth, the most powerful in history, a nation without a single mortal enemy, will attempt to integrate multiple technological revolutions into new kinds of forces to deal with a bewildering variety of threats: from nuclear strikes and conventional combat to terrorism and cyberwar. It will do so against resourceful resistance from large portions of the Pentagon, the Congress, the media, and the political left. Under such circumstances, the Administration must engage the sustained support of the American people – no easy task in time of peace and prosperity, but nonetheless essential if a Rumsfeld Revolution is to succeed.

Let us examine the contours of the likely Rumsfeld Revolution, from technology to force structure.

Four Critical Concepts

The United States has become a nation of military illiterates. No one under the age of fifty has been drafted. Only about six percent of the population has any military experience at all. National security reporting, although improved over the last decade, remains spotty and often distorted. We’re at peace, at least when measured by 20th Century standards. And the issues are complex.

But not so complex that they’re beyond the reach of the average American with a bit of time to spend. Former Democratic Senator Gary Hart, a veteran defense reformer, put it best:

“[T]here is nothing – nothing – in the whole framework of military policy and practice that any American of ordinary intelligence cannot understand. Concerned citizens – and we should all be concerned – can demand an explanation as to why our forces are structured as they are, why they are equipped one way rather than another, and, most of all, why they should be sent here or there in the world. It boils down to common sense, which can be found at least as readily on Main Street as on Pennsylvania Avenue.”(9)

However, the American people must know what to look for. After all, the answer you get depends on the question you ask. Effective questioning requires a conceptual framework. Fortunately, that framework is relatively simple, at least in the abstract. It consists of four vital concepts.

The Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA)
Asymmetrical Warfare
The “Defense Death Spiral”

The Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA)

Twenty years or so ago, it became apparent that something fundamental was happening to the conduct – the potential conduct – of war. In the West, Industrial Age warfare had been characterized by mass national armies, raised by conscription and equipped with an array of deadly but largely indiscriminate weapons. Asian peasant armies, though far less well trained and equipped, operated mostly on the same principles. Sun Tzu’s Art of War had little to do with Chinese or North Korean human wave attacks or Tet Offensives. Victory came, or at least was presumed to come, through attrition and the seizure of territory. God, if not always on the side of the bigger battalions, at least seemed generally to prefer mass and muscle to finesse; larger explosions to smaller; and “inside the box” thinking to venturesome excursions beyond.

The Soviets first noticed an impending change in the U.S. They called it the Military-Technological Revolution, and by the mid-80s understood that their 180 divisions and 50,000 tanks and maybe even their ICBMs, might soon be obsolete. The only sector of the Soviet system that worked reasonably well, defense, proved the first to sense the impending Soviet demise.

Desert Storm showed they were right. The RMA – the application of computers and information technology to the conduct of war – had arrived. But Desert Storm offered a mere first glimpse of what computers and information technology could provide: precision-guided weapons, real-time intelligence data, enhanced situational awareness, more effective command and control, all adding up to a new kind of war . . . or, as the Joint Chiefs of Staff described it in “Joint Vision 2010,” Full Spectrum Dominance.(10)

Or so it seemed. After Desert Storm, all the services got busy exploiting, or at least trying to exploit, or at least pretending to try to exploit, the possibilities. The Army spoke of “digitizing the battlefield,” the Navy of “network-centric warfare,” the Air Force of “global reach” and “virtual presence.” Even the Marines, in their Urban Warrior exercises, tried hanging computers on lance corporals, who found themselves so involved with their keyboards they had neither the time nor, in some cases, the physical ability to fire their rifles. The laptops in their chest harnesses interfered.

Predictably, the results of all this initial high-tech scurrying-about have been mixed.(11) Ten years of rushing off madly in all directions has led to some sobering realizations. New technologies cannot be appliqued onto existing organizations. Just as business had to change to take advantage of the new technologies, so must the military. The Army division, for example, is based on a design that Napoleon would have been comfortable with, indeed, a design he helped create. He would certainly recognize today’s staff structure, although he’d probably be appalled at the bloat. As one Army general told this author a few years ago, “We know we can take out one level of command. We’re just not sure which one.” More recently, another Army officer countered that slimming down might actually require more managers, i.e., more career officers . . . suggesting once again that the first imperative of any bureaucracy is to keep its careerists on track.(12)

It’s also taking far too long for technologies to move from idea to implementation. Major military systems currently require fifteen to twenty years of research and development before fielding; in commercial software, a generation lasts about eighteen months. The Air Force finds its space efforts hampered by the requirement for “backward compatibility” – new satellites must be able to work with the 1970s technology already up there, and on the ground. The Marines’ Osprey program is old enough to drink, and nowhere near fielding an operationally acceptable aircraft.

Crucially, the information RMA is turning out to be only the RMA Phase One. The next phase, already underway, involves nano-technologies and MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems), robotics, exotic new weapons such as lasers and particle beams, and space. These also will require major changes in structure and doctrine.

In sum, the military has a two-part Revolution in Military Affairs, or perhaps even two overlapping RMAs, on its hands. Nothing like this has ever happened before. And it’s happening so quickly that, without truly revolutionary changes in R&D, structure, strategy and doctrine, it may not happen at all. This country may well end up with little more than shards of RMA – a system here, a weapon there, a structurally 20th Century force running around with new toys.

Asymmetrical Warfare

This term, now ubiquitous within The Beltway and The Building (as the Pentagon is affectionately known), has several definitions. At its simplest, it means anybody who doesn¡¯t stand up and fight fair, i.e., the way you want them to fight. At its most complex, it entails a paradoxical style of war in which the weak do terrible damage to the strong, more for purposes of destroying their will than of defeating them – defeating us – the old-fashioned way. To get at this challenge, it’s useful to understand a bit about the inter-actions of weapons and the basic ecology of the battlefield.

Weapons and tactics come in four general categories: symmetrical, offense-defense, combined arms and asymmetrical.

*Symmetrical. You have a sword. I have a sword. We fight. You have ten tanks. I have a hundred tanks. I win.

*Offense-defense. You have a sword and a shield. I have a sword and a shield. My sword’s longer. Your shield’s stronger. You have ten tanks. I have a hundred anti-tank mines buried in your path. And so on.

*Combined arms. This involves the use of multiple systems to achieve synergistic effects. Your battalion, for example, is attacking my battalion. My rifle and machine gun fire stops your advance and forces you to lie down. I call in mortars and artillery on your motionless troops. When they get up to move away from the shells, they run into the bullets.

*Asymmetrical warfare. This contains these elements above, but is also fundamentally different. It means more than avoiding the enemy’s strengths. At its utmost, it means what the Chinese currently call “unrestricted warfare,” doing whatever you can to weaken the enemy’s will.(13) I stand in front of my house with sword and shield. You sneak around and burn my backyard vegetable patch. Saddam Hussein decides to try it again, but this time drops chemical and biological weapons on all the major Saudi ports and airfields, effectively denying American access. China invades Taiwan after notifying the United States that any interference will cost America a city a day, starting with Seattle and working down the west coast. America responds by shutting down the computers that control the Yangtze and Yellow River dams. Millions die in the resulting floods.

In one sense, asymmetrical warfare is no new thing. It’s always been the most successful weapon of the weak against the strong. What has changed is that America’s military is so technologically advanced than no competitor will even try to match us symmetrically. In this sense, ironically, we’re the asymmetry. But the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (nukes), mass death (chemical and biological), and mass disruption (cyberwar) means they don’t have to match us. Weak nations and other groups can now do such harm that some thinkers are calling it “The Revenge of the Melians,” after the famous dialogue in Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War.

The Athenian Empire, attempting to coerce the small island of Melos into an unwanted alliance, reminded them that “The strong do what they wish and the weak suffer what they must.”(14) But today, it seems that weak often do what they wish and the strong suffer what they must. If present trends continue, the suffering’s going to get worse. Therefore, the U.S. military faces a double challenge: to maintain such convincing superiority that no enemy will challenge us conventionally, i.e., symmetrically, while guarding against an array of unconventional, i.e., asymmetrical threats that keep expanding in number, lethality, and availability to both states and non-state entities. Never – never – has anything like this happened before.


At its simplest, this means that the military must be changed into a force that can harness and exploit all the new technologies. At its most complex, transformation means changing structures and harnessing technologies in a manner relevant to symmetrical and asymmetrical threats.(15) The challenge is staggering. It does absolutely no good, for example, to field a magnificent force that is totally dependent on satellites, yet leave your satellites totally vulnerable. The danger inherent in the RMA is uneven development, whether through budgetary or military shortcomings. The possible result is that the transformation process will yield a force that is high-tech, expensive, well trained, irredeemably vulnerable, and in too many cases, operationally useless.

Transformation currently means different things to different services. For the Army, transformation means moving away from heavy divisions to smaller, lighter forces that can triumph quickly both on conventional battlefields and in such other contingencies as urban combat. (As the last few years have shown, among the most lethal and survivable weapons systems on earth is an 18-year-old armed with an assault rifle and a cell phone.) After a confusing and often confused series of initial ventures with names like “Force XXI,” “The Army after Next,” and “The Army after Next and a Half,” work currently centers on moving from the present force to the “Interim Force,” thence to the “Objective Force,” sometimes also known as the “Transformation Force.”(16) This involves experimental brigades and “digital divisions,” the Future Combat System of armored and thin-skin vehicles (including, perhaps, the “distributed tank”), and of course, turning every infantryman into a computer-equipped, laser-enhanced RoboGrunt. Transformation also means units that can be transported and deployed quickly, and diminution of the traditional ponderous and highly vulnerable logistics “tail” – all those support units and depots that provide such lucrative targets for enemy chemical and biological weapons.

For the Navy, transformation means forces that can support coastal land campaigns. After all, half the world’s population and most of its wealth resides within a hundred miles of some shoreline. It also means keeping control of littoral waters (Persian Gulf, Straits of Taiwan) and vital sea lanes.(17) The Navy insists that its fleet of 12 large-deck aircraft carriers must be maintained, while expanding the numbers and capabilities of attack submarines and experimenting with a variety of small, lightly-crewed but heavily armed surface ships – concepts with names such as “Street Fighter,” “Sea Lance,” and the on-again – off-again “Arsenal Ship.” Add here also the Zumwalt-class DD-21 Land Attack Destroyer, a relatively traditional ship with an endlessly delayed development and production schedule. And then there’s the still highly-theoretical Mobile Operating Base (MOB), essentially an artificial island a mile or more long, that can be floated anywhere at a stately three or four knots an hour.(18)

To the Air Force, transformation means exploiting new technologies so that, to the greatest extent possible, future conflicts may be fought from the air and perhaps space. The current buzzwords are “Effects-Based Operations” and “Global Strike.” The former entails precision targeting at a new level of sophistication. You want to knock out Baghdad’s electrical system or Iran’s Kharg Island oil depot? You can plaster the generating plants and the port, or you can use precision-guided weapons to take out critical components, with far less collateral damage. Cruise missiles; other munitions guided by lasers, television, and satellites; and the Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) and the Small Diameter Bomb currently under accelerated development provide the wherewithal.

The latter, “Global Strike,” involves using stealthy F-22 fighters, B-2 bombers, and advanced surveillance/targeting systems to destroy an enemy’s “anti-access capability” (especially their missiles) before an American or allied force comes ashore, then to destroy enemy forces by targeting their vehicles. The concept holds that if it moves, we can see it. If we can see it, we can kill it. Best of all, the stealthy F-22/B-2 mix permits us to do it from high altitudes, negating those pesky lower-level air defenses. The Air Force is also working on air applications in urban combat, sometimes drawing on the Israeli experience. Using helicopter gunships to carry out assassinations, as the Israelis have done, may be a bit extreme by American standards, but some of the other lessons and procedures are apt.

As for space . . . what goes up, and what comes down, must await a series of White House and Congressional decisions concerning national policies, current treaties, and technological priorities. These decisions do not mean “militarizing” space, which has been militarized ever since the first ICBM passed through and the first spy satellite went up. These decisions do involve what measures will be taken to protect our military and civilian satellites; what measures will be taken to deny others the use of space in an emergency; and whether non-nuclear weapons capable of striking earthly targets will be sent aloft. Current treaties prohibit testing nuclear weapons and placing weapons of mass destruction in outer space. These should be maintained. But there is no reason why other weapons, especially directed energy weapons as they become available, should not be sent aloft, if national security requires it.

To the Marines – the nation’s traditional “911” and “every clime and place” force – transformation means continuing to do what they’ve always done; that is, everything from evacuating civilians and humanitarian relief to amphibious landings and sustained combat ashore. However, the old John Wayne amphibious assault has gone the way of the cavalry charge. Current doctrine emphasizes longer-range landings from well beyond the horizon to well behind the beaches and less operating dependence on the Navy; hence, the need for the Osprey. The Marines are also the de facto lead service for new concepts in urban warfare and the official executive agent for development of non-lethal weapons (again, in quiet co-operation with Israel).

Finally, transformation means putting these service capabilities together in new and more flexible ways. Not so long ago, “jointness” meant little more than that everybody gets a piece of the action . . . and a corresponding justification for their budgets. Now jointness is moving, albeit fitfully, toward more innovative packaging and co-operation. Why send an infantry battalion when you can send a few airplanes? Why should the Army carry so much artillery when the Navy might provide new kinds of fire long-range and accurate support? Why should the Marines fly F-18s and the future Joint Strike fighter when the Navy and Air Force are already awash in tactical aircraft? Why indeed, when the real choice soon will be whether to send manned or unmanned aircraft, not Navy or Marine or Air Force planes?

One thing more. For any true revolution, transformation must mean defending the American homeland from terrorist attacks and limited strikes by other nations. Gone are the centuries of total American invulnerability. Gone are the decades when total vulnerability, enshrined as Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), defined our strategic relationship to the USSR. In one sense, we’re just an ordinary country now. We can be hurt, and in ways and from enemies we’ve never had to consider before.

The “Defense Death Spiral”

Dr. Jacques Gansler, former Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and a highly regarded defense reformer, coined this term to describe a nasty relationship. As the present force ages, it costs more and more to operate and maintain, thus draining money from modernization, thus prolonging the life of the present force, costing more and more to operate, thus . . . and on and on. How steep has this downward spiral become? A few examples:

*The Army has run so short of certain kinds of ammunition that it had to suspend pistol training and reduce rifle training. The service currently estimates it will require about $3 billion just to replenish its stocks, a fact described in an article headlined, “Ammunition Shortage Not a Threat to Readiness.”(19) (The Army did, however, have money to develop an environmentally benign tungsten M-16 bullet – no lead – at a mere twelve times the cost of the present round. It’s being stocked now.)

*The Air Force, which intends to fly its B-52s until they’re 70 years old, has opened an “Office of Aging Aircraft.”

*Retired Marine General Anthony Zinni said in a recent speech: “As a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps [in Vietnam] I climbed into the back of a CH-46 helicopter. My son is a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. He climbs into the back of a CH-46 helicopter.”(20)

*Almost half the helicopters in the National Guard are grounded for maintenance reasons.

*The Army and Marines face block obsolescence of vehicle fleets purchased mostly in the 1980s. As everyone knows, old cars and trucks cost more to run than new ones.

*The cost of spare parts for older systems has increased by several hundred percent, when they’re even available. Well over a hundred thousand small businesses stopped dealing with the Defense Department in the 1990s. It grows ever harder to find decent suppliers, subcontractors, and computer personnel. As a general rule, the more high-tech the company, the greater its aversion to defense business.

The list could go on. But the point is, as Dr. Gansler and others contend, that no peacetime Congress will ever allocate enough money to maintain the present force while pursuing serious modernization. It simply isn’t there.

And the “Death Spiral” has other aspects. One is the shambles of the Pentagon accounting system that Rumsfeld inherited. The Defense Department can’t take, let alone pass, a standard government audit. Over the last few years, according to the Government Accounting Office (GAO), Pentagon accountants have made over seven trillion (yes, trillion) dollars worth of changes to try to balance the books, but could not show receipts or other documentation for $2.3 trillion of these changes.(21) No transformation is possible without fixing this utterly corrupt system. One defense analyst, Frank Spinney, even suggests that the Defense Department be put on “auto-pilot” for one year – no changes until the financial system gets fixed.(22)

Another problem is the highly politicized nature of defense R&D and procurement. One man’s pork may well be another’s vital system, but in either case the fact remains: Congress loves to spread the largesse, regardless of how economically and technologically inefficient such spreading might be. “Political engineering” it’s called, and it’s very easy to do, given that the large defense contractors are basically final assembly points for parts and sub-systems made elsewhere. The B-1 bomber, for example, drew its components from 48 states.

Then there’s the practice known as “Front-End Loading,” wherein contractors and supportive significant others collude to under-estimate the total cost of anything while getting as much money as possible committed as early as possible. As the saying goes, the ideal defense program moves from “It’s too early to tell” to “It’s too late to change it,” with as little time as possible in between.

Also, there are the inevitable and severe problems associated with combining multiple untried technologies into single systems. The Marines¡¯ Osprey, for example, melds new tilt-rotors, new fly-by-wire systems and new software. Many of the failures of the ballistic missile defense program derived from similar mixing. If the Bush administration decides to “skip a generation” of weapons, these problems will grow exponentially. So will the cost overruns, the media hype, the scandals, and the pressures.

And finally, the “Death Spiral” is intensified by the normal inertia of bureaucracy and the inherent conservatism of the military . . . and by their knowledge that, in the end, new programs must be funded out of the same old pot.(23) Unnamed senior officers and officials have already started referring to items such as missile defense as “show-stoppers.” In the world of bureaucracy, it is axiomatic that nothing should ever be done for the first time, especially if it comes out of your budget and detracts from your other interests.

In sum, four critical concepts must be addressed in any serious defense program: RMA, Asymmetrical Warfare, Transformation, Death Spiral. Clearly, restructuring the military into an effective 21st Century force will be daunting. But if successful, it must rank indeed as one of the great acts of military statesmanship of all time.

Now, what is the force structure in which the sweeping reforms can best play out?

Space Force, Peace Force, Warriors, Guard

As mentioned above, serious defense reform involves more than technology. It requires new organizational structures that make the technology relevant to the tasks at hand. Some have suggested that the venerable old division – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines – no longer avails or is, at the very least, no longer affordable. Some urge merger into a single service, along the Canadian or perhaps the Israeli model.

The single service option goes too far. In any event, the military already has a form of de facto “unification.” Although the Armed Services function as “keepers of the art” for their various operational “core competencies,” they rarely fight on their own. Instead, they provide assets to the various “unified combatant commanders,” especially the regional commanders-in-chief, who do the actual planning and operations. True, as retired Admiral Bill Owens has suggested, enormous savings, not to mention enhanced inter-operability, may be obtained by greater joint R&D and common purchases. He’s also correct when he suggests that certain kinds of budget authority should be taken away from the individual services.(24)

What is necessary now is not pushing everybody into a single uniform. What’s needed is a new form of “conceptual specialization” that retains the old services but uses them in new ways. And let it never be forgotten that the present services embody traditions and values that also matter greatly . . . as was most recently affirmed by the tempest over the Army’s decision to award black berets (hitherto the emblem of the elite Rangers) to every Peter, Paul and Mary in uniform.

For several years, Discovery Institute has advanced a concept called “Space Force, Peace Force, Warriors, Guard.”(25) It’s offered again here, as a way of linking technological and structural change to real-world missions and requirements. These are not new services. Instead, they’re new ways of thinking about what to do with the present services.

Space Force

Space has been a low military priority for decades, and for reasons ranging from inadequate funding and White House myopia to treaty restraints and popular indifference. Yet the United States is now irrevocably dependent upon space-based assets for both military and civilian uses. Some argue that defending our satellites will simply occasion an “arms race in space.” Not exactly. No one can compete with us symmetrically, which is what arms races are usually about. The Russians have neither the money nor the expertise. Many of their scientists and engineers have gone elsewhere. Neither at this point do the Chinese. But many nations can develop, and several are developing “niche capabilities,” relatively crude systems that do the job. Further, since they don’t need space the way we do, even a High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP) attack – a nuclear burst in space that could degrade or destroy large chunks of everybody’s capability – wouldn’t affect them vitally. In addition, no serious missile defense system can work without a space-based component to attack enemy missiles and warheads during their boost and midcourse phases. Finally, it may be desirable to place non-nuclear weapons in space for use on targets below, and to develop a “launch on demand” capability for both manned and unmanned vehicles.(26)

Some space analysts and legislators have suggested that only a separate Space Service, with its own career officer corps and independent budget, can handle this challenge. The Air Force position is that, so long as what’s up there does nothing but fly in circles and communicate, no separate branch is needed. The Discovery concept holds that, over a period of decades, the Air Force space capability should evolve into a separate branch within the Department of the Air Force, much as the Marine Corps resides within the Navy Department. What matters is to get that process started now.

Peace Force

Throughout the 90s, a furious debate involved the question of whether American forces should be used for extended non-combat duties. Few denied that short-term humanitarian operations and very small, relatively benign peacekeeping commitments (such as in the Sinai) are appropriate. But what about large open-ended commitments in such places as Somalia, Haiti, the Balkans? Justified or not, these operations were and are expensive and draining. Combat skills atrophy. And the units so deployed are not available for other contingencies, a major problem when those units provide such vital support functions as communications, maintenance, medical services and intelligence.

However, it has grown increasingly clear that, like it or not, American forces must be prepared to handle such “constabulary” duties as may become necessary when vital American interests are involved. The issue then becomes how best to prepare, especially for large and volatile “peace-enforcement” operations – controlling enemies and factions who’ve not yet realized that “live and let live” beats “kill and be killed.”

Traditionally, the military has assumed that its conventional ground forces were “general purpose,” and that if they trained for the most demanding contingency, lesser tasks would somehow fall into place. This assumption no longer holds true. Constabulary duties aren’t lesser. They’re different, especially in the Age of CNN, when even minor errors and transgressions garner worldwide publicity. True, peacekeeping missions where both sides want peace, such as the Sinai force emplaced as part of the Israeli-Egyptian settlement, can be done by almost anyone. But peace-enforcing requires much more. It needs a combat capability that goes beyond pure self-defense but stops well short of untrammeled aggressiveness, and a plethora of support capabilities, from interpreters and civil affairs to psychological operations, media, medical and engineering. Separating violent factions, especially when they operate in Third World urban megasprawls, differs fundamentally from conventional combat. And handling large civilian populations requires far more than passing out Hershey Bars.

The Army should therefore establish a “Peace Command” with active troops permanently assigned and Reserve and National Guard troops assigned on a rotating basis. This Command would provide the nucleus of properly trained and specialized joint task forces deployed to crisis areas. It would also serve to protect combat forces from disruptive assignments. As Army forces grow smaller and more high-tech, this type of disruption becomes ever more unacceptable.

Is such a Peace Force really needed? It’s arguable. But consider this. What would happen if the Israeli-Palestinian civil war (for that’s what it is now) threatens to turn into a regional conflict, perhaps with nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, and the only way to stop it is to get between the two sides? Do we strip our combat forces or send people with the requisite training and skills?(27)


These are the combat forces, especially ground forces, preparing for various kinds of conflict. As defense analyst John Hillen likes to put it, “When they’re not training to fight, they should be fighting.” This is doubly true in an era when training also entails transformation. These forces have neither the time nor the resources for anything else. They should be committed to non-combat missions only in extremis, and then only for as short a time as possible.


This refers, generically, to all forces tasked primarily with homeland defense, excluding ballistic missile and air defense. It includes, but is not limited to, the Army National Guard. At the moment, the Norfolk-based Joint Forces Command (the old Atlantic Command) has primary responsibility for military participation in such activities. But there should be established, as soon as possible, a unified Homeland Defense Command to serve as the military component of a new Federal Homeland Defense Agency.

Also, the Army National Guard, constitutionally and logically, should provide the bulk of the necessary military forces, and should be given homeland defense – especially support of law enforcement and “consequence management” after major attacks – as its primary mission. To date, Guard leadership has resisted this idea, preferring to train for foreign war and treating homeland defense as a lesser contingency. This must be reversed. While the Guard retains a legitimate foreign combat role, the requirements for compatibility and inter-operability with the regulars will make transformation of the entire Guard too expensive and time-consuming.(28) The Army needs transformed Guard “enhanced readiness brigades” of a few thousand people, not half-trained, under-equipped divisions of 20,000.

And today, America needs the Army Guard more for homeland defense than foreign excursions. For that reason, the practice of sending Guard forces overseas on extended peacekeeping duty should be phased down. The citizen-soldiery exists to support and reinforce the active forces in war and to defend the homeland, not to relieve the regulars of distasteful assignments. Further, National Guard personnel have an unlimited liability for state duty. Long (three months or more) overseas deployments, when coupled with routine domestic duties, drive people out. When former Defense Secretary Bill Cohen proclaimed, “We try to send the Guard first,” he was praising the abilities of the citizen-soldiery. But he was also suborning the very organization he praised.

In sum, the “Space Force, Peace Force, Warriors, Guard” concept provides a useful bridge between the technological/structural issues and the problem of relevance.

Now comes the tricky part – determining what the Bush administration’s really trying to do on force structure, and whether what it’s doing is what’s really needed. Here is a checklist of things to look for. A positive reading means the administration is fully committed to the revolution. A negative would mean more drift and disappointment for America’s future security.

Indicators of Success . . . and Failure

As noted above, the administration plans a “rolling process” of revealing what it has in mind. These revelations will form only the beginning of the struggle. These ideas must then survive the various crucibles of Pentagon, White House, and Congressional politics. The following items, beginning with the general and growing more specific, will point to trends.

Does the Administration Produce a Coherent National Security Strategy?

The “National Security Strategy” is a White House document, outlining the totality of America’s interests, goals and activities in the world. It is supposed to inform and shape the “National Military Strategy” produced by the Pentagon. Several Clinton administration strategies amounted to little more than a list of cliches. President Bush must do better.

But “better” does not necessarily require getting too specific. It would be diplomatically imprudent, to say the least, to start naming names. Currently, various factions clamor to have China designated Public Enemy Number One, and the bulk of American military effort channeled to the Pacific region. This would be a mistake. It would tend to launch Cold War II, substituting China for the Soviet Union, while neglecting myriad other threats, especially those emanating from a “nation” you won’t find on any map: “Jihadistan” – radical, violent, expansionist Islamic fundamentalism in its national, sub-national, and trans-national forms.(29) Far better to emphasize the array of threats than a single nation.

Does the Pentagon Produce a Coherent National Military Strategy?

When the Cold War ended, the Defense Department adopted a “Two MRC” (Major Regional Conflict) strategy. America had to be ready to fight two simultaneous wars, one presumably a repetition of the Korean War, the other a repetition of the Persian Gulf War, fought (a bit ironically) a year after “Two MRCs” became official. As the 90s wore on, it became apparent that two simultaneous MRCs were unsustainable. So, in the classic Beltway manner, “simultaneous” got changed to “nearly simultaneous” and MRC got changed to MTW (Major Theater War).(30) When critics complain that “nearly simultaneous” seemed vague, the Pentagon offered an alternative description: “in overlapping time frames.” It also became apparent that these MTWs might include events such as a Chinese invasion of Taiwan or an Iranian invasion of Saudi Arabia, generating very different American force requirements. And it also became apparent (actually, it was obvious all along) that the 2 MRC/MTW scenario, a 1990 Dick Cheney/Colin Powell construct, was no strategy at all. It was a way of justifying the level of forces they wanted for the immediate post-Cold War world, as a hedge against a renascent Russian problem. That problem has vanished.

The present administration should abandon the Two-War concept and shift to a “capabilities-based force,” concentrating on what’s needed to deal with the threat array, and not on particular pieces of real estate.(31)

What about Space?

Space is the key to everything, from battlefield communications to missile defense.(32) In May, Secretary Rumsfeld made several excellent initial decisions, ending the drift of decades. The Air Force has finally, a mere six decades into the exercise, been designated the official executive agent for space. A new four-star position within the Air Force has been created for management of space affairs; no longer will the commander of the Air Force Space Command also serve as commander of the U.S. Space Command and NORAD. The Air Force has also been directed to make significant changes in the career patterns of its space officers, hitherto a decidedly second-class breed. Until now, senior Air Force space slots have been filled by deserving old pilots on their twilight tours. It’s time to promote more space officers.

These new arrangements provide a good start, but only that. Full exploitation of space means getting hardware up there. For obvious reasons, a lot of this hardware exists and should remain highly classified. Still, a clear and public commitment to American space power is needed. The Air Force needs to renew its old friendship with NASA, especially regarding that agency’s Space Launch Initiative, to produce cheaper, easier and more reliable access.

What about Missile Defense?

Here an initial reorganization is also needed. Secretary Rumsfeld should make the head of the current BMDO (Ballistic Missile Defense Organization) a four-star job; it’s currently a slot for a terminal three-star. At the moment, the Army is the lead service for running any system that might be built, an evocative throwback to the days of the old coast artillery and, in some ways, a logical extension of the air defense artillery. Still and understandably, the Army may not be totally enthused about this tasking. After all, its own transformation requires its total commitment. To the Army, national missile defense can never be more than a sideshow. And indeed, the service has suggested from time to time that it might turn a good bit of the operational requirement over to the National Guard. The Air National Guard is already charged with continental air defense, a mission that now includes defense against cruise missiles.

Long-term, keeping missile defense within the Army probably won’t work. Therefore, the BMDO should evolve into a separate agency (not a separate service) under the unified Space Command with operational as well as developmental responsibilities and the Air Force as the lead service.

President Bush has done well to announce his intention of disregarding, perhaps renegotiating the 1972 ABM Treaty: a pact that, under international law, expired with the demise of the Soviet Union.(33) He also does well to consult steadily and seriously with other nations, especially Russia. He would do very well to adopt a “Just Do It” policy, emphasizing that the United States and other countries can accomplish many goals, including deep cuts in offensive weapons, without endless negotiations and leather-bound treaties to sign at fancy ceremonials. The best of all initial worlds may be a system that does not offer much protection against a Russian strike, keeping them happy; that does not quite negate China’s modest ICBM force of about 20 single-warhead missiles; but does protect against small accidental launches from these powers, or deliberate attacks by other states.(34) After that, in a few years or so, further decisions can be made.

Long-term, President Bush must convince the American people that missile defense is a vital project spanning decades; that it involves myriad other activities; and that it leads to a safer world in myriad ways. It’s also eminently possible, provided that advances in other fields can be integrated into a serious effort.

The administration should commit, long-term, to a layered (land, sea, air and space-based) national system, fully integrated with other activities (space, theater missile defense, etc.). The system should be capable of expansion to cover foreign nations who desire it, perhaps even developed in co-operation with other nations. Israel has produced some intriguing hardware. European nations and, very quietly, Japan, are also involved. Australia, a nation that is developing a military “special relationship” with the United States, has been remarkably supportive. Some nations believe they must express opposition and skepticism publicly and often; that doesn’t make them irrevocably or even very effectively opposed.

Further, this system should never be judged by the standards of an unattainable “perfection” or by hyperventilated predictions of what others might do to counter it. It should be seen, rather, as a totally normal attempt to restore a defensive component to a hitherto lunatic strategy – Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) – and to remedy one of the worst asymmetries of the current era: total vulnerability to anybody’s incoming missiles. And President Bush might do very well to point out the logical contradictions of the opposition. How can something that they say will never work be “destabilizing?” How can nations that can barely feed their own people suddenly possess the technical genius to counter us easily at every turn? Whence cometh all these astronomical cost estimates? And even if missile defense is expensive (it is), how much would it cost to replace New York, Seattle or wherever Griffey Jr. and A-Rod happen to be on the DL?

In the end, missile defense is neither sin nor salvation. It’s simply something that needs to be done to lessen American vulnerability.

What about Homeland Defense?

This encompasses an array of activities, from border control and customs functions to counter-terrorism, emergency preparedness, and what is known in the trade, rather euphemistically, as “consequence management.” Currently, responsibility is parceled out among more than thirty federal agencies, with a counter-terrorism “czar” on the National Security Council staff.(35) The administration may be considering creation of a Federal Homeland Defense Agency, perhaps using the current Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, as its core, with the FBI and the military performing their appropriate functions. This is an excellent idea, provided the new agency makes local and state agencies full partners. And also provided that the president creates a powerful and aggressive “Homeland Defense Oversight Board” to guard against violations and infringements of civil liberties.

What Gets Cut?

For decades, the defense budget was predictable: thirty percent each to the Army, Navy/Marine Corps, and Air Force, ten percent for everything else. Cuts were apportioned to maintain this parity, a practice known as “rationing the poverty.” Recently, Rumsfeld panelists have suggested that the services might compete for some portion of the budget, perhaps as much as $30 billion. And it seems that, for the first time, there may be a serious attempt to put “everything on the table” and cut by need, not by proportion.

So what should be cut? Or, to ask it another way, what should be the proper trade-offs? If we must beware of retaining a Cold War defense mindset, we must also beware of the opposite extreme: throwing out anything tagged as part of a “Cold War legacy system,” as though anything conceived prior to the fall of the Soviet Union must now be useless. As NASA mission control director Gene Kranz put it in the movie “Apollo 13”- “I don’t care what anything was designed to do. I care about what it can do.”

Perhaps the single largest item in the budget, excluding personnel, is tactical aviation. Each of the services maintains its own short-range forces; the Air Force alone disposes of long-range bombers. Air supremacy may be the sine qua non of American military power, but the current array is excessive – especially considering the growing utility of cruise missiles and UAVs and the development of UCAVs, unmanned vehicles with combat capabilities.

Most probably, the carrier fleet should be cut from twelve to nine or ten. The Marines might give up a few F-18 squadrons. The Army’s helicopter gunship capability, already seriously ailing, should be reconsidered. These craft are extremely vulnerable to the kinds of low-level air defenses that even primitive opponents can mount. The Air Force might give up some of its F-16s and consider purchasing additional B-2 “Lite” bombers, planes with no nuclear capability. The Joint Strike Fighter program, intended to provide replacements for the Navy’s F-18, the Air Force F-16, and the Marines’ F-16s and AV-8 Harriers (and generate a lot of foreign sales) might also be reconsidered.

The age of person-in-the-cockpit combat aviation is fading. The B-2 and the F-22 may well be the last bombers and fighters ever built. The proper course is to phase in unmanned systems whenever possible, and to prepare for the aviation RMA after UAVs and UCAVs: nano-technologies, i.e., aircraft the size of bird . . . and smaller.

After aviation come personnel. The United States currently maintains an active force of about 1.4 million, plus another million in the Guard and reserves. Here the military must emulate the private sector. More technology means fewer people. As the Army moves to smaller units, its end strength, especially its field grade (“middle management”) officer end strength should shrink. So should the Navy’s as it phases in more efficient ships with smaller crews. It’s too often forgotten that the current surface fleet was designed during the draft era, when manpower was plentiful and cheap.

Finally, there are the genuine Cold War “legacy systems,” fine weaponry, but not for the present. Prominent among them are the Army’s Crusader howitzer (too heavy) and perhaps the helicopter gunships that proved too vulnerable to use in Kosovo. Also prominent here: endless communications and computer systems using 1980s (and older) technologies. If there’s one area where the military absolutely must skip a generation, or two or three, it’s in catching up with civilian telecommunications and information systems. To put it bluntly, by civilian standards, most military telecommunications and computer systems are pathetic.

What about Readiness?

As a general rule, the forward-deployed and “first to go” follow-on forces should be kept at high readiness. Specialized units should also get priority funding. Other forces should not receive significant investments until it’s determined whether or not they’ll be around in five years. Further, units “transforming” from old to new technologies and structures require years to work it all out. There should be separate readiness categories established for these units.(36)

What about the Supporting Establishment?

Here the administration should move with premeditated ferocity. At least two more rounds of base closures are necessary to dispose of excess facilities, to avoid their maintenance costs, and to free up personnel. Experience indicates that it costs a great deal to close bases, especially when major environmental cleanups are required. Experience also indicates that the Pentagon accounting system isn’t capable of tracking long-term savings. Still, it needs to be done, if only so scarce maintenance and construction dollars can be programmed to the bases that will remain.

Further, as a general rule, everything that can be privatized or outsourced, from high-tech services to mowing the lawn, should be. If it doesn’t have to go anywhere to fight or provide in-theater support, it can probably be done more efficiently, if not always cheaper, by the private sector. True, some old salts may shake their heads upon learning that Marine Corps chow halls will soon be run by Marriott. But hey, this is the 21st Century. Deal with it.

How Much to Spend on Defense?

Finding the right amount, especially given current Congressional practices and the accounting mess, is hard. Comparisons with the defense budgets of other countries are meaningless. Other countries have far more specific requirements; only America has global commitments. Further, much of the expense derives from deliberate personnel policies. An older professional force simply costs more than a young, single, conscript force. And when that older force also has dependents aplenty – the Defense Department now runs the largest single system of day care centers in America – that too gets pricey. Some officials and analysts propose the “Four Percent Solution,” pegging defense budgets to four or 4.5 percent of GDP. Again, this formula is meaningless in terms of what the military may actually need.(37)

The key, as always, is how the money is spent. The FY 2001 supplemental request of about $5.6 to $6.1 billion buys a few Band-Aids, at best. The FY 2002 supplemental, when it goes in, should provide at least $10 billion, carefully targeted for vital readiness and jump-starting essential R&D programs. For the next five years, perhaps a steady $10 – $15 billion a year rise, excluding money spent on missile and homeland defense. But this should be contingent on the kinds of changes already discussed. Simply throwing money at defense will no more solve the basic problems than throwing money at education guarantees better schools. And future increases must be made contingent on radical changes in both business practices and accounting.


True and certain it is that if President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld intend a serious defense revolution, they’ll have to spend major political capital, an item always in short supply. But success creates its own political capital, as the Reagan years showed.

The welfare of the United States and the causes of global peace and freedom require a strong defense. Those who doubt this might do well to ask themselves: What would happen, were the United States to withdraw from the world, or suffer a grievous defeat somewhere?

Today, a strong defense means a transformed defense. Transformation in peacetime is hard. There’s no clear “right time” to do it. Inertia, tradition, and self-interest always argue that the “right time” is some other time. But transformation after disaster is harder and far more costly, in treasure and in lives.

The next few months will reveal whether the present administration is willing to spend the necessary political capital in order to generate the necessary capital. The price of getting the process underway is high and may have gotten higher, now that control of the Senate has changed hands. The new Democratic majority may effectively kill serious missile defense until at least after the 2002 election, which means no deployments during President Bush’s current term. On the other hand, the change may well increase the chances of transformation, given the number of Democratic senators (and their staffers) who take the issue seriously. No new thing there. Throughout the Cold War, and despite the tragedy of Vietnam, the basic bipartisan defense consensus held firm and many of the most thoughtful and committed advocates (Scoop Jackson, for one) were Democrats. In the 1970s and 1980s, defense reform was a bipartisan issue. It can be again. It must be.

The coalition to back a true military revolution should also include those new technology companies whose expertise and imagination are needed to make the transformation succeed. The few remaining defense industry giants can neither prosper nor produce without a reinvigorated high-tech subcontractor and supplier base.

If, over the next few months, the Bush administration commits to defense transformation, popular support must be loud and clear. So must support for those members of Congress, regardless of party or stance on other issues, who support and contribute to the effort.

One final thought. The Constitution makes clear that it is the responsibility of We the People to provide for the common defense. It is also our right. Like those other responsibilities/rights of voting and jury duty, it is something we can only do together. In the end, it is a responsibility we cannot abrogate, and a right we ignore at our peril.


  • (1) As of this writing (early June 2001) the FY 2001 supplemental appropriation request is reported to be somewhere between $5.6 and $6.1 billion, mostly for “quality of life” items and other immediate needs. The FY 2002 request may be about the same. Neither has yet been submitted. The government’s fiscal year begins on October 1st, so FY 2001 ends on September 30th 2001.
  • (2) The President requests and Congress enacts several kinds of money bills. Authorization bills authorize money to be spent; appropriations bills actually provide it. Authorization bills tend to be larger than appropriation bills, since they deal with long-term projects. An aircraft carrier, for example, may be authorized in one budget, but paid for over five. Then there are the inevitable “supplementals” of various kinds and amounts.
  • (3) These studies began with the 1990 “Base Force Study,” which established the post-Cold War force structure and strategy. The 1993 “Bottom-Up Review” kept the strategic framework but mandated further cuts. Two subsequent official studies – the 1995 “Report of the Commission on Roles and Missions” and the 1997 “Quadrennial Defense Review” justified the status quo. Only the 1997 National Defense Panel’s “Transforming Defense” and the three studies produced by the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century dared question. A parallel series of military publications, especially the Joint Chiefs of Staff’ “Joint Vision 2010” and “Joint Vision 2020,” plus all the services’ “vision statements,” reveal a combination of wishful thinking and touchy-feely prose that might be described, albeit somewhat charitably, as embarrassing.
  • (4) Richard J. Newman, “Dropping the Big One,” U.S. News & World Report, 28 May 2001, USDOD Early Bird, Internet Edition.
  • (5) Michael O’Hanlon, “Lighten Up on Rumsfeld,” Los Angeles Times, 24 May 2001, USDOD Early Bird, Internet Edition.
  • (6) Thomas E. Ricks, “Post Interview with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld,” Washington Post, 20 May 2001, USDOD Early Bird, Internet Edition.
  • (7) Michele A. Flournoy, Project Director, “Report of the National Defense University Quadrennial Defense Review 2001 Working Group,” (Washington, DC: Institute for National Strategic Studies, 2000).
  • (8) Officially, the QDR is “owned” by the Secretary of Defense, not the JCS. Secretary Rumsfeld has six major panels (different from his own panels) working on it. The Joint Staff is reviving eight panels of its own that may play a “supporting” – or an adversarial – role.
  • (9) Gary Hart, The Minuteman: Restoring an Army of the People (New York: Free Press, 1998), p. 53.
  • (10) Commenting on the Full Spectrum Dominance at a breakfast meeting this author attended some years ago, former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger said: “When you get there, call me.”
  • (11) At least one certainty emerged. During the Kosovo air campaign, it turned out that one of the greatest barriers to allied understanding and co-ordination was e-mail: absolutely positively way too much e-mail.
  • (12) Erin O. Winograd, “Boutelle: Digitization Eases Some Burdens, But Doesn’t Mean Army Needs Fewer Managers”, Inside the Army, 23 April 2001, USDOD Early Bird, Internet Edition.
  • (13) In February 1999, the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) Literature and Arts Publishing House, Beijing, caused a major stir in Western military circles by publishing an English version of Unrestricted Warfare, written by two colonels, Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui. The authors had clearly mastered basic Western literature on matters such as cyberwar, and showed a remarkable grasp of both the possibilities and limitations of the RMA. Most of all, they suggested that China not attempt to compete directly, but “go asymmetrical” as national strategy. Since then, numerous high-level pronouncements have affirmed this approach.
  • (14) For an excellent analysis of this phenomenon, and asymmetric warfare in general, see Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr., The Revenge of the Melians: Asymmetric Threats and the Next QDR, (Washington, DC: National Defense University, 2000). For a classic general treatment of the problem of fighting the weak, see Martin van Crevald, The Transformation of War (New York: Free Press, 1991).
  • (15) Current military thinking holds that no “peer competitor” like the USSR will emerge over the next several decades. The problem lies with “regional near-peer competitors,” nations capable of mounting significant conventional challenges on or near their own territory.
  • (16) Keeping up with the name changes is easy compared to keeping up with the acronyms. The author once got an email inviting him to download an unofficial dictionary of “Force XXI” acronyms that ran over 300 pages . . . for a nonexistent organization.
  • (17) True, with the demise of the Soviet Navy, there’s no fleet out there left to fight. But a variety of new weapons make littoral operations and sea control extremely hazardous and tenuous undertakings. These weapons include advanced shore-based anti-ship missiles, sophisticated mines, and possibly a “super-cavitating torpedo” that travels inside an air bubble at speeds approaching 400 mph. The sunken Russian submarine Kursk may have been experimenting with this system; there are occasional rumors that the Russians have sold them to the Chinese.
  • (18) The MOB might also prove useful as a platform for sea-based missile defense.
  • (19) Matthew Cox, “Ammunition Shortage Not a Threat to Readiness, Colonel Says,” Army Times, 28 May 2001, USDOD Early Bird, Internet Edition.
  • (20) Tony Germanotta, “Retired Marine General Delivers Straight Talk,” Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, 25 May 2001, USDOD Early Bird, Internet Edition.
  • (21) “Pentagon’s Finances in Disarray,” AP Wire Report, 3 March 2000.
  • (22) For a detailed analysis, see Franklin C. Spinney, “Defense Death Spiral,” at
  • (23) The phrase “new initiatives” may be grammatically redundant. But not in Washington, DC, where initiatives follow initiatives with such rapidity that it is indeed possible to speak of both old and new initiatives.
  • (24) Admiral Bill Owens with Ed Offley, Lifting the Fog of War (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000).
  • (25) For more details, see Philip Gold, “The Essentials of Self-Preservation,” Policy Review 104 (December 2000), pp. 33 – 50. See also Dr. Gold’s “Defense Articles Archive” at the Discovery Institute web site,
  • (26) For a good introduction to the space problem, see Stephen Lambakis, At the Edge of the Earth: The Future of American Space Power (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2001).
  • (27) In this regard, the United States should do everything possible to encourage other countries to develop their own peacekeeping and peace-enforcing forces, most notably the European Union’s planned Rapid Reaction Force and even a proposed force involving Russia and several other former Soviet states who face Islamic terrorism and insurgency. Also, Australia should be encouraged to continue on its present course of developing such forces for use in its own region.
  • (28) Also, the percentage of Guard personnel with extended prior active service has been dropping steadily. More and more, the Guard must recruit non-prior service men and women, then give them only basic-to-marginal training.
  • (29) “Jihadistan” might be considered coterminous with the “arc of terror” of fundamentalist states, civil wars, terrorism and insurrection. The arc extends from North Africa to the Middle East and Central Asia, thence to the Philippines and Indonesia. And let us not forget the growing Islamic populations of Western Europe and North America, some of whose members support and engage in such acts.
  • (30) When “simultaneous” got changed to “nearly simultaneous,” the Clinton administration de facto reverted to the “swing” strategy of the Carter years. Under this thoroughly discredited construct, American forces in one theater would win, then “swing” to the other for the second victory. One can imagine the popular outcry when forces triumphant, and probably bloodied and tired, from one war were hustled off to another in a matter of days or weeks.
  • (31) One of the curiosities of the present Beltway debate is the notion that an “Asia First” strategy mandates longer-range weapons. It does. But the need for such “stand-off” systems is equally great in the Persian Gulf area, perhaps even in the Balkans. “Asia First” does not mean “long-range,” and anything else “short-range.”
  • (32) See the “Report of the Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and Organization” (Washington, DC: GPO, 2001). This Congressionally-chartered body, aka the Smith Commission, was chaired by Mr. Rumsfeld until his nomination for Defense Secretary required his resignation.
  • (33) When a nation experiences a revolutionary change of regime, it often undertakes the treaty obligations of its predecessor. But the USSR did not experience a change of regime; it disintegrated into many parts. Even if Russia desired to implement the provisions of the Treaty, it couldn’t, since it no longer controls the territory specified in the Treaty. Nor can the various successor states simply “sign on,” since that would turn a bilateral pact into a multi-lateral pact and require resubmission to the Senate for ratification. Some argue that since we’ve accepted Russia as the Soviet successor state regarding other treaties, the precedent should extend to the ABM Treaty. However, the ABM Treaty is a unique case; there’s a world of difference between it and, for example, Russia’s assumption of Soviet debts – which they can’t pay, in any case.
  • (34) For a good assessment of this balance, see James M. Lindsay and Michael E. O’Hanlon, Defending America: The Case for Limited National Missile Defense (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2001).
  • (35) The National Security Council was originally devised as a White House advisory body. Advisory bodies should never be given operational control of anything they’re required to advise on, as the Iran-Contra mess sadly illustrated.
  • (36) “Rearmament plus Transformation” happened during the Nazi buildup of the 1930s. We’re only now accepting how vulnerable that force was prior to 1939, and even afterwards, had the Allies taken aggressive measures to counter it.
  • (37) Also preposterously expensive. Even moderately optimistic GDP projections would yield defense budgets close to a trillion dollars a year within ten years.

Philip Gold

Dr. Philip Gold is a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, and director of the Institute's Aerospace 2010 Project. A former Marine, he is the author of Evasion,: The American Way of Military Service and over 100 articles on defense matters. He teaches at Georgetown University and is a frequent op-ed contributor to several newspapers. Dr. Gold divides his time between Seattle and Washington, D.C.