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By Commander James J. Tritten, U.S. Navy (Retired)
On the same day that Iraq rolled its tanks into Kuwait, the U.S. President unveiled a new, far-reaching strategy that will call for extensive rethinking of political-military goals and objectives.
President George Bush unveiled a new national security strategy for the United States in his 2 August 1990 speech at the Aspen Institute.1 Generally ignored by the media because of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait on the same day, the concepts he outlined opened the door to a total reexamination of the United States’s military capability and its role in the world.
These concepts were further developed by official spokesmen in the following months. Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney, speaking at the 32nd Annual Conference of the International Institute for Strategic Studies on 6 September, explained that they would form the basis of new programming documents.2 He noted that a series of briefings were to have been held following the Aspen speech but that because of the Middle East situation, he and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell had only had time to meet once with Congress.
General Powell gave some details about the new strategy and associated force structure in two speeches late in August,3 and the Joint Staff Director for Strategic Plans and Policy, Lieutenant General George Butler, elaborated in a speech late in September.4 A report (based on leaks of a confidential briefing of the plan to the President in late June 1990 and subsequent briefings to the Defense Policy Resources Board) was printed in the New York Times on 2 August 1990.5 According to later press reports, the services have declared open warfare on this new strategy.6
Underlying the reexamination of the U.S. role in the world and national security strategy are the monumental changes in the international security environment during the past few years. With the sweeping political changes in Europe, the Soviet Western Theater of Strategic Military
Actions Commander in Chief’s mission is infinitely more complicated. This is especially so because of the unification of Germany and the imminent withdrawal of Soviet forces to the USSR. The Western military theater commander cannot advise his political leadership that under current—or likely future—conditions, it is possible to launch any type of successful offensive military operations at the theater strategic level.
All of this dovetails remarkably with the declaratory Soviet military doctrine and strategy evidence that we have seen in the past few years. The Soviet Union is withdrawing its ground forces inside the USSR and has stated that it is prepared to absorb the first blow of an adversary. This would call for repelling the invasion to the border but not crossing and continuing the counteroffensive in the enemy’s territory. As we know from our studies of the Soviet military, it is this land-oriented military strategy that we must first look to in order to understand Soviet Navy roles and missions—which have been recast because of the new defensive doctrine and strategy. The new missions are: repelling enemy aerospace attack, suppressing enemy military-economic potential, and destroying groupings of enemy armed forces.7 What this means for the Soviet Navy is that first-strike damage limitation by SSBNs is disavowed and that the fleet will conduct defensive fleet operations in bastions that may even be closer to the shore than we once assumed.
If this is true, we should see evidence in the form of hardware emphasizing antisubmarine warfare helicopters, land-based naval aviation, and small coastal patrol ships instead of Bear F aircraft, aircraft carriers, and supporting battle groups.
Despite the lack of significant change in hardware, we must consider that without a capability to consolidate victory ashore, the offensive Soviet fleet we see today can be construed as a defensive force. Keep in mind that the most offensive naval force ever amassed, the U.S. Navy, is understood to be part of an overall defensive military strategy. Despite U.S. might at sea, NATO armies were capable only of the type of defense that the Soviets are moving toward.
Virtually all official assessments of the state of warning of a major NATO-Warsaw Treaty Organization war in
Europe today emphasize the reduced risk of war. Similar assessments conclude that there is a low risk of nuclear war. But how long would it take the Soviets to once again be in a position to cause us to worry? It appears, from the Times report and more recent military documents, that the United States has accepted the answer as being as long as two years. For programming purposes (procuring weapons in 1992-1997), therefore, planners should assume that a land-oriented theater strategic operation could not be mounted without the U.S. intelligence community being able to obtain indicators two years in advance.
Since the threat of invasion in Europe is now remote, U.S. programming planners may assume that they will have sufficient warning to be able to rebuild a great deal of the forces and material instead of maintaining them on active duty, in the ready reserves, or prepositioned. The need for massive short-term (14-day) mobilization has thus diminished, and U.S. programming strategy can shift its attention to the threat presented in other areas of the World.
Until now, the unstated relationship of the threat to programmed forces was, generally, that U.S. forces would meet the challenge of the most demanding threat—the USSR—and assume that they would also be capable for lesser contingencies. That assumption will now be reversed: forces are to be acquired to meet the challenges of the more likely less-demanding threats with the assumption that they will have a use against the more unlikely but demanding threat posed by a Soviet Union that decides to rearm. This will be somewhat impractical for the near term, or until we see substantial changes in maritime force structure that match what we know is going on with the ground forces.
The amount of resources devoted to defense in the last decade cannot be sustained. Present forces deemed no longer necessary will be disbanded, not put into the reserves, since the risk is acceptable and new U.S. forces can be reconstituted within two years if necessary.
The details of the remaining active-duty forces under this reconstitution strategy are being debated, but generally result in a significant decrease in the standing U.S. Army, Air Force, and ready reserve forces. The numbers that have been tossed about recently are:
► Army: 12 active, 2 reconstitutable reserve, 6 other reserve divisions (currently 18 active, 10 reserve)
- Air Force: 25 active and reserve tactical air wings (currently 36)
- Navy: 310 to 451 ships, including 9 to 12 aircraft carriers (currently 14)
- Marine Corps: 150,000 to 160,000 personnel (currently 196,000)
The new force structure, or the base force, as General Powell called it, is to be organized into four major components: strategic nuclear offensive and defensive, Atlantic, Pacific, and a contingency response force. What goes into those forces remains undecided, but first indications are something like the following:
- The strategic force would include those offensive forces that survive START. Reducing the offensive threat to dramatically lower numbers begs revisiting the question of strategic defenses. A new defensive Global Protection Against Limited Strike system will be oriented against accidental, unauthorized, or limited ballistic-missile strikes.
- The Atlantic and Pacific forces appear to be headed for not only reductions but also restructuring. General Butler stated, “The U.S. could undertake a prudent, phased series of steps to reduce modestly our force presence in Korea, as well as Japan and elsewhere.” We will apparently withdraw all but two Army divisions in Europe.
- Perhaps the most contentious part of the base force is the creation of a contingency force based in the continental United States. It appears that most Europeans assume that significant U.S. ground and air forces would remain in theater or could be returned expeditiously. This may not be the case, and the United States’s promise to return may indeed be within two years.
The contingency force, according to the President’s speech, will apparently be shaped by the need to provide overseas presence and a response to regional contingencies, not to return quickly to Europe. General Butler called this planning for “graduated deterrence response” and described the initial stage of the force as: first, Army light and airborne divisions; second, Marine Corps Expeditionary Brigades; third, special operations forces; and fourth, selected Air Force units. It would appear that ground units would fly to a crisis area.
This force would then be buttressed as necessary, first by carrier forces and second by amphibious forces. The Times report listed carriers in the initial crisis response force but implied that they might not be forward deployed. The Navy may have to accept fewer carriers in the future as their share of an overall reduction. The listing of amphibious forces in the second tier seems appropriate, reflective of recent use of the Marine Corps, and consistent with the Commandant’s recently issued statement on maneuver warfighting doctrine.8
The third tier of the contingency force would be heavier forces and the ability for long-term sustainability. We have seen this applied to the Middle East crisis. The sealift capability demonstrated during this crisis will certainly be studied and result in a new set of requirements.
Possibly additional assets will be tailored for contingency response rather than the traditional North Atlantic scenario. The United States already has many such resources but may learn from recent experience that modest amounts of additional sealift or prepositioned equipment are required.
NATO-associated sealift would also be put into the category of forces that could be reconstituted. It will be hard to justify the continued retention of portions of the National Defense Reserve Fleet. The Middle East crisis demonstrates that we can muster sufficient assets from the continental U.S. to meet a major contingency in an area where there were previously no U.S. forces.
Goals and Objectives
Much of the literature devoted to defense planning does n°t cover war planning, but rather program planning used to explain to legislators and the public why certain types of Weapon systems and forces need to be purchased and Maintained. Programming strategy under the planning, Programming, and budgeting system in the United States officially starts with an examination of the threat. In general, a fundamental reexamination of goals and objectives has not been necessary in the recent past program planning for defense.
There is often some similarity to war planning in program planning, but there may be fundamental differences. For example, the USS Midway (CV-41) was justified in '940s programming plans to help defeat Japan; war plans *0 the 1980s included the Midway defending Japan.
Under the American form of government, an announcement of an administration’s policy is not the same as an announcement of government policy. Indeed, President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, although
U.S. Ain FORCE (C SANZI)
We must maintain the ability to respond quickly to disasters such as that in Bangladesh last April (above, U.S. Marines work with Bangladesh Army personnel to unload supplies from a CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter during Operation Sea Angel).
feared and attacked by the Soviet Union, never went beyond the stage of an initiative. Before we see any new funded government policy, vested domestic interests and U.S. allies have an opportunity to make their desires known.
There is no need to delay immediate revisions of war plans for existing forces. There are significant changes to the international environment and the immediate need to reduce defense expenditure—hence plans for war ashore can be changed right now.
The changes suggested by the Bush Administration would place an enormous burden on the intelligence community. Although one might argue that logically, with such fundamental changes, intelligence appropriations should increase, it is likely that they will suffer the same fate as defense spending.
The bulk of the U.S. intelligence community is oriented toward understanding and countering the Soviet threat. Although it took many years, we eventually became very sophisticated at understanding the Soviet perspective on doctrine, strategy, and arms control. Our intelligence agencies and associated policy offices are nowhere near as competent at being able to analyze, predict behavior, and conduct net assessments for the rest of the world.
This must be corrected—quickly. It should involve the cooperation of those organizations already in existence outside of government. In the past, when intelligence analysts differed, the debate could be settled with an assessment of the data. With political and economic intelligence, it is often the methodology rather than the data that settles disputes.
Even if one accepts the ability of the intelligence community to provide two years of strategic warning, a serious question arises as to what governments will do when faced
Reconstitution will involve tough changes. After reexamining our global role, we must re-work old programs. Here, General Schwarzkopf, who commanded a truly global coalition force in the Persian Gulf War, testifies before the House Armed Services Committee.
with the inconclusive evidence that will be provided initially. If Western history of reactions to rearmament by totalitarian nations and violations of arms-control agreements is to be a guide, we should assume that democracies will first delay decisions to rearm (for many good reasons, such as different interpretations of ambiguous intelligence data and the desire not to escalate a crisis). Second, they will deny that a change in the behavior of a former opponent has taken place or that it is strategically significant. Finally, they may even suppress intelligence reporting that is not in line with government policy.
The military will need to make war plans based upon the track record of our government acting courageously. Decision-making studies will need to span the full gamut of possible scenarios. For example, it is not inconceivable that Eastern European nations might ask Soviet troops to assist them against what they perceive to be a threat from Germany.
NATO exercise and simulation military decision-making has traditionally assumed that the alliance political structure would make decisions that would be carried out by near-simultaneous actions taken by all member nations. In a restructured NATO, more political than military, national military commanders might have to make plans based upon member nations making unilateral actions prior to those of the alliance as a whole. This, in turn, would necessitate planning for sequential military operations, rather than simultaneous. Similarly, planning for allied or combined-forces military operations may take second place to national planning. NATO military planning may be for combined or joint operations with forces under national command.
The Transition Period
A new security environment, based upon the need for two years of strategic warning (with the United States no longer forward deployed in Germany), may be so different that we will need to assess the near-term, or transition- period, risks from a less-than-controllable USSR under a wide range of potential worst-case scenarios.
An obvious one is that the Soviet marshals would successfully seize power and the military threat of the past would return within months. Another is that all of what is going on in the USSR is merely maskirovka—a breathing space before the Soviet military machine gears up when the economic crisis is solved. Such a transition-era scenario may be best met with sea-based nuclear weapons deployments and the use of the contingency force.
The United States will need to make major decisions on how much of our national treasure is to be devoted to
defense in general, and to active duty and ready reserve forces in particular. Implicit in a reconstitution strategy is the need for a successful investment strategy capable of tooling up for wartime production within the assumed two years of warning. Can we afford to do this with our naval forces?
Given our track record of producing major weapon systems, it seems obvious that a fundamental restructuring of the procurement processes is also required. In the past, industry often took the leading role in exploring technological opportunities and was able to charge such research to overhead. With the numbers of programs likely to be reduced, a new mechanism for research and development will be required.
One alternative is to continue such operations in the private sector and provide hefty government research and development funds. Another is to have government set up design bureaus and take over the research and development itself. In either case, the output ought to be not only a family of designs sitting on the shelf, but also fully operational prototypes that may never enter full-scale development. Prototypes with the associated capability to assemble should satisfy policy planners’ requirements to be able to regenerate forces within two years.
Fred Ikle, the former Undersecretary of Defense (Policy), was a proponent of preprogrammed crisis budgets and industrial responses to bridge the gap between peacetime and wartime.9 Industrial mobilization, instead of military mobilization or the deployment of troops, might form the basis of an adequate governmental response to ambiguous warning indicators. This may be especially valid with long lead time naval forces. Ikle proposed a series of industrial alert conditions, similar to that found in the military, that would trigger specific actions. There is no reason that contracts cannot be let ahead of time and contingency orders already specified; “graduated deterrence response” could well involve a “graduated industrial response.”
Defense Business As Usual?_______________________
Governments will not have the time to educate new strategic planners for the political-military review that must now take place. Those officers are already in place and must receive the assistance of outsiders. The management of change by big organizations has never been an easy task and the changes that are coming are not going to be easy for some to swallow.
It is going to hurt and it is going to require officers who are willing to put their allegiance to country ahead of parochial combat arms or service parochialism.
The first-order questions, such as the U.S. role in the world and the purpose of the U.S. Department of Defense, will require answers prior to consideration of second-order programming or efficiency issues that have tended to dominate the traditional defense debate.
The top-down vision of the future, as outlined by the President in Aspen, will lead to governmental political- military goals and objectives. The major players will be both domestic and international. It is by no means certain which group or groups will dominate the debate, but the willingness of the American public to sustain heavy defense burdens and large domestic programs in the absence of a clear and present danger should not be assumed.
If the Department of Defense refuses to present realistic plans to Congress, the cuts will be made anyway and the Department of Defense will find itself playing catch-up
and redrafting strategies from what forces the legislature allows it.
The debate should be about goals and objectives with the realization that they do not have to be what they have been in the past. If we are realistic, there is every likelihood that we can reach a consensus on the forces required. If we make the debate over force structure, we could back into a strategy that will not serve the national interest as we enter the 21st century.
'“Remarks by the President to the Aspen Institute Symposium,” Office of the Press Secretary (Aspen, Colorado), The White House, 2 August 1990. ’“Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Homestead, Hot Springs, Virginia, Thursday, September 6, 1990,” news release, OASD (Public Affairs).
’“Remarks by General Colin L. Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Baltimore, Maryland, August 23, 1990,” and “Remarks by General Colin L. Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the 72nd Annual National Convention of the American Legion, Indianapolis, Indiana, August 30, 1990."
4“Speech to the Center for Defense Journalism, The National Press Club, September 27, 1990, by Lieutenant General George L. Butler.”
"Michael Gordon, “Pentagon Drafts New Battle Plan,” New York Times, 2 August 1990, p. 1.
6Jessica Eve Budro, “Military Feels Shut Out of Planning: Service Resentment Brewing Over Powell’s Base Force Plan, Say DOD Sources.” Inside the Pentagon, 11 October 1990, p. 1.
"Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Sergei. G. Gorshkov, Ed., The Navy: Its Role, Prospects for Development, and Employment, in Russian, Moscow: Voyeniz- dat, 1988 (NIC translation, pp. 27-33).
8“Warfighting,” FMFM 1, 6 March 1989.
9Fred C. Ikle, “Industrial Mobilization Planning: Critical to National Defense," based upon remarks to the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Conference, Detroit 9 November 1987, printed in Defense 88, January/February 1988. pp. 15-18.
Commander Tritten is an associate professor in the Department of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School.
_______________________________________________ Wet Snorts Only----------------------------------------------------
Today, with nuclear power, submarines can stay submerged indefinitely. But back in the 1950s, diesel subs had to use their snorkels and “snort” periodically, in order to charge batteries.
Ships of the British, Pakistani, and Indian navies were exercising off the then-placid coast ot Eastern Sri Lanka, and had formed into Blue and Orange forces. The officer in tactical command of the Orange force, an Indian admiral operating from his headquarters ashore in Trincomalee, had ordered his maritime aircraft to search for Blue submarines—but somehow the search-area coordinates became garbled in transmission. The aircraft spent most of the exercise flying over land, much
of it forested. . , , . . ,
This did not escape the attention of the British admiral in overall command of the exercise, who managed to put his best diplomatic face on the embarrassing situation during the debriet:
“In future, gentleman—please remember that the mission is to seek out enemy submarines snorting, and not friendly Sinhalese snorting elephants.”
Commander M. B. Kunte, Indian Navy