The combat phases of the campaign in Iraq highlighted an operational gap in U.S. military capabilities. Initial inability to project decisive combat power at a time and place of its choosing handcuffed the United States' strategic options. Basing rights, logistical constraints, and allied support dominated a process that should have been rooted in expanded military capabilities to support U.S. national interests.
To unfetter the essential elements of national power in dealing with state- and nonstate-supported terror, the Department of Defense (DoD) has to alter the services' current transformation plans radically. The nation needs a military that can project massive combat power-hundreds of thousands of personnel and huge amounts of supporting weapons and equipment-in 72 hours, not 72 days.
If we agree that war is a tool for fashioning political outcomes, military operational concepts should be developed to support possible political alternatives—and force structure should accommodate those military concepts. Because the services have attempted to solve individual problems absent a sufficiently joint view, service transformation designs do not support President George W. Bush's announced preemptive strike policy, and they fail to take an integrated approach to warfare.
To bridge the gap between current and desired military capabilities, DoD must embrace a joint operational concept for the future: decisive forced entry that focuses on the rapid projection of massive military force by strategic airlift from the continental United States to points of enemy weakness. This overarching philosophy would drive a force structure that supports the President's National security Strategy by creating wide-ranging capabilities that rely less on forward presence and more on force projection from the U.S. homeland. Developing such a force would substantially improve the balance of national ends, means, and risks.
Thus, the littoral approach to naval warfare—including massive logistical sustainment by sea lines of communication, coastal domination of enemy antiaccess capabilities, and support of Marine amphibious operations—should be replaced by forward sea basing on large, floating airfields and control of the open seas. The Navy's transformation road map-"Sea Power 21"—with its three pillars of Sea Strike, Sea Shield, and Sea Basing, simply does not go far enough. With the exception of Sea Basing, it is evolutionary rather than transformational.
The Air Force must develop dramatically increased strategic lift capabilities to support requirements to project power by air, yet retain the ability to achieve and maintain air supremacy over enemy territory. The current "global strike" concept is superb for precision engagement of enemy targets, but it lacks a coherent vision for transporting personnel and equipment.
Similarly, the Army needs extensive reorganizing. Its divisional structure should give way to the rapidly deployable brigade. Divisional structures should be replaced by as many as 20 separate brigades capable of falling under joint organizations. (Owing to their unique capabilities, however, the 101st Air Assault Division and 82nd Airborne Division should remain active.) The National Guard and Army Reserve should assume the roles of heavy mechanized units.
Increased reliance on special operations forces and the need to conduct forcible-entry power projection in austere environments will necessitate enhanced capabilities. The Marine Corps should bring much more of its expeditionary mind-set and special operations capacities to the U.S. Special Operations Command. To lighten the force, the Corps could turn over its fixed-wing aviation to the Navy.
The importance of space operations should be bolstered by creation of a separate department that would be at the forefront of space weaponization. For example, it would develop space-based, high-energy lasers to reinforce ground-based artillery and complement air-delivered precision-guided munitions.
Without exception, future wars must be fought under joint command-and-control architectures. Fielded forces that are organized, trained, and equipped to conduct joint and combined operations should become the gold standard—not the exception—of U.S. military campaigns.
The world's ever-changing and increasingly complex security environment demands a national military strategy that will lead to truly transformed force structures, rather than rehashed ideas of the past. In anticipation of the inevitable, military leaders should look 20-30 years ahead, toward creation of a unified force (means) that will meet current and future goals (ends) and enable U.S. political leaders to more confidently and effectively manage the risks facing the nation. The road ahead is long and rough-we need to start now.
Major Carstens, a graduate of the Naval War College, commands an Army Special Forces company at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.