Enhancing Saudi Arabia's National Defense In The Post Cold War Era:
The Domestic And International Dimensions Of Military Preparedness
SUBJECT AREA - Topical Issues
ENHANCING SAUDI ARABIA'S NATIONAL DEFENSE
IN THE POST COLD WAR ERA:
THE DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL DIMENSIONS
OF MILITARY PREPAREDNESS
Title: Enhancing Saudi Arabia's National Defense in the Post Cold War Era:
The Domestic and International Dimensions of Military Preparedness.
Author: Captain Naef Ahmed Al-Saud, Royal Saudi Arabian Army
Thesis: Saudi Arabia should benefit from the US military's own experience, in terms
of reducing the cost of acquisitions, and in evolving training methodologies to meet
the challenges of modern conflict.
Background: The Gulf War highlighted divergent approaches and interpretations of
military policy, especially concerning procurement and training, and their combined
effect on interoperability between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. This article will first
examine the financial and political implications of procurement and standardization.
Currently, the most relevant issue is not access to hardware. Rather, the focus of the
Saudi defense budget is on financing and cost reduction. This emphasis is analogous
to the budgetary constraints faced by the Pentagon. This article will conclude that
contemplated improvements to the Saudi armed forces must be prioritized and
selective in order to be effective; and that interoperability with the U.S., and the
adaptation of key aspects of American training and fighting doctrines should be
Recommendation: The Kingdom should benefit from the Pentagon's own efforts to
streamline acquisition programs in order to cut procurement costs. If significant
decreases in the cost of military acquisitions are passed on to Saudi Arabia, a
substantial amount of the savings could be refocused on training programs.
PART I INTRODUCTION
Enhancing The Kingdom's Security: A Two-Track Approach 1
PART II SAUDI ARABIA'S DEFENSE PROCUREMENT: HOW TO GET
MORE BANG FOR THE BUCK
The Financial Components of The Kingdom's Defense Budget 2
The Developing U.S.-Saudi Arabian Security Assistance Relationship 3
Adapting to Changes in U.S. Foreign Military Sales Guidelines 5
The Implications for Saudi Arabia of the Pentagon's Cost-Cutting Measures 10
PART III THE RELEVANCE OF TRAINING
The Ramifications of American Concerns 12
Saudi Arabia's Priorities for its Armed Forces 14
Where the Saudi Army can Improve 15
The Role of Force on Force Maneuvers 17
Does Prepositioned Equipment Have a Role? 20
PART IV CONCLUSION
Vital Training Programs Could be Developed
From Reductions in the Cost of Hardware 23
ENHANCING SAUDI ARABIA'S NATIONAL DEFENSE
IN THE POST COLD WAR ERA:
THE DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL DIMENSIONS
OF MILITARY PREPAREDNESS
"The awareness of our own strength makes us modest."-PAUL CEZANNE, 1937
PART I: INTRODUCTION
As Saudi Arabia approaches a new century, its defense establishment must
adapt in order to meet continuing security challenges at a time when financial realities
require an optimal use of resources even more so than was the case in the past. This
paper argues that the key to enhanced security for the Kingdom lies in improving the
efficiency and effectiveness of its Armed Forces. Choices also have to be made
between allocating resources for arms purchases on one hand, and training and
sustainment programs (like support and maintenance) on the other. Saudi Arabia
should benefit from the process of optimization of acquisition procedures currently
being instituted by the Pentagon for its own arms purchases.
PART II: SAUDI ARABIA'S DEFENSE PROCUREMENT: HOW TO GET
MORE BANG FOR THE BUCK
Saudi Arabia has been willing to devote a considerable share of its national
product to provide for its defense. The issue of procurement is one that cuts across
both the bilateral relationship with the U.S. and the status of the Kingdom's force
structure. Clearly, Saudi Arabia wants to find a way to do things more effectively and
to get equal or better results while economizing on expenditures.
The Financial Component of the Kingdom's Defense Budget
According to one American defense analyst, Anthony Cordesman, by 1993, the
Kingdom "had the highest ratio of expenditures to active men in uniform of any
country in the developing world for more than a quarter century."1 As far back as the
early 1980's, it was reported that the Saudi Arabian defense budget was "roughly the
size of the French or West German budgets."2 It is also his contention that, as things
currently stand, "no other country in the developing world has paid so much to receive
so few arms per dollar."3
However, the bare numbers can be a bit misleading. The Saudi Arabian
Ministry of Defense and Aviation (MODA) also has the budgetary and administrative
responsibility for running all civilian airports, the national civilian airline (Saudia), and
the second largest hospital network in the county. Conservatively, over 65% of Saudi
"defense" expenditures are not directly linked to arms and ammunition.4
Additionally, Saudi Arabia is seeking to leverage its arms purchases to enhance
its economic developments through technology transfers, and other offsets.5
For example, about 25% of the value of the Kingdom's recent contractual agreements
to acquire the M-1 tank involve elements produced within Saudi Arabia, including
such sophisticated components as electronic circuit boards.6
The Developing U.S.-Saudi Arabian Security Assistance Relationship
Procurement, in many ways, is perhaps the key issue for Saudi Arabia in the
bilateral security assistance relationship with the U.S. In the recent past, even up to
the eve of the Gulf War, the transfer of American military technology had been
hampered by numerous constraints, including the complications of American domestic
politics (for example, opposition by the pro-Israeli lobby). That is quite likely a
substantial reason for the fact that the Kingdom, of late, had turned to the United
Kingdom (which at one point rivalled the U.S. as the largest source of delivered
weapons7), in addition to France, Italy, China, etc.
Saudi Arabia's reliance on more than one supplier country may indeed lend the
Kingdom a measure of flexibility in overcoming political hurdles. However, it
arguably does not promote the practice of streamlined procurement. This concept has
become of great interest to the defense establishment of both the U.S. and Saudi
Arabia in an era of budgetary belt tightening, as a result of the constraints imposed by
the inherent limitations of both national economies.
Under ideal circumstances, Saudi Arabia's MODA should be able to plan on
dealing with a minimum number of supplier countries. One of the less obvious, but
significant benefits would be cutting down on the vehement political haggling and
jockeying that supplier countries tend to engage in.8
Within the context of the Saudi military, the current diversification of supplier
countries means that personnel training logistical stockpiling of spare parts, and
overall strategic coordination may suffer due to fractured and mismatched resources.
The logical observation is that the cost per item of equipment, or per trained
individual, suffers a rate of increase that would seem closer to exponential, rather than
However, in the wake of the GulfWar, an interesting development has begun
to unfold which may be instrumental in consolidating Saudi procurement practices. To
the casual observer, it would seem that the pendulum of "precautionary" American
congressional sentiment concerning arms sales to the Kingdom has begun to swing the
other way. It would now appear that America's political reluctance to sell its more
advanced weapons to Saudi Arabia has been replaced by enthusiasm.
The recent change in approach has led to at least two noteworthy major sales,
the first of which involved billions of dollars' worth of aircraft to the Kingdom after the
Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The fact that the prospective sale would also help maintain
production lines and employment made it politically easier to win Congressional
Without Saudi sales, future acquisition costs per item to the U.S. Armed
Forces would increase. Further, had Saudi Arabia not made such purchases, it would
have compounded the negative impact on those regional American economies that had
already been adversely affected by America's own post-Cold War defense cutbacks.10
In light of such arguments, Saudi Arabia and the United States appear to have
come to an agreement concerning most relevant transactional aspects, albeit on a
somewhat longer delivery and payment schedule than originally envisioned.11
However, this type of gesture, which has been characterized by one noted American
specialist on the Middle East as "an indication of goodwill toward the American
people," does not happen without a certain amount of sacrifice on the part of Saudi
Recent reports in the media have suggested that, in fact, such sacrifice may
have reached the critical stage.13 This seemed especially evident during the American
redeployment to the Gulf to counter Saddam's most recent escapade, in the fall of
1994. The incident raised concerns over who would fund the U.S. maneuvers, with
the Saudi government holding that it should not be expected to fund the largest
portion of American expenditures.14
Adapting to Changes in U.S. FMS Guidelines
In a similar vein, given the consistent relevance of economic concerns, the
Clinton Administration's recently reported "new" guidelines on arms sales to foreign
clients15 came as no surprise to those who analyze the U.S. defense establishment.
Apparently, until the early 1990's, the decision to sell arms to a particular country had
been based almost exclusively on whether the transaction would support America's
regional alliances and further the goals of U.S. foreign policy. Even American
government personnel stationed at overseas embassies had not been allowed to get
involved in promoting weapons sales.16 However, over the past few years
considerations have included a de facto calculation of the financial repercussions or
impact on the "health" of American defense contractors. The recent guidelines would
merely formalize such previously informal practices.17
This change in U.S. security assistance approach is likely due in no small part
to the fact that, as a result of top-level lobbying by the Bush and Clinton
Administrations, the Kingdom "has almost single-handedly kept alive the M-1A2 tank
lines of General Dynamics... and the F-15 fighter plane lines of McDonnell-Douglas."18
The political climate has become more than receptive to the Kingdom's requests, and
Saudi Arabia has apparently found no political difficulty in placing military orders for
about $30 billion since 1990. Significantly, Saudi Arabia is now "the largest single
customer for American military contractors now that the Pentagon isn't buying
After Desert Storm, the U.S. has apparently concluded that stepped up sales
levels of seemingly all-inclusive packages are primarily in its own best interests. One
can speculate whether such enthusiasm, had it been implemented years before the Gulf
War, would have had a significant, or even decisive, deterrent impact on Iraqi
In the immediate aftermath of the Gulf War, the Saudi and the U.S.
governments both saw the need to bolster the Kingdom's defense capabilities with
additional procurement, of which the most visible elements were F-15 planes and M-1
tanks. Such sales were promptly approved by both governments. Saudi Arabia had to
bear the largest share of the financial burden of the war, including refunding the U.S.
and other coalition members' billions of dollars of direct costs and overhead. In order
to foot such bills, the Kingdom had to make significant cutbacks in its own
expenditures, including modification in the rate of acquisition of previously ordered
weapons. Since the tanks by that time had largely been completed to Saudi
specifications, the F-15 order captured the brunt of the renegotiations.
Although Saudi Arabia's goal was to reduce its short-term annual expenditure
commitments, it had two further stipulations. Firstly, no aspect of the previously
ordered systems should be canceled outright, but merely delayed. Secondly, the
Kingdom's readiness should not suffer. The situation would appear straightforward.
Receive new equipment later, pay later, and maintain readiness with equipment already
on hand. In theory, the F-15 program could conceivably be "bought out" at the same
initial price, although with higher financing costs corresponding to a longer delivery
However, according to interviews with Lt Col. W.L. Jester and Mr. Eric
Johnstone,20 both from the DoD's Defense Security Assistance Agency, the reality is
more complex. Manufacturing a particular piece of equipment (whether it is a fighter
plane, a battle tank, or any other complicated item of modern hightech warfare) can
almost be categorized as the easy part of fulfilling a procurement contract. It is the
peripheral aspects which are substantial.
This is especially due to the nature and structure of the Pentagon's Foreign
Military Sales (FMS) programs. In effect, such programs enable customers like Saudi
Arabia to take advantage of the U.S. military's own experience and relative efficiency
in handling such huge procurement deals. Foreign purchasers usually have the other
option of acquiring equipment directly from defense contractors, except for certain
ultra-sensitive components that can only be sold through the Pentagon's supervision.
If countries elect to forego the FMS program, they must, for each weapon
package, independently negotiate with numerous manufacturers and subcontractors
concerning contractual provisions for hardware, sofrware, delivery scheduling and
transportation, training, maintenance, obsolescence and updating, warranty
coverage...etc. It would appear that the FMS programs are provided as a courtesy to
foreign countries, since only the Pentagon has the relevant databases and
knowledgeable personnel to make such seemingly chaotic situations progress more
smoothly. But discrepancies concerning differing assumptions and priorities among
the parties are not fully eliminated.
For example, under the renegotiated F-15 contract, at the outset Saudi Arabia
will receive its aircraft on a monthly basis, rather than twice monthly. The Kingdom
will then immediately deploy them. Maintenance and obsolescence, namely the
"sustainment" aspects of large-scale weapons packages, traditionally are major
components of the ongoing FMS contracts.
Thus, as more new planes are received over the years, the ones delivered
earlier will inevitably require spare parts, and updating due to improved technology
(e.g., more effective communications and radar, smarter weapon delivery systems,
etc.) If the renegotiated delivery period is hypothetically doubled, the major ongoing
sustainment costs must also be multiplied.
Thus, sustainment costs are a direct fuction of the amount of training and
routine deployments that the equipment is used for, corresponding to the level of
readiness that is to be adhered to, during the time frame of the FMS contract. Quite
simply, high levels of sustained readiness equal more expensive maintenance, spare
parts, and technological upgrading.
To a certain extent, such sustainment costs are controllable if the parameters
are defined accurately. It is important to remember that the Kingdom stipulated that
although the delivery period was lengthened, its readiness should not be compromised.
That raises several issues. Will the acquired aircraft be deployed a few times a month,
or several times a week (the typical rate for U.S. carrier-based F-14's)? Each hour of
flight time requires several hours of maintenance. Should the planes be regularly
updated with newer technology to keep pace with the USAF's own upgrades (for the
sake of interoperability, if not to exceed the acquired capabilities of potentially hostile
neighbors)? Such determinations are presumably within MODA's discretion and
represent decisions with significant implications for procurement practices.
They also serve as concrete indications of why a foreign customer like Saudi
Arabia cannot simply negotiate the overall price at which it will "buy out" a long-term
procurement contract (which inevitably includes peripheral support and maintenance)
without first resolving the crucial issues relating to the concurrent long-term usage of
the equipment. It is also apparently also evident that longer payment and delivery
periods may decrease short-term annual expenditures, but serve to increase overall
contractual costs by amounts that are greater than pure financing and interest
The Implications for Saudi Arabia of the Pentagon's Cost-Cutting
In this vein, Secretary Perry's recently announced full-scale review and
overhaul of U.S. military procurement practices will be observed closely in Riyadh to
determine whether substantive savings from the Pentagon's cost-cutting procedures
will be passed on to other consumers, including Saudi Arabia. One general principle
which Saudi Arabia - and other buyers of American arms -- would like to see
instituted is that if a product or component can be made with parts that are available
commercially, or "off the shelf," it should be done. Instead, until recently U.S. military
procurement guidelines (collectively known as "milspec") stipulated in extravagant
detail exactly how the requested items should be manufactured.21
Such exacting oversight inevitably raises costs. This was graphically
exemplified by media reports years earlier of simple hammers and toilet seats costing
U.S. taxpayers hundreds of dollars. Such items, identical but for the military
oversight, are available to the average taxpayer for a few dollars at the local hardware
Popular reaction to such revelations helps to explain the Pentagon's belated
focus on "value for money" by precluding the perpetual reinvention of the wheel. One
study discovered that the U.S. Department of Defense (U.S. DoD) typically paid a
premium of 30-50% more than civilian end-users of the same or similar products. It
was apparently not unusual for the U.S. government to be on the receiving end of
markups that were 100% more than what civilian users were willing to pay for often
What does the potential demise of the milspec and other U.S. military
procurement modifications mean for foreign customers like Saudi Arabia? The
inescapable reality is that the cost to the Pentagon of a plane, a tank, or a weapons
program probably sets the absolute minimum benchmark price to the Kingdom, even
for a somewhat less fully equipped version.23
The inevitable conclusion is that if significant decreases in the cost of military
hardware are passed on to Saudi Arabia, then a substantial amount of the savings
could be conceivably refocused to training programs. It has been reported in the
American media that budgetary limitations have necessitated the curtailment of such
training, including combined Saudi exercises with U.S. forces.24 It would seem
apparent that there is a tradeoff between an increase in the price of weapons
purchased and training levels. Some military analysts have suggested that Saudi
Arabia is thereby accumulating more systems than it can possibly hope to deploy by
itself, which in turn might imply acquiescent, but discreet, prepositioning.
This situation highlights that the correlation between spending and readiness is
not linear. In order to effectively facilitate readiness, military analysts have pointed
out that financing should be equally focused on the acquisition of two interrelated
assets; technologically advanced weaponry is but one component. Training is the
PART III: ThE RELEVANCE OF TRAINING
A second aspect of the enhancement of Saudi Arabia's defense capabilities is to
raise the combat effectiveness of its armed forces. This can be achieved by focusing
on electronic warfare capabilities and other force multipliers, and through intensified
The Ramifications of American Concerns
The experience of the Gulf War and the ongoing debates about the state of
military readiness (whether American or Saudi) are relevant to a great extent due to
the lessons that have yet to be learned. These are the lessons that will help shape the
Saudi Arabian armed forces' view of the future. In future conflicts the U.S. cannot
assume that it will be granted as much time as needed to iron out wrinkles in
interoperability with the host country. At the same time it is probably more pragmatic
to assume that the U.S. would stand ready to play a direct role in high intensity
conflict situations than it would be to assume that all-encompassing substantive
improvements in the armed forces of regional allies would render direct American
Nontheless, the U.S. military's relevant but tacit role is occasionally subject to
overdramatization. News reports derived from Defense Secretary Perry's trip to the
Gulf this past March suggest that the Defense Secretary himself may have appeared
too eager to impress the Arabian Gulf states with the vital relevance of the widely
acknowledged role that the U.S. plays in the region's security.
When the Iranian deployment around the straits of Hormuz, which occurred
around the time of Perry's visit, was first detected, General Shalikashvili, the JCS
Chairman, stated that the situation "bothers us very much." The following day,
President Clinton played it down, as did a spokesman for the DoD, who said "We
don't see it as something that's designed to threaten international or U.S. shipping in
the area." Yet the Defense Secretary himself, while in the Gulf region stated that "We
considered [the Iranian deployment around the Strait] a very threatening action on
their part... it can only be regarded as a potential threat to shipping in the area."
Perhaps not coincidentally, Perry was in the region to promote the prospect of
combined exercises between the GCC countries and the U.S., and to encourage
Predictably, such conflicting analysis between the Clinton administration and
the U.S. military, and within the U.S. military itself, might tend to sow cynicism among
the Arabian Gulf states. Such distractions should not detract from the substantive
improvements that Saudi Arabia is in the process of implementing.
Saudi Arabia's Priorities for its Armed Forces
Given the Kingdom's manpower constraints, combined with its vast territory
and long borders with potentially hostile neighbors, it is obvious that contemplated
improvements must be prioritized and selective in order to be effective. That is clearly
why the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) has received so much attention. The RSAF is
now widely acknowledged to be among the best air forces in the region, on a per-pilot
and per-plane basis. The fact that its role is essentially defensive does not diminish its
reputation, but merely recognizes the power projection limitations inherent in the
Kingdom's geography. In any case, as King Fahd has publicly stated, Saudi Arabia
does not harbor aggressive intentions against any of its neighbors.
A second priority might logically be granted to the Navy, given the tact that
the Gulf region juxtaposes entities having apparently adverse philosophies, and that the
volatility in Yemen and in the Horn of Africa could have a complicating effect on the
mouth of the Red Sea, thereby impacting upon the tremendous amount of world trade
that passes through the Suez Canal.26
It is no surprise then, given the fact that Saudi financial and personnel
resources are limited, that the focus of the Kingdom's military modernization program
had not primarily been on the Army. After the Gulf War, however, increased attention
is being paid to the Army. A senior Pentagon source has observed that the Saudi
Army is making progress. It is sending observers to the "Ultimate Resolve" exercises
which are planned for the Gulf later this year, and which will likely include Kuwait,
other GCC members, the UK, France and the U.S. The Army is also in the process of
upgrading its training methodologies for more effective interoperability with U.S.
forces. As in the case of the RSAF, it is conceivable to envision Saudi land forces that
might eventually emulate their American counterparts in most aspects except size and
the projection of overwhelming combat power.
Where the Saudi Army Can Improve
It is crucial that key military concepts be standardized throughout the fighting
force, not only of the host country, but also of the ally, or allies. Theatre commanders
and subordinates, for example, must be able to speak the common language of the
seven basic principles of Battlefield Operating Systems (BOS), namely fire support,
maneuver, air defense, intelligence, logistics, mobility and survivability, and command
and control, which is the "glue" that holds the BOS together.27
Those categories dictate that a military force share common references
concerning mission objectives, including such aspects as the interchangeability of
ammunitipn, offensive and defensive operations, and coordination among joint and
coalition units. Furthermore, the adoption of BOS by the Saudi military should be but
one substantial example of the payoff derived from refocusing the Kingdom's
command orientation from the brigade to the division level, resulting in more efficient
and effective overall coordination.
One major payoff is that battlefield commanders have considerably more
flexibility in the composition of force structures. For example, if more artillery is
needed in a particular area, units from one brigade can be maneuvered and attached to
another without the exertion of going up and down the command chains of the
brigades involved. Of course, the risk still exists that particular entities will cling to
their own versions of mission orientation. Regardless of direct relevance, airborne
troops tend to seek to justify parachuting, amphibious troops inevitably favor beach
landings, etc. These types of interservice and intraservice frictions are unavoidable,
but easily rectified, and tend to occur even within the U.S. military.28
At the same time, improvement programs for the enlisted ranks should not be
overlooked. Although the U.S. is apparently almost alone among the world's armies in
its reliance upon a strong, career oriented Non Commissioned Officer Corps (NCO),
the Saudi military would probably similarly benefit by providing incentives for the
recruitment and retention of appropriate personnel, which in turn would imply a
reevaluation of recruitment standards.29 It is also important that the basic skills
necessary for a soldier be identified and focused on. For example, in a rifle squad all
individuals must be able to fire accurately, administer first aid, and don protective
chemical warfare gear. Ideally, troops should also be able to coordinate and move at
night, as a squad, a platoon, a battalion, and as a brigade.
Armies in the Gulf region have historically had little training in night warfare.
Night can itself be an enemy but, as the GulfWar showed, it can also be a friend.
Several of Desert Storm's most crucial battles were fought under such conditions at
coalition initiative, which provided the key element of surprise and resulted in lower
friendly casualties. The Saudi military can and should be in a position to capitalize on
such tremendous opportunities.
Of course, attack methods are modified from those used during daylight and
combatants should be issued night vision devices. At a minimum, infantrymen should
carry goggles. Helicopters and tanks should also be equipped with thermal imaging
capabilities. It would almost seem possible to specialize in night warfare on an
individual level, as demonstrated by the fact that numerous USAF personnel (and their
RSAF colleagues) train for intensively, and fly, night missions.
Other steps that can and should be taken by the Saudi Army include
participation in officer exchange programs involving leadership exercises, as
exemplified by the curriculum at the National Training Center, Fort Irwinn, CA (armor
force-on-force in desert terrain). Saudi officers at the Major, Lt. Col. and Col. levels
could be invited to observe, and be encouraged to eventually adopt, similar force-on-
force combat training in the Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia, which would include
sophisticated electronic scorekeeping devices. Such methods would adequately
evaluate whether, for example, tank platoon commanders can proficiently maneuver,
deploy in depth, and coordinate firepower.
The Role of Force-on-Force Maneuvers
Furthermore, as General Walter E. Boomer (who commanded the United
States Marine Corps forces during the Gulf War) recently observed, the success of the
modern US military is only partly based on advanced technology.30 The other, more
relevant part is that military readiness is a direct function of extensive preparation
U.S. forces have come to realize that they should train to the point where actual
combat would almost seem easier (albeit with the introduction of casualty risks.)
As such, another crucial aspect of interoperability between the U.S. and Saudi
militaries is that training methodologies should ideally be common to both. In order to
be effective, such training should incorporate realistic scenarios. American
commanders have found that the experience gained through force-on-force exercises
has proven to be indispensable in later planing for actual combat scenarios.
On the Arabian Peninsula, opposing teams of Saudi soldiers would likely derive
tremendous benefit from engaging in such exercises which test the extensive efforts of
logisticians, the military intelligence apparatus, and the minds of battalion
commanders. Prospective Saudi commanders could thus have the opportunity to
develop a thorough understanding of the doctrines of maneuver and speed.
Such exercises also focus on the ability to use deployed weapons effectively,
and on the necessity of taking adequate risk. Like their American counterparts, the
prospective Saudi commanders need not be tentative about "getting inside the decision
loop of the enemy," in other words, considering the situation from the enemy's point of
view, thereby anticipating opposing moves and mental calculations.
For example, if the hypothetical scenario is that enemy forces (role-played by
offensive Saudi combatants) are attempting to cross the border, the Saudi defensive
commander should anticipate when, where and how to counterattack. Once the attack
is stopped, what should be done to exploit the situation? Among the defensive
commander's alternatives are to order an attack on the rear of the offensive column
and cut off its supplies. However, the defensive forces should be prepared to deal
with the consequent enemy confusion, including rounding up POW's, mopping up
pockets of resistance, and pursuing the main body of(presumably retreating) offensive
The U.S. military has found it imperative that in its own land-based force-on-
force maneuvers, the Air Force must play an integral role. As such, RSAF
participation ideally would be coordinated in Saudi exercises, especially since one of
the primary lessons of the Gulf War is that air and ground forces should work
A subsequent vital aspect of such rigorous maneuvers is an equally rigorous
after-action review, wherein each segment of the exercise is discussed and the derived
lessons are codified and committed to the respective participants' memories. As
General Boomer stated, "the exercise should not be considered over," without such an
But what of the overall mission projected for the future of the Kingdom's
armed forces? Saudi Arabia should plan to stop a hypothetical Iraqi invasion of Saudi
Arabia. In my discussions with Saudi officials, it was pointed out that since (all things
being equal) standard military doctrine grants a three-to-one advantage to the defense,
the ultimate goal should be a Saudi military able to stop an attack similar in size to the
one launched by Iraq against Kuwait. In addition, this would also require enough
RSAF firepower for counteroffensive infrastructure-damaging missions (e.g. against
roads, headquarters, etc.). Of course, such large-scale planning will take time,
including years of interbranch and intrabranch coordination and interoperability
In the meantime, even small-scale combined efforts can be important and
mutually beneficial. The presence of U.S. Special Forces (SF) personnel attached to
Saudi combat units during the Gulf War showed how interoperability and training can
be enhanced within the U.S.- Saudi bilateral relationship. The SF played crucial roles
in terms of communications and enabling close air support, mine clearing, obstacle
breaching, mortar and artillery targeting, hardware maintenance, medical triage,
evacuation, resupply, and fire control.31 The latter is especially pertinent when huge
numbers of troops from numerous allied countries are scattered across a wide area,
making friendly fire a constant hazard. The SF played a significant role in initiating
and implementing techniques and procedures to avoid casualties and to thereby enable
total focus on the mission.
Does Prepositioned Equipment Have a Role?
The 1994 episode with Saddam highlighted the divergence in Saudi and U.S.
views concerning prepositioning and contingency planning. Secretary of Defense
William Perry proposed that the equivalent of a division of tanks and equipment be
stored in the Kingdom, to be used by U.S. troops not only in any future emergency,
but also in periodic American military training exercises in the Gulf region. As such,
Secretary Perry proposed an analogy to the annual NATO joint maneuvers during the
Cold War. It was also reported that "Clinton Administration officials hope the latest
Iraqi threat will make the Saudis and other Gulf states more cooperative now."32
That hope, characterized as "self serving" by an American specialist in Middle
Eastern affairs outside the Administration, was politely rebuffed by Saudi Arabia.
Instead, as one Saudi official familiar with the issue observed, the Americans
had two options. The first was that the Kingdom would buy the weapons and retain
control over the storage facilities. The second was that the Americans could pay for
them, with the Kingdom still retaining control over the storage facilities.
Apparently the crux of the dispute has not been over cost (although that is a
significant related issue), but rather over which country would retain control and
perform the routine maintenance functions as the systems lay dormant in the Arabian
desert. The logic of the Saudi view is that since physical control over stored weapons
does not, of necessity, require close and continuous American monitoring, Saudi
Arabian control is a matter of sovereign right.
As Dr. Paul D. Wolfowitz, a former Undersecretary of Defense (Policy),
recently pointed out to me, Americans have a long way to go in terms of respecting
such sovereign rights and acceding to non-U.S. control. Dr. Wolfowitz further
observed that the Saudi tradition of sealing substantive understandings with a
handshake can be more reliable than numerous pages of legal documentation,
especially when the real basis for agreement is the necessity of working together
against a common enemy.
In a similar vein, Robert H. Pelletreau, Assistant Secretary of State for Near
Eastern Affairs, recently observed that relations between the two countries are
excellent, especially since the Kingdom and the U.S. cooperate closely and consult
frequently on a broad range of diplomatic and military matters, and each continues to
develop appreciation and respect for the other country's independence and cultural
sensitivities.33 As such, any independent physical American military presence (not
linked, for example, to training programs) could mistakenly be interpreted as
tantamount to the establishment of independent American basing rights, which the
Kingdom has consistently declined to grant.
That explanation succinctly suggests that any tension between the two
countries on defense issues is of a political, rather than a substantively military, nature.
It is also relevant to note that the Arabian Gulf states do not comprise the only region
that has been approached by the U.S. for greater military access. Recently, several
East Asian nations also rebuffed American attempts to store war materiel in their
vicinity. Observers have suggested that, as in the case of the Gulf region, the
disinclination to accede to American-controlled storage facilities implies a desire to
avoid the public perception of American hegemony. Of course, one presumably
unresolved issue which may have influenced the decision is to what extent the U.S.
might have sought financial help from the prospective host countries.
PART IV: CONCLUSION
Over the last decade and a half, the military relationship between Saudi Arabia
and the United States has withstood the test of time. With U.S. support, the
Kingdom's defense capabilities are improving steadily. The issue that the Saudi armed
forces now face is similar to that faced by the U.S. Department of Defense; namely
how to render procurement programs more cost-effective, while maintaining and
improving readiness and training in the face of unavoidable budgetary constraints.
Since the Kingdom currently buys most of its weapons systems and support
packages from the U.S., Saudi Arabia should receive derivative benefits from salient
aspects of the Pentagon's recent initiatives to streamline procurement practices. The
Kingdom's savings on hardware purchases could be reinvested in training programs
which emphasize the relevant aspects of modern U.S. military fighting doctrines,
especially those designed to foster the Saudi military's interoperability with the U.S.
1. Cordesman, Anthony H., After the Storm, (Boulder, Westview), 566.
2. Cordesman, Anthony H., The Gulf and the Search for Strategic Stabilily,
(hereinafter cited as Strategic Stability), (Boulder, Westview, 1984), 223.
3. After the Storm, 568.
4. Interview with Saudi Arabian government official, 22 December 94; also see
Palmer, Michael A., Guardians of the Gulf-A History of America's Expanding Role in
the Persian Gulf 1833-1992, 91-92, (Free Press /Macmillan, New York, 1992); also
see Djerejian, Hon Edward P., Fmr. Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern
Affairs, Department of State, Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Europe and the
Middle East, of the Committee on Foreign Relations, House of Representatives, 01
Oct 1992; US Government Printing Office, 1993, 13 (wherein information furnished
by Mr. Djerejian to Congress indicates that up until 1992, "support and construction
accounted for 89% of all arms sales to Saudi Arabia.")
5. For a good overview of the Kingdom's contemporaneous offset programs, see Pillai,
P.K., "Economic Offset Program Takes Off," Saudi Commerce and Economic Review,
November 94, p. 21.
6. Interview with Saudi Arabian government official, 22 December 94; also see Pillai,
"Economic Offset Program Takes Off," p. 24. See also "Advanced Electronics: Saudi
Leap Into Hi-Tech Realm," Saudi Commerce an" Economic Review, March 1995
7. After the Storm, 568.
8. See text at notes 15 through 19.
9. See e.g. Ricks, Thomas, and Pasztor, Andy, "Saudi Arabia May Agree to
Restructure $10 Billion It Owes US Defense Firms," Wall Street Journal, 10 Jan.
1994, Sec. A4.
10. Id. Prince Bandar, Saudi Arabia's Ambassador to the US, pointed out that the
parties to the negotiations "are trying very hard to do it so that there will be no effect
on the American worker."
12. Such sentiments also seem influenced by Saudi Arabia's multibillion dollar order
for commercial aircraft, which, in a generalized sense, was being negotiated in tandem
with the American fighter plane sales. President Clinton himself characterized the
commercial plane sale as "a gold medal win for America's businesses and workers."
Harris, Roy J. Jr., "Boeing, McDonnell May Face Sparring Over Makeup of $6 Billion
Saudi Order," Wall Street Journal, 17 Feb. 1994, Sec. A4.
13. See e.g. Sciolino, Elaine, and Eric Schmitt, "Saudi Arabia, Its Purse Thinner,
Learns How to Say 'No to US," New York Times, 4 Nov. 1994, Al (hereafter cited as
"Saudi Arabia Learns How to Say No to US") which reported that Saudi Arabian
Defense Minister Prince Sultan "suggested that the United States had taken advantage
of Saudi Arabia's vulnerability during the last Persian Gulf crisis by overbilling Riyadh
for its share of the cost."
14. See e.g. Chandler, Clay, "Saudis Face Cost of Deterring Saddam's Forces,"
Washington Post, 12 Oct. 1994, As. See also e.g. Gordon, Michael R, "U.S. Plans to
Keep Planes and Tanks in the Gulf Area," New York Times, 14 Oct. 1994, A1,
reporting on Peny's discussion with his counterpart, Prince Sultan.
15. Schmidt, Eric, "Clinton Devises New Guidelines on Arms Sales," New York Times,
16 Nov. 1994, A14.
17. However, it may be of interest to note that one defense industry lobbyist in
Washington was quoted as saying "This doesn't mean we'll now start selling fighter jets
to Iraq" (emphasis supplied). Id.
18. "Saudi Arabia Learns How to Say No to US," New York Times, 4 Nov. 94 A6,
see also "Clinton Devises New Guidelines on Arms Sales," New York Times, 16 Nov.
19. "Saudi Arabia Learns How to Say No to U.S.," New York Times, 4 Nov. 94 A6.
20. April 1995
21. This overview of Pentagon procurement is derived to a large extent from "A
Survey of Military Aerospace," Economist, 3 Sept. 1994, survey p. 13 et. seq.
23. See e.g. Strategic Stability, 383 (ft. 57 p.392), where Dr. Cordesman observed
that in the acquisition of AWACS planes, years ago, Saudi Arabia was charged
substantially more than what the US government was asked to pay, even though the
USAF received a more sophisticated version.
However, according to a senior Saudi Embassy official, the difference between
what Saudi Arabia pays and what other clients (like America's European allies) pay for
the same hardware can typically be attributed to a combination of the nuances of
military procurement financing and to the Kingdom's own stipulated modifications.
As an example of the former, when AWACS planes were first produced for the
USAF many years ago, the Pentagon paid for the development costs up front. When
the USAF later took possession, it paid an amount which did not include the R&D
since it had already been credited. When other countries like UK and Saudi Arabia
subsequently acquired similar models, they would be charged a proportionate amount
of the R&D costs, not by the aircraft and component manufacturers but by the
Pentagon, precisely because the latter had already paid for all development costs.
In addition, Saudi Arabia had stipulated that the AWACS it acquired were to
be equipped with modified and more expensive engines than those previously accepted
by the Pentagon. The Kingdom paid for the modified engine R&D up front. When
the UK later requested AWACS equipped with engines similar to those purchased by
the Kingdom, it should have procedurally been charged for a portion of the R&D,
which would have been credited to Saudi Arabia. However, at the request of the UK,
the Kingdom acquiesced in waiving its claim to the refunds.
24. See e.g. "Saudi Arabia Lerns How to Say No to US," New York Times, 4 Nov.
25. See e.g. Cordesman, Anthony H., "Chapter Three: The Forces Engaged-
Opposing Military Cultures and the Human Element," Lessons of Modern War,
Volume IV The Gulf War, (Boulder, Westview, 1995) (hereafter cited as Chapter
26. Consider that in Saudi Military Forces in the 1990s: The Strategic Challenge of
Continued Modernizataion (1993), Dr. Cordesman observed on p. 44 that "Saudi naval
facilities are excellent," although on the next page he points out that the naval force
should go through at least ten years of expanding, "before it can become a true 'two
It is interesting to note that although Iran has recently purchased diesel
submarines, American and Saudi defense analysts do not see them as a potentially
insurmountable threat to the Kingdom. The Gulf waters are shallow and the shipping
lanes are well known. Analysts have further observed that Saudi Arabia need not
acquire exponentially more deadly and more expensive submarine technology of its
Rather, the underwater threat could probably be neutralized by the Kingdom's
potential acquisition of anti-submarine ships and anti-submarine aircraft, which are
considerably cheaper and more versatile. Interview with General Trainor, March
27. The ensuing discussion concerning training and structure is based on extensive
personal interviews with Col. James Kraus, Commander, 5th Group, Special
Operations, US Army Special Forces (Rtd), 5, 9 Dec. 94. Supporting reference
sources include Fethiere, John D., Cpt., US Army Special Forces, "Narrative for FID
and Combat Operations, "Memorandum for Commander, First Battalion, 5th SFG(A),
Fort Campbell, KY, 20 April 1991; "Historical Background (ODA 524) on
Detachment Activities During Operation Desert Shield/Storm," Memorandum for
Commander, 5th SFG(A), Fort Campbell, KY [undated and unattributed]; Parsons,
LTC Boyd D., Special Forces Deputy Commander, "Appendix E: Desert Storm
Battle Journal and Chronology of Events," 5th SFG(A) Desert Shield/Desert Storm
History Book, Fort Campbell, KY, 15 May, 30 June 1992 [memo drafts].
28. Interview with General Bernard E. Trainor, USMC (Ret), April 1995; also see e.g.
Trainor, General Bernard E., USMC (Ret) and Michael R. Gordon, The Generals'
War: The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf, (New York: Little Brown, 1995).
29. See Robert F. Helms II, "Use of Military Power in the Post-Cold War World: Win
Big, Win Quick, and Win Without Casualties,"The Persian Gulf Crisis; Power in the
Post-Cold War World (Helms, Robert F. II, and Robert H. Dorff, eds.), p. 165 (noting
the merits of professionals over conscripts), (Praeger, Westport, CT, 1993).
30. The ensuing discussion concerning the relevance of force on force training
maneuvers is based on an extensive interview with General Walter Boomer, USMC
(Ret.) in April 1995.
31. Interview with Col. James Kraus, Commander, 5th Group, Special Operations,
U.S. Army Special Forces (Ret), 5,9 Dec. 94.
32. See e.g. Gordon, Michael R., "U.S. Plans to Keep Planes and Tanks in the Gulf
Area," New York Times, 14 Oct. 1994, A1
33. Interviews with Messrs. Wolfowitz and Pelletreau took place in early March and
late March 1995, respectively.
Boomer, General Walter E., USMC (Ret.). Interview, April 1995
Cordesman, Anthony H., After the Storm: The Changing Military Balance in the
Middle East. Boulder: Westview, 1993.
Cordesman, Anthony H., The Gulf and the Search for Strategic Stability. Boulder:
Cordesman, Anthony H., "Chapter Three: The Forces Engaged--Opposing Military
Cultures and the Human Element, "Lessons of Modern War, Volume IV: The
Gulf War. Boulder: Westview, 1995.
Cordesmnn, Anthony H., Saudi Military Forces in the 1990's: The Strategic
Challenge of Continued Modernization, 1993.
Chandler, Clay, "Saudis Face Cost of Deterring Saddam's Forces," Washington Post,
12 Oct 1994, A5.
Djerejian, Hon Edward P., Fmr. Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs,
Department of State. Hearing before Subcommittee on Europe and the
Middle East, of the Committee on Foreign Relations, House of
Representatives, on 1 October 1992.
Economist, "Survey of Military Aerospace," 3 Sept. 1994.
Fethiere, John D., Cpt, US Army Special Forces, "Narrative for FID and Combat
Operations," Memorandum for Commander, 1st Battalion, 5th SFG(A), Fort
Campbell, 20 April 1991.
Gordon, Michael R., "Admiral with High-Tech Dreams Has Pentagon at War with
Itself" New York Times, 12 Dec. 1994, A1.
Gordon, Michael R, "US Plans to Keep Planes and Tanks in the Gulf Area," New York
Times, 14 Oct. 1994, A1.
Harris, John F., "Military Readiness Question is Founded in Debate Over Roles,"
Washington Post, 18 Nov. 1994, A16.
Harris, Roy J. Jr., "Boeing, McDonnell May Face Sparring Over Makeup of $6
Billion Saudi Order," Wall Street Journal, 17 Feb. 1994, A1.
Helms, Robert F. II, and Dorff, Robert H., eds., The Persian Gulf Crisis: Power in the
Post-Cold War World Westport: Praeger, 1993.
"Historical Background (ODA 524) on Detachment Activities During Operation
Desert Shield/Storm," Memorandum for Commander, 5th SFG(A), Fort
Campbell, Ky. (undated and unsigned).
Jehl, Douglas, "Clinton to Ask Billions More in Spending for the Military," New
York Times, 2 Dec. 1994, A1.
Jester, LTC Col. W.L., Defense Security Assistance Agency (USDoD), Interview,
Johnstone, Eric, Defense Security Assistance Agency (USDoD), Interview,
Kraus, Col James, US Army Special Forces (Ret), interviews, Dec. 1994.
Palmer, Michael &, Guardians of the Gulf--A History of America's Expanding Role
in the Persian Gulf 1833-1992. New York: Free Press, 1992.
Parsons, LTC Boyd D., Special Forces Deputy Commander, "Appendix E: Desert
Storm Battle Journal and Chronology of Events, "5th SFG(A) Desert Shield
Desert Storm History Book, Fort Campbell, Ky., 15 May, 30 June 1992
Pelletreau, Hon Robert H, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs,
Interview, March 1995
Pillai, P.K., "Economic Offset Program Takes Off;"Saudi Commerce and Economic
Review, Nov. 1994, p.21.
Ricks, Thomas, and Pasztor, Andy, "Saudi Arabia May Agree to Restructure $10
Billion It Owes US Defense Firms," Wall Street Journal, 10 Jan 1994, A4.
Scarborough, Rowan, "Top Brass Fear Washington is 'Manufacturing' Iran Crisis,"
Washington times, 27 March 1995, A1.
Schmidt, Eric, "Clinton Devises New Guidelines on Arms Sales," New York Times, 16
Nov. 1994, A14.
Sciolino, Elaine, and Eric Schmidt, "Saudi Arabia, Its Purse Strings Thinner, Learns
How to Say 'No' to US," New York Times, 4 Nov. 1994, A1.
Sciolino, Elaine, "With Thai Rebuff, US Defers Plan For Navy Depot in Asia," New
York Times, 12 Nov. 1994, A6.
Trainor, General Bernard E., USMC (Ret), Director of National Security Programs,
Harvard University, interview, March 1995.
Trainor, General Bernard E., USMC (Ret), and Michael R. Gordon, The Generals'
War: The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf New York: Little Brown,
Wolfowitz, Paul D., Dean of the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns
Hopkins University, Former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (1989-
1993), interview, March 1995.
Wolfowitz, Paul D., "Desert Storm-- An Arab Victory," Washington Post, 31 March
Wolfowitz, Paul D., "Victory Came Too Easily," (reviewing Atkinson, Crusade: The
Untold Story of the Gulf War), National Interest, Spring 1994, p. 87.
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