Defense Alternatives: Forces Required
by General Chuck Horner, USAF (Ret.)
The end of the Cold War will require a review of United States National Security Policy and a concomitant change in our National Defense Strategy. This strategy will respond to the changes in the world's security environment, including the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact, the evolution in U.S. security alliances such as NATO and NORAD, the increased and unique threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the widening of the spectrum of conflict which will challenge the peace and security of our nation and its allies.
The causes of conflict and the modes which threats to our security interests will take have multiplied with the end of the Cold War. The nuclear weapons of the Cold War remain and will remain for some considerable time, even though there is a growing appreciation as to the declining utility of these devices. For sure there will be continuing pressure throughout the world to eliminate the presence of nuclear weapons in conjunction with efforts to halt the production, stockpiling, and deployment of chemical and biological weapons. It is likely that START II will be followed by START III and IV, as nations who claim ownership of nuclear weapons realize ownership has a high cost and marginal payoff. However, progress will be slow due to the immense importance of achieving symmetry during nuclear disarmament and the cumbersome and exacting safeguards associated with the disarmament process. Therefore, for the foreseeable future the threat of nuclear war must be addressed even though it will be less likely than before. The spectrum of national security challenges will expand as the threat of nuclear annihilation subsides.
The decisive victory achieved by the coalition forces over Iraq during Desert Storm should give future aggressors of major regional conflict cause to pause. While this does not mean that the threat of conventional warfare has vanished, it does mean that the national leader intending to use major conflict to achieve political aims must carefully craft strategy that will avoid the opportunity for confrontation with a large coalition force lead by the United States. Such a strategy might include surprise attack; short intense military action; the threat or use of nuclear, biological and/or chemical weapons; advanced surveillance measures and precision munitions; and warfare carried out on a fragmented battlefield which includes attacks on the capitals of other nations by means of ballistic missiles or unconventional warfare forces. This will be warfare for which the United States is ill trained and ill equipped.
Other challenges to the world's security will take many forms to which the military forces of the United States can play a constructive role. These are commonly referred to as Operations Other Than War, even though they may include the use of force to achieve desired political goals. They include the increasingly familiar peacemaking, peacekeeping, show of force, and humanitarian relief efforts. Success in these operations may well require retraining, re-equipping, or reorganizing our military forces. Each mission should be evaluated with respect to what is required to accomplish its unique challenges. However, the basic doctrine, training, or equipage of the military forces should be based on what is required to fight the residual Cold War, as well as deal with the growing demands of a major regional conflict.
The political goals upon which our national security strategy should be crafted are fairly straightforward. First, we should seek to preserve and invigorate the role of leadership the United States has maintained since the end of World War II, or the end of the Cold War (you take your pick). Second, and not apart from the first goal, the United States must be sufficiently strong to prevent or deter use of effective military power against us. It is not inconceivable that our so-called superpower status could be defeated in battle by a crafty and well-prepared adversary. Witness what happened to the powerful victors of WW II in Vietnam. Third, U.S. military forces must be of sufficient size, configuration, and readiness to bring a major conventional conflict to a successful termination. It goes without saying that during this process we need to reduce nuclear weapons to numbers that do not threaten the virtual destruction of the world. Nuclear deterrence forces also must remain in place. Fourth and lastly, our military forces must be capable of responding to all the other tasks and functions for which the national command authority calls upon the military. This first of challenges should be used to define the military forces we field, how we train them, and the methods we use to employ them.
The strategic geographic depth the United States enjoys, bounded by two oceans on the east and west and non-threatening nations to the north and south, means that our nation is somewhat immune from attack, other than by means of infiltration such as a terrorist, or from the skies by means of long-range aircraft, and cruise or ballistic missiles. We will require some actions and defenses which address these threats, but the major portion of our national defense effort must be placed on building and sustaining offensive forces for combat in environments other than our own soil. This dictates that our projection forces must be capable of rapidly responding to an unforeseen crisis anywhere in the world, keeping in mind that quick, decisive surprise favors our potential enemies. Given that we have proven unable to predict the outbreak of conflict in the past, these forces must also be ready at all times to carry out combat operations in most any place. There will not be time to modernize their equipment or train reserve force units. They must be capable of projecting and sustaining their military power over long distances and operating in the environment of the enemy's choosing. Last but not least, when required, they must be capable of decisive combat, not by attrition of the enemy force in head-to-head combat as was our nature in past wars, but by Shock and Awe so that conflict resolution is achieved with a maximum of success at the minimum loss of life in the shortest time. These characteristics for our projection force cannot be achieved easily, as the processes that defined our Cold War doctrines, force structures, equipment, and ways of doing business are loath to change.
The Services' and joint requirements oversight processes that define the equipment provided our military forces place emphasis on force structure and the traditional roles for those forces. This inertia can freeze our land, sea, air, and space capabilities at current or near current levels, but may prove inadequate to carry out new strategies. There are few incentives for a Service or the Joint Staff to reward innovation or divestiture of roles or missions in order to change the character and mix of land, sea, air, and space forces and to prepare them to fight the battles we must envisage for the twenty-first century.
For example, the Services claim lessons learned from Desert Storm which reinforce late twentieth century ways of fighting and ignore the troublesome aspects which loom in the future and threaten our traditional view of the battlefield. Many acclaim the role of precision weapons for our forces, but ignore the threat they pose if they are in the hands of the enemy. What would be the lessons learned if several hundred canisters of live Sensor Fused Weapons were released by a red force ballistic missile on the 24th Division during a Fort Irwin engagement? Certainly there would be profound changes in tactics, doctrine, and equipment indicated for the surviving U.S. Army force. What if radar homing Surface to Air Missiles were employed by the red force during a Red Flag exercise in the Nevada desert, not using centralized Soviet tactics/doctrine, but instead using decentralized yet cooperative engagement operations as would be used by our best and brightest if unleashed from their stagnant doctrines? I doubt that the Air Force would be spending millions of dollars trying to build electronic countermeasures to hide the large number of expensive and very non-stealthy aircraft they continue to build, such as the F-15E.
Imagine the shock on our populace if a single cruise missile were actually allowed to score a direct hit on the Carl Vinson aircraft carrier during a Solid Shield joint exercise with the attendant loss of life numbering in the 4,000 to 5,000 range. You would think the maritime force would reexamine the method it provides air power from the sea, vital yet today too vulnerable.
How many times do we hear that the space forces are configured to provide intelligence from overhead only to find in Iraq or Bosnia that the front line forces receive products that are old, inaccurate and altered to keep our Soviet foes from gaining knowledge of our capabilities? Perhaps we if we would dual hat the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency to the position of J-2, or even Commander-in-Chief of a regional unified command, there would be vast improvements in the tasking, evaluation, and delivery of space-derived intelligence to regional combat forces. Then we might see full understanding of the increasing role of space forces and implement change to make them more relevant to our national security strategies of the next century. Innovation, not size, must be sought because we do not have the resources to do both. Moreover, large forces drive our operational level strategy to force-on-force engagements in the attrition warfare model of the last century with its attendant causalities and destruction of equipment. George Patton's dictum still stands that directed his troops not to die for their country, but to get the other SOB to die for his.
Military operations will also place less emphasis on dying and destruction. The ever-present television camera ensures that the horrors of war are broadcast worldwide. War's immorality should some day lead to its banishment. Unfortunately, that day is probably a long way away. Nonetheless, weapons of war and their employment tactics must minimize death and destruction. This is not a call for non-lethal weapons; it is a call for military forces to get right to the heart of the enemy and conclude operations as rapidly and efficiently as they possibly can given their equipment, training, and doctrine. This means there must be wide flexibility in how they may function. Military operations will be across a wide spectrum of warfare and will demand flexibility. Modern war will require our military leadership to navigate through a changing spectrum of political constraints and ever changing political goals as each scenario unfolds. We must make our forces capable of dampening the capacity of the enemy to use force by controlling the conflict rapidly even when surprised. We failed to do that tactically in Desert Storm in the case of the SCUD missile attacks, but were fortunate that the Iraqis were equally inept at taking political advantage of this card they held and skillfully employed on the battlefield. We must also look for efficiency before we even join in battle.
Defense spending has declined as a percent of federal outlays since the end of the Cold War. Given the leadership role the United States plays in the world, one could think a reasonable sum to devote to defense might be three percent of our gross national product, certainly an amount much smaller than what an average family expends for its security by means of life, health, causality, car, medical insurance, and retirement benefits. Given the prospect of long-term, constant funding, the Department of Defense could then give more thought to how to build the most modern, efficient military force within the dollars available. We would no longer define our forces against some mythical threat or scenario which generates impetus to protect force size rather than quality. The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and space forces would be required to build a team based on a salary cap. You might be willing to pay big bucks for a B-2 superstar quarterback, but you will also need lower cost and capable riflemen or destroyers to block and tackle. Most of all, you would reward the Service or Agency who would innovate to provide efficiency.
Manpower has become the driving cost in the all-volunteer military force. Investment cost of a ship, tank, aircraft or satellite might be high, but it is the operations and maintenance costs that will drive how much resources we are required to expend to gain and maintain a given military capability. Again turning to Desert Storm, the huge advantages of overflight precision munitions dropped from stealth aircraft has not been understood or accepted by the operations analysts who argue what we should build or buy next. If it had been, would the Navy have allowed the A-12 program to fail, would the Air Force be pouring hundreds of millions if not eventually billions of dollars into equipping forty year old B-52s with conventional missiles, or would the Army be maintaining heavy divisions at a personal cost of $60 billion for 35 years of ownership? Why not build a Division force equivalent using technology and doctrine to provide a "heavy division equivalent" force using far fewer troops featuring speed, shock, precision fire while avoiding the manpower costs of dollars that in peacetime include added costs for recruitment, training, and sustaining and in war have an even greater added cost computed in blood? Why don't we do this? The answer is because it would require rare innovation, trust, and support from the equally intransigent federal funding authorities. Most importantly, the Services are not rewarded for innovation which recognizes the contributions of another Service or Ally.
Jointness has become an altar at which all military personnel must worship even if they don't understand or believe. Defenders of the status quo argue that there is merit in duplication or redundancy and these arguments have some validity. The question becomes how much overlap or redundancy between land, sea, air, and space forces can the nation afford, and what is the opportunity cost to the core competency of the land, sea, air, or space force that builds and/or maintains the duplicative force structure. A second yet vastly different question arises when considering the unique capabilities a Service provides to support itself and the other services. For example, how much the Air Force should spend on airlift forces is not cast in terms of what the envisaged requirement is for airlift, ton miles per day, to support the mythical scenarios. The alternative sea, land, and space lift requirements can be postulated; however, if the Navy, Army, or Air Force do not satisfy those sea, land, and space lift requirement, then there is a shortfall which will in turn generate a need for more airlift!
During Desert Storm, nearly 90 percent of the deployed equipment arrived by sea, but not in time if the Iraqis had continued their first attack in August. A majority of overland movement was provided by Saudi Arabian civilian trucks and drivers, and the Army had neither the resources nor the responsiveness to activate reserve forces needed to meet the truck and rail support requirements of our military forces. As a result, costly airlift was used to move forces that should have traveled by land and sea. If added space capabilities had been needed, there was almost no capability for the timely launch of a satellite. Would it not be wise to index spending on land, sea, air, and space launch on one and other, postulate lift requirements on what the new force needs as it innovates and slims down. The need to respond on a moment's notice adds to the value of airlift and prepositioned ships. The outcome though would be not to allow any of the Services to divert general support money into core competencies and thereby shift the jointness burden to another Service.
Innovate. Use the carrier to haul the army to war, and then fly the fighters aboard after the helicopters or tanks are unloaded. Accept the benefits of Federal Express that can be federalized during times of national emergency as a costly, but ready augmentation to military supply lines that has no cost during the much longer periods of peacetime. Our nation has other industrial capacities that also have duplicate military capabilities. They may be 80 percent solutions, but the cost of ownership could prohibit creation and maintenance of a military owned and operated 100 percent solution. Iridium telephones may not be jam-resistant or secure, but 80 percent of the time they will satisfy the need for 2 percent of the cost. Of course, this avoids the problem we have created for ourselves with our medieval acquisition system.
Finally, we must acquire hardware of a type and at a pace that will assure the future force capability will be enduring. We cannot keep up with technology using our current ways of acquiring military hardware and training our people in how to use and maintain it. In many areas we would be better off to throw it away when it breaks given the low cost, durability, and reliability of modern solid state electronics. Why train technicians? Give the troops a gold card and a telephone number and they know how to spend money more efficiently than do our government agencies. Make sure the equipment we do buy not only integrates with that of other services and functions, but that it can integrate with both older and newer equipment designated to do the same function. The fighter aircraft secure radio must be capable of communicating with the ground and sea based forces command and control, as importantly it must be able to communicate with the next generation fighter aircraft radio.
The added dimension is the realization that we are unlikely to fight alone in the future. We gain valuable legitimacy from forming coalitions, plus it makes up for the growing feeble force structure we maintain in declining budget years. An enduring force must also recognize the necessity to operate cooperatively with the forces of other nations. This means we must more freely release our technologies to foreign nations so that our military forces can fight side by side, so that our deployment forces can draw from stocks of others while our logistics system seeks to catch up with the rapidly deployed combat force.
In the final analysis, all of this shaping and sharpening of our military forces will be for naught if there is not an equal change in the policy side of the equation. What good are highly trained, efficient, capable land, sea, air, and space forces if the implementing authorities are incapable of defining principles, goals, and integrating strategies for their employment? While this is not the province of the military to solve, the military must understand how disjointed policy, weak political leadership, or dysfunctional international cooperation will preclude success on the battlefield.
Again, one of the missed lessons of Desert Storm was the difficult and successful integration of international leadership achieved by the President, Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Congressional leaders, and allied National Command Authorities as well as many others. It was this leadership, coupled with the ineptness of the enemy, that covered over the failures of our Cold War-equipped and trained forces that fought Desert Storm. This does not take anything away from the military victory, but it does make it difficult to glean the right lessons for the future. Perhaps that is why we are so loathe to change our forces at a time when change is demanded by a new strategic environment and new threats to our national security. Defining alternative forces in light of the changed national security environment, goals and strategy raises two questions: what kind or mix of military force and how much best balances the requirements and funds available.
Deep Strike: A Key to Shock and Awe
In the world of surprise attack and withdrawal from foreign bases, all initial responses to combat operations will be some form of deep strike. Given strategic warning (don't bet on it) after deployment of our military forces, Deep Strike is a term that relates to the political boundaries or proximity to military forces. The geography of the area of conflict will further define deep strike. But a rule of thumb might be attacks on a target beyond range of surface-based fires except for ballistic or cruise missiles. More important than range is the characteristics of the Deep Strike targets. Deep Strike targets could be classified as ones the enemy does not wish to place at high levels of risk. They can be characterized by the functions they perform, such as:
- Command and Control (a function of leadership)
- Control of Military Forces, especially air and space
- Logistics and Sustainment
- National Economic Base
- Internal Security/Political
- National Will, Theirs and Ours
Intelligence used to nominate the targets for these strikes must examine the functions and then define the physical objects or people who comprise the system which is responsible for the successful operation of the function. You define the system and then attack the critical elements in order to achieve economy of force. Often these target sets are difficult to define, as these functions often represent the enemy's most valuable and therefore protected elements. The intelligence collection associated with each function will vary from target set to target set. Large, fixed infrastructure, such as associated with an electrical grid, lends itself to traditional reconnaissance and evaluation of technical analysis. Leadership targets are better defined by using human intelligence and subjective analysis. In all cases success starts with innovative intelligence products, which has not been a hallmark of United States operations. Such intelligence products must be examined through the eyes of the enemy, their values and concerns. Too often we apply judgments based on our viewpoint.
One target system may serve the attainment of a number of different goals. For example, attacks on the electrical power system of the enemy may debilitate his capacity to command and control his military forces, operate vital elements of the economy and thus degrade the political support required to sustain the conflict. This same target system may be attacked a variety of ways. Most common methods would be using stealth aircraft and cruise missiles to bomb power plants and switching centers. Areas with isolated populations lend themselves to using special operations forces infiltrated to destroy an isolated power grid node for transmission of energy from one highly populated area to another. Now it is obvious that computer signals used to command the power grid are targets as intrusion into the enemy's control system provides the means to simply turn off electricity to selected areas. Attacks by all these means achieves even greater results than the sum of its parts because enemy responses to restore electrical power will be confused as elements such as computer intrusion are confused with bombing destruction.
The characteristics of value in attacking these important targets systems are simultaneity, impunity, and timing. The greatest effect will be achieved when the strikes are coordinated in such a manner as to inflict maximum Shock and Awe on the enemy element. This means operations must be coordinated and orchestrated carefully and flexibly as enemy reaction to the attack is evaluated. Moreover, presence is projected when a combination of functions or target sets supporting a variety of functions are struck at the same time with impunity. In order to achieve maximum results, the attacks will need to be evaluated quickly in order to define previously unknown elements of the system or how the enemy perceives the impact on his system. Finally, the attacker must be alert as to the interaction of the functions as the effects of these Deep Strikes begin to take hold. In order to achieve desired levels of Shock and Awe, the attacker must know the current and projected effects of his strikes against elements of the enemy's residual system. If the trick is to define the system of targets needed to conduct successful Deep Strike, it is even more important to know how to alter the initial plan as the battle unfolds and timing becomes everything.
The characteristics of forces needed to carry out Deep Strike are long range, flexibility, precision, survivability, and speed. Cost of the operation is a factor; however, system cost must include peacetime operations and maintenance costs as well of the costs during actual combat. There is also a human element in the cost of combat operations which escalates rapidly as military force is misused. The total cost of these operations must also address the cost of intelligence used to support Deep Strikes. Intelligence operations may be the most costly due to the importance of these targets to the enemy. Alternatively, the human intelligence associated with these attacks may be the most inexpensive since their national importance makes them vulnerable to knowl-edgeable dissidents.
Deep Strike is defined by distance, albeit relative distance. Some of the target sets may lend themselves to circumstances beyond the nation's control; for example, Seoul borders on North Korea. Our protective oceans mean that likely conflict is offshore. The likelihood our next adversary may have access to surveillance, precision munitions, and long-range delivery systems dictates that much of our operations will be at long range, lest our forces come under attack at their ports, camps, and bases. There will be a need for systems capable of projecting military force from distances of 10,000KM. A sizable portion of the force must be able to deliver ordnance of enemy targets from ranges in excess of 5,000KM. Launching attacks from inside 1,000KM of the enemy forces will demand that friendly forces be protected from attack by means of active and passive defenses and dispersal. This latter constraint will preclude achieving levels of Shock and Awe through simultaneous attack.
Great cost benefits are attained if the vehicle used to deliver the attack is reusable. Keep in mind that the force built for the most demanding conflict must also be flexible for other operations. Therefore, while ballistic missiles provide great range, speed, and survivability in reaching their target, their cost become prohibitive in large-scale operations which endure beyond a few hours, or in smaller-scale operations where the goals are modest and the demands on other military forces are low. Simultaneous combat operations require a number of expensive, expendable platforms in the opening hours of the conflict if our response is to be timely and induce shock. Awe is not achieved if the enemy is permitted to gain experience in being attacked; at best you may make them numb. Alternatively, reusable long-range survivable systems provide needed flexibility to alter the Deep Strike plan as it unfolds. The food chain of weapons systems ranges from the most valuable systems such as ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and stealth bombers, to less valuable, but useful, stealth fighter and long-range surface-to-surface high trajectory fires.
Discriminate fires are important due to the likelihood of people and structures being in close proximity to the desired target. It is not improbable that the national command center is located next door to a children's hospital.
Discriminate fires require precision in target cordinate identification and location. Precision does not mean "small warhead," although there is a beneficial impact as the right amount of explosive is placed on the target due the penalties imposed on the delivery vehicle required to carry the warhead long distances. All operations involving the use of firepower must also understand and evaluate the beneficial aspects of using non-destructive elements in conjunction with the attack to include all aspects of the so-called information warfare.
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