The Quintessential Armed Forces: What Does The Future Dictate?
SUBJECT AREA - Strategic Issues
Title: The Quintessential Armed Force: What Does the Future
Author: Major Herman Williams III, United States Army
Thesis: Despite budgetary constraints produced by a lagging
economy, and though threats to global peace have diminished,
the U.S. needs and must maintain a versatile, well-trained,
suberbly equipped, and efficient Armed Force.
Background: With the end of the Cold War, traditional threats
to the security of the U.S. and its allies have decreased.
However, regional threats, increased U.S. peacekeeping
involvement, humanitarian assistance, and support to civilian
agencies require the U.S. to maintain a well-prepared,
extremely versatile Armed Force.
Recommendations: To sucessfully meet the new challenges,
today's Armed Forces must focus on the versatility needed to
accomplish the diverse missions of the Post-Cold War World.
Thesis: Despite the budgetary constraints prompted by our
present economic crisis, and though threats to global peace
have diminished, the U.S. needs and must maintain a
versatile, well-trained, superbly equipped, and efficient
I. The U.S. needs a versatile Armed Force.
A. Threats still exists.
B. U.S. troops must be able to perform
all assigned missions.
II. The U.S. must maintain a well-trained Armed Force.
III. The U.S. must maintain a superbly structured and
equipped Armed Force.
IV. The efficient U.S. Armed Force focuses on Joint
unity of effort.
The Quintessential Armed Force: What Does the Future
by Major Herman Williams III, United States Army
The demise of the monolithic Communist threat to global
peace and stability reveals multi-regional threats.
Responding to regional conflicts during a period of reduced
resources demands superb strategic agility and the ability
to project power with a decisive force. The smaller
post-Cold War Armed Forces must be extremely dynamic and
flexible. They must be capable of rapid tailoring for quick
and efficient responses to any missions assigned.
For more than 45 years, U.S. forces focused their main
efforts on the containment of Communist ideology. Our
forces successfully fought this battle and won! The
strategic bombers and many of the nuclear missiles, which
for years stood on constant alert successfully deterring
surprise attacks by Communist forces against the West, have
all but completely halted their 24 hour-a-day vigil. (3)
U.S. conventional forces and our North Atlantic Treaty
Organization allies faced down the Communist threat with
strength, bravery, and dedication. Our forces performed
their duties extremely well.
The world is markedly different from the way it was
just five years ago. For example, in 1989, the Berlin Wall
was torn down. The Berlin Wall stood for more than 28 years
against the abstract idea of freedom, sealing off Communist
East Berlin from Democratic West Berlin. Nearly overnight,
the unification of East Germany and West Germany became a
reality. The uniting of the two Germanys signaled the end
of the Cold War, the demise of Communism, and the breakup of
the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union. In Latin America, the
installation of democratically elected governments in Panama
and Nicaragua marked the continuing growth of democracy in
that region. The Free World anxiously anticipated the
utopian nature of the "New World Order."
Today, United States citizens, governmental agencies,
and private corporations can be found all over the world.
Their wealth, influence, and sadly in some instances,
obliviousness, and brashness propagate jealously, envy, and
dissatisfaction particularly in developing Third World
countries. Many ex-Soviet clients are free to lash out at
symbols of U.S. dominance, previously restrained by the
Soviets from provocative actions against U.S. interests.
Major Daniel P. Bolger, U.S. Army, described this situation
best when he said "As much as U.S. policymakers bemoaned
Soviet support for anti-American undertakings, we should
remind ourselves that the Soviet Communists also curbed
their more rabid running dogs on more than one occasion."
The end of the Cold War marked the end of the large
defense budgets and the forward basing of most of our
forces. Budgetary constraints generated by our lagging
economy require overwhelming reductions in military
spending--spending that without the former Soviet Union is
very difficult to justify. General Colin L. Powell,
Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated recently during his
Congressional update on the Roles and Functions of the Armed
Forces that he suspected that he was "...the only Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in history who has ever
testified before Congress as to how to cut the force that
was at that moment fighting a war 8,000 miles away." (3)
Despite the budgetary constraints prompted by our
present economic crisis, and though threats to global peace
have diminished. The United States needs and must maintain
a versatile, well-trained, superbly equipped and efficient
The U.S. Armed Forces will be reduced by more than 25%
by the end of FY 94. The cuts constitute a loss of 1/3 of
the Army and 1/4 of the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps,
respectively. These reductions amount to more than 500,000
active duty troops, 250,000 reservists, and 250,000
Department of Defense civilians. (3)
American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines occupy
overseas bases in declining numbers. However, they remain
poised to defend the lives and interests of Americans
worldwide. Increasingly, the military finds itself
conducting missions not traditionally performed by U.S.
Armed Forces. Rising drug problems, increased threats of
domestic terrorism, catastrophic disasters, both natural and
human caused, and the frequent use of military personnel and
assets prompt many questions as to when and how the military
should support civilian agencies. Since 1989, American
troops have been committed to more than 24 crises ranging
from armed conflicts in Panama and the Arabian Gulf to
peacekeeping operations in Somalia and the Sinai,
humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, counter-drug
operations and support to civil law enforcement agencies at
home and abroad.
As a result of the changes in our strategic
environment, major shifts are occurring in the mission focus
of our forces. Piracy, terrorism, border aggression, and
support for insurgencies provide favorable propaganda to
gain and foster anti-western support for renegade regimes.
U.S. forces must be capable of rapid victory, negating
favorable views of hostile threats to our interests.
Narco-terrorism is a term used to described the link
between terrorism and illicit drug trafficking. Our
traditional simplistic view of drug trafficking controlled
by organized crime is changing. Terrorist groups are
recognizing the financial opportunities available in drug
trafficking. Several groups seek to reap the benefits of
the multi-million dollar profits to stock their arsenals
and to export their revolutionary ideals. Dangerous
coalitions have formed between insurgent groups, leftist
governments and drug lords. A former Nicaraguan diplomat
Antonio Farch, who defected to the U.S. in 1983, testifying
concerning the complicity of Sandinista officials in drug
shipments to the U.S. stated, " The drug trafficking
produced very good economic benefit that we needed for our
revolution." " We provide food to our people with the
suffering and death of the youth of the U.S." The demands
these coalitions can place on our society can far exceed the
capabilities of civil authorities to handle them. The
President in special situations, such as those
aforementioned, may authorize the use of Federal troops
through special executive orders.
The use of military forces on domestic soil is an
extremely controversial topic. Traditionally, Americans
have been ambivalent toward military forces. Many Americans
feel the military is a "necessary evil," placed under the
firm control of the elected leadership or the country. The
fear of our military obtaining enough power to usurp civil
control promoted Constitutional Framers to specify the
military's structure and role in our society. In contrast,
many Americans feel that although organization and conduct
of law enforcement operations are the responsibility of
local, state, and Federal authorities, incidents of extreme
violence may overburden civil agencies. Although civilian
agencies provide mutual support to each other, military
support from state militia or federal troops is often
Echoing and conveying the intent of former President
George Bush as the Commander-in-Chief, former Secretary of
Defense Cheney emphasized the importance of the military's
participation in counter-drug operations. He cited
detection and reduction of illicit drug production and
trafficking as a high priority security mission of our Armed
In response to President Bush's orders, Secretary of
Defense Cheney directed the establishment of an Anti-Drug
Task Force to stem the flow of illegal drugs into the U.S.
The Armed Services developed plans for implementing the
President's counter-drugs initiative. This support included
aerial reconnaissance and surveillance training,
transportation assistance, ground radar monitoring,
training, and general engineer support. U.S. military
forces were directed not to conduct searches, seizures, or
arrests. They serve strictly to support law enforcement
In our society, the perceived role of the military is
growing closer to that of civilian police. The focus of
civilian police work is service and order maintenance.
Police protect, aid, and enforce. Many Americans feel the
only justifiable basis for standing military forces is to
accomplish peacekeeping, peace-making, and humanitarian
assistance missions. Whether the military should become
more involved in these missions is a hotly contested issue.
The military does not have the option to accept these
missions or to reject these missions to focus solely on
preparation for combat.
The United Nations (UN) charter places great
responsibility on the U.S. for maintaining international
peace and security. As one of the five permanent members of
the UN Security Council, the U.S. has veto power over
important Council decisions. (4:F-81) The U.S. has always
supported United Nations peacekeeping operations. However,
U.S. military observers participated in UN sponsored
peacekeeping operations only twice. Since 1948, U.S.
military observers have participated in the United Nations
Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO). UNTSO supervises
armistice and cease-fire arrangements between Israel and its
neighbors. From 1949 to 1954, the U.S. provided a two-man
team to support the UN Military Observer Group in India and
Pakistan until the Indian Government requested U.S.
personnel be removed from the forces. (4:F-81) Several
reasons are given for U.S. reluctance to become directly
involved in peacekeeping activities. The first reason is
attributed to the deliberate UN policy of reliance upon
small non-aligned nations for the bulk of its peacekeeping
forces. The second reason is the perception that U.S.
participation might escalate rather than reduce conflict.
For the first time, the placement of U.S. ground forces
under control of the United Nations may occur in Somalia. A
UN force, commanded by a Turkish General with a U.S. General
as his deputy is reportedly scheduled to assume the
The military is quite capable of performing traditional
peacekeeping operations. Since 1982, a U.S. Army infantry
battalion task force has performed duties in support of the
Multinational Force & Observer mission in the Sinai desert.
However, forcible separation of belligerents and enforcing
peace through force--peace-making--is quite different.
Forcible enforcement of peace may cause the following
situations: The peace-makers may be placed in the position
of fighting a war on several fronts while attempting to halt
violence between two or more warring factions; allegations
may be prompted against the neutral peace-makers, thus
increasing the tensions in the conflict; public condemnation
may occur for the perceived misuse of force against
belligerents failing to comply with the directions of the
peace-makers; legal problems may be created due to the
lack of agreement by warring factions on codified laws for
enforcement by the peace-makers.
The Armed Forces of the United States must be well
trained and doctrinally prepared to conduct all missions
assigned. Presently, the military conducts these missions
as efficiently and effectively as they can. Although the
military's track record is good, it is not as good as it
could be. The military's lack of joint, combined and
interagency training for these new missions, scarcity of
operational doctrine for actions short of war, and the lack
of clearly defined, militarily achievable end-states create
serious problems of preparedness. The seriousness of this
can be described through the analogy of the veterinarian who
is required to perform surgery on a human. The veterinarian
possesses the basic skills to perform the task but lacks the
specialization and training to increase his chances of
success. Leaders must develop strategies (the ends, ways,
and means) for accomplishing assigned missions. Strategy
provides the basis for the operational focus needed to
Active-duty military forces' involvement in
peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, counter-drug
operations, fire fighting, and civil disturbance control is
becoming more frequent. Recurring problems include unclear
command and control relationships between military and
civilian agencies and ignorance as to the functions and
roles of supporting and supported agencies.
In 1989, the United States Army deployed soldiers from
the XVIII Airborne Corps to ST Croix, United States Virgin
Islands. Their mission was to restore law and order. The
soldiers were instructed to "detain criminal suspects for
possible arrest by Federal Bureau of Investigations agents,
United States Marshals, or Virgin Islands Police. Did the
soldiers actually have legal authority to "detain" since the
Posse Comitatus Act prohibits the execution or enforcement
of civil laws by Federal Armed Forces?
During this mission, vague lines of authority inhibited
interagency coordination between the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA), the Joint Task Force performing
security operations on the Island, and the Red Cross. This
incongruity delayed the establishing of assistance centers
and the opening of food distribution centers.
In the aftermath of hurricane Andrew, south Florida
residents' dissatisfaction with FEMA's response times to the
crisis surfaced consideration for shifting FEMA's functions
to the Department of Defense.
The problems of vague jurisdictional authority and the
lack of established and tested interagency coordination
procedures are recurring. Our forces in most of these
instances were neither trained nor equipped to perform these
The National Military Strategy Document highlights the
importance of these missions. However, for many of the
military's senior leaders, major differences appear in the
focuses of effort. For example, a review of articles
written by the former Secretary of the Army, the Chief of
Staff of the Army, the Commander of the United States Army
Training and Doctrine Command, and the Army's Deputy Chief
of Staff for Operations in the 1992 edition of the Army
Green Book reveals no emphasis on training, doctrinal
development, or changes in organization to prepare soldiers
and leaders to handle traditionally non-military missions.
(1:13-32) Senior leaders establish the vision and direction
of their organizations. Should we infer from the writings
of Army leaders that these missions are unimportant?
Training and preparation for combating threats to
United States survival and vital interests must remain a
priority. The National Security Strategy Document provides
the Department of Defense with National security objectives.
These objectives are the focus of the military's missions.
The services' responsibilities are to ensure that its forces
are well prepared to accomplish all missions in support of
the National Strategy.
As a lesson in unpreparedness, Army Chief of Staff
Gordon R. Sullivan stresses "No more Task Force Smiths." He
says, The force America needs for decisive victory,
securing her interests, and fulfilling her responsibilities
is created by training people to a razor's edge, developing
them into competent leaders and equipping them with the best
material in the world." America, through its civilian
leadership, proclaims its expectation that Armed Forces,
when required, will be trained and capable of accomplishing
any mission assigned!
What are possible solutions to these problems? All
missions demand clearly defined objectives. The Joint
Strategic Planing System provides guidance to
Commanders-in-Chief for developing contingency plans for
their respective geographic areas. For example, the
Commander-in-Chief, Forces Command, is responsible for
developing plans regarding the defense of the Continental
United States. If tasked to do so, Forces Command could be
required to draft operations plans for all non-traditionally
military contingencies. Service Secretaries, through their
Chiefs of Staff, should direct the development of doctrinal
procedures that provide the basis for training the forces
apportioned for assigned missions.
The military's responsibility is to provide its
capabilities and limitations to public lawmakers and its
civilian leadership, given the available resources of
training, equipment, money, and personnel. Policymakers
must understand the mission that the military can accomplish
and to what degree of completeness. The National Military
Strategy must describe and highlight the importance of
Strategy development focuses on the "ends, ways, and
means" to solve a problem. Doctrine evolves through the
analysis of the "ways" to cope with problems. The lessons
learned through training and historical record provide the
basis for doctrinal development. The Joint Strategic
Capabilities Plan, must direct preparation for the conduct
of traditionally non-military missions.
Training and preparation to combat threats to our
interest must remain a priority. It must be flexible as
well as versatile. The military's focus must shift from the
traditional focus on conventional wars fought on linear
battlefields. The focus must be on methods of coping with
ambiguous and uncertain threats. The training focus on
traditionally non-military role must begin with recruits and
continue through the senior service colleges.
Academic examination and wargaming of methods to
conduct all missions serves to test and develop the doctrine
needed. Joint Professional Military Education must focus
on all types of missions.
Presently, in most of military training, the threats
faced are modeled after the former Soviet Union. Although,
the threat faced by U.S. forces during "real world"
operations used former Warsaw Pact equipment, their
doctrinal employment principles were not those of the Warsaw
Pact. The best course of action to follow in training is to
prepare for the most likely and the worst possible threats.
Training in the planning and conduct of peacekeeping
operations, humanitarian assistance operations, support for
civilian law enforcement agencies is essential at all levels
of military education.
Joint and single service exercises must be conducted to
test military procedures for dealing with all types of
missions. These exercises must include representatives from
all agencies expected to participate in actual emergencies.
Support for these exercises by the National Command
Authorities is essential to obtain the full cooperation and
participation needed for success.
The Department of the Defense needs to review and
update interagency agreements. Military personnel must be
aware of their limits of authority when dealing civilian
agencies. A reference guide that outlines organizational
structure, functions, capabilities, limitations, and legal
restrictions on the use of military forces, equipment and
facilities is desperately needed. This guide would be the
primary reference document for civil authorities working
with or directing the employment of military forces.
Our current National Defense Strategy focuses on
Strategic Deterrence and Defense, Forward Presence, Crisis
Response and Reconstitution. Contingency and expeditionary
forces are the basic elements of Crisis Response.
Contingency and expeditionary forces plan and train as their
priority to conduct low intensity and mid-intensity
operations in regional conflicts. These threats still
The regional focus and operational needs of the
supported Commander-in-Chief (CINC) should shape the force
structure and procurement needs of the Armed Forces. Well
equipped and prepared contingency and expeditionary are
vital to our current military strategy. Rapid power
projection of capable and, if required, lethal forces is the
key to demonstrating U.S. resolve and capabilities, The
employment of these forces also establishes credibility with
The divisions form the base for Army contingency
operations. To meet the uncertain threats of the future the
Army should maintain one airborne division, one air assault
division, three mechanized division, three armored
divisions, and two light divisions. Army contingency
operations are inherently joint. All operational
deployments require support from other services.
Maritime prepositioning and fast sea lift ships enhance
the Army's capability to deploy its heavy forces--forces
that are not air transportable--to troubled areas quickly.
However, Army contingency forces are neither equipped nor
trained to conduct amphibious forced entry operations.
Marine Corps Expeditionary forces fill the regional
operational needs of supported CINCs by providing sea based
power projection capability. Three Marine Expeditionary
units (MEU), consisting of approximately 2100 Marines, are
always sea based in three different oceans of the world.
Marine Expeditionary Forces using maritime prepositioning
ship can conduct sustained operations for up to 60 days.
They deploy into troubled areas with a force of more that
20,000 Marines and over 100 combat aircraft (rotary and
fixed wing). The limited availability of troop transport
aircraft for Marine Corps ground forces restricts their
ability to conduct large scale combat air assault
operations. (5:20-21) This further inhibits their ability to
respond to inland crisis.
An Army air assault division has more than 100 troop
transport helicopters. Additionally, Airforce C130 and C141
cargo planes are habitually dedicated to support Army
The uncertainty which creates the need for contingency
and expeditionary forces is increasing. The tasks of
non-combatant evacuations, direct combat actions in regional
settings, peacekeeping operations, and humanitarian
assistance are likely to intensify. Therefore, America
must maintain, in an extremely high state of readiness, a
versatile, well-trained, superbly equipped, and efficient
Armed Force. The Nation cannot afford to relinquish this
extremely valuable defense capability!
1. Army Green Book. Pamphlet published by Army Magazine,
October 1992: 13-32.
2. Bolger, Maj. Daniel P. "A Power Projection Force: Some
Concrete Proposals." Parameters, Winter 1992: 48-
3. Powell, Gen. Colin L. "Roles and Functions of the Armed
Forces." Congressional Briefing, February 1992.
4. JTTP for Peacekeeping Operations. "Initial Draft."
Joint Pub 3-07.3. June 1991: F-79 to F-82.
5. "Soldiers of the Sea, USMC: A Naval Expeditionary
Force." Field Artillery Magazine, April 1992: 20-21.
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list