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Major Theater War

Recent US Wars: Force Utilization During Major Combat Phase
Allied Force
Enduring Freedom
Iraqi Freedom
Major Combat Operations (days) 78 ~80 ~42
Brigade Equivalents (Army & Marines) 1.3 2+ 11
US Fighters & Bombers (all services) ~330 250 ~710
Aggregate US Strike Sorties 5,035 6,321 18,695
Aircraft Carriers On Station in Area 1 3.5 4.5
Other Fighting Ships & Subs 9 31.5 52.5
Reasonable Defense: A Sustainable Approach to Securing the Nation [Table 9] Carl Conetta

Supporting the National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement required that the United States maintain robust and versatile military forces that can accomplish a wide variety of missions, as delineated in the Bottom-Up Review: US forces must be able to offset the military power of regional states with interests opposed to those of the United States and its allies. To do this, the United States must be able to credibly deter and, if required, decisively defeat aggression, in concert with regional allies, by projecting and sustaining US power in two nearly simultaneous major regional conflicts (MRCs). The Clinton Administration's Quadrennial Defense Review's (QDR) redefined this requirement as the ability to fight two nearly simultaneous major theater wars (MTWs).

The focus of US planning for major regional conflict is based on the need to be able to project power and to deter, defend against, and defeat aggression by potentially hostile regional powers. US military strategy calls for the capability, in concert with regional allies, to fight and decisively win two MRCs that occur nearly simultaneously. This is the principal determinant of the size and composition of U.S. conventional forces. A force with such capabilities is required to avoid a situation in which an aggressor in one region might be tempted to take advantage of a perceived vulnerability when substantial numbers of US forces are committed elsewhere.

A campaign depends on the war being fought. The Persian Gulf and Korean contingencies are similar in that both potential adversaries are medium powers that could pose short-warning attacks by large, well-equipped forces. But they differ in important ways. In the Persian Gulf, the terrain is flat and open; in Korea, it is rugged and closed. In the Gulf, an unyielding forward defense is a flexible goal; in Korea, it is imperative. In the Gulf, airpower and deep strikes would dominate the initial defense; in Korea, ground power and the close battle would dominate. In the Persian Gulf, U.S. forces would provide about two-thirds of the total ground and air assets; in Korea, they would provide only about one-third.

In both contingencies, U.S. forces would join allied forces to mount a campaign likely to consist of three phases. Phase 1 would aim to halt the enemy invasion in forward areas and protect key assets and terrain features. Once the attack was halted, Phase 2 would be characterized by operations aimed at destroying enemy forces and pursuing related battlefield objectives while building large U.S. forces through reinforcement. Phase 3 would be a decisive counterattack aimed at destroying enemy forces, restoring borders, and achieving key political goals. In the aftermath, U.S. forces would withdraw in a manner reflecting postwar requirements.

During all three phases, U.S. forces would attempt to gain information dominance of the full breadth and depth of the battlefield. They would then employ the doctrinal principles of dominant maneuver, precision engagement, focused logistics, and full dimensional protection. Forces from all components would work together to carry out a coordinated, fast-tempo campaign of deep strikes and close engagements that take advantage of superior U.S. weapons and munitions. Using a combination of firepower and maneuver, their overall goal would be to fracture the enemy's cohesion and then defeat it.

Today's canonical MTW scenarios produce OPLANs calling for large forces -- multiple divisions, fighter wings, and carrier battle groups -- to be deployed over a period of months to halt an enemy attack and later to launch a decisive counterattack. This model may apply in some occasions, but not all. Some conflicts, such as counter-WMD scenarios, may require medium-sized strike packages to be deployed faster than now planned.

The Bush Administration's new "4-2-1 strategy" called for "forward deterrence" in four critical regions of the world: Europe, the Mideast and Southwest Asia, Northeast Asia, and the East Asian littoral. The posture requires the military to have the capacity to "swiftly defeat" the efforts of two adversaries and "win decisively," if necessary, in one of those conflicts. According to the Bush 2001 QDR, "winning decisively" involves forcing a regime change, rather than simply defeating the enemy's military. A "strategic reserve" in each of the services includes active-duty forces held at a lower state of readiness, which would mobilize and deploy in the event of a major war.

At West Point in June 2002, President Bush offered a dramatically different vision from that of the Clinton Administration. He claimed the right to preemptively attack any nation that the United States deemed a threat, while calling for the creation of an international system without great power military rivalry, dominated by the might of the United States.

"For much of the last century, America's defense relied on the Cold War doctrines of deterrence and containment. In some cases, those strategies still apply. But new threats also require new thinking. Deterrence -- the promise of massive retaliation against nations -- means nothing against shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend. Containment is not possible when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies. ... If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long.... We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge.... We have our best chance since the rise of the nation state in the 17th century to build a world where the great powers compete in peace instead of prepare for war.... Competition between great nations is inevitable, but armed conflict in our world is not.... America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge, thereby making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless, and limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace." [SOURCE]

In October 2002 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said that he had ordered the military's regional commanders to rewrite all of their war plans to capitalize on precision weapons, better intelligence and speedier deployment. That way, he said, the military could begin combat operations on less notice and with far fewer troops than previously thought possible. Rumsfeld said too many of the military plans on the shelves of the regional war-fighting commanders were freighted with outdated assumptions and military requirements, which have changed with the advent of new weapons and doctrines. Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, suggested "If you can deliver five divisions anywhere in the world in 90 days, might you have the same impact by getting three divisions there in 30 days? Because speed is a force enhancement, force multiplier."

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias

Page last modified: 18-05-2013 18:56:48 ZULU