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Last updated
01/09/07

The Military - Industrial Complex - Dwight D.Eisenhower, 1961  
Military-Industrial Complex Revisited, 1999-2002 

The Project for the New American CenturyEstablished in the spring of 1997, the Project for the New American Century is a nonprofit, educational organization whose goal is to promote American global leadership. The Project is an initiative of the New Citizenship Project. William Kristol is chairman of the Project, and Robert Kagan, Devon Gaffney Cross, Bruce P. Jackson and John R. Bolton serve as directors. Gary Schmitt is executive director of the Project. 

“As the 20th century draws to a close, the United States stands as the world’s most preeminent power. Having led the West to victory in the Cold War, America faces an opportunity and a challenge: Does the United States have the vision to build upon the achievement of past decades? Does the United States have the resolve to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests? [What we require is] a military that is strong and ready to meet both present and future challenges; a foreign policy that boldly and purposefully promotes American principles abroad; and national leadership that accepts the United States’ global responsibilities. 

Of course, the United States must be prudent in how it exercises its power. But we cannot safely avoid the responsibilities of global leadership of the costs that are associated with its exercise. America has a vital role in maintaining peace and security in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. If we shirk our responsibilities, we invite challenges to our fundamental interests. The history of the 20th century should have taught us that it is important to shape circumstances before crises emerge, and to meet threats before they become dire. The history of the past century should have taught us to embrace the cause of American leadership.” – From the Project’s founding Statement of Principles

 

International Relations
in aN ASYMMETRIC Multi Lateral World

Rebuilding America's Defenses  
Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century
 
A Report of The Project for the New American Century
September 2000 

Authors and Project Participants

"...American land power is the essential link in the chain that translates U.S. military supremacy into American geopolitical preeminence... Elements of U.S. Army Europe should be redeployed to Southeast Europe, while a permanent unit should be based in the Persian Gulf region...In Southeast Asia, American forces are too sparse to address rising security requirements adequately...   No U.S. strategy can constrain a Chinese challenge to American regional leadership if our security guarantees to Southeast Asia are intermittent and U.S. military presence a periodic affair. For this reason, an increased naval presence in Southeast Asia, while necessary, will not be sufficient; as in the Balkans, relying solely on allied forces or the rotation of U.S. forces in stability operations not only increases the stress on those forces but undercuts the political goals of such missions. For operational as well as political reasons, stationing rapidly mobile U.S. ground and air forces in the region will be required... 

...Since today’s peace is the unique product of American preeminence, a failure to preserve that preeminence allows others an opportunity to shape the world in ways antithetical to American interests and principles...Global leadership is not something exercised at our leisure, when the mood strikes us or when our core national security interests are directly threatened; then it is already too late. Rather, it is a choice whether or not to maintain American military preeminence, to secure American geopolitical leadership, and to preserve the American peace."

Contents 

Full Report in PDF

Introduction 
Key Findings 
I. Why Another Defense Review? 
II. Four Essential Missions 
III. Repositioning Today’s Force
IV. Rebuilding Today’s Armed Forces 
V. Creating Tomorrow’s Dominant Force
VI. Defense Spending 
Project Participants 


Introduction

The Project for the New American Century was established in the spring of 1997. From its inception, the Project has been concerned with the decline in the strength of America’s defenses, and in the problems this would create for the exercise of American leadership around the globe and, ultimately, for the preservation of peace.

Our concerns were reinforced by the two congressionally-mandated defense studies that appeared soon thereafter: the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review (May 1997) and the report of the National Defense Panel (December 1997). Both studies assumed that U.S. defense budgets would remain flat or continue to shrink. As a result, the defense plans and recommendations outlined in the two reports were fashioned with such budget constraints in mind. Broadly speaking, the QDR stressed current military requirements at the expense of future defense needs, while the NDP’s report emphasized future needs by underestimating today’s defense responsibilities.

Although the QDR and the report of the NDP proposed different policies, they shared one underlying feature: the gap between resources and strategy should be resolved not by increasing resources but by shortchanging strategy. America’s armed forces, it seemed, could either prepare for the future by retreating from its role as the essential defender of today’s global security order, or it could take care of current business but be unprepared for tomorrow’s threats and tomorrow’s battlefields. Either alternative seemed to us shortsighted. The United States is the world’s only superpower, combining preeminent military power, global technological leadership, and the world’s largest economy. 

Moreover, America stands at the head of a system of alliances which includes the world’s other leading democratic powers. At present the United States faces no global rival. 

America’s grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the future as possible. There are, however, potentially powerful states dissatisfied with the current situation and eager to change it, if they can, in directions that endanger the relatively peaceful, prosperous and free condition the world enjoys today. Up to now, they have been deterred from doing so by the capability and global presence of American military power. 

At present the United States faces no global rival. America’s grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the future as possible. 

But, as that power declines, relatively and absolutely, the happy conditions that follow from it will be inevitably undermined. Preserving the desirable strategic situation in which the United States now finds itself requires a globally preeminent military capability both today and in the future. But years of cuts in defense spending have eroded the American military’s combat readiness, and put in jeopardy the Pentagon’s plans for maintaining military superiority in the years ahead. Increasingly, the U.S. military has found itself undermanned, inadequately equipped and trained, straining to handle contingency operations, and ill-prepared to adapt itself to the revolution in military affairs. Without a well-conceived defense policy and an appropriate increase in defense spending - the United States has been letting its ability to take full advantage of the remarkable strategic opportunity at hand slip away.

With this in mind, we began a project in the spring of 1998 to examine the country’s defense plans and resource requirements. We started from the premise that U.S. military capabilities should be sufficient to support an American grand strategy committed to building upon this unprecedented opportunity. We did not accept pre-ordained constraints that followed from assumptions about what the country might or might not be willing to expend on its defenses.

In broad terms, we saw the project as building upon the defense strategy outlined by the Cheney Defense Department in the waning days of the Bush Administration. The Defense Policy Guidance (DPG) drafted in the early months of 1992 provided a blueprint for maintaining U.S. preeminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests. Leaked before it had been formally approved, the document was criticized as an effort by “cold warriors” to keep defense spending high and cuts in forces small despite the collapse of the Soviet Union; not surprisingly, it was subsequently buried by the new administration.

Although the experience of the past eight years has modified our understanding of particular military requirements for carrying out such a strategy, the basic tenets of the DPG, in our judgment, remain sound. And what Secretary Cheney said at the time in response to the DPG’s critics remains true today: “We can either sustain the [armed] forces we require and remain in a position to help shape things for the better, or we can throw that advantage away. [But] that would only hasten the day when we face greater threats, at higher costs and further risk to American lives.”

The project proceeded by holding a series of seminars. We asked outstanding defense specialists to write papers to explore a variety of topics: the future missions and requirements of the individual military services, the role of the reserves, nuclear strategic doctrine and missile defenses, the defense budget and prospects for military modernization, the state (training and readiness) of today’s forces, the revolution in military affairs, and defense-planning for theater wars, small wars and constabulary operations. The papers were circulated to a group of participants, chosen for their experience and judgment in defense affairs. (The list of participants may be found at the end of this report.) Each paper then became the basis for discussion and debate. 

Our goal was to use the papers to assist deliberation, to generate and test ideas, and to assist us in developing our final report. While each paper took as its starting point a shared strategic point of view, we made no attempt to dictate the views or direction of the individual papers. We wanted as full and as diverse a discussion as possible. Our report borrows heavily from those deliberations. But we did not ask seminar participants to “sign-off” on the final report. We wanted frank discussions and we sought to avoid the pitfalls of trying to produce a consensual but bland product. We wanted to try to define and describe a defense strategy that is honest, thoughtful, bold, internally consistent and clear. And we wanted to spark a serious and informed discussion, the essential first step for reaching sound conclusions and for gaining public support. 

New circumstances make us think that the report might have a more receptive audience now than in recent years. For the first time since the late 1960s the federal government is running a surplus. For most of the 1990s, Congress and the White House gave balancing the federal budget a higher priority than funding national security. In fact, to a significant degree, the budget was balanced by a combination of increased tax revenues and cuts in defense spending. The surplus expected in federal revenues over the next decade, however, removes any need to hold defense spending to some preconceived low level.

Moreover, the American public and its elected representatives have become increasingly aware of the declining state of the U.S. military. News stories, Pentagon reports, congressional testimony and anecdotal accounts from members of the armed services paint a disturbing picture of an American military that is troubled by poor enlistment and retention rates, shoddy housing, a shortage of spare parts and weapons, and diminishing combat readiness. Finally, this report comes after a decade’s worth of experience in dealing with the post-Cold War world. Previous efforts to fashion a defense strategy that would make sense for today’s security environment were forced to work from many untested assumptions about the nature of a world without a superpower rival. We have a much better idea today of what our responsibilities are, what the threats to us might be in this new security environment, and what it will take to secure the relative peace and stability. We believe our report reflects and benefits from that decade’s worth of experience.

Our report is published in a presidential election year. The new administration will need to produce a second Quadrennial Defense Review shortly after it takes office. We hope that the Project’s report will be useful as a road map for the nation’s immediate and future defense plans. We believe we have set forth a defense program that is justified by the evidence, rests on an honest examination of the problems and possibilities, and does not flinch from facing the true cost of security. We hope it will inspire careful consideration and serious discussion. The post-Cold War world will not remain a relatively peaceful place if we continue to neglect foreign and defense matters. But serious attention, careful thought, and the willingness to devote adequate resources to maintaining America’s military strength can make the world safer and American strategic interests more secure now and in the future. 


Key Findings

This report proceeds from the belief that America should seek to preserve and extend its position of global leadership by maintaining the preeminence of U.S. military forces. Today, the United States has an unprecedented strategic opportunity. It faces no immediate great-power challenge; it is blessed with wealthy, powerful and democratic allies in every part of the world; it is in the midst of the longest economic expansion in its history; and its political and economic principles are almost universally embraced. At no time in history has the international security order been as conducive to American interests and ideals. The challenge for the coming century is to preserve and enhance this “American peace.”

Yet unless the United States maintains sufficient military strength, this opportunity will be lost. And in fact, over the past decade, the failure to establish a security strategy responsive to new realities and to provide adequate resources for the full range of missions needed to exercise U.S. global leadership has placed the American peace at growing risk. This report attempts to define those requirements. In particular, we need to:

ESTABLISH FOUR CORE MISSIONS for U.S. military forces:

• defend the American homeland;
• fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars;
• perform the “constabulary” duties associated with shaping the security environment in critical regions;
• transform U.S. forces to exploit the “revolution in military affairs;”
To carry out these core missions, we need to provide sufficient force and budgetary allocations. In particular, the United States must:

MAINTAIN NUCLEAR STRATEGIC SUPERIORITY, basing the U.S. nuclear deterrent upon a global, nuclear net assessment that weighs the full range of current and emerging threats, not merely the U.S.-Russia balance. 

RESTORE THE PERSONNEL STRENGTH of today’s force to roughly the levels anticipated in the “Base Force” outlined by the Bush Administration, an increase in active-duty strength from 1.4 million to 1.6 million.

REPOSITION U.S. FORCES to respond to 21st century strategic realities by shifting permanently-based forces to Southeast Europe and Southeast Asia, and by changing naval deployment patterns to reflect growing U.S. strategic concerns in East Asia. 

MODERNIZE CURRENT U.S. FORCES SELECTIVELY, proceeding with the F-22 program while increasing purchases of lift, electronic support and other aircraft; expanding submarine and surface combatant fleets; purchasing Comanche helicopters and medium-weight ground vehicles for the Army, and the V-22 Osprey “tilt-rotor” aircraft for the Marine Corps.

CANCEL “ROADBLOCK” PROGRAMS such as the Joint Strike Fighter, CVX aircraft carrier, and Crusader howitzer system that would absorb exorbitant amounts of Pentagon funding while providing limited improvements to current capabilities. Savings from these canceled programs should be used to spur the process of military transformation.

DEVELOP AND DEPLOY GLOBAL MISSILE DEFENSES to defend the American homeland and American allies, and to provide a secure basis for U.S. power projection around the world.

CONTROL THE NEW “INTERNATIONAL COMMONS” OF SPACE AND “CYBERSPACE,” and pave the way for the creation of a new military service – U.S. Space Forces – with the mission of space control.

EXPLOIT THE “REVOLUTION IN MILITARY AFFAIRS” to insure the long-term superiority of U.S. conventional forces. Establish a two-stage transformation process which

• maximizes the value of current weapons systems through the application of advanced technologies, and,
• produces more profound improvements in military capabilities, encourages competition between single services and joint-service experimentation efforts.

INCREASE DEFENSE SPENDING gradually to a minimum level of 3.5 to 3.8 percent of gross domestic product, adding $15 billion to $20 billion to total defense spending annually.

Fulfilling these requirements is essential if America is to retain its militarily dominant status for the coming decades. Conversely, the failure to meet any of these needs must result in some form of strategic retreat. At current levels of defense spending, the only option is to try ineffectually to “manage” increasingly large risks: paying for today’s needs by shortchanging tomorrow’s; withdrawing from constabulary missions to retain strength for large-scale wars; “choosing” between presence in Europe or presence in Asia; and so on. These are bad choices. They are also false economies. The “savings” from withdrawing from the Balkans, for example, will not free up anywhere near the magnitude of funds needed for military modernization or transformation. But these are false economies in other, more profound ways as well. The true cost of not meeting our defense requirements will be a lessened capacity for American global leadership and, ultimately, the loss of a global security order that is uniquely friendly to American principles and prosperity. 


Defense Spending

Use of the post- Cold War “peace dividend” to balance the federal budget has created a “defense deficit” totaling tens of billions of dollars annually. 

What, then, is the price of continued American geopolitical leadership and military preeminence?

A finely detailed answer is beyond the scope of this study. Too many of the force posture and service structure recommendations above involve factors that current defense planning has not accounted for. Suffice it to say that an expanded American security perimeter, new technologies and weapons systems including robust missile defenses, new kinds of organizations and operating concepts, new bases and the like will not come cheap. Nonetheless, this section will attempt to establish broad guidelines for a level of defense spending sufficient to maintain America military preeminence.

In recent years, a variety of analyses of the mismatch between the Clinton Administration’s proposed defense budgets and defense program have appeared. The estimates all agree that the Clinton program is underfunded; the differences lie in gauging the amount of the shortage and range from about $26 billion annually to $100 billion annually, with the higher numbers representing the more rigorous analyses.

Trends in Defense Spending

For the first time in 15 years, the 2001 defense budget may reflect a modest real increase in U.S. defense spending. Both President Clinton’s defense budget request and the figures contained in the congressional budget resolution would halt the slide in defense budgets. Yet the extended paying of the “peace dividend” – and the creation of today’s federal budget surplus, the product of increased tax revenues and reduced defense spending – has created a severe “defense deficit,” totaling tens of billions of dollars annually.

The Congress has been complicit in this defense decline. In the first years of the administration, Congress acquiesced in the sharp reductions made by the Clinton Administration from the amount projected in the final Bush defense plan. 

Since the Republicans won control of Congress in 1994, very slight additions have been made to administration defense requests, yet none has been able to turn around the pattern of defense decline until this year.

Even these increases were achieved by the use of accounting gimmicks that allow the government to circumvent the limitations of the 1997 balanced budget agreement.

Through all the accounting gimmicks, defense spending has been almost perfectly flat – indeed, the totals have been less than $1 billion apart – for the past four years. The steepest declines in defense spending were accomplished during the early years of the Clinton Administration, when defense spending levels fell from about $339 billion in 1992 to $277 billion in 1996. The cumulative effects of reduced defense spending over a decade or more have been even more severe. A recent study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Avoiding the Defense Train Wreck in the New Millennium, compared the final Bush defense plan, covering 1994 through 1999, with the defense plan of the Clinton Administration and found that a combination of budget changes and internal Pentagon actions had resulted in a net reduction in defense spending of $162 billion from the Bush plan to the Clinton plan. Congressional budget increases and supplemental appropriations requests added back about $52 billion, but that spending for the most part covered the cost of contingency operations and other readiness shortfalls – it did not buy back much of the modernization that was deferred. Compared to Bush-era budgets, the Clinton Administration reduced procurement spending an average of $40 billion annually. During the period from 1993 to 2000, deferred procurements – the infamous “procurement bow wave” – more than doubled from previous levels to $426 billion, according to the report.

The CSIS report is but the most recent in a series of reports gauging the size of the mismatch between current long-term defense plans and budgets. The Congressional Budget Office’s latest estimate of the annual mismatch is at least $90 billion. Even the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review itself allowed for a $12-to-15-billion annual funding shortfall; now the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to news reports, are insisting on a $30-billion-per-year increase in defense spending. In 1997 the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments calculated the annual shortfall at approximately $26 billion and has now increased its total to $50 billion; analyst Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution pegs that gap at $27 billion, at a minimum. Perhaps more important than the question of which of these estimates best calculates the amount of the current defense shortfall is the question of what costs are not captured. All of these estimates measure the gap between current defense plans and programs and current budgets; they make no allowance for the new missions and needs of the post-Cold War world. They do not capture the costs of deploying effective missile defenses. They do not account for the costs of constabulary missions. They do not consider the costs of transformation. Nor do they calculate the costs of the other recommendations of this report, such as strengthening, reconfiguring, and repositioning today’s force.

In fact, the best way to measure defense spending over longer periods of time is as a portion of national wealth and federal spending. By these metrics, defense budgets have continued to decline even as Americans have become more prosperous in recent years. The defense budget now totals less than 3 percent of the gross domestic product – the lowest level of U.S. defense spending since the Depression. Defense accounts for about 15 percent of federal spending – slightly more than interest on the debt, and less than one third of the amount spent on Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs, which account for 54 percent of federal spending. As the annual federal budget has moved from deficit to surplus and more resources have become available, there has been no serious or sustained effort to recapitalize U.S. armed forces.

As troublesome as the trends of the past decade have been, as inadequate as current budgets are, the longer-term future is more troubling still. If current spending levels are maintained, by some projections, the amount of the defense shortfall will be almost as large as the defense budget itself by 2020 – 2.3 percent compared to 2.4 percent of gross domestic product. In particular, as modernization spending slips farther and farther behind requirements, the procurement bow wave will reach tsunami proportions, says CSIS: “By continuing to kick the can down the road, the military departments will, in effect, create a situation in which they require $4.4 trillion in procurement dollars” from 2006 through 2020 to maintain the current force.

After 2010 – seemingly a long way off but well within traditional defense planning horizons – the outlook for increased military spending under current plans becomes even more doubtful. In the coming decades, the network of social entitlement programs, particularly Social Security, will generate a further squeeze on other federal spending programs. If defense budgets remain at projected levels, America’s global military preeminence will be impossible to maintain, as will the world order that is secured by that preeminence.

Budgets and the Strategy Of Retreat

Recent defense reviews, and the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review and the accompanying report of the National Defense Panel especially, have framed the dilemma facing the Pentagon and the nation as a whole as a question of risk. At current and planned spending levels, the United States can preserve current forces and capabilities to execute current missions and sacrifice modernization, innovation and transformation, or it can reduce personnel strength and force structure further to pay for new weapons and forces. Despite the QDR’s rhetoric about shaping the current strategic environment, responding to crises and preparing now for an uncertain future,

If defense spending remains at current levels, U.S. forces will soon be too old or too small. the Clinton Administration’s defense plans continue to place a higher priority on immediate needs than on preparing for a more challenging technological or geo-political future; as indicated in the force posture section above, the QDR retains the two-war standard as the central feature of defense planning and the sine qua non of America’s claim to be a global superpower. The National Defense Panel, with its call for a “transformation strategy,” argued that the “priority must go to the future.” The twowar standard, in the panel’s assessment, “has become a means of justifying current forces. This approach focuses resources on a lowprobability scenario, which consumes funds that could be used to reduce risk to our longterm security.” 

Again, the CSIS study’s affordability assessments suggest the trade-offs between manpower and force structure that must be made under current budget constraints. For example, CSIS estimates that the cost of modernizing the current 1.37 millionman force would require procurement spending of $164 billion per year. While we might not agree with every aspect of the methodology underlying this calculation, the larger point is clear: if defense spending remains at current levels, as current plans under the QDR assume, the Pentagon would only be able to modernize a little more than half the force. Under this scenario, U.S. armed forces would become increasingly obsolescent, expensive to operate and outclassed on the battlefield. As the report concludes, “U.S. military forces will lose their credibility both at home and abroad regarding their size, age, and technological capabilities for carrying out the national military strategy.”

Conversely, adopting the National Defense Panel approach of accepting greater risk today while preparing for the future would require significant further cuts in the size of U.S. armed forces. According to CSIS, a shift in resources that would up the rate of modernized equipment to 76 percent – not a figure specified by the NDP but one not inconsistent with that general approach – would require reducing the total strength of U.S. forces to just 1 million, again assuming 3 percent of GDP were devoted to defense spending. Thus, at current spending levels the Pentagon must choose between force structure and modernization.

When it is recalled that a projection of defense spending levels at 3 percent of GDP represents the most optimistic assumption about current Pentagon plans, the horns of this dilemma appear sharper still: at these levels, U.S. forces soon will be too old or too small. Following the administration’s “live for today” path will ensure that, in some future high-intensity war, U.S. forces will lack the cutting-edge technologies that they have come to rely on. Following the NDP’s “prepare for tomorrow” path, U.S. forces will lack the manpower needed to conduct their current missions. From constabulary duties to the conduct of major theater wars, the ability to defend current U.S. security interests will be placed at growing risk.

In a larger sense, these two approaches differ merely about the nature and timing of a strategy of American retreat. By committing forces to the Balkans, maintaining U.S. presence in the Persian Gulf, and by responding to Chinese threats to Taiwan and sending peacekeepers to East Timor, the Clinton Administration has, haltingly, incrementally and often fecklessly, taken some of the necessary steps for strengthening the new American security perimeter. But by holding defense spending and military strength to their current levels, the administration has compromised the nation’s ability to fight large-scale wars today and consumed the investments that ought to have been made to preserve American military preeminence tomorrow. 

The reckoning for such a strategy will come when U.S. forces are unable to meet the demands placed upon them. This may happen when they take on one mission too many – if, say, NATO’s role in the Balkans expands, or U.S troops enforce a demilitarized zone on the Golan Heights – and a major theater war breaks out. Or, it may happen when two major theater wars occur nearly simultaneously. Or it may happen when a new great power – a rising China – seeks to challenge American interests and allies in an important region.

By contrast, a strategy that sacrifices force structure and current readiness for future transformation will leave American armed forces unable to meet today’s missions and commitments. 

Since today’s peace is the unique product of American preeminence, a failure to preserve that preeminence allows others an opportunity to shape the world in ways antithetical to American interests and principles. 

The price of American preeminence is that, just as it was actively obtained, it must be actively maintained. But as service chiefs and other senior military leaders readily admit, today’s forces are barely adequate to maintain the rotation of units to the myriad peacekeeping and other constabulary duties they face while keeping adequate forces for a single major theater war in reserve.

An active-duty force reduced by another 300,000 to 400,000 – almost another 30 percent cut from current levels and a total reduction of more than half from Cold-War levels – to free up funds for modernization and transformation would be clearly inadequate to the demands of today’s missions and national military strategy. If the United States withdrew forces from the Balkans, for example, it is unlikely that the rest of NATO would be able to long pick up the slack; conversely, such a withdrawal would provoke a political crisis within NATO that would certainly result in the end of American leadership within NATO; it might well spell the end of the alliance itself. 

Likewise, terminating the no-flyzones over Iraq would call America’s position as guarantor of security in the Persian Gulf into question; the reaction would be the same in East Asia following a withdrawal of U.S. forces or a lowering of American military presence. 

The consequences sketched by the Quadrennial Defense Review regarding a retreat from a two-war capability would inexorably come to pass: allies and adversaries alike would begin to hedge against American retreat and discount American security guarantees. At current budget levels, a modernization or transformation strategy is in danger of becoming a “no-war” strategy. While the American peace might not come to a catastrophic end, it would quickly begin to unravel; the result would be much the same in time.

The Price of American Preeminence

As admitted above, calculating the exact price of armed forces capable of maintaining American military preeminence today and extending it into the future requires more detailed analysis than this broad study can provide. We have advocated a force posture and service structure that diverges significantly both from current plans and alternatives advanced in other studies. We believe it is necessary to increase slightly the personnel strength of U.S. forces – many of the missions associated with patrolling the expanding American security perimeter are manpower-intensive, and planning for major theater wars must include the ability for politically decisive campaigns including extended post-combat stability operations. Also, this expanding perimeter argues strongly for new overseas bases and forward operating locations to facilitate American political and military operations around the world.

At the same time, we have argued that established constabulary missions can be made less burdensome on soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines and less burdensome on overall U.S. force structure by a more sensible forward-basing posture; long-term security commitments should not be supported by the debilitating, short-term rotation of units except as a last resort. In Europe, the Persian Gulf and East Asia, enduring U.S. security interests argue forcefully for an enduring American military presence. Pentagon policy-makers must adjust their plans to accommodate these realities and to reduce the wear and tear on service personnel. We have also argued that the services can begin now to create new, more flexible units and military organizations that may, over time, prove to be smaller than current organizations, even for peacekeeping and constabulary operations.

Even as American military forces patrol an expanding security perimeter, we believe it essential to retain sufficient forces based in the continental United States capable of rapid reinforcement and, if needed, applying massive combat power to stabilize a region in crisis or to bring a war to a successful conclusion. There should be a strong strategic synergy between U.S. forces overseas and in a reinforcing posture: units operating abroad are an indication of American geopolitical interests and leadership, provide significant military power to shape events and, in wartime, create the conditions for victory when reinforced. Conversely, maintaining the ability to deliver an unquestioned “knockout punch” through the rapid introduction of stateside units will increase the shaping power of forces operating overseas and the vitality of our alliances. In sum, we see an enduring need for large-scale American forces.

But while arguing for improvements in today’s armed services and force posture, we are unwilling to sacrifice the ability to maintain preeminence in the longer term. If the United States is to maintain its preeminence – and the military revolution now underway is already an American-led revolution – the Pentagon must begin in earnest to transform U.S. military forces.

The program we advocate – one that would provide America with forces to meet the strategic demands of the world’s sole superpower – requires budget levels to be increased to 3.5 to 3.8 percent of the GDP.

We have argued that this transformation mission is yet another new mission, as compelling as the need to maintain European stability in the Balkans, prepare for large, theater wars or any other of today’s missions. This is an effort that involves more than new weaponry or technologies. It requires experimental units free to invent new concepts of operation, new doctrines, new tactics. It will require years, even decades, to fully grasp and implement such changes, and will surely involve mistakes and inefficiencies. Yet the maintenance of the American peace requires that American forces be preeminent when they are called upon to face very different adversaries in the future.

Finally, we have argued that we must restore the foundation of American security and the basis for U.S. military operations abroad by improving our homeland defenses. The current American peace will be short-lived if the United States becomes vulnerable to rogue powers with small, inexpensive arsenals of ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads or other weapons of mass destruction. We cannot allow North Korea, Iran, Iraq or similar states to undermine American leadership, intimidate American allies or threaten the American homeland itself. The blessings of the American peace, purchased at fearful cost and a century of effort, should not be so trivially squandered.

Taken all in all, the force posture and service structure we advocate differ enough from current plans that estimating its costs precisely based upon known budget plans is unsound. Likewise, generating independent cost analyses is beyond the scope of this report and would be based upon great political and technological uncertainties – any detailed assumptions about the cost of new overseas bases or revolutionary weaponry are bound to be highly speculative absent rigorous net assessments and program analysis. Nevertheless, we believe that, over time, the program we advocate would require budgets roughly equal to those necessary to fully fund the QDR force – a minimum level of 3.5 to 3.8 percent of gross domestic product. A sensible plan would add $15 billion to $20 billion to total defense spending annually through the Future Years Defense Program; this would result in a defense “topline” increase of $75 billion to $100 billion over that period, a small percentage of the $700 billion on budget surplus now projected for that same period. We believe that the new president should commit his administration to a plan to achieve that level of spending within four years.

In its simplest terms, our intent is to provide forces sufficient to meet today’s missions as effectively and efficiently as possible, while readying U.S. armed forces for the likely new missions of the future. Thus, the defense program described above would preserve current force structure while improving its readiness, better posturing it for its current missions, and making selected investments in modernization. At the same time, we would shift the weight of defense recapitalization efforts to transforming U.S. forces for the decades to come. At four cents on the dollar of America’s national wealth, this is an affordable program. It is also a wise program. 

Only such a force posture, service structure and level of defense spending will provide America and its leaders with a variety of forces to meet the strategic demands of the world’s sole superpower. Keeping the American peace requires the U.S. military to undertake a broad array of missions today and rise to very different challenges tomorrow, but there can be no retreat from these missions without compromising American leadership and the benevolent order it secures. This is the choice we face. It is not a choice between preeminence today and preeminence tomorrow. 

Global leadership is not something exercised at our leisure, when the mood strikes us or when our core national security interests are directly threatened; then it is already too late. Rather, it is a choice whether or not to maintain American military preeminence, to secure American geopolitical leadership, and to preserve the American peace.


Authors:

Project Co-Chairmen: Donald Kagan, Gary Schmitt, , 
Principal Author: Thomas Donnelly

Project Participants:

Roger Barnett, U.S. Naval War College; 
Alvin Bernstein, National Defense University; 
Stephen Cambone, National Defense University; 
Eliot Cohen, Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University; 
Devon Gaffney Cross, Donors' Forum for International Affairs; 
Thomas Donnelly, Project for the New American Century; 
David Epstein, Office of Secretary of Defense, Net Assessment; 
David Fautua, Lt. Col., U.S. Army; 
Dan Goure, Center for Strategic and International Studies; 
Donald Kagan, Yale University; 
Fred Kagan, U. S. Military Academy at West Point; 
Robert Kagan, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; 
Robert Killebrew, Col., USA (Ret.); 
William Kristol, The Weekly Standard; 
Mark Lagon, Senate Foreign Relations Committee; 
James Lasswell, GAMA Corporation; 
I. Lewis Libby, Dechert Price & Rhoads; 
Robert Martinage, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment; 
Phil Meilinger.,U.S. Naval War College; 
Mackubin Owens, U.S. Naval War College; Steve Rosen, Harvard University; 
Gary Schmitt, Project for the New American Century; 
Abram Shulsky, The RAND Corporation; 
Michael Vickers, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment; 
Barry Watts, Northrop Grumman Corporation; 
Paul Wolfowitz, Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University; 
Dov Zakheim, System Planning Corporation.

The above list of individuals participated in at least one project meeting or contributed a paper for discussion. The report is a product solely of the Project for the New American Century and does not necessarily represent the views of the project participants or their affiliated institutions.

 

 

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