The Decline of U.S. 'Military Strength Since the Gulf War`


The Decline of U.S. 'Military Strength Since the Gulf War`

October 17, 1994 4 min read Download Report

Authors: Baker Spring and Lawrence Di Rita

(Archived document, may contain errors)

October 17, 19 94


Lawrence T. Di Rita Baker Spring Deputy Director of Foreign Senior Policy Analyst Policy and Defense Studies

The United States military buildup in the Persian Gulf even as some 20,000 American troops are occupying Haiti offers an opportunity to reassess the Clinton Administration's defense plans. With the dramatic reductions in U.S. military spending and the size of the armed forces that have oc- curred since 1990 and Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Americans are correct in wondering whether there is a danger that U.S. forces are stretched too thin. The anecdotal evidence is compelling. For example, six aircraft carriers provided just under 20 percent of all the air sorties during the Gulf war. Of those six carriers, two no longer are in commis- sion. Meanwhile, two Navy battleships delivered 2.1 million pounds of ordnance to assist the ground forces prior to their triumphant I 00-hour campaign. I Neither of those ships is in service. For its part, the U.S. Army relied heavily on forces based in Europe to augment its buildup in the Persian Gulf prior to the war. Of the two U.S. Army corps in Germany, one (VII Corps) was sent to the Gulf and played a major role in the liberation of Kuwait. Since Desert Storm, VH Corps has re- turned to the U.S. and been deactivated. 2 At the same time that this dramatic reduction of forces has been occurring, the Clinton Admini- stration has greatly increased the number of spots where U.S. troops are deployed. While the total number of overseas forces has f@llen because of the steep decline (65 percent) in the number of American troops stationed in Europe, U.S. forces are now spread out among no fewer than fifteen United Nations and other multinational operations around the globe. This ranges from nearly 3 20,000 troops occupying Haiti to over 500 in Macedonia and some 30 in the Western Sahara. The ongoing buildup in the Gulf is taking place against this backdrop.

Meanwhile, though, the Clinton Administration recently published its National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement. In it, the White House reaffirmed its commitment-first outlined in the "Bottom-Up Review" of U.S. security requirements published in September 1993-to be able to conduct two wars on the scale of Operation Desert Storm "nearly simultaneously." In an in- terview on October 11, even as some 40,000 U.S. troops were preparing to return to the Persian Gulf, Deputy Secretary of Defense John Deutch underscored the Administration's belief that this re- mains official U.S. Policy.4 This ambitious strategy would have been plausible at the time of Operation Desert Storm. Today, however, there are doubts. In a study released within days of the National Security Strategy, the gov- ernment's General Accounting Office determined that the President's own defense budget did not provide sufficient funds to pay for the two-war scenario. The GAO determined that the amount of 5 the shortfall would be as much as $150 billion over five years. Thus, it is appropriate for Americans to wonder if the current crisis in the Gulf will put a strain on U.S. military readiness. Few doubt the ability for the United States to mount a credible offensive force should Saddam Hussein continue to threaten Kuwait or other American allies in the region. But as the data provided in the following pages suggest, it is an open question whether a similar buildup could occur at the same time in another far-flung region of the world, as called for in the Clinton strategy. I Given the stalemate in the negotiations with North Korea regarding that nation's possible develop- ment of nuclear weapons-which President Clinton has implied would be met with force -this is not an academic question. Deputy Secretary Deutch, in the October 11 interview, noted that such a scenario is not plausible. But the desire of opponents to pin down a great power by opening a "sec- ond front" while that power's forces are focused elsewhere is hardly implausible, and the notion de- serves more public airing than Deutch's offhanded rejection of it. While most Americans have not been paying attention as the Clinton Administration has begun gutting the nation's defenses, it is likely Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong-11, and other potential adversar- ies have.

Rob Chase conducted research for this paper.

Since 19SS, Military Manpower Is Down 21%

Note: 19 percent of Navy battle force ships were committed to Desert Storm in 199 1, while in 1994 such a force would absorb 27 percent of such ships. Source: Department of Defense.

Since 1988, Air Force Strength Is Down 27% 140 Tactical Fighter Squadrons I C--1 Reserve 122 120 119 Active 120 - - - - - - - - 100 100 -90 - - - - - -89- 90 80 Squadrons required for two 60 Desert Storm-sized conflicts

45 40 rons committed to Desert Storm 20

1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994

Fiscal Years

Note: 40 p rcent of Air Force tactical squadrons were committed to Desert Storm in 199 1, while in 1994 Squadrons re u, Desert Storm siz such a force would absorb 50 percent of all such squadrons. Source: Department of Defense.

Clinton Has Increased U.S. Role In U.N. Peacekeeping Operations Total American Forces Involved: 80,263*

U.N. Security Operation Council Number of Location & Title Year Established & Description Resolution No. U.S. Troops

Croatia February 1992-Present 350 447 (UNPROFOR) Buffer operation, disarming irregulars, and overseeing the return of Serb-occupied areas to Croatia. Former Yugoslavia July 1992-Present 770 19 Provide Promise U.N. humanitarian relief to airlift excess Department of Defense supplies to Sarajevo,

Former Yugoslavia, June 1993-Present 770,781, 7,800 Adriatic Enforcement of the U.N.-sanctioned embargo 787,816 Sharp Guard against the Former Yugoslavia.

Former Yugoslavia April 1993-Present 781,816, 2,061 Deny Flight Enforcement of the U.N.-sanctioned "no-fly" 836 zone over Bosnia-Her-zegovina.

Haiti October 1993-Present B41, 917, 19,800 Support/Restore Originally a maritime interdiction of arms 940 Democracy and oil off the coast of Haiti. Currently, the U.S. occupation of Haiti. Iraq May 199 1 -Present 687,688 1,488 Provide Comfort U.N. humanitarian assistance of lr-aqi Kurds.

Iraq/Kuwait 1992-Present 687,689 15 (UNIKOM) Support for peace enforcement.

Iraq August 1992-Present 660,661, 11,042 (UNSCOM) Coalition Forces enforcing a "no-fly"zone 687,688 Southern Watch below the 32nd parallel for all Iraqi aircr-aft.

Korea 1953-Present 83,84 37,000 U.N. Command Prevention of renewed hostilities by North Korea.

Macedonia July 1993-Present 795,815, 543 (UNPROFOR) Military observers to prevent potential spillover 842 Able Sentry of Bosnian conflict.

Middle East June 1948-Present 50 16 (UNTSO) Support of peacekeeping operations.

Mozambique December 1992-Present 850 2 (UNOMOZ) Buffer, humanitarian, and election monitoring ops.

Western Sahara April 199 1 -Present 690 30 (MINURSO) Buffer and election monitoring ops. Supervising cease-fire & conducting plebiscite on future status.

*Total U.S. Forces (Does not include 36,000 being sent to Persian Gulf now.) 80,263

Source: Department of Defense, joint Chief@ of Staff.

I "Ile United States Navy in 'Desert Shield'/'Desert Storm,"' Department of the Navy, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Washington, D.C., May 15, 199 1.

2 Brigadier General Robert H. Scales, Jr., Certain Victory: United States Army in the Gulf War, Office of the Chief of Staff, United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1993.

3 "U.S. Forces Acting in Support of U.N. Operations," Unpublished paper, United Nations Division, The Joint Staff, Department of Defense

4 ABC News Nightline, October 11, 1994.

5 For a full discussion, see Lawrence T. Di Rita, "Clinton's Bankrupt National Security Strategy," Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1000, September 27, 1994


Baker Spring
Baker Spring

Former Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy

Lawrence Di Rita

Policy Analyst