September 24, 1993

September 24, 1993 | Backgrounder on National Security and Defense

Building an Army for the Post-Cold War Era


Projecting military power to distant regions of the world is now the primary task of American conventional military forces. The Army's chief role in this strategy of power projection will be to seize and hold territory against large, heavily armed enemy land forces. To do so, it will need to fight and win quickly, sustain low casualties, and deter the use of enemy ground forces against vital American interests.

America's post-Cold War Army, however, will be smaller because it no longer faces the near-term superpower threat posed by the Soviet Union. Relying on proven high technology to offset the reduction of troops, the Army must favor retaining active over reserve forces as it absorbs budget cuts. It also must develop clear-cut and relevant combat roles for the post-Cold War era. These should be:

Winning large land battles;

Strategic lift and prepositioning of arms and equipment overseas;

Augmenting Marine expeditionary forces with "light" infantry; (Light infantry typically are equipped with arms and equipment that will not hinder rapid deployment by air. "Heavy," by contrast, refers to more traditional, fully armed and mechanized military forces.)

Ground-based theater air and missile defense;

Air combat and deep attack behind enemy lines;

Maneuver warfare;

Space control;

Special operations.

As outlined in The Heritage Foundation's A Safe and Prosperous America: A U.S. Foreign and Defense Policy Blueprint, the Army needs a force structure adequate to the task of performing these combat missions. (Kim R. Holmes, ed., A Safe and Prosperous America: A U.S. Foreign and Defense Policy Blueprint (Washington, D.C.: The Heritage Foundation, 1993), p. 53.) Thus, the Army should retain 12 active- duty and 4 reserve division equivalents. (Division equivalents are smaller, lower echelon units, such as brigades and regiments, that perform particular functions and are not typically integrated into a division-level force. Intelligence and logistics forces are frequently so organized.) These forces should be broken down into:

7 active and 3 reserve heavy divisions;

1 active airborne division;

1 active air assault division;

1 active light infantry division;

2 active and 1 reserve division equivalents in separate brigades and regiments.

To perform its combat roles effectively, this force structure should be equipped with upgraded versions of current systems and new systems that take advantage of recent advances in technology. Therefore the major weapons systems procured by the Army should be:

The upgraded versions of the M-1 Abrams Tank and Bradley fighting vehicle;

The Armored Gun System (AGS), which is the next generation light tank;

The Brilliant Anti-Tank (BAT) armor-piercing munition;

The Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), an anti-armor rocket system;

The Comanche helicopter;

The Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), a ground-based anti-ballistic missile system;

The improved Patriot anti-aircraft and anti-missile missile;

The Corps-level Surface-to-Air Missile (Corps SAM) system, an anti-cruise missile system;

The direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon;

The Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (J-STARS) aircraft, along with its support systems, to track enemy troops;

Maritime prepositioning ships.

To fulfill its combat roles and missions, and to build a properly equipped force, the Army must receive adequate funding. For the next four years, however, the defense budget will be highly unstable. Thus budget planning for the Army should concentrate on 1997, the time by which the decline in the defense budget should stop. At that time, a defense budget needed to sustain the Army force recommended by The Heritage Foundation should be:

$52.8 billion of budget authority for 1997, measured in that year's current dollars. (Budget authority represents the legal authority to expend money to build and equip forces. The funds actually may be spent over several years. Current dollars do not account for inflation.)

To integrate the armed services fully into a joint warfighting force, more than weapons systems and budgets must be considered. Moreover, the gradual return of forces to the U.S. as the European drawdown continues would make preparing them for redeployment on short notice a high priority. The Army, along with other services, needs to contribute to providing joint training for the relatively large number of troops stationed in the U.S. This can be done by:

Establishing a Joint Training Command based in the U.S.

Army Roles, Functions, and Missions

General Colin Powell, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, submitted a report to Congress in February delineating the roles and missions of all the services in the post-Soviet era. (General Colin L. Powell, Roles, Missions, and Functions of the Armed Forces of the United States, February 1993.) The report marks the starting point of a very important debate about the assignment of responsibilities between the armed services. Since the outcome of this debate has important implications for the future size, strength, and budgets of the services, it can lead to inter-service rivalries. Given the dramatic changes in the geopolitical landscape and declining defense budgets, however, postponing the debate over future roles, missions, and functions will not be possible. Strong leadership in the White House, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the armed services will be required to establish policies that preserve U.S. military strength.

Powell's report does not recommend stripping the Army of any of its major roles, missions, or functions. That decision is appropriate. Some critics have charged that, without cutbacks on the Army's roles and missions, wasteful redundancies among the services remain. (Criticisms of the Powell report were made by Robert W. Gaskin of Business Executives for National Security, among others. Gaskin's criticisms appear in: Michael R. Gordon, "Joint Chiefs Curtail Plans for Reducing Duplication," The New York Times, January 28, 1993, p. A13.) Why, it is often asked, do all four services need their own air forces? However, what appear as redundancies to some observers are actually complementary capabilities between unique services. For example, even if the Air Force assumed responsibility for all aviation, including that of the Army, the complementary roles provided by the unique capabilities of the other services would still have to be filled. Marines would still need close air support, while the Navy would still need to ensure air superiority at sea. The reality is that the individual services know best what air support they need to accomplish their objectives. It is more economical and efficient for them to provide it for themselves.

That being the case, the Army's traditional roles and missions should be retained in the post-Cold War era. These are:

Winning Large Land Battles.

Winning wars by seizing heavily defended territory should be the dominant mission for the Army in this new era. The Army should play the premier role in countering heavy land forces, particularly armored formations. Such forces have not gone away with the end of the Cold War. Russia is thought to retain some 29,000 main battle tanks from the inventory of the former Soviet Union. China may have as many as 8,000. Even medium-size powers have significant armored forces. Iran has over 700 main battle tanks; North Korea, about 3,000.

The problem the Army faces in fulfilling this role is that the bulk of its heavy forces will be based in the U.S. Unlike during the Cold War, the Army cannot count on deploying its forces in forward positions to meet the threat. It will be called upon to respond to unpredictable crises in distant regions. As such, it must play a more direct role in determining how its forces will be transported to such regions in a crisis. This may mean, for example, giving the responsibility for air- and sealift planning and procurement to the Army instead of the Navy and Air Force.

Some will argue that the Army's new circumstances call for a force composed mostly of light infantry divisions. (Such an argument is made in: Barry M. Blechman et al., Key West Revisited: Roles and Missions of the U.S. Armed Forces in the Twenty-First Century (Washington: D.C.: The Henry L. Stimson Center, 1993), p. 18.) But this approach ignores the fact that a "lighter" Army may not be strong enough to oppose heavily armed opponents in the Third World. When lightly armed forces would be adequate to the task, the Marine Corps is in a better position than the Army to handle the mission.

Strategic Lift and Prepositioning

As it develops new generations of heavy armored vehicles, tanks, and artillery pieces, the Army must devise ways to make the transport of heavy equipment easier and more affordable. This could be done by exploring such promising new technologies as lightweight advanced composite materials for infantry equipment. The temptation to resolve the lift problem by fielding more light infantry divisions should be resisted. The mix of heavy to light forces recommended here is appropriate for an Army whose primary responsibility will continue to be to defeat heavily armed adversaries in large land campaigns.

Improving strategic agility also requires that the Army have maritime prepositioning ships (MPS) that will hold equipment for one heavy brigade. These ships, to be stationed overseas, will make it easier for the Army to respond to regional crises. By having such heavy arms as tanks already deployed on ships in the vicinity of potential hotspots like the Persian Gulf, Army troops can move quickly into a crisis region and retrieve arms and equipment. (Improving the strategic agility of Army forces raises the question of what role the Army will play in the development and management of airlift and sealift assets. This will be addressed in detail in a forthcoming Heritage Foundation study examining strategic lift.)

Providing Light Infantry

Building an Army of heavy forces, however, does not mean stripping it entirely of light infantry responsibilities. The Army can and should contribute to this role, even though the Marine Corps will continue to be the nation's premier expeditionary force. Light infantry responsibilities include forced entry and air assault operations. These important supporting roles can be performed by the 82nd Airborne Division, the 101st Air Assault Division, the 75th Ranger Regiment, and a variety of special operations units.

Ground-Based Theater Air and Missile Defense

In the past, the Army has shared responsibility for air defense of combat troops with the Air Force. It has traditionally operated ground-based air defenses during regional conflicts. Army air defense should be designed to counter not only cruise missiles, but aircraft as well. Thus, it should continue to field and operate systems such as the Patriot anti-aircraft missile and the Corps-level Surface-to-Air Missile (Corps SAM), the promising experimental anti-cruise missile weapon. The Air Force and Navy will continue to make their contributions in air defense by fielding such air superiority aircraft as the F-15 Eagle and the F-14 Tomcat.

As the Scud-Patriot duels of Operation Desert Storm demonstrated, anti-missile defenses are a critical element of regional warfare. The Army should operate ground-based elements of U.S. defenses against short- and intermediate-range (theater) ballistic missiles, as it did with the Patriots in the Persian Gulf. Unlike during the Persian Gulf War, however, new systems must be designed to protect a wide area, and not just limited military positions. This is required to obtain the cooperation of U.S. allies, whose civilian population would be vulnerable to missile attack. The Army's contribution to the role of anti-missile defense should be coordinated with those of the other services. These include the Air Force space-based anti-missile defense and space-based sensor and command and control systems, plus the Navy's shipboard anti-missile systems.

Air Combat and Deep Attack

The services share the task of giving airborne support to ground forces. This includes combat (airborne weapons and sensors), combat support (airborne logistics), and combat service support (aviation maintenance).

Of course, the bulk of the Army's combat support services involve helicopters. In addition to such traditional roles as transporting troops and evacuating casualties, Army helicopters can be used to achieve military objectives that do not support directly the activities of Army forces. For example, General Norman Schwarzkopf's joint special operations commander used Army helicopters to destroy Iraqi air defense radars at the outset of the Persian Gulf War. This, of course, directly benefited the Air Force, which was conducting an air campaign against Saddam Hussein's forces. While the Army will continue to contribute to such missions, the bulk of these air interdiction operations nevertheless will be assigned to the joint service special operations forces.

Maneuver Warfare

Being able to move forces quickly over significant distances on the battlefield is an essential ingredient for military success. The value of highly mobile land forces was demonstrated during the Persian Gulf War when the allies' "Hail Mary" maneuver encircled Iraqi forces. The Army VII and XVIII Corps units would have been unable to outflank their Iraqi opponents and circle back for the attack without an advantage in mobility. Utility helicopters, tanks, armored personnel carriers, and even trucks contribute to battlefield mobility. Since the Army is the service most dependent on systems that improve battlefield mobility, it should be the service responsible for managing the development and procurement of these systems -- the so- called lead service.

Space Control

Modern warfare is increasingly dependent on space systems. Communication, intelligence-gathering, navigation, missile defense, and weather forecasting all rely on satellite technology. It is appropriate that the Air Force be the lead service in the nation's military space policy, because of its expertise in space and aviation systems and warfighting. The Army and the other services should continue to make contributions in this area. For example, the Army is the lead agency managing the anti-satellite (ASAT) program.

The Army should retain these roles in the future. The space operations of the Army and the other services should not be subsumed into a single Air Force space command, as General Powell proposed in his roles and missions report. (Powell, op. cit., p. xiii.) Under this proposal, the U.S. Space Command, which carries out its mission through the three service space commands, would be eliminated. This move may be preceded by the consolidation, and perhaps dissolution, of the individual service space commands.

This would be a mistake. Streamlining space operations is a worthy objective, but the services have unique requirements in space that can and should be pursued independently. The Army Strategic Defense and Space Command has a proven record of solid contributions to the nation's missile defense capabilities. For example, the Army is mainly responsible for developing ground-based anti-missile interceptors. (A forthcoming Heritage Foundation study of military space policy will address this issue in more detail.)

Special Operations

The Army should continue its important role in special operations. These include surveillance behind enemy lines, countering terrorists, and seizing important enemy assets, such as airports. Special operations are likely to become more important in the future. Terrorists are no longer tethered to their former Soviet sponsors. This makes their behavior and choice of targets much more difficult to predict. Even as an element of conventional warfare, special forces have much to contribute. Special operations forces played critical roles in both Operation Just Cause in Panama and Operation Desert Storm in the Middle East. For example, special operations forces conducted many of the risky missions that disabled Iraqi air defense sites prior to the start of the Desert Storm air campaign.

An Army Force Structure for the 1990s and Beyond

The most striking post-Cold War reality for the Army is the fact that U.S. and NATO forces no longer face a huge Warsaw Pact army poised to attack Western Europe. Since the U.S. Army was the key service in defending Western Europe from Soviet attack, the disappearance of the Soviet threat allows the size of the Army to be reduced significantly. There is no land force in the world today equal to that of the former Warsaw Pact. Nevertheless, a robust, active, heavy force structure is required to field the preponderance of force needed to counter a medium-sized power like Iraq.

The Army is already shrinking. In 1991, the active and reserve forces of the Army totalled 35 division equivalents. By next year that number will drop to 25. The Bush Administration anticipated reducing the Army to 22 division equivalents in its defense plan, while the Clinton Administration is now proposing 15. A force plan released by The Heritage Foundation in May 1993 recommends the Army retain the equivalent of 16 divisions in the total force. Under this proposal, the Army would retain 500,000 active duty personnel, supported by a reserve force of about 400,000.

The force recommended by The Heritage Foundation is designed to sustain one large-scale regional conflict, roughly equivalent to Operation Desert Storm, simultaneously with a smaller regional conflict, similar to the 1989 invasion of Panama. For example, under this plan, six of The Heritage Foundation's recommended 16 active and reserve division equivalents would be dedicated to the defense of South Korea in the event of an attack by North Korea. (Holmes, op. cit, p. 62.) The U.S. Army would contribute five divisions and perhaps the equivalent of another division in separate brigades and regiments to the defense of South Korea. That country's Army would commit 22 active-duty and 23 reserve divisions. (The International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 1992-1993 (London: Brassey's, 1992), p. 153.) This force would confront an invading North Korean Army that includes 30 active-duty army divisions and up to 26 reserve divisions. (Ibid., p. 152.) Thus in army forces alone such a conflict would involve 50 South Korean and American Army divisions confronting up to 56 North Korean army divisions. Given the superior technology, naval, and air elements of the combined forces, the U.S. Army's contribution should prove adequate to defeat the North Koreans.

Making this commitment to the defense of South Korea would leave ten U.S. Army divisions/division equivalents for tasking as necessary. In the 1989 invasion of Panama, an operation smaller than that envisioned for the Korean peninsula, the U.S. Army contributed a force somewhat more than a division equivalent, or 22,000 troops. This force faced a Panamanian army of about 14,000, including guard and paramilitary forces. (Again, this analysis does not account for air or naval forces on either side. )

These examples provide only a general description of how an Army of the recommended size would handle one large-scale regional conflict and one small-scale regional conflict simultaneously. Different conflicts would require a different mix of forces. Moreover, logistic support will, as always, dictate the minimum rate at which power can be projected overseas.

Regarding the total force structure, the Army should consist mostly of heavily mechanized, armored troops: Ten heavy divisions, three of which are in the reserves, out of the 13 fully formed divisions in the total force. (In A Safe and Prosperous America: A U.S. Foreign and Defense Policy Blueprint, The Heritage Foundation recommended fielding nine heavy divisions and two light divisions. Since publication, experiences in Somalia and other peacekeeping operations have shown that the rapid deployment requirements of light infantry make assigning these responsibilities to the reserve unfeasible. The Army force structure outlined here, therefore, modifies the Blueprint slightly by recommending ten heavy divisions and one light infantry division.) In addition, it should field one airborne division, one air assault division, and one light infantry division. The remaining forces would consist of separate brigades and regiments performing a variety of roles, including special operations.

Lower Force Levels, Higher Technology

Allowing the Army to shrink from Cold War levels comes at a price. Force reductions inevitably will weaken the combat punch of the Army. But applying advanced technology to new military systems can compensate somewhat for the shrinking size of the Army. For example, precision-guided munitions increase combat efficiency. This was proved dramatically during the Persian Gulf War, during which images of laser-guided projectiles destroying key bridges became a staple of nightly TV news coverage. Moreover, improved command and control systems increase combat mobility and coverage. Satellite technology and the miniaturization of communications allow combat commanders to maintain frequent and secure voice links to headquarters.

An advanced technology Army, however, will require adequate funding for the research, development, and procurement of modern weapon systems. The temptation to save money today by cutting some of tomorrow's more promising weapons would be shortsighted. Army modernization programs that should be continued are:

Upgraded versions of the Abrams Tank and Bradley Fighting Vehicle

The fiscal year 1994 defense budget request includes funding for upgrades of both the Abrams Tank and the Bradley fighting vehicle. Both programs will result in new models called A2s. The M1A2 tank is more mobile, survivable, and lethal than the A1 model. The A2 model of the Bradley fighting vehicle includes such enhanced survivability features as additional armor and an improved storage system for ammunition. The fiscal 1994 budget request includes funding to upgrade 72 tanks and 131 fighting vehicles. Technologies such as ceramic armor, improved fire control, and stealth should also be pursued for Army applications.

The Armored Gun System (AGS)

In the future, the Army will need to replace the lighter M-551A1 Sheridan tank. The leading candidate for replacing the Sheridan is the Armored Gun System (AGS). Because it can be deployed by the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, it will serve as the primary armored system for highly mobile units like the 82nd Airborne Division. The Army is eager to start procuring the AGS as soon as possible.

Maritime Prepositioning Ships (MPS)

The Army should procure the nine MPS needed to maintain a brigade's worth of prepositioned equipment and to support the arrival of larger follow-on Army forces to a combat theater. This will cost about $3.1 billion. The MPS procurement is an essential part of transforming the Army into a power projection force, and will be considered in greater detail in a forthcoming Heritage study on strategic lift.

The Brilliant Anti-Tank (BAT) munition.

The BAT munition is under development by the Army. This extremely accurate armor-piercing munition can be mounted on tactical missile systems, muzzle-fired projectiles, and other delivery systems. Since destroying enemy armor is a key mission, the Army should continue developing this promising weapon.

The Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS)

ATACMS are surface-to-surface rockets designed to destroy armored weapons. They were used for the first time during the Persian Gulf War, with considerable effect. In a single strike, ATACMS missiles destroyed more than 200 unarmored enemy vehicles. (Department of Defense, Conduct of the Persian Gulf War (Washington, D.C.: DoD, 1992), pp. T-147-T-150.) The fiscal 1994 budget includes a request for an additional 255 ATACMS. This is appropriate, as ATACMS will serve as the Army ground commanders' primary deep-strike weapon in the years ahead.

The Comanche helicopter

The Comanche helicopter is the Army's new scout and attack helicopter. It will combine some of the capabilities of the existing Kiowa and Cobra helicopters, including monitoring enemy troops movements and attacking enemy positions. The initial model of the Kiowa scout helicopter was delivered in 1969 and needs to be replaced. Moreover, the Comanche has a dual-role capability (scout and attack) that the Kiowa cannot match. With a smaller helicopter fleet, the dual capability is likely to prove valuable. The current Comanche research and development program should continue with an eye toward accelerated procurement.

An Anti-Satellite (ASAT) weapon

The Army has cancelled the ASAT program. This is a mistake. Controlling space is properly a multi-service effort. The ability to hold enemy satellite systems at risk is an essential part of space control. If Iraq had had access to space systems, the Persian Gulf War would have been a very different operation. U.S. and allied casualties would have been higher and the strategy of circumventing Iraqi positions would likely have had to be abandoned.

The decision to terminate the ASAT program should be reversed. The Senate Armed Services Committee has already taken a step in this direction. The Committee, which completed drafting its version of the fiscal 1994 Defense Authorization Bill on July 27, would allow $10 million for continuing the program. The Committee's decision was affirmed by the full Senate on September 14, when it rejected an amendment to delete funding for ASAT.

The Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system

THAAD is a ground-based anti-missile interceptor that will provide wide-area defense against tactical missiles. It does so by intercepting incoming missiles at a much higher altitude than the Patriot.

Given its unique capabilities and the importance of missile defense proven during the Gulf War, THAAD should be near the very top of the Army's list of important modernization programs. The Army currently has no system with this capability. THAAD is in development under the supervision of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO). The program should remain under BMDO control and be funded out of the BMDO budget. The Army, however, should participate directly in the development of the system and receive the system when it becomes operational.

The improved Patriot missile
The Patriot proved its worth in the Persian Gulf War. Even though it was designed primarily to counter manned aircraft, not ballistic missiles, the Patriot proved effective in downing Iraqi Scuds. It remains the only operational anti-ballistic missile system in the U.S. arsenal. BMDO is now funding further upgrades to Patriot to improve its anti-ballistic missile capabilities. As such, it will complement THAAD. THAAD can provide an initial intercept capability and a wide-area defense against theater- range ballistic missiles, while the Patriot contributes a second layer of defense, and a point defense. The Patriot upgrade program should continue under BMDO supervision. The Army has operated the Patriot system in the past and should continue to do so in the future.

The Corps-level Surface-to-Air Missile (Corps SAM) system
Ballistic missiles are not the only missiles proliferating in the Third World. Cruise missiles are also likely to be in the hands of regional opponents in the future. Corps SAM is designed to shoot down low-flying cruise missiles. As with THAAD and Patriot, the Corps SAM development program is supervised by BMDO. Given the cruise missile threat -- France alone has exported several variants of the Exocet, used to great effect during the Falklands War -- this program should continue.

The Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (J-STARS)
J- STARS is another system that proved itself during the Persian Gulf War. The system consists of an airborne sensor system relaying data on enemy troop movements to friendly ground forces. The aircraft carrying the system detects and tracks the enemy and coordinates air, ground, and naval attacks. J-STARS was not considered operational when Iraq invaded Kuwait, but developmental versions of the system were rushed to the Persian Gulf for use in Operation Desert Storm. The system proved very effective in identifying movements of Iraqi troops and thus permitting them to be neutralized during the air campaign. As its name indicates, J-STARS is jointly funded, by the Air Force and Army. The fiscal 1994 budget request includes an additional J-STARS aircraft, which is appropriate. The Army should continue to participate in this worthwhile program.

Paying for the Force

The Clinton fiscal 1994 budget request allocates $60.7 billion for the Army in current-dollar budget authority. The force outlined in this paper would cost approximately $52.8 billion in current dollars in fiscal 1997, when the drawdown will be complete. The bulk of the savings between now and 1997 will come from personnel reductions, both military and civilian. This is because 64 percent of Clinton's fiscal 1994 Army budget is devoted to paying people. Whereas the end strength requests for fiscal 1994 are 540,000 for active duty troops and 670,000 for guard and reserve troops, the Heritage force will reduce them to 500,000 on active duty and 400,000 in the guard and reserves by the end of fiscal 1997. Civilian personnel levels also will be reduced. As a result, the Army in fiscal 1997 will be spending somewhat less than $31 billion for personnel, compared with the nearly $39 billion for fiscal 1994.

Reducing national guard and reserve force levels by 30 percent will be a political challenge. General Powell has spoken forcefully on this subject on several occasions. When presenting the fiscal 1993 defense budget on January 29, 1992, he declared:

It makes absolutely no sense to inactivate a corps in Germany, as we are doing, and not inactivate all of the combat, combat support, and combat service support units we kept in the reserve component solely for the support of that corps in time of war. As the Secretary [of Defense Richard Cheney] mentioned, this has been a controversial issue with the Congress, but we see no way around this situation and we will present our case again this year for prudent reductions in our reserve forces, recognizing that we totally believe in the total force policy, and bringing the reserves [from all the services] from roughly 1.2 million, 1.1 million down to about 900,000, really is just backing out that growth that took place in reserve component strength over the decade of the '80s when we really did have a problem with respect to reinforcing Europe. (Department of Defense, "DOD To Slow Pace of Modernization, Cut Strategic Nuclear Arsenal While Maintaining Essential Forces," News Release No. 26-92, January 29, 1992, and supporting documents, including a transcript of the briefing.)

In the Heritage plan for the Army, the cost of operations would be held steady relative to the overall size of the force. This assumes about $7.6 billion will be spent on Army operations in fiscal 1997. Army construction costs would be about $1.4 billion in fiscal 1997. Given the value of technology as discussed earlier, however, the modernization accounts (procurement and research and development) should be increased. This plan would invest $13 billion in modernization in fiscal 1997, an increase of some $2 billion over fiscal 1994. Some of the savings from personnel reductions, then, are recycled into technology investments.

A Joint Training Command

General Powell's roles and missions report addresses in some detail the question of command for U.S.-based troops. Powell is correct in recognizing that, as the U.S. scales back its overseas presence, the forces deployed in the U.S. will be a larger and more important element of the overall force. Of the more than 300,000 troops assigned to the European command in 1991, for example, there will be no more than 100,000 based in Europe by fiscal 1995.

Citing several examples of past failures to organize and train U.S.-based forces for joint activities, the report recommends a reorganization of the command structure. (Powell, op. cit., p. II-3-5.) It recommends the elimination of the Army's existing U.S.- based Forces Command, which is the only specified command among the ten. In its place, the existing Atlantic Command would assume functional responsibilities for the development of joint doctrine and training of U.S.-based forces. This would be in addition to its combatant responsibilities in Europe, which now include an important NATO assignment as the Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic (SACLANT). This new command will be called USA Command, and will be commissioned on October 1, 1993.

Since the purpose of the reorganization is to improve the development of joint doctrine and training, it is inappropriate to give these functional responsibilities to a theater commander who already has important combat responsibilities. Under the Powell approach, the Commander in Chief of the Atlantic Command would have to manage an enormous scope of responsibilities: Atlantic theater defense, a critical NATO command, and inter-service training of all U.S.-based forces. This is impractical and should be avoided.

Strengthening the development of joint doctrine and training for forces based in the U.S. is a full-time job and a command should be assigned these tasks as its sole responsibility. Powell is right to recommend the elimination of the Forces Command. But in its place should be created a unified command. The commander in chief of this unified Forces Command should be rotated among the services. Under this approach, the theater commanders in chief around the world would report periodically on their contingency plans to the Forces Command. Forces Command would design joint training missions to prepare U.S.- based forces for integration with troops in other theaters. While the individual services would retain their responsibilities for training forces, Forces Command would assist with joint training for a specified period. Forces Command could also give refresher training to units from theater commands, rotating them through for a specified period every two or three years. Under this plan the development of joint doctrine and training missions would be managed by a command not also burdened with combatant responsibilities.


The Army of the future should be smaller but more technologically capable. In order to continue playing its indispensable role in the nation's defense, the Army must concentrate on winning land battles and conducting offensive operations in distant regions. It must pay particular attention to opposing heavy armored forces. It should complement the Marine Corps in deploying light infantry forces, not compete with it. Finally, the Army can make up for reductions in its size by retaining a larger percentage of the total force in combat- ready, active duty forces and relying on high technology. A smaller, heavy, more active, high-tech Army is a force that can win America's wars around the world.

Baker Spring, Senior Policy Analyst

About the Author

Baker Spring F.M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy
Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy