Heritage Study Offers Guidelines for Military Modernization
WASHINGTON, Mar. 29, 2001-As the
Bush administration prepares to implement what reportedly will be a
comprehensive overhaul of U.S. armed forces, a new Heritage
Foundation paper offers some guidelines "to create a 21st century
force that can protect America's future interests with minimal risk
to today's national security."
Years of shrinking budgets and growing deployments have put a
tremendous strain on America's military, writes Jack Spencer, a
defense and national security analyst in Heritage's Davis Institute
for International Studies. But before the Bush administration
begins to modernize the armed forces, he says, it first must decide
what it wants them to do.
"Modernization must focus on warfighting, not peacemaking or
peacekeeping," Spencer says. "Its aim should be threefold: defend
the homeland, deter near-term aggression and maintain long-term
conventional military supremacy."
Some military advocates are urging the administration simply to
modernize current weapons, while others want it to invest in
"next-generation" ones already on the drawing board or opt for
revolutionary "generation-after-next" weapons. But the task of
modernization isn't so simple, Spencer says: "Some weapons systems
require immediate attention, others require we reach for better
technology, and still others require we think generations
Spencer sets out five guidelines for efficient, effective
- Long-term investments shouldn't be made at the expense of
near-term requirements. Although preparing for future threats
is important, ignoring today's threats can prove fatal. For
example, rather than spend $300 million over the next 30 years on
4,000 tactical aircraft as currently planned, the military should
diversify its air-to-ground strike options over that period by
developing a force of manned and unmanned aircraft augmented by
long-range precision strike missiles.
- Modernization efforts must focus on warfighting. The
decline of America's military readiness can be traced largely to
increasing participation in so-called "operations other than war,"
such as peacekeeping efforts and humanitarian interventions.
America's commitment to those operations also is compromising the
future of U.S. warfighting ability. For instance, Spencer argues
that the Army's planned purchase of 2,131 "Interim Armored
Vehicles" at a cost of $4 billion is a reaction to its high level
of commitment to non-combat operations. The IAV purchase should be
scaled back, and those funds should go to research and development,
- Modernization must secure a competitive advantage for the
United States over its potential adversaries. The "procurement
holiday" of the last decade and the rapid proliferation of military
technologies to even Third World countries demands that
modernization efforts focus on unmet needs of the military and
unaddressed threats from abroad. For example, Spencer says, rather
than extend the life of the 50-year-old B-52-the current
plan-America should begin to phase out that plane in favor of the
- Modernization must balance capabilities with efficiency.
Given budget constraints and political realities, military
modernization must be carried out as efficiently as possible, but
to emphasize efficiency over capability could degrade military
readiness, Spencer says. Today, no country can detect or defend
against America's SSN nuclear-powered attack submarines. Yet the
fleet has slipped from 96 to 56 since 1990. The most efficient way
to rebuild the force is to refuel seven Los Angeles-class SSN subs
scheduled for decommissioning before the end of their useful lives.
This won't obviate the need for increased production of the new
Virginia-class subs, but it would alleviate the short-term shortage
at minimal cost.
- Modernization must respond to a changing security
environment. Potential adversaries are designing weapons meant
to exploit U.S. military weaknesses, such as our vulnerability to
ballistic and cruise missiles, our reliance on information networks
and space for battlefield information, and the need to base forces
in forward areas. That's why the United States must build a missile
defense, work to protect its digital battle information network and
develop ways to place forces in forward areas even without
cooperation from allies, Spencer says.