If the President and Congress make the right decisions over the
next 10 years, America will have the optimal military to keep the
nation safe, free, and prosperous while responding to the emerging
national security challenges of the 21st century. Achieving the
ideal composition and capabilities of U.S. military forces will
- Building a robust complement of capabilities for the spectrum
of missions the armed forces will face,
- Ensuring adequate funding for ongoing operations,
- Maintaining a trained and ready all-volunteer force,
- Preparing for the future, and
- Fundamentally reforming manpower and procurement
To realize these goals, both the President and Congress
must commit to a program that addresses the most pressing
priorities: preparing, fielding, and sustaining the force.
Any discussion defining the future force should be rooted in the
past and reflect the principles that define the U.S. military's
purpose and responsibilities. The purpose of government is to
provide for the common defense as prescribed by the Constitution,
and the armed forces play an important role in achieving that end.
Their primary task is to protect the nation's vital national
interests. These interests have proven remarkably consistent and
enduring over time and despite the changing threat environment from
generation to generation. Heritage Foundation President Edwin
Feulner reflected in 1996:
A band of conservative isolationists on the fringe wants America
to withdraw from the world altogether, while a suddenly macho band
of liberal interventionists seeks to remake…the rest of the
world in its own preening self-image….
The real problem, it seems to me, is that neither group has any
conception of America's true vital interests in the real world
After 12 years-six of which have been spent fighting the long
war against transnational terrorism-Feulner's salient list of
America's vital interests is still applicable:
VITAL INTEREST #1: Safeguard U.S. national
VITAL INTEREST #2: Prevent a major power threat to Europe,
East Asia, or the Persian Gulf.
VITAL INTEREST #3: Maintain access to foreign
VITAL INTEREST #4: Protect Americans against threats to
their lives and well-being.
VITAL INTEREST #5: Maintain access to
The first "means, above all, to protect America's territory,
borders, and airspace" as well as sea-lanes, space, and cyberspace.
Threats to the second may range from both state and non-state
entities. With respect to the third, "The greatest
danger…comes not from outside U.S. borders but from inside,
from those who fear America cannot compete…." Defending the
fourth means "an obligation whenever possible to protect
American citizens from terrorist and other international
With respect to the fifth of these vital interests, maintaining
access to resources is obviously essential both to long-term
U.S. national security and to the country's continuing economic
competitiveness. It is in the vital interest of the United States
to uphold the principle of freedom of the seas and to promote and
protect the ways and means of free trade among nations acting in
accordance with the rule of law.
Criteria for U.S. Military Intervention
The best rules for where, when, and how American military
force should be brought to bear have also remained historically
consistent. Any U.S. military intervention that puts America's
men and women in uniform in harm's way should meet the following
Criterion #1-Military intervention should defend
national security interests. Both the President and
Congress must recognize that not all national interests are equally
important.… For America to use its power effectively, it
must prioritize where and how it chooses to defend its vital,
important, and marginal interests, thereby avoiding both excessive
activism that diffuses important resources and isolationism that
eschews important opportunities to shape events.
Criterion #2-Military intervention should not jeopardize
the ability of the U.S. to meet more important security
commitments…. Huge interventions in areas of
marginal security interest have exacerbated the strain on the U.S.
military and made it doubtful that the military can mobilize the
resources necessary to defend vital national interests and honor
current security commitments.
Criterion #3-Military intervention should strive to
achieve military goals that are clearly defined, decisive,
attainable, and sustainable. Military interventions should
be conducted to accomplish clearly definable military goals that
are militarily achievable, consistent with overriding political
objectives, and supported by enough force to realize these
Criterion #4-Military intervention should enjoy
congressional and public support…. Such decisions
should not be made by polls; Americans traditionally are reluctant
to intervene. However, when intervention is required, the President
should mobilize public support…so that American troops
abroad will know that the nation and the Congress support not only
the troops, but the actual goals of the operation.
Criterion #5-The armed forces must be allowed to create
the conditions for success. The U.S. armed forces must be
allowed the operational freedom to create the conditions within
which they can succeed.
Blueprint for the Future Military
These principles and criteria help define what the U.S. military
is required to do and how it should be employed. They also serve as
the blueprint for the kind of military that the nation will need in
the decades ahead.
The Past Is Prologue. While U.S. vital national
interests have remained consistent, so has the military.
America's military has served the nation well since the end of the
Cold War. This generation of armed forces has proved that it, too,
is the greatest generation. Sustaining the best parts of the
military services-the character of the all-volunteer force, the
capacity to fight and win conventional battles, the ability to work
with friends and allies, and the means to respond in geostrategic
regions that are vital to U.S. interests-is essential to building
the future force.
Sustaining the Force. If the U.S. military had
become "hollow" after the Cold War-as it did following World
War II, Korea, and Vietnam-the armed forces would not have been
able to respond as effectively to their many post-Cold War
missions. While today's force is not hollow, however, chronic
underfunding from an excessive post-Cold War "peace dividend" has
placed it under grave stress. To prevent the future force from
quickly becoming hollow, Congress needs to provide consistent,
sustained defense funding, eliminate wasteful costs, and
control spiraling manpower costs.
Thinking About the Unthinkable.In the post-
Cold War era, Washington has taken great risks by neglecting vital
but politically controversial components of defense, such as
missile defense, the nuclear deterrent, and space-based defenses.
The U.S. cannot afford to continue ignoring these needs simply
because of ideological differences.
Establishing a military that has the capabilities and capacity
to perform all of the Pentagon missions-from supporting the
home front to intervening overseas and winning the peace to
dealing with a variety of terrorist threats to defending against
ballistic missiles and cyberattacks-requires a President and a
Congress that are willing to prepare, field, and sustain the force
to protect America.
Preparing the Force
To field the appropriate force for the future, the Pentagon must
change how it manages manpower costs and how it acquires goods and
Managing Manpower.The cost of maintaining the
ranks of the armed forces, including pay and in-kind benefits,
represents the largest portion of the annual defense budget.
Keeping these costs under control and leaving sufficient funds to
modernize the military while maintaining the quality of the force
is a significant challenge. A successful future force will adopt
policies that cap the spiraling increases in manpower costs.
The success of the all-volunteer military depends on a
well-designed compensation package that attracts highly qualified
people to military service. A generous and attractive compensation
package would focus on compensating military servicemembers in
ways that most directly meet their needs. A tailored approach would
also ensure that taxpayers get the best return on their investment
from the military. Such a custom compensation package would
recognize that military personnel, like their civilian
counterparts, are part of a highly mobile national labor force.
Over the course of his or her career, a typical
servicemember will move from active-duty service to the
Reserve Component and civilian employment. Therefore, a
well-designed compensation package would eliminate artificial
barriers to the efficient transition of servicemembers among
different forms of military service and the civilian sector. The
Department of Defense (DOD) refers to this as a "continuum of
service" concept for compensation.
Above all, the military compensation package that best supports
the all-volunteer force in the 21st century will be flexible. In
general terms, this flexibility is best achieved by favoring
cash compensation over in-kind and deferred benefits and
designing the remaining benefits around defined-contribution plans.
Labor mobility makes trying to design benefit packages to meet the
unique needs of every uniformed individual difficult and
inefficient. Cash compensation would provide servicemembers and
their families more freedom in deciding how best to utilize or
allocate their benefits.
Emphasizing cash compensation would also likely boost morale in
the military because servicemembers tend to compare their pay
levels with their civilian counterparts on this basis. The current
system, which is biased toward in-kind and deferred benefits,
leaves uniformed personnel with the impression that they are
undercompensated compared with their civilian peers. This
impression lingers even though the Government Accountability
Office noted that in 2002, a study "showed that servicemembers
generally earn more cash compensation alone than 70 percent of
like-educated civilians." Increased cash compensation would therefore
help to alleviate a source of resentment in military ranks.
Defined-contribution plans would also allow all of the
servicemember's employers, including government and private
employers, to contribute toward meeting servicemembers' health care
and retirement needs.
Congress should continue to provide annual pay increases to
military servicemembers over the next 10 years. However, these
annual pay increases should be combined with more efficient ways of
providing benefits beyond paychecks, particularly in retirement and
The military should reform its current retirement system by
adopting, on a transitional basis, a new structure in which the
military contributes to each servicemember's retirement account.
The plan should also permit the member and civilian government
and private employers to make contributions. Finally, the plan
should allow the servicemember to bequeath the assets to the
servicemember's heirs upon his or her death without paying estate
or death taxes. By the end of the 10-year period, all new military
recruits would be covered under this new retirement system.
The military also needs to reform the military health care
system, which covers servicemembers and their dependents. The
military should seek congressional authorization to move health
care coverage for dependents to the Federal Employees Health
Benefits (FEHB) system on terms consistent with what is available
to federal civilian employees. This would permit the military
health care system to focus on serving military personnel and
meeting the unique requirements of military medicine.
For future military retirees, the military should seek
congressional authorization to create a system of
defined-contribution plans with individual accounts for military
members. The funds in these accounts should be used to pay private
health insurance premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket
medical expenses. As with the proposed retirement system,
servicemembers, retirees, civilian government employers, and
private employers should be permitted to contribute to these
accounts. By the end of the 10-year period, all military dependents
should be covered under the FEHB system, and all new recruits
should be enrolled in the defined-contribution plan for health
Exploiting Cutting-Edge Capabilities.Today, the
private sector, not the government, conducts most scientific
research and development. In addition, industry is pioneering
many of the most cutting-edge technologies (e.g., information
technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and robotics). In many
areas, from information management to logistics, it is
business-not the armed forces-that has mastered the most effective
practices and developed the capability to deliver the greatest
service at the lowest cost. Much of the challenge that the Defense
Department faces is the mandate to become more adept at leveraging
the private sector's capacity. Part of building a better military
over the next decade must include making the military a better
customer of private-sector services.
Maintaining access to cutting-edge defense technology is
essential to fielding a U.S. military force that outmatches any
potential enemy. This will require an acquisition system that
neither slows the fielding of advanced technology nor encourages
risk-averse behavior by the defense acquisition bureaucracy.
Further, the military needs access to cutting-edge technology in a
climate where private sector investments in science and
technology far exceed military investment, unlike during the Cold
Ultimately, providing advanced technology to the military
requires a defense market that is both open and dynamic.
Regrettably, the defense acquisition system has become so
complex and so regulated in the attempt to prevent acquisition
failures that the defense market has become largely closed and
stagnant. Consolidation of prime DOD contractors during the
1990s had the unintended consequence of discouraging new
players from entering the defense supplier network. Without new
contractors with non-defense backgrounds, the security sector
will lack the creativity necessary to keep the U.S. military
technology at the cutting edge.
The remedy is to adopt a broad program for deregulating the
defense acquisition system. While this deregulation program should
address narrow issues such as curtailing "buy America" provisions
and reforming arms export control policies, it should concentrate
on removing redundant acquisition review procedures that are
designed to prevent acquisition failures. As part of this effort,
Congress should reform how it oversees defense procurement and stop
using defense legislation to micromanage acquisition programs.
Rather, the deregulated system should encourage the Defense
Department and DOD contractors to take calculated risks in
exploring new defense technologies and not punish either
program managers or defense contractors for taking these risks.
The relatively large share of national science and technology
investments coming from outside the defense sector means that some
of the most promising technologies will originate in the
civilian sector. The defense acquisition system must adjust to this
reality. The DOD should therefore focus its attention on
technological developments in the civilian sector and "spinning in"
such technologies to the defense realm.
Congress and the DOD should set goals for the next 10 years to
achieve real defense acquisition reform.
First, to increase the number of new defense
contractors entering the market, Congress and the DOD should
deregulate the market to encourage new contractors to enter
voluntarily. They should not impose a new layer of contractor
diversity rules, which will likely have the opposite effect.
Second, Congress and the DOD should create a
specialized arm of the defense acquisition system to search the
civilian sector for new technologies that can be used for
Third, Congress should adopt annual defense
authorization and appropriations bills that are less intricate and
provide greater discretion to DOD program managers to pursue
Finally, the military needs to master contracting for
The single greatest shortfall in contracting practices in
Iraq and Afghanistan was that Washington lacked the capacity to
oversee the unexpected massive volume of new defense
contracts. For instance, the Special Inspector General for Iraq
Reconstruction "found that the shortage of personnel (and the
widespread lack of required skill and experience among those
available) affected all facets of reconstruction
assistance." When the Iraq war started, only 3 percent
of the Army's contracting personnel were on active duty, and the
Army did not have even one career Army contracting general officer
position. The commission found that only about half of the
contracting officials were certified to do their jobs. At the same
time, since the long war against terrorism began, the Army has
experienced a sevenfold increase in work.
The resolution of these shortfalls is simple: All of the
services must increase the size and quality of their contracting
forces, and they need the capacity to expand their forces to meet
To address these varied practical problems, the services-the
Army in particular-should begin by reading and implementing their
own reports. For example, in October 2007, a commission
established by the Secretary of the Army found that almost
every component of the institutional Army-from financial management
to personnel and contracting systems to training, education,
doctrine, and regulations-needed to be bolstered to handle the
volume of work experienced by military operations in Afghanistan
A more robust contracting force would include a corps of
contracting officers specifically prepared for and trained in
"expeditionary" contracting. In other words, unlike writing a
contract to provide lawn-mowing services at Fort Sill or buying new
headgear, the military's contingency contracting corps must be
prepared and ready to deploy overseas. There must also be a clear
chain of command for contracting and contractor support for
forward-deployed forces on the battlefield and those back at the
Pentagon. Not only will this make contracting more responsive; it
will also ensure that individuals are held responsible for
conducting the people's business.
A bigger contracting force will require institutional
support to ensure its effectiveness. This means restructuring
organizations so that personnel receive the training, education,
practical experience, and support tools that they need (e.g.,
up-to-date information systems) and the lines of
responsibility are clear.
When Washington gets contracting in combat right, there will be
experienced and capable contracting officers at all
deployed locations. This cadre of professionals will have support
tools and requisite authorities required to do their job and
will work closely with military forces and other interagency
representatives in their areas of responsibility. These
managers will supervise contracts awarded under a contingency
contracting process that is capable of matching available resources
to the military's needs.
Fielding the Force
Establishing the right mix of military capabilities will be the
military's greatest challenge in the years ahead. The Pentagon
needs to reconstitute its forces because equipment and personnel
have been worn out by six years engaged in a long war. The armed
forces also need to prepare for the future without the luxury of
focusing on a single enemy or particular type of conflict.
Building Four Quadrants of Military
Capability.The Pentagon's 2006 Quadrennial Defense
Review rightly argued that America does not have the luxury of
planning for one war alone. Enemies may challenge the U.S. through
irregular, catastrophic, and disruptive means-or a combination of
these- to deny or degrade traditional U.S. military
advantages. The military's future challenges range from
defeating terrorist networks to preventing the acquisition or use
of weapons of mass destruction to preventing failed states.
At the same time, the United States cannot sacrifice its
capacity to fight conventional conflicts. Indeed, unpreparedness
makes conventional conflicts more, not less, likely. A great
power that lacks the capacity to defend itself is not a great
power. It is instead a target-an invitation to aggression.
Nor can America afford to ignore the classic components of
deterrence. The age when only a great power could bring another
great power to its knees is over. Any state and some non-state
entities with a modicum of resources could field weapons, such as
nuclear bombs, that could inflict heavy casualties and/or devastate
the U.S. economy. The United States needs to maintain the means to
limit all of these dangers.
Simplistic proposals just to add more ground troops will not
suffice. Indeed, no single capability-whether "boots on the
ground" or satellites in space-will address all future challenges.
A successful 10-year modernization of the military requires a
comprehensive plan that demonstrates how the Pentagon will maintain
adequate means to deal with threats across all four quadrants of
The military must not only be the right size for the long war
against terrorism but also be capable of performing the appropriate
tasks. The old adage that "every problem looks like a nail when all
you have is a hammer" sums up many policymakers' approach to
conflict. The Cold War military was a hammer, but a long war
demands many more tools.
Expanding the toolbox will be difficult. "Transformation"
was the Pentagon's popular exhortation after the Cold War. Few
actually agreed on what the effort meant, but every general and
admiral seemed to want some. An elementary definition
of the term meant providing a new set of military capabilities
fundamentally different from those used during the Cold War. The
difficulty was deciding exactly what those capabilities would look
like. Too often, the answers from the services were that many of
the systems and platforms already under development to meet
Cold War objectives were transformational and should therefore
probably be paid for at the expense of some other service's
More than a decade after the Cold War ended, the transformation
rhetoric in the halls of the Pentagon finally appears to be
shifting. Talk is moving away from change for the sake of change to
transforming the military so that it can carry out the many
missions that will be required in the 21st century.
Appropriately, much effort is being spent on things that do not fit
a single-service paradigm, such as ballistic missile defense, space
operations, better information systems, more special operations
forces, and unmanned aerial vehicles. These are the hallmarks of
the new military coming out of the Pentagon, and the services
should continue these important efforts.
Thus, 10 years of progress would include an integrated approach
to modernization rather than ceaseless competition among the
services to promote particular forces or hardware.
Taking the High Ground. The U.S. defense
portfolio has clearly become unbalanced in many respects. A
successful 10-year modernization effort will require increasing
investments in certain accounts while decreasing efforts to reform
and revitalize other defense capabilities. Yet no part of the
military requires more urgent attention than U.S. strategic
Missile Defense. By 2018, the U.S. missile defense
forces should be more balanced than they are today. The Bush
Administration's vision for missile defense is the correct one: a
layered defense that can protect against missile attack worldwide.
This layered defense would exploit opportunities to counter
ballistic missiles in the boost, midcourse, and terminal
phases of flight in order to counter missiles of all ranges. It
would protect U.S. military forces in the field and U.S. allies, as
well as U.S. territory. Finally, it would use the full panoply of
basing modes: ground-based, sea-based, air-based, and space-based.
The major problem with today's initial missile defense
capability is that is extremely unbalanced in these areas.
Listing the missile defense interceptors that are available now
or will be available in the near future reveals the lack of balance
in the U.S. missile defense posture. These interceptors include
roughly 750 Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) interceptors,
which are ground-based, terminal defense interceptors for
countering shorter-range missiles. Their primary purpose is to
defend U.S. forces in the field and U.S. friends and allies in
By the end of 2009, the Navy is projected to have over 50
Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) sea-based interceptors and somewhat
fewer than 100 SM-2 Block IV interceptors. The SM-3 is a midcourse
interceptor that is designed to counter short-range and
intermediate-range missiles. It provides theater-area defense to
U.S. forces abroad and U.S. allies. The SM-2 Block IV interceptor
is being adapted as a terminal defense to counter short-range
Finally, the Missile Defense Agency is in the process
fielding some 44 ground-based midcourse defense interceptors in
Alaska and California and 10 missiles in Poland in the coming
The current missile defense posture, which is dominated by the
PAC-3 system, overwhelmingly favors terminal defenses over
boost-phase and midcourse-phase defenses. Indeed, the posture
includes no boost-phase interceptors whatsoever. PAC-3 dominance,
along with the SM-2 Block IV, also means that the overall posture
is much more robust for countering short-range missiles than for
countering intermediate-range and long-range missiles. As a
result, it offers greater protection to U.S. forces in the field
and U.S. allies than to the American people. Ground-based
interceptors greatly outnumber sea-based interceptors, and the U.S.
has no air-based or space-based interceptors.
Over the next 10 years, the U.S. should deploy a balanced
missile defense system by concentrating on fielding additional
interceptors at sea, in the air, and in space. Using these basing
modes should overcome current deficiencies in countering long-range
missiles and intercepting missiles in the boost and ascent
- The Department of Defense can achieve this balance by
fielding these systems and by concurrently following the
acquisition strategy proposed by the Independent Working Group in
2006. This strategy includes:
- Giving future generations of the SM-3 missile smaller and
lighter kill vehicles to make them capable of countering long-range
missiles and intercepting missiles in the boost phase.
- Testing and fielding space-based interceptors based on
Brilliant Pebbles technology developed under the Strategic Defense
Initiative. The goal should be to deploy 1,000 Brilliant Pebbles
interceptors in space within 10 years.
- Constructing sensor, tracking, and command and control systems
that cover the globe and can accommodate both greater numbers of
interceptors and newly designed interceptors.
- Maintaining a robust science and technology base to explore the
opportunities to field directed-energy weapons, distributed
satellite networks, and air-based defenses among other
Space Capabilities. In 10 years, the U.S. military
needs a robust set of space capabilities to execute the national
security provisions in President Bush's 2006 Space Policy
Directive. The directive tasks the Secretary of
Defense and the Director of National Intelligence with the
primary responsibilities for protecting vital U.S. national
security interests in space.
The most important space capabilities can be divided into three
general areas: achieving space situational awareness, fielding an
operationally responsive array of space systems for national
security, and protecting U.S. space assets and countering the
exploitation of space by hostile forces.
The first step in preserving U.S. national security interests in
space is to acquire space situational awareness-understanding which
satellites are in orbit and for what purposes. Until the U.S.
achieves such awareness, it will not understand the threats to its
own space assets and capabilities that may be faced in the future.
Within 10 years, the U.S. should deploy an array of satellites and
ground-based telescopes to catalogue and monitor all but the
very smallest objects in Earth orbit. A portion of the
satellite array may be derived from NASA programs for
observing asteroids in the solar system.
In the event that U.S. space assets are disabled or destroyed,
the military and the intelligence community need to have
backup plans and replacement systems to restore the lost
capabilities. This combination of plans and systems is called
operationally responsive space. One aspect of the plan is to use
distributed networks of small satellites as opposed to a small
number of large satellites. A distributed network of satellites
would be more survivable against certain kinds of attacks.
The first step is to construct these networks of small
satellites and place them in orbit. The second step is to maintain
readily available and inexpensive launch systems to replace
satellites that are lost in any attack. A shift toward distributed
networks of small satellites means that most of the launch
systems could be designed to carry smaller and lighter
payloads. Within 10 years, the plans should be in place, and the
U.S. should have made significant progress toward obtaining
The Space Policy Directive calls for the U.S. to protect its
access to space and deny adversaries the use of space for hostile
purposes. The policies, plans, and capabilities to fulfill these
goals are referred to collectively as defensive and offensive
counterspace. The requirements for an effective program of
defensive and offensive counterspace are derived from war games and
tabletop exercises that are drawn in part from real-world
experiences in space operations. The problem is that past war games
and exercises may not have been based on realistic assumptions
about enemy capabilities. Much of this is because many of the past
war games and exercises are classified.
Given the lack of transparency, the first step in attaining
effective defensive and offensive counterspace capabilities is
to establish an outside group of experts to review the design of
these war games and exercises and to consider opportunities for
improving defensive and offensive counterspace
capabilities that may have been overlooked. This review could
be completed by the end of 2008. To the greatest extent permitted
by national security concerns, the review and its supporting
documents should be declassified. Within 10 years, substantial
progress should be made toward fielding, as recommended by
this group, a comprehensive array of capabilities to preserve U.S.
access to space in the face of hostile actions and to hold enemy
space assets at risk. The President in 2018 should have a wide
variety of military options for protecting U.S. vital interests in
Nuclear Forces. Today, the nation's nuclear
weapons infrastructure is atrophying. This is not what was
envisioned by the 2002 Nuclear Posture Review, which effectively
established a damage-limitation strategy. The
damage-limitation strategy is designed to lessen the incentives for
other states to acquire nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons;
to reduce the likelihood that such weapons will be used in attacks
on the U.S. and its friends and allies; and to limit the impact of
The source of the problem with the atrophying nuclear
infrastructure is an erroneous assumption that U.S. nuclear forces
fielded during the Cold War, including the delivery systems, are
inherently capable of meeting today's strategic needs. While the
number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal is being reduced from
Cold War levels, the U.S. needs to modernize its smaller nuclear
The first step in remedying the problem of nuclear weapon
atrophy is to establish a plan for modernizing the U.S. nuclear
forces in accordance with the Nuclear Posture Review. The President
should issue a directive on strategic targeting policy requiring
that such a plan should be drafted within a matter of months. It
should also direct Strategic Forces Command to identify a worldwide
list of targets the U.S. military needs to hold at risk as
part of the damage-limitation strategy and to determine how best to
hold these targets at risk, whether by defensive systems,
conventional strategic strike systems, or nuclear strategic
strike systems, including a sufficient level of redundancy.
The nuclear weapons component of the total strategic force needs
to meet the requirements of the targeting directive. The Department
of Defense should spend the remainder the next 10 years designing,
testing, building, and fielding a new generation of nuclear
weapons. This effort should extend both to the weapons themselves
and to their delivery systems. This modernized force should be
optimized to hold at risk the identified targets assigned to the
nuclear component of the overall strategic force.
Control the Commons.Getting to the
battlefield is half of the fight. To reach future front lines,
U.S. forces must be free to transit sea-lanes, control airspace,
exploit cyberspace, and thwart enemy attempts to deny U.S. access
to potential theaters of conflict. As the National Intelligence
Council has aptly noted, "The international order will be in
greater flux in the period out to 2020 than at any point since the
end of the Second World War." It is generally agreed
Prospective adversaries are developing and
fielding…military capabilities that will place US forces
operating from large, fixed forward bases, and in the littoral
regions, at increasing risk. Consequently, the Pentagon faces
new challenges to the operations of air and land forces from
overseas bases, as well as how best to structure its maritime
forces to operate in the littoral.
Maritime commerce is becoming an increasingly important
component of the global economy. This trend both increases the
number of potential targets for an adversary and could provide
cover for an enemy trying to approach U.S. coastlines
undetected. State and non-state groups could launch attacks from
U.S. waters using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), short-range
ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles, possibly armed with
weapons of mass destruction. Terrorists could also use small
boats packed with explosives or naval mines to attack commercial
shipping in U.S. waters or overseas ports.
In early February, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, starkly warned Congress that the
military's current strategic risk is "significant." The military's
inability to defeat cruise missiles or naval mines, provide
persistent surveillance, project power quickly, or operate
within a defined "battlespace" (including in the air) places the
U.S. military at even greater risk in future conflicts.
Defense budgets have to consider the investments needed for
tomorrow based on national security requirements. Whether the
country needs more Coast Guard cutters, attack submarines, or
long-range bombers, military and civilian authorities should
carefully and rigorously assess future requirements and hedge
accordingly with the right force structures and platforms-many of
which will require investment today so that they can enter the
force by 2020.
The 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review highlighted the need to
create military capabilities to shape and defend cyberspace while
maintaining command and control capabilities that can survive
cyberattacks. The U.S. government, and the military in
particular, remains extremely vulnerable in cyberspace and needs to
improve its defensive and offensive capabilities quickly. Congress
and the President should fully support the effort to thwart
America's adversaries in cyberspace as military success in the
21st century will require the ability to deter and defend against
cyberattacks and strike at enemies in cyberspace.
Building Reserve Forces for Future Missions.
The need for U.S. forces will likely wax and wane in the coming
years. In this dynamic environment, Reserve Component forces will
remain vital. They provide the flexibility to expand the
operational force quickly and efficiently when the demand for
troops suddenly increases. In addition, they play a vital role in
protecting the homeland and responding to natural and manmade
disasters in the United States.
Current stress on members of the Reserve Component reflects
the lack of adequate investment in the total force after years of
chronic underfunding and the lack of effective personnel policies
to manage, train, sustain, and reconstitute Reserve forces.
Most disasters, including terrorist attacks, can and should be
handled by emergency responders. However, catastrophic
disasters-events that overwhelm the capacity of state and local
governments- require a large-scale response. Having the military
play a prominent role in the immediate response to catastrophic
disasters is prudent.
To achieve this mission set, America's reserve ground forces
must be large enough to maintain some units on active duty at all
times for rapid response and sufficient to support missions at home
and abroad. For catastrophic response, the medical, security,
critical infrastructure, and oversight components would need
to be particularly robust.
Additionally, homeland security forces should be
self-deployable, self-sustaining, and capable of operating in
austere environments where critical infrastructure is significantly
degraded. For example, the Air Force's efforts to enhance its
expeditionary airfield capability overseas will be well suited
to domestic security in the United States. America's Reserve forces
must promptly be freed of less-than-essential homeland defense
missions to meet these domestic requirements. This includes current
missions such as U.S. Air Force air patrols or U.S. Army
supplementation of Customs and Border Protection agents.
The rapidly changing maritime threat environment and the
utility of maritime forces in responding to many catastrophic
disasters also argue for an organizational structure that better
utilizes the Navy's capacity to support homeland security
operations. Several states with maritime interests already
have state naval militias. Creating a Navy Guard that includes all
coastal areas would provide these states with more resources and
allow the Navy Guard to focus on state needs when not on active
duty. This would also provide a suitable partner for the U.S. Coast
Guard to facilitate integration of daily DOD and homeland security
The National Guard needs an equipment modernization program
that is specifically designed to meet its unique needs and
capabilities. While not ideal, the lack of a modernization program
was acceptable when the National Guard was primarily an adjunct to
active units, for use typically in the later stages of conflict.
Over the past six years, however, the Army National Guard has
contributed almost half of all Army troops on the ground in Iraq in
certain years and has assumed an increased role in homeland defense
The next Administration will need to restock severely depleted
domestic equipment supplies, rethink mobilization policies, update
benefit plans for the reserves to allow a continuum of service, and
restructure the force size to meet the needs of anticipated
eserve Component forces should be updated and adapted to better
fulfill the tasks of the 21st century: supporting homeland security
activities, theater support operations, and post-conflict
The Future Force
The exact composition of the future armed forces-how many Army
brigade combat teams, vehicles, ships, aircraft, and Marines-will
depend on a number of considerations, including progress in the
long war against terrorism, the rise of competing regional powers,
and the prospects of U.S. alliances such as NATO. Furthermore,
given the evolving threat environment, the right force structure
will likely be dynamic, not static.
However, some milestones for force structure choices can be laid
out now based on experience from current conflict and impending
fiscal and structural challenges. To achieve the needed force
structure, the United States, at a minimum, should:
- Rebuild ground forces. The Clinton-era cuts in
manpower were imprudent. Ground forces should be restored to
pre-1998 levels. Additional ground force needs should be based
on balancing strategic requirements and manpower costs. In
most cases, additional manpower needs should be met affordably
by expanding the Reserve Components into a more sustainable and
flexible operational Reserve.
- Preserve the all-volunteer force. All future
military manpower requirements should be met by expanding the
all-volunteer force. Conscription and any form of national
service should be used only as a last resort in the most dire
- Expand the capabilities-based force. The armed
forces should increase their capacity to respond to a wide range of
missions, including post-conflict operations, counterinsurgency,
and homeland defense, but not at the expense of the services'
capacity to wage conventional warfare.
- Revitalize the strategic forces. The military
should develop robust capabilities in missile defense, space-based
operations, and cyber warfare.
- Develop next-generation platforms. The
services should develop and field next-generation systems,
such land vehicles, cruisers, and bombers.
- Exploit cutting-edge technology. The
military will need new technologies (e.g., directed-energy
weapons, unmanned combat aerial vehicles, and other robotic
systems) that give it a significant competitive advantage over
- Maintain air supremacy. The U.S. military must
retain the capability to dominate airspace in any theater,
including space and cyberspace.
- Maintain the capacity to control sea-lanes and defeat
anti-access strategies. Naval and Marine forces should
concentrate on these core missions, while other maritime
"constabulary" missions should increasingly be assigned to the
Sustaining the Force
The third and likely greatest challenge for Congress and
the Administration over the next 10 years will be providing the
resources to sustain a military that is capable of carrying out the
national military strategy within an acceptable margin of risk over
the next several decades.
Spending at Least 4 Percent of gross domestic product
(GDP) on Defense.Americans are often surprised to learn
that, by historical standards, federal defense spending is
relatively modest, particularly given that the United States
has been at war since September 11, 2001, and is conducting major
military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Indeed, members of
America's military have made well over 2 million individual
deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
While Americans are firmly committed to maintaining a
strong national defense, they often defer to their leaders in
Congress to reflect their views and take appropriate action.
Regrettably, some Members of Congress are already predicting a
post-Iraq peace dividend and procurement holiday. Some Members are
already posturing to accept, if not encourage, a significant
drawdown of the defense budget within as little as two years even
though America's service chiefs have told them that war-related
bills will continue to come due for at least three years after
major combat operations subside.
Even though the recently passed fiscal year (FY) 2008 defense
budget provides about $460 billion to the baseline Pentagon budget,
it fails to answer the question of whether or not this commitment
to national defense will be sustained for the next four years of
the five-year budget period. The current Administration has
deferred cost estimates of ongoing operations in the war on
terrorism because projections are impossible this far in
advance. This omission, however, shows defense budgets
declining after FY 2008 to 3.2 percent of gross domestic
product (GDP) by FY 2012.
Spending significantly less than 4 percent of GDP on defense for
the next five to 10 years would shortchange the military. Such
underfunding would ultimately produce a hollow force that is either
too small, unable to sustain current operational demands, not
ready, or at a technological disadvantage on the
Congress can provide adequately for national security by making
a firm commitment to fund the national defense at no less than 4
percent of GDP for the next 10 years. This commitment would require
Congress to add roughly $400 billion to the defense budget for from
FY 2009 to FY 2012, which it could do in the 2009 budget
resolution. A portion of this money would be allocated to ongoing
operations, while the remainder should go to the core defense
program, with a special emphasis on developing and deploying the
next generation of weapons and equipment.
Under current and future budget projections, the services are
scheduled to field new platforms that will anchor U.S. security for
the next generation. America can afford the necessary upgrades.
Over the long term, federal spending should be reformed to provide
adequate funding for current defense needs, and the shape of the
U.S. military should continue to evolve to reflect future threats.
Rather than reduce defense spending, the next President and future
Congresses should commit to providing for the nation's defense by
spending at least 4 percent of GDP on defense and ensuring
that those resources are spent well.
Adopting Fiscally Responsible Policies.The
United States has a $13 trillion economy. As a result, modest
economic upticks and downturns, such as a mild recession or modest
inflation, are unlikely to affect defense spending significantly.
However, inadequate long-term fiscal policies from Washington
could cripple the economy, placing the overall competitiveness of
the United States-and defense spending-at risk.
Economic productivity and growth are essential to providing for
the common defense. To foster economic growth, Washington
- Restrain non-defense discretionary spending.
Spending not related to defense and post-9/11 operations has
increased by 49 percent since 2001, or 5.9 percent annually
compared to 4.2 percent growth under President Bill Clinton. Since
2001, spending on education has grown by 7.5 percent per year,
health research by 7.3 percent, and international affairs by 8.0
percent. At a time when defense and homeland security priorities
require especially tight non-security budgets, Members of Congress
have not made necessary trade-offs. Instead, they have
accelerated the growth of non-security
- Bring entitlement spending under control.
Taxpayers cannot afford the massive intergenerational transfer
of wealth that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will soon
require. European economies are already being crushed under
the weight of their expensive social insurance programs, and the
United States must take steps now or meet a similar fate. This
means modernizing these social insurance programs to make them
As baby boomers shift into retirement, they are living longer,
more productive lives. Congress should gradually raise the
retirement age to reflect this change. It should also target
benefits by reducing premium subsidies for higher-income retirees
and tying benefits to income. Over the long-term, Congress should
reform Medicare into a market-based system that provides
seniors with the right to choose better coverage if they wish
to do so. Seniors would also benefit from the intense competition
that private health plans would bring.
- Repair the budget process. Lawmakers still
cling to an antiquated budget process created in 1974. During the
past 30 years, successive Congresses have punched this process
full of holes, and federal spending has tripled. The current budget
process provides no workable tools to limit spending, no
restrictions on passing massive costs onto future generations,
and no incentive to bring all parties to the table early in
the budget process to set a framework.
America's budget priorities have changed, and so should its budget
process. Congress should ensure that the long-term costs of
entitlements are built into the budget process and considered along
with other priorities during the annual budget debate. Congress
should also put all programs, including entitlements, on a
more level playing field. It should do this by creating a long-term
budget framework for entitlements that is revisited every five
years along with "triggers" to make automatic adjustments if
spending grows above budgeted levels.
- Reform the tax code and permanently reduce the tax
burden. Today's tax system is an obstacle to economic
growth. Taxing capital through capital gain and dividend
taxes, the death tax, and corporate tax reduces economic growth and
has a dampening effect on income investment, jobs, and wage growth.
High marginal personal income tax rates also deter growth by
disincentives to work, save, and invest. The United States has
the second-highest corporate tax burden (35 percent federal tax
rate plus an average of 5 percent at the state level) in the
industrialized world, which reduces U.S. competitiveness in the
global economy. Economists estimate that the current tax system
imposes mammoth costs on the U.S. economy, suppressing economic
output by as much as 15 percent.
Annual growth rates could be much more impressive if the tax
system did not punish productive behavior. To create an
environment that better fosters growth, Congress should make the
tax code flatter and simpler, reduce or eliminate taxes on capital,
and ensure that U.S. tax policies are internationally competitive.
The more competitive the United States is economically, the
better able it will be to provide for its own security.
Providing for the common defense is Washington's
responsibility, and meeting that responsibility is an achievable
goal. Congress and the next President need to make the right
choices over the next 10 years to prepare, field, and sustain an
all-volunteer force that is trained, equipped, and ready for
the tasks of the 21st century. The American people deserve nothing