Courtesy Reuters

Defending America in the Twenty-first Century

WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

Last year, the U.S. military looked something like this: it had 1,380,000 troops, a budget of some $279 billion, and featured 10 active Army and three active Marine Corps divisions, about 20 active and reserve air wings, and 11 active aircraft carriers. Its forces drove m-1 tanks, flew F-15 and F-16 fighters and F-117 bombers, and sailed Nimitz-class carriers. They were organized into unified and specified commands, governed primarily by the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986.

Ten years earlier -- with the Soviet Union still standing and the Gulf War soon to begin -- the picture was strangely similar. The U.S. military had slightly over two million troops. With a budget of $382.5 billion (in today's dollars), it had 18 active Army and 3 active Marine Corps divisions, 36 active and reserve air wings, and 14 carriers. Its troops drove m-1 tanks, flew F-15 and F-16 fighters and F-117 bombers, and sailed Nimitz-class carriers. They too were organized into unified and specified commands, governed primarily by the Goldwater-Nichols Act.

To be fair, the Pentagon did make some changes in the interim. The American military presence in Europe shrank to something like a third of its late-Cold War size -- down to roughly 100,000 troops. Some organizations disappeared (most notably the Air Force's nuclear-armed Strategic Air Command), while others expanded in size and influence. Precision-guided missiles and bombs, once a small portion of the arsenal, came to dominate American air campaigns. And in the invisible theater of cyberspace, networks multiplied and the information flow became a torrent.

But despite these alterations, the Defense Department in 2000 closely resembles its predecessor of a decade ago, despite growing insistence by politicians that things must change. "Transformation," and not mere "reform," has become the catchword of the presidential defense debate. Texas Governor George W. Bush, in a keynote defense speech, promised a "revolution" that would "skip a generation of technology"; Vice President Al Gore has declared that the country must "rise to the challenge again -- to transform

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