Courtesy Reuters

Planning Our Military Forces

Uncertainty is necessarily the lot of the planner, since the deals with the future. Uncertainty can never be completely removed. However, it can be compensated for, and to do so is a continuing responsibility of those who plan military forces. Primarily this can be done by insuring, in so far as we can, that future weapons and forces will be adaptable to the right range of defense needs or, as defense planners often put it, by insuring flexibility.

Modern weapons need not of themselves inexorably beget more sophisticated, expensive and destructive devices. It is true that pressures exist which, if unrestrained, would needlessly proliferate and duplicate weapon designs. There is a tendency to do what potential opponents are doing, or thought to be doing, or predicted to be able to do. But restraint and direction are exercised. In acquiring the capability to defend the United States, direction is given and decisions are made at the highest level, by the President with the advice of the Secretaries of Defense and State. Assumptions, concepts, economic analyses, divergent estimates of potential danger to our national security-all periodically are translated into an explicit defense program for the United States. At least twice a year the Department of Defense updates this program and projects forces five years or more into the future. Specific decisions flow from a continuing interaction between perceptions of what is technologically and economically feasible, and defense policy-the broad guidelines for achieving national objectives by the direct or potential use of armed force. In turn, specific program decisions and their subsequent results condition both future weapons development and future defense policy.

To say that there is uncertainty in tomorrow or virtue in flexibility is hardly novel. Reconciling the two, however, is a job calling for much diverse information and refined analysis. To evaluate the process, we must examine further the uncertainty which surrounds weapon choices and consider how best to minimize it and live with it. Let us first consider some uses and

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