Courtesy Reuters

Transforming the Military


America's defense does not require a larger budget, but rather a major reallocation to meet the challenges of the post-Cold War world. Facing up to this politically divisive issue will be difficult, but the subject ought to be aired before the contending parties fall back on the easy option of increased spending. The congressionally mandated Quadrennial Defense Review was issued in May, and Sen. Joseph Lieberman's (D-Conn.) amendment to the last defense bill requires a preparedness report to Congress. The QDR's recently announced recommendations include only trivial cuts in naval combatants and aircraft, a woefully disappointing result. Faulty rationalizations for inappropriate force structures have marred previous official reviews, including Clinton administration Defense Secretary Les Aspin's bottom-up review and Bush administration Defense Secretary Richard Cheney's base force concept. The same can be said of recently departed Defense Secretary William Perry's valedictory article, "Defense in an Age of Hope," in the November/ December 1996 Foreign Affairs.

Perry espoused a U.S. strategy for managing conflict that rests on three lines of defense: preventing threats from emerging, deterring threats that do emerge, and defeating with force those that breakout into conflict. While in principle it makes excellent sense, as elaborated, Perry's analysis fails to address four serious problems: regional prioritization of U.S. interests, inadequate means for dealing with nuclear proliferation, a mismatch between missions and forces, and unexploited technology. Since Perry's article, Secretary William Cohen has released his report on the Pentagon's military planning and outlook. While Secretary Cohen's report identifies regions of importance and defines missions for each, it remains to be seen whether he is merely nodding at the notion of regional priorities or is willing to articulate significant change. The same flaws that blemished the Pentagon's planning when Perry left office are still glaring.


The forward deployment of U.S. forces in the Middle East, Europe, and northeast Asia is no less critical now for the prevention of war than it was during the Cold War.

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