What are some of the criticisms you've heard about General Shinseki's
transformation plans from the army officers that you've been in touch
An analyst in the Pentagon's Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation, he's
been an outspoken critic of military spending issues dating back to the early
years of the Reagan administration. He authors an email column that is widely
disseminated within and outside the Pentagon. This interview reflects his
personal opinions; he is not speaking as a representative of the U.S. Defense
Most officers I talk to--and I talk to a great many of them--are concerned that
the army is repackaging old ideas into a new form. While they agree that the
army has to transform itself, they're concerned that this particular form of
transformation will be a substitute for existing heavy forces.
Why do you think they feel that way?
One reason is that they feel there hasn't been a sufficient debate over these
issues; that this transformation has been imposed very quickly from the top
down, for the best of intentions. But a lot of issues have to be dealt with.
With the end of the Cold War and the disappearance of heavy conventional
threats, there is a real requirement for fundamental changes in the army. And
they feel that this particular transformation is not really doing that.
There have been a number of reports about concerns that these new interim
brigades are too light.
The traditional army views ground warfare as a massive clash between heavy
conventional forces dominated by tanks. These interim brigades, essentially,
will have wheeled vehicles. They may have track vehicles. They'll be lightly
armored. And people are concerned that if they go up against a heavy
conventional force, they'll get blown away.
So they're concerned about their own protection, as far as being in a tank
versus one of these lighter vehicles?
Partly, but I think it goes beyond that. They're concerned that this force
will just not have the hitting power and the defensive power to deal with a
heavy force in what we would consider a conventional armored battle.
Who are these people with these concerns?
They're mostly conventional army officers coming out of the Fort Knox School of
Armored Warfare. They are traditionalists who are looking back at warfare in
World War II, the Arab-Israeli wars, and the Gulf War, and they're thinking in
terms of prosecuting this kind of war with lighter forces.
And so these officers are concerned that it's a "one-size-fits-all" kind of
That's my understanding of it. This force will be easier to transport, but
once it gets there, it will do what the army has traditionally done. And
that's a very different thing than the normal approach to heavy-versus-light
questions. They're used in a combined arms sense, where heavy forces may pin
down an adversary force, so a light force can go into the rear and attack it.
Light forces are very good for pursuit. Sometimes you use light forces to
cause an enemy to bunch up so he can be hammered by the heavy forces.
Sometimes you use light forces to try to get the enemy to disperse, so the
heavy force can punch through it. The idea of taking medium-weight divisions
and substituting them for heavy divisions in a combat sense gets away from that
This kind of transformation that General Shinseki is trying to do--have you
seen this kind of thing before?
This transformation reminds me a little bit of the attempt to investigate the
possibilities of lighter, more mobile forces in the early 1980s. And they set
up an experimental division at Fort Lewis. It was the Ninth Infantry Division.
And it was a pretty exciting time, and then it gradually frittered away. Now
some people say there were some real flaws in that division; I really can't
comment on that. But it was an experimental process.
In contrast to that process, this current transformation appears much more
predetermined. It appears much more bureaucratically imposed. It appears much
more driven by top-down direction. And I think the main concern of the army
officers that I talk is that there is not enough opportunity to explore
different ideas; that failure is just an important an experimental outcome as
success; but that because so many reputations are riding on this, we may end up
having success-oriented demonstrations, which is a typical Pentagon phenomena.
That's not limited to the army. All of the services do it.
What does that mean?
The bottom line is, the effort could go on for awhile, we'd spend a lot of
money, and in the end, not much would change.
And why not?
Because the bureaucracy will punch into the weaknesses. The traditionalists
will come in and reestablish their primacy. The heavy armored community and
the light infantry community will come in and try to reestablish their old
positions. And these sort of medium-weight divisions are betwixt and between.
Why is that a problem?
The medium-weight divisions don't have the firepower of the heavy divisions,
and they don't have the mobility of the light divisions. And that's sort of a
one-size-fits-all solution. That type of solution is not truly amenable to
There is another aspect that we haven't talked about on this, and that is the
whole integration with air. These medium-weight divisions are going to need a
different type of air support than a heavy division or a light division. In
theory, at least, they would be going in very quickly. The normal apparatus of
air support would probably not be available. That would mean that the air
force would have to work directly with the army, and they are not planning to
do that right now, so far as I know.
You said that General Shinseki's transformation effort is a top-down kind of
effort. What danger do you see there?
The basic danger of the top-down approach, is that it assumes the top
person--the one who has the idea and who sets it in motion, and for the best of
reasons in this case--understands all the different details of how to implement
that solution. It gets imposed on the bureaucracy, and the underlings
essentially trying to satisfy the direction they're given. We're in a process
of exploration here. The normal process of creativity and exploration is much
more of a bottom-up process. You have to have sort of a top-down guidance.
But really you want to do trial and error from the bottom up, see what works,
reinforce that, and discard what doesn't work.
You may end up with a solution that is very different from the original vision,
or the original idea that started the whole process rolling. The way this is
being done--with such a formalized top-down approach--that won't be allowed to
General Shinseki says that we've done a lot of experimenting, and we see a
problem that we need to address. We need momentum to push forward, and we will
allow the experimentation later as we develop these new forces. What's
wrong with that?
If you field something before you understand how it operates, you run a good
chance of it not working as you anticipated, and it may be entirely
inappropriate for the circumstances.
People who are supposedly in the know have mentioned that they see this
Yes. They have set up organizations that are very traditional in their
structure. They are focused on hardware at the very beginning of the process.
For example, there is a big debate over track versus wheeled vehicles going on.
Yet no one has really thought about how medium-weight operations would work.
The vehicle selection may actually be secondary. We may need different types
of tactics, different types of operational doctrines, and whatnot.
They've got the cart before the horse--is that the problem?
If I was doing it, I would be doing small-scale experiments, and doing all
sorts of different things. And I would be involving air and ground with
medium-weight vehicles, light-weight vehicles, and even heavy
vehicles--although we know the problems with deployability of the heavy
vehicles--to see how we could work together, how we might be able to develop
new operational techniques.
This could be done at fairly small levels, and for reasonably low costs. You
gradually reinforce the successful operations, and see if you can build up a
structure that is consistent with the overall objective that he is trying to
achieve, which is to give the army a better capability to deploy combat power
into a theater quickly.
So essentially, in your view, this is not the right process for changing the
I think we have plenty of time. I don't think we have to rush into this thing
and create a bureaucratic steamroller. Given the nature of how the world is
changing, the nature of how war is changing, irregular warfare is becoming much
more predominant around the world now. We ought to just take our time and try
to sort these things out on a more deliberate basis, from the lowest levels,
where people are free to try and fail.
What is the problem with having a vision and then working from there?
Vision-based planning is a fad in the Pentagon, and is by no means limited to
the army. It's a flawed intellectual approach to solving problems. It
essentially assumes that the person with the vision can define the future very
precisely, far in the future, and that we can then build toward that future
with a very detailed roadmap. The problem is that we can't predict the future.
And we want to be adaptable as we move forward into the future. The
vision-based planning puts us on a one-way path to a vision that may or may not
happen, and it decreases our adaptability.
Maybe an analogy with an air-to-air missile might clarify this point. When an
air-to-air missile goes up against a more maneuverable target, you basically
increase the missile's maneuverability. There are problems associated with
that, because you expend your energy faster. We're in a world situation that
is changing more dramatically than it has at any time in our lifetimes, and yet
this vision-based planning is actually slowing down our time line for
adaptation. It's making us more rigid, because we have to project further and
further into the future. So if we pick the wrong vision, we're in trouble.
What's the difference between the bottom-up approach versus the top-down?
The bottom-up approach is really the scientific method. Basically you start
off with small level experiments. They may be guided by an overall vision of
some sort, but that vision is very loosely defined, and can change quite
dramatically as the process continues. Essentially, with the bottom-up
approach, you do trial and error. You evolve solutions as you go along, and
build up bigger and bigger complexes, starting from lower orders of
organization. In that way, you put yourself on what is, in effect, an
evolutionary pathway. You may find out that the final answer is very different
from what you thought it would be when you started the process.
In contrast, the top-down process basically lays in a roadmap to the future
that is very precisely defined. That future may be very distant, and it
involves all sorts of details that may or may not happen; in all probability,
they won't happen. The Germans have a term that means "the fingertip touch."
It basically means that you feel your way intuitively into a situation. That's
much more of a bottom up-concept.
Is the army doing that?
Organizations in the Defense Department, and in this case, the army, tend to do
just the opposite. They construct a global vision of what's going to happen,
specify it in extreme detail, and then design a roadmap to get there. I have a
name for that. I call it "scholastic hypothecating." It's not based on
evidence. It's based on some vision of the future that cannot be verified.
We went to the army war games this year. They tested the new objective
force, which is 12 or 15 years out in the future. And the new force won,
because it was faster and lighter. But it won with machines they don't have
now, like the tilt rotor, the future combat system and that kind of thing.
Is this a realistic approach?
When war games are conducted using future systems that don't exist, the
designers of the war game assign certain capabilities to those systems, which
may or may not happen. And then they evaluate whether or not those weapons or
operational concepts worked as predicted, in a very specific construction of a
future environment, which also may not exist. And what we see now is this
increasing tendency in the Pentagon to project 15, 20, even 30 years into the
future, and making very specific predictions about weapons that will exist,
threats that will exist; then constructing these war games and saying, "That
proves our point." It's a fantasy.
What it does, in the end, is reinforce preconceived notions. It provides
positive reinforcement for ideas that may be good or bad, but we have no idea
of evaluating whether they're good or bad. We're in an exploratory process.
We're trying to adapt to change. And yet they're fixing the point that we're
going to. It's almost an oxymoron.
What do you mean by, "fixing the point that we're going to?"
Wargamers design a specific vision of the future. They then postulate specific
weapons that don't exist to fight in that specific vision of the future. They
then make an evaluation of what's good and what's bad. We have no clue whether
that vision will materialize; whether those weapons will work. It's an
assumption inside an assumption inside an assumption, and in that sense, it is
the modern-day equivalent of medieval scholasticism.
Some people have said that we're still basically training for a Soviet-style
kind of enemy. Do you agree?
A variation on the theme. Essentially, if you look at the threat assessments
that we make, we postulate future enemies with precision-guided weapons,
ballistic missiles, certain types of armored vehicles, certain types of
surveillance systems, computerized command and control systems, and whatnot.
That's a variation on the theme of what we saw earlier. There is no massive
force like the Soviet Union, but it's basically the same kind of mirror imaging
we've always done.
And it's important to understand that there are growing signs that the nature
of warfare is going through one of its periodic changes. War evolves through
many different generations. And we're looking backward at what some people
call second-generation or third-generation warfare--basically the sort of
static, heavy, infantry wars, or the mobile wars, with tanks. In fact, what
we're seeing is a proliferation of irregular forces around the world that are
figuring out how to bypass our military entirely and attack directly at the
political will. We saw that in Mogadishu. We saw it in Vietnam. The Israelis
just went through that experience in Lebanon.
And so is the army trying to adjust to that?
Only in the most superficial ways. I think the general answer to that is no,
but I wouldn't just limit it to the army. It's the entire Defense Department,
with the possible exception of some elements in the Marine Corps.
So what is the thrust of dealing with these new threats of the future?
The army was terrified about what happened in Task Force Hawk. . . . Task Force
Hawk was a wake-up call for the army. Essentially, it was a giant
embarrassment. Task Force Hawk was the deployment of 24 Apache helicopters to
Albania in support of the Kosovo war. It took one month to get 24 helicopters
and a support package into position in Albania. Once they got there, they
basically got bogged down in training; they had a few accidents; and they never
got to engage in the Kosovo war. That left the army high and dry, because the
air force and the navy were busy prosecuting the war.
Part of the impetus to the medium-weight divisions comes out of the Task Force
Hawk experience. And part of it represents normal bureaucratic reactions that
occur when things like this happen. Basically, the army is afraid that it's
going to get cleaned out by the air force and the navy in the coming budget
wars, because the army was non-responsive. So the medium-weight division is an
attempt to make the army more deployable, to get around some of the problems of
Task Force Hawk.
One problem that many of the army people I know in the army have with the
medium-weight divisions is that the many of the problems in Task Force Hawk are
not being addressed by the medium-weight divisions. One problem in the Task
Force Hawk deployment had to do with the way the army maintains its people and
units. They had to cobble together Task Force Hawk with personnel from several
different units. They weren't used to working together, so they had to build
up unit cohesion. This has a lot to do with the army's rigidity and its
difficulty with deployment. They have an individual replacement personnel
system that assumes people can fit into nice little squares. As a result,
units don't stay together for long periods of time, and when they're faced with
a fast-changing circumstance, they don't have the requisite teamwork to react
As far as I can tell, there is nothing in the medium-weight brigade proposals
that is going to change that basic system. That's really more of a problem
with the personnel system and how the army manages people, rather than units.
So what's wrong if General Shinseki comes in and identifies a problem with
the army, and says, "We need to address it now. Let's move out?"
There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I applaud him for it. The army
does have a problem, and he's trying to solve it. My problem is that when you
impose something like this from the top down, and it becomes a big operation
like this, it inevitably gets more and more people wedded to its success, and
it becomes a success-oriented demonstration, as opposed to an exploration.
The previous transformation efforts at Fort Lewis in the 1980s with the
Ninth Infantry Division, the new division in the 1980s, failed for many
reasons. Why should people think that General Shinseki's efforts will be any
more successful this time around?
In many ways, I think there's even greater probability of a failure this time
around. I don't think the preparation has been as extensive as it was for the
Ninth Infantry Division . . . Basically, it's been a rush to
judgment, whereas the Ninth Infantry Division was debated for a
longer period of time. It was set up, and there was a lot of talk about how
they were going to experiment with different things there.
I knew a few people who were working at the Ninth Infantry Division, and
I remember they had a lot of freedom to try different things. And I'm not sure
that I'm getting the same sense that this is happening with these medium-weight
brigades. They've already got plans to start fielding these brigades. When
they formed up the Ninth Infantry Division, it was a test bed. It was
always called a test bed division. No one is talking about test beds here, as
near as I can tell. They're talking about setting up three or five brigades in
the relatively near future. . . . Without a proper exploration, these brigades
will be a kludge of outdated ideas.
Has the army doctrine and the way it fights its wars changed since the Cold
Not to my thinking. This is an area that requires a lot more debate in the
Defense Department, and not just limited to the army. The nature of warfare
seems to be changing in a very dramatic way, as it is wont to do from time to
time. Many things carry forward, obviously. It's not like it's a total
upending. But what we see the Pentagon doing--and the army doing, in this
specific case--is that they're basically projecting the same kind of stylized
warfare into the future with some modifications.
If we look at the way warfare is evolving around the world, what we're seeing
is the emergence of a much more irregular form of warfare, more decentralized,
with small combat teams operating under what appear to be something like
mission orders. Basically, lower-level units are being empowered to make their
own decisions. They are actually bypassing the military and attacking the
political will of their adversaries.
Kosovo was a real wake-call on this by the way, because all of America's combat
power was essentially incapable of dealing with the objective we originally
went into, which was to stop the Serbian military and paramilitaries from
expelling Albanians. And in the end, the American military had to start bombing
bridges and factories and power plants and whatnot in Serbia, because it could
not deal with this kind of irregular threat in Kosovo.
Is the army prepared to fight those wars of the future?
I'm not sure. I'm not sure that Kosovo is a war of the future. It's a
variation of the irregular warfare. In this case, you had mobile teams using
refugees as a weapon. On the other hand, you go into Lebanon and you find that
a sort of terrorism is a form of irregular warfare. In Chechnya, you have
something that might more be considered to be a classical guerrilla-type
operation taking place. The common denominator in all these engagements was
empowerment at lower levels; smaller dispersed teams; and the ability to avoid
their adversaries' military might.
Is the army prepared to deal with that threat?
I don't believe so. There are certain parts of the army that have trained for
that type of threat, like Special Forces, Delta Forces, Rangers, to a lesser
extent. But we saw Mogadishu and Somalia at the beginning of this decade.
Those are good examples of what we're up against. And I don't think the United
States is ready to deal with this, and that includes the U.S. Army.
What are the major barriers to really changing the army?
By its very nature, the army is extremely tradition-bound. Militaries have to
be tradition-bound in order to stay together in conditions of stress. People
have to have a common outlook, a common sense of values. These traditions in
the army reach back a very, very long time. When you try to reorient yourself
to these changes, you have to go into fundamental belief systems. That makes
it difficult in any bureaucracy. So that's the first problem.
A second problem is that you can't distinguish the need to change from the need
to get budget bucks inside the Beltway in Washington. Part of this is being
driven by the fact that the army feels under siege by the air force and the
navy, and it needs to protect itself in what is a changing world as far as
national security budgets are concerned.
There is a growing proclivity in the United States toward a foreign policy of
what I call "drive-by shootings," where we go bomb somebody and don't even
deploy ground forces. And of course, by its very nature, the army has a hard
time playing in that very game. So the people in the army are afraid that if
they don't do something dramatic, their budget share is going to shrink even
A third factor that is peculiar to the institution of the army is its whole
personnel policy. That is a big impediment to change. The way they manage
people is a big impediment to change. They essentially operate by what is
called an "individual replacement policy." It assumes that people are
indistinguishable cogs in a machine that can be moved around at will. They
manage their forces according to a personnel system that moves individual
people around, rather than organizing units and moving units around. That
makes it very difficult to build up skills and cohesion, and it makes the
individuals in the military more dependent on standard operating procedures and
rote processes. Those rote processes, of course, and the kind of checklist
mentality that goes along with it make it much more difficult to adapt a
If we managed our forces according to units, where we kept units as cohesive
entities, and moved them around, it would be harder for the personnel system.
But then as people learn to work together, and learned each other's strengths
and weaknesses and became a team, just like any other kind of team, they can
then explore more things. They can anticipate how their partners will react,
and it gives them more fluidity.
Do you think that the army as perhaps being more resistant to change than
No, I think the most resistance to change is the air force.
Defense Secretary Cohen has come in to talk about change, and to continue to
transform the Pentagon in the sense of how it operates in this post-Cold War
era. Has he been successful?
I haven't seen any changes. If anything, the quality of management has
decreased steadily during the 1990s. And it wasn't anything really good to
start with in 1990. I've seen a steady deterioration over the last 20-30
And how do you account for that?
We're dealing with a big bureaucracy that developed what I call "habitual modes
of conduct" during the relatively stable environment of the Cold War, which
took place over 40 years. And during that period, individual players all
evolved very subtle forms of behavior over time. That includes players in the
military, in the civilian superstructure, in the defense contractors over on
Capitol Hill, and even in a whole variety of supporting institutions like
journalists, academics, publicists, and whatnot.
What has happened is we've built up this web of relations that's extremely
resistant to change. And when the Cold War ended suddenly--and I might add,
unexpectedly--in 1990, we were left stranded on the beach, like a fat bloated
whale, flapping intensely, trying to pump life into our organs, in a vain
struggle to return to an environment that disappeared.
So what's happened since then? We've made cuts. We've cut back the army by
a third. Why do we have a bloated bureaucracy?
Combat units in the different services have been cut by a range of 40-50
percent. I'm talking about the teeth of the military. If you look at personnel
in the military, it's been cut by 35-37 percent. So we have more people per
unit of combat power. If you look at headquarters, a recent estimate made by,
I believe, by Senator Nunn, said that they had cut headquarters by about 17
You've talked a lot about a 'death spiral' within the Pentagon budget. What
does it mean, and where are we going?
The Pentagon is locked into a death spiral. It's a function of three separate
factors. The first one is that we have a modernization program that can't
modernize the force. Now, the outward manifestation of that is that weapons
are getting older and older over time. The reason we can't modernize the force
is because the cost of the weapons is increasing much faster than the budget
can possibly increase. And this has been going on since at least 1957, and
longer, in some cases.
The second component of the death spiral is a rapidly deteriorating readiness
situation. This has been all over the press. It's being caused by what I
call "the rising cost of low readiness." Operating costs are also going up
much faster than the budget. Today, a flying hour of training costs more than
a flying hour of training cost five years, ten years, or fifteen years ago.
Consequently, to get the minimal amount of hours required costs more per unit.
We shrink the forces to reduce the total number of units. But the end we bang
up against what I call that rising cost of low readiness. . . . That cost soaks
up the money needed to modernize the force, and just makes things worse.
The third aspect of the death spiral is the fact that the Pentagon's accounting
system is corrupt. And this is an insult to the whole concept of
constitutional government. Audit after audit by the Defense Department's
inspector general, and by the General Accounting Office has made this clear to
everyone inside the Beltway. It's a travesty of American governance. And the
logical consequences of this--setting aside the whole idea of representative
democracy, which is the real problem here--the logical consequence of this is
we can't assemble the detailed information needed to sort out the modernization
problem and the readiness problem, and then come up with proposals to fix
So the corrupt accounting system actually helps cover up the reasons why the
modernization program won't modernize the force and why readiness posture is
rapidly deteriorating. It's gone from being an oversized organization to being
an overlooked organization. Congress isn't doing its job.
And putting more money into the Pentagon's budget? . . .
Putting more money into the Pentagon right now is going to cause more problems
over the long term. It's going to reinforce the cost growth that's already
embedded in the system that was made by very shortsighted decisions in the
early 1990s; or it was exacerbated by very shortsighted decisions in the early
1990s. The year 2010 is a little bit less than a decade away, and the aging
baby boomers are going to drive up federal expenditures. If we throw money at
the Pentagon today, it's going to put us on an evolutionary pathway straight
into a budget war with America's old people.
But why can't the Pentagon figure out where its money is going?
The Pentagon can't figure out where it's spending this money for the simple
reason that the bookkeeping system is in a shambles, and it's been well
documented by all sorts of audits. Job number one in reforming the Pentagon
and making a true transformation of our military is to clean up the bookkeeping
system, so that we can assemble the information needed to identify and take the
The fact is that it's gotten worse over the last ten years, in my opinion. And
you can see that in the size of unsubstantiated adjustments that are reported
out by the inspector general in each year. The most recent estimate was $2.3
trillion--that's trillion with a "T"--of accounting adjustments for
transactions that could not be verified.
Where does the buck stop?
The buck stops with every employee in the Pentagon. We all took an oath to
uphold the Constitution. The most fundamental premise of the Constitution is
the concept of checks and balances, and the most fundamental aspect of checks
and balances is accountability.
This readiness issue has become an issue during this campaign. George Bush
has made it a big part of his platform. Is there a readiness problem?
The answer is that it's a compound question. The answer is yes, there is a
significant readiness problem out there. And it is fair to say that these
problems developed during the Clinton administration. But it's also fair to
say that decisions were made in the early 1990s that put the Pentagon on an
evolutionary pathway to these readiness problems.
So it's no one administration's fault. The difference between administrations
in causing the defense problems is miniscule. This is a structural problem
that has built up over a long period of time. The end of the Cold War has
given us a heaven-sent opportunity to correct these problems before the
increased cost of Social Security and Medicare slam into us around 2010 or so.
But we have squandered one decade already, and it's beginning to look like
we're setting ourselves up to squander another decade.
What, specifically, are the kinds of readiness problems?
If we look at readiness problems in terms of hardware, there are shortages of
spare parts; aging equipment; increasing workload because of the need to
cannibalize spare parts--taking them off one weapon, putting them onto
another--text manuals are getting outdated; things of that sort. If we look at
the people component of readiness, which is far more important than the
material component of readiness, what we see are declining retention rates, and
But the most serious problem, in my mind, is something that I've been
collecting anecdotal data on for the last three or four years now. And that's
what I call "the widening wedge of mistrust" between the junior officers and
NCOs on the one hand, and the senior officers on the other. Basically, there's
a growing feeling amongst the juniors that the seniors are not dealing with
these problems--that, in fact, they're putting their own interests ahead of the
welfare of the services and their subordinates' interests.
This is a very serious problem. A military that feels like that, when it's put
under any kind of stress, will crack like an egg. And if we go back to the
meltdown of the military in the 1970s, I don't recall that kind of wedge
existing to the extent that it does today. So in that sense, what we're
seeing today may be worse than what we saw in the 1970s.
Some people say that the army is top-heavy, that there are too many
generals. . . . Have you heard that?
Absolutely. In fact, I've got numbers going back to 1900 on the ratio of
officers to enlisted men. And there's no question that the officer corps has
become more bloated over time. There's also no question that the bloat rate
has been highest at the higher ranks. The fastest-growing rank category is
colonel, then lieutenant colonel, and then general. So what we've seen over
time is a mushrooming of senior officers as a percentage of the total force.
That means there's less work for them to do. That pushes work downstream,
which leads to micro-management and all sorts of other pathologies.
A key issue that's come up in this readiness debate is the issue of the
overall defense strategy--the two major theaters of war scenario. How
important is this strategy to our national defense?
The two-war strategy is a good example of a strategy that developed, in my
opinion, to justify decisions that have already been made. If you look over
time at how strategy has evolved in the United States military, we started off
with a two-and-a-half war strategy in the 1950s and early 1960s--a major war
against the Soviet Union, a major war against China, and a secondary war--or a
major theater war, if you will--against North Korea. That shifted under the
Nixon administration to a one-and-a-half war strategy--the Soviet Union plus
the Persian Gulf or Korea. At the end of the Cold War, it shifted again to a
two-war, two major theater war strategy.
If you look what was happening, those were essentially ex-post facto
justifications for shrinking forces that were being driven by the cost growth.
The cost growth is what caused the forces to shrink. You can see that, if you
examine statements that were made before the fact. When they were advocating
buying certain weapons, particularly during the Cold War, we were outnumbered
and outgunned. We wanted to have more forces and better forces. Then when
forces shrank, we said they were better.
So there's movement now afoot to go to a one-war strategy, perhaps a
one-and-a-half. One regional contingency strategy, and maybe some other
peacekeeping-type contingency as well. This should be viewed as part of a
long-term trend. . . . I think what you're going see is increasing pressure to
go to a one major regional contingency strategy, or perhaps a strategy
involving one major regional contingency and . . . some mix of other
The important thing to understand here is that this is part of a long-range
trend that you can see going back to the 1950s, when we had the two-and-a-half
war strategy; the late 1960s, when we transitioned to the one-and-a-half war
strategy. At the end of the Cold War, we went to a two-half war strategy. And
now we're talking about doing one half-war and one quarter-war, for want of a
better term. In the end, you have to ask yourself, how has this changing
strategy affected the technology making up our forces? And the answer is that
Will the next president really have an opportunity to make key decisions
with this next quadrennial defense review coming up? Do you see some glimmer
of hope that there'll be some change?
The next quadrennial defense review is already in process inside the Pentagon.
One of the problems you have with these is everybody has had lots of time to
line up all their ducks and protect all their positions. So from what I've
been able to discern of the activities going on today, the next quadrennial
defense review will be worse than the last one, which literally achieved
Why is that?
There's no question that we need to transform the military. The idea of
skipping a generation of technology smacks of the leapfrog mentality. The
problem is that we're far ahead of everybody in the world, technology-wise.
How can you leapfrog someone who's behind you without going backward? I say
that tongue in cheek. But the fact is that the leapfrog technologies being
promoted by both candidates for president--this isn't a political issue--are
basically repackaged visions of technological solutions dating back to the
Vietnam War. I'm speaking specifically of McNamara's electronic line.
Both parties have talked about pouring $50 billion to $100 billion more into
the Pentagon. Do you think that would help?
Pouring more money into the Pentagon won't fix things, and in fact it will set
the stage for worse problems over the long term. It may relieve the pressure
in the short term. But basically it will reward the behavior that has created
a cost growth, which is why we're in the debt file in the first place.
Pouring more money into the Pentagon at this juncture will create more
problems, because it's fundamentally illogical. How can we justify spending
more money on things when we cannot account for the money that we're already
spending? That just defies common sense.
How is the current rate of deployment affecting our military?
There's no question that the current rate of deployment is causing burdens on
the military. The problem is not the absolute number of people being deployed,
however. A relatively small percentage of America's active duty military force
is being deployed in these operations. The problem is the same people are
being deployed over and over and over again. And after you do it a few times,
your family starts to become a lot more important to you, morale goes down, and
This gets us into the whole problem of the tooth-to-tail ratio. We've got this
huge, bloated support structure that is, in part, a consequence of our
technologies developed during the Cold War. And that support tail will get
even worse if we go to this next generation of so-called leapfrog technologies,
which talk about integrating everything together into this computerized,
How much is Congress to blame regarding oversight of this problem?
Congress is an integral part of this problem. Over time, Congress has
basically lost its oversight capability, or abdicated it--I'm not sure what the
correct characterization is. But today, Congress is basically a promoter of
expenditures, because of the impact on local congressional districts.
Many of us in the Pentagon have substituted the term "overlook" for oversight
when describing the role of Congress.
Is this because of jobs? What's really driving it?
Jobs, and political power. We're dealing with a network of very subtle
relationships that built up over a long period of time during the stable
conditions of the Cold War. We have defense contractors that are incapable of
producing commercial products. They operate according to dynamics that are
very different from the commercial sector. They have a much higher political
content in defense decisions than equivalent decisions in the commercial
You have essentially close, integrated relations between military officers,
civilians in the Pentagon, defense contractors, and congressional staffers, as
well as congressmen. And there is a whole entourage of camp followers, if you
will, in think tanks, in the press, and publicities of various types. They are
also promoting this. Basically, what we're talking about is a
lifestyle that evolved in relative isolation from the overall economy over the
40 years of cold war. And now people are fighting to preserve the lifestyle.
experts' analyses ·
army chronology ·
gore & bush's military agenda ·
tapes & transcripts ·
pbs online ·
web site copyright 1995-2013 WGBH educational foundation