the future of war
homeexperts' analysesinterviewschronologydiscussion

a tank firing


In June 1999 Gen. Eric Shinseki joined the ranks of MacArthur, Marshall, and Eisenhower as the U.S. Army's 34th Chief of Staff. And within days of his appointment, Shinseki surprised many with his bold plan to remake the nation's largest military service into a streamlined, fast-moving force ready to strike at a moment's notice.

"The Future of War" examines the tough questions surrounding the U.S. Army's planned transformation: What will be the new kind of warfare in the future? Are we prepared to fight it? Who's the enemy? Drawing on interviews with top military leaders, defense analysts, and the presidential candidates' defense advisors--including 2000 vice presidential candidates Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Richard Cheney--"The Future of War" lays out the debate and challenges.

Chief among Shinseki's challenges is a 21st-century Army still training and arming itself to fight a 20th-century war--weighted down by the kind of heavy artillery that rolled ashore at Normandy and across Kuwait's deserts nearly fifty years later. By the time such a massive force can be mobilized, tomorrow's lightning-quick military conflicts may well be decided. Shinseki wants to supplement the Army's heavy and light forces with medium-weight brigades that can be deployed anywhere in the world within 96 hours.

"The Future of War" travels to the Army's premier National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, California, the training ground for the troops of Desert Storm; visits the Joint Readiness Training Center at Ft. Polk, Louisiana, where state-of-the-art war games are preparing soldiers for new types of military engagements; and accompanies Shinseki to Ft. Lewis, Washington, where the smaller brigades are testing new, wheeled vehicles called LAVs (light armored vehicles) This report examines the debate over whether LAVs should be wheeled or tracked and looks at what's at stake in that debate.

In chronicling Shinseki's efforts to prepare U.S. soldiers for tomorrow's wars--including an exclusive look at highly secret war games at the Army War College--FRONTLINE shows why the general's toughest battle may be convincing Congress, the Pentagon, and some of his own generals to stop fighting the wars of the past and embrace a new military future. Andrew Krepinevich, Executive Director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis, is one of the skeptics: "I don't think the Army has really laid down a clear enough vision of what it ultimately expects of this force...whether it's a peacekeeping force, or a major war-fighting force, or a one-size-fits-all force."

FRONTLINE also explores the debate over military readiness. Last year, the Army's 10th Mountain Division received a readiness rating of C-4, deeming it unfit for combat. Fred Kagan, a West Point military history instructor, argues the rating proved the need for a higher military budget. "You need dramatically more defense money than anyone is even willing to talk about at this point." But Lawrence Korb, former Asst. Secretary of Defense in the Reagan Administration, argues that the U.S. is too expensively ready for war, "If you throw in our allies and NATO, Israel, South Korea, and Taiwan, you find out that we control 80% of the world's military expenditures."

At the heart of the readiness debate lies a national defense strategy, in place since 1993, which is designed to fight in two major theaters of war (2MTW) nearly simultaneously. FRONTLINE talks to military experts about how this policy impacts the size and structure of the Armed Forces. John Hillen, a veteran of the Gulf War's biggest tank battle and a former member of the National Security Study Group, is among those who question the viability of the two-war policy. [Update: In July 2001 it was reported that the Pentagon, according to a classified document, is ready to abandon its 2-war strategy.]

home ·  experts' analyses ·  interviews ·  army chronology ·  quiz ·  discussion
gore & bush's military agenda ·  readings ·  synopsis
credits ·  tapes & transcripts ·  pbs online ·  frontline

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation