U.S. Global Defense Posture, 1783–2011

U.S. Global Defense Posture, 1783–2011

Stacie L. Pettyjohn
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 144
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  • Book Info
    U.S. Global Defense Posture, 1783–2011
    Book Description:

    This monograph describes the evolution of the U.S. global defense posture from 1783 to the present as the nation grew from a relatively weak and insular regional power into the preeminent global power. As new and unpredictable threats emerge, alliance relationships are revised, and resources decline, past efforts at dealing with similar problems yield important lessons for future decisions.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-7908-4
    Subjects: Political Science, Business, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  4. Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. Summary
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  8. Abbreviations
    (pp. xix-xx)
  9. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    Over the past 220 years, as the United States has matured from a young nation struggling to survive into a global hegemon, its military has experienced a corresponding increase in size and capability, growing from a single Army regiment and a handful of frigates into the preeminent global military force with unmatched land, air, space, and maritime forces. Today, many U.S. troops are temporarily or permanently stationed overseas and are prepared to operate in a range of contingencies from hundreds of military facilities outside the continental United States (OCONUS). Yet, for much of its history, the U.S. global defense posture—...

  10. CHAPTER TWO Framework for the U.S. Posture
    (pp. 7-14)

    Existing studies on the U.S. global defense posture focus on either a specific period—typically, the post–World War II era—a specific service, a specific country or region, or a specific type of base. But few broadly characterize the locations and dispositions of all U.S. forces, which both reflect and shape strategy and defense policy.¹

    Many factors can be used to characterize past U.S. defense postures: whether forces are permanently based or temporarily deployed overseas; whether they are stationed on sovereign U.S. or foreign territory; whether the bases are in the continental United States (CONUS) or OCONUS; whether the...

  11. CHAPTER THREE Continental Defense, 1783–1815
    (pp. 15-18)

    From its beginnings, the United States had a strong continental orientation as its leaders sought to remain outside the European great power competition (see Figure 3.1). Thus, the United States refrained from overseas territorial expansion and focused instead on extending its control of the North American continent. Initially, most Americans opposed the creation of a national army and navy, but the emergence of a number of territorial threats soon proved that this policy was untenable and forced the United States to develop ground and naval forces. Nevertheless, the ingrained American revolutionary fear that centrally controlled armed forces represented a threat...

  12. CHAPTER FOUR Continental Defense and Commercialism, 1815–1898
    (pp. 19-24)

    The British invasion during the War of 1812 demonstrated the inadequacy of the initial U.S. continental defenses and made it clear that the United States needed to improve its ability to defend itself against invading European armies.¹ As a result of the lessons learned from this conflict and the emergence of new threats overseas, Congress authorized funds in 1816 to strengthen the Army’s system of coastal fortifications and to build a standing navy, which was deployed abroad as a “globally-dispersed set of forward stationed squadrons” to protect U.S. commercial interests overseas.² Figure 4.1 depicts this shift to a continental and...

  13. CHAPTER FIVE Transition Period, 1898–1905
    (pp. 25-30)

    A number of trends converged by the end of the 19th century to prompt a transition from the station squadron posture to an oceanic posture. First, in response to the perception that other nations posed a growing threat to the United States, Congress began to authorize the construction of steam and steel battleships in the 1880s. The improvements in steam propulsion technology, armor, and long-range artillery enabled the transformation of the Navy from a fleet consisting almost entirely of small wooden vessels to a modern navy with significantly improved range, speed, and combat power.¹ By the 1890s, the Army had...

  14. CHAPTER SIX Oceanic Posture, 1906–1938
    (pp. 31-38)

    As a result of the changes that occurred between 1898 and 1905, the United States modified its global posture so that it would be capable of projecting a significant amount of combat power overseas. Nevertheless, the vast majority of U.S. forces remained stationed in CONUS but were increasingly focused on conducting expeditionary operations rather than defending the nation’s borders (see Figure 6.1). This transformation involved abolishing most of the station squadrons and consolidating the fleet off the U.S. coast. Despite the acquisition of colonial possessions, U.S. policymakers chose not to base large numbers of troops abroad but instead created small...

  15. CHAPTER SEVEN Hemispheric Defense, 1938–1941
    (pp. 39-48)

    By late 1938, the looming threats of another war in Europe and a conflict in Asia sufficiently alarmed U.S. policymakers to precipitate a shift to a more defensive posture that sought to deny the Axis powers—Germany, Italy, and Japan—the ability to infiltrate the Western Hemisphere (see Figure 7.1). The United States expanded its military presence in the Western Hemisphere, but its forces were oriented toward repelling an Axis invasion into the region. This posture of hemispheric defense extended the nation’s defensive perimeter to include nearly the entire Western Hemisphere, that is, North and South America, the Atlantic Ocean...

  16. CHAPTER EIGHT Perimeter Defense in Depth, 1943–1949
    (pp. 49-60)

    World War II dramatically affected America’s grand strategy and global defense posture. In particular, the attack on Pearl Harbor created an enduring sense of American vulnerability that dispelled the past assumption that the United States would be safe if it remained aloof from world affairs. U.S. military planners concluded that the United States must not allow any country to dominate the Eurasian continent and that the nation’s armed forces must be kept in a state of readiness, capable of interdicting threats far beyond America’s borders. Consequently, military officials determined that the United States needed to develop a network of overseas...

  17. CHAPTER NINE Consolidated Defense in Depth, 1950–1989
    (pp. 61-82)

    The Korean War was the catalyst that helped remove the obstacles to establishing a large peacetime U.S. military presence in Europe and in Asia. But that presence differed considerably from the postures the JCS had envisioned in the 1940s.¹ Figure 9.1 depicts the shift in 1950 to a defense posture characterized by a relatively extensive global presence but with forces situated to defend fixed locations in Western Europe and Northeast Asia. By 1950, U.S. officials were convinced that the Soviet Union was an aggressive state that sought to dominate the Eurasian continent and then the world. Nonetheless, until North Korea...

  18. CHAPTER TEN Expeditionary Defense in Depth, 1990–2011
    (pp. 83-96)

    After the end of the Cold War and the disappearance of the Soviet threat, the United States significantly reshaped its defense posture by closing many of its bases abroad and significantly reducing the number of forward-stationed U.S. troops.¹ Presidents George H. W. Bush and William J. Clinton presided over studies—the Base Force and Bottom-Up Review (BUR), respectively—that examined how to adapt the U.S. defense strategy and force posture to this new strategic environment. Both reviews sought to generate a peace dividend by reducing defense expenditures, which entailed significantly shrinking the force and the proportion of troops stationed abroad.²...

  19. CHAPTER ELEVEN Findings and Recommendations
    (pp. 97-110)

    The U.S. global defense posture has gone through enormous changes over the past two centuries, which is hardly surprising, given that the United States has evolved from a weak, isolated, newly independent nation into a global power with an extensive portfolio of alliances and security interests around the world. Throughout this period, the operational orientation of the U.S. military changed repeatedly, depending on the nature of the threat(s) the nation faced. On the one hand, when officials were confident in the identity and location of serious threats, they tasked forces with defending fixed locations. On the other hand, when it...

  20. References
    (pp. 111-124)