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Thinking About America's Defense

Thinking About America's Defense: An Analytical Memoir

Glenn A. Kent
David Ochmanek
Michael Spirtas
Bruce R. Pirnie
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 282
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  • Book Info
    Thinking About America's Defense
    Book Description:

    Lieutenant General Glenn A. Kent was a uniquely acute analyst and developerof American defense policy in the second half of the twentieth century. His33-year career in the Air Force was followed by more than 20 years as one ofthe leading analysts at RAND. This volume is not a memoir in the normalsense but rather a summary of the dozens of national security issues inwhich Glenn was personally engaged over the course of his career. Theseissues included creating the single integrated operational plan (SIOP),leading DoD's official assessment of strategic defenses in the 1960s,developing and analyzing strategic nuclear arms control agreements, helpingto bring new weapon systems to life, and many others. Each vignettedescribes the analytical frameworks and, where appropriate, the mathematicalformulas and charts that Glenn developed and applied to gain insights intothe issue at hand. The author also relates his roles in much of thebureaucratic pulling and hauling that occurred as issues were addressedwithin the government.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-4862-2
    Subjects: Technology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  4. Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Boxes
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xx)
    Glenn A. Kent
  8. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxi-xxiv)
  9. FOREWORD Creating Strategic Analysis
    (pp. 1-2)
    Thomas C. Schelling

    In 1963, Colonel Glenn Kent of the United States Air Force, who was my guest at the Harvard Center for International Affairs, published an “occasional paper” of that center in which he looked at the question: If we were to have a limit of some kind on strategic missiles, what would be the most sensible limit? He argued that we should want both sides to be free to proliferate weapons in whatever dimension would reduce their own vulnerability without increasing the other side’s vulnerability.

    In those days, missile accuracies were poor, and megatonnage mattered more than today; big explosives, however,...

  10. FOREWORD Putting Analysis to Work
    (pp. 3-6)
    Harold Brown

    I first met Glenn Kent, then a lieutenant colonel, in late 1954 or early 1955 at a meeting convened by Ramo-Wooldridge, the system designers for the Air Force ballistic missile program, to consider intercontinental ballistic missile designs and the integration of their reentry vehicles and nuclear warheads. (The meeting took place, perhaps appropriately, in a deconsecrated church on Aviation Boulevard near the Los Angeles airport.) Even in that brief session, Glenn’s analytical skills were obvious and impressive. During the subsequent fifty-odd years, he has done more to illuminate the decision process on key Department of Defense (DoD) issues through analysis...

  11. Introduction
    (pp. 7-20)
    David Ochmanek, Bruce Pirnie and Michael Spirtas

    Glenn Altran Kent was a uniquely acute player in American defense policy in the second half of the 20th century. From 1957, when he joined the Weapons Plans Division of the Air Staff in the Pentagon, until his retirement from active duty in 1974, he was among the most perceptive and influential officers in the United States Air Force. For the next two decades, from his perch at the RAND Corporation, he published analyses on a broad range of topics that both shaped and raised the level of debates regarding the nation’s security. A selected list of the issues in...

  12. CHAPTER ONE The Single Integrated Operational Plan
    (pp. 21-42)

    In the 1950s, I was a colonel heading the Weapons Plans Division on the Air Staff. This division dealt solely with nuclear weapons and related issues. It was subordinate to the Director of Plans, Maj Gen Glen Martin. He, in turn, worked for the Deputy for Plans and Programs of the Air Staff, at the time Lt Gen John Gerhart.

    The United States introduced nuclear weapons into its operational plans (OPLANs) in an incremental and less-than-integrated manner. Different entities developed their own OPLANs without much real coordination with others. The Air Force developed a fleet of bombers capable of carrying...

  13. CHAPTER TWO Nuclear Weapons: Strategy and Arms Control
    (pp. 43-92)

    Early in 1964, a study group was formed under the auspices of OSD’s Office of Systems Analysis, headed by Dr. Alain Enthoven, to “look at” a wide range of issues relating to U.S. nuclear forces and strategy. Dr. Frank Trinkl was to run this group for Dr. Enthoven. At the time, I was a brigadier general working in DDR&E for Dr. Harold Brown. As someone with experience in nuclear forces, I was asked to serve on this group. I declined. In my view, there was next to no chance that this group would succeed in providing insights useful for informing...

  14. CHAPTER THREE Analysis, Force Planning, and the Paradigm for Modernizing
    (pp. 93-122)

    Too much has been written by too many on how to do analysis.¹ But too little has actually been accomplished. At the risk of being placed in the first category, I offer some remarks in the hope of enhancing the state of understanding as to how to go about achieving good analysis.

    Simply stated, the purpose of an analysis is to provide illumination and visibility—to expose some problem in terms that are as simple as possible. This exposé is used as one of a number of inputs by the decisionmaker. Contrary to popular practice, the primary output of an...

  15. CHAPTER FOUR Modernizing Nuclear Forces
    (pp. 123-164)

    Even in the early years, I realized that any analysis that addressed an important and controversial issue would surely be subject, sooner or later, to very critical review. So it is advisable to make every effort to ensure that you are right before you expose your “findings” to the cruel outside world. One episode from my career makes this point nicely.

    I graduated from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1948 and from the Master’s program in Radiological Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1950. I was then assigned to the Armament Division at the Pentagon. This division was...

  16. CHAPTER FIVE Modernizing Conventional Forces
    (pp. 165-198)

    The program to acquire the C-5A was (and remains) notorious for cost overruns and for underperformance. During the course of the C-5A’s development, the Air Force was compelled to inject into the program large quantities of money beyond the amount originally budgeted. And more than once, important structural defects in the aircraft had to be repaired. The C-5A program is instructive chiefly as a means of illustrating hownotto run a development and acquisition program.

    The program was troubled from the start. Both contractors—Lockheed and Boeing—had submitted bids far below what was reasonable in terms of the...

  17. CHAPTER SIX Analytical Tools
    (pp. 199-242)

    In the late 1950s, when I was head of the Weapons Division on the Air Staff, we focused intently on the question of to what extent our bombers (mainly B-47s) could penetrate Soviet air defenses in a retaliatory attack (after a Soviet attack on the United States). Later, the mainstay of this retaliatory attack was ballistic missiles—SLBMs or ICBMs—but the burden was on bombers in those days.

    Gen Glen Martin, the deputy director of plans, revisited the issue surrounding bombers over and over. He wanted the answer to many “what-ifs”: What if a certain fraction of our bombers...

  18. CHAPTER SEVEN Summing Up: Kent’s Maxims
    (pp. 243-248)

    Devising the basic analytic construct to apply to a problem is far more important than crunching numbers. Scope the problem carefully, and address the key assumptions, instead of rushing to gather data and doing calculations.

    In other words, just sit back and think. Often, doing this can reveal a basis for calculations that are quite straightforward and that yield new insights into the most important aspects of the problem.

    Used appropriately, computers can be invaluable tools, but they can also hide a multitude of errors. It is often best to do your calculations and plots by hand, particularly at first,...

  19. Chronology
    (pp. 249-252)
  20. Awards
    (pp. 253-254)
  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 255-258)