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Research Report

Military Force Transformation:: Progress, Costs, Benefits and Tasks Remaining

S. J. Deitchman
Copyright Date: Dec. 1, 2004
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 42
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. v-vi)
    Henry E. Catto Jr.

    Following the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a consensus has emerged that the transformation of the U.S. military has been a success. But, as current events in Iraq and elsewhere demonstrate, U.S. force transformation is not yet complete. Moreover, as the word “success” encompasses both absolute and relative components, both will need to be well understood in order for transformation to be completed, and to be assured the long-term support of law-makers and the public.

    In an absolute sense, one might ask: has transformation yielded relevant and important new capabilities? Has it saved innocent lives? Even if the answer...

  2. (pp. 1-2)

    The U.S. armed forces today are characterized in large measure by their unique ability to attack opposing military forces with enough precision and speed to prevail against heavy odds while yet achieving great economy of force. This capability is, as much as any of the other features of today’s military, indicative of its transformation from a force tailored to the demands of the Cold War to one far better suited to the new forms of armed conflict facing the United States and its allies.

    Changing the basis of the orientation of armed forces from one set of strategic conditions (and...

  3. (pp. 2-5)

    Throughout the 1990s, conflicts such as the Gulf War and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) intervention in the Balkans provided evidence of the need for, and utility of, change in the structure and approach of the U.S. military. But such change did not occur in a vacuum. There had been two kinds of advances in the armed forces during the decades before “the Wall came down.” The first was in improved platforms – ships, aircraft, tanks – and the munitions they employed. The second was in the areas of sensing, information processing and communications (including electronic warfare), both surface-...

  4. (pp. 5-12)

    In the same way that productivity has been increased in the civilian economy, the force changes necessary for transformation were accomplished by large exchanges of labor for capital (that is, through higher per-person capital expenditures on fewer total soldiers, sailors and airmen). These exchanges can be illustrated by comparing the armed forces’ size and budgets for 1970 and 2003. The value of the comparison across this time span is that U.S. forces in 1970 had almost none of today’s precision engagement capability (aside from a few guided air-to-surface weapons, used within the cumbersome, hierarchical command structure of the Cold War),...

  5. (pp. 12-22)

    The transformation of the U.S. military has changed the humanitarian, political and economic aspects of conflict when military measures are indeed taken to resolve it. One ought to welcome and thus adapt to the changes in the first two areas of appraisal, and perhaps capitalize on the third – the financial benefits of precision engagement. But the United States cannot pocket the various returns on its investment just yet because these must be used both to complete the transformation of its forces (in ways that will be discussed below) and to offset and counter the vulnerabilities attending its new approach...

  6. (pp. 22-26)

    The architects of transformation (and U.S. taxpayers) can take comfort in the fact that the transformation of the U.S. military that has been accomplished thus far has given it new capabilities that enable smaller forces to perform traditional tasks more efficiently and effectively. However, as the preceding discussion has indicated, there is much more to be done, involving matters of strategy, resources and risk as the United States faces future strategic challenges, both known and currently unknown.

    At base, it is reasonable to assume that the United States intends to sustain its structure of alliances and its engagement in the...