PDA Bulletin - News and Views for May 2001
- New from PDA:
Rotocraft for War: Descending on a Military Dilemma, by Dr. Lutz
Unterseher, Project on Defense Alternatives Briefing Memo #19, May
2001 <http://www.comw.org/pda/0105rotowar.html>. The memo offers a
critical assessment of the value of combat helicopters in modern war.
The author examines the technical characteristics and limits of
combat helicopters, the doctrine for their use, and issues of cost.
Case studies include the Gulf War, Vietnam, and Afghanistan.
The QDR Page <http://www.comw.org/qdr>
The Chinese Military Power Page <http://www.comw.org/cmp>
The RMA Debate Page <http://www.comw.org/rma>
PDA Military Bookmarks <http://www.comw.org/pda/milbkmrk.html>
Gauging Secretary Rumsfeld's Leadership on Readiness Issues
The notion of a readiness crisis in the armed forces of the United
States has become the primary political lever lifting defense
expenditures. Remarkably, there is little credible evidence of broad-
based readiness declines in the armed forces. Most measures of
overall readiness indicate that readiness levels are at or above
levels in the mid-1980s, five years after the Carter/Reagan buildup
began in 1979. In the limited number of cases where broad readiness
declines can be demonstrated there is only a modest decrease from the
levels of the late 1980s.
Rather than constituting a resource problem requiring budgetary
increases, the most significant readiness problems of the present
period can be resolved by modest adjustments to strategy and by
changes in the management of the armed services.
Donald Rumsfeld is reputed to bring strong management experience into
his job as Defense Secretary and he has pledged to make strategy the
driver of his defense review. The success of Rumsfeld's leadership in
the Pentagon will be judged in part by whether his team:
i) revises strategy and reforms force structure towards greater
and ii) achieves meaningful reforms of management practices in the
services, particularly those that effect readiness.
The Evidence from the Recent Past
In 1999 two Army divisions received low readiness ratings because
they could not (in a planning scenario) disengage from the Balkans,
re-train, and re-deploy on schedule for the second war of the two-war
strategy. The poor rating of these units had little to do with their
leadership or the quality of their training or equipment; for the
most part, it was an artifact of an over-blown strategy. Because this
strategy lays claim to most of our armed forces, even small
contingencies can appear to put readiness at risk.
More generally, reduced budgets and increased activity are said to
have eroded readiness. But this explanation fails on both counts.
Since the Gulf War the number of military personnel deployed in
operations on any one day has averaged 40,000. Even when this
number is quadrupled to provide for troop rotation, the total amounts
to less than twelve percent of the force. In an efficient military
this level of deployment would not be a cause of distress.
Relatively speaking, money has not been in short supply either. When
annual defense outlays are measured per person, the budgets for the
Clinton years exceed those of the Reagan years by 12 percent on
average. Readiness spending per person in uniform averaged 22
percent more (in inflation-adjusted terms) during the Clinton years
than on the eve of the 1990-1991 Gulf War.
Beyond the anecdotal, there have been three main areas of measurable
readiness decline in recent years -- base operations support,
personnel shortages in certain categories, and equipment mission
capable rates. There have been specific near-term causes in each
area. Discrete policy or management decisions have played a key role
in precipitating "crisis." In several instances the problems are most
closely tied to management errors or misjudgments. In the case of
base operations support, the source of difficulty has been the
impasse between the Pentagon and the Congress over the disposition of
excess service infrastructure.
Another readiness concern has focused on so-called "high-demand,
low-density" assets and units, such as special operations forces,
military police units, various types of service support units, A-10
attack aircraft, and electronic warfare, reconnaissance, and lift
aircraft. Indeed some of these units and their equipment have been
overused, but the fact that these shortages persist despite the
expenditure of more than $250 billion on procurement during the past
five years indicates a failure to configure our armed forces to meet
Regarding heightened operational tempo which can negatively effect
morale, there has been only a modest increase in overall activity
levels since the Cold War's end. By and large, the problem
associated with operational tempo has been its uneven distribution
across systems and commands. Some parts of the military, like the Air
Combat Command, have faced extraordinary operational demands, while
others have been less burdened. This has generated pockets of real
stress, and pockets of dissatisfaction as well. Significantly, these
outcomes are not principally a product of increased operational
tempo, but instead a result of how it has been managed. Furthermore,
the narrow fixation on "peace operations" in the readiness discussion
is unwarranted. Peace operations account for only a fraction of
temporary duty assignments and are not the primary detractor from
training time; Rather the services have not yet adjusted their
training regimes to accommodate more frequent temporary deployments.
The Need for Management Reform to Achieve Greater Efficiency
Readiness, more than any other aspect of military capability, depends
on how a military is organized and carries out its business. For
this reason a failure to adapt the organization and functioning of
our armed forces to new circumstances tends to express itself as
readiness problems. And, indeed, in a variety of ways defense
managers have failed to adapt our armed forces to the new era.
Rhetorically, the need for transformation is broadly recognized;
Nonetheless, the actual progress of US military reform,
restructuring, and transformation has been desultory.
The effectiveness of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's defense review
in addressing readiness issues can be assessed along several lines:
* Does it relax the ambitious strategic requirements of
the "two-war" standard, making more of the force structure
available for routine activities and temporary duty to smaller
contingencies without sacrificing readiness?
* Does it give "high-demand, low-density" equipment
and units greater priority in procurement plans and in the force
* Does it give due emphasis to eliminating the excess 20% of
* Does it call for reform of training regimes and deployment
practices so as to better fit the role(s) of the military in the new
* Does it eliminate redundant service structures and
capabilities, many of which have little justification when improved
communications technology and modern organizational principles are
* Does it result in fewer layers of organization, and a smaller