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PDA Bulletin - News and Views for May 2001

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  • Charles Knight
    New from PDA: Rotocraft for War: Descending on a Military Dilemma, by Dr. Lutz Unterseher, Project on Defense Alternatives Briefing Memo #19, May 2001
    Message 1 of 1 , May 15, 2001
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      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>

      PDA Viewpoint:

      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
      current needs.

      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
      officer corps?
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