Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
It is a distinct pleasure and honor to appear before your committee as you and the other members ponder the important question of where the nation's reserve and National Guard components should go in the years ahead.
I'd like to offer a rather different view. It is perhaps more radical than some of those you've heard today, but I hope it will be of use as you set the course of the reserve components. My views are influenced heavily by the current American revolution in military affairs. I believe we Americans have entered a major transformation of our military forces, driven in part by our technical lead in what are generally called information technologies. This transformation is as important as any previous revolutions in military affairs. Like earlier revolutions the current American revolution in military affairs, will change the way we think about the use and character of military force. It will affect, profoundly, the role the United States plays in international affairs and provide the United States with a qualitatively superior capacity to use its military forces effectively across the spectrum of conflict.
This is not the place to try to explicate the dynamics of this transformation. But let me make two points: First, the esoteric debate over whether or not US forces have entered a revolution in military affairs is over. We are in one. The Pentagon accepts it and each of the military services recognizes it. The debate is now focused on how fast we should bring about the transformations. Second, the reserve components can play a central role in the transformation. But, to do so, we must be willing to think and act outside what have become the norms and constraints of past assumptions and biases.
So, let me begin with a modest suggestion. It is that our current understanding of the "total force" is wrong for today and increasingly wrong for the future. Our present understanding postulates the reserve components as, ideally, active force clones. That is, from the national standpoint, we want a reserve component force that can rapidly expand, flesh out and increase the potency of the active force. Other nations have different models. And there are variations across the military services. But the core of the current US model assumes we will maintain a robust active force as the major component of our day-to-day military power, and will supplement that force with reserve components, when necessary.
This means, among other things, that the Active Force is the standard against which we assess and evaluate the reserve components. We assess the quality of the "total force" in terms of how closely the reserve components conform to the active force. And we judge the quality of the reserve components in terms of how long it takes for them to get to the active force standard. These assumptions lie at the heart of today's discussions of the role and requirements for the reserve components. The debates and passions they stir are focused on different judgements and views of how closely the reserve and guard components do, and should, conform to the quality, character, and capabilities of the active components.
Yet, our current understanding of the "total force" is a product of a particular era. Because that era lasted for nearly half a century, it's easy to think the concepts that we developed and honed for it are somehow "timeless" and that they are the best way of doing things. Our assumptions have become axioms. They are comfortable not only because they have been around for so long, but also because, given the character of the world in which they were devised, they made sense.
They were developed in an era when there was a consensus on the military threat. That threat was big, dangerous, and becoming better. The stakes involved in not coping successfully with it were very high. We agreed on this and we agreed on the need to have a very robust force to cope with what was the very robust force that threatened us. Overwhelming force was seen as the essence of the threat, and we adopted a theory of overwhelming force as the best insurance against it.
But we, as a polity, decided to build a system that would allow us to avoid the cost of maintaining such a force during peacetime. We instead decided to rely on a way of building rapidly to a greater military mass when it was needed. This was the essence of how we thought about the reserve components. They were to be the way of expanding the military mass we might need in times of peril. And the speed with which we could do this was a function of how closely the reserve components conformed in character, capability, and skill to the active force.
Now, of course, the world is different from what existed when we created the current understanding of "total force". There is no threat in the sense there was in the old era, and we do not agree among ourselves that one is emerging. Technical and political factors push us toward a different concept; away from mass, toward decisiveness; away from a perception that overwhelming force will be a requirement, toward the view that agility, speed, precision, and quick reaction -- decisive force -- is the best insurance in an ambiguous world.
And because the rationale for the current understanding of "total force" has collapsed, there is an intellectual restlessness with it that extends into the bureaucracy charged with implementing it. The seeds of change have germinated.
One alternative understanding even peeks out from the pages of today's bureaucrateez. (i.e.: from things like the QDR or Joint Vision 2010). It's called, variously, the American RMA, and it posits a very different way of thinking about the meaning of the "total force".
Instead of seeing the goal as one of making the reserve components clones of the active force, this concept sees the reserves as the shield beneath which the active force can change quickly and profoundly. It accepts, and promotes, a bifurcated force, in which the reserves act as the repository for today's strength and serve increasingly as the primary military means through which the nation pursues its policy of peaceful engagement, while the active force is freed to allow it to change.
Adopting this would mean changes in the role, activity, and character of the reserve components. It would put reserve components more prominently in "presence" and "peacetime engagement" missions. It would probably entail changes in how reserve and guard members spend the roughly 40 days a year they owe in training. It could involve incentives to expand the voluntary active duty programs, and it might involve adjustments to the President's call-up authority.
It would involve costs; additions for transportation and personnel. But it could also involve some cost savings. If reserve components, serving in a rotation, make up a larger portion of the stationed forces in Europe, do we need the same dependent infrastructure we have there now? Maybe not.
All this posits perturbations to business as usual. That's always disruptive and such suggestions are always suspect. But, what's the fundamental purpose of overseas presence and peaceful engagement, now? Is it to deter attack by the 8th Guards Tank Army? Or is it to demonstrate American strength more generally -- politically and culturally, as well as militarily? And if so, why can't the reserve components do that -- maybe better than the active forces?
This concept may be upsetting to some, crazy to others. But you're going to hear more about it in the context of what the Pentagon, beneath its breath, calls the vanguard force. The Vanguard Force concept almost got into the QDR, and is almost certain to emerge in some form from the NDP and/or Congress. It picks up the notion of "freeing" some portion of the active force to more quickly integrate "system-of-system" technologies into organization, structure, and doctrine. The Vanguard Force could turn out to be a fairly robust undertaking, involving on the order of three Army divisions, 3 Air Force Wings, and commensurate Navy and Marine Corps components. That level would constitute a significant diversion of the active force away from today's focus on readiness (which involves constant efforts to able to do things the way current doctrine says we should) toward experimenting with change.
To do this, we'd have to face the choice between stepping down from presence and contingency commitments. Or relying more on the reserve components to pick up more of these commitments. Our choice should be the latter, and in making it we will be moving away from the old understanding of the total force. The new total force sees a different partnership between the active and reserve force components. Rather than striving to be clones of active forces, the reserve components would remain the repository for today's American military prowess while portions of the active force move more expeditiously and faster into the future. Rather than debating how fast the reserve components can take on the combat roles of the active force, we would focus on how well they can perform the presence and peacetime missions that currently absorb so much time and effort of the active components. Reserve components would, under this concept, assume a greater portion of the active Army's mission in Europe. They would do so on a rotational basis, and because of this would not be able to replace the active personnel stationed in Europe, one-to-one. But even on a rotational basis, the reserve components could relieve a considerable portion of the active force to let it, in turn, become the experimental base at the heart of the Vanguard Force.
Much needs to be worked out with regard to this approach. But, it is worth thinking about. It offers an alternative to the stale debates that echo hollowly in today's world where the concepts of massive militaries, engaged in world wide conflicts have faded, and where the future will lie with the nations who build forces that are more agile, decisive, and smarter.