Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for this opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the future of the B-2 bomber. I have submitted a prepared statement for the record, and, with your permission, I will summarize my remarks.
Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Implications of WMD-Armed Adversaries for U.S. Strategy and Force Modernization
Much of what I will say is based on the analysis of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and the implications for U.S. military strategy contained in my book, Tomorrow’s War, Today’s Decisions; I have provided a copy for each member of the House National Security Committee. With your permission, allow me to open the door in advance by offering to discuss the important issues raised in this testimony with members of the House who are not on this committee but who are nonetheless concerned about the WMD threats facing the United States. It is crucial that the House make the right military procurement decisions in 1997 by doing what is needed to counter the WMD threat to U.S. security interests and lessen the number of potential casualties in future conflicts.
At his January 22 confirmation hearing, Secretary of Defense William Cohen characterized the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, or WMD, as "the gravest threat the world has ever known." In my brief remarks today I will address WMD in the context of our nation’s future military strategy and force structure.
Geography dictates that the United States be capable of projecting the right numbers of the right kinds of military forces . . . to the right places in regions across the oceans . . . in time to be relevant to military forces inimical to the U.S. security interests. Hence, there can be little doubt that the military capabilities underwriting the U.S. power projection strategy will remain a centerpiece of our national security. Yet, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are restructuring the international conditions under which U.S. power projection operations must function. It is therefore necessary to understand the strategic implications of WMD and re-design the nation’s military strategy and modernization plan.
I will make four main points today. I hope these observations will contribute to the subcommittee’s appreciation of the force modernization required to cope effectively with WMD today and in the future:
Lessons Learned From the Iraqi Experience
My analysis first details Iraq's drive to field WMD and U.S.-led efforts to neutralize Iraqi WMD capabilities during Desert Storm. The value of this comprehensive review is in the keen insight it provides for future planning. The lessons learned from the Iraqi experience yield a composite sketch of the 21st century proliferator. Four main conclusions can be drawn from my research:
• Regional WMD proliferation is no longer tomorrow's problem. Before Desert Storm, U.S. policymakers generally believed that regional WMD proliferation could be forestalled. The stunning series of post-Gulf War IAEA and UN revelations about the size, scope, sophistication and maturity of Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missile programs have changed all that. Regional WMD proliferation is upon us, and U.S. strategy must now be fundamentally reoriented to deal with it.
• Regional WMD proliferation is likely to continue unabated. Regional states have powerful incentives to acquire WMD. Rogue states in search of regional hegemony seek WMD to intimidate and/or defeat their neighbors and to deter and, if necessary, disrupt U.S. intervention. Meanwhile, as more and more states proliferate, even non-aggressor states will feel compelled to follow suit to deter WMD-armed aggression. The Iraqi case also shows that proliferation is all but impossible to prevent, that Western nonproliferation efforts have little effect on a determined proliferator.
• Monitoring WMD proliferation is extraordinarily difficult, particularly during crises and conflict. In retrospect, pre-Gulf War WMD-related intelligence was woefully inadequate. The Coalition air campaign planners, for example, targeted just 8 of 56 nuclear facilities discovered after the war by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency and United Nations; were unable to find (or direct the destruction of) some 28,000 chemical munitions; and were all but oblivious to Iraq's staggering biological capability--30,000 liters of botulism, anthrax, and aflatoxin, much of it loaded in bombs, rockets, and Scud missile warheads. According to one estimate, Iraq’s botulism stockpile alone was sufficient to kill 15 billion people. Before Desert Storm, experts pegged Iraq as several years from fielding even a crude nuclear device; it is now believed they were just twelve to eighteen months away from producing one or more nuclear devices and/or deliverable weapons. It would be wrong, however, to cast full blame on the intelligence community. Iraq went to extraordinary lengths to shroud the development of its WMD triad; we can expect future proliferators to follow suit. There is ample reason to believe that similar stockpiles of WMD could allow future regional adversaries to neutralize the otherwise dominant U.S. forces deploying to the theater.
• As a distinct target set, WMD programs present a daunting military challenge. Using the Iraqi WMD program (January 1991) as a baseline target set for future counterforce (counter-WMD) operations, one is immediately struck by the sheer scale of the projected effort. Planners would have to target over 240 "fixed" facilities and hundreds of other dispersed and/or mobile assets. Moreover, such an operation would be complex, technologically challenging, politically controversial, and very risky. The proliferator would undoubtedly know America viewed his WMD development as a burgeoning threat and that military action was a possibility. Defensive preparations, such as concealing and dispersing critical WMD assets and placing air defenses in a higher state of readiness, would likely be stepped up. Facilities could be located in hardened and/or deeply-buried bunkers resistant to all but the most advanced penetrating weapons and virtually invulnerable to current-generation cruise missiles; guarded by sophisticated air defenses; and located in, or indeed relocated to, heavily-populated urban areas. Though counterforce operations are a critical component of the strategy I advocate for dealing with WMD-armed adversaries, prudence demands that success in tomorrow’s war not hinge solely on our ability to neutralize enemy WMD militarily.
Implications of WMD-Armed Adversaries for U.S. Military Strategy: Assessment
America’s potential regional adversaries are pursuing theater-range WMD precisely because these weapons could allow them to neutralize America’s conventional power projection capabilities. To the so-called "rogue" states (e.g., Iraq and Iran) WMD is the great strategic "equalizer"--the means for "devaluing" U.S. military might by exploiting America’s well known aversion to casualties and its clear dependence upon access to ports, airfields, military facilities and coastal waters in the theater of conflict. Adversaries could deliver their WMD against theater-based U.S. forces via ballistic or cruise missiles. modern strike aircraft, commando forces, or through the sponsorship of terrorist operations, and may have several different objectives for utilizing their special weapons:
• Deterring U.S. Intervention. An aggressor might seek to deter the U.S. intervention by convincing the U.S. leadership that the expected costs (i.e., casualties) outweigh the possible gains. Threatening WMD against U.S. assets enroute to, or already in, the theater of conflict is one obvious strategy. American troops, ports, airfields, bases and naval forces in the region would form attractive targets. It is important to note that an aggressor does not need to actually use, or even threaten to use, his weapons to achieve this objective. As long as the United States is reasonably certain the enemy does in fact possess deliverable WMD, the potential for mass casualties could very well cause the president to balk at sending American forces abroad, or to backpedal after a U.S. deployment has already begun.
• Intimidating Regional Allies. U.S. military intervention in a regional crisis could hinge on the formation of an international coalition with allies in the theater. Moreover, the success of America's current regional warfighting strategy (deploying large numbers of forces into the region) depends upon access to bases in the theater. A regional aggressor might threaten WMD use, including terrorist events using biological, chemical or radiological weapons, to prevent the formation of such a coalition, splinter an existing coalition, or coerce neighbors into denying the United States access to their ports, airfields, military facilities, and airspace. Lack of coalition support would increase domestic opposition to the use of American force abroad and could delay a U.S. military response; denial of theater access would seriously circumscribe U.S. power projection capabilities.
• Disrupting U.S. Deployments and/or Combat Operations. A WMD-armed aggressor could also employ his weapons to cripple on-going U.S. power projection operations. For example, the aggressor could launch chemical or biological strikes against such targets as main U.S. ports and airfields of debarkation to disrupt the flow of combat aircraft, troops, heavy military hardware, munitions, and other supplies into theater. If launched at the front of a short-warning invasion, such a WMD attack could buy an aggressor additional time to achieve his initial military objectives (e.g., occupation of the victim state's capital city or critical economic assets), dig in and disperse, and force the U.S. to decide between conceding or fighting a much more costly war of eviction.
• Limiting U.S. War Aims. Adversaries could also use or threaten the use of WMD to protect their regimes or states from total defeat by raising the perceived costs of defeating him beyond the expected gains. This logic applies evenly to nuclear, chemical and biological weapons--precisely because all are capable of causing "mass destruction." Some analysts argue that when facing defeat, regional leaders may become "non-deterrable." The primary concern for many developing world regimes is retaining a hold on power. Faced with losing their power, regional leaders essentially have nothing to lose; in their minds, a WMD attack may be viewed as the last hope for survival.
Implications of WMD-Armed Adversaries for U.S. Military Strategy: Options
Current U.S. options for countering the regional WMD threat fail to mitigate these potentially debilitating problems. The current U.S. strategy for countering WMD-armed regional adversaries has three pillars: nuclear deterrence, defense (both active and passive), and counterforce. In reviewing each, the following points summarize my observations:
• Nuclear Deterrence. Deterrence is highly problematic in a regional context. For one, the credibility of the American nuclear threat is clearly limited. Leaders with nothing to lose have little reason to fear nuclear retaliation, while those pondering chemical and/or biological strikes have good reason to believe such actions would not provoke a nuclear response. Perhaps most importantly, the concept of deterrence is inherently flawed as a policy for dealing with weapons that need not actually be employed by the aggressor to achieve warfighting objectives. The specter of casualties, perhaps reinforced by terrorism, will linger over U.S. decisionmakers from day one in crises involving WMD-armed adversaries and could very well cause U.S. and allied leaders to balk at taking decisive action.
• Active and Passive Defenses. Traditional air defense systems will likely remain effective against WMD-armed strike aircraft and, to a somewhat lesser extent, cruise missiles for the foreseeable future. That same optimism does not, however, hold for theater ballistic missile defenses. Three "core" TMD systems are in development, but none have been seriously tested and all are subject to budget-related deployment slippage. Meanwhile, the threat is getting more complex. Potential adversaries are expected to develop TMD countermeasures such as decoys and early-release chemical and biological submunitions. In short, the U.S. TMD forecast remains clouded with uncertainty. Passive defense measures such as force dispersal, detection and identification, individual and collective protection, decontamination, and casualty management can only be viewed in terms of damage control.
• Counterforce. Counterforce operations would be designed to "neutralize" enemy WMD before it can be used against U.S. forces and/or interests abroad. Against the most threatening WMD programs, however, current and planned U.S. counterforce capabilities are not up to the task. The primary problem here is America’s heavy reliance upon theater-range aircraft for precision strike. It is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine the United States deploying hundreds of fighters and multiple carrier battle groups into a region without tipping its hand to the target country. Surprise would be lost and the adversary could disperse many critical assets, reducing the chances of success while increasing the likelihood of WMD retaliation. Regional allies, whose bases and facilities would be of the utmost importance, could very well face WMD threats from the target country and might balk at the notion of supporting the U.S. deployment. Finally, all theater-based aircraft within striking range of their targets would be highly vulnerable to the WMD of the very regime they were sent to destroy. To achieve the initial decisiveness critical to any counterforce operation, the U.S. would need to deploy hundreds of tactical aircraft within range of the target country. This massive theater presence would, however, eliminate all elements of surprise and leave most of the American aircraft vulnerable to the very weapons they were sent to destroy. Preemptive counterforce operations, even if militarily feasible, would probably be politically impractical, both domestically and internationally.
Under the Clinton Administration’s current defense program, WMD-armed regional aggressors can limit U.S. power projection capabilities. The Administration’s three-pronged approach for countering the wide-ranging regional WMD threat is clearly inadequate. Deterrence can never be guaranteed; airtight active defenses do not appear technologically or fiscally feasible, and passive defenses amount to nothing more than damage control. This leaves counterforce operations, but they will remain militarily infeasible so long as theater-based aircraft are left to carry the precision strike burden. There is, in fact, little the United States can do to negate the many implications of proliferation short of "extending" the theater of operations beyond the range of enemy WMD.
What alternative policy, strategy, and force structure options are available to U.S. decisionmaker and military planners? The United States is clearly capable of exploiting newly emerging long-range surveillance/precision strike systems such as the B-2 bomber to achieve a robust, if imperfect, 21st century counterforce capability. By heavily augmenting its long-range precision striking power, particularly the heavy bomber and cruise missile forces, the United States can credibly threaten to exact a heavy toll on aggressor WMD programs worldwide--without subjecting itself to the litany of problems faced by as largely theater-based force.
Operational effectiveness will continue to be limited to some degree by various technological challenges, such as those associated with intelligence-gathering and hard-target penetration, but "effectiveness" here is a relative concept. In the eyes of a potential proliferator, the damage maximization potential of a beefed-up and largely invulnerable long-range strike force in the hands of the United States could very well be enough to discourage WMD development and/or acquisition. In conflicts with known proliferators, such a capability would allow the U.S. conduct relatively risk-free counterforce strikes prior to large-scale and otherwise highly vulnerable theater force deployments. Absent the immediate threat of theater WMD retaliation, long-range counterforce operations could be protracted, allowing the U.S. to sustain its counter-WMD strikes until it is deemed "safe" to enter the theater.
Of course, this begs larger, and more fundamental questions: If America has within its technological and fiscal grasp the capability to strike this decisively from beyond WMD range, why should the core military strategy still entail sending American forces into a proliferator’s backyard, where the success of the strategy hinges upon our capability to deter, defend against, or defeat his WMD, none of which can be guaranteed? Why not make long-range strike the centerprece of our regional warfighting posture?
Many, including now-retired Gulf War air commander General Chuck Horner (USAF, ret.), are now asking the same questions and proposing bold changes. For example, during testimony before this subcommittee last September, Horner said that proliferation of WMD:
hedge against the emerging WMD is to shift as much of the power
projection burden as we can--as fast as we can--to long-range systems capable of fighting effectively from beyond WMD range.
A New Strategic Concept: Mass Firepower, Not Forces
To be sure, the prohibitive vulnerability of large theater force deployments to WMD necessitates a new power projection "calculus." Such a concept has already been outlined by the Defense Science Board (DSB), working under the auspices of the Secretary of Defense. The DSB argues that, in tomorrow’s wars--and in stark contrast to current military doctrine--the U.S. will need to "mass firepower, not forces." Whereas the BUR strategy features theater-based ground and air forces as the core U.S. warfighting capability, DSB’s proposal for meeting the "anti-access" challenge posed by WMD proliferation echoes General Horner’s admonition by placing the core power projection burden squarely on long-range land- and sea-based precision strike forces.
Under the DSB concept, land-based global precision strike aircraft and sea-based aircraft, missiles and long-range guns, operating from beyond the reach of enemy WMD, would respond swiftly and decisively to regional aggression, striking everything from fixed targets deep in enemy territory to advancing enemy armor as well as the enemy’s WMD. The main strike force, analogous to long-range strike artillery of yore, would "prepare the battlefield" for an agile, rapidly deployable expeditionary ground force comprised of distributed 10-20-man units. The primary purpose of these leaner, meaner ground forces would be to "make more permanent the gains achieved by long-range precision strike." Generally speaking, this would not include land forces’ traditional role of engaging enemy armor, a job for which long-range strike systems are now better suited. Rather, these "combat cells" would for the most part operate in a highly-dispersed manner--so as to present few targets for enemy WMD--and perform such critical tasks as securing ports and airfields of debarkation for follow-on ground and fighter forces, locating and neutralizing WMD, and temporarily holding key territory. Supporting the entire operation would be a robust "information infrastructure" comprised of remote or "unattended" ground sensors, satellites, manned surveillance/targeting aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.
The primary objectives of these leading-edge forces would be two-fold: 1) halt the enemy aggression both by engaging enemy invasion forces and by executing strategic strikes against the enemy’s warmaking capacity, and 2) enable the safe deployment of follow on theater air and ground forces by drawing down to the greatest extent possible the adversary’s WMD production, storage and delivery capabilities.
Implications for Procurement and Force Modernization
Supporting this new strategic concept will require three broad shifts in modernization and procurement emphases: ground forces to airpower, short-range airpower to long-range airpower, and non-stealthy long-range airpower to stealthy manned and unmanned long-range airpower. Detailed programmatic recommendations are beyond the scope of this testimony, but they should flow from the following planning guidelines:
Conclusion: The B-2 and Political Correctness
One monumental problem confronting the possible procurement of additional B-2 bombers is the opposition to these buys beyond the current 21 aircraft authorized. The President, Secretary of Defense, and esteemed leaders on Capitol Hill, including members of this subcommittee, are among those opposed. Meanwhile the Heavy Bomber Study, the Deep Attack Weapons Mix Study, and "independent" air power mix studies have adopted politically correct positions through convenient assumptions that reinforce the position of the Commander-in-Chief, Defense Secretary, and members of Congress. Who on the Joint Staff or on the Service staffs will dare to contradict the President and Secretary? If truly independent studies exist, how will they ever see the light of day? Secretary Cohen, at his January 22 confirmation hearing, challenged us all by observing: "There’s always a tendency on the part of any institution to remain comfortable with current assumptions. Hopefully, the QDR [Quadrennial Defense Review] will take a very hard look and say we can’t rely upon current assumptions any longer, that we have to clear out the attic of outworn ideas."
My analysis of the IAEA and UN on-site inspection reports in Iraq over the last five years shouts to us all: "Strategic conditions have changed!" The world factors that led the President, Secretary, and members of Capitol Hill to oppose procurement of a third, fourth, and even a fifth squadron of B-2s in the past have changed. Yet those who know that the proliferation of WMD has changed international strategic conditions are adopting politically correct positions of bureaucratic yes-sir "water birds," rocking back and forth and nodding their heads ever so wisely that the boss is always right. This means that the President, Defense Secretary and members of Congress are being shielded from information that might contradict their earlier decisions. The QDR, for example, can be expected to postulate short-range fighters as the platform of choice in countering WMD, although they must takeoff from bases or carriers well within range of the enemy’s nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. During the QDR we should expect mindless anti-B-2 platitudes to be withdrawn from the Pentagon’s "attic of outworn ideas" and given new life. Top line sticker cost of the B-2 will persuade many that fighter aircraft are the weapons of choice . . . at least until the beaches of some future contingency are littered with American dead, casualties of radiological, biological and chemical attacks. The Old Testament provides us an appropriate specter of our future, if we allow it to occur.
At midnight the Lord slew every first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of the Pharaoh on the throne to the first-born of the prisoner in the dungeon, as well as all the first-born animals. Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians; and here was loud wailing throughout Egypt,
for there was not a house without its dead.
Like deadly clouds from the heavens, biological, radiological, and chemical toxins will be rained upon America's uniformed men and women in the next war and in the ones thereafter. Unlike the Lord's Tenth Plague wracked upon the Egyptians, the man-made poisons of the Eleventh Plague will be non-discriminatory, killing every man, woman, child, and animal in their path. Unless we find effective ways to protect America's military on foreign shores, we can be assured of a loud wailing throughout the United States as we mourn the fallen.