Transforming Defense
National Security in the 21st Century
Report of the National Defense Panel - December 1997


Current defense strategy states that U. S. forces should be capable of fighting two regional wars at almost the same time. Potential threats in North Korea and Southwest Asia define the type of threat we may confront. This two-theater war concept is predicated on the belief that the ability to fight more than one major war at a time deters an enemy from seeking to take advantage of the opportunity to strike while the United States is preoccupied in another theater. Moreover, this posture dictates that, should the second enemy strike, we would swiftly deploy the necessary forces to defeat the second aggressor while continuing to successfully engage the first.

The Panel agrees fully that the United States cannot afford to ignore the near-term threats posed by Iran and Iraq in the Persian Gulf and North Korea in Northeast Asia. Our current forces, however, with the support of allies, should be capable of dealing with Iraq, which still poses a serious threat to the region and appears intent on acquiring an offensive WMD capability. The risks in Korea remain high, but the challenge in that theater is unique: a large, well-concealed force with extensive artillery and rocket forces and likely armed with chemical and possibly biological and nuclear capabilities. Forward bases could be put at risk, limiting the ability to deploy forces into Korea and sustain them. We must continue to work with South Korea to cope with this threat while we attempt to moderate it by political and economic means. As long as we retain the ability to introduce forces into the region, we have adequate combat power within the present force structure to deal with this threat. As a result, it is our judgment that our current force structure is sufficient for the regional threats that we see today.

The Panel views the two-military-theater-of-war construct as a force-sizing function and not a strategy. We are concerned that this construct may have become a force-protection mechanism -- a means of justifying the current force structure -- especially for those searching for the certainties of the Cold War era. This could leave the services vulnerable if one of the other major contingencies resolves itself before we have a transformation strategy in place, creating a strong demand for immediate, deep, and unwise cuts in force structure and personnel.

The two-theater construct has been a useful mechanism for determining what forces to retain as the Cold War came to a close. To some degree, it remains a useful mechanism today. But, it is fast becoming an inhibitor to reaching the capabilities we will need in the 2010– 2020 time frame.

Current Two-Theater Construct
  • A sizing mechanism for the past
  • A concern for today
  • An inhibitor in reaching tomorrow

    Accept transitional risk Emphasize long-term security

  • The issue is not whether the current posture is useful. The real issue is where we are willing to take risk. The current posture minimizes near-term risk at a time when danger is moderate to low. A significant share of the Defense Department's resources is focused on the unlikely contingency that two major wars will break out at once, putting greater risk on our long-term security. While we cannot identify future threats precisely, we can identify the challenges. Our priority emphasis (including resources) must go to the future.

    Therefore, the Panel concludes (without understating today's security construct) that the Defense Department must move beyond its current focus to pursue a transformation strategy that safeguards our qualitative edge now and in the future. Incorporated in those efforts must be careful consideration of the forward deployed and forward presence arrangements and, most important, our relationships with allies in various regions of the world.

    The scope of the missions that the Department of Defense must be prepared to undertake does not appear at first glance to be radically different from the past: regional stability, homeland defense, projection of power, space operations, strategic deterrence, and maintaining information superiority -- all missions that the U. S. military has done before to a greater or lesser extent. What makes these missions different today, and especially in 2010– 2020, is that the nature of the challenges is changing. Executing missions will be more complex, and there will be a greater need for cooperation with other instruments of national power, as well as with allies and coalition partners. Underlying all of these missions and linking them together is the growth in information technology, which creates opportunities and problems that we are just beginning to comprehend.

    The combined effect of new and evolving challenges to our national security is profound. It demands a new approach to defense. It suggests that without significant change in our national security structures and processes, we face the grave risk that we will be unprepared for the future. The primary focus of our preparation for these future challenges is outlined below.


  • Missions remain largely unchanged
  • Emphasis among missions changes
  • Specific challenges within those missions may be radically different


    Protecting the territory of the United States and its citizens from "all enemies both foreign and domestic" is the principal task of government. The primary reason for the increased emphasis on homeland defense is the change, both in type and degree, in the threats to the United States. Besides the enduring need to deter a strategic nuclear attack, the United States must defend against terrorism, information warfare, weapons of mass destruction, ballistic and cruise missiles, and other transnational threats to the sovereign territory of the nation. In many of these mission areas, the military will necessarily play the leading role; however, many other threats exist which will require Defense to support local law enforcement agencies, as well as a host of other federal, state, and local entities.


    Cold War -- Strategic Nuclear Attack by Superpower
    Today and Tomorrow -- Nuclear Attack by ????


    Information Warfare
    Ballistic and Cruise Missiles
    Transnational Threats
    Attacks on Critical Infrastructure
    America may not be any more or less safe than before, but the challenges to its safety and security will be very different

    Threats to the United States have been magnified by the proliferation of, and the means to produce and deliver, weapons of mass destruction. The increasing availability of relatively inexpensive cruise missiles and the capability to fabricate and introduce biotoxins and chemical agents into the United States means that rogue nations or transnational actors may be able to threaten our homeland. Along with the growth of delivery systems, the technology needed to create warheads housing nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons has also proliferated. The complexity of the WMD challenge lies in the number of potential enemies who have access to, and may choose, this asymmetric means of attacking the United States in an effort to offset our conventional strengths.

    An integrated set of active and passive measures for deterring and defending against the use of weapons of mass destruction is needed. These measures must involve a range of federal departments and agencies which, in turn, must incorporate the state and local levels of government in their planning.

    Effective missile defense may also reduce the risk of a limited missile strike and deter blackmail attempts by those who would seek to thwart U. S. military and diplomatic actions. Even if our abilities to defend against large-scale nuclear attack remain inadequate, we must retain the option to deploy, if necessary, a missile defense capable of defeating limited attacks.

    Although not seriously considered since the late 1950s, coastal and border defense of the homeland is a challenge that again deserves serious thought. We see no clear and present danger of an invasion by an armed force; however, the apparent ease of infiltration of our borders by drug smugglers, illegal immigrants, and contraband goods illustrates a potentially significant problem. It suggests that terrorist cells armed with nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons could also infiltrate with little difficulty. Better coordination between those national agencies charged with gathering intelligence outside our borders and with those charged with protecting our citizens and territory will be an absolute requirement. Coordinated intelligence, when coupled with the close integration of efforts by the Navy, Coast Guard, other government agencies, and local authorities, should be able to stop the majority of those who would cross our borders for illicit purposes.

    No defense will ever be so effective that determined adversaries, such as terrorists bent on making a political statement, will not be able to penetrate it in some fashion. This is perhaps even true in the case of a regional enemy who threatens to execute WMD attacks on the U. S. homeland employing organized infiltration forces. Even the threat of such attacks could seriously impair our power projection operations, especially if our political leadership felt compelled to accord the enemy's homeland sanctuary status from attacks by U. S. forces.

    Managing the consequences of an attack by WMD or other mass casualty-producing devices will require action from all levels of government. Although "first responders" will take the lead (assuming they are still viable) in the vast majority of cases, the Department of Defense must be prepared to assist. Preparation will be the most effective form of assistance. The Panel recommends that the National Guard together with the Army Reserve be prepared to:

  • Train local authorities in chemical and biological weapons detection, defense, and decontamination;
  • Assist in casualty treatment and evacuation;
  • Quarantine, if necessary, affected areas and people; and
  • Assist in restoration of infrastructure and services.

    The U. S. Coast Guard and the Department of Defense should work closely to ensure that new classes of cutters are outfitted with a combat systems suite that gives these ships a robust capability in support of homeland defense, including such missions as drug interdiction, immigration control, and anti-transnational crime operations. Additionally, the U. S. Coast Guard and the Department of Defense should investigate the feasibility of providing some U. S. Coast Guard ships with a capability to assist in the cruise missile defense of the homeland.

    Information systems are rapidly becoming the key components of the nation's infrastructure. At the same time, our competitors will likely redouble their efforts to use our increasing dependence on information systems against us. The potential for an enemy to use attacks on information infrastructures as a means of undermining our economy and deterring or disrupting our operations abroad is of increasing concern. As the threats to commercial and defense information networks increase, the defense of our information infrastructure becomes crucial. The Department of Defense's reliance on the global commercial telecommunications infrastructure further complicates the equation. Our response to information warfare threats to the United States may present the greatest challenge in preparing for the security environment of 2010– 2020. The threat is diffuse and difficult to identify. Consensus on how to guard against it is difficult to establish. The recommendations of the President's Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection (PCCIP) should be the foundation of our future information security program. According to the Commission, the United States must begin to:

  • Declare a policy and build international consensus on protecting critical infrastructure;
  • Strengthen the protection of targets within the infrastructure and deny access to those who wish to disrupt its use; and
  • Share information on threats, conduct analysis of vulnerabilities, and issue warnings of potential attack.

    The Department of Defense must play an active role in the process envisioned by the Commission and its responsibilities should be made clear. Although information systems are only a small part of a much larger infrastructure, the Department of Defense must take the initiative in developing the techniques and procedures required for information security.

    The terrorist threat to the United States is a complex issue which, as it encroaches upon U. S. territory, transitions from a Defense and State activity to one managed primarily by the Department of Justice or local law enforcement agencies. To date, the hand-off of responsibilities and sharing of intelligence on known and suspected terrorists has not been properly delineated and may, in some areas, be dysfunctional. It is not envisioned that Defense would ever take the lead in combating terrorism in the United States. The Defense Department must be prepared, however, to advise and assist law enforcement agencies in actions taken by the nation against terrorism. A key element in that assistance must be the sharing of information on both national and international terrorist organizations and their activities.

    The security of our society and our citizens must be a primary concern. The emergence of new threats that have both the means and the incentive to strike at our homeland necessitates a heightened degree of readiness by our national security structures to defend against such attacks and to minimize and contain the harm they might cause.

    Homeland Defense

    The Panel recommends:
  • Develop integrated active and passive defense measures against the use of WMD.
  • Develop and retain the option to deploy a missile defense system capable of defeating limited attacks.
  • Incorporate all levels of government into managing the consequences of a WMD-type attack.
  • Prepare reserve components to support consequence management activities.
  • Support the recommendations of the President's Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection.
  • Use Department of Defense assets to advise and assist law enforcement in combating terrorist activities.


    U. S. national security is directly related to the stability of regions far from our shores. It follows, then, that a major focus of our national security policy— indeed, a principal role of not only our military forces but of all our components of international influence— should be maintaining and strengthening regional stability.

    The challenges the United States faces in 2010– 2020 are likely to be even more complex and multi-dimensional than those of the second half of the twentieth century. While some of those challenges may threaten U. S. interests directly, a far greater number will test U. S. diplomatic, political, economic, and intellectual resourcefulness to avert and prevent crises that require the intervention of our armed forces. The efforts we and our allies invest in helping to defuse regional or local tensions, promoting sustainable economic development, nurturing the rule of law and human rights, or alleviating human suffering can produce substantial savings by eliminating the need to deploy military forces to the afflicted regions. U. S. efforts to promote democratic reform and market economies in the countries of East and Central Europe and Newly Independent States have made a contribution to the relatively peaceful evolution of those states and their reintegration into the international political and economic community. Thus, a proactive policy to foster regional stability, far from being a lesser mission, should be viewed as an essential component of U. S. national security. The evolution of a more secure and predictable environment will allow the United States to promote its interests globally without employing military forces as often as we do today, and should be central to our security strategy.

    During the Cold War, regional issues were heavily influenced by our policy of containment of the Soviet Union. The United States and the Soviet Union vied with one another for their respective spheres of influence, but their competition also kept some regional instabilities (e. g., the former Yugoslavia) in check. Today, the problems are more complex and intertwined:

  • Expanding U. S. economic activity has increased existing interests or led to new interests in different regions;
  • Competition for regional influence now involves nongovernment and international organizations in addition to state actors; and
  • Ethnic, nationalistic, or political complexions of regions have changed because of changes in the geopolitical landscape.

    REGIONAL STABILITY Demands continued interaction with regional partners and alliances through diplomatic efforts

    Requires the constant integration of U. S. diplomatic, economic, and military activities

    Responding to regional stability challenges will entail a broader and more integrated application of the various elements of national power and international cooperation than exists today. Today's forward-based and forward-deployed forces play an important role in enhancing regional stability. However, they should not be the primary resource in this critical area.

    The most effective tool should be diplomacy. Diplomacy can help shape the environment and establish the preconditions for successful use of other national security tools. The responsibility for stability in a region should fall first on nations in the region, or on regional organizations. Diplomatic efforts should encourage proactive measures that promote regional stability, focusing on those nations whose interests are compatible with ours. To do this in the fractured post-Cold War world requires more robust diplomatic capabilities than we budget for today.

    Alliances also play a key role in solving regional stability problems. Our partners in these alliances are closer than we to the regional problems, and their historic ties to the specific issues can sometimes be used to advantage. We must preserve ties with our Cold War great-power allies (e. g., United Kingdom, Germany, France, Japan, Korea, and others), while encouraging great powers who are not allied with the United States (i. e., Russia, China, and India) to embrace emerging forms of cooperation while dissuading them from following paths that could lead to military competition.

    The success of future military alliances or coalitions will depend on a degree of cooperation that goes beyond a "division of labor." It will require developing and implementing common doctrine, training, and the ability to operate smoothly as a combined, integrated force, much as the U. S. military services operate jointly today.

    Cooperation in the area of armaments will also be a factor in alliance relations, starting with cooperation at the research and development level— with appropriate attention to sharing economic benefits and jobs— and including sharing the risks and costs of experimentation and procurement. Past cooperation has some successes as well as some failures. Cooperative development efforts based on ties (including cross-investments) between companies are more likely to succeed than government-to-government agreements. They should be encouraged. Such cooperation in joint development and sales can produce sizeable cost savings for the United States and its partners, as well as draw on the considerable intellectual and industrial capacities of allied countries.

    Beyond diplomacy and alliances, economic tools are powerful means to influence the regional environment. In many instances, economic problems in a country or a region cause instability. The United States, in concert with its economic partners and international financial and development organizations, can address specific regional economic problems in ways that promote stability. For example, trade, economic aid packages, or other incentives not only open doors to economic cooperation on a bilateral or regional basis but also can offer a sound foundation for political dialogue and security cooperation.

    While we may not prefer the U. S. military to be the first response to regional crises, the Department of Defense will continue to be committed to peacekeeping and humanitarian relief missions in support of U. S. national interests. These missions, which are best accomplished in coordination with other nations, will likely involve nongovernment and international organizations whose integration into operational environments must be carefully developed. Advance planning should identify clear interrelationships, responsibilities, and, when appropriate, lines of authority.

    The challenge confronting U. S. military planners is that the forces, training, and equipment used to maintain ready power projection capabilities do not necessarily lend themselves to the requirements of stability operations. The unpredictable and unique challenges generated by regional crises often require forces tailored to fit specific requirements. This will likely entail restructuring of some forces now focused on regional conflicts to conduct these less demanding but more likely contingencies. Reserve forces, for example, can provide skills that stem from their civilian specialties. Greater use of the reserve components to substitute for active units may also alleviate the operational and personnel tempo pressures on the active components and enable them to maintain their readiness for other missions.

    Clearly, the complexity of meeting the challenges of regional stability demands the use of all the elements of national power— diplomatic and economic as well as military. A key question is how to integrate them effectively, both within the U. S. government and with our allies. Done well, it will enable the United States and its allies to influence and shape future security environments to our mutual benefit.

    In keeping with this approach, we should look to agencies that traditionally have had a domestic focus to play a larger role in international affairs. The Coast Guard, for example, could be a model for navies in other parts of the world. The Coast Guard participates in numerous international search and rescue cooperative programs and engages in other international activities that build trust and strengthen military-to-military ties with other countries. Outfitted with updated and adequate combat systems, the Coast Guard could make a stronger contribution to U. S. regional stability efforts in coordination with the Commanders-in-Chief (CINCs). We recommend that the Department of Defense and the Coast Guard move to establish appropriate Memoranda of Understanding with the regional CINCs to more closely couple Coast Guard international activities to Commander-in-Chiefs regional stability programs.

    NATIONAL SECURITY STRUCTURE Involvement of all our national tools early may prevent the over-reliance on military force later

    Emphasize INTEGRATION of U. S. tools and PREVENTION of regional instabilities

    The current approach to addressing national security engages the Department of Defense and services too often and too quickly in situations that should have been resolved by non-military means. Failure to devote adequate attention and resources to promoting regional stability and security increasingly results in the use of military forces to restore social normalcy in areas not central to U. S. strategic interests, such as Somalia, Haiti, and Rwanda. Put in a more positive way, by strengthening our diplomatic, political, economic, and other assistance efforts, we may be able to prevent the breakdown of order, which requires the use of military force.

    In this regard, we should also pay more attention to interagency representation overseas. Representatives from other than the Defense Department should be assigned to CINCs. Similarly, Defense representation at embassies in important countries must be carefully considered. The Defense representative should be a senior officer or civilian with interagency and joint experience and should represent the Department of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a whole.

    Extend the spirit and intent of 'jointness' beyond U. S. forces to the U. S. interagency process and to inter-alliance venues

    Regional Security

    The Panel recommends:
  • Restructure some units to deal with smaller scale contingencies such as stability operations.
  • Substitute reserves for active units to alleviate PERSTEMPO pressures driven by regional security concerns.
  • Develop greater interoperability with alliance partners in the areas of doctrine, training, operational techniques, and R& D efforts.
  • Incorporate other government agencies, such as the Coast Guard, into CINC regional security planning.
  • Involve all agencies of the national security apparatus as an integrated team.


    Projecting military power will continue to be a central element of U. S. defense strategy. As a global power the United States will employ all the instruments of power -- diplomatic, political, economic, and military— to fulfill its obligations and protect its national interests. The skillful application of these instruments will not only protect our interests and those of our allies, but will do so short of war. However, if armed aggressors threaten our interests, we must be prepared— preferably in concert with our allies, but alone if necessary— to respond with sufficient military power to defeat them.

    To meet future requirements to project military power and conduct combat operations, the United States must transform the present force, taking advantage of new technology, operational concepts, and force structures. Major combat operations in the future may well require forces and systems that are legacies (e. g., mechanized forces, naval surface combatant, short-range fixed and rotary-wing aircraft) of those currently in use. However, the cutting-edge ability to accomplish U. S. national security objectives will come from new approaches and new thinking about power projection and asymmetric warfare capabilities. The depth and breadth of the capabilities needed are only now becoming apparent, but we can foresee the broad requirements.

    We must be able to project military power much more rapidly into areas where we may not have stationed forces. The ability to project lethal forces -- in the air, on the sea, or on the land -- will be essential. Toward that end, our ability to project combat power anywhere in the world will require new technologies, operational concepts, and capabilities to meet the new challenges. First among these new challenges is the need for a much smaller force "footprint" characterized by fewer but more capable attacking troops and platforms supported by an even smaller logistics element. Priority challenges will also include an enhanced military responsiveness distinguished by its increased range of employment and resulting in reduced exposure of our forces.

    In short, we must radically alter the way in which we project power. Projecting military power on short notice into the backyard of a major regional power is an inherently demanding enterprise. This is particularly true when that enemy is willing to accept vastly more casualties than the United States. In this situation, there is a high premium on forces that can deploy rapidly, seize the initiative, and achieve our objectives with minimal risk of heavy casualties.

    Project military power into critical areas:
  • More rapidly
  • Absent forward access
  • With smaller units and footprint
  • With greater lethality

  • Forward-deployed land forces would have to operate dispersed. They would not operate from a few fixed bases characterized by "iron mountains" of supplies, but would rather rely on a combination of numerous small, dispersed supply points. Along with dispersion, ground units would emphasize speed to facilitate the ability to concentrate rapidly for close combat as required. They also may operate in smaller units that place great emphasis on seeing deep (through Special Operations Forces and deep-reconnaissance teams, along with reconnaissance helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles). These units would be integrated into the U. S. reconnaissance architecture, which would also comprise constellations of satellites and unmanned aerial vehicle "grids." Employing rocket artillery, unmanned combat aerial vehicles, and attack helicopters, these units would both emphasize extended-range precision strikes and support similar strikes by air and sea forces. Concentrating ground forces, either to seize or to control certain kinds of terrain (e. g., urban areas), may prove exceedingly challenging in this environment.

    Maritime forces would rely more heavily on a "distributed" and networked battle fleet that would comprise, along with carriers, extended-range precision strike forces based on surface and submerged combatants, including submarines, arsenal ships, land-attack destroyers and integrated amphibious forces. The naval expeditionary power projection fleet would employ both short-range aircraft, maneuver forces, and reconnaissance and strike unmanned aerial vehicles. Maneuver forces would employ systems that would insert forces to strike or seize objectives while avoiding an enemy's defenses.

    Air forces would place greater emphasis on operating at extended ranges, relying heavily on long-range aircraft and extended-range unmanned systems, employing advanced precision and brilliant munitions and based outside the theater of operations. Aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, and unmanned combat aerial vehicles operating in theater could stage at peripheral bases outside enemy missile range, or on Mobile Offshore Bases or carriers. Great reliance would be placed on aerial refueling to extend aircraft range, and perhaps on multiple, austere bases in theaters where "touch-and-go" refueling and rearming could take place.

    Such a force would be fully joint and increasingly combined, engaging in multidimensional (i. e., integrated ground, sea, and aerospace) and, where possible, multinational operations at close and extended ranges. It would be fully integrated through a global, distributed reconnaissance and intelligence architecture composed of satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles, sensors, and infiltration forces. Unmanned systems would likely provide a growing proportion of airborne reconnaissance and strike forces.

    Power projection operations would focus on disabling the enemy's strategic center of gravity (including his warmaking potential and military forces), and occupying key terrain. In general, we must be able to rapidly target and access whatever an adversary values most, the loss of which would render him either unable or unwilling to continue his hostilities. This has always been an objective in war, though very difficult to achieve, given war's uncertainties and frictions. Toward that end, we should try, so far as possible, to stop aggression through our own strategic initiative and control of the battlespace. Accomplishing this will likely require the simultaneous execution of a range of operations -- conducting extended-range precision strikes, seizing control of space and information superiority, exercising ground and sea control, and providing missile defense.

    Along with the asymmetric U. S. military advantages noted above, our forces will also have to operate and organize differently for power projection in order to achieve the following objectives:

  • Inserting and extracting forces in the absence of forward bases;
  • Forward-deploying forces prior to a conflict if forward bases are available, but at risk;
  • Resupplying forward forces through airlift and sealift operations when access to forward ports and airfields is at risk;
  • Seizing and controlling key terrain (including urban terrain) if our ground forces must operate dispersed;
  • Achieving air superiority against an enemy's missile force— ballistic and cruise, as well as air-to-air and surface-to-air threats; and
  • Defending key regional coalition partners against enemy missile strikes.

    The visions of the various services contain many of the capabilities outlined above. However, the procurement budgets of the services do not adequately reflect the central thrust of their visions.

    Meeting the power projection challenge will require aggressive transformation. This process may present some risk in the mid-term as the force transitions from the combat capabilities of the post-Desert Storm era to those demanded in the 2010– 2020 security environment. The risk is moderate, however, and acceptable, given the capability of the current force and the improbability of a hostile competitor making a decisive technological leap ahead in the near term. Furthermore, risk is likely to decline as we develop and deploy new capabilities. The longer we delay action, however, the greater the risk. Key to managing the risk of a major conflict while we transform the force is that at any point in the process we retain the means to conduct major combat operations and, more important, that potential adversaries understand that we have this capability. Successful power projection requires more than robust lift and the ability to wage effective operations against major regional threats. It requires other capabilities, described below.

    Handling Lesser Military Threats

    In our transformation efforts we must also provide the capabilities required for other emerging challenges. In many cases, the training and equipment used to prepare forces for major combat operations will also be able to handle these challenges. However, unique and critical military capabilities demand specialization. In addition, these challenges may well present difficult operational environments (urban deployments, chemically or biologically contaminated locales, major refugee flow) that do not fit easily the way our forces are currently structured. A partial solution to this dilemma may come from the reserve components (described in detail later in the Report). The specialized skills that reside in the reserves can make a significant contribution in tailoring our contingency forces to deal with emerging challenges to our security. It is also critical that we seek allied military support in these situations. In almost all cases, a coalition approach is clearly preferable to the United States operating alone. In some cases, our allies or regional organizations may be in a position to handle lesser contingencies without significant U. S. involvement. Nonetheless, the United States, both today and as is likely in the future, will possess some unique capabilities, such as transport and command, control, communications, and intelligence. Therefore, U. S. support will likely be in demand even when allies bear the brunt of the military operations.

    Effective Urban Operations

    Urban environments will present particularly thorny problems to our military forces. The maze of streets, crush of population, and complex of buildings and vertical and subterranean constructions present a demanding landscape that has the capacity to absorb ground forces, confound the effectiveness of stand-off weapons, and slow operations to a virtual standstill.


  • Some overlapping capabilities with major combat operations
  • Many unique and specialized capabilities
  • Anticipated critical contributions from allied capabilities Potential for significant contribution from the reserve components


  • Specialized weapons
  • Tailored intelligence and communications
  • Sophisticated operational concepts
  • Civil– military and interagency coordination
  • Joint and allied force integration

    Increase priority; expand efforts

    Even peacetime operations tend to be complicated and hazardous in an urban habitat.

    Although we might prefer to avoid urban situations, mission requirements in peace and war may not allow this preference. We need to develop intelligence systems and military capabilities that enable the effective control (or eviction) of regular enemy forces from urban terrain. Furthermore, we must do so without putting at risk friendly forces or noncombatants, while being careful not to destroy critical infrastructures that will be essential to post-hostility recovery. Finally, urban operations will require sophisticated operational concepts, civil– military and interagency coordination, new force structure elements, and integrated efforts by joint and allied forces. Emerging technologies will change the characteristics of the urban battlefield and thus our concepts for fighting there.

    In recent years the Department of Defense has focused research and development effort on urban warfare issues, and the services, especially the Marines, are developing new and better ways of fighting in cities. These efforts should be encouraged and expanded now if we are to successfully meet the challenges of the future.

    Projecting Military Power

    The Panel recommends:
  • New approaches and thinking about power projection and our asymmetric capabilities.
  • Smaller forces with greater lethality supported by leaner logistics.
  • Widely dispersed ground units characterized by speed of execution and ability to concentrate at strategic points.
  • Small units such as special operations forces and other ground teams specializing in deep reconnaissance.
  • Distributed and networked battle fleets from which air, land, and sea attacks are launched.
  • Air forces with greater emphasis on operating at extended ranges with tactical air and long-range aircraft and unmanned aerial systems.
  • Both offensive and defensive measures to reduce WMD vulnerability of deployed forces.
  • Expanded research and development focused on urban warfare issues.


    Unrestricted use of space has become a major strategic interest of the United States. The next twenty years will see dramatic expansion of space operations for a variety of purposes. We are in an era similar to the early development of aviation, in that breathtaking opportunities are there for those who can envision the possibilities and who possess the skills and determination to act upon them.

    Commercial use of space is expanding quickly, and on a global scale. In the next ten years, more than 1,000 satellites are projected to be launched. This represents a total investment (including all related services) of more than one-half trillion dollars. The majority of these satellites will be commercial. In 1996, for the first time in history, commercial launches exceeded government launches. Worldwide today more than 1,000 companies develop, manufacture, and operate space systems. Many of these companies are in the United States.

    Our enemies, however, will seek to develop their own space capabilities or to gain access to space-derived products. The explosion in the commercial use of space will afford them the opportunity. As the costs of getting to space and operating there decline— and we expect that they will— not only will we see more satellites in space, but more military organizations will have the means to access them.

    Military competitors will seek ways to reduce our current advantages. As competition increases, business will turn to government for protection. Some protective measures may take the form of regulations or treaties, but as the "flag follows trade," our military will be expected to protect U. S. commercial interests.

    Space power is an integral part of the revolution in military affairs and a key asset in achieving military advantage in information operations. For the military, space is the information battle's high ground. The United States cannot afford to lose the edge it now holds in military-related space operations.

    Despite our strong position, our space program has vulnerabilities. The small number of U. S. launch installations and present launch processes increase our vulnerabilities and costs of accessing space. Our assets in space are also vulnerable and they lack the ability to detect attack. Our protection and denial capabilities are rudimentary, limited to encryption of communication links, some degree of hardened electronics, and enough redundancy to guard against catastrophic loss of capabilities. Denial of enemy space capabilities is largely limited to neutralizing enemy ground installations employing conventional or special operations forces.

    Greater accessibility to space by our competitors will strongly influence the struggle for advantage in military operations. For example, an adversary could use commercial or third-party national remote-sensing and communications satellites, along with space-based navigation data, to help identify or target forward-deployed U. S. forces and fixed facilities such as ports, airfields, and logistics centers. Therefore, we must take steps now to ensure we have the capability to deny our enemies the use of space.

    In short, developments in space will both challenge our military and offer it opportunities. Our defensive efforts should extend to ground stations that enable and support operations as well as to the satellites themselves, which will require the hardening or shielding of electronics against interference. We should develop sensors to determine the source and type of interference we might see applied against us so that we can take steps to mitigate its effect and attack the source. We must substantially improve our ability to conduct surveillance of space objects in order to maintain our situational awareness and adjust operations accordingly. And we must be prepared to deny applications that support adversary military operations.

    To capitalize on the opportunities that space lends to military operations, we must maintain our lead. We have a strong foundation on which to build. We should emphasize policies and strategies needed to coordinate the civil, commercial, and national security sectors of space. For example, we should be able to better integrate Defense Department and intelligence community operations. We must take advantage of increasingly innovative commercial practices and continually investigate the advantages and vulnerabilities that commercial investments in space will bring. We should accurately incorporate them into our long-range planning and integrate them into routine operations. We should also examine innovative applications such as paying for modifications that will make commercial systems more useful in crises. Furthermore, we should seek to secure the cooperation of private industry in addressing national security implications in space.

    We need to develop a robust space science and technology program that incorporates more experimentation, giving priority to technologies for which there is no commercial market to support innovation and the fielding of the capabilities we will need to meet emerging challenges. We need better simulation models to use in our analyses, war games, exercises, and training. We must educate our various commands, services, and related national security actors on what capabilities space affords them. The outcome of all this should be better operational concepts and new space capabilities (including better situational awareness and improved precision strike). With the right focus, we can maintain our lead in space and protect against any vulnerability that might cost us an advantage in military operations.


  • Emphasize coordination policies (civil/ commercial/ national security)
  • Incorporate innovative commercial practices
  • Investigate advantages and vulnerabilities of commercial assets
  • Improve space-asset surveillance
  • Improve asset protection (ground stations and space platforms)
  • Develop a robust science and technology program
  • Develop improved models and simulations
  • Train commanders and educate national decision makers on space-based capabilities Fully exploit the opportunities of space Proactively address associated vulnerabilities

    Space Operations

    The Panel recommends:
  • Emphasize policies and strategies to coordinate civil, commercial, and national security sectors of space.
  • Take steps to ensure the capability to deny enemies the use of space.
  • Improve the capability to conduct surveillance of space objects.
  • Develop the capability to protect space assets and related ground stations.
  • Improve the capability of related ground stations
  • Develop a robust space Science and Technology program.


    Essential to maintaining information superiority will be the development of a "knowledge system" that meaningfully synthesizes existing and new information systems. Toward that end, there are two imperatives to maintaining U. S. information superiority.

    First and foremost, we must be able to exploit advances in commercial technology. Given that commercial technology is ubiquitous, we will have to develop the means to exploit it (i. e., transform technology into military capability) more quickly than our military competitors. We must also recognize that our ability to exploit information technologies to create systems architectures -- the integration of forces and platforms -- is likely to be a future core capability. Second, we must have effective defensive and offensive information capabilities. Not only must we be able to defend our systems against cyber-attack, but we must also be able to discern the origin of cyber-attacks and provide a commensurate response.

    Information Operations

    The Panel recommends:
  • Develop the ability to transform and exploit technology into military capability more rapidly.
  • Exploit information technology to integrate forces and platforms more effectively.
  • Develop effective defensive and offensive information capabilities.

    As the new millennium approaches, we face the very real and increasing prospect that regional aggressors, third-rate armies, terrorist groups and even religious cults will seek to wield disproportionate power by acquiring and using these weapons that can produce mass casualties. These are neither far-fetched nor far-off threats.

    –Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen


    Weapons of mass destruction are an expanding threat. As a result, our operational concepts must stress preventive measures including enhanced intelligence operations, an adequate homeland defense, the means to manage the consequences of a serious attack within the United States or against our interests abroad, and force dispersion with a limited logistics footprint, as well as defenses for our forces and the ability to project power in the absence of forward bases.

    The days of the six-month build-up and secure, large, rear-area bases are almost certainly gone forever. WMD will require us to increase dramatically the means to project lethal power from extended ranges. We cannot assume, however, that such measures will, in and of themselves, protect our forces. We must also develop appropriate defensive measures integral to our deployed forces. Even more efficient and lighter protective gear will be required. Vaccinations will be the norm, and detection capabilities must be our highest priority.

    Furthermore, we must provide a conventional, non-nuclear deterrent capability against the use of weapons of mass destruction. The above described measures will form the basis of a conventional deterrence as potential adversaries recognize that we are not only capable of striking them from outside their WMD range, but that we are also capable of operating within a contaminated environment. It must be absolutely clear that the United States will respond decisively if weapons of mass destruction are employed against our homeland or against our forward-deployed forces.

    Weapons of Mass Destruction

    The Panel recommends:
  • Develop appropriate defense measures organic to our deployed forces.
  • Give highest priority to detection capability.
  • Provide a conventional, non-nuclear deterrent capability against the use of weapons of mass destruction.



    Transforming Defense
    National Security in the 21st Century
    Report of the National Defense Panel - December 1997