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


Does the U. S. military run the risk of being unprepared for the challenges of 2010– 2020? It could, if we are on the cusp of a military revolution. Joint Vision 2010 argues that the future will find the U. S. military operating in an environment of uncertainty, faced with very different kinds of challenges than those encountered in the Cold War or the Gulf War. It notes, "Accelerating rates of change will make the future environment more unpredictable and less stable, presenting our armed forces with a wide range of plausible futures."

Much of this change will be stimulated by rapid advances in information and information-related technologies, which are transforming societies and businesses, and which seem likely to effect comparable changes in military organizations. Joint Vision 2010 states that "the emerging importance of information superiority will dramatically impact how well our armed forces can perform their duties in 2010."

In fact, this military revolution is characterized, in part, by a rapidly growing potential to detect, identify, and track far greater numbers of targets, over a larger area, for a longer time than ever before, and to order and move this information much more quickly and effectively than ever before. This seems likely to produce a very different kind of competition between "finders" and "hiders" than we have seen in the past. Reconnaissance architectures, comprised of satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles, remote sensors, and individual soldiers, among other elements, may be able to help create a condition of information superiority in which the adversary's forces and infrastructure are clearly identified, while friendly forces remain shrouded from the enemy. In military parlance, such an architecture could dissipate some of the "fog" of war for those who can exploit it to achieve information superiority.

On the other hand, the "hiders" will seek to frustrate the efforts of the "finders" through a variety of means, including strikes against the reconnaissance architecture and passive measures such as stealth, electronic countermeasures, and the dispersion, cover, and concealment of forces. Thus, while it will be important to seek information superiority to realize the enormous boost it could provide to military force effectiveness, this condition will not be easily achieved.

That being said, the importance of creating as much of a favorable information "gap" between friendly and enemy forces as possible is highlighted by the changing character of the competition between the offense and the defense. The emerging military revolution also is characterized by the potential to engage a far greater number of targets, over a far greater area, in far less time, and with much greater lethality, precision, and discrimination than ever before. Combined with information superiority, such a capability could be an instrument of decisive advantage for the force that possesses it.


  • Systems architectures
  • Information system protection
  • Information operations
  • Automation
  • Small logistics footprint
  • Mobility
  • Stealth
  • Speed
  • Increased operational and strike ranges
  • Precision strike

    In summary, the emerging military revolution seems destined to present the U. S. military with challenges and opportunities that are fundamentally different from those of today.


    Given the Panel's vision of the future battlespace— the result of the previously discussed revolution in military affairs, geopolitical, socio-economic, and demographic trends, potential asymmetric threats, and the new and emerging operational military challenges -- we can expect significant differences in the characteristics of our forces. Consequently, it is insufficient to predicate future capabilities on what is needed today. Such current organizational structures (e. g., "above-the-line" forces defined as divisions, wings, Marine Expeditionary Forces, and carrier battle groups) and the current and planned weapons systems will be required in some forces to maintain our military capability, but alone they do not necessarily prepare us for future challenges. The transformation to a force for 2010– 2020 should not be dominated by efforts to modernize legacy systems that will have much less utility in the future.

    Force Characteristics

    The Panel believes that relative to today's forces, the U. S. military of 2010– 2020 should place far greater emphasis on the following characteristics:
  • Systems Architectures. Information technologies could dramatically enhance the ability to integrate the actions of widely dispersed and dissimilar units. Such systems architectures would enable highly distributed, network-based operations;
  • Information System Protection. The defense of our commercial and military information architecture will be critical and will allow us to protect our forces and our platforms from the enemy's reconnaissance efforts. New means to protect information systems and identify the origin of cyber-attacks must be the highest priority. Today, we are vulnerable;
  • Information Operations. Significant improvements in the application of military force will be achieved by electronic strike capability. We need to develop the ability to insert viruses, implant "logic bombs," conduct electromagnetic pulse and directed energy strikes, and conduct other offensive electronic operations;
  • Automation (to include the migration into space and unmanned platforms). The major advantage automation gives us is speed. Given that time will be an increasingly scarce resource in future warfare, automation-aided operations can temporarily compress operations;
  • Small Logistics Footprint. Not only do we require lighter, more mobile forces, but we also require lean logistics. There may be no secure rear areas. A smaller logistics footprint will represent less of a target and, at the same time, less of a strain on indigenous infrastructures and our own strategic air and sea lift;
  • Mobility. The ability to move our forces rapidly and in the right configuration is key to their effectiveness. Most importantly, the greater their mobility, the greater their protection;
  • Stealth. Increasingly, any force that can be seen is likely to be hit. The best protection, therefore, is not to be seen. At the same time, the ability to avoid detection affords the opportunity for tactical surprise— which in turn can allow for strategic and operational surprise. The stealth embodied in our planes and submarines today will be increasingly important for our air, sea, and ground forces tomorrow;
  • Speed. Given advances in the speed of information flow and communications, the unfolding and duration of critical engagements— indeed the tempo of war itself— have shrunk dramatically. The rate at which we can mobilize, deploy, set, act, and reset for any action— preemptive or reactive— will likely be fundamental to success;
  • Increased Operational and Strike Ranges. We will need increased ranges to ensure the safety of our forces and their ability to achieve desired effects from disparate locations. Greater ranges will also offset the growing vulnerability of forward forces;
  • Precision Strike. Precision weapons will enable the use of far fewer platforms, with no loss in force capabilities. Precision and the ability to discriminate among targets near each other will limit collateral damage. These characteristics, while important to the capabilities we will need in the 2010– 2020 time frame, are not in and of themselves enough to ensure long-term utility of weapons systems, platforms, and organizational structures. Force packages must be applied in a joint and combined environment, interoperable with all of the components involved in security operations. It is through the synergistic concentration of effects, not by the assembling of force packages in one locale, that we must dominate our enemies.

    If these characteristics comprise a template for our future forces' success, the question remains whether we currently are developing the right systems, operational platforms, and organizational structures to dominate and prove victorious in the future. The Panel suggests that the specific examples below represent the kind of actions we should take to transform our military to meet the challenges of the future.

    All Forces

  • Shift funds from upgrade of legacy systems to new systems focused on meeting the challenges of 2010– 2020;
  • Place more emphasis on directed energy, electromagnetic energy, and cyber-weapons;
  • Enable greater speed, and penetration capability for Special Operations Forces to preempt or resolve terrorist activity or WMD threat;
  • Provide more near-zero miss, long-range, stealthy cruise missiles, brilliant munitions, and submunitions in lieu of dumb weapons;
  • Integrate ballistic and cruise missile defense to protect forces (both point and area targets), theaters, and regions; harmonize land-and sea-based missile defenses (i. e., ballistic and air breathers) in an effort to eliminate duplicative systems;
  • Establish a distributed user-friendly global information system that includes a broadcast architecture;
  • Create a "distributed," in-theater logistics structure in lieu of "iron
  • Provide the ability to project significant power from forward deployed areas, as well as the United States, within hours or days rather than months;
  • Explore new air and sealift concepts emerging in the commercial world;
  • Accelerate network-centric operations linking sensors and weapons;
  • Replace individual service component-unique systems with integrated, joint command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems;
  • Structure less manpower-intensive forces;
  • Create highly networked forces able to see the battlespace in near real time and to dynamically task and control forces.

    Land Forces

  • Become more expeditionary: fast, shock-exploiting forces, with greater urban operations capability;
  • Reduce systems that are difficult to move and support; shift to lighter, more agile automated systems;
  • Evolve to lighter, greater range, more lethal fire-support systems;
  • Develop the twenty-first century tank to be a unique vehicle relying on speed, agility, and hyper-velocity gun technology for operational effectiveness (the Panel's view is that 30-35 tons is the appropriate weight range);
  • Move beyond Force XXI to incorporate the concepts embodied in Army After Next;
  • Restructure above-the-line units, which evolve to smaller operational elements with equivalent (or greater) lethality;
  • Move toward advanced vertical lift systems versus service-life extensions of current rotary-wing aircraft.

    Sea Forces

  • Move toward small-signature ships capable of providing sustained long-range, precision firepower;
  • Design ship production to allow rapid incorporation of latest technology;
  • Provide greater quantities of small unmanned underwater vehicles to augment and extend the reach of submarines;
  • Construct follow-on carriers to capitalize on short take-off, vertical landing; unmanned aerial vehicle; and unmanned combat aerial vehicle aircraft characteristics with attendant reduction in size and personnel;
  • Consider sea-based mobile off-shore bases to provide access in situations where forward bases are unavailable or at risk to prepositioned forces;
  • Provide insertion vehicles incorporating the latest technologies to extend the reach of the maneuver component of the naval power projection forces.

    Aerospace Forces

  • Ensure a proper mix of short-and long-range aerospace forces to enable optimal strike operations;
  • Move toward fewer numbers of short-range aircraft providing increased delivery capacity with smaller, but more accurate weapons ;
  • Explore new approaches to long-range, precision delivery vehicles;
  • More distributed satellite systems to provide redundancy and survivability of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance;
  • Short-take-off-vertical-landing aircraft on wide array of airfields, ships, and sea-based platforms;
  • Increase ground surveillance capability.

    Near-Term Implications

    Applying the above principles and in view of the services' future visions and concepts, the Panel does not follow the logic of several of the services' procurements.
  • With regard to land forces, the Panel questions continuing the upgrade of the M1A1 tank and the continuing evolution of the main battle tank beyond its current capabilities, as well as the projected numbers of Crusader and Comanche. Although the Panel recognizes the potential capabilities of these systems and the valuable results of the Force XXI and Advanced Warfighting Experiment initiatives, it believes that future requirements would best be met if the Army consolidates and limits their applications. These capabilities should be deployed to III Corps and the forward-based forces— as a risk mitigation capability— while transitioning the balance of the Army (force structure and programs) to the Army After Next concept. These actions and others will require a redesign of the Army's force structure and concomitant acquisition programs, which may result in end strength savings.
  • In regard to the Navy, the Panel disagrees with the decision to terminate the arsenal ship test bed. The value of a test bed to support a major warfighting transition was clear in the use of the NORTON SOUND to support the Navy's introduction of surface-to-air missiles. Given the characteristics the Panel believes necessary for future forces, a new hull form should be built for testing and to serve as a platform for a number of topside antenna configurations and weapons systems. The Panel also believes that the Navy should look closely at accelerating the transformation to the CVX class of carriers in lieu of procuring additional Nimitz class CVNs and converting one or more of the four Trident SSBNs coming out of strategic service to alternative missions.
  • On the issue of tactical air, the Panel notes the cost over the lifetime of all three current programs and questions the total number of planned aircraft buys and the appropriate mix of systems in 2010– 2020. With respect to the F/ A– 18E/ Fs and Joint Strike Fighter, the Panel supports Secretary Cohen's plan to continue to evaluate the ultimate numbers and mix of F/ A– 18E/ Fs procured dependent upon the ultimate capability, cost, and schedule successes of the Joint Strike Fighter. The Panel further believes that the services must demonstrate how these two systems, and the F– 22, can operate effectively in the 2010– 2020 environment, which will be characterized by new challenges to our power projection capability.
  • The Panel remains concerned about the near-term ground surveillance capabilities and recent programmatic decisions (i. e., reducing the JSTARS buy).


    Emphasis of deterrence should move from sheer numbers to strategic equilibrium

    The demise of the Soviet Union has dramatically altered the strategic landscape. Although tensions with Russia have eased, Russia retains numerous nuclear weapons. Russia is placing greater doctrinal emphasis on its nuclear forces, investing the necessary funds to keep their land based missile forces viable at a time when its conventional military forces are in decline.

    Simultaneously, China is expanding its nuclear arsenal and developing missiles capable of reaching the U. S. mainland. Its current arsenal is small— several hundred— compared with that of the United States and Russia, but China has the capability to be a more significant nuclear power by 2010– 2020.

    The key task for U. S. nuclear policy in the first decades of the twenty-first century will be to deter attacks against the United States and its allies, discourage the use of, or the threat to use, nuclear weapons, and promote efforts to achieve balanced and stabilizing reductions in nuclear arsenals. Progress in U. S.– Russian arms control is currently stalled because the Russian Duma has not yet ratified START II. However, retaining nuclear arms at current levels for an extended period is not in the U. S. interest. Those levels will be expensive to maintain and do not facilitate the transformation process essential to respond to future threats.

    Among the considerations critical to shaping future nuclear policy will be the need to take account of possible shifts in China's nuclear policy, the fate of the Russian nuclear arsenal, and the possibility that other states, including some hostile to the United States, may acquire nuclear weapons. Ensuring that there is a strategic equilibrium among Moscow, Beijing, and Washington will be important to our future security. That does not mean, however, that we will need large numbers of nuclear weapons. Effective deterrence of potential adversaries can be maintained at the reduced levels envisioned by START III and beyond.

    Over time, the focus of our efforts to deter nuclear or conventional attacks against the United States, its allies, and interests may differ substantially from that of today. Deterrence of attack as the central focus of nuclear policy is already being supplanted by the need to manage— identify, account for, and safeguard against— the proliferation and possible use of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. Such efforts are already part of the cooperative threat-reduction initiatives undertaken by the United States and other concerned countries, and they will have to be continued as long as nuclear weapons remain a threat. Arms control and nonproliferation agreements— such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and a strengthened Biological Weapons Convention— will also play an important role in reinforcing the foundations for a more stable security system at lower levels of armaments.

    Traditional U. S. nuclear policies may not be sufficient to deter nuclear, chemical, or biological attacks by a rogue state against U. S. allies and coalition partners or forward bases and staging areas to which we seek access. It is unlikely, moreover, that our nuclear forces would deter nonstate actors (terrorists, criminals, or others) who seek to coerce or punish the United States or its allies.

    It is in the best interests of the United States, Russia, and the international community that the United States and Russia move as rapidly as possible to START III. We should also consider the potential of non-nuclear weapons to strengthen deterrence. Advancing military technologies that merge the capabilities of information systems with precision-guided weaponry and real-time targeting and other new weapons systems may provide a supplement or alternative to the nuclear arsenals of the Cold War.

    Finally, U. S. security considerations must account for the potential risk posed to the U. S. homeland by existing nuclear weapons in other countries. Defense systems should defend against a limited attack by a rogue state or terrorist, but they will not be effective against the large nuclear arsenals that already exist in Russia and may exist in China and elsewhere. Defensive systems will be more effective if they are coupled to arms control agreements that limit offensive capabilities. Given the evolving threat and continued improvement of our missile defense technology, a hedging strategy, rather than immediate deployment of a missile defense system, is a sensible approach. But, it is important that we proceed in a way that permits rapid deployment if threats should develop and our technologies mature.

    Strategic Forces

    The Panel recommends:
  • Maintain support for Cooperative Threat Reduction programs.
  • Move to START III as soon as possible.
  • Couple defensive systems with arms control agreements.
  • Sustain stockpile stewardship programs to support Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.


    The reserve components serve as an increasingly important element of our armed forces. These citizen-soldiers ensure the involvement of the American people in our nation's security. Moreover, their military skills are often enhanced by their experiences within the civilian sector (e. g., engineering, construction, communications, police, aviation, civil affairs, and medical).

    The reserve forces today play an increasing role in a variety of military operations worldwide, relieving active units and reducing both operational and personnel tempos of frequent and lengthy deployments. Indeed, in some cases they supply the entire force structure for specific missions. The Panel expects that this role will be expanded. Reserve and Guard units must be prepared and resourced for use in a variety of ongoing operations. Given this, the Department should consider establishing the funding priorities for specific Guard and Reserve programs based on the amount of total force mission capability they provide. The Congress determines funding priorities today.

    Not only will reserve forces augment and complement the active forces overseas in missions ranging from combat to peacekeeping to regional stability and contingency operations, but they will increasingly be involved in containing threats here at home. As noted, homeland defense is a mission of growing importance for our military forces. The reserve components, especially the Army Guard, will play a key role in this mission. Effectively organizing and training the appropriate reserve assets to meet the homeland defense mission will not only provide the United States with a more effective deterrent, but it also will provide a quicker and more comprehensive response to crises should they occur. However, concerns over posse comitatus must be addressed.

    In any event, the reserve structure must recognize the authority of the Service Secretary for the reserve components under Title 10, as well as the Service Secretary's responsibilities for the Guard under Title 32. This relationship works best in an atmosphere of trust between the active and reserve components in their common commitment to the security of the United States.

    The Army and its Reserve Components While the other services have continued to increase the integration of their active and reserve forces, the Army has suffered from a destructive disunity among its components, specifically between the active Army and the National Guard. This rift serves neither the Army nor the country well. The Panel strongly believes the rift must be healed and makes a series of recommendations toward that end.

    As the Army undertakes its transformation, reductions in both the active and reserve components can be expected. Such reductions must be the product of deliberations by the reserve components, the Chief of Staff of the Army, the Secretary of the Army, and the Secretary of Defense. Neither the active nor the reserve components should benefit at the expense of the other. Both must be committed to meeting the security needs of the nation.

    To enhance the capability of the Guard as a component of the total force, we recommend the following. Many of the principles embodied in these recommendations pertain to all components of the Army, as well as to some of the other services, and are discussed elsewhere in the Report.

    First, a series of changes should be made to the Guard's combat units:

  • Some portion of the Army National Guard's divisional combat (including combat support) units should become part of active divisions and brigades. Infantry and mechanized battalions, for example, would be integrated as organic units of the active divisions and would deploy with them. The active component commander would be responsible for their combat readiness and training;
  • Given the changing character of warfare and the threats we face, Guard divisions should begin now to organize under the concepts proposed in Army After Next. The utility of reorganizing the active and reserve division structures is discussed elsewhere in this Report;
  • The enhanced brigades should report to an active Army command. The active commander would have clear responsibility and authority to oversee training and to ensure the brigades meet their readiness goals;
  • The Guard should develop selected early-deploying units that would join the active component. These units do not now exist but they could be built around technologies embodied in line-of-sight-anti-tank and high-mobility, artillery-rocket system technologies. Formed as battalions, they would be valuable components of the total force. They should be prepared to deploy directly from home stations without extensive post-mobilization training to reinforce early-deploying active units. This implies additional full-time manning requirements and offers an opportunity to exploit the concept of an integrated active component/ reserve component unit;
  • Lighter, more agile forces will play a key role in future combat. Fewer armored forces will be needed. They are simply too heavy to get into the fight in a timely manner and require too much logistical support. Both the active and reserve components should decrease the number of armored units;
  • As planned, portions of the current combat forces should be converted to combat service and combat service support units. The ratio between support and combat units in the total force should be adjusted to reflect the actual needs of the Army in meeting its mission requirements;
  • In addition to augmenting and supporting active forces for major theaters of war, reserve support units play a vital role in shaping the international environment. Peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, and similar missions are also important. Some additional reserve or Guard units may be needed to reduce pressure on the active Army.

    Second, the Army Guard should provide a smaller Strategic Reserve:
  • The Strategic Reserve units should have clear peacetime missions such as support for combined operations in Southern Command or Partnership for Peace training in Eastern Europe. It is the Panel's judgment that the Guard should assume the entire U. S. Army South (USARSO) mission;
  • To ensure their continued affordability, the modernization of these forces— accomplished largely through cascading¾can be slower than that of higher priority units so long as their equipment permits interoperability with active forces and their employment is in accordance with doctrine.

    Third, homeland defense will be a much more important mission in the future:
  • The National Guard should continue to provide general-purpose forces to give prompt military support to civil authorities. These forces may need specific additional training¾similar to that developed for response to civil disturbance during the 1960s and 1970s¾but their primary mission should remain to fight with active forces in combat contingencies;
  • The National Guard should also provide forces organized and equipped for training of civil agencies and the immediate reinforcement of first-response efforts in domestic emergencies. They would focus on management of the consequences of a terrorist attack (to include weapons of mass destruction) and natural disasters. They must also be prepared to defend critical infrastructure, including information infrastructure;
  • As new homeland defense missions develop (e. g., National Missile Defense and information warfare), the Guard should be used in lieu of active forces wherever possible. Finally, the Army Reserve must continue to be adjusted as the Army's total force needs change:
  • The Army Reserve has undergone a significant transition over the past several years, shifting their forces to combat service support as well as playing a much more active role in peacetime missions. Steps¾to include some restructuring of the Reserve¾need to be taken now to reduce the Personnel Tempo (PERSTEMPO) problem for certain high demand units;
  • The current Army Reserve Institutional Training Divisions should be reviewed to ensure that their structure and responsibilities are consistent with the needs of the Army as it transforms. A total force, fully integrated, requires a common culture to engender unity of thought and action. Shared operational and training experiences, common educational opportunities, and frequent exchange of leaders between the active and reserve components serve to deepen mutual respect and reinforce a common ethic.

    These initiatives will enhance the land component's contribution to our defense. Moreover, they will enable the active Army to engage in the vigorous program of experimentation called for in the Panel's transformation strategy.

    Reserve Components

    The Panel recommends:
  • Expand reserve component roles for use in a variety of ongoing operations.
  • Restructure to reduce current reserve component PERSTEMPO.
  • Assign reserve units to selected homeland defense missions.
  • Assign selected units of the National Guard at battalion and lower levels to active divisions and brigades.
  • Maintain equipment interoperability among active and reserve component units.
  • Assign consequence management responsibilities to National Guard units.
  • Prepare reserve component officers for command positions in the proposed Americas Command.



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