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Panel Seeks Force of the Future

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 1997 – The two-major-contingency bedrock of U.S. military strategy is really a force-sizing structure and should be discarded, said members of the National Defense Panel, Dec. 1.

This was one conclusion of the congressionally mandated panel chaired by Philip Odeen, president and chief executive officer of the defense firm BDM.

"The United States will face different challenges and threats. This will require a different range of tactics and capabilities," Odeen said. The United States must start now to build those capabilities, he said.

Odeen said potential enemies will look at the Gulf War and not repeat the Iraqis' mistakes --they will strike at U.S. weaknesses and make other "asymmetrical" attacks. The panel sees a need for more training in urban fighting. Members also see coalition warfare becoming more important and foresee a greater role for the United Nations, other U.S. agencies and nongovernmental organizations.

"Defense choices always entail risk. The only question is where we take that risk," Odeen said during a press briefing. The panel feels DoD places too much reliance on the two-major-regional-contingency scenario. This means the department is not making the right choices to combat the threats the panel sees in the future.

During the briefing Odeen constantly returned to the need for the U.S. military to have greater mobility, precision, speed, stealth and striking power and ranges. At the same time, DoD must reduce its "logistics footprint."

"All operations will be increasingly joint, combined and interagency," he said. "Furthermore, the reserve components will need to be fully integrated with active forces."

The panel's task was to look at the year 2020, determine what the most likely threats and issues will be and backtrack for planning purposes, Odeen said. He was the first to say the panel did not have a crystal ball, but the members' discussions with Defense Department leaders, commanders of the combatant commands and other members of the national security apparatus convinced them the threats and issues detailed in their report are the most likely to happen.

The panel studied all the services' visions for future forces, but saw little progress toward implementing them. Specifically, the panel report "questions current procurement plans for Army equipment, Navy ships and tactical aircraft for all the services."

Generally, the panel wants DoD and the services to get away from upgrading current systems and shift funding priorities to new systems that will be needed in 2020. It wants more research into cyberweapons, directed-energy weapons and electromagnetic energy weapons.

"I have to wonder why we continue to build 70-ton tanks when we really don't foresee a use for them," Odeen said. The report calls for the Army to incorporate gains from its Force XXI program in III Corps and in forward-deployed units. All its other units should begin transitioning to the follow-on Army After Next concept now, the report says.

The panel calls for smaller, more stealthy Navy ships. It also disagrees with the Navy's decision to terminate the arsenal ship. Further, the panel recommends going to next-generation carriers rather than building more Nimitz-class ships. It also suggests transforming some Trident-class ballistic missile submarines to alternative missions.

For the air assets, the panel supports Defense Secretary William S. Cohen's plan to continue assessing the mix of the F/A-18 Super Hornets and the joint strike fighter. The panel calls on the services to demonstrate how the Super Hornets, joint strike fighter and Air Force F-22 will operate together.

Among the threats is a growth in weapons of mass destruction. "Over time, the focus of our efforts to deter nuclear attacks ... may change substantially from that of today," according to the report. Deterrence is already being supplanted by the need to identify, account for and safeguard against the proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. The report says current U.S. policies may not be enough to deter attacks by rogue states or terrorists. The panel calls for greater speed and penetration capabilities for special operations forces to counter terrorist threats and threats from weapons of mass destruction.

The panel also wants to change the Unified Command Plan. "We recommend an Americas Command be created to address the challenges of homeland defense as well as those of the Western Hemisphere," the reports states. "A Joint Forces Command would be the force provider to the geographic commanders in chief, address standardization among the unified commands, oversee joint training and experimentation, and coordinate and integrate among the networked service battle labs."

The panel calls for a Logistics Command to merge support functions and figures Space Command would absorb offensive and defensive information warfare.

The panel calls DoD's infrastructure "ponderous, bureaucratic and unaffordable." The members called for new rounds of base closures and support Cohen's Defense Reform Initiative.

Cohen endorsed the panel's report in a news release issued at the Pentagon. "The National Defense Panel paints a compelling and, I believe, accurate picture of a future in which terrorism, information operations and weapons of mass destruction play a more prominant role, even posing direct threats to the U.S. homeland," he said.

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