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Release No: 053-97
February 04, 1997


The Institute for National Strategic Studies of the National Defense University today issued its Strategic Assessment 1997: Flashpoints and Force Structure. The annual strategic assessment identifies potential flashpoints the United States may face over the coming decade, the military missions these threats imply, and the force structure options for fulfilling those missions. It was prepared by a 25-member team of civilian and military fellows and is an independent analysis rather than a statement of official U.S. government policy.

The main conclusions are:

Major Powers: The challenge for Washington is to persuade Russia and China that cooperative participation in the international community best serves their interests, while dissuading them from settling disputes by force. This requires the maintenance of a U.S. military capability that will discourage them from investing the resources to become future opponents.

Regional Contingencies: The regional conflicts most likely to involve the U.S. military directly remain those in Korea and the Persian Gulf. While the United States faces an increasing risk of nuclear, biological, and chemical attack early in a conflict, the scope and scale of the regional contingencies threat is diminishing. As a result, the two nearly simultaneous Major Regional Contingencies concept is a less useful primary planning scenario in 1997 than it was in 1993.

Troubled States and Transitional Problems: Internal unrest and extreme human rights violations can be expected during the next decade. U.S. forces may be called upon to intervene. A growing threat comes from transnational problems like terrorism and international crime. While most of the response will be from civilian authorities, the military will become increasingly involved.


Dealing With Theater Peers. Conflict with a theater peer, such as China or Russia would differ significantly from conflict with a rogue state such as Iran, Iraq, or North Korea. The theater peer would possess a nuclear option. Incorporating technology and concepts from the revolution in military affairs (RMA) will be especially useful to thwart the military ambitions of a theater peer.

Maintaining The Capability To Defeat A Rogue Regime. The U.S. must be prepared to defeat a rogue regime in a major regional conflict , while successfully deterring and preparing to defeat a second such regime. The United States must be prepared to defend and liberate territory by using heavy ground-maneuver units under risk of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons attack. It must also be prepared to operate in concert with ad hoc coalitions, in which some participants contribute substantial military assets while others are represented more for their political effect.

U.S. Role in Peace Operations. The main U.S. role in peace operations will be to provide support forces. The U.S. also needs trained ground forces able to deploy on short notice and an efficient method to work with law enforcement, both in troubled states and in international operations countering terrorism and drug trafficking


The Recapitalization Force Model. An excellent force but with some reductions in force structure to finance the recapitalization of equipment as it becomes obsolete.

The Accelerated Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) Force Model. Integrates systems technologies and radically changes the force structure to take full advantage of the new capabilities.

The Full Spectrum Force Model. Keeps most of the current force while experimenting with RMA technologies and creating an on call capability to deal with operations other than war, requiring a higher budget than the other two forces.

For more information about Strategic Assessment 1997, call its senior editor, INSS Director Hans Binnendijk, at (202) 685- 3838, or the editor, Patrick Clawson, at (202) 685-2217. Copies are on sale to the public through GPO bookstores.

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