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Release No: 134-96
March 14, 1996


The Institute for National Strategic Studies of the National Defense University today issued its Strategic Assessment 1996: The Instruments of U.S. Power. The annual Strategic Assessment identifies Washington's instruments for influencing other governments, analyzing which will work best in the post-Cold War era and what role the military plays. It was prepared by a 20-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:

· The Department of Defense and the military services are being assigned a much wider array of tasks in the post-Cold War era and are developing a broader range of national security instruments to manage international security affairs and influence other governments.

· The U.S. government is adapting instruments to take advantage of new opportunities at relatively low cost. Partnership for Peace, the use of private voluntary organizations in Bosnia, intrusive UN inspections in Iraq, and the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization are all examples of how the U.S. is doing more with less.

· Public pressure to balance the federal budget could push defense and associated national security spending below the levels projected by either the Administration or Congress. Fewer national security resources might limit the United States' ability to continue to exert its influence and protect its interests around the world.

Strategic Assessment 1996 also identified trends within various instruments of U.S. power:

Classical Military Instruments. The U.S. armed forces today are far more capable than any conceivable adversary. Nevertheless, they will face more challenges to adapt forces that are both capable of fighting high intensity conflict and dealing with a variety of regional missions which fall short of full scale war. Emerging Military Instruments. The U.S. is on the verge of forming a "system of systems." This super-system will be capable of seeing all relevant enemy assets on the battlefield, communicating this information almost instantly to combat units, and striking at these targets with unprecedented lethality. However, increased reliance on military and civilian information systems will require measures to protect these systems from attack.

Limited Military Interventions. In some ways, the new environment is seeing a return to the pre-Cold War experience. For instance, the use of limited air strikes to force a government to change its behavior, such as the 1995 strikes against Serbian forces in Bosnia, is the modern equivalent of gunboat diplomacy, and the enforcement of sanctions bears considerable similarity to the old practice of laying siege.

Defense Engagement in Peacetime. Defense engagement with foreign militaries is increasingly focused on professional education and combined military exercises. Military-to-military contacts and civilian defense dialogue has broadened to virtually all parts of the world, with particular success in Central and Eastern Europe through Partnership for Peace.

Peace Operations and Humanitarian Support. The success of complex peacekeeping operations, Bosnia and implementation of the Dayton accords being an example, will depend on shared responsibilities and better coordination among the U.S. military, civilian agencies and private voluntary organizations.

Technological Base. Research at the cutting edge of technology is being done more by the private sector and less by the DoD. Defense will increasingly need to adapt commercial developments to military systems rather than driving technology forward on its own.

Economic. Economic instruments are having reduced impact, in part because the U.S. is not committing sufficient resources to make an instrument like foreign aid more effective.

For more information about Strategic Assessment 1996, call its senior editor, INSS Director Hans Binnendijk at (202) 287-9211, director of research, Dr. Stuart Johnson, at (202) 287-9212, or the editor, Patrick Clawson, at (202) 287-9210, ext. 547. Copies are on sale to the public through the Government Printing Office.

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