The Winds of Reform

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A root cause of weapons waste in the U.S. is the absence of clear guidance from the top about where and how America should be prepared to fight. "If you don't know what you want to do, you can't plan how to do it," says John Collins, senior defense specialist "for the Library of Congress. The defense guidance report produced by the Pentagon often seems to be a web of rationales for buying all possible wonder weapons. "It does little to set meaningful priorities," says General David Jones, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As Edward Luttwak, a conservative analyst, writes: "In lieu of strategy at all levels, we have only budgeting, programming and politics."

Indeed, weapons often seem to dictate strategy, rather than the reverse. Critics cite Navy Secretary Lehman's goal of building a 600-ship Navy. "What is termed strategy is a mere collection of justifications for more ships," says Steven Canby in his paper Military Reform and the Art of War. At the core of the naval building plan are two new $3.5 billion nuclear aircraft carriers, the heart's desire of every admiral, and the supporting ships they require. Advances in missile warfare make these surface ships far more vulnerable. Retired Admiral Hyman Rickover has estimated that carriers would survive only two days in an all-out nuclear war; the Navy reportedly refused to station one off the coast of Iran during the hostage crisis for fear it would be sunk. Yet the Navy justifies its desire for 15 carrier groups as necessary in case of a major war with the Soviet Union. The entire $96 billion five-year buildup of surface ships would only result in 70 more attack planes being available to project American might.

Part of the problem with overall U.S. strategy, reformers say, is that it is based too much on attrition warfare, relying on heavy weaponry and long supply lines to overpower an enemy along fixed fronts. Even the new Rapid Deployment Force has become bogged down with such weapons as the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. John Boyd, a leading tactician in the reformers' camp, argues that battles are usually won by maneuver, speed and surprise. Instead of heavy armor like the M-1 tank, which requires fleets of fuel trucks and frequent maintenance, the Army should rely on light infantry units.

Although the Pentagon is uncomfortable with much of what the reformers propose, some of the military's doctrines have been evolving in a direction that emphasizes maneuver warfare. An example is the Army plan called AirLand Battle. The idea is for the first line of allied defenders to confront an invading army while reserves counterattack deep into the rear of enemy lines. In addition, long-range air and missile strikes would be used to attack enemy supply lines and reinforcements. The new weapons involved, called assault breakers, include sophisticated self-guided bombs which are designed to home in on tanks using radar or infrared sensors.

The emphasis on troop maneuverability in the AirLand Battle plan is a promising development. But the doctrine still depends heavily on expensive and complex long-range weapons. Although the new assault-breaker munitions have performed adequately in controlled tests, they bear worrisome similarities to such radar-guided weapons as the Sparrow missile, which was supposed to score "kills" in

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