Free essay on U.S. Military Power:
Over 100 years ago, those involved in the nation’s national security wrestled with many of the same issues that we face today, says General Richard B. Myers (2002). “Then and now, regional powers can threaten the nation’s interest in distant conflict. Then, as now, internal strife from religious hatreds, ethnic rivalry, tribal conflicts, can and often does, lead to bloodletting. And then and now, the U.S. often plays a role in the crisis to restore peace.” To be the watchdog of the 21st Century the U.S. needs to focus on the mainstay of the military; manpower and technology.
The central theme of the Bush administration and the United States Department of Defense is focused on “meeting today’s threats while preparing for tomorrow’s challenges” (“Fiscal 2004 DOD Budget,” 2003). This concept brings the spotlight on current military issues such as; sustaining high-quality people, developing new operational concepts, and developing technology to combat future threats.
The issue of how to recruit our military manpower is an often debated controversy. In the view of David R. Segal (1989), “Americans have come to separate the benefits of citizenship from service to their country.” The symptoms of this “separation is the current reliance on an all-volunteer military, a system that treats the military service more as an occupation and opportunity for self-advancement than as a civic duty and obligation.” This type function does have its benefits. The current welfare system is a huge benefactor, in that minorities and women have better opportunities at creating a more comfortable lifestyle by being employed by the military branches.
The United States’ current military is made up of five branches; Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines (a division of the Navy) and the Coast Guard (which reports to the Navy in times of war). Of these branches our military head count was 1.6 million in 1995 (Cordesman). The total available American manpower (number of males between the ages of 15-49) in 2001 was 71 million. Each of these branches of military service relies on volunteers to fill the needs of the United States. An alternative to the volunteer system the U.S. has now is the draft. Simply stated, the draft would be a lottery type system that would pick, at random, individuals to serve in our military. It is believed that the draft would weaken our military by undermining the vital cohesiveness of the units. With today’s new technology and daily changing events, retention and training are believed to be the most important personnel issues.
In order for our military to continue their dominance, it is realized that a common mission must be addressed. The development of operational concepts is necessary to assure successful operations. The current military platform calls for victory determined by attrition. Combat power is generated by increasing the timeliness of critical information to combatants, thereby limiting the enemy’s opportunity (Cohen, 1999). This initiative also allows U.S. forces to make rapid decisions with the utmost confidence. This information system delivers data to the troops best equipped to complete the task at hand. In theory, this approach will provide greatly enhanced land, air, and water attack and defense capabilities. The only downfall in this system is the possibility of overwhelming the decision makers with too much raw data. The information must be processed in an easily recognizable format so that sound decisions can be made. To ensure this happens, many new training exercises have been conducted to assist combat leaders in visualizing the data.
Another aspect of operational concepts is technological advances. The U.S. military is the most advanced military on the face of the planet. The relatively low loss of life on our side of the battle proves that our technology is far superior to that of our opponent. Items such as; GPS (global positioning system), and MTS (movement tracking system) are being used by our ground forces. These new advances give combat leaders accurate troop position while giving the troops email and rolling map capabilities. This new line of communication, or network-centric warfare, or NCW, is believed to hold the key for a quick and decisive victory in our current Middle East campaign. This system makes it easier to track and attack military targets, and provides a command structure that is more resilient. This network allows our military to move at speeds far greater than anything we have seen in the past.
Communication is not the only advantage the U.S. military holds over our opposition. The Commander in Chief of the United States holds in his arsenal the most vast and devastating array of military equipment in the world. The U.S. Air Force has in its’ fleet, over 2,000 aircraft. The U.S. Army has over 7,000 tanks, making it the largest active ground force in the world. The U.S. is also able to boost about having the largest naval fleet as well. The Navy’s current battle force numbers 304, of which 270 are currently active. Constant upgrades, testing, and training are what keeps the United States military a step above the rest. Never was the truer than when the U.S. Air Force recently tested the Massive Ordnance Air Blast or Mother of All Bombs (MOAB) in Florida. The MOAB, weighing in at over 21,000-pounds, packs 40% more power than any of America’s current non-nuclear bombs (Rose, 2002). In comparison to the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945, generated 15 tons of energy, whereas the MOAB packs a 10.5 ton punch.
While the United States of America is far and away the supreme military superpower in the world, it is essential that every branch of the armed forces keep pace with changing technology, in order to maintain our military edge as we forge ahead into the 21st century. Technology is driving sweeping changes in organizational structure, mission and tactics, manpower, and weapons systems. To meet the challenges ahead, the military will need to rely on overwhelming technological leadership. This is the key to having the ability to respond to the demands of a changing world. To be successful on the future battlefield, the armed forces must achieve timelier, more lethal, and more precise military capabilities (Norman, 2001). Accomplishing this will require a strong in-house science and engineering capability, as well as a highly technical workforce throughout the ranks.
Many changes will be necessary in the military’s organizational and workforce policies, in order to meet the demands caused by increased use of leading edge technology, a reduction in manpower, as well as changes in civilian labor markets. Manpower requirements will no longer be pyramids, where a large base of subordinates exists to perform routine tasks. Instead, many routine tasks will be automated, reducing the overall level of personnel. The remaining labor force will consist of generalists, who will be capable of overseeing a broad range of complex systems. This will require a higher level of education throughout the ranks. For this reason, more recruits will come from post-secondary institutions. In order to attract and retain these better-educated workers, a skill-based pay system may prove necessary; else personnel may leave the service in favor of higher-paying civilian alternatives. Overall, average manpower costs will increase as the military’s workforce includes a higher proportion of skilled technical workers.
Since the end of the Cold War, we have seen many political and socioeconomic upheavals in countries around the world. In some cases, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall, the (eventual) result was a stable, unified country. In others, such as the collapse and break-up of the Soviet Union, a “vacuum of power” has led to instability and civil war among many of the former eastern-block republics. This potential for instability and unrest, coupled with the increase of terrorism and anti-US sentiments worldwide, have caused a tactical nightmare for the United States military. Instead of fighting a known enemy with an established border and government, we are facing a “dark war” or “war in shadows”, because there is often no identifiable enemy or battlefield. Intelligence operations, which had been greatly curtailed subsequent to the end of the cold war, are now again a top priority. In the future, the military will rely greatly on reliable intelligence to battle with small, free-floating independent (terrorist) cells. (McCullagh & Polen, 2001).
With the focus of warfare shifting from a conventional war to counter-terrorism, and limited military operations, the future will require a rapid evolution of “smart weapons” (Kurzweil, 1990). The application of information technology to weapons systems will enable weapons to gather and process huge amounts of data, enabling them to destroy targets at a much greater distance, with much more accuracy than was previously possible. These improvements will make large targets, such as military bases, ships, tanks, or troop concentrations increasingly vulnerable. Applications of this technology include laser-guided bombs, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs).
Another important tool in the US military’s new arsenal is advanced sensors. They can be deployed in air or in space, in the ocean or on the ground. The signals they detect can be integrated into the military’s communications grid, making it possible to locate enemy targets more rapidly and accurately in every type of terrain. In future wars, these sensors will “illuminate” the battlefield (Bernstein & Libicki, 1998).
Perhaps the most promising weapon program to insure the superiority of the United States military is the development of the laser. The US military has been using lasers in guidance systems since the Vietnam War. Since that time, laser weapon programs have been developed in relative secrecy by the military in conjunction with private contractors. This discretion is warranted because of the highly controversial nature of battlefield lasers, which have the potential to blind both combatants and civilians. This controversy was responsible for the decision to shelf a laser system that targeted and destroyed enemy optical lenses such as periscopes and binoculars, causing blindness to any unfortunate enemy eyes peering through them. For this reason, international treaties have been established, prohibiting these types of weapons, but the future deployment of laser systems is all but inevitable, due to the speed, accuracy, and much lower operational costs than the weapons used today. For instance, the cost of each shot from a missile-killing laser will be about $10,000 worth of chemical fuel, as opposed to the $1,000,000 cost of a conventional anti-ballistic missile today, while providing pinpoint accuracy (Freedman, 2001).
The US military has realized that though the benefits of new technology are great, so too is the danger of what technology may do to us in the hands of the enemy. Therefore, to assure the military superiority that we enjoy today, the United States has little choice than to maintain its leading edge by continuing to develop weapons with greater range, speed, and accuracy. Doing this will take a great financial commitment to develop new technologies and to retain the highly technical personnel needed to manage these resources. As recent events have shown, it takes a large, well trained military to accomplish the goals of the 21st century. No longer are we faced with the normal type of warfare that we faced in World War II and Vietnam. We are face with terrorist type attacks as well as chemical and biological warfare. To address this type of conflict it takes state-of-the-art equipment and a nation willing to do what is necessary to halt rogue nations. This from a nation whose military spending exceeds that of the next six of seven powers combined. We already have a monopoly on many advanced military technologies. We, and only we, have the capability to form and lead military coalitions into war, now, and into the future (Rosen, 2002).
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