Military Review

Transformation difficulties

Transformation difficulties

F-22 fighter - a relic of the Cold War, whose purchases were ultimately significantly reduced by the Pentagon.

By the end of the 80-s of the last century, it became obvious that the era of the Cold War is becoming a thing of the past and it is being replaced by a “uncertain future”, fraught with new challenges that require adequate means and methods to respond to them.


In the US, the most advanced experts and analysts ahead of time initiated a discussion of the problems of the future world order and the place of the armed forces (Armed Forces) in it, which were naturally reorganized to respond to various “emergency situations” in a timely manner. A prominent American researcher in the field of military reforms, Lawrence Korb, believes that the impetus for the discussion of the urgent reorganization of the US Armed Forces under the new challenges was including an article entitled “The Changing Face of War: Ahead of the Fourth Generation,” published in October 1989 Marine Cor Gazetta Marine Corps, a well-known "reformer" William Lind, along with three officers of the United States Marine Corps (MP).

The essence of the study was to analyze the characteristics of military confrontation, including over the past two centuries, which gave the authors the basis to classify the wars of this period of military stories and divide them into three “generations”: the wars of the “pre-Napoleonic” period, the wars of the 1805 – 1939 period and the wars of the period from 1939 to the present (end of 80-s) time. Especially not dwelling on the “pre-Napoleonic period”, the authors emphasized: if at the second stage the “mass character” of the troops and the factor of “positionality” were a feature of the confrontation on the battlefield, the third stage was characterized by firepower and mobility of the troops. At the same time, it was concluded that the enemy suffered a crushing defeat when “strategy” (tricks, finds) of the next generation of wars were used against him. Now, the authors believed, signs of the next, fourth generation wars were clearly manifested: the uncertainty of the state of war and peace, the "blurring" of the conditions for the parties to enter the phase of confrontation on the battlefield; collision nonlinearity, blurred battlefields and fronts; the coverage of the territories of the opponents simultaneously by the entire depth; erasing the differences between the front and rear; participation in the confrontation at the same time military and civilian structures. With these distinctive features of the future wars, in principle, according to most American specialists in the field of military construction, in connection with which, it was initiated to consider proposals for reforming the US Armed Forces, based on the initial assumptions of preparation for fourth-generation wars. In the end, in early January 1991, a draft reorganization of the Armed Forces under the requirements of the new era, called Base Force, prepared by Colin Powell, the Committee of the Chiefs of Staff and the staff of his Joint Staff approved by the White House administration, was officially sent to Congress.

Prediction Powell

General Powell, at the end of 80's occupying the post of national security adviser to US President Ronald Reagan, had already foreseen that with the impending warming of the international situation, the question of reducing national armed forces would inevitably arise, to respond to which one must be prepared in advance, in this connection, he prepared the theses of the proposals, which later acquired the form of the project.

Powell agreed that the forces of the Cold War would no longer be in demand. At the same time, the “looking beyond the horizon” general considered it unacceptable to turn the Armed Forces into a tool of “peacemaking” only, into something like the “army of salvation”. Powell also took into account the fact of the prevalence of Democrats in the Congress, who sharply criticized the Reagan administration’s unrestrained build-up of military potential, which inevitably should lead to the advancement of various, including radical, plans for reducing the Armed Forces. Conservatively-minded Powell’s civilian leaders, such as Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, his deputy, Paul Wolfefitz, presidential adviser on national security issues, Brent Scowcroft, were not inclined to trust forecasts of a sharp reduction in the US threat in the near future and Powell focused on reducing the military budget no more than by 10% during 1990 – 1995's. In order to please his bosses, the general presented a schedule of reductions by 5% each year during the same time interval. In accordance with this plan, it was envisaged to reduce the personnel of the armed forces from 3,3 million military personnel (2,1 - in the regular troops and 1,2 - in the National Guard and reserve) to 2,5 million (1,6 - regular troops and 0,9 - National Guard and reserve).

The project developed by Powell at the direction of his superiors meant that the sun possessed the ability to conduct military operations without reliance on the allies with the enemy in the person of the states, which now began to be denoted by the term “rogue states”. This concept envisaged the possibility of the US participation in two major regional conflicts occurring simultaneously (a little later, almost simultaneously). It was assumed that to defeat victory in crisis regions, such as the Korean Peninsula or the Persian Gulf zone, there would be enough groups of 400 thousand troops each, even if the Allies did not come to the rescue. In addition, Powell and his team put forward a tough position, according to which the troops can be involved in hostilities only when, firstly, their political goals are clear and flawless, and secondly, the country's leadership is ready to use the Armed Forces quickly and decisively. and, thirdly, the troops must be withdrawn from the zone of hostilities immediately after achieving their goal. This situation was due to repeated failures of the US Armed Forces, such as in Vietnam (1962 – 1972) or Lebanon (1982 – 1983), where the goals of the political leadership were not clear, and no clear objectives were set for the troops. Later, the position doomed the form of the so-called Powell Doctrine.

The draft reorganization of the US military, developed by General Powell and his team, to the satisfaction of the military-industrial complex (MIC), did not envisage abandoning the creation and modernization of key projects of weapons and military equipment (IWT) of the Cold War. Meanwhile, it was obvious that costly projects were clearly unnecessary in the conditions of the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the disorganization of the USSR. In addition, because of their high prices, it was not possible, given the reductions in purchases in 25%, to change weapons and military equipment in the troops on a one-to-one basis.

The victory of the US and its allies in the war in 1991 in the Persian Gulf zone over a relatively weak enemy in the person of Saddam's Iraq, according to many critically-minded American specialists, played a cruel joke on the plans of those “reformers” who wanted real transformations of the US armed forces, now they were forced to temporarily “move into the background” against the background of loud statements by conservatives who proclaimed “the success of the military reform of the Republican administration of the Bush Sr.”, which allegedly proved correct on in the Arabian Sands.


Meanwhile, this “victory” did not bring the expected dividends to the Republicans, who their opponents accused of “ill-conceived and fabulous spending of money on military needs” and in general “the inability to save.” As a result of these and, of course, other reasons, the Republicans were expecting a loss in the next presidential election.

Les Espin, nominated by the new US President Bill Clinton for the post of Secretary of Defense, proposed another draft of military transformations. While holding the post of chairman of the committee on armed affairs in the House of Representatives under the former Bush administration, Espin mercilessly criticized Republicans for the half-heartedness of their steps. The quintessence of his proposed project, known as the “Bottom-Up Review”, or officially the “Review of the State and Development of the U.S. Armed Forces for the Future”, was the idea that if the American leadership really plans to benefit from more than 10 trillions from the USSR dollars, he should immediately take radical changes in the Armed Forces. In accordance with his project presented at the beginning of 1992, a completely different aircraft should have been formed, saving an enormous amount of 1993 billion dollars during the 1997 – 231 fiscal year period. The project was approved and formally approved for implementation.

Espin, and soon after replacing him as minister, William Perry zealously got down to business, but did not succeed much. In particular, Lawrence Korb described the Democratic project "a review from top to bottom only in words." However, it could not be otherwise - General Powell remained the chairman of the KNSH and “torpedoed” Espin-Perry’s initiatives by any means. Clinton, who lost credibility among the military elite because of his position on imposing permission for gays to serve in the Armed Forces, simply withdrew from helping the minister in "pushing" his project, which the generals were hostile. The initially ambitious project has undergone a significant adjustment.

First of all, the provision was reestablished on the need to maintain such a size of the Armed Forces that would allow the US to participate simultaneously in two major regional conflicts. As part of the Navy, it was decided to leave the 12 carrier strike groups (AUG). The Air Force "withdrawn" the order of 200 fighters, but "added" the same number of strategic bombers, aimed at performing tactical tasks. In the NE, two divisions were reduced, but the number of units in the National Guard under the NE and the reserve remained at the level of the cold war period. The marines even increased due to the formation of another expeditionary division. The personnel of the Armed Forces decreased minimally - by 8% to 2,3 million people, while defense expenditures by about 9% during the financial year's 1994 – 1998 while the expenses for the purchase of new weapons and military equipment remained at the same level.


The US Congress assessed the reform projects as "not fully meeting the requirements of the new era" and ordered the Pentagon to prepare a new document called the "Comprehensive (four-year) review of the state and development prospects of the armed forces," and at the same time formed the National Defense Commission with similar objectives.

Looking ahead, we note that neither the Pentagon nor the congress projects were a breakthrough in the reform of the US Armed Forces.

Charles Hagel doesn’t add to the need to solve the difficult task of transforming the US military machine to his legacy.The draft commission of Congress was more radical. Firstly, it was noted that the concept of two wars of a regional scale is a “tracing-paper of the Cold War strategy” and obliges to maintain surplus force groups on the “front line”. Secondly, the Pentagon criticized the draft committee for the fact that too much money was spent on “yesterday’s” military-technical equipment tanks M1A1 Abrams and aircraft carriers of the Nimitz type. Thirdly, the Pentagon was criticized for the lack of any concepts for turning the national armed forces into “fully mobile” troops, as well as insufficient attention to unmanned aerial vehicles and “ahead of the time” development of reconnaissance and communication systems. Fourth, as a summary, the draft commission urged the administration as a whole and the Pentagon in particular to increase the annual allocation of $ 5-10 billion allocated for research in the areas of intelligence, military space, the development of the concept of “battle in the city”, and the conduct of “united "(Interspecific) experiments and the so-called information operations, which in general should finally" transform the American military machine into the forces of the XXI century. "The Pentagon version confirmed the scenario of two wars, leaving unchanged ukturu troops, their modernization plans and preparedness. It was felt that the successor to Perry as Secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration, in the past Senator William Cohen, like his boss Clinton, was not inclined to confront the generals and congressional conservatives. The thesis also remained in the draft that troops should prepare for participation in conflicts such as Bosnian or Haitian. Further, the project postulated the thesis that the United States should maintain “strategic deterrence” at the level of 7 thousand nuclear warheads before ratification of START-2 by Russia, and then reduce their number to 3,5 thousand. And finally, supposedly based on “threats” an uncertain future ”, the need was substantiated for the modernization of the obsolete military-technical weapons in service. True, apparently, to please the liberals, in the Pentagon version some cosmetic reductions in personnel and equipment were also proposed. So, it was planned to reduce regular troops by 4%, reservists - by 6%, civil servants - by 11%. The project proposed reducing the previously planned purchases of F-25, F / A-22E / F and V-18 by 22%, but there was no hint of abandoning the “relics of the Cold War”.

However, the generals categorically refused to support the congress project, with which Minister Cohen agreed. Instead, at the end of 1998, the head of the military department was an ardent supporter of the KNS’s request to the president regarding the financing of the armed forces within the framework of the then existing structure of the troops. Despite the fact that the generals' hopes of receiving 150 billion dollars for the financial year 2000 – 2005 did not materialize, they were still promised 112 billion, plus Congress added 8 billion for 2000 – 2001. Thus, over the ten years after the end of the Cold War, the US defense budget has dropped by only 10% in real terms.


During the regular presidential campaign in the United States at the end of 1999, the Republicans put forward three points of harsh criticism of the former projects of reforming the national armed forces. First, Clinton and his team seriously underfunded the defense needs, which is reminiscent of the situation in the country at the end of the 1930s, which led to the “Pearl Harbor disaster”. Secondly, the democrats are so "unbalanced the armed forces", imposing all sorts of "humanitarian" and "stabilization" operations on them, that the country's military machine was not ready to wage a "normal war" on a large scale in such crisis regions of the world as the Persian Gulf or the Korean peninsula. And, thirdly, the Clinton administration could not take advantage of the obvious advantages of the “revolution in military affairs” to transform the Armed Forces into “mobile and flexible troops”.

These three theses of the Republican presidential candidate, George W. Bush, were voiced in their main keynote speech in December 1999. He promised to correct the “catastrophic situation” primarily by increasing allocations for the preparation of troops for military operations, and not for the so-called operations below the level of war. He also pledged to radically “transform” the country's military machine, even if he had to “jump across generations of technology.” He also promised a reasonable cost savings due to the rejection of the development planned for the confrontation with the "disappeared communist threat represented by the USSR." Republicans offered to increase defense spending over 10 years “only” by 45 billion dollars, while their Democratic competitors in the struggle for the White House offered 80 billion for the same period. In the end, the Republicans won.

To guide the implementation of the ambitious “transformation” plans, the Republican elite picked up the appropriate candidate - Donald Rumsfeld, who had extensive experience as a leader from the time when he headed the military department in the Ford administration in 1970, headed the White House office and was the US representative in NATO. It seemed that the best candidate for the post of Minister of Defense could not be found. However, the results of Rumsfeld’s activities did not exceed in their effectiveness what his predecessors had “created”. His failures were due to the following circumstances.

First, objectively, the minister found himself in a difficult situation, having assumed the mission of a radical restructuring of his department’s work during the period of general euphoria from the awareness of the establishment and the US public of the country's status as “the only remaining superpower in the world”. Under these conditions, it was extremely difficult for him to find supporters of the cardinal “transformation” of the Armed Forces among influential Washington officials.

Secondly, the authoritarian style of his leadership was clearly not suitable for solving such an ambitious task as the “transformation of the military machine of the country”, which, as Lawrence Korb writes, “requires certain flexibility and ability to get along with the powerful of the world to break the resistance of the most powerful bureaucracy of the world ". Heading the ministry in January 2001, Rumsfeld immediately ruined relations with the American generals, civil servants, senior military-industrial complex representatives and those members of Congress from both houses, on whom the successful promotion of "reform ideas" depended.

Thirdly, Rumsfeld tried to force the events, trying to “transform” the Armed Forces in the shortest possible time, and unwittingly inflicted, as his “detractors” said, irreparable damage to the military-industrial complex. Thus, the minister, without regard to the “defenders” of the “relics of the Cold War” from among the members of the administration and congressmen, refused not only to continue the production of obsolete IWT, but also sought to stop programs of such “promising” weapons, such as the Kruseyder SAU which, in his opinion, were simply superfluous in the new look of the US Armed Forces, but for which astronomical sums of money have already been spent. In the first eight months of their work, Rumsfeld formed more than a dozen working groups that were working to justify the need for cuts in funding for almost all programs.

Fourthly, the openly demonstrated Rumsfeld's emphasis on technological advantage not only over the virtual, but also the real adversary, to the detriment of attention to the development of new forms and methods of military and “stabilization” actions, initiated distrust of him among the military and “reformers” as the leader ignoring the "elementary principles of the modern revolution in military affairs." Criticizing the Ramsfeld concept of warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, authoritative American expert Andrew Krepinevich, noted the apparent irrelevance of "emphasizing the US military machine entirely on the destruction of the rebel forces and minimizing their losses due to the security of the local population ... and ignoring the efforts aimed for post-war reconstruction.

Thus, as Lawrence Korb stresses, Rumsfeld’s intentions and attempts to "transform" the US military "actually ended in the September 11 2001 terrorist attack of the year." Already by 2005, the country's defense budget grew by 40%, not counting spending on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Republican initiatives on austerity and their targeted use for the needs of “transformation” failed, and the military-industrial complex continued massive supplies to the military-technological forces of the Cold War era. Under these conditions, Rumsfeld’s mission was exhausted and at the end of 2006, he resigned.


The new head of the military department, formerly director of the CIA, Robert Gates, was assigned a less ambitious task, which was to save defense expenditures against the backdrop of "the successful completion of military missions in Afghanistan and Iraq." The two remaining before the election of the new president of the year, Gates showed himself as a “subtle diplomat”, establishing “constructive” relations with legislators and representatives of the military industrial complex, but without actually touching a single painful point of noticeably slowing down the process of reforming the Armed Forces. This position of the non-ambitious minister clearly appealed to the new administration, the head of which suggested Gates to continue the "balanced course" he had begun to save defense spending, provided that the situation in Afghanistan and Iraq was finally reversed.

Under the new minister, important documents such as the National Security Strategy, the Comprehensive Review of the State and Development Prospects of the US Armed Forces (both 2010 year), the National Military Strategy (2011) and the document with the eloquent title “Holding the American leadership. Priorities of military construction in the XXI century ", which was released in 2012 year. Along with the paramount neutralization of US threats emanating from outer space and cyberspace, “turning into new environments of military confrontation,” they also emphasized the traditional task of maintaining the readiness of troops to defeat a regional aggressor, whose military potential could be as powerful as Iran or North Korea. " At this, Gates considered his mission accomplished and was asked to resign. According to the figurative expression of President Obama, "Minister Gates, having successfully established bridges between the two administrations, fulfilled the task assigned to him with honor."


A new minister appointed by 1 on July 2011, who in the past also headed the CIA, Leon Panetta was from among the Democrats and became famous for having personally led the operation that led to the death of Osama bin Laden. As a man who was well-versed in budgetary matters, President Obama instructed him “the paramount task” of ensuring a large-scale reduction in military spending by 400 billion dollars over 12 years. It was a priori taken for granted that in the medium and long term (2015 – 2030) the operational capabilities of the US Armed Forces due to their release and even some build-up should remain sufficient to defeat any “regional aggressor”. At the same time, focusing on a sharp increase in allocations for special operations forces with a general decrease in the military budget, recent Pentagon documents emphasized the need to abandon further long-time operations by US forces requiring significant financial expenditures and fraught with great losses among military personnel and civilians. individuals, and greater involvement of allies and partners, including through the formation of “coalitions at will”. However, Panetta failed to complete the task before him and in February 2013 was replaced by Republican Charles Hagel.

The new minister, who had combat experience while serving in Vietnam in 1967 – 1968 years, was awarded with combat medals and had two wounds, and met the requirements of a democratic administration not only by the fact that his appointment to an important post could mitigate Obama’s “reform” course influential conservative republicans, but also because they fully shared their new boss’s position on defense policy priorities. First of all, with respect to cost savings and the organization of the smooth withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan within the designated time frame (until the end of 2014 year).

Despite a certain negative attitude towards him by the pro-Israel lobby in connection with the desire to observe the balance of US interests in the Middle East, Hagel’s overall position regarding the need to implement the START-3 agreement, continue to develop and deploy missile defense systems around the world and other aspects of the US military strategy found support in Congress, and his candidacy was approved. But on the shoulders of the newly appointed minister, the previously unplanned mission of “initially undesirable” involvement of the US armed forces in the process of resolving the crisis in the Middle East unexpectedly “collapsed”. Not being a tough supporter of the direct participation of the American military "in the next Vietnam," Hagel nevertheless was forced to adhere to the general attitudes of Washington to "subordinate the development of the situation to his control," including with the use of military force.

Whether Haygel will be able to successfully accomplish the tasks assigned to him, time will tell, but today we can state the fact that the expectations of the “reformers” with regard to the fundamental transformations of the US military machine in the near future will not be justified. First of all, for the successful implementation of any reform, in addition to a well-thought-out and comprehensively substantiated concept, excessive funds are needed, which are unlikely to be enough in the conditions of a given course for all-out savings and cuts in the military budget. The real transformations of the US Armed Forces will apparently be conducted under the next presidential administration, although theoretical and documentary training in this direction has already begun.
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  1. Jurkovs
    Jurkovs 15 March 2014 09: 31
    “Now, the authors believed, the signs of wars of the next, fourth generation were clearly manifested: the uncertainty of the state of war and peace, the“ blurred ”conditions for the entry of the parties into the confrontation phase on the battlefield; nonlinearity of clashes, blurred battlefields and fronts; coverage of enemy territories by combat operations simultaneously to the full depth; blurring the distinction between the front and the rear; participation in the confrontation of both military and civilian structures. "

    Hitler invented war without declaring war, but acknowledged the fact of its conduct. The USA went further, they wage wars without acknowledging the fact of waging war.
    1. platitsyn70
      platitsyn70 15 March 2014 11: 32
      The USA went further, they wage wars without acknowledging the fact of waging war.
      at the same time they shout to the whole world that they bring democracy and freedom to the people and at the same time not forgetting to rob these people
    2. Aptimist
      Aptimist 15 March 2014 14: 18
      Haha, well said !!! good
    3. The comment was deleted.
  2. driver
    driver 15 March 2014 12: 31
    these are robbers from the big road, whoever is stronger is the one who killed all the Indians and they dare to point out to others the right of peoples to self-determination
  3. supertiger21
    supertiger21 15 March 2014 14: 37
    If they take the path of budget cuts, then we must, on the contrary, increase it. They cut it, because. there are few opponents who could give a worthy rebuff to the American army. The Yankees will not give up their plans to "spread democracy" anyway, so we need to be more vigilant. They are cunning, and it is a sin to trust such people, as Gorbachev and Yeltsin did.
  4. W1950
    W1950 15 March 2014 17: 48
    With state hypocrites, you can talk only with a fig in your pocket.
  5. Akuzenka
    Akuzenka 15 March 2014 19: 24
    They shout about us - Russia is a prison of peoples! They lie.
    About them we can say - gay ropa and pindo stan - a cemetery of peoples (without any stretch). They invented genocide before Hitler.
  6. Moon bird
    Moon bird 15 March 2014 22: 05
    But in fact, military operations on the outskirts of both sides are in accordance with the theoretical legacy of Mr. Powell.
    there are little green men, but there are no wars and troops ... The armed forces were used quickly and decisively and were immediately replaced by "self-defense units" and so on,
    only here is the most serious argument of the Cold War - nuclear weapons, the states are practically out of date, and the GDP has been modernized.
    By the way, for racists and Nazis for thought - the Negro has figured out how White will kill each other ....