Interview with Pentagon Analyst Franklin C. Spinney

An analyst in the Pentagon's Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation, he's been an outspoken critic of military spending issues dating back to the early years of the Reagan administration. He authors an email column that is widely disseminated within and outside the Pentagon. This interview reflects his personal opinions; he is not speaking as a representative of the U.S. Defense Department.

From "The Future of War," on PBS's Frontline.  Note:  To clarify some of the points in this interview, Defense and the National Interest has added graphics from Mr. Spinney's recent presentation, Defense Death Spiral, and links (inside brackets <>) to related material on this site.

What are some of the criticisms you've heard about General Shinseki's transformation plans from the Army officers that you've been in touch with?

Most officers I talk to—and I talk to a great many of them—are concerned that the Army is repackaging old ideas into a new form. While they agree that the Army has to transform itself, they're concerned that this particular form of transformation will be a substitute for existing heavy forces.

Why do you think they feel that way?

One reason is that they feel there hasn't been a sufficient debate over these issues; that this transformation has been imposed very quickly from the top down, for the best of intentions. But a lot of issues have to be dealt with. With the end of the Cold War and the disappearance of heavy conventional threats, there is a real requirement for fundamental changes in the Army. And they feel that this particular transformation is not really doing that.

There have been a number of reports about concerns that these new interim brigades are too light. The traditional Army views ground warfare as a massive clash between heavy conventional forces dominated by tanks. These interim brigades, essentially, will have wheeled vehicles. They may have track vehicles. They'll be lightly armored. And people are concerned that if they go up against a heavy conventional force, they'll get blown away.

So they're concerned about their own protection, as far as being in a tank versus one of these lighter vehicles?

Partly, but I think it goes beyond that. They're concerned that this force will just not have the hitting power and the defensive power to deal with a heavy force in what we would consider a conventional armored battle.

Who are these people with these concerns?

They're mostly conventional Army officers coming out of the Fort Knox School of Armored Warfare. They are traditionalists who are looking back at warfare in World War II, the Arab-Israeli wars, and the Gulf War, and they're thinking in terms of prosecuting this kind of war with lighter forces.

And so these officers are concerned that it's a "one-size-fits-all" kind of force?

That's my understanding of it. This force will be easier to transport, but once it gets there, it will do what the Army has traditionally done. And that's a very different thing than the normal approach to heavy-versus-light questions. They're used in a combined arms sense, where heavy forces may pin down an adversary force, so a light force can go into the rear and attack it. Light forces are very good for pursuit. Sometimes you use light forces to cause an enemy to bunch up so he can be hammered by the heavy forces. Sometimes you use light forces to try to get the enemy to disperse, so the heavy force can punch through it. The idea of taking medium-weight divisions and substituting them for heavy divisions in a combat sense gets away from that combined-arm aspect.

This kind of transformation that General Shinseki is trying to do—have you seen this kind of thing before?

This transformation reminds me a little bit of the attempt to investigate the possibilities of lighter, more mobile forces in the early 1980s. And they set up an experimental division at Fort Lewis. It was the Ninth Infantry Division. And it was a pretty exciting time, and then it gradually frittered away. Now some people say there were some real flaws in that division; I really can't comment on that. But it was an experimental process.

In contrast to that process, this current transformation appears much more predetermined. It appears much more bureaucratically imposed. It appears much more driven by top-down direction. And I think the main concern of the Army officers that I talk is that there is not enough opportunity to explore different ideas; that failure is just an important an experimental outcome as success; but that because so many reputations are riding on this, we may end up having success-oriented demonstrations, which is a typical Pentagon phenomena. That's not limited to the Army. All of the services do it.

What does that mean?

The bottom line is, the effort could go on for awhile, we'd spend a lot of money, and in the end, not much would change.

And why not?

Because the bureaucracy will punch into the weaknesses. The traditionalists will come in and reestablish their primacy. The heavy armored community and the light infantry community will come in and try to reestablish their old positions. And these sort of medium-weight divisions are betwixt and between.

Why is that a problem?

The medium-weight divisions don't have the firepower of the heavy divisions, and they don't have the mobility of the light divisions. And that's sort of a one-size-fits-all solution. That type of solution is not truly amenable to combined-arms warfare.

There is another aspect that we haven't talked about on this, and that is the whole integration with air. These medium-weight divisions are going to need a different type of air support than a heavy division or a light division. In theory, at least, they would be going in very quickly. The normal apparatus of air support would probably not be available. That would mean that the Air Force would have to work directly with the Army, and they are not planning to do that right now, so far as I know.

You said that General Shinseki's transformation effort is a top-down kind of effort. What danger do you see there?

The basic danger of the top-down approach, is that it assumes the top person—the one who has the idea and who sets it in motion, and for the best of reasons in this case—understands all the different details of how to implement that solution. It gets imposed on the bureaucracy, and the underlings essentially trying to satisfy the direction they're given. We're in a process of exploration here. The normal process of creativity and exploration is much more of a bottom-up process. You have to have sort of a top-down guidance. But really you want to do trial and error from the bottom up, see what works, reinforce that, and discard what doesn't work.

You may end up with a solution that is very different from the original vision, or the original idea that started the whole process rolling. The way this is being done—with such a formalized top-down approach—that won't be allowed to happen.

General Shinseki says that we've done a lot of experimenting, and we see a problem that we need to address. We need momentum to push forward, and we will allow the experimentation later as we develop these new forces. What's wrong with that?

If you field something before you understand how it operates, you run a good chance of it not working as you anticipated, and it may be entirely inappropriate for the circumstances.

People who are supposedly in the know have mentioned that they see this problem?

Yes. They have set up organizations that are very traditional in their structure. They are focused on hardware at the very beginning of the process. For example, there is a big debate over track versus wheeled vehicles going on. Yet no one has really thought about how medium-weight operations would work. The vehicle selection may actually be secondary. We may need different types of tactics, different types of operational doctrines, and whatnot.

They've got the cart before the horse—is that the problem?

If I was doing it, I would be doing small-scale experiments, and doing all sorts of different things. And I would be involving air and ground with medium-weight vehicles, light-weight vehicles, and even heavy vehicles—although we know the problems with deployability of the heavy vehicles—to see how we could work together, how we might be able to develop new operational techniques.

This could be done at fairly small levels, and for reasonably low costs. You gradually reinforce the successful operations, and see if you can build up a structure that is consistent with the overall objective that he is trying to achieve, which is to give the Army a better capability to deploy combat power into a theater quickly.

So essentially, in your view, this is not the right process for changing the Army?

I think we have plenty of time. I don't think we have to rush into this thing and create a bureaucratic steamroller. Given the nature of how the world is changing, the nature of how war is changing, irregular warfare is becoming much more predominant around the world now. We ought to just take our time and try to sort these things out on a more deliberate basis, from the lowest levels, where people are free to try and fail.

What is the problem with having a vision and then working from there?

Vision-based planning is a fad in the Pentagon, and is by no means limited to the Army. It's a flawed intellectual approach to solving problems. It essentially assumes that the person with the vision can define the future very precisely, far in the future, and that we can then build toward that future with a very detailed roadmap. The problem is that we can't predict the future. And we want to be adaptable as we move forward into the future. The vision-based planning puts us on a one-way path to a vision that may or may not happen, and it decreases our adaptability.

Maybe an analogy with an air-to-air missile might clarify this point. When an air-to-air missile goes up against a more maneuverable target, you basically increase the missile's maneuverability. There are problems associated with that, because you expend your energy faster. We're in a world situation that is changing more dramatically than it has at any time in our lifetimes, and yet this vision-based planning is actually slowing down our time line for adaptation. It's making us more rigid, because we have to project further and further into the future. So if we pick the wrong vision, we're in trouble.

What's the difference between the bottom-up approach versus the top-down?

The bottom-up approach is really the scientific method. Basically you start off with small level experiments. They may be guided by an overall vision of some sort, but that vision is very loosely defined, and can change quite dramatically as the process continues. Essentially, with the bottom-up approach, you do trial and error. You evolve solutions as you go along, and build up bigger and bigger complexes, starting from lower orders of organization. In that way, you put yourself on what is, in effect, an evolutionary pathway. You may find out that the final answer is very different from what you thought it would be when you started the process.

In contrast, the top-down process basically lays in a roadmap to the future that is very precisely defined. That future may be very distant, and it involves all sorts of details that may or may not happen; in all probability, they won't happen. The Germans have a term that means "the fingertip touch." It basically means that you feel your way intuitively into a situation. That's much more of a bottom up-concept.

Is the Army doing that?

Organizations in the Defense Department, and in this case, the Army, tend to do just the opposite. They construct a global vision of what's going to happen, specify it in extreme detail, and then design a roadmap to get there. I have a name for that. I call it "scholastic hypothecating." It's not based on evidence. It's based on some vision of the future that cannot be verified.

We went to the Army war games this year. They tested the new objective force, which is 12 or 15 years out in the future. And the new force won, because it was faster and lighter. But it won with machines they don't have now, like the tilt rotor, the future combat system and that kind of thing. Is this a realistic approach?

When war games are conducted using future systems that don't exist, the designers of the war game assign certain capabilities to those systems, which may or may not happen. And then they evaluate whether or not those weapons or operational concepts worked as predicted, in a very specific construction of a future environment, which also may not exist. And what we see now is this increasing tendency in the Pentagon to project 15, 20, even 30 years into the future, and making very specific predictions about weapons that will exist, threats that will exist; then constructing these war games and saying, "That proves our point." It's a fantasy.

What it does, in the end, is reinforce preconceived notions. It provides positive reinforcement for ideas that may be good or bad, but we have no idea of evaluating whether they're good or bad. We're in an exploratory process. We're trying to adapt to change. And yet they're fixing the point that we're going to. It's almost an oxymoron.

What do you mean by, "fixing the point that we're going to?"

Wargamers design a specific vision of the future. They then postulate specific weapons that don't exist to fight in that specific vision of the future. They then make an evaluation of what's good and what's bad. We have no clue whether that vision will materialize; whether those weapons will work. It's an assumption inside an assumption inside an assumption, and in that sense, it is the modern-day equivalent of medieval scholasticism.

Some people have said that we're still basically training for a Soviet-style kind of enemy. Do you agree?

A variation on the theme. Essentially, if you look at the threat assessments that we make, we postulate future enemies with precision-guided weapons, ballistic missiles, certain types of armored vehicles, certain types of surveillance systems, computerized command and control systems, and whatnot. That's a variation on the theme of what we saw earlier. There is no massive force like the Soviet Union, but it's basically the same kind of mirror imaging we've always done.

And it's important to understand that there are growing signs that the nature of warfare is going through one of its periodic changes. War evolves through many different generations. And we're looking backward at what some people call second-generation or third-generation warfare—basically the sort of static, heavy, infantry wars, or the mobile wars, with tanks. In fact, what we're seeing is a proliferation of irregular forces around the world that are figuring out how to bypass our military entirely and attack directly at the political will. We saw that in Mogadishu. We saw it in Vietnam. The Israelis just went through that experience in Lebanon. <DNI Editor's note: We explore the future of "highly irregular warfare" at Fourth Generation Warfare.>

And so is the Army trying to adjust to that?

Only in the most superficial ways. I think the general answer to that is no, but I wouldn't just limit it to the Army. It's the entire Defense Department, with the possible exception of some elements in the Marine Corps.

So what is the thrust of dealing with these new threats of the future?

the Army was terrified about what happened in Task Force Hawk … Task Force Hawk was a wake-up call for the Army. Essentially, it was a giant embarrassment. Task Force Hawk was the deployment of 24 Apache helicopters to Albania in support of the Kosovo war. It took one month to get 24 helicopters and a support package into position in Albania. Once they got there, they basically got bogged down in training; they had a few accidents; and they never got to engage in the Kosovo war. That left the Army high and dry, because the Air Force and the Navy were busy prosecuting the war. <DNI Editor's note:  For more on TF Hawk, see Commentaries #288, 289, 342, and 343, and especially the Cody Report.>

Part of the impetus to the medium-weight divisions comes out of the Task Force Hawk experience. And part of it represents normal bureaucratic reactions that occur when things like this happen. Basically, the Army is afraid that it's going to get cleaned out by the Air Force and the Navy in the coming budget wars, because the Army was non-responsive. So the medium-weight division is an attempt to make the Army more deployable, to get around some of the problems of Task Force Hawk.

One problem that many of the Army people I know in the Army have with the medium-weight divisions is that the many of the problems in Task Force Hawk are not being addressed by the medium-weight divisions. One problem in the Task Force Hawk deployment had to do with the way the Army maintains its people and units. They had to cobble together Task Force Hawk with personnel from several different units. They weren't used to working together, so they had to build up unit cohesion. This has a lot to do with the Army's rigidity and its difficulty with deployment. They have an individual replacement personnel system that assumes people can fit into nice little squares. As a result, units don't stay together for long periods of time, and when they're faced with a fast-changing circumstance, they don't have the requisite teamwork to react quickly.

As far as I can tell, there is nothing in the medium-weight brigade proposals that is going to change that basic system. That's really more of a problem with the personnel system and how the Army manages people, rather than units.

So what's wrong if General Shinseki comes in and identifies a problem with the Army, and says, "We need to address it now. Let's move out?"

There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I applaud him for it. the Army does have a problem, and he's trying to solve it. My problem is that when you impose something like this from the top down, and it becomes a big operation like this, it inevitably gets more and more people wedded to its success, and it becomes a success-oriented demonstration, as opposed to an exploration.

The previous transformation efforts at Fort Lewis in the 1980s with the Ninth Infantry Division, the new division in the 1980s, failed for many reasons. Why should people think that General Shinseki's efforts will be any more successful this time around?

In many ways, I think there's even greater probability of a failure this time around. I don't think the preparation has been as extensive as it was for the Ninth Infantry Division . . . Basically, it's been a rush to judgment, whereas the Ninth Infantry Division was debated for a longer period of time. It was set up, and there was a lot of talk about how they were going to experiment with different things there.

I knew a few people who were working at the Ninth Infantry Division, and I remember they had a lot of freedom to try different things. And I'm not sure that I'm getting the same sense that this is happening with these medium-weight brigades. They've already got plans to start fielding these brigades. When they formed up the Ninth Infantry Division, it was a test bed. It was always called a test bed division. No one is talking about test beds here, as near as I can tell. They're talking about setting up three or five brigades in the relatively near future. . . . Without a proper exploration, these brigades will be a kludge of outdated ideas.

Has the Army doctrine and the way it fights its wars changed since the Cold War?

Not to my thinking. This is an area that requires a lot more debate in the Defense Department, and not just limited to the Army. The nature of warfare seems to be changing in a very dramatic way, as it is wont to do from time to time. Many things carry forward, obviously. It's not like it's a total upending. But what we see the Pentagon doing—and the Army doing, in this specific case—is that they're basically projecting the same kind of stylized warfare into the future with some modifications.

If we look at the way warfare is evolving around the world, what we're seeing is the emergence of a much more irregular form of warfare, more decentralized, with small combat teams operating under what appear to be something like mission orders. Basically, lower-level units are being empowered to make their own decisions. They are actually bypassing the military and attacking the political will of their adversaries.

Kosovo was a real wake-call on this by the way, because all of America's combat power was essentially incapable of dealing with the objective we originally went into, which was to stop the Serbian military and paramilitaries from expelling Albanians. And in the end, the American military had to start bombing bridges and factories and power plants and whatnot in Serbia, because it could not deal with this kind of irregular threat in Kosovo.

Is the Army prepared to fight those wars of the future?

I'm not sure. I'm not sure that Kosovo is a war of the future. It's a variation of the irregular warfare. In this case, you had mobile teams using refugees as a weapon. On the other hand, you go into Lebanon and you find that a sort of terrorism is a form of irregular warfare. In Chechnya, you have something that might more be considered to be a classical guerrilla-type operation taking place. The common denominator in all these engagements was empowerment at lower levels; smaller dispersed teams; and the ability to avoid their adversaries' military might.

Is the Army prepared to deal with that threat?

I don't believe so. There are certain parts of the Army that have trained for that type of threat, like Special Forces, Delta Forces, Rangers, to a lesser extent. But we saw Mogadishu and Somalia at the beginning of this decade. Those are good examples of what we're up against. And I don't think the United States is ready to deal with this, and that includes the U.S. Army.

What are the major barriers to really changing the Army?

By its very nature, the Army is extremely tradition-bound. Militaries have to be tradition-bound in order to stay together in conditions of stress. People have to have a common outlook, a common sense of values. These traditions in the Army reach back a very, very long time. When you try to reorient yourself to these changes, you have to go into fundamental belief systems. That makes it difficult in any bureaucracy. So that's the first problem.

A second problem is that you can't distinguish the need to change from the need to get budget bucks inside the Beltway in Washington. Part of this is being driven by the fact that the Army feels under siege by the Air Force and the Navy, and it needs to protect itself in what is a changing world as far as national security budgets are concerned.

There is a growing proclivity in the United States toward a foreign policy of what I call "drive-by shootings," where we go bomb somebody and don't even deploy ground forces. And of course, by its very nature, the Army has a hard time playing in that very game. So the people in the Army are afraid that if they don't do something dramatic, their budget share is going to shrink even further.

A third factor that is peculiar to the institution of the Army is its whole personnel policy. That is a big impediment to change. The way they manage people is a big impediment to change. They essentially operate by what is called an "individual replacement policy." It assumes that people are indistinguishable cogs in a machine that can be moved around at will. They manage their forces according to a personnel system that moves individual people around, rather than organizing units and moving units around. That makes it very difficult to build up skills and cohesion, and it makes the individuals in the military more dependent on standard operating procedures and rote processes. Those rote processes, of course, and the kind of checklist mentality that goes along with it make it much more difficult to adapt a change.

If we managed our forces according to units, where we kept units as cohesive entities, and moved them around, it would be harder for the personnel system. But then as people learn to work together, and learned each other's strengths and weaknesses and became a team, just like any other kind of team, they can then explore more things. They can anticipate how their partners will react, and it gives them more fluidity.

Do you think that the Army as perhaps being more resistant to change than other services?

No, I think the most resistant to change is the Air Force.

Defense Secretary Cohen has come in to talk about change, and to continue to transform the Pentagon in the sense of how it operates in this post-Cold War era. Has he been successful?

I haven't seen any changes. If anything, the quality of management has decreased steadily during the 1990s. And it wasn't anything really good to start with in 1990. I've seen a steady deterioration over the last 20-30 years.

And how do you account for that?

We're dealing with a big bureaucracy that developed what I call "habitual modes of conduct" during the relatively stable environment of the Cold War, which took place over 40 years. And during that period, individual players all evolved very subtle forms of behavior over time. That includes players in the military, in the civilian superstructure, in the defense contractors over on Capitol Hill, and even in a whole variety of supporting institutions like journalists, academics, publicists, and whatnot.

What has happened is we've built up this web of relations that's extremely resistant to change. And when the Cold War ended suddenly—and I might add, unexpectedly—in 1990, we were left stranded on the beach, like a fat bloated whale, flapping intensely, trying to pump life into our organs, in a vain struggle to return to an environment that disappeared.

So what's happened since then? We've made cuts. We've cut back the Army by a third. Why do we have a bloated bureaucracy?

Combat units in the different services have been cut by a range of 40-50 percent. I'm talking about the teeth of the military. If you look at personnel in the military, it's been cut by 35-37 percent. So we have more people per unit of combat power. If you look at headquarters, a recent estimate made by, I believe, by Senator Nunn, said that they had cut headquarters by about 17 percent.

You've talked a lot about a 'death spiral' within the Pentagon budget. What does it mean, and where are we going?

The Pentagon is locked into a death spiral. It's a function of three separate factors. The first one is that we have a modernization program that can't modernize the force. Now, the outward manifestation of that is that weapons  are getting older and older over time. The reason we can't modernize the force is because the cost of the weapons is increasing much faster than the budget can possibly increase. And this has been going on since at least 1957, and longer, in some cases.

The second component of the death spiral is a rapidly deteriorating readiness situation. This has been all over the press. It's being caused by what I call "the rising cost of low readiness." Operating costs are also going up much faster than the budget. Today, a flying hour of training costs more than a flying hour of training cost five years, ten years, or fifteen years ago. Consequently, to get the minimal amount of hours required costs more per unit. We shrink the forces to reduce the total number of units. But the end we bang up against what I call that rising cost of low readiness. . . . That cost soaks up the money needed to modernize the force, and just makes things worse.

The third aspect of the death spiral is the fact that the Pentagon's accounting system is corrupt. And this is an insult to the whole concept of constitutional government. Audit after audit by the Defense Department's inspector general, and by the General Accounting Office has made this clear to everyone inside the Beltway. It's a travesty of American governance. And the logical consequences of this—setting aside the whole idea of representative democracy, which is the real problem here—the logical consequence of this is we can't assemble the detailed information needed to sort out the modernization problem and the readiness problem, and then come up with proposals to fix it.

So the corrupt accounting system actually helps cover up the reasons why the modernization program won't modernize the force and why readiness posture is rapidly deteriorating. It's gone from being an oversized organization to being an overlooked organization. Congress isn't doing its job.

And putting more money into the Pentagon's budget? . . .

Putting more money into the Pentagon right now is going to cause more problems over the long term. It's going to reinforce the cost growth that's already embedded in the system that was made by very shortsighted decisions in the early 1990s; or it was exacerbated by very shortsighted decisions in the early 1990s. The year 2010 is a little bit less than a decade away, and the aging baby boomers are going to drive up federal expenditures. If we throw money at the Pentagon today, it's going to put us on an evolutionary pathway straight into a budget war with America's old people.

But why can't the Pentagon figure out where its money is going?

The Pentagon can't figure out where it's spending this money for the simple reason that the bookkeeping system is in a shambles, and it's been well documented by all sorts of audits. Job number one in reforming the Pentagon and making a true transformation of our military is to clean up the bookkeeping system, so that we can assemble the information needed to identify and take the corrective actions.

The fact is that it's gotten worse over the last ten years, in my opinion. And you can see that in the size of unsubstantiated adjustments that are reported out by the inspector general in each year. The most recent estimate was $2.3 trillion—that's trillion with a "T"—of accounting adjustments for transactions that could not be verified.

Where does the buck stop?

The buck stops with every employee in the Pentagon. We all took an oath to uphold the Constitution. The most fundamental premise of the Constitution is the concept of checks and balances, and the most fundamental aspect of checks and balances is accountability.

This readiness issue has become an issue during this campaign. George Bush has made it a big part of his platform. Is there a readiness problem?

The answer is that it's a compound question. The answer is yes, there is a significant readiness problem out there. And it is fair to say that these problems developed during the Clinton administration. But it's also fair to say that decisions were made in the early 1990s that put the Pentagon on an evolutionary pathway to these readiness problems.

So it's no one administration's fault. The difference between administrations in causing the defense problems is miniscule. This is a structural problem that has built up over a long period of time. The end of the Cold War has given us a heaven-sent opportunity to correct these problems before the increased cost of Social Security and Medicare slam into us around 2010 or so. But we have squandered one decade already, and it's beginning to look like we're setting ourselves up to squander another decade.

What, specifically, are the kinds of readiness problems?

If we look at readiness problems in terms of hardware, there are shortages of spare parts; aging equipment; increasing workload because of the need to cannibalize spare parts—taking them off one weapon, putting them onto another—text manuals are getting outdated; things of that sort. If we look at the people component of readiness, which is far more important than the material component of readiness, what we see are declining retention rates, and recruiting problems.

But the most serious problem, in my mind, is something that I've been collecting anecdotal data on for the last three or four years now. And that's what I call "the widening wedge of mistrust" between the junior officers and NCOs on the one hand, and the senior officers on the other. Basically, there's a growing feeling amongst the juniors that the seniors are not dealing with these problems—that, in fact, they're putting their own interests ahead of the welfare of the services and their subordinates' interests. <DNI Editor's note:  Please visit our theme page on Trust.>

This is a very serious problem. A military that feels like that, when it's put under any kind of stress, will crack like an egg. And if we go back to the meltdown of the military in the 1970s, I don't recall that kind of wedge existing to the extent that it does today. So in that sense, what we're seeing today may be worse than what we saw in the 1970s.

Some people say that the Army is top-heavy, that there are too many generals. . . . Have you heard that?

Absolutely. In fact, I've got numbers going back to 1900 on the ratio of officers to enlisted men. 

And there's no question that the officer corps has become more bloated over time. There's also no question that the bloat rate has been highest at the higher ranks.

The fastest-growing rank category is colonel, then lieutenant colonel, and then general. So what we've seen over time is a mushrooming of senior officers as a percentage of the total force. That means there's less work for them to do. That pushes work downstream, which leads to micro-management and all sorts of other pathologies. 


A key issue that's come up in this readiness debate is the issue of the overall defense strategy—the two major theaters of war scenario. How important is this strategy to our national defense?

The two-war strategy is a good example of a strategy that developed, in my opinion, to justify decisions that have already been made. If you look over time at how strategy has evolved in the United States military, we started off with a two-and-a-half war strategy in the 1950s and early 1960s—a major war against the Soviet Union, a major war against China, and a secondary war—or a major theater war, if you will—against North Korea. That shifted under the Nixon administration to a one-and-a-half war strategy—the Soviet Union plus the Persian Gulf or Korea. At the end of the Cold War, it shifted again to a two-war, two major theater war strategy.

If you look what was happening, those were essentially ex-post facto justifications for shrinking forces that were being driven by the cost growth. The cost growth is what caused the forces to shrink. You can see that, if you examine statements that were made before the fact. When they were advocating buying certain weapons, particularly during the Cold War, we were outnumbered and outgunned. We wanted to have more forces and better forces. Then when forces shrank, we said they were better.

So there's movement now afoot to go to a one-war strategy, perhaps a one-and-a-half. One regional contingency strategy, and maybe some other peacekeeping-type contingency as well. This should be viewed as part of a long-term trend. . . . I think what you're going see is increasing pressure to go to a one major regional contingency strategy, or perhaps a strategy involving one major regional contingency and . . . some mix of other smaller-scale contingencies.

The important thing to understand here is that this is part of a long-range trend that you can see going back to the 1950s, when we had the two-and-a-half war strategy; the late 1960s, when we transitioned to the one-and-a-half war strategy. At the end of the Cold War, we went to a two-half war strategy. And now we're talking about doing one half-war and one quarter-war, for want of a better term. In the end, you have to ask yourself, how has this changing strategy affected the technology making up our forces? And the answer is that it hasn't.

Will the next president really have an opportunity to make key decisions with this next quadrennial defense review coming up? Do you see some glimmer of hope that there'll be some change?

The next quadrennial defense review is already in process inside the Pentagon. One of the problems you have with these is everybody has had lots of time to line up all their ducks and protect all their positions. So from what I've been able to discern of the activities going on today, the next quadrennial defense review will be worse than the last one, which literally achieved nothing.

Why is that?

There's no question that we need to transform the military. The idea of skipping a generation of technology smacks of the leapfrog mentality. The problem is that we're far ahead of everybody in the world, technology-wise. How can you leapfrog someone who's behind you without going backward? I say that tongue in cheek. But the fact is that the leapfrog technologies being promoted by both candidates for president—this isn't a political issue—are basically repackaged visions of technological solutions dating back to the Vietnam War. I'm speaking specifically of McNamara's electronic line.

Both parties have talked about pouring $50 billion to $100 billion more into the Pentagon. Do you think that would help?

Pouring more money into the Pentagon won't fix things, and in fact it will set the stage for worse problems over the long term. It may relieve the pressure in the short term. But basically it will reward the behavior that has created a cost growth, which is why we're in the debt file in the first place.

Pouring more money into the Pentagon at this juncture will create more problems, because it's fundamentally illogical. How can we justify spending more money on things when we cannot account for the money that we're already spending? That just defies common sense.

How is the current rate of deployment affecting our military?

There's no question that the current rate of deployment is causing burdens on the military. The problem is not the absolute number of people being deployed, however. A relatively small percentage of America's active duty military force is being deployed in these operations. The problem is the same people are being deployed over and over and over again. And after you do it a few times, your family starts to become a lot more important to you, morale goes down, and people leave.

This gets us into the whole problem of the tooth-to-tail ratio. We've got this huge, bloated support structure that is, in part, a consequence of our technologies developed during the Cold War. And that support tail will get even worse if we go to this next generation of so-called leapfrog technologies, which talk about integrating everything together into this computerized, mechanical machine.

How much is Congress to blame regarding oversight of this problem?

Congress is an integral part of this problem. Over time, Congress has basically lost its oversight capability, or abdicated it—I'm not sure what the correct characterization is. But today, Congress is basically a promoter of expenditures, because of the impact on local congressional districts. Many of us in the Pentagon have substituted the term "overlook" for oversight when describing the role of Congress.

Is this because of jobs? What's really driving it?

Jobs, and political power. We're dealing with a network of very subtle relationships that built up over a long period of time during the stable conditions of the Cold War. We have defense contractors that are incapable of producing commercial products. They operate according to dynamics that are very different from the commercial sector. They have a much higher political content in defense decisions than equivalent decisions in the commercial sector.

You have essentially close, integrated relations between military officers, civilians in the Pentagon, defense contractors, and congressional staffers, as well as congressmen. And there is a whole entourage of camp followers, if you will, in think tanks, in the press, and publicities of various types. They are also promoting this. Basically, what we're talking about is a lifestyle that evolved in relative isolation from the overall economy over the 40 years of cold war. And now people are fighting to preserve the lifestyle.