As the 21st century approaches, the readiness of U.S. military forces to meet the full range of defense strategy demands has never been more important. Ready forces provide the flexibility needed to shape the global environment, deter potential foes and, if required, to rapidly respond to a broad spectrum of threats. In addition, readiness instills the confidence our people need to succeed in a wide variety of challenging situations. In recent years, Department of Defense policy and budget guidance has explicitly made readiness the top priority. Today's challenge is to maintain this readiness edge while seeking efficiencies and improved operating procedures.
Each Service has a different approach to assuring force readiness. These different readiness approaches are driven by a number of factors, including unique force characteristics, major theater war and smaller-scale contingency response requirements, peacetime forward deployment levels, the availability of training infrastructure, perishable skills, and the need for flexibility. Less tangible factors such as morale, leadership development, and team building are also important considerations. The Army manages resources to achieve the highest possible state of readiness in its "first-to-fight" units, while maintaining the ability to deploy later-arriving units within prescribed timelines. The Navy and Marine Corps meet overseas presence and forward engagement responsibilities through cyclical readiness to maintain the high readiness requirements of forward-deployed forces. Forces not deployed are engaged in training, maintenance, resupply, and personnel turnover in preparation for the next rotational deployment. The Air Force maintains a high state of overall readiness due to the rapid response requirements for air assets in the initial phase of a major theater war or smaller-scale contingency.
Although readiness remains a top departmental priority, not all units, active or Reserve, are resourced to the highest levels. Resources are prioritized by each of the Services among major units to sustain different levels of readiness based on missions, response requirements, and force characteristics. This resource prioritization reflects the fact that transportation capacity and equipment maintenance cycles put constraints on our ability to respond. The variability in the levels of readiness that results from this prioritization is closely monitored to ensure we have the capability and flexibility to respond to changing requirements.
The current readiness approach provides a varying degree of resources to units according to the likelihood that the unit will be required to respond to a military conflict and the time in which the unit will be required to respond. Later deploying units receive fewer resources because the response time would allow the unit to get ready before it is required in theater. In fact, each Service uses readiness concepts tailored to its requirements in developing current readiness resource prioritization plans.
ASSESSMENT OF TIERING
During the QDR, an assessment was undertaken as to whether reducing the readiness of selected units would meet strategy requirements and result in significant cost savings. The conclusion of the assessment was that such "tiering" would significantly increase risk at the gain of only modest savings while limiting the flexibility required to execute the current war plans. Constraining factors include the time when units are required to be in theater, the difficulty in regaining the highly perishable skills required to operate sophisticated weapon systems, the capacity of the training infrastructure, the need to optimize match-up of deploying units with transportation assets, and the requirement to adjust plans based on the strategic and tactical situations.
For example, the Army examined reducing the readiness of all but its four Force Package I divisions - including the bulk of its permanently stationed overseas forces - to a less than fully trained status. It found that existing infrastructure and training facilities are not designed to meet the training surge required to bring units up to peak readiness in time of crisis under this posture. In addition, the mobilization system would have difficulty supporting tiered readiness surges as Individual Ready Reserve soldiers are brought in to fill out lower tier units. While lower tier units could maintain a capability to be committed to some shaping and engagement missions, soldiers assigned to those units would be at risk of having their critical warfighting skills deteriorate rapidly. Moreover, employing any of the four Force Package I divisions for peacetime engagement or smaller-scale contingencies would further increase the delay in meeting major theater war timelines, and could put the halt phase at risk. Estimated annual savings of only about $100 million created a force that could not meet major theater war deployment timelines.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is pursuing a comprehensive effort to improve force management on a day-to-day basis to ensure that the demands of ongoing operations and exercises are sustainable over the long haul without over-stressing our people. For example, between FY 1996 and FY 1998 the Unified Commands will decrease the number of man-days required for joint exercises by 15 percent. This was achieved by compressing the length of some exercises and slightly decreasing the size of others. Additional reductions are being pursued for both joint and Service exercises.
Another force management initiative is to examine the potential for substituting one unit for another when appropriate. Some units have similar capabilities, such as the RC-135 and EP-3 electronic reconnaissance aircraft, or some Army and Marine infantry units. If the conditions warrant, these similar units can be substituted for each other. Geographical substitution is also important. Peacetime demand is not distributed uniformly around the world, and some theaters have borne a greater brunt of the peacetime burden. Therefore, the Department has implemented a global resourcing program designed to share the burdens of response among the forces deployed in all theaters. The Department is also examining expanding the use of contractors for support functions in some situations, in order to release military support units. In addition, Reserves have been called upon to carry out selected operations. The Department is studying the costs and benefits of each approach and will use substitution if and when it is appropriate and cost-effective.
We have also implemented a Global Military Force Policy to allocate low density/high demand assets across competing priorities. The Global Military Force Policy has dramatically improved management of AWACS deployments, stabilized RC-135 and EP-3 deployments at a steady-state rate, and improved the deployment rate for EA-6Bs. Due to the success of this initiative, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is examining ways to develop a more comprehensive system to monitor the effects of high operating tempo. This effort will complement another planning initiative to assist in the development of theater-specific engagement plans. The scope of these initiatives will include all military activities intended to shape the regional security environment in peacetime. The combination of planning guidance and operational monitoring processes will provide a valuable set of force management tools.
However, U.S. forces will still face myriad challenges in seeking to maintain a sufficient state of readiness into the future. Advanced joint operational concepts and new technologies will increase the complexity of operations and require new and different skills. The number of different skills required will also increase as U.S. forces are asked to be increasingly multi-mission capable, able to transition from peacetime activities and operations, to deterrence, to war. In order to maintain proficiency in the wide variety of required missions and tasks in a joint environment, units will need more effective training and careful time management. Furthermore, as lift capability increases and logistics get leaner, units will be tasked to respond to crises more quickly, and conversely, will have less time to prepare. Joint Vision 2010 calls for all military organizations to become more responsive to contingencies, with less "startup" time between deployment and employment. Finally, if not adequately managed, the demand for peacetime operations, coupled with a smaller force, could overstress personnel operating tempo and take its toll on the quality of life of military personnel that is the foundation of long-term readiness. Given these challenges, the Department intends to implement new management practices that support the defense strategy, conserve resources, and ensure our versatile forces remain prepared to carry out the multiple missions they may be called upon to perform.
QUALITY OF LIFE
The quality of our forces depends on the quality of our military personnel. The men and women who comprise today's all-volunteer military are of the highest caliber, and we must continue to strive to attract and maintain this effective force. An important element of our policy toward our people must be to provide them with a quality of life commensurate with the sacrifices we ask them to make and with the alternatives available in the private sector.
Throughout the QDR, attention was paid to those issues that affect the quality of life of our military personnel. In areas where changes in policy or practice can be made, such as the impact of high operating tempo on certain forces, we have identified those changes and will implement them. In areas where the issue is the availability of resources, the QDR recommends that adequate resources be provided in key quality of life areas. The Department remains committed to funding pay raises and other compensation. Every effort will be made to continue the Department's long-term commitment to provide adequate funding in areas such as housing, community and family support, transition assistance as we make further reductions in force, and morale and recreation activities. Educational assistance remains a priority, including off-duty voluntary education. The fighting force of the next century must be an educated, dedicated, motivated force, and programs that keep it that way are an integral part of our force management policy as we move forward from the QDR.
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