Smaller-scale contingency (SSC) operations encompass the full range of military operations short of major theater warfare, including peacekeeping operations, enforcing embargoes and no-fly zones, evacuating U.S. citizens, reinforcing key allies, neutralizing NBC weapons facilities, supporting counterdrug operations, protecting freedom of navigation in international waters, providing disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, coping with mass migration, and engaging in information operations. These challenging operations are likely to arise frequently and require significant commitments of human and fiscal resources over time. These operations also put a premium on the ability of the U.S. military to work closely and effectively with other United States Government agencies, non-governmental organizations, regional and international security organizations and coalition partners.
In general, SSC operations are aimed at checking aggression and addressing local and regional crises before they escalate or spread. Thus, while SSCs may involve other than “vital” national security interests, resolving SSCs gives us the chance to prevent greater and costlier conflicts that might well threaten U.S. vital interests.
The United States need not take on sole responsibility for operations and expenditures in SSCs. In fact, we have encouraged and supported friends and allies’ assumption of both participatory and leadership roles in regional conflicts. Such encouragement, in theory, constitutes a fruitful middle ground between inaction and conflict. In practice, the United States has recently played a role in a number of successful coalition operations. These include participating in NATO-led Bosnia and Kosovo operations with predominantly European troop participation; providing logistical, intelligence, and other support to operations in East Timor; and supporting the United Nations’ and Economic Community of West African States’ leadership roles in seeking peace for Sierra Leone.
Coalition efforts in SSCs raise the critical question of command and control. Under no circumstances will the President ever relinquish his constitutional command authority over U.S. forces. However, there may be times in the future, just as in the past, when it is in our interest to place U.S. forces under the temporary operational control of a competent allied or United Nations commander.
There is an important role for the United Nations as a tool in managing conflict. UN peacekeeping operations can be a very effective alternative to direct intervention by the United States. The Brahimi report on peacekeeping reform offers many good recommendations that, if implemented, can make this tool even more effective as an instrument of policy.
As in regional conflict, conducting smaller-scale contingencies means confronting new threats such as terrorism, information attack, computer network operations, and the use or threat of use of weapons of mass destruction. United States forces must also remain prepared to withdraw from contingency operations if they are needed in the event of a major theater war. Accordingly, we must continue to train, equip, and organize U.S. forces to be capable of performing multiple missions at any given time.
Major Theater Warfare
Fighting and winning major theater wars is the ultimate test of our Armed Forces — a test at which they must always succeed. For the foreseeable future, the United States, preferably in concert with allies, must have the capability to deter and, if deterrence fails, defeat large-scale, cross-border aggression in two distant theaters in overlapping time frames. Maintaining a two major theater war capability reassures our friends and allies and makes coalition relationships with the United States more attractive. It deters opportunism elsewhere when we are heavily involved in deterring or defeating aggression in one theater, or while conducting multiple smaller-scale contingencies and engagement activities in other theaters. It also provides a hedge against the possibility that we might encounter threats larger or more difficult than expected. A strategy for deterring and defeating aggression in two theaters ensures that we maintain the capability and flexibility to meet unknown future threats, while continued global engagement helps preclude such threats from developing.
Fighting and winning major theater wars entails three challenging requirements. First, we must maintain the ability to rapidly defeat initial enemy advances short of the enemy’s objectives in two theaters, in close succession. We must maintain this ability to ensure that we can seize the initiative, minimize territory lost before an invasion is halted, and ensure the integrity of our warfighting coalitions. Failure to defeat initial enemy advances rapidly would make the subsequent campaign to evict enemy forces from captured territory more difficult, lengthy and costly, and could undermine U.S. credibility and increase the risk of conflict elsewhere.
Second, the United States must be prepared to fight and win under conditions where an adversary may use asymmetric means against us — unconventional approaches that avoid or undermine our strengths while exploiting our vulnerabilities. Because of our conventional military dominance, adversaries are likely to use asymmetric means, such as NBC weapons, information operations, attacks on our critical infrastructure, or terrorism. Such asymmetric attacks could be used to disrupt the critical logistics pipeline — from its origins in the United States, along sea and air routes, at in-transit refueling and staging bases, to its termination at airfields, seaports, and supply depots in theater — as well as our forces deployed in the field. The threat of NBC attacks against U.S. forces in theater or U.S. territory could be used in an attempt to deter U.S. military action in defense of its allies and other security interests.
We are enhancing the preparedness of our Armed Forces to effectively conduct sustained operations despite the presence, threat, or use of NBC weapons. These efforts include development, procurement, and deployment of theater missile defense systems to protect forward-deployed military personnel, as well as enhanced passive defenses against chemical and biological weapons, improved intelligence collection and counterforce capabilities, heightened security awareness and force protection measures worldwide. We are also enhancing our ability to defend against hostile information operations, which could, in the future, take the form of a full-scale, strategic information attack against our critical national infrastructures, government, and economy — as well as attacks directed against our military forces.
Third, our military must also be able to transition to fighting major theater wars from a posture of global engagement — from substantial levels of peacetime engagement overseas as well as multiple concurrent smaller-scale contingency operations. Withdrawing from such operations would pose significant political and operational challenges. Options available to the National Command Authorities (NCA) may include backfilling those forces withdrawn from contingency operations or substituting for forces committed to such operations. Ultimately, however, the United States must accept a degree of risk associated with withdrawing from contingency operations and engagement activities in order to reduce the greater risk incurred if we failed to respond adequately to major theater wars.