Military plans to speed shift from Cold War-era strategy

Report backs Bush policy on pre-emptive attacks

July 14, 2002|By John Hendren | John Hendren,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WASHINGTON - A secret Pentagon plan for the next five years directs the military to focus more of its spending to combat Afghanistan-style threats and weapons of mass destruction and to develop even greater precision-strike capabilities, according to a document reviewed by the Los Angeles Times.

The "Defense Planning Guidance" for 2004-2009 puts into action the Pentagon's plan to replace a Cold War-era strategy of being able to fight two major-theater wars at the same time with a more complex approach aimed at dominating air and space on several fronts.

The annually updated five-year plan, the first since the attacks of Sept. 11, represents an acceleration of the shift toward the high-tech gadgetry of warfare the Pentagon has relied on since the Persian Gulf war.

Bush doctrine

The classified document requires the military services to develop further the capability to launch "unwarned" pre-emptive strikes, a doctrine President Bush outlined in a graduation address in May at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

The document appears to emphasize the kind of nontraditional enemy that U.S. soldiers have faced in Afghanistan, rather than a peer-to-peer war with large numbers of conventional troops and weapons against such possible foes as North Korea and China.

The plan directs the armed services to spend their money on five areas: countering terrorists and weapons of mass destruction, intelligence, cyberwarfare, airstrike capabilities and military systems in space.

It also sets specific goals, such as the development of a squadron of a dozen unmanned fighter jets by 2012 and a "hypersonic missile" that can travel 600 nautical miles in 15 minutes - capable of taking out mobile missile launchers before they can be moved - by 2009.

`Precision strikes'

Defense officials said the plan codifies the military transformation that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has promoted since he took over the Pentagon.

It emphasizes capabilities such as surprise "high-volume precision strikes" and calls for laser- and microwave-powered weapons and nuclear-tipped "bunker buster" bombs capable of striking deeply buried cave complexes such as those in the mountains of Afghanistan.

The weapons called for in the plan would enhance the military's ability to launch stealthy pre-emptive strikes against a new kind of enemy, which the Bush administration has suggested could include North Korea and Iraq.

The emphasis on high-tech warfare appears to benefit the Air Force most and the Army least, a senior defense official said on condition of anonymity.

That might affect how the document is received by each of the military services. It calls for the services to make cyberwarfare a "core competency." That includes protecting critical U.S. computer networks and destroying or sleuthing the enemy's networks.

The policy blueprint outlines a shift from a "threat-based" strategy, aimed at combating major adversaries such as China or Russia, to a "capabilities-based" system, designed to develop the ability to "deter, deny and defeat adversaries who will rely on surprise, deception and asymmetric warfare to achieve their objectives."

`Push-button warfare'

Some defense analysts are concerned that the plan would send the message that wars can be fought with few casualties by "push-button warfare."

"It's this concept that we can sit in our air-conditioned bunkers and push buttons," said Ivo Daalder, a defense analyst at the Brookings Institution.

"That leads to the absurd decision to fight a Kosovo war without a ground component. It leads to relying on insurgents and precision strikes to overthrow Saddam [Hussein, Iraq's president]. It's absurd to think that that's the way we ought to fight warfare in each and every circumstance. Wars are still fought and won in the old-fashioned way: by killing more of the others than they kill of you. And by taking territories."

Traditional capability

Nevertheless, some of the technologies envisioned in the plan could be used in traditional large-scale wars, said Anthony Cordesman, a former Pentagon official at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a foreign policy think tank in Washington.

The paper indirectly criticizes U.S. intelligence performance, calling for major changes.

"It is also essential over the midterm period that we transform intelligence capabilities to provide sufficient warning of an impending crisis, identify critical targets," and develop ways to monitor military campaigns and measure their success, the report recommends.

John Hendren writes for the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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