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Chapter 6

Conclusions, Recommendations, and
Agency Comments and Our Evaluation

During the Cold War, the military services invested hundreds of billions of dollars to develop largely autonomous combat air power capabilities, primarily to prepare for a global war with the Soviet Union. The Air Force acquired bombers to deliver massive nuclear strikes against the Soviets and fighter and attack aircraft for conventional and theater-nuclear missions in the major land theaters, principally Europe. The Navy built an extensive carrier-based aviation force focused on controlling the seas and projecting power into the maritime flanks of the Soviet Union. The Army developed attack helicopters to provide air support to its ground troops. The Marine Corps acquired fighter and attack aircraft and attack helicopters to support its ground forces in their areas of operation. While the United States ended up with four essentially autonomous air forces with many similar capabilities, each also largely operated within its own warfighting domains.

Today, there is no longer a clear division of labor among aviation forces
based on where they operate or what functions they carry out. Although
many of the long-range bombers can still be used to deliver nuclear
weapons, the air power components of the four services are now focused
on joint conventional operations in regional conflicts and contingency
operations. Most of the likely theaters of operation are small enough that,
with available refueling support, all types of aircraft can reach most
targets. And while the number of combat aircraft has been reduced, the
reductions have been largely offset by an expansion in the types of assets
and capabilities available to the combatant commanders. For example,
(1) a larger percentage of the combat aircraft force can now perform
multiple missions; (2) key performance capabilities of combat aircraft,
such as night fighting, are being significantly enhanced; and (3) the
inventories of advanced long-range missiles and PGMS are growing and
improving, adding to the arsenal of weapons and options available to
attack targets. Moreover, the continuing integration of service capabilities
in such areas as battlefield surveillance; command, control, and
communications; and targeting should enable force commanders to
further capitalize on the aggregate capabilities of the services.


DOD has not been adequately examining its combat air power force structure and its modernization plans and programs from a joint perspective. The forces of the services are increasingly operating jointly and in concert with allies in a regional versus a global environment. However, Don's decision support systems do not provide sufficient information from a joint perspective to enable the Secretary of Defense,

Conclusions, Recommendations, and
Agency Comments and Our Evaluation

the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other decisionmakers to prioritize programs, objectively weigh the merits of new air power investments, and decide whether current programs should continue to receive funding.

It is true that the overlapping and often redundant air power capabilities of the current force structure provide combatant commanders with operational flexibility to respond to any circumstance. The question is whether, in the post-Cold War era, the United States needs, or can afford, the current levels of overlap and redundancy. This is not easily answered because DOD has not fully examined the joint requirements for key warfighting missions areas or the aggregate capabilities of the services to meet those requirements. From our reviews of interdiction, air-to-air combat, and close support of ground forces, it is evident that U.S. capabilities are quite substantial even without further enhancement. For the interdiction mission, our analysis and the analysis of others showed that the services have more than enough capability to hit identified ground targets for the two major regional conflicts used in force planning. Planned investments in some cases may be adding little needed military capability at a very high cost.

While it may be desirable for DOD to scale back its air power modernization plans and reduce overlapping capabilities, the challenging question is, how. Such courses of action require tough choices, particularly when the military strategy is to win quickly and decisively in two nearly simultaneous major regional conflicts. Even with a more comprehensive understanding of joint requirements and the capabilities of the services to meet those requirements, the Secretary will likely continue to find it difficult to make decisions that could increase warfighting risks and affect programs, careers, jobs, and the industrial base. But without such an understanding, there may be little hope that these tough decisions will be made.

The need for improved joint warfighting information is recognized in DOD and provided much of the stimulus for the establishment of the joint warfighting capability assessment teams. A critical underlying need of these teams, or any assessment process, is objective comprehensive cross-service and cross-mission studies and analyses of joint requirements for doing key warfighting missions and the aggregate capabilities of the services to meet those requirements. Such analyses are very demanding and may require a considerable amount of military judgment. Nonetheless, they are vital input for better understanding how much capability is

Conclusions, Recommendations, and
Agency Comments and Our Evaluation

needed to fulfill air power missions and what is the most cost-effective mix of air power assets to meet the needs of the combatant commanders within DOD's budgets. DOD has initiated several broad studies that should provide added information. These include a deep attack/weapons mix study that includes interdiction and close support operations, a reconnaissance force mix study, and an electronic warfare mission area analysis.

DOD has not routinely reviewed the justification for weapon modernization
programs based on their contribution to the aggregate capabilities of the
military to meet mission requirements. In our May 1996 report on DOD
interdiction capabilities and modernization plans, we recommended that
the Secretary of Defense do such reviews. DOD agreed with our
recommendation. Based on our review of other missions, such reviews are
needed for other key mission areas as well. Because many assets
contribute to more than one mission area, cross-mission analyses will
need to be part of the process.

The urgent need for such assessments is underscored by the reality that
significant outlays will be required in the next decade to finance Dod's
combat air power modernization programs as currently planned. Over the
past few years, we have reviewed the Department's major air power
modernization programs—the F/A-18E/F, the F-22, the Comanche, and the
B-1B bomber modification programs—within the context of the post-Cold
War security environment. Our work leading to this culminating report has
served to reinforce the theme of these earlier assessments—namely, that
DOD should revisit the program justifications for these programs because
the circumstances and assumptions upon which they were based have
changed. Although extensive resources have already been invested in
these programs, past investment decisions should not be considered
irreversible but rather should be considered in the light of new
information. The extensive long-term financial commitment needed to
fund all of these programs makes it imperative that these key
programs—and possibly others—be reconsidered since the future viability
of U.S. combat air power could be at risk if it is not smartly modernized
within likely budgets.


To ensure a viable, combat ready force in the future, the Secretary of Defense will need to make decisions in at least two critical areas—how best to reduce unneeded duplication and overlap in existing capabilities and how to recapitalize the force in the most cost-effective manner. To

Conclusions, Recommendations, and
Agency Comments and Our Evaluation

make such decisions, the Secretary must have better information coming from a joint perspective. Accordingly, we recommend that the Secretary of Defense, along with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, develop an assessment process that yields more comprehensive information in key mission areas. This can be done by broadening the current joint warfare capabilities assessment process or developing an alternative mechanism.

To be of most value, such assessments should be done on a continuing
basis and should, at a minimum, (1) assess total joint war-fighting
requirements in each mission area; (2) inventory aggregate service
capabilities, including the full range of assets available to carry out each
mission; (3) compare aggregate capabilities to joint requirements to
identify shortages or excesses, taking into consideration existing and
projected capabilities of potential adversaries and the adequacy of existing
capabilities to meet joint requirements; (4) determine the most
cost-effective means to satisfy any shortages; and (5) where excesses
exist, assess the relative merits of retiring alternative assets, reducing
procurement quantities, or canceling acquisition programs.

The assessments also need to examine the projected impact of investments, retirements, and cancellations on other mission areas since some assets contribute to multiple mission areas. Because the Chairman is to advise the Secretary on joint military requirements and provide programmatic advice on how best to provide joint warfighting capabilities within projected resource levels, the assessment process needs to help the Chairman determine program priorities across mission lines. To enhance the effectiveness of the assessments, we also recommend that the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman decide how best to provide analytical support to the assessment teams, ensure staff continuity, and allow the teams latitude to examine the full range of air power issues.

Agency Comments and Our Evaluation

DOD partially concurred with our recommendations, and while it said it
disagreed with many of our findings, most of that disagreement centered
on two principal points: (1) the Secretary of Defense is not receiving
adequate advice, particularly from a joint perspective, to support
decision-making on combat air power programs, and (2) ongoing major
combat aircraft acquisition programs lack sufficient analysis of needs and

DOD said many steps had been taken in recent years to improve the extent and quality of joint military advice and cited the JWCA process as an

Conclusions, Recommendations, and
Agency Comments and Our Evaluation

example. It said the Secretary and Deputy Secretary receive comprehensive advice on combat air power programs through dod's planning, programming, and budgeting system and systems acquisition process. The Department's response noted that both OSD and the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff carefully scrutinize major acquisition programs and that joint military force assessments and recommendations are provided. DOD acknowledged that the quality of analytical support can be improved but believes that the extent of support available has not been insufficient for decision-making.

We agree that steps have been taken to provide improved joint advice to the Secretary. We also recognize that DoD decision support systems provide information for making planning, programming, and budgeting decisions on major acquisition programs. We do not, however, believe the information is sufficiently comprehensive to support resource allocation decisions across service and mission lines. Much of the information is developed by the individual services and limited in scope. Only a very limited amount of information is available on joint requirements for performing missions, such as interdiction and close support, and on the aggregate capabilities available to meet those requirements. DOD'S initiation of the deep attack weapons mix study and, more recently, a study to assess close support capabilities, suggest that it is, in fact, seeking more comprehensive information about cross-service needs and capabilities as our recommendation suggests. While joint warfighting capability assessment teams have been established, DOD has not been using these teams to identify unnecessary or overly redundant combat air power capabilities among the services; nor has the Department used the teams to help develop specific proposals or strategies for recapitalizing U.S. air power forces, a major combat air power issue identified by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Information on issues such as redundancies in capabilities and on recapitalization alternatives, developed from a joint warfighting perspective, would be invaluable to decisionmakers in allocating defense resources among competing needs to achieve maximum force effectiveness.

With regard to the analyses of needs and capabilities behind combat air power weapons acquisition programs, we recognize that the services conduct considerable analyses to identify mission needs and justify new weapons program proposals. These analyses, however, are not based on assessments of the aggregate capabilities of the services to perform warfighting missions, nor does DoD routinely review service modernization proposals and programs from such a perspective. The Commission on

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