Iraq War: Defense Program Implications for Congress
Report for Congress
Iraq War: Defense Program
Implications for Congress
June 4, 2003
Coordinated by Ronald O’Rourke
Specialist in National Defense
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Richard A. Best, Jr.
Edward F. Bruner
Robert L. Goldich
Steven A. Hildreth
Iraq War: Defense Program Implications for Congress
The recent war against Iraq may have implications for various defense programs
of interest to Congress. This report surveys some of those potential implications, and
will be updated periodically as new information becomes available. Three cautionary
notes associated with post-conflict “lessons-learned” reports apply to this report:
Information about the Iraq war is incomplete and imperfect, so early lessons are
subject to change. Each war is unique in some ways, so observers should avoid
“overlearning” the lessons of the Iraq war. And potential U.S. adversaries can derive
lessons from the Iraq war and apply them in future conflicts against U.S. forces,
possibly devaluing U.S.-perceived lessons. It can also be noted that some persons
or organizations offering purported lessons of the Iraq war may have a financial,
institutional, or ideological stake in the issue.
Many observers have concluded that the Iraq war validated the Administration’s
vision for defense transformation, or major parts of it. Other observers disagree. The
issue is potentially significant because implementing the Administration’s vision
could affect the composition of U.S. defense spending, and because the
Administration may invoke the theme of transformation to help justify or seek rapid
congressional consideration of legislative proposals, including proposals that could
affect Congress’ role in conducting oversight of defense programs. The Iraq war may
influence debate on whether active-duty U.S. military forces are sufficiently large to
carry out current U.S. military strategy, and on whether greater emphasis should be
placed on forces that are less dependent on access to in-theater bases.
One of the most significant defense-program debates going into the Iraq war –
and potentially one of those most significantly influenced by the war – concerns the
future size and composition of the active-duty Army. Both supporters and opponents
of maintaining at least 10 active-duty Army divisions may find support in the Iraq
war for their positions, as may both supporters and opponents of the current Army
plan to shift toward a mix of fewer heavy armored units and a larger number of
lighter and more mobile units.
The Iraq war validated the effectiveness of combat-aircraft armed with
precision-guided weapons, and may influence discussions about current plans for
investing in specific aircraft and munitions programs. The Iraq war may reinforce
support generated by the war in Afghanistan for increased investment in U.S. special
operations forces. It may also highlight questions concerning reserve combat
divisions and the potential consequences of extended callups of large numbers of
The war appears to have demonstrated the value of network-centric operations
and timely battlefield intelligence, and the potential value of psychological
operations. It appears to have confirmed the importance of preparing for urban
combat. The war offered a limited real-world test of the Patriot missile defense
system. The war may lead to renewed discussions about strategies for reducing
friendly fire incidents. It may reinforce support for investing in aerial refueling
capabilities, and increase interest in potential new airlift and sealift technologies.
In troduction ......................................................1
Scope of Report...............................................1
Deriving “Lessons” of the War: Some Cautionary Notes...............1
Organization of Report.........................................3
Issues for Congress................................................4
Size of Military Needed For National Military Strategy...............10
Overseas Base Access.........................................15
Combat Aircraft and Precision-Guided Munitions...................24
Special Operations Forces......................................40
Ballistic Missile Defense.......................................51
Airlift and Aerial Refueling.....................................64
Iraq War: Defense Program Implications for
The recent war against Iraq, known formally as Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF),
was the largest U.S. military operation since the 1991 Persian Gulf war, and may
have implications for various defense programs of interest to Congress. This report,
which is similar to one that CRS prepared following the 1991 Persian Gulf war,2
surveys some of those potential implications. It will be updated periodically as new
information becomes available.
Scope of Report
This report focuses on how the Iraq war may affect defense programs that
Congress may address in acting on defense authorization and appropriation bills for
FY2004 and subsequent fiscal years. It does not cover broader defense policy issues
such as U.S. national security strategy or Congress’ role in declaring war. Nor does
it cover the post-war occupation and reconstruction efforts in Iraq or the potential
impact of the war on U.S. foreign relations and the U.S. role in the world. Issues like
those are covered in other CRS products.
Deriving “Lessons” of the War: Some Cautionary Notes
Although the Department of Defense (DoD) and other organizations customarily
produce “lessons learned” reports following the conclusion of a major military
operation like the Iraq war, this report for the most part avoids using the term
“lessons” because it can imply the making of recommendations – something that
CRS reports do not do. Even so, certain cautionary notes associated with “lessons-
learned” reports apply to this report. These include the following:
!Information is imperfect; early lessons are subject to change. Public
information about the Iraq war is currently incomplete, and will likely remain
so for some time. Although certain aspects of the war, such as the operations
of U.S. Army and Marine Corps ground forces moving from Kuwait to
Baghdad, received extensive press coverage, many details of these operations
are not known. Other aspects of the war, such as coalition air operations, were
reported in less detail. And some aspects of the war, such as the activities of
1This section prepared by Ronald O’Rourke, Specialist in National Defense.
2CRS Report 91-421 F, Persian Gulf War: Defense-Policy Implications for Congress,
coordinated by Ronald O’Rourke. Washington, 1991. (May 15, 2001) 82 p.
special operations forces, have received very little press coverage. Knowledge
about the war at this point is thus fragmentary and unbalanced. Historically,
moreover, early information that is publicly available about a war often proves
to be inaccurate. Attempts to identify lessons should be tempered by an
appreciation for gaps and imperfections in the available information. As
information becomes more complete and accurate with time, early lessons
may need to be modified or dropped.
!Each war is unique; avoid “overlearning” the lessons of this war.
Particularly for U.S. military forces, which fight conflicts in different parts of
the world against various adversaries, each war is characterized by a unique
combination of variables such as geographic setting, pre-conflict warning and
preparation time, U.S. and enemy war aims, the size and composition of
enemy military forces, the quality of enemy military training and leadership,
the amount and kind of military assistance that the United States or the enemy
receives during the war from other governments or groups, the enemy
government’s degree of popular support among its own population, and the
presence or absence of factional divisions within the enemy country’s
population due to ethnic differences or other factors. Given how at least some
of these factors usually change for the United States from one war to the next,
it has long been a staple of U.S. lessons-learned reports to note that lessons
from one conflict may not necessarily apply to the next, might need to be
applied with caution, or might contradict lessons of previous conflicts. Some
of the lessons of the Iraq war, for example, may differ from lessons of the
U.S.-led war in Afghanistan in 2001-2002 or the U.S. military operation in
Kosovo in 1999. In short, the lessons of the Iraq war should not be
“overlearned” because the Iraq war in some ways might not serve as an
accurate template for future conflicts.
!Non-U.S. observers derive lessons as well, possibly devaluing U.S.-
perceived lessons. The United States is not the only country that derives
lessons from U.S. military operations; observers in other countries do so as
well. Non-U.S. observers keenly observe the U.S. way of war and draw
conclusions about its strengths and weaknesses. These conclusions, if correct,
can be applied by potential U.S. adversaries to improve their ability to contest
U.S. forces in a future conflict. Serbia, for example, observed the 1991
Persian Gulf war and drew lessons from it on how to counter the effects of
U.S. air power. These lessons were applied with some success by Serbian
forces in Kosovo in 1999. In short, lessons that U.S. observers reach about a
given U.S. military operation can be devalued by lessons that potential
adversaries draw from that same operation. This is another reason to avoid
“overlearning” the lessons of a given U.S. military operation.
Numerous persons or organizations may offer what they contend are the lessons
of the Iraq war. In evaluating purported lessons offered by various sources, one
factor to consider is whether those sources have a potential financial, institutional,
or ideological stake in the issue. Persons or organizations identifying the lessons of
a war can be influenced, perhaps strongly, by such a stake. Indeed, some persons or
organizations may deliberately identify and publicize purported lessons with the aim
of influencing policy decisions on defense programs in a way that promotes their own
interests. Although lessons offered by persons or organizations with a stake in the
issue in many cases may be reasonable or correct, policymakers may wish to take
such interests into account in evaluating lessons put forward by such sources.
Organization of Report
The remainder of this report consists of a series of discussions on various
defense program issues that might have been affected in one way or another by the
Iraq war. The discussions are designed to be fairly self-contained, so that readers
may browse topics using the Table of Contents and read those of interest. A footnote
at the start of each discussion identifies the CRS analyst who prepared that section.
Issues for Congress
Iraq War Viewed As A Test. In the weeks leading up to the Iraq war, many
observers anticipated that the conflict would serve as a test of the administration’s
vision for defense transformation – its concept for overhauling the U.S. military to
exploit new technologies and counter 21st-Century security threats.4 Following the
war, many of these observers concluded that the war validated this vision, or at least
major parts of it, and also strengthened Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s
authority to implement this vision over the objections of persons or organizations
opposed to parts of it. Some observers speculated that the war may encourage the
administration to increase the scope of its planned defense transformation or
implement it more quickly.5
3This section prepared by Ronald O’Rourke, Specialist in National Defense.
4Defense transformation generally refers to large-scale, discontinuous, and possibly
disruptive changes in military weapons, organization, and concepts of operations (i.e.,
approaches to warfighting), that are prompted by significant changes in technology or the
emergence of new and different international security challenges. For more on defense
transformation, see CRS Reports RS20787, Army Transformation and Modernization:
Overview and Issues for Congress, by Edward F. Bruner; RS20859, Air Force
Transformation: Background and Issues for Congress, by Christopher Bolkcom; RS20851,
Naval Transformation: Background and Information for Congress, by Ronald O’Rourke,
RL31922, Military Transformation: Issues for Congress and Status of Effort, by Lloyd D.
DeSerisey, and RL31425, Military Transformation: Intelligence, Surveillance and
Reconnaissance, by Judy G. Chizek.
For examples of pre-war articles anticipating that the war would test the administration’s
vision for defense transformation, see Cooper, Richard T., and John Hendren. Strategy
Boiled Down To Light Vs. Heavy. Los Angeles Times, March 19, 2003; Gordon, Michael
R. A Sequel, Not A Rerun. New York Times on the Web, March 18, 2003 (Dispatches: A
Web-Exclusive Column); Towell, Pat. The War Agenda: Military Operations.
Congressional Quarterly Weekly, March 15, 2001: 601; Ricks, Thomas E. War Plan For
Iraq Largely In Place. Washington Post, March 2, 2003: 1; Barry, John, and Evan Thomas.
Boots, Bytes And Bombs. Newsweek, February 17, 2003; Sinnreich, Richard Hart. War
Could Test Transformation The Hard Way. Lawton (Oklahoma) Constitution, February 16,
2003; Jaffe, Greg. Getting U.S. Forces Together Poses Challenge For War Plan. Wall
Street Journal, February 11, 2003: 1; Thompson, Mark, and Michael Duffy. Pentagon
Warlord. Time, January 27, 2003; Jaffe, Greg. War Plan Aims To Balance Roles Of
Ground Forces, New Weapons. Wall Street Journal, November 27, 2002: 1.
5See, for example, Jonson, Nick. Cebrowski: Emerging Global Threats Require New
Methods Of Operation. Aerospace Daily, May 14 2003; Scarborough, Rowan. ‘Decisive
Force’ Now Measured By Speed. Washington Times, May 7, 2003: 1; Hanson, Victor
Davis. Don Rumsfeld, Radical For Our Time. National Review, May 5, 2003; Moniz, Dave,
and John Diamond. Rumsfeld Is Perched At ‘Pinnacle Of Power.’ USA Today, May 1,
Burlas, Joe. ‘Iraqi Freedom’ Proves Transformation Concepts. Army News Service, April
28, 2003; Schlesinger, Robert. War May Provide Ammunition For Rumsfeld To Pursue
Vision. Boston Globe, April 25, 2003: 18; Whittle, Richard. Military Mulls Lessons Of
Potential Significance for Congress. These conclusions and speculations,
if correct – and not all observers agree with them6 – are potentially of great
significance to Congress, for at least two reasons:
!Implementing the Administration’s vision for defense transformation could
substantially affect the composition of U.S. defense spending, shifting defense
funding toward defense programs that are judged to be transformational and
away from defense programs that are judged to be non-transformational or
“legacy.” Such shifts could significantly affect revenues and employment
levels at companies associated with the affected programs.
!The Administration may be encouraged to invoke the theme of transformation
to help justify or seek rapid congressional consideration of legislative
proposals affecting DoD that may or may not be transformational, depending
on one’s definition of transformation, including proposals which could, if
implemented, affect Congress’ role in conducting oversight of U.S. defensest
activities. A potential case in point is the “Defense Transformation for the 21
Century Act,” a 205-page legislative proposal that the administration
submitted to Congress on April 10, 2003 that would, among other things,
permit DoD to establish its own policies for hiring, firing, and compensating
its civil service employees; change the terms in office for certain senior
generals and admirals; give DoD increased authority to transfer funds between
War. Dallas Morning News, April 22, 2003; Ricks, Thomas E. Rumsfeld Stands Tall After
Iraq Victory. Washington Post, April 20, 2003: 1; Purdy, Matthew. After The War, New
Stature For Rumsfeld. New York Times, April 20, 2003; Knickerbocker, Brad. Iraq War As
A Blueprint For Next One. Christian Science Monitor, April 16, 2003: 1; Bowman, Tom.
U.S. Demonstrates ‘New Style Of War’ In Iraq. Baltimore Sun, April 13, 2003; Cooper,
Richard T., and Peter Pae. Battle For Military’s Future Unresolved. Los Angeles Times,
April 12, 2003; Squeo, Anne Marie, and Greg Jaffe. War’s Early Lessons May Curb
Enthusiasm For Older Weapons. Wall Street Journal, April 11, 2003; Jaffe, Greg.
Rumsfeld’s Vindication Promises A Change In Tactics, Deployment. Wall Street Journal,
April 10, 2003; Knickerbocker, Brad. War Boosts Rumsfeld’s Vision Of An Agile Military.
Christian Science Monitor, April 11, 2003; Cushman, John H. Jr., and Thom Shanker. War
In Iraq Provides Model Of New Way Of Doing Battle. New York Times, April 10, 2003;
Bender, Bryan. Maturing Approach Called Guide. Boston Globe, April 9, 2003; Jenkins,
Holman W., Jr. Two Wars Of CEO Rumsfeld. Wall Street Journal, April 9, 2003; Bender,
Bryan, and Robert Schlesinger. Arms And The Man: The Rumsfeld Vision. Boston Globe,
April 6, 2003. See also Trimble, Stephen. Cebrowski: Iraq War Offers Clues For
Transformation Agenda. Aerospace Daily, April 23, 2003.
6For examples of articles that take issue in varying degrees with the conclusion that the Iraq
war validated the administration’s transformation vision, see Stern, Seth. Military
‘Transformation’ May Not Mean Smaller Forces. Christian Science Monitor, May 7, 2003;
Helprin, Mark. Analyze This: Civilian Officials Reached A Point Of Sufficiency Only
Because They Were Pushed To It. National Review, May 5, 2003; O’Hanlon, Michael. A
Reality Check For The Rumsfeld Doctrine. London Financial Times, April 29, 2003: 13;
Arkin, William M. It Ain’t Broke After All. Los Angeles Times, April 27, 2003.
DoD budget accounts; and eliminate many DoD reporting requirements that
were instituted to assist Congress in conducting oversight of DoD activities.7
The Administration’s Transformation Vision. The administration
identified defense transformation as a major goal for DoD soon after taking office
and has since worked to define its transformation vision. In general, that vision calls
for shifting U.S. military planning away from a reliance on massed forces, sheer
firepower, military services operating in isolation from one another, and attrition-8
style warfare, and toward a greater reliance on speed and agility, stealth, precision
application of firepower by widely distributed forces, information technology, joint9
(i.e., integrated multi-service) operations, and effects-based warfare. Some
transformation advocates characterize these changes as shifting from an Industrial
Age approach to war to an Information Age approach. Transforming the military
along these lines, the administration and its supporters argue, will permit the United
States to apply military power more rapidly and flexibly in distant parts of the world,
outpace enemy decisionmaking on the battlefield, more effectively counter so-called10
asymmetric military threats, and generally achieve U.S. military combat goals with
fewer forces, more quickly, and at lower cost. The Administration’s transformation
vision also includes proposals for changing DoD’s business practices, particularly
with an eye toward streamlining those practices so as to accelerate the fielding of new
weapons and generate savings that can be used to invest in them.
7See, for example, Donnelly, John M. Hill Rebuffing Rumsfeld Plan To Kill Reports To
Congress. Defense Week Daily Update, May 15, 2003; Liang, John. House Democrats
Object To DOD Transformation Legislation. InsideDefense.com, May 14, 2003; Matthews,
William, and Gopal Ratnam. Transformation Act Draws U.S. Lawmakers’ Fire.
DefenseNews, May 5, 2003: 1; and Korb, Lawrence. Pentagon Independence.
DefenseNews, June 2, 2003: 29.
8Attrition-style warfare refers to a traditional warfighting strategy that focuses on seeking
out the enemy’s military forces, wherever they might be, and then using firepower to destroy
them piece by piece, through a process of gradual attrition, until the enemy is no longer
capable of fighting effectively.
9Effects-based warfare, also called effects-based operations, refers to a warfighting strategy
that has been proposed as an alternative to traditional attrition-style warfare. Rather than
focusing on seeking out and destroying enemy forces wherever they might be, effects-based
operations focuses on attacking selected key elements of the enemy’s ability to fight in a
coordinated manner. Under an effects-based strategy, U.S. forces might attack the enemy’s
military leadership, its military command-and-control systems, and the most politically and
militarily significant elements of the enemy’s fielded military forces while bypassing less
significant enemy military forces. The goal of effects-based warfare is to create specific
effects on the enemy that lead to a rapid collapse of the enemy’s willingness and ability to
fight, without having to go through a time-consuming and potentially costly effort to destroy
the bulk of the enemy’s military forces through a gradual process of attrition.
10Asymmetric threats refer to military capabilities that adversaries may field as part of a
strategy to avoid directly attacking perceived U.S. strengths and instead attack perceived
U.S. weaknesses. Potential asymmetric strategies include terrorism, use of nuclear,
chemical, or biological weapons, and development of so-called anti-access/area-denial
forces that are intended to prevent U.S. forces from establishing an initial foothold in a
contested overseas area of military operations.
Transformational vs. Legacy Programs. Within the discussion on
defense transformation, there has been significant debate over which programs
qualify as transformational and which do not. Advocates of various defense
programs have argued that their programs should be viewed as transformational, or
at least not as legacy – a label that in some eyes has become synonymous with
obsolescence and suitability for reduction or termination.
Defense program areas that have frequently been identified as closely associated
with the administration’s transformation vision include the following:
!precision-guided air-delivered weapons,
!lighter and more mobile Army ground forces,
!special operations forces,
!smaller and faster Navy surface ships,
!space systems and missile defense,
!forces for countering terrorists and weapons of mass destruction, and
!C4ISR systems that link U.S. and coalition military units into highly11
integrated networks possessing superior battlespace awareness.
Defense program areas that have been identified by various observers, correctly
or not, as non-transformational or legacy include the following:
!heavy armored forces for the Army,
!manned tactical aircraft,
!large, slower-moving Navy surface ships, and
!weapons and associated C4ISR systems that operate in an isolated, stand-
alone manner rather than as part of a network.
The Pre-War Debate. Prior to the Iraq war, the Administration had identified
transformational programs as a high defense investment priority. In submitting its
proposed FY2004 defense budget to Congress in February 2003, the Administration
stated that the request was the first to fully reflect its transformation vision and
included more than $24 billion in acquisition funding for transformational programs.
Some transformation advocates outside the administration argue that the
administration, though rhetorically supportive of transformation, has continued to
place too much emphasis on legacy programs and not enough on transformational
programs. They argue, for example, that the administration’s defense budget plans
devote too much funding to manned tactical aircraft programs and not enough
funding to programs for upgrading or replacing the Air Force’s long-range bombers
11C4ISR stands for command and control, communications, computers, intelligence,
surveillance and reconnaissance. C4ISR systems include things such as ground-based,
airborne, and spaced based sensors for locating, identifying and tracking friendly and enemy
forces, and computers, datalinks, and networking software for rapidly processing and
sharing information among networked friendly forces. Battlespace awareness refers to
having a real-time understanding of the location, identity, and movement of friendly and
enemy forces within a military area of operations.
(which can deliver large numbers of precision-guided weapons) or for acquiring
In the weeks leading up to the Iraq war, some observers speculated that the
conflict would test important elements of the Administration’s transformation vision,
including its increased reliance on precision-guided air-delivered weapons, special
operations forces, unmanned vehicles, and joint operations; the use of advanced
C4ISR systems for networked operations and improved battlespace awareness;
reduced reliance on massed ground forces; and a war plan reflecting an effects-based
approach more than traditional attrition-style warfare. Pre-war speculation that the
conflict would test the Administration’s transformation theories was strengthened by
reports that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld had played a strong role in shaping the
war plan to make it more in keeping with the Administration’s transformation vision,
particularly in terms of reducing the planned number of conventional ground forces
to be used in the invasion.
Debate Following the Iraq War. Those who support the idea that the Iraq
war validated the Administration’s transformation vision, or at least important
elements of it, could argue one or more of the following:
!The U.S.-led war effort, which produced a quick victory with low casualties,
featured a significant and successful use of precision-guided air-delivered
weapons, special operations forces, unmanned vehicles, joint operations, and
advanced C4ISR systems. It also employed a strategy that avoided attrition-
style warfare where possible and focused more on effects-based operations
directed against the key leadership and command-and-control targets and the
most politically and militarily significant elements of the enemy’s fielded
!The number of conventional ground forces making up the invasion force was
not only fairly small compared to the 1991 Persian Gulf war, but even smaller
than the administration had planned, due to Turkey’s decision not to permit
the Army’s 4th Infantry Division to use Turkish territory to invade Iraq from
the north and the administration’s decision to begin the war before this
division was redeployed to Kuwait.
!The speed and precision of the U.S.-led war effort significantly reduced Iraq’s
ability to mount a coordinated response, leading to scattered and largely
ineffective Iraqi defensive efforts and to many instances of Iraqi military units
in the field that were hopelessly uninformed about the location and
movements of U.S. forces.
!Lighter and more air-mobile Army forces, which the Army is currently
developing as part of the Administration’s transformation plan, would have
been useful, following Turkey’s decision, for quickly establishing a more
significant U.S. ground presence in northern Iraq.
Those taking a more skeptical view on whether the war validated the
Administration’s transformation vision could argue one or more of the following:
!The U.S. military force employed in the war was largely a product of
investment decisions made prior to the Bush administration. Although the
force incorporated some elements of the administration’s transformation plan,
it represented only a partial or embryonic version of the administration’s
vision for a transformed force. A more fully transformed force would have
featured, for example, more (and more capable) unmanned vehicles, a more
completely networked C4ISR environment, and the use of lighter, more
mobile Army forces that are now in development. The war thus did not
provide a pure test of a force fully transformed along the lines of the
!Iraq’s military was significantly inept in mounting a defense of the country.12
In light of Iraqi military ineptness, it is not clear that the war amounted to a
serious test of the Administration’s transformation plan. A more traditional
U.S.-led war effort, or an effort reflecting a transformation plan significantly
different from the Administration’s, might also have succeeded.
!The number of conventional ground forces making up the invasion force was
greater, according to some press reports, than some transformation advocates
had proposed during the early stages of planning for the Iraq war. And the
larger force that was used came close to being insufficient: If Iraqi forces had
mounted a more effective effort to cut the extended and thinly defended
supply lines linking U.S. ground forces to supply areas further south, the
invasion might have experienced a significant setback. In this sense, the
relatively small ground invasion force may have introduced greater risk into
the war plan than anticipated.
!Although heavy armored ground forces are not closely associated with the
Administration’s transformation plan and have been characterized as legacy
forces, the war underscored the value of heavy armored ground forces. Heavy
armored units were successful both in breaking through Iraqi defenses in the
south and in urban combat operations in Baghdad and other cities. They were
largely invulnerable to Iraqi rocket-propelled grenades and other light arms
and, in drawing fire from such weapons, proved valuable in uncovering the
locations of hidden Iraqi fighters, who could then be killed. More lightly
armored ground forces like those being developed by the Army as part of the
12Among other things, Iraq’s air force did not take to the air; important bridges in most cases
were not destroyed; armored units were left out in the open, where they would be vulnerable
to U.S. air attack (repeating a mistake made from the 1991 Persian Gulf war); ineffective
human-wave tactics were used to attack U.S. armored vehicles; and few apparent
preparations were made to mount an organized defense of Baghdad. In addition, Iraq did
not make use of options that might have complicated U.S. and coalition operations, such as
attacking the buildup of U.S. and British forces in Kuwait, igniting large numbers of oil
wells, blowing dams to flood likely invasion routes, and employing any available chemical
An alternative but similar argument is that Iraq’s response to the invasion reflected not Iraqi
military ineptness, but rather a decision by Iraq’s leaders to forego making a serious attempt
to resist the invasion in favor of a strategy of allowing the invasion effort to succeed, going
into hiding, and then reemerging after the withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign forces to win
back control of the country through the efforts of a reorganized Baath party. This scenario
is consistent with the sudden and apparently planned disappearance of much of Iraq’s top
leadership as U.S. forces entered Baghdad. For articles discussing this possibility, see Sale,
Richard. CIA Reported To Believe Saddam Is Alive. UPI.com, June 2, 2003; Saddam
Plotting Return To Power, Ex-Generals Say. New York Times on the Web, May 19, 2003.
(Reuters wire service story)
Administration’s transformation plan would have been more vulnerable to fire
from the kinds of weapons used by Iraqi defenders.
!Even if Iraqi military operations had been better planned and executed, the
war could not provide a major test of certain elements of the Administration’s
transformation plan. For example, although Iraq laid mines in the Persian
Gulf and may have attempted to fire antiship cruise missiles at coalition naval
forces, Iraq’s military capabilities and geographic options for countering
enemy naval forces were very limited. The war therefore could not pose a
significant test of the Administration’s programs for transforming U.S. naval
forces so as to make them effective against significant enemy maritime anti-
A potential intermediate view would combine arguments from both sides of the
debate. This view, while noting the success of the war effort and its significant use
of force elements associated with the Administration’s plan, would also acknowledge
that the U.S. force used in the war represented only a partial fulfillment of the
administration’s transformation plan, that Iraqi military ineptness was a significant
factor, that the war may offer mixed evidence concerning the Administration’s plan
for transforming Army forces, and that the war did not significantly test other
elements of the Administration’s transformation plans.
It should also be noted that observers who take a skeptical view on whether the
war validated the Administration’s transformation vision are not necessarily opposed
to that vision. They may support the vision but conclude that the war did not happen
to offer a clear validation of it.
An additional potential implication concerns asymmetric military threats. By
demonstrating to the world the formidable capabilities of conventional U.S. military
forces, the Iraq war may encourage other countries to place increased emphasis on
developing asymmetric means of countering the United States, including terrorism,
nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, cyberwarfare against U.S. military and
civilian computer systems, and anti-access/area-denial weapons (such as theater-
range ballistic missiles) that are intended to prevent U.S. forces from gaining a
foothold in an overseas operating area. In this sense, the success of the U.S.-led war
effort, it might be argued, may strengthen the need for U.S. defense transformation
to focus on developing capabilities for countering such asymmetric threats.13
Some of the program areas mentioned above, including Army ground forces,
special operations forces, and unmanned vehicles, are discussed in more detail in
subsequent sections of this report.
Size of Military Needed For National Military Strategy14
Concern Regarding Size of U.S. Forces. Prior to the Iraq war, some
observers had expressed concern that active-duty U.S. military forces are
13See, for example, Tiboni, Frank. War Game Stuns U.S. Strategists. DefenseNews, May
14This section prepared by Ronald O’Rourke, Specialist in National Defense.
insufficiently sized to execute the administration’s national military strategy, at least
not without placing an undue strain on military personnel and equipment or taking
undue risks in time of war. The Administration and its supporters argued in response
that U.S. forces were of sufficient size to carry out the strategy.
Administration’s Military Strategy. The administration’s military strategy
is sometimes called the 1-4-2-1 strategy because it calls for maintaining U.S. military
forces sufficient for:
! “protect[ing] the U.S. domestic population, its territory, and its critical
defense-related infrastructure against attacks emanating from outside U.S.
! “maintaining regionally tailored forces forward stationed and deployed in
[the four regions of] Europe, Northeast Asia, the East Asian littoral, and the
Middle East/Southwest Asia to assure allies and friends, counter coercion, and
deter aggression against the United States, its forces, allies, and friends,”
! “swiftly defeating attacks against U.S. allies and friends in any two
theaters of operation in overlapping timeframes,” and
! “decisively defeating an adversary in one of the two theaters in which U.S.
forces are conducting major combat operations by imposing America’s will
and removing any future threat it could pose. This capability will include the
ability to occupy territory or set the conditions for a regime change if so15
Pre-War Debate. Prior to the Iraq war, those who were concerned about
whether U.S. forces were sufficiently sized to carry out this strategy pointed to the
high operational tempo that certain parts of the military have maintained in recent
years, the large number of reserve forces that have been activated since the terrorist
attacks of September 11, 2001 (and the extended length of certain reserve-unit tours
of duty since that time), the interest among certain Army officers for increasing the
Army’s active-duty end strength so as to better support ongoing commitments in
various locations, gaps in forward deployments of Navy ships to certain overseas
regions, and the relationship of the total number of active air wings, divisions, and
ships to the potential requirements of fighting two regional wars in overlapping time
Some observers expressed concern that going to war in Iraq would stretch
certain active-duty U.S. forces too thinly. They argued that a war with Iraq could
reduce forces available for pursuing the global war on terrorism or leave the United
States with insufficient forces to deter or respond to potential aggression by North
Korea. Forces that were cited as at risk of being in short supply in the event of a war
with Iraq included special operations forces, certain kinds of aircraft (cargo planes,
tankers, jamming aircraft, surveillance aircraft, and battle-management aircraft), and
15U.S. Department of Defense. Quadrennial Defense Review Report. Washington, 2001.
(September 30, 2001) p. 17-21. The quoted passages are taken from pages 18, 20, and 21.
The strategy also calls for the United States “to maintain and prepare its forces for smaller-
scale contingencies in peacetime, preferably in concert with allies and friends.” (page 21)
specialized infantry vehicles, combat-support troops, and support gear for the Army.16
These concerns continued as the Iraq war began.17
Force Commitments During the War. Fighting the Iraq war while also
performing other duties – including war-on-terrorism operations in Afghanistan and
elsewhere, regional-deterrence operations, and homeland-defense operations –
resulted in the following commitments of active-duty U.S. forces:
!Army: A large fraction of the Army’s 10 active-duty divisions and additional
independent combat units were deployed or stationed outside the United
States. Three divisions (the 3rd Infantry Division, the 101st Airborne Division,
and the 4th Infantry Division), parts of two other divisions (the 82nd Airborne
Division and the 10th Mountain Division) and one or two independent combat
units (the 173rd Airborne Brigade and possibly the 2nd Cavalry Regiment) were
deployed to Iraq, part of a division (the 82nd Airborne Division) was deployed
to Afghanistan, two divisions (the 1st Armored Division and the 1st Infantry
Division) were stationed in Germany, and most of another division (the 2nd
Infantry Division) was stationed in Korea.
!Air Force: A high percentage of the Air Force’s cargo aircraft, tankers, and
certain other specialized aircraft, and a high percentage of the military’s radar-
jamming aircraft (which are operated by the Navy and Marine Corps), were
deployed to Iraq.
!Marine Corps: About 67% of the Marine Corps’ operating forces were
forward-deployed in Iraq and elsewhere, and almost 80% were either forward-
deployed, forward-based, or forward stationed. Two of the Marine Corps’
three Maritime Prepositioning Ship (MPS) squadrons were committed to the
Iraq war. On April 2, 2003, General Michael Hagee, the Commandant of the
Marine Corps reportedly stated: “So, what we have done is we have provided,
in my opinion, sufficient combat power to do what needs to be done in Iraq....
We have sufficient forces positioned to swiftly defeat the effort if North Korea
decides to do something. And what are we doing in the other areas – we are
!Navy: The Navy put to sea 67%-68% of its ships (54% or 55% in deployed
status and another 13% in non-deployed operations),19 including 7 or 8 of its
16See, for example, Tyson, Ann Scott. If More Duty Calls, Can US Military Deliver?
Christian Science Monitor, September 9, 2002; Richter, Paul. Two-War Strategy Faces
Test. Los Angeles Times, February 13, 2003.
17See, for example, Infield, Tom. War Leaves Little In Reserve For Military. Philadelphia
Inquirer, April 3, 2002.
18As quoted in Brown, Malina. Hagee: Marine Corps ‘Taking Risks’ In Areas Other Than
Iraq, N. Korea. Inside the Navy, April 7, 2003.
19On March 24, 2003, 167 of the Navy’s 305 ships were at sea. The figures for April 1,
2003 were 164 of 303 ships. Non-deployed status can include training operations and other
short-term operations. Normally, about 40%-45% of the Navy is at sea, including 25%-30%
in deployed status and the remainder in non-deployed operations.
12 aircraft carriers,20 7 of its 11 carrier air wings,21 25 to 29 of its 38
amphibious ships22 and, within the amphibious-ship total, 9 or 10 of the
Navy’s 12 “large-deck” amphibious assault ships.23 Admiral William Fallon,
the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, testified on March 18, 2003, on the eve
of the war, that “today’s surge [in deployments] has put a significant strain on
every Navy resource.”24
!Special Operations Forces (SOF): A very high portion of the country’s
Afghanistan, or other overseas locations.
In addition to these active-duty forces, 62% of the Military Sealift Command’s
prepositioning and surge sealift ships were involved in supporting the Iraq war.26
Post-War Debate. Supporters of the view that active-duty U.S. military
forces are sufficiently sized to execute the 1-4-2-1 strategy could argue the following:
!Even while U.S. forces were preparing for and fighting the Iraq war, the
military was able to augment its forces in Korea and the Western Pacific for
purposes of deterring possible North Korean aggression.
!Had a major conflict on the Korean Peninsula occurred while the Iraq war was
in progress, substantial additional combat forces were available for use there,
including Air Force bombers and tactical aircraft, Navy carriers and other
ships, Marine forces, and Army forces. Available Marine forces included
units based in Okinawa and Hawaii and the Marine Corps’ third MPS
squadron, which is based in the Western Pacific. Available Army units
included the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii, the 1st Cavalry Division in
Texas, the remaining part of the 2nd Infantry Division in Washington, and the
remaining parts of the 10th Mountain Division in New York, plus one or more
independent combat units based in other U.S. locations.
!The quick and relatively low-cost victory gained by the relatively small U.S.-
led force in the Iraq war, together with further technological improvements
planned for U.S. military forces planned in the future, suggests that future
regional conflicts on average might require fewer U.S. forces than currently
20Five of these carriers were used to fight the Iraq war. A sixth was on its way to the Persian
Gulf to replace one of the carriers operating in the Gulf, a seventh was deployed to the
Western Pacific, in part to deter potential aggression by North Korea, and an eighth was for
a time at sea apparently for training purposes.
21The Navy has 10 active-duty carrier air wings and 1 reserve carrier air wing.
22 Twenty-eight on March 24, 2003; 29 on April 1, 2003; 25 on April 7, 2003.
23Ten ships on March 24 and April 1, 2003, 9 on April 7, 2003.
24As quoted in Infield, Tom. War Leaves Little In Reserve For Military. Philadelphia
Inquirer, April 3, 2002.
25U.S. SOF forces total about 47,000 personnel. About 10,000 of these personnel are
combat forces; the rest are civil-affairs and support forces.
26Information provided to CRS by Military Sealift Command via e-mail and telephone , May
planned. If so, the current size of U.S. forces might be more than sufficient
for fighting two regional conflicts in overlapping time frames.
!Post-war demands for peacekeeping and constabulary forces in Iraq, while
substantial, are not permanent and can be met in part by forces from allied and
friendly countries. Some countries have already offered to provide such
Those skeptical of the view that active-duty U.S. military forces are sufficiently
sized to execute the 1-4-2-1 strategy could argue the following:
!Fighting the Iraq war while performing other duties left the country with a
reduced capability for responding to an additional major emergency on the
Korean Peninsula or elsewhere, particularly with regard to specialized Air
Force aircraft, Navy carriers and air wings, Navy amphibious ships and
Marine Forces, and special operations forces.
!While sufficient ground forces may have been available for fighting an
additional conflict in Korea, transporting those forces to Korea in a timely
manner might have been very difficult, given the large commitment of U.S.
airlift and sealift assets to the Iraq war.
!Iraqi military ineptness contributed to the quick and relatively low-cost victory
of the U.S.-led war effort. Future adversaries may not be as inept, and may
learn and apply their own lessons from the Iraq war, suggesting that future
regional conflicts on average might require U.S. forces at least as large as
those used in the Iraq war. If so, the size of U.S. forces needed in the future
to fight two regional conflicts in overlapping time frames might be larger than
suggested by the Iraq war.
!In February 2002, the Air Force was forced to begin making exceptions to the
rotational cycle for its 10 Aerospace Expeditionary Forces (AEFs) so as to
meet overseas demands for Air Force personnel in certain career fields. As a
result, some Air Force personnel have had to deploy longer or more frequently
than the AEF standard.
!The Iraq war has created a post-war demand for maintaining tens of thousands
of Army soldiers in Iraq for peacekeeping and constabulary purposes,28 adding
to existing demands for Army peacekeeping and constabulary forces in
Afghanistan, the Balkans, and other locations. Maintaining significant
numbers of peacekeeping and constabulary forces in Iraq and elsewhere might
require the Army to use large numbers of activated reserve forces for extended
periods of time – a signal that the active-duty force is not sufficiently sized.
The Iraq war, coming at a time of elevated tensions on the Korean Peninsula,
may highlight the difference between conflicts that occur in overlapping time frames
vs. those that occur simultaneously. U.S. strategy is to have forces sufficient for
winning two major regional conflicts that occur in overlapping time frames, but not
27Bowman, Tom. Few Allies Offer Help On Policing In Iraq. Baltimore Sun, May 31, 2003;
Squitieri, Tom. Relief For U.S. Troops Lacking. USA Today, May 30, 2003: 1.
28Moniz, Dave. Ex-Army Boss: Pentagon Won’t Admit Reality In Iraq. USA Today, June
3, 2003: 1; Gordon, Michael R. How Much Is Enough? New York Times on the Web. May
necessarily for winning two such conflicts that occur simultaneously. The
distinction, though important, is often overlooked in popular descriptions of U.S.
The requirement for winning two conflicts that occur in overlapping time frames
refers in part to an assumption that the second conflict will start some number of
weeks after the first, and that certain U.S. forces that are needed primarily or most
urgently in the early stages of a regional conflict – such as certain airlift and sealift
forces, some kinds of aircraft, cruise-missile-armed Navy ships, and perhaps Marine
amphibious forces – can therefore be rotated from the first conflict to the second.
Such forces are sized closer to the requirements for fighting one conflict rather than
two. If this assumption proves incorrect – if the second conflict begins before such
forces can be rotated from the first conflict to the second – the U.S. ability to
prosecute the second conflict successfully or at acceptable cost could be reduced.
The combination of the Iraq war and the tense situation on the Korean Peninsula
provides policymakers with a potential case study for reviewing the planning
assumption of overlapping time frames and the potential risks of planning U.S. forces
on that basis.
Overseas Base Access29
Uncertain Access as a Planning Issue. The Iraq war, like the war in
Afghanistan in 2001-2002, appears to have underscored how, in the post-Cold War
era, U.S. access to foreign bases and territory in time of war can be uncertain and,
when provided, can come with restrictions from host nations on how the bases and
territory can be used. This is potentially significant, because some military analysts
have argued that U.S. defense programs must take uncertain access to foreign bases
into account in planning U.S. military forces.
War in Afghanistan. In the war in Afghanistan, few air bases in countries
close to Afghanistan were made available to support U.S. military operations, and
bases in Pakistan that were made available had to be used in a low-profile manner,
with a limited U.S. presence and a preference for conducting operations at night
rather than during the day. As a result of these limitations, sea-based forces operating
in the Northern Arabian Sea – carrier-based Navy and Marine Corps aircraft, Marine
forces on Navy amphibious ships, and special operations forces deploying from a
Navy carrier – played a significant role in U.S. military operations in Afghanistan,
particularly in the earlier stages of the conflict.
Iraq War. In the case of the Iraq war, protracted negotiations with Turkey
ended with a decision by the Turkish government to deny U.S. ground forces and
aircraft the use of bases and territory in Turkey. Turkey’s decision forced significantth
alterations to the U.S. war plan: The plan to have the Army’s 4 Infantry Division
invade northern Iraq from Turkey, and thereby confront Iraqi leaders with significantth
ground invasions from both the north and south, had to be abandoned. The 4
Infantry Division was instead redeployed to Kuwait, and the United States conducted
the war with a much smaller U.S. ground presence in northern Iraq that consisted
29This section prepared by Ronald O’Rourke, Specialist in National Defense.
primarily of a few hundred U.S. special operations forces personnel and 2,000
personnel from the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade who parachuted into the area.
Fighting the war this way reportedly complicated the U.S. politically sensitive goal
of preventing Turkish forces from entering northern Iraq and may have broadened
escape options for Iraqi leaders fleeing from U.S. forces that were advancing into
Baghdad from the south.
Turkey’s decision not to allow its air bases to be used by U.S. combat and
support aircraft similarly complicated U.S. air operations during the war. Air Force
combat aircraft could not fly into northern Iraq directly from Turkish bases, forcing
them to fly into that area from more distant bases, and sorties of Navy aircraft flying
into Iraq from two carriers in the Eastern Mediterranean were reportedly reduced
because Air Force tankers needed to refuel the Navy planes had to fly from more
distant bases in Eastern Europe and consequently could provide them with less on-
station in-flight refueling capacity.
U.S. war plans were also complicated by, among other things, Saudi Arabia’s
reported unwillingness to allow its air bases and its territory near Iraq to be used by
most types of U.S. strike aircraft30 and invading U.S. ground forces, its decision to
not permit its ports on the Persian Gulf to be used by U.S. military sealift ships
(which reportedly contributed to a bottleneck at Kuwaiti port facilities for unloading
equipment and supplies from those ships),31 and Jordan’s reported unwillingness to
allow its bases and territory to be used, at least overtly, by U.S. aircraft and regular
In the weeks leading up to the war, there was uncertainty about whether Saudi
Arabia would permit the United States to use the large U.S.-built air operations
command center at Prince Sultan Air Base south of Riyadh. Although the Saudi
government decided to permit the facility to be used, U.S. military planners, as a
hedge against the possibility that the Saudi government would decide otherwise,
quickly built, at substantial cost, a substitute facility at Al Udeid Air Base near Doha
During the war, the failure of several Navy Tomahawk cruise missiles using
certain flight paths over Turkey and Saudi Arabia prompted a decision by both
countries to close down those flight paths for use by Tomahawk missiles for the
remainder of the conflict, possibly complicating U.S. planning for subsequent
Tomahawk cruise missile attacks.
Potential Program Implications. Analysts who stress uncertainties about
access to foreign bases argue that U.S. defense programs should be restructured to
30Saudi Arabia reportedly did allow its air bases to be used by F-16CGs armed with weapons
for attacking Iraqi radar systems. Gertz, Bill, and Roman Scarborough. Inside the Ring.
Washington Times, April 25, 2003: 5. (Item entitled “Saudi versatility II”)
31Josar, David. Transportation Groups Tackle Oversized Load. European Stars and Stripes,
April 8, 2003; Wilkinson, Jeff. U.S. Supply Loads Are Taxing Kuwait’s Ports, Airports.
Philadelphia Inquirer, March 19, 2003.
place greater emphasis on forces that are less dependent on such bases. Examples of
such forces that are usually cited include the following:
!manned and unmanned aircraft with long operating ranges, fuel-efficient
engines, and large payloads (i.e., aircraft that can operate from distant bases,
including bases in the United States, loiter over distant battlefields for long
periods of time, and attack many targets before having to return home, while
requiring a minimum amount of in-flight refueling),
!aircraft that can operate from short or austere airfields (which might be the
only kind of air bases available in certain locations),
!sea-based forces, such as Navy and Marine Corps forces, that can conduct in-
theater operations from nearby international waters; and
!long-range weapons such as cruise missiles and, potentially, directed-energy
weapons such as lasers, that can destroy targets hundreds of miles away.
Advocates of both long-range aircraft and naval forces have long cited their relative
independence from in-theater land bases as an important characteristic in their
Some observers believe the experience with base access during the Iraq war may
lead to increased interest in a new operational concept (i.e., a new approach to
warfighting) referred to as sea basing, or more formally as enhanced networked sea
basing.33 Although Navy and Marine Corps forces have long been referred to as sea-
based forces, Navy and Marine Corps officials are now using the term sea basing
more specifically, to refer to a proposed new approach for launching, directing and
supporting expeditionary military operations directly from ships at sea.34 Navy and
Marine Corps officials began to discuss the sea basing concept at about the time of
the war in Afghanistan. Although the sea basing concept has been proposed
primarily by Navy and Marine Corps officials, it can be expanded into a joint concept
under which Army or Air Force units might also be staged from bases at sea. DoD
officials have expressed some interest in the concept.35 Restructuring U.S. forces in
32Some advocates of defense transformation argue that in-theater land bases, even if made
available to U.S. forces, might become vulnerable in the future to attack by enemy theater-
range ballistic missiles. For this somewhat different reason, they argue that DoD plans
should place less emphasis on forces requiring access to in-theater land bases, and more
emphasis on forces that are less dependent on access to such bases.
33See, for example, Hodge, Nathan. Iraq War Seen As Test of Sea Basing. Defense Week,
April 21, 2003: 6; Brown, Malina. Navy, Marine Officials Argue Iraq War Validates Need
For Sea Basing. Inside the Navy, April 14, 2003: 1.
34Under the sea basing concept, U.S. forces based at sea, rather than beginning an
expeditionary operation by first establishing or gaining control of an intermediate land base
somewhere in the theater of operations, would instead launch, direct and support the
operation directly from the ships at sea. Functions normally performed from the
intermediate land base – including command and control, indirect fire support, and logistics
support – would instead be performed from the ships at sea, while the expeditionary force
proceeds directly from the ships to the inland objective.
35MacRae, Catherine. Aldridge Wants Top Defense Scientists To Study Future Of
accordance with the sea basing concept could lead to numerous changes in DoD ship,
aircraft, and weapon acquisition programs.
Other observers argue that the issue of overseas base access, while a concern,
has been exaggerated. They could argue that although the United States encountered
challenges with base access in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States in both cases
was able to secure sufficient base access to support its operations, in part by
capturing air bases inside both countries. They can also note that, following the 1991
Persian Gulf war, many observers argued that Iraq had erred by allowing the U.S.-led
coalition to build up forces in the Persian Gulf for 6 months without challenge, and
that U.S. adversaries in the future would not repeat this mistake. In the Iraq war, they
could argue, this expectation proved inaccurate, as Iraq once again allowed U.S. and
British forces several months to build up forces in the Persian Gulf. Observers who
believe the base-access issue has been exaggerated can also note that, other things
held equal, long-range systems can be more expensive than short-range systems.
They could argue that given the cost of long-range systems and the likelihood that the
United States will be able to gain at least some access to in-region bases, DoD should
maintain its current mix of long- and short-range capabilities.
A Pre-War Controversy. One of the most significant defense-program
debates going into the Iraq war – and potentially one of those most significantly
influenced by the war – concerns the future size and composition of the active-duty
Army. Issues involved in this debate include, among other things:
!the number of active-duty Army divisions to be maintained in the future;
!programs for upgrading the Army’s M1 Abrams tanks and other heavily
armored vehicles; and
!the Army’s plan to shift to a mix of combat forces that includes fewer heavily
armored combat units and a greater number of lighter and more mobile
The Army’s Transformation Plan. The Army currently includes 10 active-
duty divisions, as well as some additional independent active-duty combat brigades.
Several of the divisions and independent brigades are heavily armored units.
The Army’s transformation plan, which was initiated in 1999 by Army Chief of
Staff Eric K. Shinseki, would leave the number of active-duty Army divisions
unchanged at 10 but shift the composition of the Army toward a mix featuring fewer
heavily armored units built around armored vehicles like the M1 Abrams tank and
Seabasing. Inside the Pentagon, November 14, 2002: 1; Castelli, Christopher J. DOD Panel
Mulls Seabasing Ideas, Including Mobile Offshore Bases. Inside the Navy, November 18,
Inside the Navy, November 25, 2002.
36This section prepared by Edward F. Bruner, Specialist in National Defense.
the M2 Bradley fighting vehicle, and a greater number of more-mobile Army combat
units built around more lightly armored combat vehicles.
The principal goal of the transformation plan is to significantly improve the
Army’s ability to rapidly deploy significant ground combat forces to conflicts in
distant areas. The plan was prompted by the 1999 U.S. military operation in Kosovo,
which exposed inadequacies in the Army’s ability to rapidly deploy heavy forces, and
by the Army’s initial reaction to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. In the
latter instance, the Army was able to quickly deploy some lightly armed units, such
as the 82nd Airborne Division, to northeast Saudi Arabia to defend against a potential
Iraqi follow-on attack into that country,37 but some observers at the time said that
those forces would serve as little more than “speed bumps” in slowing down any
The first step in the Army’s transformation plan is to create 6 new mobile
combat brigades over the next few years. These brigades are to be built around the
lightly armored Stryker wheeled combat vehicle and consequently are called Stryker
Brigade Combat Teams (SBCTs) or simply Stryker Brigades. The 6 Stryker Brigades
would constitute the core of the Army’s “Interim” transformation force.
The second step in the Army’s transformation plan would be to create a group
of more technologically advanced mobile combat units that would be the eventual
successors to both the legacy force38 and the Stryker Brigades. These more high-tech
combat units would be built around the Future Combat System (FCS), a collection
of advanced combat vehicles and supporting systems that is now in development.
The first FCS-equipped unit is to enter service in FY2008. Army units built around
the FCS would constitute the Army’s longer-term “Objective” transformation force.
To help finance programs for the Interim and Objective forces, funding has been
reduced for many programs related to the Army’s current “Legacy” force, including
programs for upgrading some of the Army’s M1 tanks and other armored vehicles.
Reported Tensions with OSD. Although the intent of the Army’s
transformation plan – shifting toward forces with greater mobility – appears broadly
consistent with the Administration’s vision for defense transformation, the Office of
the Secretary of Defense (OSD) reportedly is dissatisfied with Army transformation
efforts, believing them to be insufficiently aggressive. OSD is widely rumored in the
37Immediately following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, U.S. officials were concerned that Iraqi
forces might continue their advance into northeastern Saudi Arabia so as to seize important
Saudi oil fields and port facilities located there. If they had done so, it would have given
Iraq control over a major source of oil and significantly complicated for U.S. military
planners the task of mounting a counter-offensive to expel Iraqi forces from territory they
38The Army uses “legacy force” as a neutral term for referring to Army units built around
weapons and equipment procured in previous years. Although, as mentioned earlier in the
report, the term “legacy” has become synonymous in some eyes with obsolescence and
suitability for reduction or termination, the Army’s use of the term does not carry that
defense trade press to be interested in reducing the total number of Army active-duty
divisions from 10 to 8. OSD also expressed interest last year in reducing the number
of Stryker Brigades from 6 to 4, in part to make more funding available for programs
for the Objective force.
There have been numerous press reports of tension between OSD and the
Army’s senior leadership over the future size and composition of the active-duty
Army. Many observers believe that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s
announcement in early 2002 of his preferred choice for General Shinseki’s successor,
which was made more than a year before the end of Shinseki’s term as Army Chief
of Staff, reflected this tension and was intended to prematurely turn Shinseki into a
lame duck. Some observers believe that OSD’s views on Army transformation
efforts are conditioned by a general OSD preference for air power over ground
power. Others believe OSD’s perceived tepid support for the Army’s transformation
plan is due in part to the fact that it was initiated in 1999, during the Clinton
Pre-War Debate Over the Plan. Independent of reported tensions between
OSD and the Army’s leadership, the Army’s transformation plan has generated
significant debate among military analysts.
Merits of Maintaining 10 Divisions. Supporters of the Army’s intention
to maintain 10 active-duty divisions have argued that this is the correct number for
carrying out the Army’s portion of the U.S. national military strategy. Ten active-
duty Army divisions, together with 3 active-duty Marine Corps divisions, will be
sufficient, they have argued, for fighting two regional conflicts in overlapping time
frames while carrying out additional responsibilities in other areas. If additional U.S.
ground forces are needed, they have argued, they can be mobilized from the Army
and Marine Corps reserves.
Some opponents of the 10-division figure have argued that it is insufficient to
carry out the Army’s portion of the national military strategy. The high operational
tempo of active-duty Army forces in recent years, and the need to mobilize large
numbers of Army reserve personnel for extended periods of active duty since
September 11, 2001, they have argued, is evidence that a 10-division force is
insufficient to carry out the Army’s various ongoing duties around the world,
particularly after 9/11. Other opponents of the 10-division figure (including,
reportedly, officials within OSD) argue that a 10-division force is larger than what
the Army will need in the future to carry out its portion of the national military
strategy. They argue that advances in U.S. warfighting technology, and changes in
U.S. military doctrine, might permit the Army to be reduced to as few as 6 active-
duty divisions – 2 divisions for each of 2 overlapping regional conflicts, and 2 more
divisions for carrying out smaller-scale operations elsewhere.
39For recent examples of articles reporting tension between OSD and the Army, see
Bowman, Tom. Rumsfeld Conducting War On Army. Baltimore Sun, May 7, 2003;
Caldwell, Robert J. Rumsfeld Vs. The Army. San Diego Union-Tribune, May 4, 2003.
Merits of Planned Shift to Lighter Forces. Supporters of the Army’s plan
to shift to a greater reliance on lighter forces have argued that it represents a good
strategy for making the Army more mobile and responsive. They have argued that
Stryker vehicles can be transported to distant locations aboard Air Force airlift
aircraft much more easily than the Army’s current heavily armored vehicles, that
Stryker-equipped units will derive their survivability on the battlefield from superior
situational awareness, stand-off capabilities, and agility rather than from armor, that
Stryker vehicles would be more useful than heavily armored vehicles for
maneuvering through countryside featuring poor roads and bridges, and that they
would be highly effective for combat operations in congested urban areas.
Opponents of the Army’s plan for shifting to lighter forces have questioned the
survivability in combat of more lightly armored vehicles like the Stryker. The
Stryker Brigades, they argue, could prove to be a good way for rapidly deploying
Army personnel into combat situations where they will be defeated by opposing
forces. Opponents of the Army’s transformation plan have also expressed doubts
about the technical feasibility of the FCS, which is to be significantly more mobile
than the Army’s current heavily armored vehicles while at the same time offering a
degree of protection against enemy fire similar to that of heavily armored vehicles.
Even using new technology, opponents have argued, it will not prove possible for the40
FCS to offer both things at the same time.
Army Operations in the Iraq War. Active-duty Army combat units, along
with Marine Corps and British combat units, played a central role in the Iraq war.
Major Army units involved in the war included the 3rd Infantry Division
(Mechanized), the 101st Airborne Division, a brigade from the 82nd Airborne
Division, and (in northern Iraq) the 173rd Airborne Brigade. The Army’s main
fighting forces for most of the war thus totaled less than 3 full divisions. U.S. war
plans originally called for an additional Army unit, the 4th Infantry Division
(Mechanized), to invade Iraq from Turkey. Following Turkey’s decision not to allow
its territory to be used by U.S. forces for staging an invasion of Iraq, this division was
redeployed to Kuwait and participated in a few combat operations toward the end of
40For more on the Army’s transformation plan, see CRS Report RS20787, Army
Modernization and Transformation: Overview and Issues for Congress, by Edward F.
Bruner. Washington, 2003. (Updated periodically) 6 p.
conflict.41 Thousands of additional Army special operations forces were also
involved in the war (see the section on special operations forces.)
The Iraq war demonstrated that U.S. ground forces are highly capable on the
battlefield in conflicts against opposing ground forces. The U.S. and British ground
campaign benefitted from well-trained soldiers and Marines, good equipment,
effective air support from Air Force and Navy, and superior situational awareness.
U.S. and British ground forces appeared to have achieved some tactical surprise at
the start of the war, in spite of the lengthy pre-war buildup, by starting their attack
before the 4th Infantry Division deployed to Kuwait and before the start of extensive
U.S. air attacks. Once the invasion was underway, U.S. and British ground forces
achieved further tactical surprise through their high speed of advance, which
involved bypassing some Iraqi towns and military units, and their use of unexpected
routes. The flexible battle plan and rapid maneuvers used by U.S. ground forces kept
Iraqi forces off-balance. Some ground engagements involved fierce fighting, but
most weapons used by Iraqi forces were no match for the Army’s M1 tanks and M2
Bradley fighting vehicles.
Potential Program Implications.
Number of Active-Duty Army Divisions. Following the Iraq war, those
who support reducing the Army to less than 10 active-duty Army divisions could
argue that the relatively small number of Army divisions used for most of the war –
the equivalent of less than 3 full divisions – and the dominance achieved by those
units in combat, demonstrate that the Army can safely be reduced to less than 10
active-duty divisions while still retaining a capacity, in conjunction with Marine
Corps divisions, for fighting two regional conflicts in overlapping time frames and
performing additional duties elsewhere. The Iraq war, they could argue, is consistent
with the planned path of U.S. defense transformation, which envisages the United
States fighting future conflicts with less reliance on massive ground forces like those
assembled for the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
41On March 21, 2003 the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) (3ID) and the Marine Corp’s
1st Expeditionary Force (I MEF) entered Iraq from Kuwait and began their drive north to
Baghdad while British forces concentrated on southern Iraq, including the city of Basrah.st
On March 28, the 101 Airborne Division joined the attack. On April 4, U.S. ground forces
were more than 300 miles into Iraq, and 3ID captured Saddam International Airport on the
outskirts of Baghdad. That same day, the Iraqi Republican Guard Nida Division was
declared combat ineffective and the Republican Guard Baghdad Division surrendered 2,500
soldiers to I MEF. On April 7, 3ID conducted a raid into the center of Baghdad with about
70 Abrams Tanks and 60 Bradley fighting vehicles. On April 9, U.S. Central Command
announced that Saddam Hussein’s regime no longer controlled Baghdad. By April 15, theth
4 Infantry Division (Mechanized) was engaged in combat operations north of Baghdad and
U.S. special operations forces, Marines, and U.S. Army airborne forces occupied various
cities in northern Iraq, including Kirkuk and Tikrit. On April 15, 25 days after the ground
attack began, U.S. Central Command declared major combat to be over. At that point,
another two Army armored divisions and an Army armored cavalry regiment were still
deploying into the theater.
Those who support the idea of maintaining at least 10 active-duty Army
divisions could argue, following the war, that the original U.S. war plan called for
using an additional division (the 4th Infantry Division) throughout the war, that Army
supply lines were stretched to the breaking point and thinly defended as a result of
the rapid advance to Baghdad, that the number of U.S. ground forces needed for the
invasion was reduced by the contribution of an additional division by a coalition
partner (Britain), which is something the United States cannot count on happening
in future conflicts, that about 148,000 Army National Guard and Army Reserve
members were activated to help fulfill Army commitments during the war, and that
the commitment of Army forces for the Iraq war exacerbated an ongoing situation of
high worldwide operational tempo for both active and reserve Army units.42
Programs for Upgrading Armored Vehicles. Supporters of reinstituting
funding for upgrading the Army’s M1 tanks and other heavily armored vehicles
would argue that the Iraq war dramatically demonstrated the continuing value of
heavy armor in modern warfare, not only for defeating enemy forces in open terrain,
as many expected, but for conducting combat operations in urban areas, which many
observers did not anticipate. Given the importance of operations by heavily armored
units in the Iraq war, they could argue, the United States should ensure that all of its
armored forces are fully upgraded, particularly for fighting two regional conflicts in
overlapping time frames against capable enemy forces. They could also argue that
upgrading all the Army’s armored vehicles will provide more time to develop the
FCS, and thus reduce technical risk in the FCS development program.
Opponents of reinstituting funding for armor upgrades could argue that the war
demonstrated that U.S. armored units are already vastly superior to enemy forces and
that expending funds on further upgrades would therefore be unnecessary and
wasteful. They can note that the armored vehicles that were used successfully by the
Army and Marine Corps for most of the war are not the most upgraded versions in
the U.S. inventory, and that the Army already has a substantial number of more
highly upgraded versions that can be used, if needed, to fight more capable enemy
forces in the future.43 In light of this, they might argue, the Army can successfully
rely on its current plan to maintain a force that includes a mix of highly upgraded and
somewhat less upgraded (but still very capable) armored vehicles.
Plan to Shift to Lighter Forces. Supporters of the Army’s plan to shift to
a mix of forces including fewer heavily armored combat units and a greater number
of lighter and more mobile combat units could argue that the battlefield dominance
achieved by the relatively small number of Army and Marine Corps armored units
42For an article discussing this issue in the context of the Army’s post-war constabulary
responsibilities in Iraq, see Gordon, Michael R. How Much Is Enough? New York Times
on the Web. May 30, 2003.
43The main Army and Marine Corps units involved in the Iraq war, such as the 3rd Infantry
Division and 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, were not equipped with the most upgraded
armored vehicles in the U.S. inventory. The Army’s most upgraded armored vehiclesth
belong to the 4 Infantry Division, which was redeployed from the Eastern Mediterranean
to Kuwait while the war was underway and did not participate in combat operations until
the final days of the conflict.
in the Iraq war demonstrated that the United States currently has more than enough
heavily armored combat units to fight future conflicts. They might also argue that
lighter and more mobile units like the planned Stryker Brigades would have been
valuable during the Iraq war in helping the United States establish a more formidable
ground presence in northern Iraq following Turkey’s decision not to allow its
territory to be used as a staging area for U.S. forces. From their perspective, in the
days following the end of major fighting in the war, Stryker vehicles would have
been useful in Iraqi cities for helping to reestablish civil order. The effectiveness of
the M1 tank in combat operations in Baghdad, they could argue, resulted in part from
Baghdad’s broad avenues and sizeable public plazas and other open areas, which
gave the M1s room to maneuver and long lines of sight. Future urban combat
situations, they are likely to maintain, may take place in cities and towns with
narrower roads and shorter lines of sight, which could make M1s less effective and
potentially more vulnerable to enemy attack.
Opponents of the Army’s plan to shift the mix of its forces could argue that the
Iraq war, by demonstrating the continued value of heavy armor in modern combat,
suggests that the United States should think twice about reducing the number of
Army armored units, particularly given the requirement for being able to fight two
regional conflicts in overlapping time frames. They could also argue that Stryker
vehicles would have been vulnerable to some of the weapons that Iraqi forces used
ineffectively against M1 tanks and M2 Bradley fighting vehicles, and that the war
thus demonstrated the inadvisability of shifting the Army toward more lightly
armored combat units. In particular, they might argue that the Army should be
cautious in its planning for the FCS to use situational awareness as compensation for
less armor protection. They may also argue that, although heavily armored units are
more difficult to transport, the United States was able to deploy sufficient numbers
of them to start the war in a reasonable amount of time, and that given the potential
vulnerability to enemy fire of lightly armored vehicles, the need to improve the
Army’s rapid-response capability should be met not by lightening Army forces, but
by investing in improved airlift and sealift capabilities, such as wing-in-ground
aircraft44 and very high-speed sealift ships (see sections on air mobility and sealift).
Combat Aircraft and Precision-Guided Munitions45
Program Issues Going Into the War. The Iraq war occurred as Congress
was considering a number of significant issues relating to programs for combat
aircraft and precision-guided munitions, including the following:
!the degree to which air power can substitute for ground forces in future
!the balance of funding for manned aircraft vs. unmanned air vehicles (UAVs);
!the balance of funding for shorter-ranged tactical aircraft vs. long-ranged
44Wing-in-ground aircraft are aircraft that fly very close to the surface so as to reduce drag,
increase lift, and thereby transport heavy loads more efficiently.
45This section prepared by Christopher Bolkcom, Specialist in National Defense.
!funding for specific tactical aircraft programs, including the F/A-22 fighter,
the F/A-18E/F strike fighter, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the V-22 tilt-rotor
aircraft; and the RAH-66 Comanche helicopter program;
!funding for specialized combat-support aircraft;
!funding for specific UAV programs, including the Global Hawk and Predator
!funding for various precision-guided munition programs.
Combat Aircraft Operations in the Iraq War. The Iraq war was the latest
in a series of U.S. military operations dating back to the 1980s where the United46
States has thoroughly dominated the air war. U.S. and British combat aircraft
played a central role in the Iraq war, as expected, destroying thousands of Iraqi
targets of various kinds. Unlike the 1991 Persian Gulf war, when some Iraqi aircraft
flew against U.S. and coalition aircraft, Iraq in this conflict, with one reported4748
exception, apparently did not put any manned aircraft into the air.
An Air Force statistical summary of the war states that a total of about 1,801
U.S., British, Australian and Canadian aircraft (excluding U.S. Army helicopters)
were involved in the conflict. These aircraft flew a total of 41,404 sorties (excluding
sorties by special operations and Army helicopters, and “coalition sovereignty49
flights”). At the height of the war, roughly 1,500 to 2,000 sorties, including roughly
46In addition to the Iraq war, the war in Afghanistan in 2001-2002, and the operation in
Kosovo in 1999, this series includes operations in Bosnia in 1995, the 1991 Persian Gulf
war, the operation in Panama in 1989, strikes against targets in Libya in 1986, and the
operation in Grenada in 1983.
47According to one report, “At least two Iraqi ultralight aircraft flew over a patch of desert
Friday [March 28, 2003] where thousands of U.S. soldiers and several command and control
facilities are located.... Both of the small, prop-driven aircraft spotted here evaded a tight
air defense system and flew over an assembly area packed with helicopters, tanks, Bradley
fighting vehicles and other military equipment. They flew off before the anti-aircraft crews
could get permission to shoot them down.... The aircraft were probably being flown by
pilots drawn from one of the paramilitary forces loyal to the Hussein regime, or by Iraqi
special forces, [one officer] said....Although none could be certain, officers here believe this
is the first time an enemy aircraft has flown over American ground forces since the Korean
War. (Naylor, Sean D. Iraqi Ultralights Spotted Over U.S. Troops. ArmyTimes.com, March
48Various theories have been advanced as to why the Iraqi Air Force did not fly during the
war, including the following: (1) Few Iraqi aircraft were in condition to fly, and rapid U.S.
attacks at the start of the war prevented these aircraft from taking to the air before being
destroyed or pinned down. (2) Iraqi officials decided that attempting to put their aircraft
into the air to contest U.S. and British aircraft would be pointless or was not necessary to
the success of their military strategy, which relied on contesting U.S. and British forces in
cities, in which case it was better to preserve the aircraft for potential post-war use following
the hoped-for defeat of U.S. and British forces. (3) Iraqi officials feared that Iraqi pilots, if
allowed to fly, might in some cases fly their aircraft to Iran (as some did in the 1991 Persian
Gulf war) or turn against their own leaders and attack Iraqi leadership targets.
49U.S. Department of Defense. Operation IRAQI FREEDOM – By The Numbers.
(Assessment and Analysis Division, USCENTAF, T. Michael Moseley, Lt Gen, USAF
750 to 1,000 strike sorties, were reportedly flown each day. Coalition forces dropped
or fired a total of 29,199 bombs and missiles. Of these, about 19,948, or about 68%,
were precision guided – about the same as the 69%-share in the war in Afghanistan,
and many times higher than the 9%-share in the 1991 Persian Gulf war, but less than
the 90%-share that some observers had predicted prior to the Iraq war. The total of
19,948 precision-guided weapons includes 802 Tomahawk cruise missiles fired by
U.S. Navy surface combatants and submarines.50
Preliminary DoD estimates are that aircraft-delivered precision-guided weapons
found their targets as much as 98% of the time, and that the percentage of Tomahawk
missiles that found their targets might be almost as high.51 Past experience, however,
suggests that as combat records are reviewed in more detail, these percentages may
well be revised downward. The success rate for the Tomahawk missile in the 1991
Persian Gulf war, for example, was reduced significantly after the results of
Tomahawk attacks in that war were reviewed in detail.
As expected, U.S., British, and Australian combat aircraft in the Iraq war
attacked various kinds of targets in Iraq, including leadership targets, command-and-
control facilities, air-defense systems, and fielded military forces. Perhaps more
surprising to some, fixed-wing aircraft armed with precision-guided weapons proved
useful in providing close air support to U.S. and British ground forces engaged in
urban combat operations.52 Perhaps more than the public realized at the time, U.S.
air power decimated key Iraqi Republican Guard divisions defending the southern
approaches to Baghdad, facilitating the rapid advance to the city by U.S. ground
forces.53 U.S. and British air operations benefitted from networking technology that
permitted information about Iraqi targets to be passed quickly from surveillance
aircraft to strike aircraft.
DoD reports that 7 aircraft – 1 A-10 Warthog attack plane, 4 AH-64 Apache
helicopters, and 2 AH-1W Cobra helicopters – were shot down by Iraqi ground fire.
Another 13 aircraft were lost due to other causes, including 2 fighters (1 U.S. and 1
Commander, April 30, 2003, Unclassified) 16 p.
50Operation Iraqi Freedom - By The Numbers, op cit.
51See, for example, Capaccio, Tony. Raytheon Tomahawks Miss Few Iraqi Targets, Navy
Says. Bloomberg.com, April 12, 2003; Weisman, Jonathan. Pentagon Says Some Missiles
Strayed. Washington Post, March 30, 2003: 23.
52See, for example, Lowe, Christian. Urban Combat Role Grows For Airstrikes.
DefenseNews, April 21, 2003: 19.
53Some air power supporters are concerned that the relatively low amount of wartime
reporting on air operations in the Iraq war compared to the extensive wartime reporting on
ground operations could disadvantage air power programs in post-war deliberations on U.S.
defense programs. (Scott, William B. Out Of Sight. Aviation Week & Space Technology,
April 21, 2003: 24; Cooper, Christopher, and David Cloud. Branches Of U.S. Military Fight
Over Media Attention In Iraq. Wall Street Journal, March 26, 2003.)
British) lost in friendly-fire incidents and several aircraft lost due to accidents.54 The
small number of aircraft lost due to enemy fire was consistent with U.S. experience
in other recent military operations.55
U.S. and British strike operations were supported by a variety of specialized
combat-support aircraft, including Air Force E-3 Airborne Warning and Control
System (AWACS) aircraft, Navy E-2C Airborne Early Warning aircraft (the Navy’s
analogue to the E-3), Air Force E-8 Joint Surveillance, Targeting and Reconnaissance
System (JSTARS) ground-surveillance aircraft, and Navy and Marine Corps EA-6B
The United States used more than 10 kinds of UAVs in the Iraq war,56 compared
with 3 kinds in the war in Afghanistan and a single kind in the 1991 Persian Gulf
war. UAVs proved especially valuable in providing persistent (i.e., round-the-clock)
overhead surveillance of Iraqi forces, something that cannot be done with satellites
and might be too risky to attempt with manned surveillance aircraft. UAVs were
used to draw attention from Iraqi air defense systems, permitting those systems to be
located and attacked. Unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs), which are UAVs
armed with weapons, were used to attack targets on the ground.
54 Operation IRAQI FREEDOM – By The Numbers, op cit. An Air Force F-15E fighter was
also lost, but whether due to Iraqi ground fire or some other cause is still unknown. It was
also reported that a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter was possibly lost to enemy fire.
McIntyre, Jamie. U.S. Crew Missing After F-15 Goes Down. CNN.Com, April 17, 2003;
U.S. Army Helicopter Shot Down; 7 Killed, New York Times, April 3, 2003; Sack, Kevin.
Accidents Chief Foe For Allied Aircraft, Los Angeles Times, April 3, 2003.
55Despite flying tens of thousands of combat sorties in military operations dating back to the
An exception is the 1991 Persian Gulf war, in which 33 coalition aircraft were lost to enemy
fire. No U.S. military aircraft has been shot down by an enemy aircraft since 1991. All
aircraft losses in subsequent conflicts have been to surface-based air defenses. For more
information on losses of U.S. aircraft in recent military operations, see CRS Report
RS21124, Military Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD): Assessing Future Needs,
by Christopher Bolkcom. Washington, 2003. (Updated periodically) 6 p.
56Among the types of UAVs used in the Iraq war were the Army’s Hunter, Pointer, and
Shadow, the Air Force’s Global Hawk, Predator, Desert Hawk, and Force Protection
Surveillance System, and the Marine Corps’ Dragon Eye, Pioneer, and Silver Fox. For an
article listing all of these but Desert Hawk and Silver Fox, see Selinger, Marc. U.S. Using
More Than 10 Types of UAVs In Iraq War, Official Says. Aerospace Daily, March 27,
2003. The article said that in addition to the UAV systems it named, “several other small
systems are supporting specialized requirements.” For an article mentioning Desert Hawk,
see Kirsner, Scott. Eye In The Sky. Boston Globe, March 24, 2003: B9. For articles
mentioning Silver Fox, which was originally used to spot whales before starting Navy
exercises, see Brown, Malina. Cohen Expects To Draw Lessons From Iraq on Unmanned
Drones. Inside the Navy, April 21, 2003; Sagara, Eric. New, Tucson-Made Drone Scans
Mideast. Tucson Citizen, April 16, 2003; Morris, Jefferson. Four New Silver Fox UAVs
Deployed For Iraq. Aerospace Daily, April 14, 2003; Brown, Malina. Marines Receive
New Silver Fox UAV For Surveillance Missions In Iraq. Inside the Navy, April 14, 2003.
Potential Program Implications. The Iraq war has potential implications
for several issues relating to the Air Force as a whole, combat and combat-support
aircraft programs, and precision-guided weapon programs.
Size and Structure of the Air Force. The recent war in Iraq has raised
questions regarding whether the U.S. Air Force is appropriately sized and organized
for meeting operational demands. Prior to the terrorist attacks of September 11,
2001, the Air Force deployed approximately 7,000 personnel globally to meet
worldwide commitments. By December 2002, that figure had increased to about
24,000.57 Continued U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, stabilization efforts in
Iraq, anti-terrorism activities in the Horn of Africa and in South East Asia, deterrence
operations in North East Asia, and unforseen disaster relief and humanitarian
assistance scenarios suggest that this deployment level may not subside soon.
In 1999, the Air Force reorganized itself into a service composed of 10
Aerospace Expeditionary Forces (AEFs). The purpose of the reorganization was to
create an organizational structure and rotational deployment schedule that would
permit the Air Force to effectively meet worldwide contingency demands without
placing undue strains on equipment and personnel. Each AEF includes
approximately 175 aircraft and 20,000 people from both the active and reserve
components.58 The 10 AEFs rotate on a 15-month training and deployment cycle,
during which they may be deployed for up to 90 days. The Air Force wants to be
able to deploy an AEF in 48 hours, and up to 5 AEFs within 15 days. Each AEF is
tailored to the regional commander’s needs.
Prior to the Iraq war, signs emerged that the Air Force was being tasked to do
more than its reorganized force structure would easily allow. In February 2002, it
was reported that Air Force leaders had begun making exceptions to the AEF
deployment schedule to meet overseas demands for personnel in certain career fields,
and that as a result some Air Force personnel would have to deploy longer or more
frequently than the AEF standard.59 In September 2002, it was reported that the Air
Force plans to modify the AEF structure by embedding personnel and materiel from
two on-call air wings in the 10 AEFs while expeditionary combat-support assets from
throughout the Air Force are “leveled.”60 In January 2003, the Air Force again made
exceptions to the AEF rotational scheme by deploying indefinitely several aircraft
squadrons of various types (bombers, fighters, helicopters, UAVs) to augment AEFs
57Rolfsen, Bruce. Deployment Outlook. Air Force Times, April 28, 2003: 14.
58The 10 AEFs, together with two newly created rapid-reaction Aerospace Expeditionary
Wings, form the heart of what Air Force officials now refer to as the Expeditionary Air
Force (EAF). The EAF also includes airlift and aerial refueling aircraft, and so-called high-
demand/low-density (HD/LD) forces such as U-2 surveillance aircraft and E-8 Joint
Surveillance, Targeting and Reconnaissance (JSTARS) aircraft.
59Dougherty, Tim. Air Force Remains Committed to AEF Rotation Cycles. Air Force Print
News, February 5, 2002.
60Elliot, Scott. Major AEF Changes Coming in June.” Air Force Print News, September 23,
7 and 8, which were deploying to the Persian Gulf.61 Normally, Air Force personnel
are not allowed to serve temporary duty of more than 180 days in one location. In
April 2003, however, Secretary of the Air Force James Roche issued a blanket waiver
authorizing all Air Force personnel supporting contingency operations to exceed
the180 day limit.
What do these recent events suggest for the size and organization of the Air
Force? Should Air Force end strength be increased to more easily satisfy demands
for personnel in certain career fields? If so, what changes, if any, need to be made
to Air Force recruitment, training, and retention programs? Are there alternatives to
increasing Air Force end strength? Could more cooperation with other services help
alleviate this shortfall? Air Force military policemen (MPs), for example, have
reportedly been in high demand. Could increased numbers of Army personnel be
used to help guard Air Force air bases?62
When conceived, the AEF concept was lauded as the key organizational
component to the Air Force’s transformation strategy. Do the recent exceptions to
the AEF rotational schedule suggest that the AEF concept is broken? If so, how
should the AEF concept be modified?
Aircraft Carriers and Sea-Based Aircraft. Five Navy aircraft carriers and
a total of 408 Navy aircraft (almost all of them operating from the carriers) were
involved in the Iraq war. Another 372 Marine Corps aircraft (many operating from
Navy amphibious ships) were also involved. The combined naval (i.e., Navy and
Marine Corps) total of 780 aircraft represented about 43% of the 1,801 aircraft
(excluding Army helicopters) used in the war. Naval aircraft flew 13,893, or about
34%, of the 41,404 sorties (excluding sorties by special operations and Army
helicopters, and “coalition sovereignty flights”) in the war.63 The contribution of
naval aircraft to U.S. air operations in the war in Afghanistan was even more
pronounced. Supporters of aircraft carriers and sea-based aircraft could argue that
the Iraq war, like the war in Afghanistan, demonstrated the value of aircraft carriers
and carrier-based aircraft for conducting U.S. military operations where access to in-
theater land bases is limited.
Balance of Air and Ground Forces. Some observers argued that a primary
lesson of the U.S. military operation in Kosovo in 1999 was that air power alone
could now be used to defeat U.S. adversaries. They argued that while air power in
previous U.S. military operations had supported ground operations, the U.S.
61Chapman, Suzanne. USAF to Exceed AEF Rotations. Air Force Magazine. February
62Some Army MPs are already used for this purpose. See Hafemeister, Rod, and Jim Tice.
Army Guard To Secure Air Force Bases. Army Times, December 30, 2002: 10.
63In the 1991 Persian Gulf war, only a small percentage of carrier-based combat aircraft
were equipped to drop precision-guided munitions, and a lack of proper electronic links
forced the air tasking order (ATO) to be sent each day from the land-based air operations
center to the aircraft carrier in physical rather than electronic form. In the Iraq war, in
contrast, all Navy and Marine Corps carrier-based strike fighters were equipped to use
precision-guided weapons, and the ATO could be transmitted to the carriers electronically.
operation in Kosovo had demonstrated that air power by itself could achieve U.S. war
aims.64 Air power advocates argued that the war in Afghanistan in 2001-2002, which
employed few ground forces relative to air forces, reinforced this argument.
Debate following the Iraq war over the relative value of air power vs. “boots on
the ground” has been muted to date. The prominent use and success of U.S. heavy
ground forces appears to have suppressed arguments from air power advocates that
air power “can do it all.” Even so, analysts may debate the relative contributions of
air operations and operations by U.S. armor and artillery in destroying Iraq’s army.
This debate could influence views on how much air power can or should replace
armor and artillery in future conflicts, and thus views on how much funding to invest
in each area.
Reports suggest that U.S. and British air strikes severely weakened Iraq’s
Republican Guard Divisions – Iraq’s toughest ground forces – making them easy prey
for advancing Army and Marine Corps divisions. Some observers estimate that the
Republican Guard divisions lost half their tanks, armored personnel carriers and
artillery before their first encounter with U.S. ground forces on April 1, 2003.65
Other observers estimate that by April 4, U.S. air power had reduced Republican
Guard Divisions to between 18 and 44 percent of their full strength.66
Other observers, however, caution that the effectiveness of air operations in
destroying Iraqi ground forces is still being assessed. They note that many of the
early assessments of the effectiveness of air operations against Iraqi ground units in
the 1991 Persian Gulf war were later downgraded. Some analysts, for example, now
estimate that coalition aircraft were responsible for only 17 percent of the Iraqi tanks
that were destroyed in the 1991 war.67 These observers also point out that even
though Iraqi ground forces in the Iraq war were destroyed by U.S. and British air
strikes, U.S. Army and Marine Corps forces still encountered stiff resistance from
some Iraqi units.
Armor, artillery, ammunition, and fuel are among the most challenging military
materiel to transport long distances. Some observers argue that if U.S. ground forces
begin relying more on combat aircraft than on armor and artillery, U.S. forces in the
future could be more rapidly deployable and remain just as lethal. Advocates of
shifting to a greater reliance on aircraft note that the Marine Corps fields fewer large
artillery pieces than does the Army, and relies more on Marine Corps combat aircraft
(AV-8B attack planes and F/A-18 strike fighters) for fire support. Those skeptical
of substituting aircraft for Army armor and artillery note that unlike aircraft, the
64Other analysts demurred, arguing that the enemy leaders capitulated only when ongoing
air operations were joined by a threat to introduce ground forces, or when it became clear
to the enemy leaders that Russia would not support their effort.
65Scarborough, Rowan. Rulers of the Air. Washington Times, April 27, 2003: 1.
66Graham, Bradley, and Vernon Loeb. An Air War of Might, Coordination and Risks.
Washington Post, April 27, 2003: 1.
67Wheeler, Winslow. Iraq War: Drop the Myths, Learn the Lessons. Defense Week, April
availability and effectiveness of artillery is not degraded by adverse weather. Recent
combat in the mountains of Afghanistan, they could argue, suggest that ground forces
might have been more effective and might have suffered fewer casualties if they were
supported by artillery rather than solely combat aircraft.
Close Air Support (CAS) vs. Other Missions. The military strategy
pursued in the Iraq war may add fuel to a long-running discussion on the relative
balance, within U.S. air power operations, between close air support (CAS) missions
vs. attacking more strategic targets in attempts to topple enemy governments and
power centers. Was the Iraqi regime toppled by the strategic bombing that destroyed
key regime targets in Baghdad, or because of CAS missions that contributed to the
rapid destruction of Iraqi military forces in the field? Views on this debate could
influence decisions on the kinds of aircraft and associated systems DoD should
acquire in coming years.
Long-Range Bombers.68 Long-range B-1, B-52, and B-2 bombers played
a significant role in the Iraq war, as they did in the war in Afghanistan in 2001-2002.
In both conflicts, relatively small numbers of bombers dropped large numbers of
precision-guided bombs and traditional unguided bombs, destroying many enemy
ground targets,69 and were able to loiter over the battlefield for extended periods of
time, which made them readily available for attacking so-called time-sensitive targets
– targets that emerge suddenly and remain susceptible to attack for only short periods
of time. For example, the B-1 bomber that carried out the April 7, 2003 bombing
attack on a building in Baghdad where Saddam Hussein and his close associates were
thought to be located had been loitering above Iraq waiting for just such an emerging
target, and dropped its bombs just 12 minutes after being given the coordinates.
The performance of long-range bombers in the Iraq war and the war in
Afghanistan may influence a long-simmering the debate on the balance of funding
for bomber programs vs. tactical aircraft. Specific questions relating to this debate
include the following:
68For more on long-range bomber programs, see CRS Report RL31544, Long-Range
Bombers: Background and Issues for Congress, by Pierre Bernasconi and Christopher
Bolkcom. Washington, 2002. (August 22, 2002) 44 p.
69In the Iraq war, for example, Air Force B-1s, reportedly flew only about 2% of total
aircraft sorties, but dropped 50% of all the Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) dropped
by aircraft in the war. (Fulghum, David, and Robert Wall. Baghdad Confidential. Aviation
Week & Space Technology, April 28, 2003.) The B-1 bomber was a major contributor to the
U.S.-led war effort in Afghanistan; some observers have called it the “workhorse” of that
conflict. B-1s flew only 5% of all aircraft sorties in the conflict, but accounted for 40% of
the ordnance that was dropped from all aircraft. Observers have also lauded the B-52's
performance in the war in Afghanistan. Operating from Diego Garcia, B-52s were able to
loiter for extended periods over Afghanistan, and dropped many precision-guided weapons
on targets that had been designated by ground forces, destroying Taliban positions and
providing air cover for outnumbered Northern Alliance troops. The fall of Taliban/al Qaeda
forces at the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif has been attributed by some observers
in large part to the B-52s’ support of pro-U.S. Northern Alliance fighters.
!What is the best mix of long-range bombers and shorter range tactical combat
!Should bombers be emphasized more in the overall structure of the Air Force?
!Is DoD shortchanging bomber modernization to finance its tactical combat
!Should planned early retirements of B-1s be slowed, or even reversed?70
!Should the Air Force implement a proposal it is now considering to replace
the engines on its B-52s?
Prior to the Iraq war, bomber supporters argued that programs for modernizing
the bomber force are underfunded relative to tactical aircraft programs in DoD
budgets,71 that DoD’s current plan to retire certain B-1 bombers early is unwise,72 and
that the current DoD plan for developing a next-generation bomber to replace the
aging bombers in the current fleet is not sufficiently aggressive.73 Supporters of
current DoD plans argued that the force-structure and modernization needs of the
bomber force are properly reflected in DoD planning and budgeting.
Bomber supporters could argue that the Iraq war and the war in Afghanistan
demonstrated that the value of bombers in combat operations has been significantly
enhanced by the advent of precision-guided weapons. They could also argue that the
two conflicts underscored the value of bombers for reducing the need for in-theater
bases and for maintaining aircraft with precision-guided weapons over the battlefield
for long periods of time. In light of the enhanced role of bombers, they could argue,
DoD should place greater emphasis on bomber programs in its plans and budgets.
Supporters of DoD’s current plans for modernization of the bomber force could
argue the Iraq war and the war in Afghanistan show that the United States has
enough, or more than enough, long-range bombers for fighting regional conflicts,
particularly given how precision-guided weapons have multiplied the number of
targets that each bomber can attack during a single sortie. They could also argue that
the good reviews given to bomber operations in both of these wars shows that these
aircraft are receiving sufficient amounts of modernization funding and that there is
no urgent need to develop and procure a next-generation bomber. Rather than
devoting funding to maintaining a larger bomber force or developing a new bomber
design now, they could argue, the successful use of bombers in Iraq and Afghanistan
shows that funding should instead be used to maintain the readiness of the currently
70Many bomber supporters argue that in light of the B-1's contributions in the Iraq war and
the war in Afghanistan, B-1 retirements should be truncated so as to maintain a force of
about 70 B-1s.
71For decades, DoD funding levels for tactical combat aircraft have been much greater than
funding levels for bombers. In FY04, for example, DoD is requesting $363.2 million in
bomber funding and $100.3 billion in funding – 276 times as much money – for tactical
aviation programs. (U.S. Department of Defense. Comptroller. Program Acquisition Costs
by Weapon System. Washington, 2003. [Department of Defense Budget for Fiscal Years
72In 2001, the Air Force began retiring B-1 bombers, reducing the fleet from 92 aircraft to
73Current DoD plans don’t call for a new bomber to be fielded until 2037.
planned bomber force and increase its effectiveness by funding additional
improvements to precision-guided weapons and associated targeting systems.
Tactical Fighter Aircraft in General.74 Prior to the Iraq war, proponents
of DoD’s three main tactical aircraft modernization programs – the F/A-22 Raptor,
the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter – have argued that
proceeding with all three programs as currently planned represents the best way to
guarantee continued U.S. air dominance in future conflicts. They have argued that
the successful operations of current U.S. aircraft in recent military operations does
not imply that they would achieve similar success in future conflicts. Air-defense
technology, they have argued, is developing and proliferating rapidly, making
tomorrow’s adversaries potentially more capable than yesterday’s. Stealthy, agile
tactical aircraft with advanced avionics, they have argued, will be required in the
future for successful operations against adversaries armed with highly-capable air-
defense systems such as the Russian-built long-range SA-10 and SA-12 surface-to-air
missile systems. The F/A-22, F/A-18E/F, and JSF, they have also argued, will field
flexible technologies that will permit these aircraft to take on new capabilities, if
needed, for responding to changes in the international security environment. For
example, they have argued, if cruise-missile defense becomes a much more
prominent mission for tactical aircraft, these new aircraft will be well suited to
incorporate this mission.
Critics of DoD’s tactical aircraft modernization program have argued that DoD
simply cannot afford to proceed with all three tactical aircraft programs as now
planned, at least not without requiring significant cutbacks in other critical DoD
programs. They have argued that the tremendous success in recent U.S. military
operations of current U.S. aircraft such as the F-15 and F-16 fighter demonstrate that
the margin of U.S. superiority in air operations is so significant that it is likely to last75
for some number of years. They have also argued that with the growing importance
to U.S. air operations of precision-guided weapons, associated surveillance and
targeting systems, and technologies for networked air operations, investing in new
tactical aircraft designs is now less critical for insuring future success in U.S. air
operations than investing in these other air-related technologies. In optimizing
investments in future air power capability, they have argued, DoD should move away
from its traditional “platform-centric”focus on developing new aircraft designs, and
toward a “system-of-systems” approach that more fully recognizes the importance of
these supporting technologies in contributing to total U.S. air power capability.
F/A-22 Program.76 As the most capable, most expensive, and most air-to-air
oriented aircraft in DoD’s tactical aircraft modernization plan, the F/A-22 has often
been at the center of the debate over the merits of DoD’s tactical aircraft
74For more on tactical fighter aircraft programs in general, see CRS Issue Brief IB92115,
Tactical Aircraft Modernization: Issues for Congress, by Christopher Bolkcom.
Washington, 2003. (Updated periodically) 15 p.
75See, for example, Montgomery, Dave. Critics: Iraq War Shows New Jets Aren’t Needed.
Miami Herald, May 5, 2003.
76For more on the F/A-22 program, see CRS Report RL31675, F/A-22 Raptor, by
Christopher Bolkcom. Washington, 2003. (Updated periodically) 18 p.
modernization plan. Following the Iraq war, critics of the F/A-22 program could
argue that the degree of U.S. air dominance in the Iraq war and other recent conflicts
demonstrates that the F/A-22 program has become the “Seawolf of the sky” – i.e., a
program, like the Navy’s Seawolf submarine program, that was initiated in the 1980s
with the goal of producing an expensive, high-capability platform for addressing a
projected Soviet military threat that never materialized.77 Successful U.S. air
operations in the Iraq war and previous conflicts, they could argue, demonstrate that
today’s tactical combat aircraft are more than sufficiently effective, and that upgrades
to these aircraft can therefore maintain DoD’s air power dominance until less-
expensive manned aircraft such as the JSF or unmanned combat aerial vehicles
(UCAVs) are fielded. As a result, they could argue, the F/A-22 program can either
be terminated or procurement of the aircraft can be reduced from the currently
planned total of about 276 to a smaller “silver bullet” force of no more than 100
Supporters of procuring 276 or more F/A-22s could argue that the air-to-air
capabilities of Iraq, like those of Afghanistan and enemy Serbian forces operating in
Kosovo, were known to be virtually nonexistent, and that none of these wars
consequently do anything to invalidate the projected future threat for which the F/A-
22 will be needed – an enemy equipped with modern, highly capable fighters and
surface-to-air missile systems. In addition, F/A-22 supporters could argue, the F-22
was recently redesignated the F/A-22 to reflect the fact that it is no longer a pure air-
superiority fighter, but a rather strike fighter that can also perform valuable air-to-
ground strike missions like those conducted in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kosovo.78
F/A-18E/F and F-35 (JSF) Programs.79 Some observers, including
Admiral Vernon Clark, the Chief of Naval Operations, argue that the Iraq war, like
the war in Afghanistan, has underscored the need for the Navy to replace its shorter-
ranged F/A-18C/D strike fighters with longer-ranged F/A-18E/F strike fighters and
F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, Clark and others have
argued, Navy F/A-18C/Ds performing long-range, long-duration missions (including
missions in which aircraft orbit over target areas while waiting for targets of
77The Seawolf-class submarine is a large, powerful attack submarine designed by the Navy
in the 1980s to counter advanced Soviet submarines that were projected to enter service in
the 1990s and beyond. A total procurement of 29 or more Seawolf submarines was
originally planned. In the 1990s, following the end of the Cold War, DoD halted the
Seawolf program after procuring 3 boats and shifted to developing and procuring the
Virginia-class attack submarine, a smaller and less expensive design. For more on the
Seawolf and Virginia-class programs, see CRS Report RL30045, Navy Attack Submarine
Programs: Background and Issues for Congress, by Ronald O’Rourke. Washington, 2000.
(June 1, 2000) 37 p.
78For more on debate on the F/A-22 program following the Iraq war, see Kaufman, Gail.
Iraq War Arms Both Sides Of F/A-22 Debate. DefenseNews, April 28, 2003: 13.
79For more on the F/A-18E/F and F-35 JSF programs, CRS Reports RL30624, Military
Aircraft, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Program: Background and Issues for Congress, by
Christopher Bolkcom. (Updated periodically) 15 p., and RL30563, Joint Strike Fighter
(JSF) Program: Background, Status, and Issues, by Christopher Bolkcom. (Updated
periodically) 25 p.
opportunity to emerge) required multiple in-flight refuelings per sortie. F/A-18E/Fs
or F-35s, he and others argue, can perform such missions with fewer in-flight
refuelings or none at all, reducing the Navy’s need for aerial refueling, which was in
short supply in the Iraq war. During the Iraq war, the number of strike sorties flown
from carriers was reduced in some instances due to insufficient in-flight refueling
assets. Replacing F/A-18C/Ds with F/A-18E/Fs and F-35s, they now argue, will
reduce the chances of such problems occurring in future operations.
V-22 Tilt-Rotor Aircraft.80 Current DoD plans call for procuring a total of
458 V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft, mostly for use by Marine Corps forces as replacement for
aged Marine Corps transport helicopters. Supporters of the V-22, which has
experienced considerable controversy over the years due in part to fatal crashes
during testing, argue that the V-22 offers numerous operational advantages over
helicopters, including a higher cruising speed for transporting Marine personnel and
equipment from ship to operating area.
Supporters of the V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft could argue that in both the Iraq war
and the war in Afghanistan, Marine forces conducted ground combat operations 350
or more miles from shore, and perhaps 450 or more miles away from their Navy
amphibious ships at sea. These are much longer operating distances than Marine
forces have traditionally experienced. V-22 supporters could argue that the Marines’
deep-inland operations in Iraq and Afghanistan could be repeated in future conflicts,
which would underscore the value of replacing the Marine Corp’s aged helicopters
with faster-flying V-22s. V-22 supporters could also argue that difficulties
experienced in the Iraq war with maintaining the readiness of the aged heavy-lift
helicopters underscores the need to proceed with V-22 procurement.
Other observers could argue that although the V-22 can be of value in replacing
aged heavy-lift helicopters and in supporting deep-inland Marine Corps operations,
the Iraq war, like the war in Afghanistan, does nothing to alter the need for the strict
testing program for the V-22 DoD established in the wake of fatal V-22 crashes.
They could argue that although there may be a need, even an urgent need, for the V-
22, this V-22 program’s past development difficulties resulted in part from efforts to
rush its development. If the V-22 is to serve as an effective replacement for today’s
helicopters, they could argue, the V-22 testing program must continue to proceed as
Helicopters. The Iraq war is the third consecutive major U.S. military
operation, following the operation in Kosovo in 1999 and the war in Afghanistan in
2001-2002, where helicopter performance was mixed. In Kosovo, the Army was
criticized for not being able to quickly deploy and use Task Force Hawk, a group of
24 AH-64 Apache attack helicopters. Critics emphasized that the task force had
grown into a 5,000-soldier force that required 500 C-17 sorties to deploy, and that the
Army had kept its helicopter operations separate from the daily air tasking order
(ATO) – the document issued each day by the air operations center that coordinated
the operations of most U.S. aircraft. Keeping Army helicopters out of the ATO,
80For more on the V-22 program, see CRS Report RL31384, V-22 Osprey Tilt-Rotor
Aircraft, by Christopher Bolkcom. Washington, 2003. (Updated periodically) 20 p.
critics argued, made Army helicopter operations in Kosovo less integrated with the
operations of other U.S. forces and thereby reduced helicopter effectiveness.81
In Afghanistan, critics noted a similar lack of coordination between Army
helicopter operations and the operations of other U.S. forces, especially during a
combat operation in March 2002 called Operation Anaconda.82 In addition, the high
elevation of the Afghanistan theater of operations made some helicopter operations
difficult, and U.S. special operations forces experienced a shortfall in MH-47 heavy-
lift helicopters, leading some observers to argue more strenuously in favor of the V-
In the Iraq war, helicopters encountered problems with survivability and
maintainability. With regard to survivability, an attack on a Republican Guard
division by 34 AH-64 helicopters from the Army’s 11th Attack Helicopter Regiment
has been described as a near disaster: Every helicopter was hit by ground fire, one
helicopter was lost, and 27 of the 33 that returned to base were too damaged to fly
again without repair.83 Some observers suggest that, reminiscent of problems with
Army helicopter operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan, an Army failure to
coordinate the Apache attack with supporting Air Force and Navy aircraft operations
may have played a significant role in the poor outcome of this attack.84 By using
different tactics and by more closely integrating their efforts with fixed-wing attack
aircraft and Army artillery, AH-64s from the 101st Air Assault Division conducted
a raid on the city of Karbala four days later with much less damage.85
One traditional role for Army attack helicopters is conducting close air support
– i.e., attacking enemy forces that are directly in contact with, or near contact with,
friendly forces. Early in the Iraq war, attack helicopter pilots complained that they
were being sidelined – that U.S. war planners were relying more on fixed-wing
aircraft (many armed with precision-guided weapons) than on helicopters for
performing close air support missions.86 This perceived preference for fixed-wing
aircraft, if accurate, may have been due in part to concerns regarding helicopter
survivability following results of the attack by the 11th Attack Helicopter Regiment.
81Lambeth, Benjamin. Task Force Hawk. Air Force Magazine, February 2002.
82Grant, Rebecca. The Clash About CAS. Air Force Magazine, January 2003.
83Scarborough, Rowan. Apache Operation a Lesson In Defeat. Washington Times, April
22, 2003. p.1
84See, for example, Scarborough, Rowan. Apache Operation A Lesson In Defeat.
Washington Times, April 22, 2003.: 1.
85Atkinson, Rick. A Flotilla of Army Helicopters Joint Attack on Karbala. Washington
Post, March 29, 2003: 23. See also Baumgardner, Neil. Apache Longbow Battalion
Destroyed Two Republican Guard Battalions During OIF. Defense Daily, May 12, 2003:
4; Burger, Kim. US Army Reviews The Way It Operates The Apache. Jane’s Defence
Weekly, May 21, 2003; Sheridan, Mary Beth. Copter Unit Retools Tactics After Fight.
Washington Post, March 26, 2003: 22.
86Frank, Thomas. Back-Seat Role for Apaches. Long Island Newsday, April 15, 2003.
With regard to helicopter maintainability, keeping helicopters flying in the harsh
desert conditions of Iraq appears to have been a challenge. Early reports indicate that
many different helicopters, but perhaps especially Marine Corps heavy-lift CH-53Es,
were frequently grounded due to sand-induced engine problems. While some
maintenance difficulties may always be expected for forces operating in the field in
time of war, some observers argue that little improvement in helicopter
maintainability has been made since the 1991 Persian Gulf war, and that the desert
conditions in which these helicopters must operate are well known.87
In light of the mixed results with helicopter operations in Iraq and other recent
operations, there is speculation that DoD may consider the option of placing less
emphasis on helicopters in its plans and budgets. The helicopter program that might
most be affected by this is the Army’s RAH-66 Comanche helicopter program. The
Comanche is a stealthy, armed reconnaissance helicopter that the Army has been
developing for about 20 years, during which time it has been a frequent topic of
debate. In late 2002, DoD restructured the program, reducing the Army’s planned
procurement of the helicopter by about half, from about 1,200 to about 600, and
including in the program a new effort to develop companion UAVs for each
helicopter. These companion UAVs could be used to improve situational awareness
for the crews flying the Comanches, or to attack targets on the ground that might
Supporters of reducing the planned procurement of Comanche programs further,
or of terminating the program entirely, could argue that the Iraq war demonstrated
that attack helicopters can be significantly vulnerable to ground fire in modern
combat operations, and that missions previously performed by helicopters can now
be performed by higher-flying fixed-wing aircraft armed with precision-guided
Supporters of the Comanche program could argue that the problems with
helicopter survivability in the Iraq war reflected incorrect tactics (including lack of
coordination with Air Force and Navy fixed-wing aircraft) rather than inherent
problems with helicopters, and that adjusting tactics produced better results. They
could also argue that the Comanche helicopter, with its stealth features and support
from companion UAVs, will be much more survivable on the modern battlefield than
today’s attack helicopters. Helicopters, they could argue, will retain their
effectiveness relative to fixed-wing aircraft in responding with agility to enemy
maneuvers on the battlefield – something that Iraqi forces did little of in the Iraq war,
but which enemy forces on future conflicts could do significantly.89
87Wall, Robert. Woes Encumber Helo Ops. Aviation Week & Space Technology, April 14,
88For more on the RAH-66 Comanche helicopter program, see CRS Report RS20522, Army
Aviation: The RAH-66 Comanche Helicopter Issue, by Christopher Bolkcom. Washington,
89For more on how the Iraq war may affect views on the Comanche helicopter programs and
helicopters in general, see Wall, Robert, and David A. Fulghum. Coming Under Fire.
Aviation Week & Space Technology, May 12, 2003: 63.
Some observers argue that difficulties with helicopter maintenance in the Iraq
war were due in part to the advanced age of the helicopters in question. The Marine
Corps’ heavy-lift helicopters (i.e., its CH-53s and CH-46s) are generally quite old,
in part because acquisition of the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, which is to replace
these helicopters, has been slowed. Following the Iraq war, one potential issue
concerns what contingency plans DoD has in place for modernizing or replacing
existing heavy-lift helicopters if the V-22 program is delayed further or cancelled.
Combat-Support Aircraft.90 The Iraq war highlighted the effectiveness
of specialized combat-support aircraft such as the U-2 surveillance plane and the E-8
Joint Surveillance, Targeting and Reconnaissance System (JSTARS) aircraft. The
JSTARS’ ground-surveillance radar proved particularly useful, in one instance
detecting and tracking Iraqi armored vehicles that were attempting to use a sandstorm
to evade detection by U.S. forces. Specialized combat-support aircraft like the U-2,
the E-8, and the Navy/Marine Corps EA-6B radar-jamming aircraft, however, are
examples of so-called high-demand, low-density (HD/LD) assets – assets that are in
great demand, but which exist in limited numbers. In the wake of the Iraq war,
supporters of combat-support aircraft programs could argue that funding for
modernization and procurement of such aircraft should be increased.
Unmanned Air Vehicles.91 The value of UAVs was highlighted by the war
in Afghanistan, and following that war, unmanned vehicles became a more prominent
element in DoD’s defense transformation plans. Some observers expect that the
successful use of more than 10 kinds of UAVs in the Iraq war will reinforce support
generated by the war in Afghanistan for expanding and accelerating DoD’s UAV
programs.92 UAV programs that might be affected include the Global Hawk and
Predator long-range UAV programs, several programs for developing and procuring
smaller and shorter-ranged UAVs for all the services, and the joint Air Force-Navy
program to develop a high-capability unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV).
Air-Delivered Precision-Guided Munitions. During the war in
Afghanistan, some observers expressed concern for inventory levels of certain
90For more on combat-support aircraft programs, see CRS Reports RL30639, Electronic
Warfare: EA-6B Aircraft Modernization and Related Issues for Congress, by Christopher
Bolkcom. Washington, 2001. (Updated December 3, 2001) 53 p., and RL30841, Airborneth
Electronic Warfare: Issues for the 107 Congress, by Christopher Bolkcom. Washington,
91For more on UAV programs, see CRS Report RL31872, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles:
Background and Issues for Congress, by Elizabeth Bone and Christopher Bolkcom.
Washington, 2003. (April 25, 2003) 48 p.
92For examples of articles describing the successful use of UAVs in the Iraq war, including
some concluding that the Iraq war will reinforce support for UAV programs, see , Cantlupe,
Joe. Military Sees Growing Role For Unmanned Planes. San Diego Union-Tribune, April
20, 2003; Brzezinski, Matthew. The Unmanned Army. New York Times Magazine, April
20, 2003; Schmitt, Eric. In The Skies Over Iraq, Silent Observers Become Futuristic
Weapons. New York Times, April 18, 2003; Fulghum, David A. Opening Night In Baghdad.
Aviation Week & Space Technology, April 24, 2003: 24; Schmickle, Sharon. Eye In The
Sky Helps Troops On The Ground. Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 28, 2003.
precision-guided munitions, particularly the relatively new GPS-guided Joint Direct
Attack Munition (JDAM).93 Following the highly successful use of JDAMs and
other precision-guided munitions in the war in Afghanistan, production rates for
these weapons were increased. As a result, U.S. military planners expressed less
concern about the size of the inventory at the start of the Iraq war, and after it was
completed.94 DoD plans to procure large numbers of JDAMs and other precision-
guided weapons in coming years, and the success of these weapons in the Iraq war
may reinforce support for funding these plans.
The JDAM currently exists in 2,000-pound and 1,000-pound versions. A 500-
pound version, now in development, was not available at the time of the Iraq war;
some pilots reportedly believe it would have been useful, particularly for attacking
certain targets while limiting damage to nearby non-targeted structures. The Iraq war
may thus reinforce support for proceeding with development and procurement of the
An even smaller GPS-guided weapon, the 250-pound Small Diameter Bomb
(SDB), is now being developed. Large numbers of SDBs could be carried by strike
aircraft, permitting aircraft to attack even more aim points in a single sortie than is
now possible. Following the Iraq war, supporters of this weapon could argue that it
might prove particularly useful for supporting ground forces in urban combat
operations – a mission for fixed-wing aircraft that was elevated in prominence by the
Iraq war, and one where concern for avoiding damage to civilians and civilian
infrastructure can be paramount.
Prior to the start of the Iraq war, it was well known that the Iraqi regime had
built an elaborate network of bunkers, command centers, living quarters and tunnels
deep under Baghdad. The effectiveness of U.S. attempts to destroy such targets with
“bunker-busting” weapons is not yet known. Post-war analysis of these attacks,
when complete, may influence views on whether to proceed with development of
improved bunker-busting weapons.
Tomahawk Cruise Missile. A total of 802 Tomahawk land- attack missiles
(TLAMs) were used in the Iraq war,95 or more than 40% of the reported pre-war96
inventory of 1,890 to 2,000 TLAMs, which itself may have been much smaller than
93GPS stands for the Global Positioning System, a constellation of satellites that allow
people and weapons equipped with the proper GPS receivers to almost instantly know their
precise geographic location.
94See, for example, Butler, Amy. Air Force Chief Says Munition Stockpiles Are Sound.
Inside the Air Force, April 11, 2003.
95Operation IRAQI FREEDOM – By The Numbers, op cit.
96Pae, Peter. Raytheon’s Task: More Missiles, On The Double. Los Angeles Times, April
April 3, 2003; Infield, Tom. Tomahawks Used Heavily In War’s First 12 Days.
Philadelphia Inquirer, April 2, 2003.
called for in DoD plans.97 The most capable version of the Tomahawk in the
inventory is called the Block III. Most of the Tomahawks used in the Iraq war were
likely Block IIIs. Procurement of new Block IIIs ended in FY1999. Procurement of
the next version of the Tomahawk, called the Block IV or the Tactical Tomahawk
(TacTom for short), began in FY2002. Thirty-two Block IVs were procured in
FY2002, and another 167 were procured in FY2003. The missiles take roughly 18
months to build, so the first Block IVs may enter the inventory in 2004.
The FY2004-FY2009 Future Years Defense Plan (FYDP), submitted to
Congress in February 2003, prior to the start of the Iraq war, calls for procuring 267
Block IVs in FY2004, 218 in FY2005, 422 in FY2006, 406 in FY2007, 471 in
FY2008, and 410 in FY2009. Given the large number of Tomahawks used in the
Iraq war, and the currently low remaining inventory of Tomahawks, some observers
have proposed increasing the planned number of Block IVs to be procured in FY2004
and subsequent years, so as to replenish the Tomahawk inventory sooner. To support
this plan, they have proposed increasing the capacity of the Tomahawk production
line from 38 missiles per month (456 missiles per year) to 50 missiles per month (600
per year) or 75 missiles per month (900 missiles per year).98
Special Operations Forces99
SOF Profile Elevated By Afghanistan Operations. The successful use
of significant numbers of SOF personnel in the war in Afghanistan elevated the
profile of special operations forces in U.S. defense planning. Following the war in
Afghanistan, enhancing the capabilities U.S. SOF came to be viewed as a keyst
element of the administration’s plans for transforming the U.S. military to meet 21-
Century threats. The Administration’s proposed FY2004 defense budget, which was
submitted to Congress in February 2003 (i.e., before the Iraq war) proposes
increasing the number of U.S. SOF personnel (currently about 47,000) by 1,890, and
increasing the non-personnel portion of the SOF budget by 48% over the FY2003
figure. Much of the proposed funding increase will support efforts to modernize the
97For a discussion of reported desired and estimated Tomahawk inventory levels, see CRS
Report RS20162, Cruise Missile Inventories and NATO Attacks on Yugoslavia: Background
Information, by Ronald O’Rourke. Washington, 1999. (April 20, 1999) 6 p.
98See, for example, Brown, Malina. Raytheon Prepared To Accelerate Tactical Tomahawk
Production. Inside the Navy, April 7, 2003; Pae, Peter. Raytheon’s Task: More Missiles,
On The Double. Los Angeles Times, April 3, 2003; Squeo, Anne Marie. Navy’s Tomahawk
Arsenal Dwindles. Wall Street Journal, April 3, 2003; Raytheon In Talks For Possible
Production Increase. Defense Daily, April 3, 2003; Selinger, Marc. Navy Chief Looking
At Ways To Remedy Tomahawk Shortage. Aerospace Daily, April 2, 2003; Keeter, Hunter.
Clark Calls For Accelerating TLAM Production. Defense Daily, April 2, 2003; Brown,
Malina. Navy Officials Warn Congress Of Urgent Tomahawk Shortfalls. Inside the Navy,
March 31, 2003; Keeter, Hunter. Mullen Argues Against Remanufacturing Tomahawks,
Prefers Block IV. Defense Daily, March 31, 2003;.
99This section prepared by Ronald O’Rourke, Specialist in National Defense.
fleet of specialized helicopters and C-130 fixed-wing aircraft that support U.S. SOF
SOF in the Iraq War. As many observers had expected, U.S. special
operations forces (SOF), along with British, Australian, and Polish SOF units, played
a significant role in the Iraq war, conducting operations in southern, western, and
northern Iraq, and in and around Baghdad. The total number of U.S. SOF personnel
involved – more than 9,000 or 10,000 personnel from the Army, Navy, and Air
Force, according to press reports – was considerably larger than the 6,000 or so
reportedly used in Afghanistan in 2001-2002, and much larger than the number used101
in the 1991 Persian Gulf war. Although relatively few details about SOF
operations in the Iraq war have been reported, observers have generally concluded
that SOF operations in the Iraq war, like those in Afghanistan, were highly effective
and made a disproportionately large contribution to the success of the U.S.-led war102
Potential Program Implications. Some observers believe the successful
use of significant numbers of SOF in the Iraq war will reinforce the support generated
by the war in Afghanistan for increasing the size and budget of U.S. special
100For more on U.S. special operations forces, see CRS Report RS21048, U.S. Special
Operations Forces (SOF): Background and Issues for Congress, by Ronald O’Rourke.
Washington, 2003. (Updated periodically) 6 p.
101A few U.S. and coalition SOF units, along with some CIA officers, were reportedly
inserted into Iraq in late 2002. Large numbers of additional U.S. and coalition SOF
personnel reportedly were inserted starting a day or two prior to the onset of overt
hostilities. Among other things, U.S. and coalition SOF units reportedly seized airfields and
oil facilities, engaged Iraqi forces in various parts of the country, designated Iraqi targets for
air attack, conducted psychological warfare operations, rescued a U.S. soldier who had been
captured by Iraqi forces, and searched for Iraqi leaders. They reportedly worked with
Kurdish forces and regular U.S. Army units in northern Iraq, and with regular U.S. Army
units in the assault on Baghdad.
102See, for example, Cuningham, Henry. Special Forces Soldiers Prove They’re Special.
Fayetteville (NC) Observer, May 24, 2003; Muradian, Vago. Allied Special Forces Took
Western Iraq. DefenseNews, May 19, 2003: 1; Robinson, Linda. The Men In The Shadows.
U.S. News & World Report, May 19, 2003; Jehl, Douglas. In Iraq’s Remote Corners, A Few
Americans Seemed ‘10 Feet Tall.’ New York Times, April 18, 2003; Thomas, Evan, and
Martha Brant. The Secret War. Newsweek, April 21, 2003; Robinson, Linda. The Silent
Warriors. U.S. News & World Report, April 14, 2003; Dine, Philip. Covert Ops. St. Louis
Post-Dispatch, April 13, 2003: B1; Landay, Jonathan S. Stealthy Spotters Call In The Air
Strikes. Philadelphia Inquirer, April 9, 2003; Scarborough, Rowan. Special Ops Steal
Show As Successes Mount In Iraq. Washington Times, April 7, 2003; Kelly, Jack. Covert
Troops Fight Shadow War Off-Camera. USA Today, April 7, 2003: 2; Dao, James. Swift
Commando Run In The Night. New York Times, April 7, 2003; Shanker, Thom, and Eric
Schmitt. Covert Units Conduct An Invisible Campaign. New York Times, April 6, 2003;
Dao, James. Hoping To Confuse Iraqis, American Commandos Prepare To Enter Baghdad.
New York Times, April 4, 2003; Graham, Bradley. U.S. Gains Ground In West Of Iraq.
Washington Post, March 28, 2003: 25; Bender, Bryan. 10,000 Special Forces Are Waging
Unseen War. Boston Globe, March 27, 2003: 28; Capaccio, Tony. U.S., Coalition
Commandos Have Wider Role In Conflict. Bloomberg.com, March 26, 2003.
operations forces.103 Advocates of such increases argue that they are not only
justified by operational experience in Afghanistan and Iraq, but necessary if U.S.
SOF forces are not to be stretched too thin in carrying out their recently expanded
responsibilities for conducting key parts of the U.S. military’s global war on
Some observers, however, caution that the elite nature of special operations
forces could make it difficult to rapidly expand the size of U.S. special operations
forces without eroding their very high selection and training standards. Another
potential concern is that enthusiasm for special operations forces could lead to under-
investment in regular U.S. forces or support for using SOF units to carry out military
operations for which they might not be well suited.
Post-9/11 Reserve Activations. From September 11, 2001, through April
25, 2003, the United States has involuntarily activated more than 286,000 reservists
for federal service to support the ongoing global war on terrorism and more recently
the Iraq war. In addition, at least 47,500 more reservists have been activated in other
statuses – for example, to serve as members of the National Guard under state
control, or as volunteers for active duty. Some reservists who were called up after
September 11, 2001 were released from active duty and returned to civilian life prior
to the start of the Iraq war. At the time of the Iraq war, roughly 220,000 reservists105
were on active duty.
The callup of reservists since September 11, 2001 represents the second-largest
reserve callup since the end of World War II in 1945. Only the Korean War106
mobilization of 858,000 reservists in 1950-1953 was larger.
The post-9/11 reserve mobilization appears to have experienced many fewer
administrative and bureaucratic problems than the somewhat smaller 1990-1991
callup for the 1991 Persian Gulf war, which involved a total of about 265,000 total
reservists. Lessons learned from the 1990-1991 callup, as well from smaller
activations in the 1990s for contingencies in places such as Bosnia, Haiti, and
Kosovo, are likely responsible for these improvements.
103See, for example, Sherman, Jason, Frank Tiboni, and Gail Kaufman. Rising Profile
Profits U.S. Special Forces. DefenseNews, April 21, 2003: 30; Roosevelt, Ann. Special
Operations Command Seeks Additional Funds. Defense Week, April 78, 2003: 1.
104This section prepared by Robert L. Goldich, Specialist in National Defense, and Lawrence
Kapp, Analyst in National Defense.
105DoD states that on March 26, 2003 – 6 days after the start of the Iraq war – a total of
216,811 Reserve and National Guard personnel, including both units and individual
augmentees, were on active duty. By April 16, 2003, toward the end of major combat
operations in the Iraq war, the total number had grown to 223,203 personnel.
106The U.S. population at the time of the Korean War, moreover, was only about half as
large as it is today, making the impact of the Korean War mobilization on the general
population that much greater.
Potential Program Implications. Although the post-9/11 reserve
mobilization has experienced fewer problems than previous callups, it has also
highlighted, and possibly even exacerbated, two issues regarding reserve force
structure and accessibility which began to emerge during the 1990-1991 callup. One
of these issues concerns the Army National Guard’s combat divisions and separate
brigades; the other concerns reserve recruiting and retention in an era of repeated
National Guard Combat Divisions And Separate Brigades. The Army
National Guard has 8 combat divisions and 15 “enhanced” separate brigades.107 No
Guard divisions have been called to active duty for an actual or potential foreign
conflict since the 1961 Berlin Crisis, and none of the separate brigades has been
called up for such purposes since the Vietnam War in 1968.
Three Army Guard combat maneuver brigades were mobilized for the 1991
Persian Gulf war. All three were “roundout” units designated to bring parent active
Army divisions to full strength upon mobilization. These three brigades, however,
were not activated until several months after the crisis began with Iraq’s invasion of
Kuwait in August 1990. The two brigades whose parent divisions fought in the war
did not deploy with those divisions; none of the three brigades left the United States;
and the only one to be “validated” as combat-ready was so judged on the date the war
officially ended. The brigades’ experience in the conflict generated much
controversy about the viability of the “roundout” concept and the active Army’s
relationship with the National Guard, in particular engendering great bitterness in
official relations between the Guard and the Army’s senior uniformed leadership.108
None of the Guard divisions and brigades have been activated to serve as whole
divisions and brigades since September 11, 2001. A substantial number of the
combat battalions that make up these divisions and brigades, however, have been
activated since that date, mostly to provide physical security for military installations
(including Air Force bases) in the United States. (A few of the battalions have been
deployed to provide rear-area security in Kuwait and Iraq.)
Given the number of active-duty Army units committed to Iraq and other
locations at the time of the Iraq war, some observers suggested that some Guard
divisions and brigades should be activated to reconstitute a strategic reserve against
possible threats elsewhere, such as the Korean Peninsula. There is no indication,
however, that DoD has contemplated taking such an action. DoD and the
administration have argued that more forces have not been needed. Other observers
107An Army division normally includes 3 brigades. Most of the Army’s brigades belong to
divisions, but some brigades are separate units that exist independent of the Army’s
divisions. The term “enhanced” denotes brigades that would be “organized and resourced
so that they can be mobilized, trained, and deployed more quickly to the fast-evolving
regional conflicts that we expect in the future.” U.S. Department of Defense. Report on the
Bottom-Up Review [of U.S. defense policy and programs]. Washington, 1993. (Les Aspin,
Secretary of Defense, October 1993) p. 94.
108See CRS Report 91-763 F, The Army’s Roundout Concept After the Persian Gulf War, by
Robert L. Goldich. Washington, 1991. (October 22, 1991)
argue Guard divisions and brigades have not been called up because the senior
uniformed leadership of the Army is anti-National Guard and Secretary of Defense
Rumsfeld is anti-Army in general.
The history of the Army Guard’s combat divisions and separate brigades since
1990 raises the following potential questions for Congress: If these divisions and
brigades are not to be activated under circumstances short of a total national
mobilization – which has not happened since World War II, 60 years ago – of what
use are they in the foreseeable future? If some of the subordinate battalions of the
divisions and brigades are considered useful during less extensive mobilizations, as
their recent activations indicate, then should some or all of the smaller component
units of the divisions and brigades be maintained while the expensive and officer-
heavy brigade and division headquarters are eliminated? There appears to be a
persistent assumption by senior active Army general officers that Guard combat
brigades and divisions cannot be made combat ready without lengthy post-
mobilization training. Is this belief supported by solely realistic analysis and
judgment, or is it influenced by organizational and contractual relationships and
Recruiting and Retention In Era of Repeated Callups. The role of the
reserve components has undergone a dramatic shift since the Cold War effectively
ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. During the Cold War, the reserve
components were primarily a force of last resort and were activated fairly
infrequently – about once every 10 years – in response to a major war or crisis. In
the post-Cold War era, however, they have been activated much more frequently.
Since 1990, there have been 6 involuntary activations of reservists, several of which110
are ongoing today. For most of these activations, affected reservists have been
required to serve about 6 to 9 months before being released back to their civilian
109Studies done in the mid-1990s by the Institute for Defense Analyses suggest that National
Guard “heavy” – i.e., armored or mechanized infantry – brigades, with properly structured
pre- and post-mobilization training, can be ready to deploy overseas into combat within 60
days after being called up, and that “light” brigades – i.e., light infantry or airborne brigades
– can be ready in several weeks less. Other studies by the Rand Corporation, however,
assert that such brigades might take between 96 and 154 days to be trained after activation.
The reasons behind this radical difference in the two organizations’ estimated readiness
times remain unclear. See CRS Report 97-719 F, The Army Reserve Components: Strength
and Force Structure Issues, by Robert L. Goldich. Washington, 1997. (Updated July 15,
110Some of these activations have been directly related to war or armed conflict. Examples
include the 1990-1991 callup for the 1991 Persian Gulf war; the mostly low-intensity U.S.
confrontation with Iraq of 1991-2003, which required a reserve callup starting in 1998 to
support both a rapid U.S. deployment of ground troops to Kuwait and the maintenance of
the U.S.-coalition “no-fly zones” over northern and southern Iraq; the global war on
terrorism, which began after September 11, 2001; and the Iraq war. Other activations have
been in support of missions that were primarily peacekeeping and nation-building, such as
the intervention in Haiti (1994-1996) and the ongoing Bosnian peacekeeping mission
(1995-present). The ongoing Kosovo mission (1999-present) has been a combination of
armed conflict and peacekeeping.
lives. Many reserves mobilized after September 11, 2001, however, have been
required to serve on active duty for a year, and some may have to serve for two years.
Callups can pose significant challenges for reservists. Some reservists suffer
mobilization-related financial hardships due to income loss, increased expenses, or
erosion of their professional practices. Others experience family problems due to the
strain of separation from family members. In light of these hardships, there has been
significant concern since at least 1990 that more-frequent and more-lengthy reserve
callups would lead to recruiting and retention problems for the reserve components.
The size and duration of the post-9/11 mobilization has increased those concerns.
To date, the data indicate that reserve recruiting and retention have not suffered
due to increased use of the reserve components. Reserve recruiting in FY 2002 was
very robust, with every reserve component exceeding its recruiting goals, sometimes
by substantial margins. Several scholarly studies have looked at the link between the
mobilization for the 1991 Persian Gulf war and reserve retention.111 These studies
found that the mobilization had no significant impact on reserve retention rates. This
is consistent with studies of active-component personnel, which indicate that,
provided they are well managed and not excessive, deployments do not have a
negative impact on retention – and can even enhance retention by providing
participants with a sense of accomplishment.112
Some of these active-component studies, however, also indicate that beyond a
certain threshold level, deployments can have a negative effect on retention. In light
of this finding, there might be reason to believe that repeated or prolonged
mobilization of reservists might have an adverse affect on reserve retention, and
possibly reserve recruiting as well. Some observers are concerned that, although
reserve recruiting and retention has held up in recent years, the post-9/11
mobilization of reservists might begin have a negative impact on recruiting and
retention, especially if it continues for an extended period of time. If the current
reserve mobilization does at some point begin to erode reserve recruiting and
retention, Congress may examine options for redressing the situation. Potential
questions for Congress under such circumstances could include the following:
Should reserve pay and benefits be increased to maintain the attractiveness of reserve
service? Should active duty and reserve force structure be modified to reduce active
component reliance on the reserves? Could some of the missions currently requiring
reserve component support be scaled back?
111Kirby, Sheila Nataraj, David W. Grissmer, Stephanie Williamson, and Scott Naftel. Costs
and Benefits of Reserve Participation: New Evidence from the 1992 Reserve Components
Survey, RAND Corporation, 1997; and Kirby, Sheila Nataraj, and Scott Naftel. The Effect
of Mobilization on Retention of Enlisted Reservists After Operation Desert Shield/Storm,
RAND Corporation, 1998.
112See for example Hosek, James, and Mark Totten. Does Perstempo Hurt Reenlistment?
The Effect of Long or Hostile Perstempo on Reenlistment, RAND Corporation, 1998; Sticha,
Paul, Paul Hogan and Maris Diane. Personnel Tempo: Definition, Measurement, and
Effects on Retention, Readiness and Quality of Life, Army Research Institute, 1999; Francis,
Peter. OPTEMPO and Readiness, Center for Naval Analysis, 1999; and Fricker, Ronald D.
Jr. The Effects of Perstempo on Officer Retention in the U.S. Military, RAND Corporation,
A Key Element of Defense Transformation. The Iraq war focused
attention on the U.S. military’s increasing ability to gather, share, and analyze
information, and make rapid decisions based on it. Improvements in these areas were
also demonstrated in the war in Afghanistan. These improvements reflect an initial
implementation of the concept of network-centric warfare (NCW), also known as
network-centric operations (NCO). NCW, which is a key element of U.S. plans for
defense transformation, refers to using networking technology – computers, data
links, and networking software – to link U.S. military personnel, ground vehicles,
aircraft, and ships into a series of highly integrated local- and wide-area networks
capable of sharing critical tactical information on a rapid and continuous basis.
Implementing NCW is expected to significantly improve the capability of U.S.
military forces by giving them vastly improved battlespace awareness (i.e., real-time
knowledge of the location and identify of friendly and enemy forces), an ability to
more quickly pass information about enemy targets from surveillance systems to
forces with the right weapons for attacking them (i.e., shortening the “sensor-to-
shooter” cycle), an ability to quickly make and execute decisions on the battlefield,
and an ability to use widely distributed forces to mass fires on enemy targets. NCW
is also expected to improve pre-conflict planning, including intelligence preparation
of the battlefield. Under NCW, the network elements can become as important to
combat capabilities, if not more important, than the platforms (e.g., tanks, aircraft,
and ships) that they link. Some observers suggest that under NCW, the network itself
becomes a weapon.114
C4ISR Programs for NCW. The concept of network-centric warfare
emerged in the late 1990s, and U.S. military forces are now in the early stages of
developing and acquiring systems for forming various local- and wide-area networks.115116
Numerous C4ISR programs are considered important to achieving NCW.
113This section prepared by Christopher Bolkcom and Ronald O’Rourke, Specialists in
114With the advent of network-centric warfare, the traditional (i.e., non-networked) approach
to war – in which individual military platforms operate to a large degree in isolation from
one another – is now referred to as platform-centric warfare. In platform-centric operations,
a force’s total capability frequently is the simple sum, more or less, of the individual
capability of each unit in the force. In network-centric warfare, in contrast, a force’s total
capability can be something much greater – perhaps many times greater – than this simple
115C4ISR stands for command and control, communications, computers, intelligence,
surveillance and reconnaissance.
116Examples of DoD-wide programs for achieving NCW include the Affordable Moving
Surface Target Engagement (AMSTE), Adaptive Joint C4ISR Node (AJCN), and the
Transformational Communications System (TCS). Examples of Army programs for
achieving NCW include the Force XXI Battle Command, Brigade and Below (FBCB2)
system – a digital command and control system for forces in the field; the Tactical Airspace
Integration System (TAIS) – an air traffic control system; the Army Airborne Command and
NCW in the Iraq War. Many observers believe the effectiveness of U.S.
forces in the Iraq war was likely due in significant part to the early stages of NCW
that were implemented in time for the war. A principal case in point concerns U.S.
air operations, which featured rapid transmission of information from sensors to
shooters, particularly for attacking time-sensitive targets. NCW might have figured
even more strongly in the Iraq war had the Army’s 4th Infantry Division – the division
with the highest degree of NCW implementation – played a more significant role in
Potential Program Implications. The success of U.S. forces in the Iraq war
may serve to reinforce interest in implementing NCW more fully throughout the
services. This is potentially significant, because investing in NCW might result in
reduced investments in traditional military platforms: C4ISR programs for achieving
NCW require funding that might otherwise go to traditional military platforms, and
the improved force effectiveness generated by NCW may permit military tasks in the
future to be performed by U.S. military forces consisting of fewer numbers of
platforms. Should C4ISR programs for NCW be accelerated or expanded? If so,
which other DoD programs should be reduced to serve as the “bill payers?”
Advocates of NCW could argue that DoD plans and budgets should be adjusted
to place greater emphasis on C4ISR programs and less emphasis on procurement of
traditional combat platforms, because funding invested in C4ISR programs will result
in a greater increase in overall combat capability, dollar per dollar, than funding
invested in traditional military platforms. Supporters of investing in combat
platforms, while acknowledging the importance of NCW and C4ISR programs, could
argue that creating a network requires platforms just as much as it requires systems
to link them, that today’s platforms are aging and growing increasingly expensive to
operate, and that next-generation platforms will be designed to take better advantage
Control System (A2C2S) – an airborne command post; the Army Battle Command System
(ABCS) – an overarching command-and-control architecture for Army forces; and the
Objective Force Battle Command System – a planned successor to the ABCS. Examples
of Air Force programs for achieving NCE include the Smart Tanker program, the CAOC-X
(Combined Air Operations Center); and the Advanced Tactical Targeting Technology
(AT3), a joint USAF/DARPA program. Examples of Navy efforts for achieving NCW
include the Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC), which provides an improved real-
time air-defense picture for Navy ships and aircraft; the Naval Fires Network (NFN), a
system for coordinating information on enemy targets; the IT-21 (Information Technologyst
for the 21 Century) program for establishing an intranet for transmitting tactical and
administrative data within and between Navy ships; and the ForceNet concept – the Navy’s
overall approach for knitting togther various networks into a grand naval NCW architecture.
(For more on Navy NCW programs, see CRS Report 20557, Navy Network-Centric Warfare
Programs: Key Programs and Issues for Congress, by Ronald O’Rourke. Washington,
2003. [Updated periodically] 6 p.) Taken together, all these examples constitute only a
short, illustrative list of NCW-related C4ISR programs.
117The 4th Infantry Division was originally scheduled to attack northern Iraq from Turkey but
was redeployed to Kuwait following Turkey’s decision not to grant base-access rights.
Elements of the division did not enter the war until the final days of the conflict.
of networking technology than today’s platforms, ensuring that U.S. forces gain
maximum benefit from the implementation of NCW.
A key current constraint on achieving NCW concerns communications
bandwidth capacity (i.e., simultaneous data transmission capacity), especially for
non-line-of-sight systems. Networking systems require large amounts of bandwidth,
and U.S. operations during the Iraq war placed strains on current bandwidth
capacity.118 Although steps can be taken to reduce the amount of bandwidth required
by individual C4ISR systems, wider implementation of NCW will likely require DoD
to substantially increase bandwidth capacity. One DoD effort to improve bandwidth
capacity involves investing in satellites that transmit data using lasers rather than
Another NCW issue concerns the potential vulnerability of NCW-related C4ISR
systems to potential enemy cyberwarfare attacks. As implementation of NCW grows,
the dependence of U.S. forces on NCW-related C4ISR systems could also grow.
Observers concerned about this growing dependency could argue that although Iraq
may not have been well prepared for conducting cyberwarfare attacks against U.S.
C4ISR systems, other future potential adversaries might be. They could note that
DoD computers are now being attacked on a regular and even daily basis by
computer operators in foreign countries, in some cases in large-scale organized
operations that suggest possible support by foreign governments. What steps is DoD
taking to ensure that NCW-related C4ISR systems will remain secure against
cyberwarfare attack? What is DoD’s plan for ensuring the security of these systems
while keeping them affordable and user-friendly?119
NCW also has potential implications for joint (i.e., integrated multi-service)
operations and for combined operations in which U.S. military forces operate in
conjunction with foreign military forces.120
118Tuttle, Rich. C4ISR Speeded Combat in Iraq, Strained Bandwidth, Analysts Say.
Aerospace Daily, April 30, 2003; U.S. Department of Defense. U.S. Air Force Aim Points,
24 April 2003. SAF/PAX (Strategic Communication); Keeter, Hunter. Cebrowski: Iraq
Shows Network Centric Warfare Implementation. Defense Daily, April 23, 2003; Jehl,
Douglas. Digital Links are Giving Old Weapons New Power. New York Times, April 7,
119For more on this issue, see CRS Report RL31787, Information Warfare and Cyberwar:
Capabilities and Related Policy Issues, by Clay Wilson. Washington, 2003. (March 14,
120DoD-wide C4ISR systems can contribute to joint operations, as can service-specific
C4ISR systems, if designed to common DoD-wide standards. Service-specific programs,
however, could make the services less joint if designed to mutually incompatible standards.
(See, for example, Baumgardner, Neil. Myriad of Communications Equipment Problematic
For Marine Forces in OIF. Defense Daily, June 2, 2003; Burger, Kim. US Marines Voice
Concern Over Network Limitations. Jane’s Defence Weekly, March 26, 2003.) Similarly,
if allied or friendly countries invest in C4ISR systems compatible with those being acquired
by U.S. forces, it could permit U.S. forces to operate more effectively in conjunction with
foreign military forces than was previously possible. Conversely, if those countries do not
invest in advanced C4ISR systems, or acquire systems that are not compatible with U.S.
A Pre-War Concern. In the early days of the Iraq war, many observers
expressed concerns about the likelihood that U.S. and British forces would
participate in urban combat operations. Such operations, they feared, could lead to
significant U.S. and civilian casualties and significant damage to civilian Iraqi
infrastructure. These concerns were based in part on urban combat operations in
previous wars, which have often resulted in high casualty rates for invading forces,
large numbers of civilian deaths, and massive damage to buildings and supporting
infrastructure. Observers expressed particular concerns about the likelihood of urban
combat operations in Baghdad, given the large size of the city and its importance to122
the Iraqi regime. Iraqi officials before and during the Iraq war stated that enemy
forces would be killed in large numbers in urban fighting, and that the invasion effort123
as a whole would be defeated in the streets of Iraq’s cities.
Urban Combat in the Iraq War. As expected, fighting in urban areas
proved necessary in the Iraq war. Fighting in and around Iraqi towns and cities
appears to have accounted for a sizeable share of U.S. and British combat casualties.
U.S. and British forces were drawn into more extensive urban fighting in southern
Iraqi cities than they had planned, but U.S. forces were able to take control of
Baghdad much more rapidly, and with fewer U.S. and civilian casualties, than many
observers had anticipated. Bold advances into central Baghdad by columns of U.S.
Army armored forces – a tactical innovation that was created on the spot by U.S. unit
commanders – proved instrumental in accelerating the collapse of organized Iraqi
resistance in the city. U.S. aircraft armed with precision-guided munitions proved
useful in providing an urban version of close-air support for U.S. and British ground
systems, it could make combined operations more difficult for the United States to
undertake. Foreign forces operating outside the U.S. network might need to be sidelined or
given low-level tasks to ensure that those forces do not interfere with networked U.S.
121This section prepared by Ronald O’Rourke, Specialist in National Defense.
122See, for example, Richburg, Keith B. Standoff At Basra Hints At Tough Time In
Baghdad. Washington Post, March 30, 2003: 22; Rotella, Sebastian. Quick Knockout Or
Street Fight? Los Angeles Times, March 28, 2003: 1; Jenkins, Simon. Baghdad Will Be
Near Impossible To Conquer. London Times, March 28, 2003; Dine, Philip. The Battle.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 27, 2003; Wood, David. Saddam’s ‘Quagmire’ May Be In
Baghdad. Newhouse.com, March 26, 2003; Grier, Peter, and Faye Bowers. Next, The Battle
For Baghdad. Christian Science Monitor, March 26, 2003; Galloway, Joseph L. Speed
Essential To Avoid City War. Philadelphia Inquirer, March 26, 2003; U.S. Troops Facing
Combat In Narrow Baghdad Streets. Washington Times, March 26, 2003 (Associated Press
wire story); Richter, Paul. Risky Fight For Baghdad Nears. Los Angeles Times, March 24,
Constitution, March 24, 2003; Little, Robert. In Baghdad, A Deadly Risk Of Urban War.
Baltimore Sun, March 24, 2003; Hedges, Stephen J., and Douglas Holt. War’s Real Test
Awaits In Baghdad. Chicago Trubune, March 23, 2003;
123See, for example, Burns, John F. As Allies Race North, Iraq Warns Of A Fierce Fight.
New York Times, March 24, 2003.
forces, and unmanned air vehicles proved valuable in providing persistent overhead
surveillance of urban areas for locating and tracking the movements of Iraqi forces.124
Potential Program Implications. The Iraq war may serve to highlight the
importance of training and equipping U.S. forces for urban combat operations.
Programs closely associated with preparing for urban combat operations include the
!training facilities, including mock-ups of urban areas and “laser-tag” weapon
simulators, for conducting realistic training in urban combat tactics;
!UAVs and unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) equipped with cameras,
signals-intelligence-gathering equipment, other sensors, and weapons, for
finding, tracking, and killing enemy forces hiding around corners and inside
!the Land Warrior program for developing an improved ensemble – a
combination of protective clothing, weapons, and equipment for situational
awareness – for individual soldiers;
!the Objective Individual Combat Weapon – a next-generation rifle scheduled
to enter service in FY2009 that is to be capable of shooting at non-line-of-
sight targets (i.e., at targets around a corner);
!small explosive charges designed for breaking through building walls, so that
U.S. forces can enter and pass through buildings without using doorways that
may be heavily defended or booby-trapped;
!a secure, intrasquad radio, which the Army is now developing;
!night-vision devices for operating at night (particularly when electrical power
has been knocked out) or in darkened interiors of buildings;
!acoustic or other sensors for quickly determining the origin of enemy sniper
!small, air-delivered, precision-guided weapons, such as the 250-pound Small
Diameter Bomb now in development, that can be used to destroy enemy
weapons or targeted buildings while avoiding damage to neighboring
!non-lethal weapons, also called less-than-lethal weapons, for reducing civilian
casualties when attempting to counter enemy fighters interspersed among
Realistic training in urban combat tactics can prove highly useful in reducing,
perhaps significantly, casualty rates for U.S. forces involved in urban operations.
Some observers believe that current U.S. urban training facilities need to be larger,
more realistic, and better instrumented to support joint (i.e., multi-service) training
124For early examples of articles reviewing U.S. and British urban combat operations in the
Iraq war, see Gordon, Michael R. Five Ways To Take A City. New York Times on the Web,
April 8, 2003; Scarborough, Rowan. Mogadishu Lessons Help Foil Saddam’s Strategy.
Washington Times, April 8, 2003: 1; Loeb, Vernon, and Thomas E. Ricks. Military Defends
Risks Of Aggressive Tactics. Washington Post, April 9, 2003; Lowe, Christian. Air Power
Increasingly Useful In Urban Fights. Marine Corps Times, April 21, 2003: 15; Branigin,
William. 3 Key Battles Turned Tide Of Invasion. Washington Post, April 20, 2003: 20.
Among UAVs, smaller and miniature UAVs, including UAVs capable of
perching on urban structures, may prove particularly valuable in urban settings.
Among UGVs, larger models include the Marine Corp’s Gladiator, which was sent
to the Iraqi theater. Smaller models include the Army’s MATILDA, which was also
sent to the Iraqi theater, and the Marine Corps’ Dragon Runner, which is now in
As mentioned in the section on the size and composition of the Army,
supporters of heavily armored vehicles like the M1 tank and the M2 Bradley fighting
vehicle could argue that the Iraq war demonstrated the value of such vehicles in
urban combat situations, confounding the pre-war expectations of some observers.
The M1 and M2, they can note, were largely invulnerable to the weapons Iraqi
fighters used to attack them, and in drawing fire from these weapons in urban fights
proved highly valuable in uncovering the location of hidden Iraqi fighters, who could
then be killed. Without the M1 and M2, supporters could argue, the Army would not
have been well equipped to carry out the bold advances into central Baghdad that
played a critical role in rapidly collapsing organized Iraqi resistance in the city while
incurring few U.S. and civilian casualties. More lightly armored vehicles like the
planned Stryker wheeled combat vehicle, they could argue, would have been
vulnerable to some of the weapons that Iraqi forces used ineffectively against the
Army’s M1 and M2 armored vehicles.
As also mentioned in the section on the size and composition of the Army,
however, other observers could argue that the effectiveness of the M1 tank in combat
operations in Baghdad resulted in part from Baghdad’s broad avenues and sizeable
public plazas and other open areas, which gave the M1s room to maneuver and long
lines of sight. Future urban combat situations, they could argue, may take place in
cities and towns with narrower roads and shorter lines of sight, which could make
M1s less effective and potentially more vulnerable to enemy attack. They could also
argue that in the days following the end of major fighting in the war, Stryker vehicles
would have been useful in Iraqi cities for helping to reestablish civil order.
Ballistic Missile Defense125
Ballistic Missile Defense In The 1991 Persian Gulf War. Missile-
defense operations were a prominent component of the 1991 Persian Gulf war, during
which Iraq fired a total of about 80 Scud ballistic missiles against targets in Saudi
Arabia, other Persian Gulf countries, and Israel. U.S. and coalition forces in the 1991
war attempted to shoot down the Scuds with the Patriot PAC-2 missile system, an
air-defense system originally designed for shooting down aircraft and then modified
for shooting down short-range ballistic missiles as well. The Patriot system was
initially credited with a high rate of effectiveness in shooting down Iraqi Scuds.
Later analysis, however, showed that the system’s effectiveness against Scuds was
lower, with some analysts suggesting it was close to zero. Debate about the success
rate of the Patriot system in the 1991 Persian Gulf war contributed to the general
125This section prepared by Steven A. Hildreth, Specialist in National Defense.
debate about the technological feasibility and potential operational effectiveness of
PAC-2 and PAC-3 Patriot Missiles. In the years since the 1991 Persian
Gulf war, DoD has spent about $3 billion dollars improving the Patriot system’s
ability to track and intercept ballistic missiles. For the recent Iraq war, the United
States deployed improved versions of the Patriot PAC-2 and the newer PAC-3. The
PAC-3 is designed to fly higher and farther than the PAC-2. In contrast to the PAC-
2, which attempts to destroy its target with an explosive charge, the PAC-3 attempts
to destroy its target by colliding with it. The latter approach, called hit-to-kill, has
been the primary U.S. technological approach to missile defense since 1984 and is
now being used for almost all other U.S. missile-defense systems now in
Ballistic Missile Defense in the Iraq War. The Patriot system is currently
the only operational U.S. missile defense system, and the recent Iraq war represented
the first opportunity for using the PAC-3 version in combat. The success rate of the
Patriot, and particularly the PAC-3 version, in the Iraq war was thus a matter of
particular interest to those following missile defense programs.
DoD states that a total of 9 Iraqi ballistic missiles were targeted by the Patriot
system. Another 6 missiles launched by Iraq were not targeted because they were
projected to land in places where they would cause no harm.127 The ballistic missiles
that Iraq fired were not Scuds but rather shorter-ranged and slower-flying missiles
such as Al Samoud-2s and Ababil-100s. It is not yet clear whether the lack of Scud
attacks in the Iraq war was due to successful U.S. operations to suppress such attacks
before they could occur, a decision by Iraq to withhold its purported Scuds for future
use, or because Iraq at the time of the war did not have any operational Scuds.
DoD says the Patriot system successfully intercepted all 9 of the ballistic
missiles that it targeted. Seven of the intercepts, DoD says, were made by PAC-2
missiles, while the remaining 2 intercepts were made by PAC-3 missiles. Most of
the Patriots fired were PAC-2s; 4 of them were PAC-3s. (The standard firing
doctrine is to fire two Patriots at each ballistic missile.) The one Iraqi missile that
reportedly may have eluded the Patriot system’s radar was a low-flying Iraqi cruise
missile fired from Iraq’s Faw Peninsula that hit the seawall at Kuwait City. The
Patriot system was also involved in 3 friendly-fire incidents which resulted in the loss
of 1 U.S. and 1 British aircraft (see discussion below on friendly fire).128
126For more on the debate on missile defense programs, see CRS Report RL31111, Missile
Defense: The Current Debate, Coordinated by Steven A. Hildreth and Amy F. Woolf.
Washington, 2003. (Updated periodically) 56 p.
127DoD says 2 of them landed in the water, 3 landed in the empty desert, and 1 exploded
shortly after launch. None of them, DoD says, caused any damage or loss of life. Donnelly,
John M. New Patriot’s Record: Success, But Only Two Attempts. Defense Week, April 21,
128For articles discussing missile-defense operations in the Iraq war, see Graham, Bradley.
Radar Probed In Patriot Incidents. Washington Post, May 8, 2003: 21; Grossman, Elaine
Potential Program Implications. Advocates for and against missile
defense are likely to find something from the performance of missile defense systems
in the Iraq war that supports their perspective. Because of this and the still-ongoing
controversy over Patriot performance in Operation Desert Storm in 1991, debate over
the viability of hit-to-kill technology for missile defense today is likely to continue.
Supporters of the Patriot system and missile defense programs in general could
argue that the Iraq war underscored the need for missile defense systems and
demonstrated the effectiveness of the Patriot system for defending against short-range
ballistic missiles. They could argue that the successful use of the PAC-3 missile in
the Iraq war demonstrated that hit-to-kill technology works and is the preferred
means of seeking to destroy attacking ballistic missiles. They could also argue that
U.S. military operations in Western Iraq suggest that operations intended to prevent
the launch of enemy ballistic missiles may contribute to an overall missile-defense
Skeptics concerning missile defense programs could argue that the Iraq war
involved too small a number of missile engagements to support firm conclusions,
particularly about the effectiveness of the PAC-3 version and its hit-to-kill
technology. They could argue that the Iraq war did not validate the effectiveness of
the PAC-3 version against the Scud missile – one of the most likely systems it is
designed to counter, but one that it has never been used against in either combat
operations or peacetime tests. They could also argue that the successful use of PAC-
3s does not necessarily validate the soundness of the hit-to-kill approach for other
missile-defense systems that are being developed to shoot down intercontinental-
range ballistic missiles in mid-flight, because such intercepts would take place in a
different physical environment (i.e., outside the atmosphere) and at much higher
intercept velocities. They could also argue that the failure of the Patriot to stop the
cruise missile that hit the seawall at Kuwait City raises questions about the
effectiveness of the system against low-flying cruise missiles.
Although not confirmed, the 3 friendly-fire incidents involving the Patriot
system may be due primarily to operational procedures and issues associated with the
complexity of the modern electromagnetic battlefield. If so, these incidents might
not have implications for missile defense per se, but rather for modern complex
weapon systems of all kinds.
M. Most Intercepts Of Iraqi Rockets Were By Older Patriot Missiles. Inside the Pentagon,
April 24, 2003: 7; Donnelly, John M. New Patriot’s Record: Success, But Only Two
Attempts. Defense Week, April 21, 2003: 1; Gildea, Kerry. Patriot Validating Missile
Defense Concepts, DoD Officials Say. Defense Daily, April 10, 2003; Model Of U.S.
Missile Defense Now Guarding Kuwait, Kadish Says. Bloomberg.com, April 9, 2003; Hsu,
Emily. Kadish: Most Iraqi Missile Intercepts Achieved By Enhanced PAC-2 Missiles.
InsideDefense.com, April 9, 2003.
Modern Warfare and Friendly Fire. The accidental killing or wounding
of friendly forces in combat – called friendly fire or fratricide – is a tragic yet not
uncommon aspect of warfare. Friendly fire incidents have been recorded throughout130
history. Observers argue over whether modern warfare raises or lowers the risk of
fratricide. On the one hand, modern weapons are very lethal, and frequently delivered
over great distances. Modern combat also emphasizes conducting non-linear
operations and missions behind enemy lines while simultaneously conducting strikes
deep inside enemy territory. This can increase the risk of fratricide because the
complex battlefield no longer is made up of clearly drawn battle lines composed of
fronts and flanks and rear echelons. On the other hand, today’s military has far better
communication, navigation, targeting, and identification systems, which should
reduce the mis-communications that often lead to friendly fire incidents. In addition,
widespread use of self-protection equipment, such as new types of body armor,
greatly reduces casualties, as do modern medical and evacuation capabilities.
A Concern From the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Casualties due to friendly
fire emerged as a significant topic of discussion following the 1991 Persian Gulf war,
in which about 23% of U.S. combat deaths (35 of 148) were attributed to friendly
fire. Combat losses due to friendly fire can be particularly difficult to accept,
especially for the families of those killed, and the percentage of combat deaths in the
1991 Persian Gulf war attributed to friendly fire was much higher than many people
had anticipated. As a result of the experience with friendly-fire incidents in the 1991
Persian Gulf war, minimizing casualties due to friendly fire was elevated as an issue,
and remained a topic of some concern going into the Iraq war.
Friendly Fire Casualties in the Iraq War. Although DoD has not officially
announced the number of friendly fire casualties in the Iraq war, one press account
shows that out of 151 total U.S. combat deaths, at least 15 coalition deaths were due
to fratricide – a rate of about 10%. The article stated that an additional 10 incidents
with 20 deaths were still under investigation, so this rate could rise over the next few131
months. Fratricide incidents in the Iraq war suggest that modern warfare remains
susceptible to equipment malfunctions and human error, and may focus attention on
how much military capabilities for mitigating fratricide have improved since the 1991
Persian Gulf war.
129This section prepared by Christopher Bolkcom, Specialist in National Defense.
130One of the most famous friendly fire incidents occurred in the U.S. Civil War, when
Confederate General Stonewall Jackson was shot by his own troops when returning to camp
from a nighttime mission.
131Pae, Peter. ‘Friendly Fire’ Still A Problem. Los Angeles Times, May 16, 2003: 1.
Another press account, citing the Center for Army Lessons Learned, cited a total of 35 U.S.
and coalition deaths by friendly fire, including 18 Kurdish troops killed by an Air Force F-
Patriot missile, 2 other British soldiers who were killed when one British Challenger tank
fired on another, and one solider killed when an Air Force A-10 fired on a British Warrior
armored fighting vehicle. (French, Matthew, with Dan Caterinicchia. Friendly Fire System
Gets Good Grades. Federal Computer Week, June 2, 2003.)
Is a rate of friendly fire casualties in the Iraq war acceptable? Some argue that
a certain level of fratricide is inevitable. Others argue that one friendly fire death is
too many. One widely circulated rule of thumb is that fratricide typically accounts
for 2% of an army’s casualties. But many researchers dispute this conventional
wisdom, saying that in the 20th Century, 10% to 30% of casualties have been caused
by friendly fire. A 1993 study by the Office of Technology Assessment estimated
that 15% to 20% of those killed or injured in World War II, the Korean War and
Vietnam were due to friendly fire.132
Types of Friendly Fire Incidents. Friendly fire incidents are often
categorized by the types of engagements involved: surface-to-air, air-to-air, air-to-
surface, and surface-to-surface. No air-to-air friendly fire incidents were recorded in133
OIF and very few surface-to-surface incidents. Fratricide did occur in the other
engagement regimes, and examining these specific instances may help identify the
issues for Congress to address.
Surface-to-Air Incidents. Surface-to-air incidents were among the most
widely noted friendly fire incidents in the Iraq war. On March 23, 2003, a PAC-2
Patriot surface-to-air missile mistakenly shot down a British Tornado aircraft, killing
its crew of two. Two days later, another fratricide incident appears to have been
narrowly avoided when a U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter destroyed the radar of a Patriot
battery after the Patriot system had misidentified the F-16 as a possible target. And
on April 2, 3003, a PAC-3 Patriot missile shot down a U.S. Navy F/A-18C fighter,
killing its pilot.134
As the causes of these cases are being investigated, some observers are asking
why the Patriot system – which can defend against both faster-flying tactical ballistic
missiles and slower-flying manned and unmanned aircraft – was engaging aircraft at
all. They argue that the Tornado and F/A-18C shoot-downs could have been avoided
132U.S. Congress. Office of Technology Assessment. Who Goes There: Friend or Foe?
Washington, U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1993. (OTA-ISC-537, June 1993) 84 p.
133At least one, and possibly two, Army M-1 tanks were destroyed by fire from Army M2
Bradley fighting vehicles. (Naylor, Sean D. Abrams Destroyed By Friendly, Not Iraqi, Fire.
Army Times, June 9, 2003: 34.) Two British soldiers were killed when their Challenger II
main battle tank was destroyed by another Challenger II during a fight with Iraqi forces in
the battle for the southern Iraqi city of Basra. (Douglas Barrie. “Unfriendly Fire.” Aviation
Week & Space Technology. April 7, 2003.) Another article states: “According to Pentagon
documents, there were at least three friendly fire fatalities between individuals.” (Pae, Peter.
‘Friendly Fire’ Still A Problem. Los Angeles Times, May 16, 2003: 1.)
134For articles on friendly fire incidents involving the Patriot system, see Graham, Bradley.
Radar Probed In Patriot Incidents. Washington Post, May 8, 2003: 21; Grossman, Elaine
M. Patriot May Mistake Aircraft For Missile In Combat’s Electronic Glut. Inside the
Pentagon, April 24, 2003: 1; Piller, Charles. Vaunted Patriot Missile Has A ‘Friendly Fire’
Failing. Los Angeles Times, April 21, 2003: 1; Kerber, Ross. Ex-Official Says Defense
Systems Flawed In Tests. Boston Globe, April 17, 2003: 25; Kerber, Ross. Friendly Fire
Cases Draw New Scrutiny To System. Boston Globe, April 16, 2003: 24; Stone, Andrea.
Patriot Missile: Friend Or Foe To Allied Troops? USA Today, April 15, 2003; Goodman,
Glenn W. Jr. New Questions Surround Patriot Missile System. DefenseNews, April 7,
by simply instructing the Patriot system to ignore slower-flying manned aircraft.
Since 100% of the manned combat aircraft flying over Iraq and Kuwait during the
war were U.S. or British, they argue, Patriot batteries and other air defense systems
could safely have been instructed to focus solely on shooting down ballistic missiles.
Although Iraq’s air force never got off the ground, Iraq did launch at least seven
cruise missiles at military and civilian targets in Kuwait on March 20, March 28, and
April 2, 2003.135 Cruise missiles appear very much like manned aircraft to air
defense systems because they fly at speeds and altitudes similar to manned aircraft.
Did concerns for potential Iraqi cruise missile attacks deter U.S. and British air
defense forces from instructing the Patriot system to ignore slower-flying aircraft?
If so, does this incident suggest that additional funding should be devoted to
improving the Patriot’s ability to distinguish cruise missiles from aircraft?
One theory that has been advanced is that the presence on the battlefield of
many Patriot systems close to one another and to other U.S. electromagnetic-emitting
systems may have created a situation of electromagnetic interference that confused
the Patriot system, preventing it from properly distinguishing aircraft from ballistic
missiles. According to this theory, Patriot system operators in both the Tornado and
F-18C/D incidents thought they were firing at enemy ballistic missiles rather than
aircraft.136 If electromagnetic interference was involved in one or more of the
incidents, then reducing such interference may be elevated as a concern in designing
U.S. weapon systems and developing procedures for using them.
The shot-down British Tornado reportedly failed to re-enter Kuwait from Iraq
through one of the air corridors that had been cleared for allied warplanes.137 If so,
then pilot error could have contributed to this friendly fire incident. Human error in
time of war is difficult to prevent entirely, but training and exercises can help reduce
its frequency. Could this mistake have been avoided through better coalition
It was also reported that the Tornado’s identification-friend-or-foe (IFF) beacon
was unable to communicate with the U.S. air defense crew due to separate damage
to the aircraft as it returned from its bombing mission.138 IFF problems were also
reportedly a contributing factor in the mistaken shoot-down of an Iranian airliner by
a U.S. Navy cruiser in the Persian Gulf in July 1988. Do IFF technologies merit
135Gormley, Dennis. North Korean Cruise Missile Tests – and Iraqi Cruise Missile Attacks
– Raise Troubling Questions for Missile Defenses. Research Story of the Week. Monterey
Institute of International Studies. Center for Nonproliferation Studies. [http://cns.miis.edu]
136Squeo, Anne Marie. Radiation May Impair Patriot Missile System. Wall Street Journal,
May 23, 2003; Graham, Bradley. Radar Probed In Patriot Incidents. Washington Post, May
8, 2003: 21; Grossman, Elaine M. Patriot May Mistake Aircraft For Missile In Combat’s
Electronic Glut. Inside the Pentagon, April 24, 2003: 1.
137See, for example, Squeo, Anne Marie. Radiation May Impair Patriot Missile System.
Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2003.
138Squeo, Anne Marie. Radiation May Impair Patriot Missile System. Wall Street Journal,
May 23, 2003. See also Shanker, Thom. Risk of Being Killed By Own Side Increases. New
York Times, April 8, 2003.
closer attention? Are IFF systems subject to too many technical glitches? Do they
need to be made more user friendly?
In the F-16 incident, it was reported that the Patriot crew was taking cover from
Iraqi artillery and had placed their system in automatic mode when their radar
mistakenly identified the U.S. jet as a target.139 What implications, if any, does this
incident have for maintaining a “human-in-the loop” in the design and operation of
sophisticated weapon systems? As military systems take increasing advantage of
information technologies, there may be a temptation among weapon designers and
operators to increase the level of a weapon’s autonomy. Does the F-16 incident
suggest that the pendulum is swinging too far away from human control of weapons?
Many digital battle-management and communications links currently being
fielded by U.S. forces are designed to improve situational awareness and – as a
byproduct – reduce the chances of fratricide. One such communication link, called
Link-16, is touted as a high-fidelity, robust, jam-resistant link that will help reduce
fratricide. What, if anything, do the Iraq war fratricide incidents imply for Link-16
funding and implementation plans? Was the F/A-18C using Link-16? Were the
Patriot batteries – including the one that engaged the F/A-18C – using it?
Air-to-Surface Incidents. Some widely noted air-to-surface fratricide
incidents also occurred in the Iraq war. On March 28, 2003, an Air Force A-10
attack plane attacked five British ground vehicles, striking two of them with 30mm
cannon. The aircraft made two passes against the vehicles, killing one British solider
and wounding four. U.S. aircraft flying over northern Iraq also mistakenly bombed
a friendly Kurdish military convoy on April 6, 2003, killing 19 Kurds and wounding
three Army Special Forces soldiers. On April 3, 2003, U.S. Central Command
officials reported another possible friendly-fire incident, stating that an Air Force F-
15E may have fired on U.S. Army forces, killing one soldier and injuring several
Many believe that air-to-ground fratricide is a much tougher problem to solve
than surface-to-air fratricide. Aircraft fly at hundred of miles an hour, and at altitudes
high enough – normally more than 15,000 feet – to be above the effective range of
enemy shoulder-fired air-defense missiles. At such heights, distinguishing friendly
personnel and ground vehicles from enemy personnel and ground vehicles can be
very difficult. Ground vehicles can change their positions rapidly, and friendly and
enemy vehicles are often in close proximity. Some analysts argue that the only
dependable safeguards against air-to-ground fratricide are procedural – having one’s
ground forces stay away from suspected enemy targets when friendly aircraft are
attacking those targets, establishing positive identification with the forward air
139Stone, Andrea. Patriot Missile: Friend or Foe to Allied Troops? USA Today, April 15,
140Graham, Bradley. Patriot System Likely Downed U.S. Navy Jet. Washington Post, April
controllers on the ground who direct friendly aircraft, and knowing where friendly
aircraft are going to strike before moving.141
The British vehicles that were fired on by the U.S. A-10 were fitted with combat
identification equipment such as thermal imaging panels and strips and infrared
emitters.142 Why did these measures fail to warn U.S. aircraft? DoD and NATO
allies are currently pursuing an Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration
(ACTD) project for Coalition Combat Identification to develop technologies that
would reduce the risk of surface-to-surface and air-to-surface fratricide. What is the
status of this program? What is the balance within DoD development efforts for
preventing fratricide between air-to-surface and surface-to-surface programs? DoD
invested millions of dollars in the Battlefield Combat Identification System (BCIS)
before canceling the project in 2001. What lessons were learned from this
Intelligence In The 1991 Persian Gulf War. The 1991 Persian Gulf war
revealed inadequacies in intelligence for support to U.S. combat troops. In particular,
observers concluded that U.S. commanders in the field had insufficient access to
certain time-sensitive battle-relevant intelligence due to inadequate communications
links with both national-level and theater-level U.S. intelligence-collecting systems.
Following the Gulf War, DoD initiated efforts to ensure that U.S. battlefield
commanders could gain rapid access to relevant intelligence collected by disparate
A DoD Priority. The role of intelligence in supporting U.S. combat operations
has been elevated in DoD planning by the new operational concepts (i.e., new
approaches to warfighting) and associated military doctrines, especially network-
centric warfare, that have been widely articulated in official DoD publications since
the early 1990s. Intelligence is a key element of the administration’s vision for
defense transformation, which emphasizes collecting intelligence through multiple
sources and sharing it rapidly between distributed U.S. forces so as to provide those
forces with a complete, real-time picture of the battlefield. Reflecting this focus, the
141Clark, Wesley. Technology Cannot Prevent ‘Blue-On-Blue’ Deaths. London Times, April
142Barrie, Douglas. Unfriendly Fire. Aviation Week & Space Technology, April 7, 2003.
143See also French, Matthew, with Dan Caterinicchia. Friendly Fire System Gets Good
Grades. Federal Computer Week, June 2, 2003; Trimble, Stephen. Iraq Combat Shows
Need For New Friendly Fire Fix. Aerospace Daily, June 2, 2003; Eisman, Dale. Fratricide
A Problem In Iraq, General Says. Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, May 31, 2003.
144This section prepared by Richard A. Best, Jr., Specialist in National Defense.
145See, for example, U.S. Congress. House of Representatives. Committee on Armed
Services. Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Intelligence Successes andst
Failures in Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm. 103d Cong., 1 Sess. Washington, U.S.
Govt. Print. Off., 1993. (Committee Print No.5, August 16, 1993)
administration states that it has accorded high-priority in DoD budget planning to
intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) programs.146
Intelligence Successes in the Iraq War. The Iraq war appears to have
validated the central importance of detailed, accurate, and real-time intelligence in
U.S. military operations. The availability of good intelligence was a major factor in
the success of the war effort, enabling U.S. forces to carry out precision strikes
against critical Iraqi leadership targets and military formations while bypassing other
targets that were not critical to the U.S. war plan. As a result, Iraqi military
command-and-control capabilities were rapidly degraded, critical Iraqi military
formations were decimated before they had a chance to engage U.S. and British
ground forces, civilian casualties were reduced, and (significantly for the future of147
Iraq) damage to the infrastructure needed for reconstruction was minimized.
Intelligence in the Iraq war was collected and made available to operating forces
without many of the communications problems that had existed in the 1991 Persian
Gulf war, the U.S. military operation in Kosovo in 1999, and even the U.S.-led war
in Afghanistan in 2001-2002. Some of the improvements resulted from the
availability of new equipment; others resulted from more responsive organizational
relationships that facilitated the effective use of perishable intelligence data. Press
reports indicate in particular that there was closer intelligence coordination between
ground and air units, enabling air strikes against enemy ground forces with fewer148
casualties to nearby friendly forces.
A key form of intelligence was precise data on the location of important Iraqi
military installations. Iraq was mapped in detail by U.S. intelligence agencies prior
to the war, and regular updates were made available to battlefield commanders during
the conflict. U.S. agencies obtained commercial overhead imagery and used it widely149
to supplement information collected by U.S. government satellites.
146See U.S. Department of Defense. Transformation Planning Guidance. Washington,
2003. (April 2003). The document states: “The new defense strategy rests on a foundation
of transformed intelligence capabilities. Our ability to defend America in a new security
environment requires unprecedented intelligence capabilities to anticipate where, when, and
how adversaries intend to harm us. Our vision of a smaller, more lethal and nimble joint
force capable of swiftly defeating an adversary throughout the depth of the global
battlespace hinges in intelligence capabilities....” (Page 17)
147See, for example, Wall, Robert, and David A. Fulghum. The Intel Battle. Aviation Week
& Space Technology, May 12, 2003: 62; Fulghum, David A., and Robert Wall. Baghdad
Confidential. Aviation Week & Space Technology, April 28, 2003: 32; Chien, Philip.
Satellites Aid U.S. Military In Iraq. Washington Times, March 28, 2003: 14; Schmitt, Eric.
In The Skies Ove Iraq, Silent Observers Become Futuristic Weapons. New York Times,
April 18, 2003: B8; Cushman, John H. Jr., and Thom Shanker. A War Like No Other Usesst
148See, for example, Graham, Bradley, and Vernon Loeb. An Air War Of Might,
Coordination And Risks. Washington Post, April 27, 2003: 1.
149Smith, R. Jeffrey. Secretive Agency’s Maps Pave Way For Iraqi Relief; High-Tech
Details That Aided Military To Be Released. Washington Post, April 22, 2003: 17.
U.S. intelligence agencies also made extensive use of human intelligence
(humint) before and during the war.150 Many of the principal bombing targets were
reportedly identified by human agents operating in Iraq. U.S. intelligence operatives
reportedly made contact with internal opposition forces that assisted the U.S.-led war
effort. And some reports indicate that contacts made by U.S. intelligence elements
with certain Iraqi military leaders may have led to several Iraqi divisions opting out
of the conflict without formally surrendering. In addition, cooperation between U.S.
special operations forces (SOF) and paramilitary forces of the CIA (many of whom
reportedly are ex-SOF personnel) enabled coalition forces to secure oil fields before
they could be destroyed, inhibit Iraqi ballistic missile attacks on friendly targets, and
rescue U.S. prisoners of war.
Some Questions Raised By Iraq War. The Iraq war appears to have
highlighted certain questions about the analytical effectiveness of U.S. intelligence
agencies. The extent to which U.S. intelligence agencies accurately identified sites
at which Iraqi nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons or materials were
manufactured or stored is not yet known, though some sites at which such weapons
and materials were thought likely to be located have been searched by U.S. forces
and been found empty. Some observers argue that there was insufficient intelligence
information about Iraqi possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to have
warranted military attack. Some also question whether U.S. intelligence agencies
accurately estimated the reaction of Iraqi civilians, particularly Iraqi Shiites in the
south, to the U.S.-led invasion, and the ability of various ethnic groups in Iraq
following the war to be integrated into a democratic polity without an extended151
foreign military occupation.
Although there were not many reports of insufficient intelligence resulting from
too few collection assets, observers have noted that the war involved the use of a
considerable portion of limited inventories of so-called high-demand/low-density
(HD/LD) platforms such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Some observers
suggest that the Iraq war stretched available intelligence resources and that U.S.
operations in a wider or longer-lasting conflict could have been constrained by limits152
on available surveillance capabilities.
Potential Program Implications. The Iraq war appears to have validated
the concept of centering U.S. military planning on the use of precise, real-time
intelligence for supporting precision strikes on key enemy targets. In this sense, the
Iraq war may reinforce the emphasis in DoD planning on programs for improving
ISR capabilities. Examples of such programs include reconnaissance satellites;
airborne reconnaissance platforms, including UAVs; sensors of various kinds
150Kelley, Jack. Covert Troops Fight Shadow War Off-Camera. USA Today, April 7, 2003:
151Gellman, Barton. Frustrated U.S. Arms Team To Leave Iraq; Task Force Unable To Find
Any Weapons. Washington Post, May 11, 2003. See also Hersh, Seymour M. Selective
Intelligence. New Yorker, May 12, 2003: 44 ff.
152For more on U.S. UAV programs, see CRS Report RL31872, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles:
Background and Issues for Congress, by Elizabeth Bone and Christopher Bolkcom.
Washington, 2003. (Updated periodically) 48 p.
(particularly miniaturized ones); and computers, datalinks, and networking software
for rapidly processing and sharing intelligence data among distributed U.S. forces.
Some supporters of ISR programs argue that the administration, in spite of its
nominal support for improved ISR capabilities, is funding programs that are not
primarily focused on intelligence (such as manned tactical aircraft) at the expense of
ISR programs such as the Global Hawk and Predator UAV programs. For them, the
Iraq war may serve as an opportunity to argue in favor of adjusting funding within
the DoD budget for some non-ISR programs so as to finance increases for ISR
The Iraq war may also draw attention to the relationship between U.S. military
special operations forces and CIA paramilitary forces. Have organizational and
command relationships between these two types of forces been sufficiently
delineated? To what extent are the capabilities of SOF units and paramilitary forces
complementary, and to what extent are they redundant? To the extent that they are
redundant, does this imply an opportunity to reduce planned expenditures for one
group or the other?
Psychological Operations in the Iraq War. DoD has ceased using the
term “psychological operations,” often abbreviated as “psyops,” believing its
connotation to be too pejorative. These activities are now subsumed under the155
broader rubric of “information warfare.” The activities formerly referred to by
DoD as psychological operations, which are carried by special operations forces, seek
to affect the morale and behavior of an adversary’s military and civilian population
through print and broadcast media.
The Iraq war reportedly featured the most extensive psychological operations
effort in U.S. military history:
Since October, American and British planes have dropped 36
million leaflets on Iraqi positions across the country. They have
distributed scores of solar-powered and hand-crank short-wave radios
with instructions for tuning in to Arabic-language broadcasts that urge
cooperation with coalition troops. Wanted posters with photographs
of Baath Party and fedayeen militia leaders are being posted inside
Iraqi opposition leaders have ridden into villages in Special
Forces trucks to urge citizens to support the American-led campaign.
Trucks with loudspeakers and drones have blared recordings of
153See, for example, Butler, Amy. USAF Could End Production Of Original Predators, Opt
For ‘B’ Force. Inside the Air Force, April 18, 2003: 1.
154This section prepared by Steve Bowman, Specialist in National Defense.
155The term “information operations,” as used by DoD, also includes the offensive use of
computers and electronic systems to confuse or disrupt the operations of enemy computers
and related combat systems.
rumbling tanks, trying to confuse Iraqi troops into thinking assaults
were under way....
In contrast to the first Persian Gulf war, when psychological
operations were incorporated into the mission relatively late, this time
the planners had been working closely with senior officers in Central156
Command headquarters since long before the war began.
Primary objectives of the U.S. psychological operations effort in the Iraq war
included the following:
!emphasize that the coalition’s military campaign was against the government
regime, not the people or the nation;
!persuade Iraqi military personnel to desert or to surrender upon contact with
coalition forces; and
!persuade Iraqi military commanders not to use chemical or biological (CB)
weapons or sabotage oilfields.
Initial assessments of the psychological operations effort have been generally
positive. Though mass surrenders did not occur on the scale they did in the 1991
Persian Gulf war, some larger-scale desertions did occur. Some Iraqi units that did
surrender followed the distributed leaflet instructions for procedure. Iraqi oilfield
workers indicated that leaflets were also instrumental in their decisions to not carry
out sabotage orders. The role of these activities in the lack of Iraqi chemical-
biological (CB) weapons use remains an open question, particularly since no CB
weapons have been found to date. The campaign’s effect on the civilian population’s
attitude toward coalition forces was judged positive by U.S. officials, despite
instances of popular opposition.
Some reports on the psychological operations effort have been more critical.
Two noted that the part of the effort intended to encourage senior Iraqi military and
civilian leaders to surrender failed to produce any significant defections, and
attributed this failure to overly optimistic pre-war U.S. assessments concerning the
potential for encouraging such defections through telephone and e-mail messages and
cash inducements.157 Other reports criticized the U.S. psychological operations effort
for not including earlier attacks on Iraq’s capability to broadcast pro-regime TV
156Dao, James. Trying To Win Iraqi Hearts and Minds On The Battlefield. New York Times,
April 6, 2003. See also Brant, Martha. The IO Options. Newsweek (Web exclusive), March
26, 2003. An Air Force statistical summary of the Iraq war states that the psychological
operations included 158 aircraft sorties that dropped 31.8 million leaflets, 58 sorties by EC-
130E Commando Solo radio- and TV-broadcasting aircraft, and 125 sorties by EC-130H
Compass Call communications-jamming aircraft. (U.S. Department of Defense. Operation
IRAQI FREEDOM – By The Numbers. [Assessment and Analysis Division, USCENTAF,
T. Michael Moseley, Lt Gen, USAF Commander, April 30, 2003, Unclassified] p. 8)
157Kelley, Jack. U.S. Officials Concede They ‘Misjudged’ Iraqi Defections. USA Today,
March 31, 2003: 1; Drogin, Bob, and Greg Miller. Plan’s Defect: No Defectors. Los
Angeles Times, March 28, 2003: 1. For an earlier report on these efforts, see Schmitt, Eric,
and Thom Shanker. U.S. Reports Talks Urging Surrender. New York Times, March 21,
messages to its own people.158 And one report, based on interviews with U.S.
participants in the war, stated that the U.S. psychological operations effort may have
been undercut by the decision to accelerate the start of the U.S. ground offensive by
one day, which prevented the final pre-war elements of the effort from being
implemented before the onset of combat operations.159
Potential Program Implications. On the whole, the experience with the
U.S. psychological operations effort in the Iraq war suggests that such operations can
be a relatively cost-effective means of positively affecting combat operations, but that
the success of such operations can be affected by numerous factors. From the
standpoint of planning, one potential conclusion is that psychological operations can
provide an advantage for U.S. forces, but that uncertainties about the extent of that
advantage might make it somewhat risky for U.S. military planners in future conflicts
to count on psychological operations as a reliable substitute for a certain amount of
conventional U.S. combat power.
Pre-War Concerns About Use of CB Weapons. In the weeks leading up
to the Iraq war, numerous observers expressed concern over the possibility that Iraq
would use chemical-biological (CB) weapons to disrupt the U.S.-led invasion. By
forcing U.S. and British ground forces to wear bulky CB protective suits, Iraqi use
of such weapons, observers feared, could slow-down the operations of U.S. and
British ground forces, particularly on hot-weather days. There were also concerns
prior to the war that the U.S. military’s inventory of CB protective suits might be
insufficient or might include some incorrectly-manufactured suits that would not
provide their wearers with proper amounts of protection.
CB Weapons Not Used. Despite repeated warnings to expect Iraqi use of
CB weapons, and warnings from U.S. military officials early in the conflict that
release authority for these weapons had been given to regional subordinate Iraqi
commanders, no CB weapons use was encountered. Estimates of when CB use was
to be expected underwent several revisions, ranging from pre-emptive strikes against
deploying U.S. forces to “last ditch” use in defense of Baghdad. None proved
accurate. No CB munitions were discovered with the Iraqi ground force units
engaged by coalition forces, and through May 2003, no CB munition storage
facilities had been located.
Because U.S. troops never encountered CB weapons, their protective equipment
and training was not tested under combat conditions in a contaminated environment.
Nevertheless, troops had to operate as though the threat was imminent, and the full
158See Gordon, Michael. The Medium Is the Message. New York Times on the Web, March
26, 2003; Cooper, Christopher. U.S., British Force May Help Iraqi Television Jump The
Shark. Wall Street Journal, March 28, 2003.
159Atkinson, Rick, and Peter Baker and Thomas E. Ricks. Confused Start, Swift Conclusion.
Washington Post, April 13, 2003: 1.
160This section prepared by Steve Bowman, Specialist in National Defense.
array of U.S. CB defensive capabilities were brought to the campaign. Overgarments
were worn routinely by U.S. troops – with accompanying hoods, gloves, masks, and
boot covers close to hand. Two newly-developed chemical agent detectors were
deployed, as were biodetection and CB decontamination systems. Though full
analysis will have to wait for official after-action assessments, no significant
problems were reported for any of this equipment.
Airlift and Aerial Refueling161
A Test of Post-1991 Enhancements. Congress has closely tracked issues
relating to U.S. airlift and aerial refueling (i.e., air mobility) capabilities in recent
years because they are critical, along with U.S. sealift capabilities, for supporting
U.S. expeditionary military operations. The Iraq war provided a test of enhancements
for U.S. air mobility capabilities that were funded following the 1991 Persian Gulf
war, when certain air mobility inadequacies were exposed. These enhancement
programs included, among other things, the following:
!the procurement of new C-17 airlift aircraft to replace older C-141 airlift
!modernizing the avionics of the Air Force’s existing C-5 airlift aircraft; and
!modernizing the Air Force’s existing KC-135 tanker aircraft by updating their
cockpits, replacing their 1950s-era engines with more fuel efficient models,
and outfitting some KC-135s with wing-tip, hose-and-drogue systems to refuel
U.S. Navy and allied aircraft.
In addition to constituting a test of these enhancements, the Iraq war occurred
as DoD and Congress are considering four current program issues relating to air
!how many C-17s to procure, beyond those already procured;
!how many C-5s should be modernized, re-engined, and kept in the active
!whether to implement a somewhat controversial program, authorized by
Congress as part of its action on the FY2003 defense budget, to lease (rather
than purchase) 100 Boeing 767 airliners for use as Air Force tanker aircraft;
!whether to modify the contractual arrangements for the Civil Reserve Air
Prior to the start of the Iraq war, some observers believed that supporting the
war would severely tax U.S. air mobility resources. They predicted that the long
flight distances from the United States and its forward bases in Europe to the Persian
Gulf, the difficulty in gaining access to air bases in countries neighboring Iraq, and
161This section prepared by Christopher Bolkcom, Specialist in National Defense. For more
on air mobility programs, see CRS Reports RL30685, Military Airlift: C-17 Aircraft
Program; RS20915, Strategic Airlift Modernization: Background, Issues and Options; and
RS20941, Air Force Aerial Refueling: Background and Issues, all by Christopher Bolkcom.
the ongoing U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa would
combine to create real challenges to U.S. air mobility.
Air Mobility In The Iraq War. Air mobility operations, as expected, played162
a significant role in the Iraq war. Although information on air mobility efforts in
the Iraq war is still preliminary, early reports suggest that airlift operations were
largely satisfactory, and that the Air Force’s new C-17 airlift aircraft performed well.
Early reports also suggest, however, that aerial refueling operations were less than
satisfactory in some respects. While many pilots involved in the Iraq war praised
aerial refueling efforts in print and electronic interviews, they also reportedly
complained that refueling shortages were a significant impediment to operations,
especially at the war’s beginning.163
Aerial refueling (and airlift) operations in the Iraq theater of operations were164
complicated by limits on foreign basing and overflight rights, the simultaneous
162Air mobility missions accounted for 16,740, or 40%, of the 41,404 sorties (excluding
sorties by special operations forces and Army helicopters, and “coalition sovereignty
flights”) in the war. (U.S. Department of Defense. Operation IRAQI FREEDOM – By The
Numbers. [Assessment and Analysis Division, USCENTAF, T. Michael Moseley, Lt Gen,
USAF Commander, April 30, 2003, Unclassified] p. 7-8) The U.S. Transportation
Command reported that by April 10, 2003, it had flown 16,213 air mobility missions for the
war, exceeding the total number of such missions flown in the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
(Roberts, Chuck. C-130 Crews Keep The Supplies Coming. Air Force News, April 16,
163See, for instance Dolan, Matthew. Pilots Complain of Refueling Delays. Norfolk
Virginian-Pilot, April 16, 2003; Fulghum, David. Tanker Puzzle. Aviation Week & Space
Technology, April 14, 2003; Selinger, Marc. Navy Chief Says F/A-18E/F Helped With
Fuel Limits in Iraq. Aerospace Daily, April 18, 2003.
164In the Iraq war, military planners operated about 200 tanker aircraft out of 15 different air
bases. During the 1991 Persian Gulf war, by contrast, 350 tankers were distributed among
just 5 bases. (Fulghum, op cit.) No official rationale for distributing aerial refueling aircraft
among so many bases has yet been announced. One explanation may be that a dearth of
bases in general pushed tanker aircraft to secondary and tertiary bases so shorter range
combat aircraft could operate from bases closest to Iraq. The more dispersed arrangement
of tankers in the Iraq war appears to have complicated the task of coordinating tanker flights
with combat aircraft flights, so as to make sure that the right mix of refueling booms (for
Air Force aircraft) and drogues (for the Navy, Marine Corps, and coalition aircraft) were on
hand at the right times. (Booms and drogues are different kinds of fixtures for connecting
the tankers trailing fuel line to the combat aircraft’s fuel-intake valve.)
The requirement for U.S. strike aircraft to fly around rather than through Turkish
airspace increased aerial refueling requirements, because those aircraft now had to fly longerth
missions. And Turkey’s decision not to allow the U.S. Army’s 4 Infantry Division to
attack northern Iraq from bases in Turkey increased airlift requirements, because
establishing a U.S. ground presence in northern Iraq as a consequence had to be done
primarily by air. Fifteen C-17 aircraft executed one of the largest air assaults in recentrd
memory, airdropping 1,100 paratroopers from the Army’s 173 Airborne Brigade. To
buttress this force, U.S. airlift aircraft transported an additional million pounds of
equipment, several M-1 Abrams tanks, and another 1,000 soldiers. (Vogel, Steve. Airlift
conduct of air and ground combat operations in the Iraq war (which increased the
number and types of air combat missions that had to be supported), and possibly the
rapid northward advance of U.S. ground forces through Iraq (which prompted combat
aircraft supporting those forces to fly further into Iraq).
To improve aerial refueling coverage, Air Force tanker aircraft reportedly
operated more aggressively than in past conflicts, flying closer to hostile territory
than in previous conflicts such as the 1991 Persian Gulf war. While this improved
tanker support for some U.S. combat aircraft, it may have reduced it for others. Navy
aircraft flying from carriers in the Persian Gulf reportedly could not reach Air Force
tanker aircraft operating deep inside Iraqi airspace.165 In addition, it was reported that
sorties of Navy aircraft flying into Iraq from two carriers in the Eastern
Mediterranean were reduced due to limits on aerial refueling capability.166
Requirements For Air Mobility Aircraft. The experience with air mobility
operations in the Iraq war will likely inform congressional debate on a number of
general issues relating to requirements for air mobility aircraft, including the
!How much total airlift and aerial refueling capability does the United States
need to support current and future U.S. military operations?
!What number of airlift and aerial refueling aircraft, with what mix of
characteristics (e.g., range, payload, offload speed, number and type of fuel
dispensers), will best meet this requirement?
!How will requirements for airlift aircraft change as a result of planned changes
in U.S. Army forces, particularly efforts to make Army forces lighter and more
!How will requirements for airlift and aerial refueling aircraft change as a
result of potential changes in the future mix of combat aircraft (long-range
bombers, fighters, and unmanned air vehicles) to be supported?
!Are current Air Force aerial refueling aircraft modernization efforts
sufficiently joint, particularly in terms of taking into account the aerial167
refueling needs of the Navy and Marine Corps?
With regard to the total airlift capability required to support current and future
U.S. military operations, the current requirement to have 54.5 million ton-miles per
for Paratroops a Million-Pound Daily Deal. Washington Post, March 31, 2003: 17; Hoyle,
Craig. C-17 Missions Prove Flexibility of US Forces. Jane’s Defence Weekly, April 16,
165Fulghum, op cit. To make up for this deficiency, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets began
carrying extra fuel tanks (instead of bombs) that were used to not only extend their range,
but also to provide extra fuel for other Navy aircraft – a tactic called “buddy tanking.”
166Fulghum, David A. New Bag Of Tricks. Aviation Week & Space Technology, April 21,
167For more on these issues, see CRS Reports RS20915 Strategic Airlift Modernization:
Background, Issues and Options, and RS2094, Air Force Aerial Refueling: Background and
Issues, both by Christopher Bolkcom.
day of airlift capability168 was conceived prior to September 11, 2001. In light of the
Iraq war, the war in Afghanistan, and the global war on terrorism in general, how
valid is this requirement today? Do the underlying assumptions and analyses behind
this figure still hold? Will increased attention on fighting terrorism abroad lead to
more numerous deployments? What kinds of forces will need to be deployed to
combat terrorism and how might they differ from the force packages anticipated by
defense planners pre-September 11th? Will increased attention to homeland security
lead to decreased overseas deployments?
With regard to the changing mix of combat aircraft to be supported, fighter
aircraft tend to be more airlift- and aerial refueling-intensive than either long-range
bombers or unmanned air vehicles (UAVs). Some observers argue that airlift and
aerial refueling requirements, which can be expensive to meet, can be lowered by
reducing planned DoD investments in fighters and increasing funding for long-range
bombers and UAVs.
Potential Program Implications. The Iraq war may have implications for
specific air mobility program issues, including the following.
C-17 Procurement. The Air Force in FY2003 completed a multi-year
procurement of 120 C-17 airlift aircraft and began a follow-on multi-year
procurement of 60 additional C-17s, bringing the total planned C-17 procurement to
180 aircraft. The general in charge of the U.S. Transportation Command said in 2002
that he wanted a total of 222 C-17s to meet airlift demands.169
In addition to citing these DoD studies, supporters of increasing C-17
procurement beyond 180 planes could argue, following the Iraq war, that the war
validated the continued importance of airlift capability for supporting U.S. military
operations, that it showed the effectiveness of the C-17 as an airlift aircraft
(particularly in transporting larger cargo loads over long distances to airfields with
shorter runways), and that it demonstrated how limits on foreign basing and
overflight rights can lead to increased demands for airlift. They could also argue that
the planned transformation of the Army toward lighter and more mobile forces could
lead to an increased demand in the future for using airlift aircraft (rather than ships)
for rapidly transporting Army forces to distant conflicts, and for transporting them
directly to the combat theater, rather than to a forward staging area.
Opponents of increasing C-17 procurement beyond 180 planes could argue that
the general success of the airlift effort in the Iraq war shows that the United States
in the future will not necessarily need more than 180 C-17s. They could argue that
the Iraq war and the war in Afghanistan suggest that the United States in the future
will fight wars with fewer ground forces than in the past, and that this, combined
with the Army’s planned shift toward lighter forces, could lead to a reduction in
airlift requirements. They could also argue that airlift requirements in the future
168Ton-miles per day is a key measure of airlift capability. One ton-mile means 1 ton of
cargo transported over a distance of 1 mile.
169Levins, Harry. Transportation Command’s Chief Emphasizes The Need For More C-17
Cargo Planes. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 2, 2002: 9.
might be reduced as less airlift-intensive UAVs begin to replace manned fighters and
DoD makes greater use of high-speed sealift ships. Future airlift requirements, they
could argue, can be partly met by modernizing the C-5 fleet and by pursuing new
types of airlift aircraft approaches, such as high-tech airships and wing-in-ground
aircraft (see discussion below on future airlift technologies).
C-5 modernization and engine replacement. Following the Iraq war,
debate will continue on the number of C-5s to modernize and re-engine. Most
observers agree that in the near term, some mix of C-17s and C-5s are required to
meet DoD’s 54.5-million-ton-mile-per-day airlift requirement. But how many C-5s
should be modernized and re-engined?
Those who support modernizing and re-engining a majority of the C-5 fleet
could argue that the Iraq war showed that the United States needs all the airlift
volume that it can muster. The easiest way to maintain and build upon our current
airlift volume, they could argue, is to keep in service as many C-5s as possible. The
C-5's maximum payload of 281,000 lbs is 76% greater than the C-17's maximum
payload of 160,000 lbs. Thus, it takes almost two new C-17s to replace the lost
payload volume of every C-5 that is retired. The C-5, supporters could also argue,
can carry many pieces of military equipment too bulky or too irregularly shaped for
any other aircraft. They can point out that although the C-17 is capable of carrying
much outsize and oversize cargo, only the C-5 can carry items such as the Mark V170
special operations boat or the 53-foot mobile medical hospital. In addition, C-5
supporters could argue, modernizing and re-engining all the C-5's will substantially
increase the C-5 fleet’s readiness rate, ensuring that the maximum amount of airlift
payload volume is available at any given time.
Those who support modernizing and re-engining fewer C-5s argue that the Iraq
war showed that overall airlift volume is important, but being able to move large
payloads directly to short or austere airfields in the combat theater is more important.
Airfields near Iraq were limited in the recent war, and the C-17 was the only long-
distance airlift aircraft that could use the full range of airfields available in the Iraq
theater of operations. Fewer C-5s, they could argue, should be modernized so that
funds are available to procure more C-17s, ensuring that the future U.S. airlift fleet
will be better able to move payloads directly from the United States to the theater of
combat, and not just from the United States to a forward airbase located in, for
example, Europe. They could also argue that the outsize cargo that can be carried
only by the C-5 is of secondary importance, and that the C-17 can carry all important
outsize military equipment. What cannot be carried by C-17s, they could argue, can
be delivered by ship. While the C-5's readiness rate can be improved through
modernization, they could argue, it will still be lower than the C-17's readiness rate.
If readiness rates of airlift aircraft are a concern, they could argue, fielding fewer C-
5s and more C-17s will result in a higher overall readiness rate for the total airlift
170The C-5, according to one Air Force estimate, can carry at least 87 pieces of military
equipment that are too big for the C-17. (Memorandum on C-5 airlift capabilities from the
Air Force office of Legislative Affairs, May 13, 2003.)
Lease of Boeing 767s For Use as Tankers. DoD and Congress in recent
years have considered how to address the issue of the aging of the Air Force’s fleet
of KC-135 tankers. Options considered have included extending the service lives of
the KC-135s, procuring new tanker aircraft, and leasing Boeing 767 airliners for use
by the Air Force as tankers.
The last of these options – the leasing arrangement – was authorized by
Congress as part of its action on the FY2003 defense budget. DoD has since
considered how to implement this arrangement. In general, supporters of the
arrangement argue that it is a cost-effective way to quickly improve the Air Force’s
tanker capabilities, particularly at a time when the Air Force is struggling to finance
the acquisition of several other kinds of aircraft. Opponents argue that the leasing
arrangement will violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the full funding provision that
normally governs procurement of DoD weapons and equipment,171 and that in the
long-run it will prove more expensive, and less cost effective, than the option of
procuring new aircraft.
Following the Iraq war, supporters of the leasing arrangement could argue that
the shortage of aerial refueling assets in the war demonstrates a need for quickly
improving U.S. capabilities in this area, particularly if U.S. forces need to fight two
regional conflicts in overlapping time frames (an official DoD requirement for sizing
U.S. military forces). They could argue that extending the service lives of the KC-
135s would provide only a short-term fix, and that procuring new tankers would
provide little near-term relief to the situation and require procurement funding for
several years at levels that the Air Force cannot afford.
Supporters could also argue that the Iraq war exacerbated a situation of reduced
civilian air travel that began with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 – a
situation that has substantially reduced orders from commercial airline operators for
new large commercial aircraft. This situation, they can argue, has significantly
damaged the financial health of Boeing, the only U.S. maker of large commercial
aircraft. The leasing arrangement, supporters could argue, will help shore up the
financial health of Boeing, a major defense contractor involved in numerous defense
programs important to DoD’s future.
Opponents of the leasing arrangement could argue that the Iraq war does nothing
to resolve the most important question facing the proposal – whether the Boeing 767
the best platform to replace the KC-135s. Several aircraft characteristics, they could
argue, must be weighed in determining the most appropriate airframe for use as a
tanker, including range, payload, fuel throughput, and type of fuel dispenser.
Typically, a formal study called an Analysis of Alternatives (AOA) is conducted to
determine the best airframe. Such an analysis can be particularly important if the
aircraft to be acquired is a joint asset. Lease opponents could argue that, the Iraq war
notwithstanding, no AOA has been conducted to determine that the 767 is the
optimal platform. Considering the importance of aerial refueling and the long time
171For more on the full funding provision, see CRS Report RL31404, Defense Procurement:
Full Funding Policy – Background, Issues, and Options for Congress, by Ronald O’Rourke
and Stephen Daggett. Washington, 2003. (Updated periodically) 41 p.
that air mobility aircraft tend to remain in the active inventory, lease opponents could
argue that the Iraq war does not obviate the need to conduct a rigorous, joint AOA
before deciding how to replace today’s air refuelers.
Opponents of the leasing arrangement could argue that providing indirect
government financial assistance to a particular defense contractor like Boeing is
questionable public policy, and that the need for providing such assistance Boeing’s
case is not clear, because while September 11, 2001 and the Iraq war may have
reduced Boeing’s civilian commercial aircraft business, they also may have increased
Boeing’s military business due to the resulting increase in U.S. defense spending.
Opponents could also argue that even if providing financial assistance is appropriate
and necessary in this case, the leasing arrangement may not be the most cost-effective
way to provide it.
Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF). The Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF),
established in 1951, is an arrangement under which commercial and charter airline
operators agree to provide aircraft and crews to DoD in time of war to augment
military airlift capabilities. In return for making their aircraft available, these
operators are allowed to bid during peacetime on DoD contracts for transporting
military personnel and cargo – business that is worth billions of dollars. For the Iraq
War, DoD mobilized 47 CRAF aircraft. This is only the second time that the CRAF
was mobilized; the first was in 1990-1991 to support the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
While CRAF is a voluntary program and provides steady business to U.S.
carriers during peacetime, some observers have expressed concern that financially
troubled U.S. commercial airlines might no longer be able to afford continued
participation in the CRAF program as currently structured. These observers have
suggested that new deals might need to be struck between DoD and airlines to ensure
the continued participation of airline operators in the CRAF program.
Supporters of making such new deals could argue that the use of CRAF aircraft
in the Iraq war demonstrates DoD’s continuing need for the program, that larger
numbers of CRAF aircraft might be needed in future times of emergency, particularly
for fighting two regional conflicts in overlapping time frames, that the participation
of commercial airline operators is critical to the program’s success, and that all
necessary steps, including new deals between DoD and the commercial airliners,
should therefore be taken to ensure that the program remains healthy.
Supporters of staying with the current CRAF arrangement could argue that
although commercial airlines are financially troubled and the Iraq war demonstrated
the usefulness of the CRAF program, the U.S. government has already taken steps
to shore up airline finances, the airlines themselves are now restructuring their
operations to further improve their financial health, and that even if some U.S.
commercial airlines continue to experience weak finances, the actual number of
CRAF aircraft used in the Iraq war – a military operation of significant size –
suggests that sufficient numbers of civilian aircraft to meet U.S. needs for such a
conflict can be secured for the CRAF from the more financially healthy commercial
Future Airlift Technologies. Some observers, including Arthur Cebrowski,
the director of DoD’s Office of Force Transformation, have stated following the Iraq
war that DoD should consider developing and acquiring new kinds of airlift aircraft,
such as such as high-tech, modified blimps capable of transporting 1,000 tons of
cargo at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour, or “wing-in-ground effect” aircraft
capable of transporting hundreds of tons of cargo at speeds of a few hundred miles172
per hour. Developing and acquiring airlift aircraft like these, they argue, could fill
in the current gap between today’s airlift aircraft (which transport much smaller
payloads at higher speeds) and sealift ships (which transport much larger payloads
at much slower speeds).173
A Test of Post-1991 Enhancements. Congress has closely tracked issues
relating to U.S. sealift capabilities in recent years because they are critical, along with
U.S. air mobility programs, for supporting U.S. expeditionary military operations.
The Iraq war provided a test of enhancements for U.S. military sealift capabilities
that were funded following the 1991 Persian Gulf war, when certain inadequacies in
U.S. military sealift capabilities were exposed. These enhancement programs
included, among other things, the following:
!the acquisition of 19 additional sealift ships called LMSRs (for Large,
Medium-Speed Roll-on/Roll-off175 ships) for use in surge sealift from U.S.
ports and overseas prepositioning of Army equipment and supplies,
!the acquisition of additional ships for enhancing the three Maritime
Prepositioning Ship (MPS) squadrons that are used for prepositioning of
Marine Corps equipment, and
!investments to improve the mobilization readiness of the Ready Reserve Force
(RRF), a group of government-owned sealift ships that are kept in reserve for
potential activation in time of war.
Sealift In The Iraq War. At the peak of the Iraq-war sealift effort, 62% of the
Military Sealift Command’s prepositioning and surge sealift ships were involved in
supporting the war.176 An article on the sealift effort states:
172Wing-in-ground aircraft are aircraft that fly very close to the surface so as to reduce drag,
increase lift, and thereby transport heavy loads more efficiently.
173Sirak, Michael. US Navy Floats Lighter-Than-Air Transport Concept. Jane’s Defence
Weekly, May 7, 2003; Ma, Jason. NAVAIR Chief: Heavy Airlift Technology Could Speed
Up Logistics.” Inside the Navy, April 28, 2003; Trimble, Stephen. Cebrowski: Iraq War
Offers Clues For Transformation Agenda. Aerospace Daily, April 23, 2003; Fulghum,
David A. Fast Forward. Aviation Week & Space Technology, April 28, 2003: 34.
174This section prepared by Ronald O’Rourke, Specialist in National Defense.
175A roll-on/roll-off ship is equipped with ramps so that wheeled vehicles can be quickly
rolled on and off the ship.
176Information provided to CRS by Military Sealift Command (MSC) via e-mail and
telephone , May 23, 2003. This figure, which represents sealift ships in use on March 24,
More than 90 percent of all combat gear and supplies used in the rapid
advance to Baghdad was shipped by sea in record time.... [DoD’s Military Sealift
Command, or MSC] moved 16.6 million square feet of equipment for the U.S.
Army and Marine Corps and hauled 377 million gallons of fuel across oceans,
helping deliver materiel to the fight three times faster than during the 1991 Gulf
War while relying on fewer chartered foreign ships.
The logistics campaign built on vast stores of equipment positioned in the
region over the last decade, including 2 million square feet of equipment
delivered between July and January to support exercises. That equipment
remained in place when hostilities began in March. Extensive planning, a new
war game and a decade-long investment in ships capable of carrying large loads
facilitated the quick delivery by sea.... In January, MSC began intensive
dispatches to the gulf region of equipment that U.S. forces would need. Tanks,
trucks, food, power generators, ammunition and more were loaded on ships at 10
U.S. and five European ports, joining ships already filled with equipment in
During the Gulf War, the Pentagon chartered 215 foreign ships to help ferry
cargo. This time, thanks to MSC’s "large organic fleet," few other ships were
needed.... Turkey’s decision to deny U.S. troops access to its ports kept 40 ships
with the 4th Infantry Division’s equipment treading water in the eastern
Mediterranean Sea for weeks, prompting MSC to charter 43 non-U.S. ships to177
help keep other supplies moving.
General Richard B. Myers, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was
quoted as saying: “Without our large, medium-speed roll-on/roll-off ships (LMSR)
and other strategic sealift, we would have been dead in the water. We win or lose
wars based on our logistics capability and the ships were the big story in Iraq. DoD’s178
investment and attention to that part of our infrastructure pays dividends.”
On the other hand, General John Handy, the commander of the U.S.
transportation Command, was quoted as saying on March 12 that “in the air[lift] side
of things and in some degree the sealift side, we are transportation constrained, not
dramatically, but transportation constrained.”179 It was also reported that the
2003, MSC’s peak day of operations during the Iraq war, includes 29 of MSC’s 38
prepositioning ships and 52 of MSC’s 92 surge sealift ships. Twelve of the 38
prepositioning ships and 4 of the 92 surge sealift ships are on long-term lease to MSC; the
others are government-owned. The sealift effort for the Iraq war also involved short-term
charters of commercial cargo ships.
177Sherman, Jason. Logistics Success Built on Sealift. DefenseNews, May 12, 2003: 32.
See also Maraoui, Andre. A New Dimension Of Strength. Sea Power, May 2003: 29; and
Hilzenrath, David S. Supply Transfers Reflect ‘91 Experience. Washington Post, April 5,
178As quoted in ... Logistics, Logistics, Logistics. Defense Daily, April 28, 2003. See also
Keeter, Hunter. Fast Sealift Ships, LMSRs, C-130s Keys To Success In Iraq: Army
Officials. Defense Daily, May 21, 2003.
179Burger, Kim. US Build-Up Is Fast But ‘Not Fast Enough.’ Jane’s Defence Weekly,
unavailability of port facilities in Turkey and Saudi Arabia for offloading equipment
and supplies from U.S. military sealift ships led to a bottleneck at the Kuwaiti ports
of Shuwaikh and Shuaiba.180
Potential Program Implications. If limits on overseas port facilities are
judged to be a potential feature of future U.S. conflicts, one possible option would
be to invest in sealift capabilities for moving equipment and supplies from ship to
shore without need for host-nation port facilities. In addition, Arthur Cebrowski, the
director of DoD’s Office of Force Transformation, has said that the Iraq war did not
feature any major innovations in logistics or transportation, and that DoD should
consider potential improvements in these areas, including very high-speed sealift
ships capable of moving at speeds of 80 knots or more.181
March 19, 2003.
180Josar, David. Transportation Groups Tackle Oversized Load. European Stars and
Stripes, April 8, 2003; Wilkinson, Jeff. U.S. Supply Loads Are Taxing Kuwait’s Ports,
Airports. Philadelphia Inquirer, March 19, 2003.
181Trimble, Stephen. Cebrowski: Iraq War Offers Clues For Transformation Agenda.
Aerospace Daily, April 23, 2003; Fulghum, David A. Fast Forward. Aviation Week &
Space Technology, April 28, 2003: 34.