A characteristic of the American way of war is our fascination with technology and the search for that technological "silver bullet" that will deliver victory quickly and with a minimum of loss of life. The current Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) is driven by rapid technological advance fostered by the advent of the microprocessor and by decreased defense spending. It operates against the background of a historical watershed brought about by the end of the Cold War. The RMA has been embraced by all the United States’ military services; especially the Air Force and the Army. As the Army downsizes it is seeking to change itself into Force XXI; a strategic force, trained and ready, to fight and win the nation’s wars in the 21st century. That we are in the midst of a true revolution in military affairs is evident. What it may mean for the Army and the nation is not so evident. This monograph outlines where the Army is going as it seeks to define change rather than be defined by change. It also looks to the past to ask what have been the results of change during past RMAs? Accelerated interservice rivalries and over-reliance on management systems marked the last RMA, one driven by the advent of atomic weapons at the end of World War II and the relatively stable and sparse defense budgets of the 1950s. The author argues that the consequence of interservice rivalry and the institutionalization of the managerial ethos was defeat in Vietnam. Finally, the author warns against becoming so entranced with the sophisticated technologies of the RMA that we lose both our grounding in strategic thinking and our basic warrior skills. To do so could be potentially disastrous when two peer competitor forces meet on the 21st century battlefield and, quite possibly, cancel each other out electronically. Then, it will be the side which is able to fight at the lower "gut level" of warfare that will prevail.
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EARL H. TILFORD, JR. is Senior Research Professor and Director of Research at the Strategic Studies Institute. He earned his BA and MA in history at the University of Alabama and his Ph.D. in American and European military history at George Washington University. Dr. Tilford is the author of three books, the latest, published by Texas A&M University Press in 1993, being Crosswinds: The Air Force’s Setup in Vietnam. He has published more than two dozen articles in scholarly and professional journals. His next book, Eagle in the Desert: A Look Back at the Persian Gulf War will be published by Greenwood Press later this year.
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