Issue Paper: Bettering the Balance. Large Wars and Small Contingencies
RAND ARROYO CENTER SANTA MONICA CA
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The Army has been participating in smaller-scale contingencies, under such rubrics as disaster relief, peace operations, operations other than war, and so forth, for decades. What is new is the rate at which they have been occurring-more than a dozen since the end of the Cold War-and that the Army is now having to do its work with a much smaller force structure. This situation places the Army on the horns of a dilemma How can it stay ready for its primary mission, fighting two major wars, while simultaneously preparing for and carrying out smaller-scale contingencies The danger is that too great an involvement in these operations can undercut the Armys ability to do its primary job, particularly in light of force structure reductions that have left the Army thin in certain types of skills and units. That the readiness effects of small contingencies are neither widely nor well understood makes this even more likely. Furthermore, U.S. vital interests are typically not at stake in these types of operations, and the public is thus particularly intolerant of casualties that they might entail. This attitude causes the Army to place a high premium on force protection and overwhelming force to intimidate potential antagonists. Both steps drive up the personnel demands on a diminished force structure.
- Unconventional Warfare