Lightning Over Water

Sharpening America's Light Forces for Rapid-Reaction Missions — Executive Summary

by John Matsumura, Randall Steeb, John Gordon IV, Thomas J. Herbert, Russell W. Glenn, Paul S. Steinberg


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As the world continues its post-Cold War thaw, fears of major theater-level war have given way to a reality of increased numbers of smaller regional conflicts and crises. There is a growing need for a quickly deploying,rapid-reaction capability-in particular, U.S. Army light forces-to directly respond to these events. To address this need, both the Secretary of the Army and the Chief of Staff of the Army are calling for developing forces that are strategically responsive across the full spectrum of military operations. Although there is new dialogue on what might be done, there is also considerable research that has examined many of the issues now coming to light, such as, How might light forces be changed to offer greater rapid-reaction capability? This executive summary synthesizes research drawn from numerous studies conducted by the authors in the past few years on the topic of improving light air-deployable forces.

Table of Contents

  • Preface

  • Figures

  • Tables

  • Abbreviations

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Current-Generation Light Forces Do Not Fare Well Against a Powerful, Armored Opponent

  • Chapter Three

    Making Enhancements to the Current-Generation Light Forces Strongly Improves Overall Force Effectiveness

  • Chapter Four

    Making Light Forces Smaller/More Dispersible Has Benefits but Makes Them More Vulnerable and Less Capable

  • Chapter Five

    Introducing Maneuver Adds Significant Benefits, but the Viability of Creating and Deploying Such a Force Is Unresolved

  • Chapter Six

    How Can the Army Improve Rapid-Reaction Capability?

This research was conducted within RAND's Arroyo Center and National Defense Research Institute.

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