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The end of the Cold War ushered in an era of profound change in the international arena and hence in the policymaking environment as well. Yet the changes that have characterized the post-Cold War era have often proceeded at different paces and have at times moved in opposing directions, placing unprecedented strain on policymakers seeking to shape a new national security and military strategy. This report describes the challenges policymakers have faced as seen through the lens of the three major force structure reviews that have taken place over the past decade: the 1990 Base Force, the 1993 Bottom-Up Review, and the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review. The report focuses on the assumptions, decisions, and outcomes associated with these reviews as well as the planning and execution of each. It concludes that all three reviews fell short of fully apprehending the demands of the emerging threat environment, and the budgets that would be needed and afforded, resulting in a growing imbalance between strategy, forces, and resources over the decade. Accordingly, the report recommends that future defense planners adopt an assumption-based approach in which key planning assumptions are continually reassessed with a view toward recognizing — and rapidly responding to — emerging gaps and shortfalls.

Table of Contents

  • Preface PDF

  • Figures PDF

  • Tables PDF

  • Summary PDF

  • Acknowledgements

    Acknowledgments PDF

  • Acronyms PDF

  • Chapter 1

    Introduction PDF

  • Chapter 2

    The Base Force: From Global Containment to Regional Forward Presence PDF

  • Chapter 3

    The Bottom-Up Review: Redefining Post-Cold War Strategy and Forces PDF

  • Chapter 4

    The 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review: Seeking to Restore Balance PDF

  • Chapter 5

    Conclusions PDF

  • Appendix

    Postscript: From Deficit Politics to the Politics of Surplus PDF

  • Bibliography PDF

  • Recommended Reading PDF

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was performed under the auspices of RAND's Project AIR FORCE.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation monograph report series. The monograph/report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1993 to 2003. RAND monograph/reports presented major research findings that addressed the challenges facing the public and private sectors. They included executive summaries, technical documentation, and synthesis pieces.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.