Air University Review, May-June 1971

Force-Structure Planning

Considerations, Problems, and Issues

Lieutenant Colonel Edward Stellini

There is a familiar ad in one of the service publications which goes: “We have an Air Force so that we can have an Air Force.” The implication of these words has much meaning to the American public, especially to members of the armed forces. To one particular group of Americans, this phrase has an added meaning, for it is the task of that group to formulate the plans, conduct the studies, advocate the positions, and make the decisions which result in the acquisition of the weapon systems that make the Air Force the powerful force it is. This group, hereafter referred to by the generic term force planners, consists of the staff officers, the analysts, and the hierarchy of decision-makers whose responsibility it is to develop the USAF force structure.

A more explicit reason for needing an Air Force is that it provides a convincing deterrent to the spread of international Communism—a long-range goal of Lenin and his followers since before the Wrights flew their first airplane. In 1905, Lenin, declaring the need to replace the standing army with a people’s militia, wrote:

Let the hypocritical or sentimental bourgeoisie dream of disarmament. So long as there are the oppressed and the exploiters in the world, we must strive not for disarmament but for universal popular armament.1

In 1919, some 16 months after the successful Bolshevik Revolution, Lenin warned that the ruling class would never surrender its power to the oppressed and that a standing army, instead of a people’s militia, was necessary. In a statement to the Eighth Congress of the All-Russian Communist Party, he stated:

We have always said: “There are wars and wars.” We condemned the imperialist war, but we did not reject war in general . . . We live not only in a state but in a system of states, and the existence of the Soviet Republic side by side with imperialist states for a protracted period of time is unthinkable. In the end, one or the other will he victorious. Until that end is at hand, a series of most frightful clashes between the Soviet Republic and the bourgeois states is inevitable.2

In the years since Lenin’s prediction, the United States has emerged as a world leader, and the U.S. Air Force has become the strongest air power in existence. In recent years, however, there has been an apparent decline on the part of the American public to support our stated commitment to assist governments threatened with Communist subversion; and consequently our position of leadership in the future is uncertain. Twenty years ago the majority of the American public spoke out as one against the spread of international Communism; today, the question is whether a significant portion of that public perhaps supports the Communist philosophy or at least considers Communism a lesser threat than in earlier days. One wonders about this when noting that there are some in the street who defiantly carry the enemy’s flag and some in the Congress who call for decreased defense expenditures and a policy of isolationism which could well encourage the spread of Communism. In the name of social reform and an improved standard of living for the underprivileged, there is an increasing demand for withdrawal of military forces from Europe as well as from Asia and for a reorientation of national priorities.

In 1958, A. F. K. Organski predicted in his book World Politics that the American public would not be willing to exchange its standard of living for its leadership position in the world:

Often a nation must choose between guns and butter, and the choice it makes will shed great light upon its national goals. The United States is so wealthy that this choice has never been forced fully upon it, but we can hazard the guess that if she were compelled to choose between world leadership and the American standard of living, she would choose the standard of living.3

Twelve years later his prediction seems to be bearing fruit. Let us trace the trend in our budgetary policies since World War II and the associated impact on defense appropriations. After reviewing some of the economic and political considerations that determine budgetary policy, we will look at the Nixon-Laird framework for force-structure decision-making, then discuss the force planning methods of the past and the problems and issues of the future.

Economic Considerations

The factors affecting the Department of Defense portion of the annual budget can generally be classified as internal and external. That is, certain conditions determining the present and future national economic picture, such as the demand for consumer goods and public services, can and will affect the size of the DOD budget; and so will international conditions, such as East-West negotiations, disarmament conferences, and the temperature of the cold war.

Since the end of the Korean War the amount spent annually in the United States for defense, although not stated as a matter of policy, has been preordained by the presiding Chief Executive. In other words, a “dollar limit fiscal policy” has been a reality for many years.

Apparently concerned about the decreasing military budget during the first three years of the Eisenhower Administration, Senator Richard B. Russell, Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, decided in February 1956 to appoint a committee on the Air Force:

. . . to examine into the condition and progress of the Department of the Air Force and ascertain if present policies, legislative authority and appropriations are adequate to maintain a force capable of carrying out its assigned missions.4

In 1957 the report of the Subcommittee on Armed Services, chaired by Senator Stuart Symington, stated in its findings:

No witness disputed that the United States must make whatever expenditures are necessary to give us the military strength needed for survival.

In general, there are two ways in which the problem of balancing defense needs against fiscal requirements can be approached.

One way is to ascertain essential defense needs and then see if the funds can be made available to meet them. The other is to predetermine, as a matter of fiscal policy, a dollar limit for defense expenditures; and thereupon refuse to satisfy any defense needs that cannot be compressed within that limit.

The testimony shows clearly that during recent years the latter approach has been followed .…5

The Eisenhower Administration had repeatedly expressed anxiety about overspending by the national government, and fairly tight and arbitrary budget ceilings were the result. But, with the advent of Soviet satellites, there were some relaxations during 1958, especially in R&D expenditures.6

With the new administration in 1961, a revolutionary change in the federal budgetary process came about. The most important change was the emphasis on cost effectiveness. In broad statements of policy the Kennedy Administration also included bolstering U.S. ability to conduct conventional and guerrilla warfare and strengthening strategic nuclear forces. At the same time, the administration, along with seeking to improve military effectiveness, made a series of management reforms, which was an effort to increase effectiveness and efficiency across the board. The defense budgeting policy established by Kennedy called for (i) developing the force structure necessary to meet our military needs without regard to arbitrary budget ceilings, and (ii) procuring and operating this force at the lowest possible cost.7 With the new program each proposal was to be looked at in terms of its five-year potential, and projects would no longer get started because they had low first-year budgets.

The ideas expressed in the classic volume The Economics of Defense in the Nuclear Age were put into practice in the form of a management system called Planning-Programming-Budgeting. One of the authors, Charles J. Hitch, who was selected to be Assistant Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), in discussing how much should be spent on defense in deference to other programs, stated:

Making the choice should be viewed as a problem of getting the most out of resources, not as one of hunting for a tablet on which the right budget, requirement, or doctrine is inscribed. . ... If taken literally, the questions, “What can we afford for defense?” and “What are our needs?” are the wrong ones to ask in deciding upon the size of the defense effort. The right questions is, “How much is needed for defense more than it is needed for other purposes?”8

In spite of the allegation that arbitrary budget ceilings did not exist, the management practices established by Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara did, in fact, serve the purposes of a budget lid. As an example, in 1962 a budget of $67 billion was submitted to McNamara. After he reviewed it, the services’ requests were trimmed to less than $54 billion.9 The difference, perhaps, stems from the fact that the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) were recommending forces for two major and one minor conflict, while the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), on the basis of systems analysis studies, was recommending a budget which appeared to be more in line with what was politically acceptable.

Political Considerations

It appears that the size of the defense budget is really a political, rather than an economic, consideration. According to John Kenneth Galbraith, the “minimum” standard of living is always the existing one, and no administration or Congress that is interested in being re-elected is likely to propose any substantial reduction in that standard of living.10 Furthermore, the size of the budget appears to be pretty much what the President wants it to be. Congress traditionally tries to cut his requests, but even when at times it has increased them the President usually has his way. For example, in the late forties President Truman requested a 48-wing Air Force, but Congress appropriated for a 70-wing Air Force. The President simply did not spend the additional money provided.11 History proved him wrong, for in only two years the additional aircraft would have been more than welcome.

Congressional influence on the defense budget is evident in the preparation. The President, on the other hand, has direct influence on the budget and also has more information to go on in regard to both foreign and domestic matters. He also is the only one who can synthesize the views of the Treasury, the nondefense claimants on the budget, and the armed services. The armed services, represented by the Department of Defense, must determine the “needs” to defend the country; the President, with his staff, must appraise these requests in the light of competing claims on the country’s resources.12 If the DOD feels $70 billion is necessary to provide adequate security and the Treasury says anything more than $50 billion will cause major economic problems, it is up to the President to risk either insecurity or a dangerous economy or compromise and risk both.

Not only is the size of the defense budget a function of high-level policy but so also, to a large extent, are the decisions on what weapons will be bought.

According to Dr. Alain Enthoven, former Assistant Secretary of Defense (Systems Analysis), the question of the number and type of weapons required is not strictly a military problem but is, in fact, a defense policy problem. Since defense policy also involves political and economic factors, the size and composition of forces have a direct influence on foreign policy as well as a major impact on domestic policy. Since the problem is not just a military one, it follows that these decisions must be made at a higher level—a level where all implications are known and understood. These are national security policy decisions, and they are based on the interaction of values, on the one hand, and costs and effectiveness of military forces and weapon systems on the other.13

Other political considerations which are a reality and affect force planning choices are those that involve service positions, roles, missions, and vested interests. The conflicts that result from these considerations are generally resolved within the new Planning-Programming-Budgeting System, to be discussed later.

A Budgetary Constraint

When General Eisenhower achieved the ultimate rank of Commander in Chief, he began to take a critical view of the defense budget. And, although not explicitly saying so, he did set arbitrary budget ceilings for national defense. During the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, the guidance to Secretary McNamara was to buy what was needed at the lowest cost, but there was also an unspecified budget lid. Under all three administrations, the advice of the JCS on strategy, threat, risks, and the military forces required to cope with the threat did not appear to play a significant role in determining the defense budget.

Under the Nixon Administration, a budget ceiling approach is being used again. Unlike his predecessors, however, President Nixon has stated that such a limit does exist. Now, instead of sizing forces to deal with two major and one minor nonnuclear war (which was never realistic; some estimate it would have cost $100 billion in 1968), the objective is to size the force to fight one major and one minor war in the event the fundamental strategy to deter aggression fails.

Along with the changes in the budgeting approach and the national strategy, there has also been a change in emphasis on the views of the JCS in developing the defense budget. With the increasing cost of weapons and decreasing budget levels, the JCS will still not be able to buy all they want within the fiscal limits set. However, they will come much closer to meeting our reduced military objectives. The JCS are now getting specific guidance on national objectives and budget dollars, and they can balance their force requirements to match this guidance. They know in advance the relative allocations to national security and other national programs.

It seems ironic that at a time when our potential enemies are getting stronger and more adventurous we are tending toward lower levels of national defense. What seems to be happening is that we are seeing the fulfillment of Professor Organski’s prophecy—the American public appears to be choosing standard of living over world leadership. The demand in the Congress, especially in the Senate, is for a reorientation of national priorities. The challenge implied to the planner was aptly expressed in June 1968 by James R. Schlesinger, Assistant Director of the Bureau of the Budget, in his keynote address to the Military Operations Research Symposium:

This alteration in national priorities is one that you may approve or you may disapprove. You may seek to reverse this trend. Let me observe parenthetically that I hope you will all join with us in the Administration in rejecting the more extreme attacks on our military establishment and national security objectives. Nonetheless, the shift in national priorities is a reality, and we shall have to adjust to it. It implies, for example, that Defense appropriations will have to be examined meticulously in terms of the trade-offs between Defense and non-Defense objectives. It implies, to borrow the jargon of economists, that the elasticity of demand for defense activities has increased. Military requests face tougher scrutiny, not easy passage. This should imply pressures and incentives for greater efficiency. It certainly implies that military requests face the give-and-take of ordinary budget processes, from which the military has been partially exempt in recent years.14

the new PPBS: a framework for decision

One of the first tasks that Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird undertook after assuming office was to revamp the Planning-Programming-Budgeting System (PPBS), initiated by Secretary McNamara, to conform to the new strategy and budgeting guidance. By definition the PPBS is an integrated system for establishing, maintaining, and revising the Five Year Defense Program (FYDP) and the DOD budget.15 It is a continuous sequence of activities and decisions which integrates strategy, forces, and defense dollars into the President’s budget.

The cycle starts in October, about the time the previous years’ defense budget estimates have gone to the Budget Bureau. In the form of the Joint Strategic Objectives Plan (JSOP), the JCS provide OSD with their statement on national security and military objectives based on their appraisal of the world situation eight years ahead. On the basis of decisions by the National Security Council and the JSOP, the Secretary of Defense establishes strategic guidance on what he feels are the world military threats, the forces required, and the fiscal limitations on the amount of money that would be available for buying these forces.

The Joint Chiefs, given the budget ceiling and the strategic plan, tell the Secretary what they can and cannot buy and the associated risks. This estimate is given in the form of the Joint Forces Memorandum (JFM), which includes the five-year program costs and associated manpower requirements furnished by the services.

In June the services provide OSD with their recommendations for the forces, manpower, and costs developed on a cost-effectiveness basis, within the fiscal constraints established, in the form of a Program Objective Memorandum (POM). After some dialogue between the services and the OSD staff, a “major force issues” meeting is held with the Secretary of Defense, the Chiefs, and the service Secretaries. Dollars, forces, threats, and risks are “balanced.”

By midsummer the Secretary of Defense issues Program Decision Memorandums (PDM). In October, the services submit their initial budget proposals to OSD. Final service issues are resolved, Program Budget Decisions (PBD’s) are issued, and the FYDP is updated. In December, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) wraps up the defense budget and sends it to the President, who then makes decisions resolving final issues raised by JCS and the OMB.

allocation to services and fiscal guidance categories

The organizational and functional framework within which forces will be structured is shown in Figure 1.16 Within this framework the OSD planner is faced with the following questions:

Figure 1.  The route to forces:  Planning-Programming-Budgeting System and Concept Formulation, Contract Definition, System Acquisition

Figure 1. The route to forces: Planning-Programming-Budgeting System and Concept Formulation, Contract Definition, System Acquisition

What portion of the defense budget should be allocated to

—each service and to each defense agency?

—each of the fiscal guidance categories: strategic forces, general purpose forces, research and development, intelligence and security, other nations’ support, and others?

An OSD planner might ask: What is the best way to allocate the defense dollars available among the fiscal guidance categories? Theoretically, the solution is simple. What we want to do is to allocate dollars to each category so that any reallocation of these dollars does not increase the total military worth achievable. Our measure of merit, military worth, is a nebulous thing and cannot easily be defined. It probably can best be described as “total national defense.”

The military worth functions are shown in Figure 2 as curves that begin at zero dollars and increase as dollars are added. These functions curve downward, implying decreasing marginal returns; i.e., the more we buy of some capability, the less the incremental amount purchased is worth. Interpreting these curves, we have an optimum allocation of dollars when the derivatives at a, b,. . ., n are all equal; and when the total dollars expended equal the sum of A, B,. . ., N, we have maximized military worth.

Figure 2. Allocation of defense budget to fiscal guidance categories

Figure 2. Allocation of defense budget to fiscal guidance categories

This discussion, of course, is theoretical, since the shape of the military worth functions were arbitrarily drawn. In practice, these curves are not well defined. It is likely that in actuality they would not be smooth, continuous curves, nor is the formulation of each curve independent of the remaining curves. In fact, the curves cannot be explicitly defined by mathematical analysis. The equations of the curves must be modified to take into account the insight gained through analysis, military judgment, political considerations, and other intangibles.

What happens in the real world is that the precedents of previous years allocations strongly influence subsequent years’ allocations. The trade-offs in dollars are made at the margin; that is, new systems replace the old when it is concluded that the trade-off will result in a net increase in military effectiveness. The trade-offs may or may not cross fiscal guidance categories or service lines. In either case, trade-offs are made within the framework of the PPBS.

Force Analysis and Planning since World War II

Now that we have looked at the framework within which the force planner must work, let us take a look at the history of force analysis and planning in the Air Force, particularly since World War II. Then we will go on to discuss some of the planner’s future problems and some of the issues he must address.

In 1909, the U.S. Army announced its Specification No.486, for a “flying machine,” to the general public:

The machine is to fly 40 miles an hour, be able to carry two people whose combined weight would not exceed 350 pounds, and be able to stay in the air for one hour . . . be capable of landing and taking off, without undue delay, and also be capable of dismounting and loading on an Army wagon to be transported . . . permit an intelligent man to become proficient in its use within a reasonable length of time.17

Forty-one bids were received, three of which were taken seriously. Contracts were offered to all three bidders, but shortly thereafter two withdrew. The Wright brothers then were offered $25,000 to deliver the first military airplane in the United States.18

Two world wars later the United States had become the world’s strongest air power. This growth can be attributed to the untiring efforts of such pioneers as Mitchell, Doolittle, and Arnold and to the necessity of meeting the needs of World War II. Unfortunately, however, there was little serious preparation before that war, evidenced by the fact that in July 1941 the U.S. Army Air Forces had fewer than 7000 aircraft whereas three years later nearly 80,000 were on hand.19

Between 1945 and 1950 the number of Air Force aircraft dropped to about 20,000. The Korean War dictated force structure for the next few years, and in 1956 the Senate Armed Services Committee began to take a serious look at the status of the Air Force in light of the fiscal policies of the Eisenhower Administration. The following are some of the more important conclusions reached:


(1) In future wars “forces in being” are indispensable.

(2) Current strong strategic striking power is due to weapons designed, money appropriated, and contracts let many years earlier; U.S. strength is declining while Soviet strength is increasing.

(3) Soviets have and are producing more combat aircraft than the U.S.; they have greatly decreased lead time.


(1) The Soviets are rapidly closing the qualitative gap. Yet, our qualitative lead is now being given as justification for our having passed over to the Soviets quantitative superiority in military airpower.

(2) The duplicating approach characteristic of many research and development programs in the Department of Defense, along with the dollar limitations established for such programs, has retarded needed modernization of weapons systems.

These policies have retarded important scientific breakthroughs. They contrast with Soviet policies which have produced extraordinary Soviet progress in the research and development field.

(3) The Soviets exceed the United States in rate of technological development, in training facilities, in speed and quantity of prototype development, in the training of scientists and engineers, and in many other phases of airpower development.


(1) Confusion and therefore inefficiency in defense planning have developed from the vacillating policies of first emphasis then de-emphasis with respect to limited war as against unlimited war. It is essential that we be prepared for both.


(1)Financial considerations have often been placed ahead of defense requirements, to the serious damage of our airpower strength relative to that of Russia; and hence to our national security.

(2)The United States has the capacity to produce and maintain airpower which is relatively stronger than that of the Soviets; but the Department of Defense has not utilized this capacity.

(3)With proper programming and administration in the Department of Defense, it would be possible to maintain air supremacy over the Soviets without jeopardizing a sound economy and without imposing additional tax burdens upon the people.20

wargaming and computers

During the post-Korean War period, the use of wargaming and computers was especially evident in developing strategic force requirements. Although the analysis of strategic warfare involved many uncertainties, the planner had relatively simple measures of effectiveness in the concepts of damage limitation and assured destruction. Not having had a nuclear war from which to acquire data, the planner was forced to rely on operational and weapon test exercises and on mathematical models to compare the capabilities of strategic weapon systems and develop desirable force structures. And to this day mathematical models and computer-simulated war games are still being used to size the strategic force.

In the early sixties wargaming had become an integral part of most force studies in JCS and Hq USAF. Particular emphasis was placed on the use of wargaming techniques in studies of tactical theater conflict situations. Gaming methods had evolved from grossly aggregated, one-man exercises providing results in a matter of days to highly detailed computer simulations requiring many months to complete.

In 1965 wargaming was not used as a method of estimating the USAF objective force tactical fighter requirements. Instead, a simple-to-use hand model was devised that consisted of a series of nomograms, much like those in a pilot’s flight handbook.21 With this model, total tactical fighter requirements were estimated by entering the nomograms at various points with selected parametric values such as sortie and attrition rates, kill ratios, and the number of various kinds of targets to be defeated. This highly stylized model lacked much of the sophistication of the war game, but it was useful to some extent in that it gave the planner some insight into the interrelation of the various force-sizing planning factors without the need for an analyst to interpret data.

This simple approach served as a basis for subsequent tactical force-sizing studies by the Air Staff, which broadened the data base and the scope of the problem. A more recent major study was TACFAN, which used a combination steady-state and two-sided dynamic model.22 TACFAN supposedly provided an analytical method for estimating the size of tactical fighter forces within the context of various threat and conflict situations and the ability of the forces to accomplish the objectives of the JSOP contingencies. It also analyzed the factors influencing both the size and mix of forces required.

The rationale in TACFAN was used for USAF objective force sizing until 1969. Now, other approaches are being investigated.

inputs and threat assumptions: major uncertainties

As an indicator of the sensitivity of results to inputs, TACFAN concluded that when the best weapons are available only half the time, force requirements are more than doubled. It is this kind of extreme sensitivity to the value of the inputs used that causes force planners to wonder if perhaps the time, money, and effort that go into developing complex computer models are well spent. Would it not be more productive to direct these resources toward minimizing some of the uncertainty involved in the inputs or at least toward trying to understand better their impact on the results of analyses?

Another shortcoming of force-sizing studies, including TACFAN, has been the explicit statement of the threat against which force levels are derived. These studies invariably include a specific target array (number and kinds of targets) that must be defeated in some specified time. If the decision-maker believes the threat, he may believe the results of the study; if he does not agree on the threat, then he cannot logically accept the force level recommended.

Recognizing the major impact which the inputs and the hypothetical threat have on the results of force-level studies, Major General Glenn A. Kent, shortly after assuming the position of Assistant Chief of Staff, Studies and Analysis, Hq USAF, cautioned his personnel that the purpose of a study is to develop new truths and provide new illumination for consideration by the decision-maker.* In other words, it is more beneficial to show the decision-maker how an input, such as the attrition rate, drives the size of the force than to try to tell him what that force size should be. On the relation of threat to force level, General Kent went on to say:

Our purpose in force level studies is not to determine the required level; the threat dictates the required level, and the threat input is always open to question. Hence, our purpose in force level studies is always to evaluate the effectiveness of alternative force levels, and to provide the decisionmaker a range of options. However, once given a budget level, we can determine preferred mixes based on effectiveness criteria.21

In the strategic context, the existence of uncertainties in strategic force exchanges has not deterred analysts from modeling the major elements of strategic warfare. Since the force interactions involved are relatively simple and empirical data are lacking, mathematical models are considered an appropriate means of sizing the strategic forces.

In the tactical context, however, we have extensive empirical data: the results of three wars. Although data are plentiful, contradictions often exist. Consequently, the job of communicating the results of analyses is difficult and hazardous. Furthermore, the abundance of data available and the complex interactions involved in tactical warfare have usually led to the rejection of simple models because they lack realism and rejection of sophisticated ones because they are too sensitive to the inputs and the threat assumptions used. For these reasons tactical force sizing has been based on analysis to some extent but also on the decision-maker’s judgment.

Force Structure-Problems and Issues

The basic elements in force-structure decision-making are the threat, the state of the art in technology, time, and cost. A weapon system is developed to serve a certain military strategy that meets the enemy threat. Weapon developments are limited by the existing stock of technological knowledge. But as time passes, technology advances, prompting the development of new weapons. Cost enters the picture in that the decision-maker, faced with many alternatives, must select the best choice of weapons to meet the threat in the light of limited human and physical resources.

To help him make the best choice, the decision-maker relies on the systems analyst. The analyst explores alternative courses of action, their cost, and their effectiveness. He presents them to the decision-maker, who brings value judgments to bear, rejects some alternatives, makes decisions, and then asks for more alternatives within the framework established by decisions already made.24

As stated earlier, the term force planner includes a variety of persons who become involved in developing force structure. There are the operations analysts who deal with the detailed problems of weapon system effectiveness, the cost analysts who try to predict future years’ costs, the systems analysts who look at the integration of all the force structure elements, the staff officers who incorporate analysis into the organizational framework for decision-making and make force recommendations, and the decision-makers up the line who decide on the force structure.

state of the art of force-structure studies

Since the development of force structure is heavily influenced by the work of the analysis community, it is interesting to note the consensus of the Military Operations Research Society regarding force-structure studies. In June 1969, the 23d MORS Symposium convened at West Point, New York. The Working Group on Requirements for General Purpose Forces reached the following conclusions or points of agreement:

· The concept of determining force requirements within budget constraints, given adequate fiscal and mission guidance, is a workable approach.

· Looser control by OSD will allow the services greater flexibility in force structuring.

· Without adequate guidance in terms of success criteria, strategic objectives, and dollars, there is no way to determine the forces required to meet a particular threat. The problem is compounded by the lack of effective models to determine the more complex or higher echelon force levels.

· Some of the more significant problems in force analysis are data collection, validation, and evaluation and the value of using data derived from experimental tests as opposed to analytically derived historical data.

· Model work and parameter study should continue. The sensitivity of models to input parameter changes is particularly important.

· Because of their generalized nature, use of Lanchester equations is questionable. They are of use primarily in fixed-outcome situations to analyze the effectiveness/attrition of alternative systems/forces.

· The key force analysis problem is the measurement of the effectiveness of units and weapon systems. Continued investigation is necessary.25

the planner’s problems

We have now looked at the framework in which force-structure decisions will he made and the general conclusions of an august group of analysts regarding the state of the art of force-structure studies. Looking into the future, we find that the specific problems with which the planner will be most concerned are not the same for the near term as they are for the far term.

In the near term, the force planner has little flexibility regarding the force mix. The types of aircraft relevant for the period will be either in-being or already programmed. The planner’s task will be to size the force by recommending phase-outs of old systems and by adjusting the quantities of new systems being phased in within the confines of a fixed dollar allocation.

In planning the tactical air program, the planner must try to find new ways to improve force effectiveness. One obvious approach would be to trade forces for more effective munitions, assuming the net result would be greater effectiveness for the same cost. Other approaches would be to trade forces for increased sortie-generation capability, or for increased mobility, or for decreased potential loss rates (e.g., aircraft shelters, penetration aids). The interrelation between these elements should be investigated in the context of projected budgets, lead times associated with procurement, and the risks inherent in force reduction.

In the far term, the force planner will be concerned with both force mix and force level. He will have to address mix and level in the context of strategy and the anticipated technological, economic, and political constraints. The uncertainties he will face will be exponentially greater in the far term.

The planner’s most pressing problem in the far term will involve concept formulation and acquisition of follow-on tactical aircraft. The planned near-term tactical force consists of several aircraft types, some that have specialized missions (F-15, F-111, and A-X), others that have missions general in nature (F-l00, F-l05, F-4, and A-7). The F-100 and F-105 are now considered obsolescent, and by the end of this decade the technology designed into the F-4, our most abundant fighter, will be 25 years old. Given that the lead time from concept formulation to initial operational capability is about 8 to 12 years, depending on the state of the art of aircraft technology, the force planner should now be seriously considering concept formulation for the successor to the F-4, or perhaps an unmanned system.

Although these are not the only big problems the force planners will be faced with, they are probably the most important ones.

the issues

In the process of addressing these near- and far-term problems, the planner will have to spend considerable effort developing and refining his understanding of those issues that will have the greatest impact on force structure, particularly on the tactical force structure. His primary task will be to investigate the implications of these issues and come up with the force structure that most nearly meets our national security objectives. These are some of the major issues he must address:

· What are the relative value and military effectiveness of the various tactical air roles—close support, interdiction, counterair—in various threat areas within a range of conflict situations? In the light of Southeast Asia experience, there has been considerable controversy regarding the value of interdiction. Some say that in spite of the thousands of interdiction sorties flown, there has been minimal payoff; others argue that the effort being expended by the enemy to make up his losses, coupled with the decrease in men and materiel at the end of the pipeline, more than compensates for the cost of interdiction.

· What is the relative effectiveness of land, sea, and air forces in achieving the desired objectives of a nonnuclear conflict? Operational considerations concerning the allocation of ground targets in the battle area to either tactical air or land forces are particularly important. Equally important are the relative merits of land-based versus sea-based tactical air. Implicit in this issue are the potential trade-offs in weapon systems and defense dollars among the services.

· What are the pros and cons of specialized versus multipurpose aircraft? Is it best to have a large force of relatively inexpensive aircraft, or would a small force of sophisticated aircraft result in greater military effectiveness (assuming a fixed budget)? In the past we have tended toward the multipurpose, sophisticated systems, primarily because we were nuclear-war oriented. Today, in the light of Southeast Asia and the growing Soviet air and armor threat, we are turning to specialized systems such as the A-X, the F-15, and the F-111, optimizing for the close support, air superiority, and night/weather interdiction missions. At the same time we are also buying more versatile systems—A-7s and F-4s.

These issues are not new. They have been with the planner for years. The fact that they are closely related adds to their complexity. What is new to the planner is the reality of a declining defense budget. In some respects his task will be simpler in that, with a fixed amount of money each year for the Air Force, he will be constrained to one less degree of freedom and therefore will be able to plan with greater certainty. On the other hand, the planner’s task will be more difficult in that he will have to squeeze out more military effectiveness with fewer and fewer dollars. To insure the most effectiveness with the dollars available, the analyses upon which the planner will base force structure decisions must focus on (i) finding better methods for measuring force effectiveness; (ii) deriving more credible operational inputs, which strongly drive the results of analyses; (iii) clearly formulating the issues to be examined; and (iv) establishing reasonable options or alternatives.

When asked why we need an Air Force, any-one who believes in democracy could reply: “So that we can have an Air Force.” That Air Force should be one which will significantly contribute to our fundamental strategy of deterrence and, if deterrence fails, will best achieve our military objectives. It is the force planner’s task to insure that we have the best Air Force money can buy.

* For more from General Kent on this subject, see his article entitled “Decision-Making,” page 62, in this issue of the Review.

Hq United States Air Force


1. John S. Reshetar, Jr., A Concise History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1960), p. 160.

2. Ibid., p. 159.

3. A. F. K. Organski, World Politics (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1958). p. 58.

4. U. S. Congress, Senate, Subcommittee on the Air Force of the Committee on Armed Services, Report on Airpower. 84th Cong., 2d Sess., 1957, p. 99. Hereafter cited as Report on Airpower.

5. Ibid., p. 9.

6. Bernard Brodie, Strategy in the Middle Age (Princeton. N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1959). pp. 365, 366.

7. U. S. Congress, Senate. Committee on Appropriations, Hearings, Department of Defense Appropriations for 1964. 88th Cong., 1st Sess., 1963, p. 26. Hereafter cited as Senate Hearings, DOD Appr. for 1964.

8. Charles J. Hitch and Roland N. McKean, The Economics at Defense in the Nuclear Age (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1960), p. 48.

9. Senate Hearings, DOD Appr. for 1964, p. 26.

10. J. K. Galbraith, The Affluent Society (Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1958). pp. 161-180.

11. Arthur Smithies, ‘‘Defense Budgets and the Federal Budgetary Process,” Planning and Forecasting in the Defense Industries, ed. J. A. Stockfisch (Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Co, Inc., 1962). pp. 58, 59.

12. Ibid., pp. 58-60.

13. Alain C. Enthoven, “Systems Analysis and Decision Making,” Military Review, January 1963, pp. 13-15.

14. James K. Schlesinger, “Defense Budgets and Operations Research,” in Proceedings of the 23d Military Operations Research Symposium, West Point, New York, June 1969, p. 3.

15. Department of Defense Instruction 7045.7. “The Planning, Programming, and Budgeting System.” 29 October 1969. p. 4.

16. DODI 7045.7 and AFR 375-1, “Management of System Programs,” 6 March 1970. Figure 1 shows the PPBS framework as it was structured for calendar year 1970. At this writing there are several minor changes under consideration.

17. Stephen F. Tillman, Man Unafraid (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: The Telegraph Press, Inc., 1958). pp. 15-19.

18. Ibid.

19. Alfred Goldberg. ed., A History of the United States Air Force, 1907-1957 (Princeton, New Jersey: D. Van Nostrand Co., Inc., 1957), p. 92.

20. Report on Airpower, pp. 95-97.

21. (TS) A Study of Tactical Fighter Aircraft Requirements 1971 (Short Fuze) (U), Hq USAF (AFXSA), 21 December 1965.

22. (TS) Tactical Fighter Force Analysis, 1973 (TACFAN) (U), Hq USAF (AFCSA), 15 December 1967.

23. Letter from Major General G. A. Kent to All Officers and Comparable Grade Civilians, AFCSA, subject “AFCSA Studies,” dated 2 December 1968.

24. Enthoven, p. 13.

25. Working Group Report, “Requirements for General Purpose Forces,” in Proceedings of the 23d Military Operations Research Symposium, West Point, New York, June 1969, pp. 212, 213.


Lieutenant Colonel Edward Stellini (M. S., George Washington University; M.S., University of Rochester) is a study director, Fighter Division, ACS/Studies and Analysis, Hq USAF. He has been an instructor pilot, flight examiner, and operations staff officer at Hq USAF and MACV and has worked in reconnaissance as a pilot and crew training instructor. Colonel Stellini is a graduate of Squadron Officer School, Air Command and Staff College, and the Defense Systems Analysis Program.


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.

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