One of RAND’s bigger brains, Greg Treverton, has an excellent new paper that takes the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World, and comes up with the policy implications now that might shape that future.
Money section on the emerging post-Iraq defense policy debate:
"In the context of economic pressure, there will be an immediate debate about what kind of military the United States should have, one that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates prompted. The debated tended to pit the COINtistas—advocates of counterinsurgency capability— against the traditionalists. The first hold that future “irregular warfare” operations will be very labor-intensive because technology will not be able to easily substitute capital for labor. The second argue that the United States should shun such engagements and instead concentrate on sustaining the capability to deter and defeat major military rivals. This argument features the high-technology combat vehicle–intensive forms of combined arms warfare that characterize the “Big” Army, Navy, and Air Force.-- Greg Grant
Logically, the economic crisis and accompanying strain on defense spending should push the country toward a more multifunctional military that is optimized neither for conventional nor COIN operations but is able to “swing” between these missions. While the foes in Iraq have been relatively unsophisticated technically, the proliferation of PGMs to both conventional and nonconventional opponents (“hybrid warfare”) will make a number of COIN requirements become similar to those of conventional systems (armor protection and jamming, for instance) and will support such a “swing force.”