Paying the Premium: A Military Insurance Policy for Peace and Freedom

By Walter Hahn; H. Joachim Maitre | Go to book overview
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11
The U.S. Defense- Industrial Base

Gen. Alfred G. Hansen, USAF (Ret.)

Historically, the United States has heavily relied on its industrial base to meet the demands of major military conflicts and provide the nation with an intrinsic advantage in the prosecution of war. The tradition is that of a hemispheric power that, protected by the moats of two oceans, has enjoyed both time and relative safety in mobilizing its robust industrial resources for the challenge of conflict.

World War II stands out in that tradition. Even after the punishing blows delivered on U.S. military power at Pearl Harbor, once U.S. industry was mobilized and geared to war-production priorities, the military leadership could look to a virtually endless conveyor belt of materiel to sustain whatever strategies and campaigns are selected.

The experiences of the Vietnam War reinforced this traditional reliance on industrial capacity to rise to the challenge of conflict. It also provided the notion of a "shortcut" offered by the high-technology era: the concept of capitalizing on American qualitative superiority in the high-tech arena by fashioning weapons systems that could "out-trump" a numerically superior military opponent. In this way, surge production in response to an emergency could be fine tuned and selectively concentrated in certain sectors of what had emerged as a full-fledged defense industry, without unduly disrupting the society's pursuit of both guns and butter. Essentially the same approach prevailed during Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

It would seem that the overwhelming victory in the Gulf War validated the "limited surge" mobilization strategy as a continuing safeguard for the future. That lesson, however, is deceptive. In point of fact, in the Gulf War the United

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