The Science of War: Defense Budgeting, Military Technology, Logistics, and Combat Outcomes

The Science of War: Defense Budgeting, Military Technology, Logistics, and Combat Outcomes

The Science of War: Defense Budgeting, Military Technology, Logistics, and Combat Outcomes

The Science of War: Defense Budgeting, Military Technology, Logistics, and Combat Outcomes


The U. S. military is one of the largest and most complex organizations in the world. How it spends its money, chooses tactics, and allocates its resources have enormous implications for national defense and the economy. The Science of War is the only comprehensive textbook on how to analyze and understand these and other essential problems in modern defense policy.

Michael O'Hanlon provides undergraduate and graduate students with an accessible yet rigorous introduction to the subject. Drawing on a broad range of sources and his own considerable expertise as a defense analyst and teacher, he describes the analytic techniques the military uses in every crucial area of military science. O'Hanlon explains how the military budget works, how the military assesses and deploys new technology, develops strategy and fights wars, handles the logistics of stationing and moving troops and equipment around the world, and models and evaluates battlefield outcomes. His modeling techniques have been tested in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the methods he used to predict higher-than-anticipated troop fatalities in Iraq--controversial predictions that have since been vindicated.

The Science of War is the definitive resource on warfare in the twenty-first century.

  • Gives the best introduction to defense analysis available

  • Covers defense budgeting

  • Shows how to model and predict outcomes in war

  • Explains military logistics, including overseas basing

  • Examines key issues in military technology, including missile defense, space warfare, and nuclear-weapons testing

  • Based on the author's graduate-level courses at Princeton, Columbia, and Georgetown universities


Sun Tze's ancient work, The Art of War, is a classic that remains as timeless today as when he wrote it several centuries before Christ in China. Questions of morale, leadership, cunning, and innovative tactics are still central to warfare and always will be. Similarly, the Prussian general and scholar Carl von Clausewitz's book On War, written two hundred years ago, remains brilliant in its depiction of war as an extension of politics, a fundamentally human endeavor in which national and individual will and the core character of fighting men (and now women) are central in understanding battle and determining outcomes.

But there is also a science of war— that is, a structured, analytical, often quantitative, often rather technical side to preparing for combat. the science of war is also important for keeping peace. It can help improve and ensure deterrence, by scrupulously evaluating the capacities of one's own military and trying to strengthen it where possible. Finally, it is important for defense budgeting and resource allocation, a matter of importance not only to war planners but to all participants in the public policy pro cess.

The use of quantitative tools in defense policy analysis is almost always imprecise, not only in the quality of the data available, but even in knowing what concept and what formula to apply to a given problem. All the tools developed and discussed in this book need to be viewed in this spirit.

We have little choice, however, but to try to refine the science of war as much as possible. What would the alternative be? To base defense bud get levels on pure guesswork or politics? To make war plans only using the intuition of generals (or secretaries of defense?). To develop any weapon that seems technically within reach without regard to its likely cost, effectiveness, or other strategic effects? As imprecise as the science of war may be, we must attempt to understand it. and even policy generalists must grapple with it themselves, unless they wish to cede some or all of the defense policy debate to specialists— which cannot be in the national interest in any country. Given the importance of military debates, which in the United States presently involve more than $600 billion a year in . . .

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