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

By McCue, Joe | Air Power History, Winter 2012 | Go to article overview

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


McCue, Joe, Air Power History


The Science of War: Defense Budgeting, Military Technology, Logistics, and Combat Outcomes. By Michael E. O'Hanlon. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009. Appendix. Index. Pp. 266. $35.00 ISBN: 0-691-13702-5

This thoughtful, timely, and detailed book is not meant as a light read for a casual observer of national security. Rather, it is designed to offer insights into the means and methodology in which U.S. military force is budgeted for and organized. Michael O'Hanlon is well equipped to write on this topic. He is a senior fellow at Brookings Institution and has been a prolific writer across a wide range of national security issues. He clearly states in the introduction that there is a "science of war--that is, a structured, analytical, often quantitative, often technical side for preparing for combat." O'Hanlon then delves into and describes that subject matter in sufficient detail to educate even an informed reader to an even finer level of appreciation of the topics discussed. It is basically a textbook--a reference document to support college-level discussions on the nuances of military force sizing and budgeting and the implications of technology insertion into America's military arsenal.

Through O'Hanlon's efforts, the reader is better able to grapple with the decisions that are routinely made at the Pentagon concerning the issues of weapons-system procurement and military-strategy development. Also, embedded in the book is a deep appreciation for force enablers such as logistics, sustainment, and space-based intelligence gathering systems. O'Hanlon is able to inform the debate that defense budget analysis remains an imprecise practice. He clearly portrays the military budget analysis process as a "decision making" process that is filled with conflicting motivations for defense spending. Also clearly articulated is the fact that America is the largest single spender on military equipment in the world.

While O'Hanlon alludes to military works such as Clausewitz's On War and Sun Tzu's The Art of War, this work is focused on a different set of military issues. His theme is to offer the reader a new perspective on how the military establishment may choose to arm its future forces for battle. …

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