Changes in US Defense Budgets, Strategy, and Force Plans
US capabilities in the Gulf are being shaped by a long series of changes in US defense budgets, strategy, and force plans that have taken place as a result of the end of the Cold War. While it is normal to discuss such changes beginning with strategy and force plans, the driving force has been the effort to reduce defense expenditures. Since the end of the Cold War, US strategy and forces have been driven more by the search for peace dividends rather than by strategic requirements and war fighting considerations.
At the same time, the Bush and Clinton Administrations have made important changes in strategy and force plans. These changes began under President Bush. In August, 1990, the Bush Administration presented a new future years defense plan (FYDP) called the "Base Force." The Base Force shifted the focus of US strategy from the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact to a focus on power projection and the capability to fight major regional conflicts.
The Clinton Administration continued this focus, and made further cuts in defense spending. In September, 1993, it announced the results of a "Bottom Up Review" (BUR) that called for the US to reshape its forces to deal with two near simultaneous major regional conflicts--one in Korea and the other in the Southwest Asia. It also announced new force improvement packages to improve US power projection capabilities and new plans to deal with peace keeping and low-level conflicts.
The trends in US defense spending are best indicated by the trends in total annual defense budget authority--a measurement which covers all US defense expenditures authorized for both the current budget year and any future years. 4 Measured in constant FY 1995 dollars, this spending reached a Reagan-era peak of $402.2 billion in FY 1985. It then dropped to