U.S. Forces in the Middle East: Resources and Capabilities

By Anthony H. Cordesman | Go to book overview

9
The Changing Structure of US War-Fighting Resources and Capabilities in the Gulf

It is difficult to summarize the complex and constantly changing structure of US war-fighting capabilities in the Gulf. On the one hand, the changes in US forces and strategy since Desert Storm have made significant cuts in the total pool of forces the US has available to deploy in power projection missions, and raise grave doubts about the ability of the US to fight two near simultaneous major regional contingencies. Even if one looks at the Gulf alone, it is doubtful that the US could again deploy the two corps land forces of Desert Storm. It no longer has a massive pool of heavy forces in NATO to draw upon, and the previous analysis has shown that it would take a substantial amount of time for the US to deploy even one heavy division and two and one-half months to deploy a contingency corps of three light and one heavy divisions. The US has also made major cuts in its air and naval forces which are in excess of 35%, and cuts of 45% seem likely by the year 2000. These cuts inevitably limit the forces it can deploy to the Gulf.

On the other hand, the US has scarcely ceased to be a superpower, and it faces only moderate conventional threats from Iran and Iraq. The US may have cut its air strength, but Table Seven has shown that it has reacted effectively to many of the lessons of the Gulf War and has sharply improved many aspects of the quality of its air units. The US has also improved the quality of its naval air power and the capability of naval air forces in joint warfare. It has improved many critical aspects of its C4I capabilities, and it has begun to make major improvements in its ability to rapidly deploy heavy ground forces to the upper Gulf--one of the most critical priorities for improving US, Saudi, and Kuwaiti capabilities to deal with any new act of aggression from Iraq.

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