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National Defense into the 21st Century: Defining the Issues

Authored by Dr. Earl H. Tilford Jr.. | June 1997

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The U.S. Army War College, in cooperation with the Association of the United States Army (AUSA), the U.S. Naval War College, and the Atlantic Council of the United States, cosponsored a symposium in late February 1997 to examine the topic, "National Defense into the 21st Century: Defining the Issues." The purpose of this symposium was to relate the national interests of the United States to its long-term military requirements and to define those challenges which will face the Department of Defense, as well as those issues most pertinent to each of the military services. This symposium was a sincere effort by individuals from the various services, the Army's and the Navy's premier professional military education institutions, AUSA, and the Atlantic Council to search for a common understanding of the difficult issues facing all the services jointly and each of them individually.

Over a period of two days, through four panels and three special addresses, the presenters and more than 100 attendees engaged in an enlightening and productive exchange of ideas and points of view. What follows is a report on the four individual panels and the comments of the Honorable John D. White, the Deputy Secretary of Defense; Major General Mark R. Hamilton, U.S. Army, Vice Director for Force Structure, Resources, and Assessment on the Joint Staff; and retired U.S. Army General Andrew J. Goodpaster, Chairman of the Atlantic Council of the United States. General Jack N. Merritt, U.S. Army, Retired, opened the symposium by describing its goals and agenda.


This symposium brought together men and women, soldiers, airmen, marines, and civilians from government, industry, academia, and the media to speak and, more importantly, to listen. Every speaker, even those who were clearly the specified advocates for their respective services, emphasized both the need for the current QDR and the absolute conclusion that defending the United States is and will remain a joint endeavor. The honest and forthright exchange of ideas, concepts, and opinions furthered the process and, quite possibly, pushed the Department of Defense closer to a successful QDR.

The planning and coordination for the symposium represented a major undertaking on the part of the Association of the U.S. Army. When the Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) suggested that the AUSA take the lead in putting together a symposium which would endeavor to surface as many issues as possible facing all the services, General Jack N. Merritt, (U.S. Army, Retired) and Lieutenant General Richard L. West (U.S. Army, Retired) and Colonel James D. Blundell (U.S. Army, Retired) immediately saw the need and turned vision into reality. Mr. Gayden E. Thompson of The Atlantic Council and Dr. Robert Wood of the U.S. Naval War College also recognized the value of such a meeting and coordinated participation by their respective organizations.

It was the hard work, however, of a few key individuals that made this symposium successful. At AUSA, Colonel Jim Blundell organized the team that brought the symposium together. Mr. George Ehling, Mrs. Lori Johnston, Ms. Paula Brock, and Mrs. Sandra Daugherty did the detailed work that was needed to make the symposium run smoothly. Finally, Colonel Rod Paschall, (U.S. Army, Retired) served as the symposium rapporteur. Without his diligent pen, this SSI Special Report would not have been possible.

The QDR is an event of extreme importance for the Department of Defense, the individual services, and for the American people. What is at stake is the future capability of the nation's military. Now is the time to face the truth, to speak the truth, and to put aside parochial interest so that the interests of us all, the preservation and extension of freedom, may endure into the coming millennium.