Conference Program

85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History

 Landscapes of War and Peace

April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky

Title: Another Interwar Period: The U.S. Army in the 1990s
Abstract: The 1990s are an overlooked decade in U.S. Army history? an "interwar" period overshadowed by the Cold War that preceded it and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that followed. The years between the war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq and terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, however, like the decades between the World Wars, were an important period of institutional struggle and development. Dramatic reductions in the size and budget of the Army, as well as national debates about the future utility of the force, unsettled the service and contributed to great internal tensions within the Army and with political leaders. Budget and manpower cuts drove many officers and soldiers from the ranks and generated acrimonious struggles between components. At the same time, however, Army leaders sought to develop a vision of the Army for the future?a future in which, for example, the Army would eschew stationing large numbers of combat troops overseas in favor of expeditionary deployments as well as capitalize on the promise of the digital age glimpsed in the 1991 war against Iraq. Moreover, the Army leaders undertook these modernization efforts in a time of fiscal constraint and one in which the operation demands on the force actually increased enough during the decade to become a concern. The papers of this panel address important aspects of this decade: the changing role of the reserve components¬?groundbreaking at the time, commonplace today; an early operational deployment to deter Iraqi aggression that had institutional repercussions; and the efforts of Army senior leader to balance imposed change, intentional change, and the health of the Army. The commenters bring specialized expertise from, in one case, study of the technological developments of the decade and, for the other, experience working closely for the U.S. Army Chief of Staff in the late 1990s.
Stephen Lofgren, U.S. Army Center of Military History
Participant's Paper Title: "Stop the Bleeding": The U.S. Army in the 1990s
Participant's Paper Abstract: The 1990s were a challenging, demanding, and influential decade for the U.S. Army often overshadowed by what occurred after September 2001. During the 1990s, the senior Army leaders struggled to staunch losses, both international and institutional, at the very time they were conceptualizing, charting, and then constructing a new version of the service that incorporated new technology such as digital computers and new realities such as the elimination of many overseas units and posts. The Army's institutional bleeding of both people and funding began in post-Cold War, congressionally-mandated manpower and budgetary cuts and then continued despite the Army leaders' best efforts. At the same time, the nation repeatedly called on soldiers to help people in distress from Iraq to Florida to Somalia to Bosnia. Coping with these exigencies created unanticipated internal injuries?personnel turbulence throughout the service, acrimonious relations between the active Army and the Army National Guard, the rise of "zero-defects" management and the plummeting of the morale of the officer corps?that affected the service throughout both the 1990s and into the decade that followed.
Kathleen Nawyn, U.S. Army Center of Military History
Travis Moger, U.S. Army Center of Military History
Participant's Paper Title: Cheat and Retreat: Iraqi Provocation and the U.S. Response in 1994
Participant's Paper Abstract: On 8 October 1994, the Iraqi military moved two armored divisions of Republican Guard Forces near the Iraq-Kuwait border, triggering a quick allied response. The US rapidly deployed 13,000 ground troops plus air and naval forces to the Gulf during Operation Vigilant Warrior in what has been called "the first prominent example of effective conventional deterrence by the US in the post-Cold War era." Despite its significance, the operation has received little attention from scholars.
The product of sound doctrine and deliberate planning, Vigilant Warrior demonstrated the agility of US military air- and sealift and the efficiency of both land-based and maritime prepositioning of equipment. Most significantly, it achieved the desired effect of compelling Iraq to withdraw its divisions. Unfortunately, the success of Vigilant Warrior reinforced the U.S. post-Cold War mentality of doing more with less and obscured a rapidly widening strategic gap between operational plans and manning levels, especially in the U.S. Army. In hindsight, Vigilant Warrior was an operational success but a strategic failure.
Miranda Summers Lowe, National Museum of American History
Participant's Paper Title: The Reserve Component and Rotational Mobilizations After Operation DESERT STORM
Participant's Paper Abstract: On the cusp of the 21st Century, tens of thousands of reserve forces were mobilized in over 100 countries on rotational deployments. This reliance on the Army Reserve and National Guard was borne from institutional pressures facing the U.S. Army after Operation DESERT STORM. For the first time since WWII, American forces were used to reconstruct governments and infrastructure on a large scale, which required large numbers of stability forces. Because the 1993 Offsite Agreement placed many high-skill, low-density jobs in the reserve, peacekeeping missions required National Guard and Reserve forces. In mobilizing the National Guard and Army Reserve Forces for DESERT STORM/DESERT SHIELD, the Army gained an increased reliance on reserve forces within the framework of Total Force Policy for military actions other than large-scale wars. This came at a time when the "Peace Dividend" budget cuts left the reserve components looking for new missions as a means to enhance their value to the broader force. By November 1997, over 15,000 personnel from the Army Reserve and the National Guard had manned operations in support of the mission in Bosnia, with thousands of others in support of concurrent contingencies including counterdrug missions in South America with Joint Task Force-BRAVO, Multi-national Force Observer missions in the Sinai, stability support operations in Kosovo, and United Nations enforcement missions in Kuwait. The "sudden" mobilization of the Army Reserve and National Guard in September 2001, therefore, was not a drastic departure, but a continuation of a decade of mobilization practice and the Army's growing reliance on the reserve components to meet the needs of both war and stability operations.

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