An AP report on a recent speech by SecDef Gates in Russia indicates that he gave some credit to Soviet ideas as inspiration for post-Vietnam U.S. military reforms. He is correct…in part. Soviet ideas in the 1970s about a “military-technical revolution” did inspire those within the defense community that supported the development and acquisition of many of the IT-driven weapons systems that we rely on to this day, those who were champions of the notion of a “revolution in military affairs” (RMA) following the first Gulf War.
However, one should not give too much credit or simplify the story. Not all those who were influential in post-Vietnam reforms were on board with the idea that new IT and computers would be the driving force behind military change. John Boyd and the members of the self-designated Military Reform Movement focused on ideas, doctrine, and training as more important for effective military reform. There were bitter feuds between the Reformers and those focused more on technology. Even still, the Reformers were influenced by the Soviets, both by Soviet actions (e.g. the massive Soviet build-up in Eastern Europe) and Soviet ideas (e.g. they believed that Soviet doctrine was more consistent with their own ideas about “maneuver warfare”).
Anyway, here are the excerpts from the AP story:
Defense Secretary Robert Gates told students at an elite Russian military academy Saturday that much of the inspiration for the U.S. military’s modernization in the 1980s came from Moscow.
He said the seeds of U.S. combat successes in the 1991 Gulf war were sown a decade earlier with an infusion of new ideas on using modern technologies to fundamentally change the nature of warfighting.
“What is less well known _especially in America Ã¢â‚¬â€ is that much of the original thinking on these matters was done by the Soviet military as far back as the 1970s when officers wrote about what was then called a `military technical revolution,'” he said.
In his prepared remarks, Gates cited the Soviet military’s work in the 1970s on how to use sensors, reconnaissance and command-and-control systems to gain a battlefield edge. In the next decade, he said, top Soviet generals envisioned a scenario in which conventional weapons could be as effective as nuclear weapons Ã¢â‚¬â€ “owing to the gains made in precision, information technology and communications.”
That became the standard for U.S. military innovation, which first bore fruit in the successful campaign to oust the Iraqi army from Kuwait after it invaded in August 1990 and triggered a U.S.-led invasion.