The Revolution in Military Affairs: Prospects and Cautions

  • June 01, 1995
  • Dr Earl H Tilford Jr

The current Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) is taking place against the background of a larger historical watershed involving the end of the Cold War and the advent of what Alvin and Heidi Toffler have termed "the Information Age." In this essay, Dr. Earl Tilford argues that RMAs are driven by more than breakthrough technologies, and that while the technological component is important, a true revolution in the way military institutions organize, equip and train for war, and in the way war is itself conducted, depends on the confluence of political, social, and technological factors. After an overview of the dynamics of the RMA, Dr. Tilford makes the case that interservice rivalry and a reintroduction of the managerial ethos, this time under the guise of total quality management (TQM), may be the consequences of this revolution. In the final analysis, warfare is quintessentially a human endeavor. Technology and technologically sophisticated weapons are only means to an end. The U.S. Army, along with the other services, is embracing the RMA as it downsizes and restructures itself into Force XXI. Warfare, even on the digitized battlefield, is likely to remain unpredictable, bloody, and horrific. Military professionals cannot afford to be anything other than well-prepared for whatever challenges lie ahead, be it war with an Information Age peer competitor, a force of guerrillas out of the Agrarian Age, or a band of terrorists using the latest in high-tech weaponry. While Dr. Tilford is optimistic about the prospects for Force XXI, what follows is not an unqualified endorsement of the RMA or of the Army's transition to an Information Age force. By examining issues and problems that were attendant to previous RMAs, Dr. Tilford raises questions that ought to be asked by the Army as it moves toward Force XXI.