Military Reform: A Reference Handbook

Contemporary Military, Strategic, and Security Issues

New book from Lawrence Korb and Winslow Wheeler examines the successes and failures of the military reform movement in Congress and the Pentagon.

Purchase Military Reform: A Reference Handbook by Winslow T. Wheeler and Lawrence J. Korb.

Get more information about the CAP book event with the authors.

This volume will help the reader understand fundamental strengths and weaknesses in America’s military forces, thereby leading to a comprehension of what genuine military reform is, and is not, and what remains to be done. Ideas will be presented to compare genuine reform to cosmetic dabbling, which fundamentally improves nothing and which sometimes arrives as ill-conceived fads that promise only to burden US combat forces to the point of mental and physical immobility.

The work will trace the history of various attempts to impose military reform on American armed forces, especially from Congress, starting during the American Revolution and Continental Congress up through the present day. Particular focus will be placed on the effort of a small group in Congress and the Pentagon in the 1980s (who coined the term "military reform" in the modern context). Emphasis will be on the reforms these actors advocated, variously successful and unsuccessful, to fundamentally alter how the Department of Defense designs and buys hardware and how our armed forces fight.

The book will use Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom (and the subsequent insurgency in Iraq) to demonstrate what has been reformed in US armed forces and the Department of Defense, and what has not.

About the Authors

Lawrence J. Korb

Lawrence J. Korb is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and a Senior Advisor to the Center for Defense Information. Prior to joining the Center, he was a Senior Fellow and Director of National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. From July 1998 to October 2002, he was Council Vice President, Director of Studies, and holder of the Maurice Greenberg Chair.

Prior to joining the Council, Mr. Korb served as Director of the Center for Public Policy Education and Senior Fellow in the Foreign Policy Studies Program at the Brookings Institution, Dean of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, and Vice President of Corporate Operations at the Raytheon Company.

Dr. Korb served as Assistant Secretary of Defense (Manpower, Reserve Affairs, Installations and Logistics) from 1981 through 1985. In that position, he administered about 70 percent of the Defense budget. For his service in that position, he was awarded the Department of Defense’s medal for Distinguished Public Service. Mr. Korb served on active duty for four years as Naval Flight Officer, and retired from the Naval Reserve with the rank of Captain.

Dr. Korb’s 20 books and more than 100 articles on national security issues include The Joint Chiefs of Staff: The First Twenty-five Years, The Fall and Rise of the Pentagon, American National Security: Policy and Process, Future Visions for U.S. Defense Policy, Reshaping America’s Military, and A New National Security Strategy in an Age of Terrorists, Tyrants, and Weapons of Mass Destruction. His articles have appeared in such journals as Foreign Affairs, Public Administration Review, New York Times Sunday Magazine, Naval Institute Proceedings, and International Security. Over the past decade, Mr. Korb has made over 1,000 appearances as a commentator on such shows as The Today Show, The Early Show, Good Morning America, Face the Nation, This Week with David Brinkley, MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour, News Hour with Jim Lehrer, Nightline, 60 Minutes, Larry King Live, The O’Reilly Factor, and Crossfire. His more than 100 op-ed pieces have appeared in such major newspapers as the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Baltimore Sun, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Christian Science Monitor.

Winslow T. Wheeler

Winslow T. Wheeler worked on national security issues for 31 years for members of the U.S. Senate and for the U.S. General Accounting Office. In the Senate, Wheeler worked for Jacob K. Javits, R-N.Y., Nancy L. Kassebaum, R-Kan., David Pryor, D-Ark., and Pete V. Domenici, R-N.M.  He was the first, and according to Senate records the last, Senate staffer to work simultaneously on the personal staffs of a Republican and a Democrat (Sens. Pryor and Kassebaum). 

In 2002, Wheeler authored an essay, under the pseudonym "Spartacus," about Congress’ reaction to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists attacks ("Mr. Smith Is Dead: No One Stands in the Way as Congress Lards Post-September 11 Defense Bills with Pork"). When Senators complained about Wheeler’s criticisms, he was invited to resign from his position with the Republican staff of the Senate Budget Committee. He is now a senior fellow and director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information.

Wheeler is the author of “The Wastrels of Defense: How Congress Sabotages U.S. Security” from the U.S. Naval Institute Press.  The book has been the subject of commentary and interviews on 60 Minutes, C-SPAN’s Book Notes, and various newspapers and radio stations.

He has also authored a 2002 essay on Congress’ authorization of war against Iraq, “The Week of Shame: Congress Wilts as the President Demands an Unclogged Road to War,” and he wrote various commentaries on Congress and national security, which have appeared in The Washington Post, Proceedings of the Naval Institute, Government Executive, Defense Week, Barron’s, Army Times, CounterPunch, and elsewhere. 

As a Senate staffer, Wheeler worked extensively on hundreds of bills and amendments that are now U.S. law.  These included the War Powers Act, multiple proposals to reform Pentagon procurement, and to require more realistic weapons tests and more accurate reports about them to the secretary of defense and Congress. 

While at the GAO, Wheeler directed comprehensive studies on the U.S. strategic-nuclear triad and the air campaign of Operation Desert Storm.  Both studies found compelling evidence that prevailing conventional wisdom about the performance of both U.S. and foreign weapons systems, such as Soviet strategic nuclear delivery systems and U.S. “high tech” tactical weapons, was highly inflated an unsupported by the evidence available in the Department of Defense.

The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.