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The Potential for Further Overstretch

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Lake considers whether overstretch is likely to remain a problem for the foreseeable future. This chapter summarizes the initiatives the armed services are currently taking, and concludes that they are unlikely to have a major impact on the risk of overstretch. The chapter looks at the potential for the kind of fundamental transformation that is required, concluding that it is unlikely. Lake concludes analyzing the likely outcomes of the continuation of the status quo, including emulation by both allies and possible foes, attempts by foes to asymmetrically counter US technological superiority, likely recurrences of overstretch, and the possibility that the US military is no longer capable of major sustained operations.

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  • DOI: 10.1057/978-1-349-78681-7_8
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Fig. 8.1
Fig. 8.2
Fig. 8.3


  1. 1.

    Jacques Gansler has written extensively on the structure of the US defense industry, the increasingly expensive and sluggish process of procurement, and, most importantly, ways the process can be reformed (1980, 1989, 2011).

  2. 2.

    While other national militaries often buy American military hardware and foreign sales are lucrative for defense companies, those buyers are secondary to the DOD in size and access to foreign markets is regulated by Congress. Note that to some extent many defense industries are monopolies, since there is no competition for their particular products. Thus we have a monopoly selling to a monopsony. This is probably a low efficiency (and thus costly) system but by itself industry structure does not mandate the high sophistication and high cost weapons the US military uses.

  3. 3.

    See Chap. 4 for a more complete discussion of the Air Force’s preferences with regard to tactical aircraft.

  4. 4.

    Article I, Section 8. It was a deliberate decision of the founders to make appropriations less efficient by forbidding longer term appropriations (Gansler 1989, p. 108).

  5. 5.

    From a statement the Red Queen made to Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass: “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place” (1991 [1871]).


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Correspondence to Daniel R. Lake .

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Lake, D.R. (2019). The Potential for Further Overstretch. In: The Pursuit of Technological Superiority and the Shrinking American Military. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

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  • Print ISBN: 978-1-137-33062-8

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