Push-button warfare largely by pilotless aircraft, including a "hypersonic" missile that could knock out a mobile rocket launcher 600 miles away in no more than 15 minutes, are among the Pentagon's goals.
The concept, reported in Sunday's Los Angeles Times, dovetails with President Bush's marching orders to graduating U.S. Military Academy cadets last month to "to be ready for pre-emptive action when necessary." The newspaper's account was based on its review of an annually updated classified document.
Many of the facts in the document, known as "Defense Planning Guidance" for 2004-2009 and signed May 3 by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, have been disclosed previously.
Rumsfeld's chief spokeswoman, Victoria Clarke, said Saturday she would not comment on specifics of the planning document because it is classified, but she noted that Rumsfeld has publicly pushed for advances in areas such as cyberwarfare, precision strikes and anti-terror capabilities.
"The secretary has talked repeatedly about the need to be prepared for surprises — the unknown unknowns," she said. "He has said there must be an increased focus on unmanned aerial vehicles of all sorts," including those now in development that would launch missile attacks.
"He has talked again and again about the need to shift to greater precision in everything we do," she added.
The Pentagon put one enhancement from the report on display Thursday, an improved aerial drone designed to survive the rigors of combat. The planning guidance would obtain a fleet of 12 of the pilotless jets, called unmanned air vehicles, by 2012.
The craft exhibited Thursday at Edwards Air Force Base, California, is an improvement on the current generation, at least eight of which have crashed since the military operation in Afghanistan began last year. The latest crash was a Northrup Grumman Global Hawk reconnaissance plane that went down Wednesday in Pakistan.
Especially since the Sept. 11 attacks, U.S. government officials have talked up plans to scrap Cold War concepts of preparedness to fight two traditional regional wars simultaneously. The way forward, they have said, is a more proactive, assertive U.S. military, lighter and quicker, practicing "forward deterrence" largely through "unwarned attacks."
In his June 1 commencement speech at West Point, for instance, Bush said: "Our security will require transforming the military you will lead — a military that must be ready to strike at a moment's notice in any dark corner of the world. And our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for pre-emptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives."
The plan described in the Times report is the first of the five-year projections published since Sept. 11. It continues support for earlier administration priorities:
The document presses a need for improvement in intelligence through computers, space and special operations, to provide enough information about an impending crisis to merit military action.