CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
A U.N. Rapid Reaction Force?
A Discussion of the Issues and Considerations
for U.S. Policymakers
June 29, 1995
Specialist in International Security Affairs
Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
A U.N. Rapid Reaction Force? A Discussion of the Issues
and Considerations for U.S. Policymakers
U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali recently called for Member
States to consider creating a special U.N. force for U.N. peacekeeping operations.
a January 1995 report he proposed that the U.N. consider establishing a "strategic
reserve" rapid reaction force (RRF), perhaps of battalion-sized units, to deploy when
emergency needs for peacekeeping troops arise. They would be stationed in their
home countries, but would be trained to the standards, use the same operating
procedures and equipment, participate in regular joint exercises, and otherwise be
maintained at a high state of readiness in order to respond quickly to a U.N. call for
Although proposals for a U.N. force dedicated to peace operations were made
by former presidents Bush and Reagan, and by presidential candidate William J.
Clinton, the Clinton Administration backed away from the concept. In its May 1994
Presidential Decision Directive 25 (PDD-25), the Administration stated that the
United States "does not support a standing U.N. army..." The Clinton Administration
supported, however, the establishment of the U.N. Standby Forces system, through
which Member States formally commit individuals and units to be provided within
a specified period of a U.N. request for peacekeeping assistance, in order to enable
the U.N. to structure peacekeeping forces more effectively. (The United States has
not "earmarked" troops in advance for the system, but has provided a list of specific
military capabilities that could be made available for peacekeeping operations.)
The Secretary-General's RRF proposal raises many concerns among U.N.
Member States, particularly whether it is politically desirable and financially
feasible. A February 1995 consensus statement of the U.N. Security Council on the
Secretary-General's report did not specifically mention the rapid reaction force
proposal. It stressed the "importance of improving the capacity of the U.N. for rapid
deployment and reinforcement of operations," and stated that the first priority
"should be the further enhancement of the existing standby arrangements...."
There are many factors -- and problems -- to be considered in creating an
effective "on-call" rapid reaction force. Among these are how to provide effective
command and control, intelligence collection and processing, and adequate, costeffective logistics support. For the United States, there are broad strategic,
budgetary, political, and military implications, as well. The Clinton Administration
has opposed the idea of a RRF because it would reduce the flexibility of U.S.
strategic planning, and could compromise the United States' ability to respond to
other crises. The United States might be called upon to bear a significant part of the
cost of maintaining a RRF, which could be high, but must be weighed against
savings that might accrue from have a force to deploy before conflict escalates and
becomes more costly to contain. Among the domestic political considerations of
establishing an RRF is the possible reduction of congressional and other domestic
input into the decision-making process on peacekeeping operations. Among the
issues for the U.S. military is whether the U.N. would rely on the United States'
unique lift capabilities to deploy the RRF.
This report, completed in June 1995, discusses the content and context of the January 1995
proposal by then-United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali that U.N.
Member States consider the creation of a special rapid reaction force to perform U.N.
peacekeeping operations. It contains brief background information on similar proposals and
a description of the current UN "standby forces" system. It reviews the concerns and issues
raised by the Boutros-Ghali proposal, including political acceptability, financing, and the
problems of force design and operation. It concludes with an analysis of the strategic,
budgetary, political and military implications for the United States. This report will not be
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
The Proposal: History, Context, Content
and Rationale . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Current U.N. Standby Forces System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Issues for the United Nations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Political Acceptability . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Initial Response of the Security Council . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Financing Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Current Funding Difficulties . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Financing a Rapid Reaction Force . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Considerations for Force Design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Design Problems Created by the Nature of Peacekeeping Operations . . . . . 9
Interoperability . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Political Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Affordability . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Significant Net Gain? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Considerations for Force Operations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Command and Control . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Leadership . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Communications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Staff . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Intelligence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Logistics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Considerations for the United States . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Strategic, Budgetary and Political Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Military Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Airlift and Sealift . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
U.S. Forces Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Appendix I: Defining Peace Operations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
A U.N. Rapid Reaction Force? A Discussion of
the Issues and Considerations for U.S.
U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's recent call for U.N. Member
States to consider the creation of a special force to perform U.N. peacekeeping
operations has provoked renewed scrutiny of U.N. capabilities to promote global
peace and security. In the early 1990s, similar proposals for creating a U.N. force
dedicated to peace operations were made by President George Bush, former
President Ronald Reagan, and presidential candidate William Clinton.1 The concept
of a special U.N. force appealed to U.S. policymakers at that time as a means to
share the burden with other nations for dealing with conflicts and promoting
international stability. As questions were raised about the United Nations' ability to
serve U.S. interests in conducting peacekeeping operations, the Clinton
Administration backed away from the concept. In its May 1994 Presidential
Decision Directive 25 (PDD-25), the Administration stated that the United States
"does not support a standing U.N. army, nor will we earmark specific U.S. military
units for participation in U.N. operations."
Nevertheless, Members of Congress have raised questions about the proposal.
This report was written to provide background on the proposal and to clarify some
points that U.S. policymakers would need to consider in judging its possible merits.
In a September 1992 address to the United Nations General Assembly, then-President
George Bush recommended that nations develop and train military units specifically for
peacekeeping operations and humanitarian relief, and make them available at short notice
when requested by the Security Council. That December, in an address to the Oxford Union
Society, former President Ronald Reagan suggested that nations “work toward a standing
U.N. force--an army of conscience--that is fully equipped and prepared to carve out human
sanctuaries through force if necessary.”
As a presidential candidate, William J. Clinton suggested exploring the idea of a “UN
Rapid Deployment Force that could be used for purposes beyond traditional peacekeeping,
such as standing guard at the borders of countries threatened by aggression; preventing mass
violence against civilian populations; providing humanitarian relief; and combatting
terrorism. It would not be a large standing army but rather a small force that could be called
up from units of national armed forces and earmarked and trained in advance.” See: Vital
Speeches, Vol LVIII, no. 14, May 1, 1992, p 424.
The Proposal: History, Context, Content
In a report issued in early January 1995, U.N. Secretary-General Boutros
Boutros-Ghali invited international attention to the idea of creating a "rapid reaction
force" that would be on call to the United Nations.3 In a single short paragraph, the
Secretary-General proposed that the United Nations consider establishing a "strategic
reserve" rapid reaction force of units, perhaps of battalion size, to deploy when
emergency needs for peacekeeping troops arise. They would be contributed by an
unspecified number of countries and "would be trained to the same standards, use the
same operating procedures, be equipped with integrated communications equipment"
and participate in joint exercises at regular intervals. They would be stationed in
their home countries but maintained at a high state of readiness. Secretary-General
Boutros-Ghali recognized that a rapid reaction force would be "a complicated and
expensive arrangement," but argued that the time had come to undertake it.4
Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali stated that he had concluded "that the United
Nations does need to give serious thought to the idea" after his problems in mounting
an expanded U.N. Assistance Mission in Rwanda mandated by the Security Council
in May 1994. None of the 19 governments that had agreed to have troops available
on a standby basis (see next section), agreed to contribute forces for Rwanda.5
In proposing the rapid reaction force, Boutros-Ghali specifically stated that it
would be used for peacekeeping missions. The term "peacekeeping" is sometimes
used as a generic term for many types of peace operations, with a wide range of risk,
but, for the United Nations, it has come to acquire a specific meaning. As defined
Prepared by (name redacted), Sp
ecialist in International Relations.
United Nations. Secretary-General. (Boutros-Ghali, 1992- ). Supplement to An
Agenda for Peace: position paper of the Secretary-General on the occasion of the fiftieth
anniversary of the United Nations. New York, United Nations, 1995. P. 11. (United Nations
[document] A/50/60; S/1995/1). Hereinafter cited as United Nations document A/50/60.
The framers of the U.N. Charter anticipated the need for the U.N. Security Council
to have armed forces, assistance, and equipment available on its request although not for
“peacekeeping,” which was not provided for in the Charter. Article 43 of the Charter stated
that U.N. Member States were to conclude agreements with the Council specifying the
numbers and types of forces, degree of readiness, and conditions under which personnel and
equipment would be provided for enforcement actions. These agreements were never
negotiated, although the U.N.’s Military Staff Committee formulated 41 draft articles
encompassing basic principles to govern the organization of U.N. armed forces.For
background and discussion, see: Goodrich, Leland M., Edvard Hambro and Anne P. Simons.
Charter of the United Nations, Commentary and Documents. Third and revised ed. New
York: Columbia University Press, 1969. Pp. 314-326.
Over the past two years, there have been a number of significant delays in placing
forces in the field after the Council had set up or expanded the mandate and size of an
operation. For example, on Feb. 5, 1993, the Security Council, in S/RES/806 (1993),
increased the mandate of the U.N. Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission (UNIKOM) and expanded
the size of the operation to include three infantry battalions. One infantry battalion was not
fully deployed until January 1994, nearly a year later.
by, Boutros-Ghali in his June 1992 "An Agenda for Peace" report, peacekeeping
refers to the presence of U.N. personnel, with the consent of all parties concerned,
to create and maintain conditions conducive to a political settlement by the parties
in conflict. These are generally viewed as relatively safe operations, in contrast to
peace enforcement operations, which take place in situations where not all parties
have agreed to a U.N. presence. (See appendix I for definitions of peacekeeping and
other types of peace operations.) The Clinton Administration views the SecretaryGeneral's terminology and intent as limiting the use of the proposed rapid reaction
force to the traditional U.N. peacekeeping operations. From the context of the
proposal in the Secretary-General's report, other States may interpret the proposed
uses of the force differently.
The January 1995 document is the first major report in which Secretary-General
Boutros-Ghali has supported a "rapid reaction force" by name. In two proposals
contained in his June 1992 report, An Agenda for Peace, he recommended Security
Council action that might have resulted in a rapid reaction force-type capability.6
First, in an effort to secure the "ready availability of armed forces on call," BoutrosGhali recommended that the Security Council initiate the negotiations called for in
Article 43 of the U.N. Charter, to make special agreements with Member States to
provide the Security Council with armed forces, assistance, and facilities on a
permanent basis. Such agreements would enable the Council to take military action
under Chapter VII, Article 42 of the U.N. Charter to maintain or restore international
peace and security.7 Boutros-Ghali expected these forces would respond to "outright
aggression, imminent or actual," but predicted they were "not likely to be available
for some time to come."
His second proposal sought to respond to the more likely situation in which a
cease-fire had been agreed to, but not complied with. This case might require a
larger force, which he called a Peace Enforcement Unit (PEU), to assist or replace
those engaged in monitoring the cease-fire. Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali
recommended that the Security Council consider the use of such "peace-enforcement
units in clearly defined circumstances and with their terms of reference specified in
advance." PEUs, available on call, would consist of volunteer troops from member
states who would be more heavily armed than peacekeeping forces, and would need
extensive preparatory training within their national forces. Deployment and
operation would be under the authority of the Security Council and under the
command of the Secretary-General.
While these proposals have been discussed, they have not mustered sufficient
support for Security Council implementation. Instead, the Secretary-General has
focused on the implementation of a third proposal of his 1992 Agenda for Peace -a U.N. Standby Forces System.
United Nations. Secretary-General (Boutros-Ghali, 1992- ). An Agenda for Peace;
preventive diplomacy, peacemaking and peace-keeping. Report of the Secretary-General
pursuant to the statement adopted by the summit meeting of the Security Council on Jan. 31,
1992. New York, United Nations, 1992. P. 12-13. (United Nations [document] A/47/277;
S/24111). Hereinafter cited as United Nations document A/47/277.
United Nations [document] A/47/277, p. 12-13.
Current U.N. Standby Forces System8
The United Nations is in the process of obtaining commitments from Member
States for individuals and units that they could make available for U.N. peacekeeping
in a short period of time. Developed since early 1993 by a special planning team, the
Standby Forces System is intended to enable the United Nations to design coherent
forces for a full peacekeeping operation, which can number into the tens of
thousands. Participating States are expected to provide promised individuals and
units within seven days to four weeks of a U.N. request, depending on their function.
Units would be deployed for a six-month period and individuals for one year.
Member States would be able to decide, on a case by case basis, whether to deploy
these troops when requested.
As of early May 1995, 41 countries had expressed their willingness to
participate in standby arrangements with the United Nations, and two of them have
entered into formal agreements. At least two countries, the United States and
Germany, have publicly announced they will not "earmark" troops in advance under
the standby system initiative. The total number of troops promised to the system,
formally or informally, may reach some 75,000 when agreements are completed.
Those offered cover a broad range of military specialties. On Jan. 5, 1995, Jordan
became the first country to sign a formal standby arrangement agreement with the
United Nations. In its Memorandum of Understanding, Jordan pledged to earmark
"civilian and military specialists and civilian police" to serve in United Nations
peacekeeping operations. On May 9, 1995, Denmark became the second country to
conclude a memorandum of understanding, pledging to provide military personnel
To assist the United Nations in its planning under the standby arrangements
system data base, the United States has provided a list of "specific military
capabilities that could be made available for peacekeeping operations." These
include: (1) strategic airlift and sealift; (2) logistics, including logistics headquarters
support; (3) strategic communications, medical, engineer, information (intelligence),
and civil affairs and psychological operations support; (4) contracting and contract
management services; and (5) personnel support for U.N. headquarters staff
Although the United States declined to formally commit troops to the Standby
Forces System, it endorsed the concept as it was being developed. Presidential
Decision Directive 25 (PDD-25) of May 3, 1994, which sets forth the Clinton
Administration's peace operations policy, recommended that "to eliminate lengthy,
potentially disastrous delays after a mission has been authorized" the United Nations
establish a data base of "specific, potentially available forces or capabilities that
nations could provide for the full range of peacekeeping and humanitarian
operations." PDD-25 was issued a month before the U.N. standby arrangements
team presented its proposal to Member States.
Prepared by (name redacted), Specia list in International Security Affairs.
According to U.S. officials, the Clinton Administration has encouraged other
countries to indicate available forces for inclusion in the data base, with one caveat.
The Clinton Administration cautions nations with which the United States has mutual
security agreements that any commitments they make to the United Nations should
not impair their ability to fulfill those agreements.
PDD-25 also called for other arrangements to speed the deployment of troops.
U.S. and U.N. personnel are currently working on one recommendation, the
development of pre-negotiated commercial contracts for logistics support and modest
air-lift capability for new missions. In preliminary planning stages are arrangements
for a trained civilian reserve corps to assist in the administration, management, and
execution of U.N. peace operations, and a professional peace operations training
program. Another PDD-25 recommendation was the establishment of a rapidly
deployable headquarters team.
The Secretary-General's proposal for a stand-by rapid reaction force would
seem to differ in two respects from the current stand-by arrangements system. The
first difference concerns the discretion that Member States would have to deploy
troops on a case-by-case basis. Participation in the current system is voluntary, with
Member States able to refuse to deploy forces if they choose. In his January report,
however, Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali stated that "the value of this arrangement
[the rapid reaction force] would of course depend on how far the Security Council
could be sure that the force would actually be available in an emergency." This
seems to express an intent to make participation in a "rapid reaction" force
mandatory, with Member States agreeing to relinquish their right to refuse to deploy
if their forces are called upon. The second difference concerns size and purpose of
the arrangement. While the standby system provides a data base for a full range of
peace operations, the rapid reaction standby arrangement is intended to provide a
smaller number of forces for immediate deployment for peacekeeping operations.
Issues for the United Nations9
The concept of a U.N. standby rapid reaction force, regardless of how it might
be translated into reality, would raise a number of concerns among U.N. Member
States. The concept would be addressed by more than just the 15 members of the
U.N. Security Council because decisions about funding both a rapid reaction force
and the possible Secretariat infrastructure accompanying it, would be considered by
the U.N. General Assembly.
For U.N. Member States, the fundamental issue falls under the rubric of Article
2, paragraph 7 (Article 2 (7)) of the U.N. Charter on non-intervention of the
organization in the internal or domestic jurisdiction of individual Member States.
Most governments do not view the United Nations as a separate, independent, and
interventionist world government, but as a tool to protect their territorial integrity
Prepared by (name redacted), Sp
ecialist in International Relations.
and national sovereignty from intervention. The question is whether Member States
want the Security Council -- a body of 15 members -- to have automatic access to
what might be perceived as a ready-made army that might be used to intervene in
Initial Response of the Security Council
On Feb. 22, 1995, the President of the U.N. Security Council read a statement
setting forth the Council's consensus views at the end of the first stage of its
consideration of the Secretary-General's report. The Council did not refer to the rapid
reaction force proposal, but indicated that it shared the Secretary-General's concern
on the availability of troops and equipment for peacekeeping operations. It also
reiterated the "importance of improving the capacity of the United Nations for rapid
deployment and reinforcement of operations." The "first priority in improving the
capacity of rapid deployment," the Council stated, "should be the further
enhancement of the existing stand-by arrangements..."
On Jan. 18-19, 1995, 42 U.N. members participated in a Security Council
discussion on the Secretary-General's report.10 Representatives from 20 of those
nations made some comment or reference to the rapid reaction force proposal. The
following comments illustrate the concerns that some U.N. members have with
granting the Security Council carte blanche authority over such an enterprise. The
Indonesian representative, for example, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned
Movement, said that the idea "required greater clarity concerning the scope and
circumstances under which" a rapid reaction force "would be deployed." The
proposal, he went on, "needed very careful scrutiny of its cost implications, and even
more of the modality of its establishment and use, of the need for consent before such
a force might be deployed, and of its command and control structure." The Russian
delegate stated that the idea of such a force "would require a very careful
examination of a number of issues in connection with the Charter."
The Honduran representative, speaking on behalf of the Central American
countries, noted that the Central American countries favored creation of a rapid
reaction force, and called for "further clarification of the circumstances in which
such a force would be deployed." He continued, "the Council's decision-making
process should be as transparent as possible, offering more opportunities for
countries affected by the decisions to present their positions before the start of formal
consultations." The Brazil delegate doubted that agreement could easily be reached
on the rapid reaction force and would not favor creating one before its financial and
other implications were thoroughly considered.
On the other hand, the Netherlands representative embraced the proposal,
mentioning that their foreign minister had argued in favor of such a force with an allvolunteer, professional U.N. brigade at the service of the Security Council which
could be rapidly deployed in a crisis situation. The Latvian delegate welcomed the
proposal, observing that Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania were setting up a joint
peacekeeping force called the BALTBAT. He anticipated that BALTBAT could
become a part of the rapid reaction force.
The following is based on a review of the U.N. press release coverage of that debate.
Two major financing questions are raised by the rapid reaction force proposal.
One is whether U.N. Member States could reasonably be expected to pay for
maintaining and deploying a rapid reaction force. The second is how it would be
Current Funding Difficulties. The United Nations already has difficulties
collecting funds from Members for peacekeeping operations. Currently, most U.N.
peacekeeping operations are funded through special assessed accounts set up by the
General Assembly. Although payment of peacekeeping assessments is a legal
obligation under Article 17 of the U.N. Charter, U.N. members continue to pay late,
(after 30 days of receipt of the bill) or not at all. At the end of 1994, 105 U.N.
members, owed nearly $1.282 billion in outstanding contributions to U.N.
peacekeeping accounts for calendar year 1994 and prior years' assessments.
This arrearage has affected the Secretary-General's ability to mount and conduct
operations. During July 1994, for example, the cash flow situation for the
peacekeeping operations accounts was low enough to compel Secretary-General
Boutros-Ghali to take a number of emergency measures to reduce or delay
expenditure in the peacekeeping operations. These included instructing all peacekeeping missions to reduce expenditures to the maximum extent possible, and
postponing all but the most urgent procurement and all but the most essential
recruitment.11 At that time, Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali also halted
reimbursements to troop-contributing countries.
A major part of the budget for each operation is used to reimburse troopcontributing countries. As of Aug. 31, 1994, the United Nations owed about $1
billion to some 70 states for their troop and equipment contributions to peacekeeping
missions.12 Many of these countries cannot continue to fund their peacekeeping
operations assessments and pay their soldiers participating in U.N. peacekeeping
operations for an unlimited time period without reimbursement. Thus, when the
Secretary-General seeks forces for another operation or to expand or provide for
rotation for an already established operation, he finds some countries reluctant to
A potential source of funding, especially for startup or expansion purposes is
the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund which was set up in December 1992, with an initial
target of $150 million. The fund received $65.1 million, but, between November
1993 and October 1994, made loans to four peacekeeping operations totaling $64.9
million. This has reduced the fund's balance to $204,353.
Letter dated July 21, 1994, from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of
the General Assembly. United Nations document A/48/973, p. 2.
Statement by U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. General Assembly
proceedings for Wednesday, Oct. 12, 1994, 28th Meeting. United Nations document
A/49/PV.28, p. 20.
Certain other peace and security actions authorized by the Council, such as
monitoring sanctions and enforcing no fly zones, are financed by the member states
taking part in the action, at no cost to the United Nations. The United States has
been an active participant in these peace support operations, but their cost has had
a negative impact on the United States' political willingness to support U.N. peace
Financing a Rapid Reaction Force. Any decision on financing would include
a response to the question: Who will pay for what? One approach might be to divide
funding responsibilities for a rapid reaction force between troop contributing
governments and the collective U.N. membership. This option would make the
determining factor the status of units assigned to the force. When units are stationed
in their home country, then their government might be financially responsible for
their salaries and upkeep. When they have been deployed and are in the service of
the United Nations, then the U.N. might be financially responsible for them. That
would still leave open questions about who would fund activities such as joint
training exercises, and the purchase of equipment, such as integrated
Considerations for Force Design13
The Secretary-General pointed to two problems in the current design of
peacekeeping forces that arguably could be overcome by the creation of an on-call
rapid reaction force: a lack of "interoperability" and the slowness of deployments.
Because U.N. peacekeeping forces are drawn from over 30 countries, they often lack
interoperability, i.e., the ability to provide mutual support and act effectively
together. Interoperability and response time problems might be substantially
reduced, if, as envisioned by the Secretary-General, peacekeeping forces regularly
trained together, used the same equipment, and were available for immediate
deployment. Such a rapid reaction force could reduce the tactical and operational
level difficulties in command, coordination, and communication that have faced U.N.
commanders in the past. There are, however, many problems unique to designing
peacekeeping forces that lead some to argue that a "predesignated" rapid reaction
force might be no more efficient than the current system.
One problem common to all military operations, but more troublesome in the
case of peace operations, is determining the size and composition of a military force
needed to fulfill the missions it is to perform and the objectives it is to achieve. In
the case of the Secretary-General's proposal, both the size and the missions are
unclear. The Secretary-General has stated that the force would be used "when there
was an emergency need for peacekeeping," but has not specified a total size for the
rapid reaction peacekeeping force. He suggested only that it "might comprise
battalion-sized units from a number of countries," which could mean anywhere from
Prepared by Steven R. Bowman, Analyst in National Defense.
under 10,000 to over 20,000 troops14 Whether that would be adequate would depend
on what type of "peace" mission was envisioned.
Design Problems Created by the Nature of Peacekeeping
For peacekeeping operations, a situation where a stable truce is in place and
troops are deployed to prevent or contain an inadvertent outbreak of hostilities or to
oversee the fulfillment of a peace settlement, mission objectives are likely to be
fairly clear, as is the composition of the force required. Lightly armed, welldisciplined infantry units generally suffice. In more complicated peace enforcement
situations that are still politically and militarily volatile, the number and complexity
of the tasks required multiplies significantly (see appendix I). This in turn increases
personnel and equipment requirements. If only initial peacekeeping deployments or
the simplest of peacekeeping operations were undertaken with the proposed rapid
reaction force, then a force of 10,000 to 20,000 could be adequate. But, for more
ambitious operations, significantly greater numbers would probably be required.15
On paper, peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations present very
different missions and objectives, but in practice this distinction is not as clear. Most
military analysts emphasize that peacekeeping and peace enforcement should not be
considered as adjacent points on a sliding scale of escalation, but rather as wholly
different operations requiring very different force design from the outset. Yet, what
start out as "peacekeeping operations" do escalate, often because international and
domestic political considerations have resulted in overly optimistic initial
assessments of a situation to which forces are deployed.16 Further, the Security
Council's multiple mandates authorizing recent peace operations, and the
political/military realities encountered by U.N. forces on the ground, have served to
blur the distinction. These factors have sometimes led to inadequate or inappropriate
force composition for assigned missions and objectives, and could well continue to
present problems for an "on call" force.
Other military factors in designing a force package for any peace operation -including the nature of potentially hostile forces, weather, terrain, and local
infrastructure -- present significant challenges to those creating a rapid reaction force
The size of a battalion usually varies between 400 to 1,000 troops, depending on the
country and the battalion’s specialty. As of Jan. 31, 1995, 23 countries contributed over
1,000 troops to U.N. operations, and nine more contributed between 400-1,000. Most
proposals currently advocated tend to focus on a force of about 10,000 troops, a size that is
generally thought to reflect more what is politically attainable than what may be needed
By way of comparison, over 36,000 U.N. troops are currently deployed in the former
Yugoslavia, in addition to 4,000 personnel in Italy providing air support, and 17 naval
vessels in the Adriatic.
The former Yugoslavia and Somalia stand out as examples where
humanitarian/peacekeeping operations began with limited objectives, and incrementally
became involved in peace enforcement combat operations. This led to a mismatch of U.N.
mandates and available forces, and significant tensions among U.N. and associated
design before knowing its destination or mission. Some, including NATO's former
Supreme Commander General John Galvin, have argued against a designated
standby force on the grounds that forces must be custom-tailored to a particular
operation. Most military analysts judge it less risky for both personnel and the
success of the mission to provide appropriate forces at the outset, rather than have
to augment, re-structure, or replace the intervention force at a later date.17
Several other reservations and criticisms are expressed concerning the use of
"predesignated" standby forces rather than continuing with an improving ad hoc
system. These are described below.
Although some interoperability problems would undoubtedly be solved by an
"on-call" rapid reaction force, others may not. Proponents of a standby force
emphasize the desirability of standardized equipment within U.N. forces, particularly
in the area of communications. The creation of a rapid reaction force would facilitate
standardization. (Identical equipment is not so important as compatibility of
equipment and related fuels and ammunition, and procedures and training.)
Although there is little question that incompatible equipment or donated equipment
unfamiliar to participating troops has created difficulties at the tactical and
operational levels, analysts do not agree on whether -- aside from communication
reforms currently under way -- standardized equipment procurement could
realistically be achieved.
The United Nations has traditionally designed its forces to ensure participation
by units from many nations as a means of maintaining a credible international
mandate. It most likely would also give great weight to political considerations in
the composition of a rapid reaction force. Yet, critics of U.N. operations believe that
the United Nations' desire for broad participation in its forces has hindered
operational effectiveness, and there may be added drawbacks to the effectiveness of
an "on-call" force. For instance, regional and cultural sensitivities as well as political
factors could preclude participation by some national units in certain operations.
Many Member States may not be able to afford to retain units intended
primarily for peacekeeping. For one, in long-term operations, U.S. forces have a
general rule of thumb, that for every unit deployed there is a second unit preparing
for deployment, and a third returning and refurbishing. Although the ratio would
vary from nation to nation, and would depend on the number and length of
deployments, a commitment of one unit to a rapid reaction force might actually mean
a commitment of two or more units.
Dennehy, Capt. Edward, et. Al. A Blue Helmet Combat Force. Harvard University,
John F. Kennedy School of Government, Policy Analysis Paper 93-01.
Though now often volunteered for U.N. operations, some national contingents
are never adequately equipped when they arrive. Because some nations cannot
afford to adequately equip their own forces, some analysts suggest that only those
nations able to field competently led and adequately equipped units be permitted to
participate in a rapid reaction force. The drawback to this approach, aside from
narrowing international representation, is that it would increase the burden on a
relative handful of U.N. members, primarily the Security Council Permanent Five
and the nations of Western Europe, who can field such forces.
Significant Net Gain?
The numerous difficulties in designing a rapid reaction force cause some
analysts to question whether the interoperability advantages of such a force would
offset disadvantages and whether such a force would be a significant improvement
over the standby forces system that is currently being developed. Critics argue that
the benefits of a rapid-reaction stand-by force are gained primarily at the tactical and
operational level, and are actually marginal to the overall success of a U.N. peace
operation, regardless of its mission.18 They find that slow response, disparate units,
and incompatible equipment have never been at the heart of a U.N. operation's
failure, but that failures have rather stemmed from other factors.
Some also question whether significant time would actually be saved by having
a rapid reaction force on call. Analysts have pointed out that while straightforward
peacekeeping missions are the easiest to respond to quickly (fewer troops, less
equipment), they are most often the missions in which response in a matter of one
or two days is not critical, that offer the opportunity for significant advance planning,
and present little problem in raising troops. If a truce or peace settlement is
underway, a small initial U.N. presence has generally been adequate until the main
body of troops has arrived.19 On the other hand, while rapid insertion of U.N. forces
to enforce a peace could be very desirable at times, the heavier ground combat
contingents required for this type of operation take the greatest time to tailor and
transport. In addition, these are precisely the operations that many nations would not
choose to have an "on-call" rapid reaction force perform.
Considerations for Force Operations
Command and Control20
A U.N. rapid reaction force (RRF), no matter how constituted, would require
effective command and control to achieve its peacekeeping objectives. Having a
good command and control system would become more critical for those crises that
Diehl, Paul F. International Peacekeeping. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1993.
P. 118. See also, chapter III, especially pp. 67-69, 90, and chapter V., pp. 113-119.
Diehl, p. 116.
Prepared by Ed Bruner, Specialist in National Defense.
were time-sensitive or militarily risky. There are a number of possible solutions,
each with pros and cons, in regard to potential military effectiveness and political
acceptability. Although possible, the idea of commanding with an "international
committee," a group of military officers from different countries, would most likely
be rejected in favor of the more proven concept of unified command under a single
individual -- especially when the likelihood of combat requires a capability for
making hard and rapid decisions. A single commander for multinational forces is
recommended under current U.S. joint doctrine. Who that commander should be will
likely be the most contentious part of the command and control debate.
Leadership. Three possible options for providing the RRF commander are:
! The RRF commander could be a professional soldier appointed indefinitely
on a full-time basis by the Security Council and/or Secretary-General to serve
at their pleasure. Advantages are that the individual selected could mold his
staff and RRF training to his standards, provide institutional stability and
continuity, and become a true peacekeeping professional ready for immediate
deployment. Disadvantages are that he could become "captive" to the U.N.
bureaucracy and politics, and become removed from his military roots. For
such reasons, at a given time of crisis he might not enjoy the confidence of the
RRF contributing states, the parties to the regional conflict, or the U.S.
! The RRF commander could be appointed on a rotating basis, perhaps
annually, from among qualified officers belonging to forces of the troop
contributing states. Such an arrangement could ensure some continuity of
leadership, without as much U.N. political baggage. This arrangement would
likely seem fair and workable to most, but -- as in any lottery -- the wrong
crisis could occur on the wrong officer's watch;
! The RRF commander could be selected from a qualified pool at the time of
crisis. This could ensure designation of a commander all parties would have
confidence in, barring political obstructiveness for other reasons. This
commander might not be as immediately available or prepared for his role as
the permanent or rotating commander, but measures such as briefings and
training could be instituted by the United Nations and contributing states to
keep all potential candidates adequately prepared.
Selection of the commander is important, but provides only part of the
command and control system. Two other important components of that system are
communications and the commander's staff.21
For background information, see CRS Report 94-487, Military Command, Control,
and Communications: Basic Facts and Selected Issues of C3.
Communications. The successful RRF commander must have reliable
communications. He must have equipment with global capabilities in order to talk
with U.N. headquarters, selected supporting nations, and any external intelligence
sources he is authorized. He should provide or otherwise ensure communications
downward to all his major subordinate headquarters. He will desire the capability
to access regional communications systems or provide nets that allow him to talk
with key regional actors, including the major non-U.N. protagonists.
There are several possible sources of communications for the RRF commander.
The United Nations could purchase and maintain a mobile set of communications for
deploying with the RRF. One or more nations could provide tailored
communications companies or battalions as their contribution to the RRF. In the
case of ad hoc selections of commanders, the nation supplying the RRF commander
might also provide some or all of his communications. In many cases, however, the
most desirable and responsive communications components would be beyond the
capabilities of most nations to provide on short notice; some capabilities might reside
only with NATO or the United States. In the end, some combination of all these
sources might be required. Artful design and engineering would be required to
ensure a flexible and interoperable system at a reasonable cost. The United States
might consider ear-marking communications units as politically less costly than
combat unit contributions.
Staff. The RRF commander would require a substantial, competent staff to
assist him in meeting his many and diverse responsibilities for peacekeeping. As
with other elements of command and control, there is a range of sources for such a
staff. At the high-competence, high-cost end, the United Nations could maintain a
complete, full-time staff ready to go. At the low-cost, riskier end, an ad hoc staff
could be formed from among the participating countries. A totally ad hoc staff
would likely be unacceptable, however, since some advance staff planning would be
required prior to deployment of the rapid reaction force. Some planning can, of
course, be done by the current U.N. military staff, but most of that staff would have
to remain in place to handle U.N.-level responsibilities once the rapid reaction force
deployed. It is likely, therefore, that at least a cadre staff should be maintained fulltime, and fleshed out by various means at the time of crisis.
The "military" side of a standing staff could be relatively lean, as its functions
are fairly standard and augmentation could be made easily with officers familiar to
the RRF commander or volunteered from the forces of the contributing nations.
Certain cells or elements could be plugged in when specific requirements were
defined, e.g., for fire support, intelligence exploitation, airspace management,
logistics management, etc. The cadre staff would handle the standard functions of
administration, intelligence, operations (to include planning and training), and
The "civilian" side of a standing staff might demand more U.N. resources than
the military, since certain unique talents would be required. Here, however, the U.N.
might draw on experienced personnel from past U.N. operations, all of which have
been provided with a civilian administrative staff by the Secretary-General from
among existing U.N. staff. Probable functions needed are legal (to interpret U.N.
policies and various laws), public relations and media, finance and administration (to
pay for local acquisition of services and employees, to include interpreters), liaison
with key local governmental and non-governmental organizations (to include
international NGOs), diplomatic advice and services, and civilian intelligence
collection. Some of these functions could be performed by military staffers and
specialized units, but they might not be tailored as closely to U.N. procedures and
goals. The U.N. is currently seeking to establish a trained civilian reserve corps that
could be a low-cost source of skilled augmentees for staffing peacekeeping
operations; the Clinton Administration intends to participate in that initiative.
A standing staff cadre, however large or small, would not only contribute to a
more rapid response during a crisis, but could also use non-crisis time to enhance the
overall effectiveness of future U.N. peacekeeping activities. The total staff could
work at developing their procedures and doctrinally melding the military and civilian
assets into a seamless peacekeeping capability. They could monitor emerging events
and anticipate future unique requirements for the RRF. They could provide mobile
training teams to help individual national units prepare for their missions, at the same
time becoming more familiar with the capabilities and characteristics of those units.
Some might see a possibility that such an international staff could become too
efficient and powerful, perhaps influencing the RRF commander and the SecretaryGeneral in ways opposed to the wishes of the U.S. Congress -- or the cadre could
remain professional and apolitical. A staff composed in large part of loaned military
personnel could be perceived as less threatening than a staff of permanent U.N.
employees, and would probably be less costly.
The establishment of a U.N. rapid reaction force would not necessarily require
drastic revisions of current U.N. arrangements and practices regarding intelligence.
Rather, a continuation or slight upgrading of current efforts to improve information
and intelligence collection and processing would probably be adequate.
Both the Bush and Clinton Administrations have sought to provide better
intelligence to U.N. peacekeeping operations and improve intelligence gathering and
processing capabilities in support of those operations. One of the widely recognized
shortcomings of U.N. operations has been the lack of adequate basic information and
intelligence, such as maps and data on the disposition of potentially hostile forces,
as occurred in Cambodia. Where more extensive information and intelligence has
been available, such as in Somalia, its utility may have been lessened by a lack of
precision, or it may not have been transmitted in a timely manner to the force
commanders who needed it.23
Currently, information and intelligence for U.N. peacekeeping operations is
processed at a situation center at U.N. Headquarters in New York, which monitors
Prepared by Richard A. Best, Jr., Analyst in National Defense
See: U.S. General Accounting Office, U.N. Peacekeeping: Lessons Learned in
Managing Recent Missions, GAO/NSIAD-94-9, December 1993, p 34, and CRS Report 94394F, Peacekeeping: Intelligence Requirements, May 6, 1994.
U.N. peacekeeping operations throughout the world. The situation center, staffed by
military officers from several countries, was created in 1993 to maintain a continuous
24-hour a day link with peacekeeping forces. Its intelligence component is supported
largely by the U.S. Department of Defense. The United States has donated an
intelligence processing system, the Joint Deployable Intelligence Support System,
to facilitate the transmission and dissemination of information on peacekeeping
The United States provides intelligence to the situation center on a daily and ad
hoc basis. After interagency coordination to ensure protection of sensitive sources
and methods, intelligence from U.S. agencies is forwarded by DOD's Defense
Intelligence Agency (DIA) to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York,
which then provides it to the situation center. DOD personnel at the U.S. Mission
and at the situation center monitor the information transferred, provide feedback on
its utility, and frame and facilitate requests for additional information. U.N.
Headquarters staff use intelligence from U.S. and other sources to plan peacekeeping
operations and to inform peacekeeping personnel in the field.
Data from the U.S. Intelligence Community is provided directly to U.N.
peacekeeping forces in two ways. Information and intelligence that is provided to
the situation center is forwarded by U.N. officials in New York to the head of the
peacekeeping operation. Other data (usually more tactical and time sensitive in
nature) is provided by U.S. personnel involved in the peacekeeping operation
directly to the local U.N. Commander.
To assist a rapid reaction force, the U.N. situation center could be expanded and
its role in preserving a larger database and an institutional memory enhanced. While
standing by, the force would probably not require large volumes of current
intelligence. Training in using intelligence for peacekeeping operations would be
important, as would familiarization with the types of intelligence available, and with
standard collection and analysis formats and procedures.
Washington currently has in place a system to weigh the costs and benefits of
releasing any intelligence to the United Nations. Those who administer the system
are, however, aware that the security of information supplied cannot be guaranteed.
Indeed, reports have circulated that classified material from U.S. sources was not
only provided to non-U.S. forces in Somalia, but was left behind unprotected when
the forces pulled out earlier this year.24 (Senator Olympia J. Snowe has introduced
legislation, S. 420, that would bar the provision to the United Nations of any
intelligence information involving sensitive sources and methods of intelligence
gathering.) Moreover, it is recognized that countries that cooperate with the United
States on one peacekeeping operation may oppose U.S. interests on other occasions.
These factors would not change were a rapid reaction force established, unless it
were composed of U.S. forces only or of forces from countries with which the U.S.
already has a very close intelligence-sharing relationship. A related question might
be raised: if the United Nations' were to develop an independent intelligence
R. Jeffrey Smith. Intelligence documents mishandled in Somalia. Washington Post,
Apr. 19, 1995, A26.
gathering capability for a rapid reaction force, might that capability be used someday
against U.S. interests?
Some suggest that consideration might be given to establishing U.N. satellites
to give the organization an independent collection capability. Such a system would,
however, be costly and would probably not provide the capabilities of U.S.
Some might argue that the U.S. role as the main provider of intelligence to U.N.
operations may give it leverage over the use of a rapid reaction force, in addition to
the United States' Security Council veto. It is impossible, however, to predict the
extent to which the United Nations will be dependent on U.S.-supplied intelligence
in the future or the extent to which the absence of U.S.-supplied intelligence would
hinder a peacekeeping operation. In some areas, other countries have better
information and U.S. assistance may not be required.
Some argue that the absence of adequate logistics support has presented serious
problems for U.N. peacekeeping and observer operations. Whether the creation of
a rapid reaction force would significantly alleviate logistics difficulties in carrying
out future U.N. peacekeeping missions or be less expensive than the way it was done
in the past remains to be seen.
The term "logistics" applies to just about everything needed to arm, equip, and
sustain a force to perform its mission. This includes weapons and ammunition,
clothing and equipment, transport, rations, communications equipment, spare parts
and maintenance, medical care and medical supplies and whatever air and sealift is
needed to move the force to where it is needed. It takes about four to six logistics
personnel to support each combat soldier on the modern battlefield. The same or
somewhat lower ratios would probably be needed for peace operations, including
peacekeeping, depending on the type and mission of the deployment.
Having a standby U.N. rapid reaction force might offer many advantages by
facilitating a high degree of advance planning, acquisition, and prepositioning of
some of the support needed for a typical operation, particularly if a permanent
logistics office were established at the United Nations. There is also considerable
advantage in knowing the actual makeup of a preplanned force and the equipment
it is likely to need, especially if time is of the essence in getting the force in place.
Knowing in advance that a unit was likely to be part of a peacekeeping operation
would allow unit personnel to become familiar with the kinds of equipment and
vehicles they will be working with, even if there is not enough equipment to actually
issue on a permanent basis. Support personnel would have time to learn how to
maintain equipment and order repair parts through a common supply system.
There would also be logistics disadvantages associated with having a standby
force. Military planners in every country have a penchant for planning for every
eventuality rather than risk being criticized for forgetting something once the
Prepared by James P. Wootten, Specialist in National Defense
operation is under way. The result might be costly overstocking and wastage
supplies and materiel. Some effort and material would also be wasted on units that
would never be called upon, either because they were not needed or their government
reneged on its commitment once an emergency arose. Supplies might also be
prepositioned in the wrong place and not be available when the force deploys.
Other logistics problems arise from the major differences in the status of
training and the quality and sophistication of equipment belonging to each unit.
Because of these differences, support can not always be tailored to accommodate all
forces. Logistics support, however, must be reasonably compatible with the needs
of the entire military force or commanders can expect breakdowns in performance
Some analysts argue that United Nations logistics capabilities can be improved
even if a rapid reaction force is not created. A more efficient military planning cell
within U.N. headquarters which would include expanded logistics planning might
be created. Efforts to arrange logistics contracts with private contractors might be
Considerations for the United States
Strategic, Budgetary and Political Considerations26
For the United States, Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali's proposal presents
many practical and political problems. The Clinton Administration opposes the idea
of a rapid reaction standby force for the same reasons that it has declined formally
to commit units to the standby forces system described earlier. It would reduce the
flexibility of U.S. strategic planning. In an Apr. 14, 1994, statement, U.S.
Ambassador to the United Nations Karl F. Inderfurth indicated that a formal
commitment to the standby forces system was "impractical" given U.S. bilateral and
multilateral security obligations worldwide. Such a commitment might reduce U.S.
ability to respond to other crises by tying up U.S. forces or eliminating the U.S.
capacity to withdraw its troops from a lesser priority peacekeeping operation to a
crisis of higher priority to U.S. interests. In some circumstances, this lack of
flexibility might lessen the deterrent effect of U.S. force.
Some claim, however, that a standby rapid reaction force would, in effect, give
the United Nations a saber to rattle, provide a greater deterrent to third world
conflicts, and thus serve U.S. strategic interests. It might also give "teeth" to other
U.N. actions taken to stem conflicts, such as sanctions, even before such a force was
deployed. In such a case, a standby force would provide a greater "force multiplier"
than current arrangements for multilateral peacekeeping operations. On the other
hand, the existence of a committed standby force might tempt the U.N. Security
Council and others to resort to its use more quickly, in cases where other measures
might be more appropriate.
Prepared by (name redacted), Specia list in International Security Affairs.
Questions can be raised about the potential effect of a standby rapid reaction
force on the development of regional conflict resolution and peacekeeping initiatives.
The U.N. Charter states that the settlement of disputes should be dealt with, where
appropriate, at the regional level. The existence of a standby rapid reaction force
might provide an inducement for U.N. Security Council to preempt regional efforts
because it had more efficient means to deal with problems, thus debilitating regional
efforts and organizations. On the other hand, the U.N. Security Council might offer
to use a rapid reaction force to back regional efforts, thus strengthening them.
Because of the uncertainty of the cost of such a force, budgetary considerations
are a matter of extreme concern. The actual cost to the United States of a U.N. rapid
reaction force would depend, of course, on the force's structure, its uses, and how
funding responsibilities would be divided between contributing countries and the
collective U.N. membership. Some argue that the cost to individual nations of
maintaining a few thousand men and their equipment exclusively for peacekeeping
would be high. While that cost might be absorbable for the United States and other
industrialized countries, it could be taxing, if not exorbitant, for developing
countries. Thus, as mentioned earlier, the United States and other wealthy countries
might find themselves called upon to underwrite the cost of the standby units offered
Nevertheless, U.S. officials and other opponents concede proponents' point that
the capacity to deploy peacekeeping troops more quickly could prevent the
escalation of conflicts in some cases, which could make it not only desirable for
humanitarian reasons but also cost-effective. Some argue that many lives might have
been saved if peacekeeping forces had gone in sooner in Rwanda and, initially, in
greater force in Somalia, although others doubt that greater speed or numbers would
have significantly altered the course of events.
There are domestic political implications for the United States, as well.
Although the United States maintains the power in the U.N. Security Council to veto
or alter proposed peacekeeping operations, a U.S. commitment to a rapid reaction
force might well reduce congressional and other domestic input into the decisionmaking process on peacekeeping operations. Although perhaps not problematic if
the use of the rapid reaction force were confined to simpler peacekeeping operations,
commitments to "borderline" cases might raise controversy.
This could become a greater problem if the United States needed to draw on
reserve units to fulfill its peacekeeping commitments. The U.S. military maintains
a high proportion of the military personnel who perform support functions in the
reserve forces. These are the very specialties that the United States typically
provides the United Nations for peacekeeping operations. Thus, there may be
circumstances in which it would be necessary to draw on reserves to fulfill U.S.
Airlift and Sealift27. Because the United States stands alone in terms of being
able to move troops and equipment in emergency situations, it is likely that the
United States would be asked to perform the bulk of the airlift mission and, possibly,
the sealift mission as well. The United States has provided such support for NATO
allies on many occasions and has provided aircraft support for virtually every past
and ongoing U.N. peacekeeping operation without major adverse incident or
criticism. Other nations have large commercial maritime assets, but none has the
ability to move entire military units together with their weapons and equipment like
the United States, with its standing fleet of fast sealift ships with roll-on/roll-off
Moving a large military force and its equipment under short notice is a complex
and costly operation, especially when the force must deploy quickly. This is
especially true when moving a combat force into a hostile environment, and by every
measure the task becomes more difficult and costly as the force gets larger and the
expected level of combat intensity increases. It would not be difficult to move the
rapid reaction force suggested by Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali if it were limited
to the more traditional type of peacekeeping mission. However, air and sealifting a
large multinational combat force into actively hostile conditions may be
unacceptably risky under present circumstances.
U.S. Forces Considerations28. The United States would face a number of
issues in deciding what types of military forces to commit to a rapid reaction force
and how to structure its forces to accommodate that commitment. An important
decision would be whether troops committed to the rapid reaction force would also
perform other missions or whether special, dedicated peacekeeping units would be
formed whose primary mission would be to train for and perform peacekeeping
operations. (Boutros-Ghali's proposal that these troops train together might indicate
his preference for dedicated units. Current U.S. peacekeeping policy, as stated in
PDD-25, explicitly excludes the possibility of creating dedicated peacekeeping
units.) Current debate over the effects of peace operations on military skills, on
career potential, and on recruitment and retention, will be relevant to that decision.
A critical factor in maintaining war fighting skills is continual training. With the
increase in peace operations in the early 1990s, some military analysts claimed that
peace operations did not require war fighting skills and took away from the time
necessary for practicing such skills, thus threatening the readiness of the fighting
force. Analysts now concede that these missions provide troops with the opportunity
to perform and refine some skills that would be employed during a war.
Prepared by James Wootten, Specialist in National Defense
Prepared by Patrice K. Curtis, Analyst in Developing Countries
Maneuvering skills, running observations posts and checkpoints, employing cordon
and searches, and disarming potential combatants illustrate some of the techniques
that soldiers have had an opportunity to use in "real world" situations. In Somalia,
for example, cordon and search techniques were used for the first time since
Vietnam. Nonetheless, these same observers argue that many critical combat skills
are not used during peace operations, such as the use of heavy weapons systems.
One particular problem for some units is that the effective operation of weapons
systems -- particularly marksmanship skills -- deteriorates substantially without
continued training. While "sustainment" training can be undertaken after troops are
deployed on a peacekeeping mission, live fire training may be offensive to a host
country or to other multilateral forces. Opponents to peace operations claim that, in
such cases, training would be terminated, further lessening opportunities for troops
to exercise weapons skills.
Another problem would be maintaining military staff and unit operations skills
in troop movement. Troop maneuvering during peace operations is generally limited
to squads or platoons. In the event of a Major Regional Contingency (a conflict of
the size of the Korean, Vietnam, or Persian Gulf Wars), the movements of U.S.
troops are likely to be at a battalion level or above. Staffs must therefore be able to
move battalion-size or larger units, as well as integrate other elements of military
power such as the use of aircraft, naval gunfire, and artillery. Peace operations
usually do not provide an opportunity to exercise these skills.
In addition, peace operations require specialized training that can take time from
combat and other military training. Need for additional peace operations skills have
been identified, which may place greater training requirements on forces deployed
for peacekeeping operations. These include: commander training in conflict
negotiation and mediation; staff training to emphasize cooperation with diverse
militaries and organizations; and training for all military personnel in a basic
understanding of the customs, cultures, religious practices, politics, and historical
background of the country or countries involved. Additional training, therefore, may
be required depending on the specific needs of the mission. Military planners
generally regard four to six weeks of such specialized training as necessary to
prepare troops for peace operations.
The problems of maintaining certain combat skills during peace operations,
particularly in peacekeeping operations, and the requirements for additional training
may argue for the creation of dedicated units for a rapid reaction force. The utility
and cost-effectiveness of dedicated units would depend to some extent on the type
of forces committed and the number and length of deployments.
Another problem for creating dedicated peacekeeping units may be difficulties
in attracting and retaining military personnel. There are already many questions
about the effect of peace operations on a military officer's career advancement, and
on the retention of troops, and these factors would have to be taken into
Appendix I: Defining Peace Operations
As both the number and type of U.N. peace operations have multiplied, the U.S.
Army has constructed a matrix to provide both a conceptual and practical framework
for force design. It demonstrates the very different demands placed upon forces
engaged in different types of peace operations.
Military-to military liaison, security assistance,
preventive deployment, show of force.
Also known as "conflict resolution." Action to bring hostile parties to
agreement, essentially through such peaceful means as those foreseen in
Chapter VI of the U.N. Charter, i.e., through negotiation, enquiry,
mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to
regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means.
Monitor existing peace arrangements.
The deployment of a United Nations presence in the field, with the
consent of all parties concerned, to allow contending forces that wish to
stop fighting to separate with some confidence that they will not be
attacked in order to create conditions conducive to a political settlement.
Normally involves United Nations military and/or police personnel and
frequently civilians as well.
Actions taken when traditional peacekeeping is not sufficient to keep
the peace or when the safety of peacekeeping forces is threatened by
actions of one or more parties to the conflict. Differs from peacekeeping
in that it allows forces to use measured but sufficient force to restore
peaceful conditions after peace has been broken or peacekeeping forces
threatened. It usually is taken without the full consent of one or more
Application of armed force to compel compliance,
forcible separation of belligerents, restore order,
guarantee/deny mobility, establish protected zones,
protect humanitarian assistance.
parties to the conflict.
Restore civil authority, rebuild infrastructure.
Actions taken to forestall future eruptions between the parties to the
conflict. Includes disarming warring parties, controlling and destroying
weapons, repatriating refugees, training and supporting security
personnel, monitoring elections, promoting human rights practices,
reforming or strengthening governmental institutions, and promoting
Sources: Adapted from a chart of peace operations missions prepared by the
Department of the Army. Descriptions of peace operations purposes and activities
are taken from Peacekeeping and Conflict Management Activities: A Discussion of
Terminology, by (name redacted), CRS Report 93-1017 S, Nov. 26, 1993.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is a federal legislative branch agency, housed inside the
Library of Congress, charged with providing the United States Congress non-partisan advice on
issues that may come before Congress.
EveryCRSReport.com republishes CRS reports that are available to all Congressional staff. The
reports are not classified, and Members of Congress routinely make individual reports available to
Prior to our republication, we redacted names, phone numbers and email addresses of analysts
who produced the reports. We also added this page to the report. We have not intentionally made
any other changes to any report published on EveryCRSReport.com.
CRS reports, as a work of the United States government, are not subject to copyright protection in
the United States. Any CRS report may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety without
permission from CRS. However, as a CRS report may include copyrighted images or material from a
third party, you may need to obtain permission of the copyright holder if you wish to copy or
otherwise use copyrighted material.
Information in a CRS report should not be relied upon for purposes other than public
understanding of information that has been provided by CRS to members of Congress in
connection with CRS' institutional role.
EveryCRSReport.com is not a government website and is not affiliated with CRS. We do not claim
copyright on any CRS report we have republished.