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Harnessing Light: Optical Science and Engineering for the 21st Century
BOX 4.1OPERATION DESERT STORM
"Operation Desert Storm was primarily a sustained 43-day air campaign by the United States and its allies against Iraq between January 17,1991, and February 28,1991. It was the first large employment of U.S. air power since the Vietnam war, and by some measures (particularly the low number of U.S. casualties and the short duration of the campaign), it was perhaps the most successful war fought by the United States in the 20th century. The main ground campaign occupied only the final hours of the war."
U.S. General Accounting Office (1966)
of the combatant while reducing casualty rates, the military has a number of efforts under way that include reliance on speed and stealth to overcome opposing forces; a better equipped land warrior; rapid detection and control of nuclear, chemical, and biological threats; and dissemination of real-time intelligence on enemy targets. Optics plays a key enabling role in these plans. For the future, optical systems are sure to be the basis for entirely new classes of defense applications that will change yet again the way wars are conducted.
Since World War II, the U.S. technological approach has featured defense sponsorship of leading-edge research and development at levels necessary to maintain strong defense leadership in the world. Defense support of research has included activities that range from basic research at universities to system-level developments in industry. When the Cold War was at its peak and the Soviet Union presented a severe threat, the Department of Defense (DOD) actively pursued R&D in virtually every technical discipline. The overarching goal was the anticipation of potential breakthroughs that could upset the balance of power. To be sure, this strategy was expensive, but it has been effective and has served society well. U.S. defense capability today is preeminent in the world. Much of the resulting technology has eventually found its way into everyday life in various forms. It is arguable that national defense has been the mainspring carrying basic research discovery into applications and driving our society into the technological era in which we now reside.
Since the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, U.S. defense strategy has undergone a seminal change. The need for the U.S. military to stay at the forefront of technology has diminished considerably. The strategies for Defense Department R&D and weapons system acquisition are consequently being realigned as a result of comparatively weak threats to U.S. security, the national desire to direct more resources toward improving U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace, and the increasing complexity and cost of military systems.