© 2019

The Pursuit of Technological Superiority and the Shrinking American Military


  • Connects decades of military procurement decisions to recent instances where the US military is severely stressed by being asked to engage in combat operations.

  • Explains how cultural and organizations biases affecting military procurement decisions are creating this increasingly fragile American military.

  • Makes the case that this is very unlikely to change in the near future, so that we can expect continuing problems with overstretch even without any need to conduct major combat operations.


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xii
  2. Daniel R. Lake
    Pages 1-16
  3. Daniel R. Lake
    Pages 17-62
  4. Daniel R. Lake
    Pages 63-99
  5. Daniel R. Lake
    Pages 101-141
  6. Daniel R. Lake
    Pages 143-182
  7. Daniel R. Lake
    Pages 183-222
  8. Daniel R. Lake
    Pages 223-256
  9. Daniel R. Lake
    Pages 257-274
  10. Back Matter
    Pages 275-280

About this book


Why has the US military begun to suffer from overstretch in recent decades? Why is one of the largest militaries in the world, and the most expensive by far, periodically stressed by the operational demands placed upon it? This book argues that recent problems with overstretch are the result of a heavy reliance on technology to solve tactical and strategic problems. Over the last seven decades, the US armed services have consistently chosen to push the technological frontier out in an effort to first gain, and then maintain, qualitative superiority over potential foes. The high procurement and support costs associated with cutting-edge weapon systems has resulted in a military that is shrinking in both absolute size and in the relative share of combat forces. The culmination of this process is a US military that increasingly lacks the capacity needed to conduct operations without putting significant stress on its personnel and equipment.

Lake argues that this pattern is a manifestation of an American cultural disposition favoring technology. He shows that this affinity for technology is present in the organizational cultures of all the armed services, though not to the same degree. By examining procurement programs for each armed service, this book reveals how attempts to develop and leverage superior technology has resulted in some notable program failures, high procurement costs for the latest generation of equipment with associated production cuts, and the high support requirements that are causing the relative share of combat forces to shrink. Lake’s analysis of recent initiatives by the armed services suggests that this pattern is likely to continue, with the US military remaining prone to overstretch whenever its operational tempo increases above the peacetime baseline.


American Military technology Military Reform Movement American Military Overstretch military commitment demobilization tooth-to-tail ratio US defense budget Operation Desert Storm Air Force remotely piloted aircraft Drone strikes Navy culture

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.State University of New York College at PlattsburghPlattsburgh, NYUSA

About the authors

Daniel R. Lake is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the State University of New York College at Plattsburgh.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title The Pursuit of Technological Superiority and the Shrinking American Military
  • Authors Daniel R. Lake
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2019
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, New York
  • eBook Packages History History (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-1-137-33062-8
  • Softcover ISBN 978-1-349-78683-1
  • eBook ISBN 978-1-349-78681-7
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XII, 280
  • Number of Illustrations 17 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics US Politics
    Military and Defence Studies
    International Security Studies
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