Holding the Line

From Belfer Center Studies in International Security

Holding the Line

US Defense Alternatives for the 21st Century

Edited by Cindy Williams





Since the end of the Cold War, the US military has reduced its combat forces by 40 percent, closed about 20 percent of its bases, and withdrawn from many overseas posts. Even after these changes, the US military is by far the strongest in the world, with huge advantages in training, equipment, and technology. Despite cutting its annual spending by about 30 percent, the United States spends more than the countries with the six next-largest military budgets combined. Heated debates continue to rage over US military spending. In the late 1990s, many commentators claimed that spending was too low, and the defense budget began to increase for the first time since the mid-1980s. Others argued that the United States had taken on too many military missions—including frequent humanitarian interventions or peacekeeping operations—and needed to scale back these deployments. Holding the Line presents objective and detailed assessments of the US defense budget and America's military strategy. Its contributors conclude that the United States must reshape its military to face the real challenges of the coming decades. They call for smaller US forces with more modern weapons, sensors, avionics, and communications systems. They offer recommendations that would enable the US military to transform its forces and make them more effective, while holding the line on defense budget increases.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262232159 300 pp. | 6.125 in x 9.25 in


$25.00 X ISBN: 9780262731409 300 pp. | 6.125 in x 9.25 in


Cindy Williams

Cindy Williams is Principal Research Scientist in the Security Studies Program at MIT.


  • This book is a must for those wishing to understand the evolving US defense debate. r

    The Key Reporte


  • A must-read book for everyone who cares about the future of the United States military.

    Andrew Krepinevich

    Executive Director, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments

  • Holding the Line assumes that defense spending will not rise dramatically in the coming decade and suggests instead that a new military strategy is needed to close the current gap between our security requirements and allocated resources. Some may resist the argument that defense spending is unlikely to rise, but a new military strategy for the post-Cold War era is long overdue. This book provides a challenging discussion of alternative military strategies for our new security environment, and it is a good starting point for a debate over the hard strategic choices that must be made.

    Carlisle A. Trost

    USN (RET), U.S. Chief of Naval Operations 1986-90

  • Plans are afoot to increase American defense spending to Cold War levels, even though the United States has no serious rival anywhere on the globe. Such foolishness is only possible because the American economy is booming today. But a slowdown is coming, which is going to create significant pressures to cut the Pentagon's budget and reorganize its fighting forces. Holding the Line anticipates that day of reckoning and offers all sorts of interesting and important insights on building an affordable military for the 21st century. It will be a must read for those who have to wrestle with the Pentagon's coming budget crunch.

    John J. Mearsheimer

    R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago