30 Years Later Analysis in Combat — Desert Storm

Over the five months of Desert Shield and Desert Storm, 40 CNA field representatives supported and analyzed operations. Of those, 22 deployed with their commands to the Middle East, serving on Navy ships, Marine Corps forward bases, and Joint command centers. And after Kuwait had been liberated, these analysts returned to CNA headquarters to assemble the definitive, 18-volume reconstruction and account of lessons learned by the Navy and Marine Corps in the Gulf War.

CNA effectively employs an extensive array of assets to accomplish its mission: field representatives … provide analytic support to deployed forces, and also gather data before it can be lost or diluted. CNA analysts have a culture of delighting in telling admirals and generals what they don’t want to hear … an invaluable service to the Navy and Marine Corps.
Adm. Stanley R. Arthur,
Commander of Naval Forces in Desert Storm
(from Desert Storm at Sea)

Desert Storm Stories

The Plan in My Pocket

Desert Storm POWs
The Marines are taught to plan for a hard fight. I was taught to plan for the unexpected.

When I deployed as a CNA field representative with I Marine Expeditionary Force for Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the commanding general asked me to focus on logistics issues. At one logistics meeting, the officers were discussing plans for the movement of enemy prisoners of war, or EPWs, once the ground war started. You've got to make sure you have enough food, accommodation and medical care for them. You also have to make sure they don't escape, so it's not a trivial plan to put in place. Read more

Risky Business

USS John F. Kennedy
Flying to a carrier was familiar territory for me after several CNA field deployments. But getting to USS Kennedy in the Red Sea just days before Desert Storm was hectic.

Just after New Year’s Day 1991, I headed to the Red Sea, where I was to conduct analysis to support commander of the Red Sea Battle Force aboard John F Kennedy. After a night in a hotel in Jeddah, I knew I had to get to a base in the morning to catch what’s called a COD flight, or carrier onboard delivery — a small airplane that brings supplies out to carriers at sea.

The hotel clerk could speak English, so I asked him to tell the cab driver that I wanted to go all the way to the airfield at Prince Abdullah Air Base; I didn’t want to be left at the gate of the base for a long walk. Apparently he told the cab driver not to stop at the gate but to keep going to the destination. And that’s what happened. Read more

Podcasts Podcasts and Videos

Analysis in Combat: The Story of Desert Storm

In recognition of the 30th anniversary of Desert Storm, CNA Talks presents Analysis in Combat. In this mini-series we’ll be bringing you interviews with CNA field representatives, military officers and historians about the conflict and the impact of CNA's Field Program on the war effort.

Podcast highlights are featured in video interviews with CNA analysts who were supporting forces in theater during Desert Storm.

CNA Talks Episode 83: Analysis in Combat: The Legacy of Desert Storm

On our final episode, Admiral Arthur and Christine Fox sit down to discuss CNA's reconstruction of Operation Desert Storm. This effort examined all the data that CNA analysts gathered during the operation and looked for lessons on how the Navy could learn from it.

CNA Talks Episode 82: Analysis in Combat: Operation Desert Saber

On this episode of Analysis in Combat, Admiral Stanley Arthur, Major General Harry Jenkins, and Dr. Marvin Pokrant tell the story of the amphibious landing that never was.

CNA Talks Episode 80: Analysis in Combat: First to the Front

On this episode of Analysis in Combat, Bill Morgan and Mark Geis discuss how the Maritime Prepositioning Forces made the rapid deployment of the Marines to Saudi Arabia in August 1990 possible.

CNA Talks Episode 79: Analysis in Combat: Desert Storm at Sea

This episode of Analysis in Combat tells the stories of two CNA analysts who were assigned to command ships during Desert Storm. Robert Ward was stationed aboard USS John F. Kennedy, the flagship of the Red Sea Battle Force, commanded by Rear Admiral Mixson. And Steve Karppi was stationed aboard USS America, the flagship of Cruiser Destroyer Group Two, commanded by Rear Admiral Katz.

CNA Talks Episode 78: Analysis in Combat: The Story of Desert Storm

On this episode, Dr. Steve Wills, CNA’s resident naval historian, joins us to tell the story of the Navy's role in the first Gulf War and the impact of CNA's Field Program on the war effort.

InDepth InDepth

From the Proceedings Archive: The Storm at Sea

By Vice Admiral Stan Arthur, USN, and Dr. Marvin Pokrant

An excerpt from an article that appeared just a few months after the end of Desert Storm, in Proceedings, the magazine of the U.S. Naval Institute. Read more

Wrong War, Right Weapons: Lessons for the Next Conflict

By Larry Lewis and Don Boroughs

Desert Storm ushered in what would be called “the new American way of war.” Precision-guided munitions, combined with reconnaissance and battle networks, were pivotal technological developments that contributed to Desert Storm’s sweeping success. Ironically, these weapons and systems were developed for an adversary and battlefield nothing like the one faced in the Persian Gulf 30 years ago. The history of their development and their successful — and sometimes unsuccessful — use should inform the development of the next generation of defense systems.Read more

Admiral Stanley R. Arthur, USN (Ret.)
The Right Metrics and the Right Partner

By Admiral Stanley R. Arthur, USN (Ret.)

The U.S. Navy achieved a lot of successes in Desert Storm. But I am a big believer that we should never miss an opportunity to relook at every decision and performance metric of man and machine so that we can do better the next time. In order to learn those lessons, I discovered early on in my career that it helps to use the right metrics and the right analytical partner.Read more

Katherine McGrady
30 Years after Desert Storm, Lessons for Great Power Competition

By Katherine McGrady

Desert Storm was a powerful learning experience for the Navy and the Marine Corps — and for the more than 20 CNA analysts who were there supporting their commands in the conflict. I know, because I was one of those analysts, serving eight months in the Arabian Desert with I Marine Expeditionary Force. When we returned to headquarters, CNA was tasked with a reconstruction and analysis of naval force operations during the war. The analysis filled 18 volumes. I’d like to highlight three takeaways from Desert Storm that can still inform defense planning in the era of great power competition. Read more

CNA Case Studies


Calculating Unseen Dangers

CNA analysts in the race against Persian Gulf mines

At the outset of Desert Storm, the U.S. Navy had plenty to worry about in Iraq’s high-tech arsenal. Saddam Hussein could launch Exocet missiles from Mirage fighters and Silkworm cruise missiles from land. But the most dangerous weapon threatening the U.S. fleet turned out to be one of the cheapest and least sophisticated: underwater mines. Mines had the potential to partially paralyze the Navy and would eventually blast two ships out of commission, injuring several sailors. So CNA field representatives supporting the naval forces were asked to calculate the risk to protect the mission — and save lives. Read more



CNA and Maritime Prepositioning satisfy the need for speed

In August of 1990, the Iraqi Army amassed on the border of Saudi Arabia. Many believed that Saddam Hussein — who had just barreled through Kuwait — would overrun the Saudi Kingdom before the United States could assemble an adequate deterrent force. So when President George H. W. Bush gave the order to send in the Marines, speed mattered.

Marine Corps Expeditionary Forces traveled via two methods. Some sailed the traditional way, in amphibious ships that embarked from North Carolina and Virginia. They reached the Persian Gulf more than five weeks later. But the 7th Marine Expeditionary Brigade of Camp Pendleton, California, arrived using a novel approach that had never been a tested in a time of war. And in just 12 days, they put more than 15,000 Marines, their tanks, helicopters and artillery, into position and ready for combat. Read more

News and Information News and Information