Lessons from Desert Storm, 30 Years Later
Arlington, Va. — January 17 will mark the 30th Anniversary of the first airstrikes of Desert Storm. CNA analysis was a principal source of lessons learned from the war. More than 20 CNA field representatives deployed with their commands to the Middle East, providing scientific analysis on Navy ships, Marine Corps forward bases, and Joint command centers.
After Kuwait had been liberated, these analysts returned to CNA headquarters to assemble a classified, 18-volume reconstruction of Navy and Marine Corps operations. For decades to come, force decisions and war plans were influenced by some of the lessons learned:
- Mines inflicted more harm than any missile threat to U.S. Navy ships, damaging both USS Tripoli and USS Princeton.
- The U.S. Navy was underprepared and relied heavily on British minesweepers
- In an amphibious attack, CNA estimated a probability that at least two vessels would have struck mines. If Iraq had laid mines efficiently, that goes up to 25 mine strikes.
- Marine brigades using the Maritime Prepositioning Force deployed in record time. The 15,000- strong 7th Marine Expeditionary Brigade was ready for combat 12 days after leaving California.
- The threat and deception of an amphibious landing that never happened played a key role in diverting Iraqi attention to the coast and aiding the coalition victory.
- Laser-guided bombs had a 60% hit rate against bridges, vs. just 1 in 14 for dumb bombs
"Desert Storm was a formative event for the military, and this is an excellent time to take stock of its impact," said CNA President and CEO Katherine McGrady.
CNA is marking this anniversary by offering insights into the war and its impacts by a variety of analysts and military leaders who were there for the conflict:
- Dr. McGrady, who supported I Marine Expeditionary Force for 8 months in the Arabian Desert
- Retired Admiral Stanley Arthur, who commanded Navy operations in Desert Storm
- Center for Naval Analyses Executive Vice President Mark Geis, who deployed with II Marine Expeditionary Force in Desert Shield
- Former CNA Vice President and former Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Christine Fox, who led CNA’s Desert Shield and Storm reconstruction
- CNA’s resident historian, Dr. Steven Wills, a former Navy surface warfare lieutenant commander
- Other current and former CNA analysts who served as field representatives during the conflict
This work will take the form of articles, podcasts and videos that will appear over the next four weeks on CNA’s Analysis in Combat: Desert Storm web page.
"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, in Desert Storm at Sea
CNA is a nonprofit research and analysis organization dedicated to the safety and security of the nation. It operates the Center for Naval Analyses — the only Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) serving the Department of the Navy — as well as the Institute for Public Research. CNA is dedicated to developing actionable solutions to complex problems of national importance. With nearly 700 scientists, analysts and professional staff, CNA takes a real-world approach to gathering data. Its one-of-a-kind field program places analysts on carriers and military bases, in squad rooms and crisis centers, working side-by-side with operators and decision-makers around the world. CNA supports naval operations, fleet readiness and great power competition. Its non-defense research portfolio includes criminal justice, homeland security and data management.
Note to writers and editors: CNA is not an acronym and is correctly referenced as "CNA, a research organization in Arlington, VA."