The Stem from which Flowers Bloom
: Motivations and Constraints shaping the Reforger Exercises, 1969-1992

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Through extensive archival research of recently declassified U.S. and German primary sources, this research seeks to construct a comprehensive history of Reforger's origins, evolution, and culmination from the 1960s to the 1990s by identifying tensions in competing motivations and external constraints that shaped its content and conduct. As this research will show, prevailing notions that successfully executed Reforger exercises reflected sufficient U.S. wartime deployment capabilities during the Cold War are generally overstated. In addition, Reforger directly helped to identify shortfalls in the Active Defense doctrine, AirLand Battle concepts, and allied interoperability. Training realism, however, was restricted due to peacetime and safety restrictions, the desire to reach certain training objectives, and a reticence to risk failure in a high-visibility effort. Finally, this historical review also fills gaps in academic understanding of how and why overseas military exercises are conducted. The consistent, foundational motivation driving Reforger was to test, refine, and demonstrate the dual-basing, or prepositioned equipment, concept as a cheaper, militarily viable alternative to costly forward-stationed troops. Other Reforger motivations included its use as a military response to crisis, allied assurance, and a tool for military training and testing. Constraints limiting the fulfillment of these motivations included financial difficulties, Congressional opposition, prepositioned equipment shortfalls, and tensions with the local West German populace. As a resurgent Russia again turns the U.S. gaze to potential war in Europe, policymakers and practitioners should apply Reforger’s insights, with a critical eye towards these motivations and constraints, to current shortfalls in rapid deployment and expeditionary major combat operations.
Date of Award1 Dec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorWalter Ladwig III (Supervisor)

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