The unprecedented advantages enjoyed by American forces in the Persian Gulf War -- including a five-month hiatus between initial deployment and combat -- make Operation Desert Storm an inadequate test of the U.S. military's usefulness in forging what President Bush has called "a new world order," according to defense leaders and civilian analysts.

At the same time, these experts said, the operation has highlighted the deficiencies in the military's ability to direct power easily toward the far-flung "regional contingencies" that the administration has said would be the focus of creating that order in the post Cold War world.

"Everybody has done a superb job" in getting the troops and materiel to the other side of the world, said Vice Adm. Paul D. Butcher, deputy commander of the U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois and a veteran military planner. "But we ought to keep in perspective that we've had the luxury of time -- 161 days to land all that stuff with nobody firing a shot."

Other senior officers, who declined to be quoted by name, said in interviews that Desert Storm has demonstrated that the United States is dangerously short of cargo ships and planes needed to get troops and their weaponry from the United States to distant trouble spots in a hurry.

Additional problems will come, defense specialists predicted, when reserve units that have been crucial to the war effort suffer a future recruitment backlash as young men and women decline to join for fear of suddenly having their lives derailed by future call-ups. The United States since Vietnam has restructured its military so it cannot go to war without activating reservists.

And while Bush, in remarks last week to an economics group in New York, said the war was a vindication of expensive, high-technology weaponry that had been "ridiculed" in the past, civilian analysts said the success of unmanned weapons like the Tomahawk cruise missile is likely to raise questions about the necessity of spending billions of dollars on manned "stealth" bombers and aircraft carriers.

In addition to citing the advantages provided by the lengthy deployment period, Butcher said, "It's dangerous to use Desert Shield {the deployment phase} and Desert Storm {the fighting phase} as a good example of what we can do in sealift because 47 percent of it came from foreign ships, which might not be available in the next emergency."

The Transportation Command directed dispatch of millions of tons of weapons and fuel and thousands of troops to the Persian Gulf. Pentagon planners over the years have warned that potential enemies would try to cut the long supply line needed for such distant operations, making intervention in trouble spots risky for the United States.

Other advantages that the United States could not count on in future conflicts, he continued, were use in Saudi Arabia of "the best seaports, the best airports." The foreign support, he said, brought not only the help of their cargo ship and planes, but permission to fly through their airspace.

"If you take away any of those equations, you've got a hell of a mess and the shortfalls in airlift and sealift would have been exposed," Butcher said, adding that the U.S. merchant marine has too few ships to support large military operations overseas and too few experienced seamen to man ships in the Navy's reserve fleet.

Without the foreign ships, the U.S. military would have had to tell Bush that it could not begin combat operations by the Jan. 15 deadline the United Nations had set for Iraq to get out of Kuwait, he said. "It probably would have taken us three more months to complete the sealift ourselves."

The Army, which took longer than its leaders desired to get heavy divisions to Saudi Arabia, is studying the purchase of eight additional fast sealift ships that would double the size of that fleet. The ships under consideration would carry tons of tanks and artillery over the seas at 25 knots, officials said.

The last time the Army had 500,000 men and women fighting a distant war was in 1968 in Vietnam, a time when the active duty force, at 1.57 million, was twice its current number. Current projections call for it to shrink to 536,000 by 1995, requiring activation of thousands of reservists to field a force comparable to the one in Saudi Arabia.

"In the post-gulf era, it will be recognized that the Army really is a small expeditionary force with little staying power," predicted Charles C. Moskos, a military manpower specialist. The staying power will have to come from reserve force, which he said may lose its appeal in the gulf war aftermath.

Navy and Marine leaders will try to convince Congress that the gulf war has demonstrated their rapid response capability and staying power when lawmakers in coming months decide which service should get how much of the Pentgon money pie. In a paper entitled "Talking Points," the Navy noted, "Despite the end of the Cold War, a flexible foward deployed Navy-Marine Corps team with sea-based staying power will continue to be needed in an unstable world."

But one Marine general officer said that during the buildup the Corps had to disassemble some helicopters and pack them in cargo aircraft to get them to the gulf in a hurry. He said Desert Shield has moved high on the shopping list helicopters that can be refueled in flights to the trouble zone.

The Air Force has learned painfully during Desert Storm that it needs to improve communications between ground troops and their supporting aircraft, according to Pentagon officials. It was an Air Force A-10 pilot who mistook a group of U.S. Marines for Iraqis during recent initial ground battles, and killed them with a Maverick missile.

Another lesson the Air Force has learned, Pentagon officials said, is that the enemy's bridges should be destroyed with laser-guided bombs or other smart weapons in the first days of the war. Planners said the Navy was directed to knock out Iraqi bridges with dumb bombs that missed, enabling Iraqi trucks to deliver cargo to front-line troops which should have been prevented.

Thomas S. Amlie, an Air Force analyst who helped develop the Sidewinder air-to-air missile, said jamming and other techniques that have kept allied aircraft losses astonishingly low during Desert Storm should not generate overconfidence because the next enemy may have missiles that will ride the jamming radiation to the source.

"I'm delighted," he said of the low losses in the air war. "But we got a free ride."