Reinventing the Army
My son, Daniel, informed me of something he read regarding the latest “transformation” of the US Army. When he explained what he found I immediately wondered just how many times must we “reinvent the wheel?” Following this conversation the only information I found on the Internet concerning this subject seemed somewhat like “old news.” I read all the “expert” rhetoric of the thirty-two page document and it did not really solve the Army’s two problems: personnel and transportation. Nor did it address the political-military problems that shape our military strategy, normally for the worst. It barely covered the biggest “variable” of any military “experiment,” the enemy, who rarely follows the plan. Instead, it creates a military force based on domestic budgetary constraints and not on real global threats.
The document did deride the “Cold War mentality” and those who champion the Cold War military, people like me. Although I lack the “academic credentials” of these “experts,” I fought the Cold War throughout most of my Army career. Additionally I attended every level of military education culminating in my graduation from the US Army Sergeants Major Academy. I believe this gives me the “credentials” for offering my opinion, and makes my opinion equally relevant.
This information appeared in Wikipedia, a questionable source at best, however “where there is smoke, there is fire.” I do know that many “experts” advocated this theory for at least a decade, as if they suddenly discovered something new. Like many theories, especially those advanced during the 1990’s regarding the military, they work well “on paper.” However, the reality often falls short, and one often finds the military tried these theories before.
Furthermore, these “transformations” usually create more problems than they solve and often lead the Army back where it started. I searched the US Army’s website for information regarding my son’s information and found nothing confirming it. The site mentioned the scheduled Iraq rotation of four brigades under the Multi-National Division-Baghdad. From the website of this organization I found that an American Army division currently “headquarters” this division.
The prominent document I found discussing this proposed “transformation” came from the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress. Coded at RL32476, titled “U.S. Army’s Modular Redesign: Issues for Congress,” and authored by Andrew Feickert, it described a glowing program for “saving the Army.” Feickert described himself as a “Specialist in National Defense, Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Division,” and does not mention any military experience. I searched the Internet in hope of finding a biography of the author, but without any success. If Mr. Fieckert possesses military experience he must mention it for building any credibility for his document.
I do not know if Feickert’s document represents the source of information provided by my son, however it covers the theory. Since the document contains thirty-two pages of rhetoric, a response probably requires at least an equal number of pages. Hopefully, my response serves as a rebuttal for this policy that does little for alleviating the Army’s long-term problems. The document explains that the Army plans on “transforming” its ten combat divisions into a forty-three brigade force. By eliminating, or reducing, the division headquarters the plan assumes that these personnel become available for these additional brigades.
The document proclaims that these “modular” brigades suddenly become a, “more responsive, deployable, joint, and expeditionary force.” It further cites “experts” that state that these “additional deployable units” provide more “stability to soldiers and their families.” However, it comes with a caveat, provided that no “additional significant long-term troop commitments arise.”
During my Army career I endured three “transformations,” with only one achieving positive results for the Army. All of these transformations promised great things, using key phrases, such as: “streamlining, more efficient,” and other “buzz words” meant for “dazzling with brilliance.” As someone who studies military history I found similar phrases used when the Army demobilized following World War I. World War II veteran and military historian Charles MacDonald wrote, The Mighty Endeavor, and described this era as “twenty years of neglect.” The National Defense Act of 1920, glowing promised the future Army as a “hard, lean force of 280,000.” Unfortunately it created “a neglected, spavined, meager force of only 135,000,” an Army ranked seventeenth in the world.
The problem remains that once an “expert” creates one of these programs, influential politicians adopts it. Subsequently the Army must exert the blood, sweat and sacrifice for implementing the policy, often with substandard results. Meanwhile most of these “experts,” most of whom never served in the military, never suffer the results of their “genius.”
As stated previously, I found no biography of Mr. Feickert, or any other mention of military service. In fairness, after reading the document I believe that Feickert compiled information provided by other “experts” and offered his observations. The document cites many military professionals supporting this “transformation,” however that does not alter my opinion.
Too often senior officers become “dazzled with brilliance” by these theories and disregard the problems they create for junior leaders. Since Congress controls the careers of these officers, they often bend with the political winds, and break the Army. Furthermore, I believe these men found themselves in a losing situation today, and made the best decision possible. They adapted their doctrine for meeting the restrictions imposed by our civilian leadership, who continue waging war under peacetime conditions.
I face no such distractions and believe our civilian leadership disregards the requirements of a military superpower at war. That includes the “experts” who believe themselves smarter than military professionals, and who “pontificate” in the media. What further irritates me, many “experts” obtained their experience by “studying” military affairs in a classroom. In other words, they never lived where “the rubber meets the road,” or face the dangers their policies impose. Their theories sound good and work well, in the classroom, and their Ph. D.’s impress those who hire them.
If I sound angry about the influence wielded by these “experts,” good, I resent their influence based on no experience. I researched the websites of our prominent civilian leaders and perused their biographies, and the results disturbed me. Of the thirteen highest civilians in the Defense Department only six mentioned military service in their biography.
The results grow worse when examining the congressional armed services committees; the pompous “experts” who scold military professionals. The House Armed Services Committee possesses 62 members, with 15 mentioning personal military service. The Senate Armed Services Committee possesses 25 members with nine mentioning their military service. Powerful politicians often reward loyal “political hacks” with these positions, disregarding any personal military experience. These “hacks” then confirm the civilian appointees and senior military leaders, often with military experience a minor concern.
Personal military experience does not necessarily qualify one for leadership at this level; particularly given the predominant venal “Washington” environment. However, military experience certainly helps and at least gives one a basic understanding of military affairs. Would the president recommend a federal judge with no legal experience, or a surgeon general with no medical degree? Unfortunately, legions of “experts” with no military service eagerly seek these positions for enhancing their resumes. Others seek these positions for “showing” the “Neanderthals” in the Pentagon “how to do business.”
I do not know when this phenomenon started; however, I do know when it gained significant momentum. H.R. McMaster wrote the book, Dereliction of Duty, and sharply criticized the leadership of then-Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara. McNamara, once called the “smartest man I ever knew,” by then-President Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ), filled the Pentagon with civilian “experts.”
Derisively called “McNamara’s whiz kids,” McNamara gave these people wide latitude of authority over the military service chiefs. They believed in McNamara’s theories regarding statistics, quantitative analysis, centralization of authority and arrogance regarding the military professionals. Most of them possessed advanced degrees from the most prestigious universities in the country, but little military experience. They further believed that military experience proved a “disadvantage” when determining strategy because it ignores the “bigger picture.”
These “whiz kids” soon alienated most of the senior military leadership, and the mutual contempt resulted in the “Viet Nam quagmire.” McMaster states that Alain Enthoven of the System Analysis Division found “little” that made a military officer a “better strategic planner” than a “graduate of Harvard Business School.” Then-Air Force Chief of Staff General Curtis LeMay stated that the “whiz kids” believed themselves “better than the rest of us; otherwise they wouldn’t have gotten their superior education.”
Again, military experience does not guarantee competent military leadership, or determine a sound military strategy. The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) during the Viet Nam War proved this when they did not forcefully challenge McNamara. While this seems obvious in hindsight, the events as they occurred might not prove so conclusive. The U.S. Constitution codifies civilian control over the military under a civilian Commander-in-Chief. Congress declares war and holds the responsibility for maintaining the funding for the nation’s military forces. The JCS serves as the primary military advisers for the President and the Congress, a role with many “double-edged swords.”
The JCS serve under civilian service secretaries and the secretary of defense, all appointed by the President. McMaster states what I must summarize as the deliberate policy of the civilian leadership for appointing the most submissive of military chiefs. This began under then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who felt that his military experience made him more qualified than anyone else. It continued under then-President John F. Kennedy (JFK), who “retired” any JCS member who disagreed with him. He nominated General Maxwell Taylor, with whom he enjoyed a special relationship, as JCS Chairman. McNamara began micro-managing the military and denied the JCS presidential access without his permission.
This provides a dilemma for the JCS, establishing just where their loyalties and responsibilities lay. The Constitution subordinates them under civilian authority and the chain of command requires obedience of the accepted policies. If they publicly challenge this authority it sets the example for the questioning of orders at all levels of the military. The Armed Forces potentially degenerate into a mob, obeying what orders suit them, with disastrous results.
Ample evidence exists that during the Viet Nam War the JCS stated their disagreements with accepted policies. However, these disagreements occurred in closed meetings, and both LBJ and McNamara chastised them for this. Under such circumstances the JCS face two choices, resign or try changing the system from within. At one time then-Army Chief of Staff General Harold K. Johnson considered resigning; however he felt that this abandoned his responsibilities. If the JCS resigns en masse, it implies mutiny, and the possibility of the “mob” described above.
During the Viet Nam War we often heard the statement, “War is too important to trust to the generals.” However, the results of the Viet Nam War prove war “too important” for trusting amateurs in developing military strategy. Enough blame resulted from the Viet Nam War for spreading around for all those who shaped the policy: military professionals, politicians, “experts,” diplomats, journalists, “anti-war activists” and ordinary citizens.
The post-Viet Nam era provided the first “transformation” that I experienced as a young non-commissioned officer (NCO). This gave us the first iteration of the “All-Volunteer Army” (VOLAR), for ending the unpopular draft. However, the unpopularity of the Viet Nam War caused a reduction in the number of recruits for filling the ranks. Unfortunately, global events did not allow for disbanding the “hated” military, we must still confront global threats.
Forced into an untenable situation the Army tried a series of policies for achieving the personnel needed for its missions. First came this ludicrous policy of “civilianizing” the Army with the relaxation of disciplinary standards and eroding the authority of military leaders. However, when the standards and combat readiness eroded, the senior leadership and the “experts” wondered what happened. Subsequently, they blamed the junior officers and NCO’s for not enforcing the standards, standards that did not exist.
This period of neglect also saw a drastic reduction in the pay and benefits for military personnel. Subsequently, the number of enlistments declined, resulting in under strength units, particularly combat units. Potential recruits enlisted for the less-stressful combat support (CS) and combat service support (CSS) military occupational specialties (MOS). This severely strained the personnel serving in the combat MOS’es: infantry, armor, artillery and combat engineers.
During this time I never served in a combat unit with above 75% of its authorized strength. However, doctrine demanded that we still execute our missions as if we possessed full-strength units. The Army prioritized the “forward deployed” units, those serving overseas (OCONUS) keeping them at the highest levels of readiness. With limited men and materiel remaining, the stateside (CONUS) units suffered, and many fell below acceptable readiness levels. Soldiers often returned from one OCONUS tour and received orders for another within one year. Mid-career NCO’s left the Army in steadily increasing numbers, creating that “hollow force.”
In 1980 while assigned with the 2nd Infantry Division (2nd ID) at Camp Greaves, Korea I participated in a panel for Charles Moskos. Moskos, a sociology professor at Northwestern University, displayed an uncanny interest in military affairs, probably based on his service. The panel consisted of men like me, junior and mid-grade NCO’s, serving as small unit leaders.
This period marked the lowest point in the “hollow force,” and American impotence because of the Iran hostage crisis. We immediately told Moskos of the problems we experienced as junior leaders, many of them previously mentioned. Because of manpower needs we found ridding our units of disciplinary problems and substandard performers almost impossible.
Within fifteen minutes of our “opening barrage” all of the brigade’s command sergeants major, who monitored this panel, shut us down. They dominated the conversation, minimized our problems, stated that no problems really existed and accused us of “routine bitching.” In effect, they treated us as McNamara treated his JCS, and “good order and discipline” harnessed our responses. The bottom line of this tactic, reveal no shortcomings and present the same rosy picture of an Army at its best.
This brilliant “transformation,” that promised so much almost broke the Army, despite the erroneous statistics presented in public. The dedicated NCO corps, painstakingly rebuilt following the Viet Nam War, kept the Army intact. We did this often without the help of our senior leaders, politicians and the “experts” populating the military bureaucracies.
For the record, the majority of the soldiers I served with during this period performed their duties well. Good leadership often overcomes many disadvantages; however it does not alter official policies. Every organization possesses between 5 and 10% of its numbers as “substandard performers,” the Army included. Unfortunately during the “hollow force” this number increased because of a lowering of standards across the board. The “system” required that we retain in service disciplinary problems, substance abusers and those mentally incapable of achieving the standards.
The leaders spent so much time with the substandard soldiers that sometimes the good soldiers felt neglected. Reduced personnel strength meant that the soldier’s name appeared on the duty roster far more frequently. It also meant that fewer people existed for carrying all of the squad’s equipment in the field. The infantry squad doctrine for this time authorized eleven men; however, I never led a squad with over eight men.
While the Army deteriorated during this time, so did the US decline as a superpower. Following the Viet Nam War the Soviet Union began an expansionist policy that took advantage of America’s weakness. Liberal Democrats increased their control in both houses of Congress in 1972, promising an end of American “military adventurism.”
Many of these politicians began their careers as “anti-war activists” and continued this trend in Congress. Under their policies the Congress made the US Armed Forces the “aggressor” in the world. They subsequently reduced the American military budgets, thinking that this prevented our military leaders from “fomenting aggression.” Furthermore, they passed the War Powers Resolution in 1973 that restricted the president’s commander-in-chief powers. Then-President Richard M. Nixon faced the “Watergate” problem that eventually terminated his presidency, and offered no veto threat. Nixon’s successor, Gerald R. Ford, faced enormous opposition from Congress and American impotence on the global stage continued.
While the US idly watched, Southeast Asia, where we lost over 58,000 troops, fell under North Vietnamese aggression. Using surrogate Cuban troops, the Soviet Union launched military interventions throughout Africa in support of “revolutions.” Central America erupted into communist-led insurrections and communist “revolutionaries” toppled the government of a long-time ally in Nicaragua. We may debate the “usefulness” of Anastasio Somoza; however the results of his demise proved disastrous for the US. The Soviet Union openly invaded Afghanistan, at the “request” of the local communist dictator. They further threatened our Western European allies by positioning nuclear-armed missiles in Eastern Europe.
Then-President Jimmy Carter did nothing, the Congress continued reducing the military budget and our military readiness steadily eroded. Our Western European allies questioned our reliability and cracks appeared in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Intelligence discovered the presence of a Soviet combat brigade in Cuba, deemed not a threat by Carter’s “experts.” Today most revisionists call this period a “thawing of the Cold War,” implying a warm relationship with the Soviet Union. Truthfully, the Soviet Union aggressively expanded around the world and the US did nothing for preventing this threat.
All of these problems, a bad economy and the crisis in Iran proved the impotence Carter. When Carter became president Shah Reza Pahlavi of Iran served as our strongest ally in the Persian Gulf. At the time the US lacked the capabilities for projecting power in this region, and Iran filled that “dead space.” Carter’s naiveté in foreign affairs resulted in the toppling of Pahlavi for the radical Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. “Radicals” seized the American embassy in Teheran and held our citizens for over one year. Carter’s public appearances showed a lack of resolve and Ronald Reagan won the election in a landslide.
Then-President Reagan came into office promising a reversal of these policies, and for a time the Democrat-controlled Congress helped him. The American people gave Reagan a significant landslide, and this made the “loyal opposition” fearful for their political futures. He vowed not just the “containment” of Soviet aggression, but “rolling it back” where possible. This began the second “transformation” of the Armed Forces that I experienced, and the only one that delivered.
Reagan began the largest peacetime military build-up since World War II, and revitalized America’s leadership. First, he emphasized patriotism and made us, military personnel, feel proud of our service. He provided a significant increase in pay and benefits, which helped recruit and retain quality people in a competitive job market. Combat units achieved combat readiness standards in both personnel and equipment, and the number of combat units increased. Second, he launched a program for providing the most high-tech equipment, the most comprehensive doctrine and the time and money for training. It resulted in the unprecedented 1991 victory of Operation Desert Storm, and the collapse of the Soviet Union one year later.
Then came the third “transformation,” the irresponsible “downsizing” of the 1990’s, which really meant demobilizing our forces. I watched the Army that I helped build, for which myself and others like me sacrificed, erode into another “hollow force.” Of course the “experts” who championed this demobilization used all the right “buzz words” for justifying the policy. Phrases like “more bang for the buck” and “we can do more with less” dominated the media regarding this “downsizing.” Furthermore, any senior officer that cautioned against this policy found their “services no longer needed.” I retired from active duty in 1994 rather than serve in this developing farce of an army.
A new crowd of civilian “experts” entered the Pentagon bent on creating a new, “politically correct army.” They engaged in “social engineering,” with the first priority of then-President Bill Clinton, homosexuals in the military. These “experts” further surrendered American leadership in the world, making the United Nations (UN) secretary-general the de facto commander-in-chief. The US military then engaged in a series of “humanitarian” missions that spread our rapidly diminishing forces around the world.
One of these “humanitarian” missions went awry in Somalia, one that most Americans know from the movie, “Blackhawk Down.” I highly recommend reading Mark Bowden’s book of the same title, it delves into far more detail. The ground commander, Major General William F. Garrison, requested a “heavy force” for backup for executing his missions. “Washington” denied this support for “political reasons,” and ordered that the missions proceed. No one knows for sure whether “Washington” meant Clinton, or his defense secretary, former Representative Les Aspin (D-WI). Aspin, a long-time critic of the Pentagon, previously served on the House Armed Services Committee. He criticized every military program, except those benefiting Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, and made few friends among military professionals.
The denial of heavy forces for “political reasons” supposed that the insurgents in Somalia proved unworthy of a heavy force. Everyone knows the consequences of this military action, and the heroism demonstrated by American troops when faced with insurmountable circumstances. For carrying out his mission without proper support, “Washington” relieved Garrison of command, although “Washington” denied this support. The only suffering done by the “experts,” Clinton fired Aspin as defense secretary, and Congress forced our retreat from Somalia. This retreat helped create the circumstances we find ourselves in today.
For the record, after this debacle the Army deployed a heavy force in Somalia and prepared for the offensive. However, our civilian leadership lacked the will and these forces merely covered our withdrawal. Our enemies learned that if you want the retreat of American forces, you inflict casualties. A policy championed today by many major American politicians as they all believe themselves “military experts.”
While the active duty forces, particularly the Army, steadily decreased in size, the deployments significantly increased. The Army lost 40% of its strength, 286,000 personnel and 8 combat divisions, while its deployments increased by 300%. These deployments proved very “personnel intensive,” meaning they taxed the Army’s units beyond their capabilities.
This initiated an increased use of the National Guard and Reserve forces, the largest since World War II. A policy embraced by most of the leaders of the National Guard and Reserve components at the time. I remember reading the late Colonel David Hackworth’s Internet publication, now known as DefenseWatch, during this time. Guardsmen and Reservists complained of deploying almost as frequently as the Regulars; and how this threatened their civilian occupations. People from all the Army’s components left the service for the same reason they left during the post-Viet Nam era.
Cracks appeared in the Army’s force structure in 1996, as I read in the Army Times newspaper at the time. Unfortunately my lack of storage space forced the disposal of these issues, meaning that I cannot cite specific articles. I do remember that Army leaders warned of their decreasing ability at providing the adequate forces for meeting global missions. However, when Congress, now controlled by Republicans, called hearings, the Army’s leaders changed their stories. It seems the JCS suffered the same dilemma as it did during the Viet Nam War; support policy or resign.
This reveals another reason why I retired from active duty, the Army’s senior leadership “transformed” into politicians. Before this “downsizing” began I remember serving under officers who exhibited all the qualities required for engaging the Soviet armies. Now I watched as these “warriors” competed for the ever-shrinking number of command positions, and turned into “ticket-punchers.” These officers saved their careers, continued up the ladder for promotion and achieved political acumen. They led the Army through this “transformation,” but at what cost for the nation, the Army and the soldiers they commanded?
Coincidently, Feickert’s document cites one of the combat operations of this era as a reason for justifying the “modular” brigades. This occurred following the 1999 aerial war in the Balkans regarding Kosovo, then part of Serbia. It states, “the Army deployed a unit consisting of units from different divisions that had never trained together,” for promoting this idea. However, the whole concept of “modular” brigades embraces the example it criticized. Unless somehow the “experts” envisioning this new policy corrected every deficiency, human and mechanical, and fixed the transportation shortfalls.
One problem with Task Force Hawk, the unit cited in the report, it suffered from the “cracks” revealed in 1996. Anecdotal evidence from DefenseWatch at the time, provided by military personnel, revealed a system broken by years of abuse. By this time reduced personnel strength forced that deploying units receive “fillers” from other units for meeting “ramp strength.” It further required the “cannibalization” of parts and equipment from other units for achieving operational readiness for the deploying unit. Maintaining readiness in both personnel and equipment requires funding, that steadily decreased through the 1990’s, severely harming combat readiness.
Another problem encountered by Task Force Hawk, as documented at www.d-n-i.net/fces/comments/c288.htm, mentions other critical shortcomings associated with the above-mentioned problems. Budget cuts reduced the flight time for the pilots at below 500 hours during a three-year period. None of the co-pilot gunners (CPG) possessed qualification for night flying with night vision goggles (NVG). The ad hoc unit never executed any pre-deployment mission rehearsal exercises and they deployed with questionable aircraft survivability equipment (ASE). Nor did the task force receive updated intelligence regarding the air defense threat posed by the enemy.
The AH-64 Apache attack helicopter achieved legendary status during Operation Desert Storm, and deservedly so. It arose from the investment in technology from the Reagan build-up, as did most of the systems used during this war. However, the Apache functions as part of a combined arms team, a “ground asset,” and the “experts” deployed it alone.
NATO also deployed an ad hoc ground force for “peacekeeping” after hostilities, called Kosovo Force (KFOR). Commanded by a British lieutenant general, it consisted of American, British, French, German, Greek and Italian brigades. The American brigade consisted of an airborne battalion, a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), a mechanized infantry task force and a cavalry troop. Thankfully this conglomerate command did not engage in combat, because the potential for disaster existed.
I remember news stories of the time highlighting the problems with deploying this small American force. Problems caused by the aforementioned budget constraints that harmed military readiness and raised doubts about American military dominance. During the three days required for off-loading the equipment for the Americans, Russian peacekeepers beat us into Kosovo. Few people know of these problems since the media often covers up problems with military operations that they champion. Fewer people know that then-NATO commander, General Wesley Clark, risked starting a war with Russia.
NATO launched this air war supposedly for punishing the Serbs for “ethnic cleansing” in Kosovo. This allied them with the Albanian Kosovars, and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) operating with US Special Forces.
Russia, the traditional protectors of the Serbs, sent its forces into Kosovo without prior coordination with NATO. They moved swiftly into Kosovo while NATO forces awaited the still-deploying American brigade. Crowds of Serbs cheered the Russians as they entered, believing them as their protectors. They occupied an area reserved for NATO “peacekeepers,” operated outside NATO command, and jeopardized the fragile peace.
Feickert erroneously uses historical examples for justifying the “transformation,” as if the “experts” just discovered something new. He begins with World War II describing divisions as “permanent organizations” composed of “three smaller units,” a reasonably accurate description. However, he does not acknowledge the flexibility these units demonstrated during World War II and in wars thereafter.
Describing the subordinate units of a division as initially “regiments, but since the early 1960’s, known as brigades,” missed the major point. First, the subordinate maneuver elements of these regiments consisted of units from the same combat arm: (i.e., 16th Infantry, 34th Armor, 5th Artillery). However, this does not explain the entire situation, these regiments developed into regimental combat teams (RCT). Each regiment contained combat elements and organic CS and CSS elements that supported it in battle.
The brigades evolved from the increased need for combined arms teams that emerged during World War I. During World War II most infantry divisions received attached tank battalions and tank destroyer battalions for achieving this concept. The true birth of modern combined arms teams arose with the World War II armored divisions. These units used combat commands instead of traditional regiments for achieving combined arms teams.
Regimental combat teams evolved into the flawed battle groups (another “expert” idea) of the late 1950’s, and the “pentomic” divisions. Ironically this arose from many of the problems faced by the Army today: seeming irrelevance in “modern” warfare, budgetary constraints and advanced technology. McMaster describes Eisenhower, a famous “Army man,” as someone who placed domestic policies above military strategy. I found a document, “The Pentomic Era (1956-1960),” at website www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1211, describing then-Army Chief of Staff General Maxwell Taylor as designing these “pentomic” divisions almost out of desperation.
This document outlines Eisenhower’s belief that our nuclear technology effectively counterbalanced the Warsaw Pact numerical superiority. It further spared the American economy the burden of maintaining large ground forces during peacetime. The Army focused on using tactical nuclear weapons as artillery for defeating the superior numbers of our enemies. The document describes this division as emphasizing the concepts of, “dispersion, flexibility, and mobility.” Reading the entire document seems almost like reading Feickert’s document today.
I strongly urge that the “experts” championing the “modular” brigades read this document, particularly the last two pages. The division did not meet expectations for several reasons, including our failure at understanding the damage from nuclear weapons. Most importantly, admitting failure did not result from a battlefield disaster, it resulted from reality on the ground.
As knowledge increased regarding the long-term damage from nuclear warfare, and our superiority over the Soviets decreased we refocused on conventional warfare. This required rebuilding the Army and the European scenario, and the Army developed combined arms brigades. Heavy brigades (armor and mechanized infantry) contained battalions of both armor and mechanized infantry and a “support slice.” This “slice” task organized other combat elements with the brigade: field artillery, combat engineers and air defense artillery. It further provides other CS and CSS elements: signal, medical, maintenance, quartermaster and other essential personnel. Under the AirLand Battle Doctrine this CS and CSS “slice” formed the forward support battalion (FSB) task organized with each maneuver brigade.
The Cold War era brigade called itself a brigade combat team (BCT) and functions as the “modular” force envisioned by those cited by Feickert. I know, I deployed with these type of commands for both CONUS and OCONUS training exercises and combat. The National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California focuses on combined arms training as it trains brigades and smaller units. Probably some “expert” somewhere decided against deploying divisions because of the nightmare of providing all the needs.
Feickert first asks, “Is this redesign necessary or desirable?” No, since the “redesigned force” demonstrates no significant change as it already exists within the current command structures. Feickert’s document proposes “transforming” the division and higher echelon headquarters into units of deployment, capable of commanding at least six modular brigades. The divisions I served in already possessed that capability, as did higher echelon headquarters. For example, I served with the 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized) , or 1st ID(M), at Fort Riley, Kansas twice during my career. At Fort Riley, the 1st ID(M) served under the command of III Corps at Fort Hood, Texas. Coincidently, III Corps commanded five divisions and the required supporting units in CONUS, spread across several states. When the 1st ID(M) deployed for its NATO mission it came under the command of VII Corps at Stuttgart, Germany. Ironically this occurred during Operation Desert Shield with no significant problems, except those imposed by the desert.
Within the BCT’s, the subordinate battalions task organized by cross-attaching armor and infantry companies, creating task forces. Within the companies they task organized armor and infantry platoons through similar cross-attachment, creating teams. When this occurred each affected subordinate element took its “support slice” with it. I experienced these task organizations throughout my career and found the experiences rewarding for the most part.
Most of the problems encountered proved administrative and logistical, based on inflexible high-tech systems designed by higher echelon “experts.” Most of these I experienced as an infantry company first sergeant when I conducted company resupply operations. For example, if the observer/controller/evaluator (OCE) assessed casualties the “system” prevented me from requesting replacements outside the MOS’es of my company. If a tank experienced maintenance problems, my vehicle, tracked, recovery (VTR) proved incapable of towing it. Eventually the Army eliminated this vehicle giving mechanized infantry units the same recovery vehicle as armor units. The “system” prevented me from ordering parts for tanks, since my table of organization and equipment (TO & E) did not list them. I solved these problems by contacting the first sergeant of the organic armor company of my attached platoon.
The military professionals cited by Feickert know of these BCT’s, or at least they should, which puzzles me. Why make such an ordeal out of something that already exists, except if one desires recognition, and possible future “rewards.” If I sound cynical, I am, for I know officers that weakened when offered such “rewards.” Politics affects the careers of these officers, both active and retired, and developing these “dynamic” strategies gets noticed. It seems that the document plans on the significant reduction in division-level and higher-level CS and CSS troops. Since the establishment of the support MOS’es following the Spanish-American War the Army’s leadership debated the “tooth-to-tail” ratio.
MacDonald describes the military planning before the US entered World War II and the projected number of troops needed. It seems that the Army severely under estimated the number of CSS troops needed for sustained combat operations. Army planners further under estimated the length of the logistical “tail,” that lay between CONUS and the front lines. Unfortunately Army planners did not learn this lesson very well, since they make the same mistakes today.
Regarding the number of CSS troops, budget constraints and personnel ceilings forced a major change during the post-Viet Nam era. The Army transferred most of its highly specialized CSS MOS’es into the reserve components. At most garrison installations civilian employees performed these duties, providing jobs for constituents, therefore the policy made sense. A good example, military postal units, since each CONUS military installation possesses a post office manned by the US Postal Service. It further included many medical, transportation, quartermaster, military police and other such units at corps and higher echelons. The theory stated that many of these people held civilian jobs in these areas and required minimal post-mobilization training.
The theory worked haphazardly during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm for a variety of reasons. Primarily I know of no extensive training, such as NTC rotations, that paired these units with the corps they supposedly supported. As previously stated no CONUS command exercised division and higher echelon maneuvers except on OCONUS deployments. However, these deployments decreased in number as funding decreased for these exercises.
Unfortunately the circumstances in the Middle East proved strikingly different from that experienced on previous deployments. Pentagon planners directed all training toward NATO or Korea where American forces stationed there maintained the required infrastructure. Prior OCONUS deployments outside these areas seemed short-term events for relatively small numbers of American forces, and no logistical challenge.
Operation Desert Shield became the largest short-notice deployment of the time, outside planned areas of operation. Primarily no infrastructure existed in the desert, forcing a change in the equipment needed by these CSS units. With no established support depots for drawing supplies, commands must deploy with a six-month supply. This severely limited the maneuverability of the combat units, and strained relations with the CSS units. Once in theater no one seemingly controlled the distribution of these CSS units and what corps they supported. Fortunately the American soldier “adapted, overcame and persevered,” in the words of Clint Eastwood’s character, Gunny Highway.
Feickert’s document implies that the reduction of CSS personnel immediately translates into combat personnel. Unfortunately many civilians with no military experience assume that we may interchange soldiers into any unit, and easily change their MOS. Such an interchange requires a significant amount of time and funding for retraining the affected soldiers. It requires even more time if this requires the retraining of officers and NCO’s. Then we must address the issue of female soldiers, currently prohibited from serving in combat arms units.
Of course we may “downsize” all of these “excess” support troops, just as we “downsized” during the 1990’s. We may transfer their positions into the reserve components, increasing the number of active duty positions for combat arms. However, training the new combat personnel takes additional time and money for fielding these new brigades. Then we must consider the benefit packages for these people “downsized” out of their jobs.
Unfortunately when we eliminate these CSS units we do not eliminate the requirement for their duties. Maintaining ever-increasingly high tech equipment requires an ever-increasingly skilled CSS force. As stated previously, we may transfer these units into the reserve components; however this does not solve the deployment issue. Mobilized reservists require post-mobilization training, jeopardizing the sustainment of a combat unit rapidly deployed into theater. When the Defense Department embraced the increased emphasis on reserve components in 1993, the “experts” estimated post-mobilization training at 60 days minimum.
This situation grows worse when one considers the theory of “civilianizing” these headquarters and CSS functions. Do these civilians deploy into combat theaters when the brigade deploys, or does the brigade deploy at a disadvantage? How about weapons and combat training for these civilians, and coverage under the Geneva Convention? When attacked, do these civilians fight back, or sit idly by as civilian employees? We already know that the terrorists torture and murder civilians just as they do military personnel. Civilian employees provide valuable services at garrison installations; however, in combat units we need our “brothers-in-arms” in these positions.
Throughout its history the US Army used division and higher-level echelon headquarters, beginning with the Continental Army. When we declared our independence the superpower England did not simply acknowledge defeat, they tried suppressing this rebellion. While revisionist historians embellish the stories of American militia using guerrilla tactics, reality proves very different. Winning our independence required that General George Washington field an army capable of defeating the British in open battle.
While comparing Washington’s divisions with ours today seems ludicrous, Washington faced one of the same problems we face today, too few troops. Although in 1776 Congress authorized 60,000 men for the Continental Army, Washington rarely mustered half that number. He won the Revolution with a small hard-core of Continentals supported by large numbers of hastily organized militia.
These militiamen played a significant role during the war, however, the enduring “militia myth” of history ignores the flaws. Often when mobilized these men’s terms of service proved too short for adequate training and discipline. In the true spirit of democracy they came into camp and departed again as they saw fit, regardless of the military situation. While they stoutly defended their home territory from invading British, they often refused any service outside their state. This often frustrated Washington and other Continental commanders, and hindered operations, sometimes causing disaster. Allan Reed Millett’s For the Common Defense states that Washington much preferred the long service Continentals for launching offensive action.
Washington further found frustration with Congress as they inadequately provided him with men and materiel. Understanding his subordination under civil authority Washington withstood their malfeasance, micro-management and at least one underhanded attempt at removing him. It seems that the more things change, the more they remain the same.
Lessons learned from the British experience prove useful today as our leaders struggle with a global conflict. Although a superpower in constant conflict with its rivals, England proved inadequately prepared for war. The cost of winning the previous global war, called the French and Indian War in America, and defending its expanded Empire almost bankrupted England. Paying the bills for this war provided the seed for the American Revolution, “taxation without representation.”
England remained in almost constant conflict with its chief rival, France, and France’s ally, Spain. This required significant forces committed around the world for defending its Empire, and keeping those forces properly supplied. England suffered an “intelligence failure” as it deemed the American Revolution merely a “rebellion” of an unorganized “colonial rabble.” With an eye on its European rivals, England dispatched the minimum number of its troops, supplemented by mercenaries from its German allies. It placed too much reliance on American Loyalists, over estimating their numbers, and Indian allies, over estimating their reliability.
When France entered the war, England withdrew troops from North America for defending other parts of the Empire. The last official combat of this global struggle resulted in a British victory over the French in the Caribbean. American independence resulted from England focusing on defending the rest of its Empire from France, Spain and Holland. Historical evidence exists that England believed American independence merely a “temporary” situation, easily resolved after defeating the Europeans.
Following the Revolution Congress disbanded the Continental Army, fearing the “usurpation of power” a “standing army” represented. The infant nation soon found itself at the mercy of the superpowers of the day, England and France. Few historians mention this period in our history, when our nation almost collapsed before it began. Our leaders suddenly found themselves in a hostile world dominated by the military might of the Europeans. As these nations struggled for global dominance they trampled on American neutrality and seized American citizens and property. We further found ourselves at the mercy of the Barbary Pirates, the ancestors of those we face today.
This proves that despite the rhetoric of some of the politically powerful, the world did not exist in perfect harmony before American independence. It further proves that without the protection of credible armed forces the nation’s economic growth and prosperity suffered. Furthermore, since our independence external sources continuously affected our foreign and domestic policies, even when we ignored them.
Without an army, and without a functioning government, the nation suffered under the harassment of England and Spain. Both countries controlled territory that bordered the US, and incited Indian depredations on the frontier. Both nations coveted our largely undeveloped and undefended western frontier, and initiated covert operations for seizing it. Despite Indian raids and external threats the politicians feared more the “threat” of a “standing army.” Fortunately these European powers proved more interested in European affairs than conquering the vulnerable American nation.
Congress reluctantly formed the First United States Regiment in 1784, consisting of 700 personnel. The history of this unit reveals an under strength unit spread across the primitive frontier poorly managed by the politicians. Waging war on the frontier proved equally as difficult as we find waging it today in foreign countries. “Experts” at the time developed a doctrine that augmented this small army with short-term militia for campaigns. It suffered a devastating defeat against the Miami Indians in 1790 and Congress responded by doubling the size of the Army.
This army, supported by about 2,000 hastily assembled militia and volunteers suffered the worst defeat against the Indians in our history. Alan D. Gaff’s Bayonets in the Wilderness provides a good description of this debacle. In November, 1791 this hastily organized, poorly supplied and undisciplined army suffered over 800 casualties in battle with the Miami Indian Confederacy. It also initiated the first congressional investigation of the Army in our nation’s history.
Congress bore a significant portion of the responsibility for this disaster, largely through neglect and unsatisfactory funding. Subsequently they again doubled the size of the army, now authorizing over 5,000 personnel. Realizing the ineffectiveness of the state militias, Congress passed the Militia Act of 1792, standardizing the organization and federal authority over state militias. Congress further addressed the graft and corruption in the Quartermaster and Commissary Departments, run by civilian contractors. Unfortunately all of this came too late for the over 800 casualties and the frontier families that suffered following this defeat.
Major General Anthony Wayne, “Mad Anthony” of Revolutionary War fame, commanded this force, called the Legion of the United States. Wayne first tried moving his Legion as far from civilian influence as possible, about twenty-two miles downstream from Pittsburgh. Ironically, Wayne initiated the first formal combined arms training, maneuvering infantry, cavalry and artillery together. He trained this force for about two years and did not advance without the proper training and supplies.
Gaff describes many of the problems encountered by Wayne, which jeopardized the success of his mission. This included dissension among his officers, including his second-in-command, Brigadier General James Wilkinson, secretly serving as a Spanish agent. Ignoring demands from Congress that he move “immediately,” Wayne understood that he must win, which required extensive preparations. Despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles, the Legion decisively defeated the Miami Confederacy and brought about a twenty-year peace. It further confirmed our independence; England vacated the forts on American soil, and Spain opened the Mississippi River for commerce.
The Army then began a history of expanding its numbers during wartime and decreasing them during peacetime. Each time the Army created division and higher level commands during war and eliminated them afterward. While this sounds logical, it created problems during the wars, which often resulted in defeat and high casualties. During each inter-war period Congress reduced military spending, leaving our Armed Forces under strength and unprepared. The state militias mostly existed on paper, and when mobilized required extensive time and resources for achieving standards.
These deficiencies became paramount with large-scale maneuvers during the Civil War in both Union and Confederate armies. Officers possessed little knowledge and experience for these levels of command and the staff work entailed. In the rapidly expanding Army these newly formed units needed officers, most of whom proved as inexperienced as their soldiers. Many of these officers’ only qualification proved political influence, and the soldiers elected their company officers.
For higher levels of command the Army gave most of its Regular officers “brevet” (temporary) promotions. This makes sense, using your most experienced officers; however, captains that commanded companies suddenly found themselves commanding regiments and higher-level organizations. No permanent staffs existed, and the commanders pulled the officers and men needed from the “hide” of combat units. None of them possessed the experience at establishing the large encampments and the functions required for maintaining field sanitation. They also lacked experience at the administrative and logistical needs of their commands, and “support troops” did not exist. Maintaining the “logistical tail” required detailing soldiers from combat units, or hiring civilians, often with unsatisfactory results. Fortunately the American soldier adapted and perfected the art of foraging from local farms.
By the time the commanders and their staffs learned their duties their commands suffered thousands of casualties. Additionally, more men died from sickness and disease than from combat wounds, a fact that did not change until the 20th Century. Unfortunately, our civilian leaders at the time focused more on political bickering while hundreds of thousands of American soldiers died.
The end of the Civil War brought about a rapid demobilization of the US Army. Robert M. Utley, in his book Frontier Regulars, succinctly describes this demobilization, which ignored all of the Army’s responsibilities. From a force of over one million soldiers, it quickly eroded into an under strength force of about 30,000. Congress, reeling from the enormous cost of the Civil War in both lives and treasure passed parsimonious military budgets. This reduced force must now both police the “reconstructed” South and defend the Western frontier.
Despite technological advances in weaponry and equipment, Congress demanded that the Army use all the “surplus” of the Civil War. One congressional source touts the 1866 “Act to increase and fix the Military Peace Establishment of the United States” as creating a “hard and lean” force. Sounds like the “streamlining” and “more efficient” rhetoric so often used in the 20th Century. History reveals the same results as we face today: under strength units spread too thin, inadequate budgets and a resourceful enemy.
In this demobilization “brevetted” officers suddenly found themselves at their lower pre-war rank, or suddenly “retired.” Congress helped create turmoil in the Army officer corps by micro-managing the percentage of officers from West Point, Volunteers, exceptional NCO’s and civilian appointments. Furthermore, Congress instigated chaos by constantly changing the organization of the various departments and the number of combat units. It further reduced pay, benefits and promotion opportunities for economic reasons, reducing the incentive for serving.
By July, 1870 Congress passed legislation refusing any funding for any personnel strength above 27,000. Ironically, this Army waged a series of wars against a potential hostile force of approximately 270,000 Indians. Here the Army faced frustrations with another federal bureaucracy, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Conceived with the best of intentions, the BIA “experts” often knew little about the Plains Indians, little about the frontier and sometimes proved corrupt. Many soldiers of the time criticized the policy that allowed “hostiles” the sanctuary of the reservation for rest and refit. Through either naïve policies, or illegal trading, when these “hostiles” departed the reservations they carried with them repeating rifles.
Utley states that at several times Army leaders tried countering the congressional restrictions, often citing their personal experiences. They sought changes in the number of troops used for non-combat roles for increasing those available for combat units. Congress stubbornly maintained the ceiling on personnel strength and Army leaders then proposed reducing the number of regiments for filling under strength companies. These experiences sound remarkably like much of the debate today, as our Army desperately tried meeting its vast responsibilities.
For over thirty years the Army deployed in small garrisons at about 200 posts throughout the American West. Unfortunately personnel and budget constraints placed the Army at a distinct disadvantage when faced with an Indian insurrection. When trouble erupted in one area the Army stripped other areas of troops for launching an expedition. These expeditions formed organizations of troops unaccustomed with working together, and created ad hoc commands. The senior officer normally took command, inciting petty jealousies, and created staffs from the “hide” of the already under strength units.
Arguably the worst problem with these expeditions resulted from the opportunities it provided for “troublemakers” in other areas. These areas, stripped of troops for the distant expedition, provided just the right circumstances for another insurrection. This subsequently required another expedition, organized much like the first, for addressing the new uprising. Colonel Philippe Regis de Trobriand of the 13th Infantry observed that the Army spent more money on transportation than if it maintained adequate forces. Unfortunately, the politicians virtually shirked their duties regarding the Army and this cycle continued for over thirty years. Do the nation and the Army today require thirty years for fighting the terrorists?
Waging the Indian wars revealed a major problem with military operations in hostile territory, the logistical “tail.” Army expeditions of any size found themselves tied down by a long wagon train, operated by civilian employees. The West lacked significant transportation networks for moving men and materiel, making assembling ample supplies of prime importance. Unlike the agricultural rich South of the Civil War, the few settlers produced little food for foraging. Fighting in foreign countries, often with few resources, provides the same problems for our forces today.
With the end of the Indian Campaigns, the Army tried consolidating its units for better command and control and better training. Ironically, the politicians fought this, demanding that the Army remain in small numbers at these small posts. The main reason for the political interference, maintaining the “local economy,” and employment for constituents, not combat readiness.
The circumstances of the Spanish-American War forced a change in the “political winds,” and determined a change in strategy. First, it required significant time and resources for assembling and organizing the scattered Regular Army regiments into higher echelon commands. Again, the Army created ad hoc headquarters with ad hoc commanders and staffs. The under strength Regular Army forced the rapid mobilization of Volunteers, much like the Civil War.
Similar with the Civil War this mobilization proved chaotic with the resources and capabilities not matching the patriotic fervor. The records of the time prove as chaotic as the assembling of the forces necessary. Sketchy sources indicate that about one million men rallied in towns across the US in the patriotic fervor. However, most of them lacked weapons and other essential equipment and the Army accepted about 200,000, mostly organized militia units.
Most of the Volunteers received obsolete weapons left over from the Civil War, and these weapons proved in poor condition. The Army encountered the same problems with officers and organization of these Volunteers as during the Civil War. Despite the favorable media coverage and historical revisionism, the actual performance of these Volunteers did not meet expectations.
The ground campaigns of the Spanish-American War revealed several shortfalls in the Army. Uniforms proved unsuited for the tropical climate, logistical operations often fell behind and the weaponry and tactics seemed inferior. Despite these shortcomings the US achieved victory, partly because a declining Spain lacked the ability for power projection. Something we risk today in our never-ending drive for reducing our military budgets, and therefore our capabilities. Following this war the US now possessed a colonial empire and needed more military forces for defending it.
Severely criticized for the poor organization of the mobilization and deployment of troops, the Army initiated several needed changes. I cover the deployment problems experienced by the Army during this time later in the article. For now I focus on the issues controlled by the Army, such as the establishment of a war college for educating officers. In 1903 the Army formally established its first General Staff and began reforming tactics and logistics. The Army division replaced the corps as the lowest level of combined arms organization.
The division further became an administrative and logistical organization as well as a tactical one. For the first time the Army organized field units for signal, medical, transportation, military police, engineers and ordnance. This reflected the technological developments of our potential European adversaries and integrated them into the tactical framework. The Army realized that modern warfare required CS and CSS troops for ensuring victory.
Reflecting on the performance of the Volunteers, Congress passed the Dick Act of 1903. This required that National Guard units achieve the same organizational standards as the Regular Army within five years. Congress increased funding for the Guard for weapons and equipment and attached Regulars for providing assistance. This became the first federal legislation standardizing the “militia” since the Militia Act of 1792.
The United States underwent some changes on the international stage, entering the realm of “first class nations.” Although not a superpower it made the US a nation that needed consideration. If a superpower, or other powerful nation, contemplated an action it must now contemplate the reaction of the US. Although the US still distrusted the European nations, they now must engage in the global “chess game.” This required that the US field armed forces of equal capabilities as the Europeans for establishing credibility.
Unfortunately as time passed and memories of war faded, so did the interest in maintaining combat readiness. Military budgets shrank, as did the pay and benefits for soldiers and the Army personnel strength declined. Although the division remained the main tactical unit on paper, command and staff exerted little control. Official Army documents of the time state that the 1st Division of 1913 occupied fourteen different installations. Subordinate headquarters functioned independently and division headquarters of the time assembled only for “provisional,” hastily mobilized forces.
Fortunately a military disaster did not reverse this policy; however events did reveal shortcomings in combat readiness. Mexico underwent a series of revolutions that threatened our Southwestern border, forcing the first mobilization in March, 1911. The Army’s lack of plans and of transportation took sixteen days for assembling one division. When assembled this division needed an influx of recruits for achieving two-thirds of its authorized strength. Furthermore, each subordinate command possessed different types of camp equipment, incompatible with other units. Most “experts” did not consider Mexico a “worthy threat,” no combat resulted from this mobilization and little changed.
A second mobilization of a division on the Mexican border in 1913 demonstrated changes made within the Army. Within three days the 2nd Division assembled on the Texas Gulf Coast, however it lacked sufficient field artillery, medical, engineer, signal and quartermaster units. Again, no combat resulted, circumstances remained largely unchanged and only minor changes occurred.
The most famous of these border incidents provoked the Punitive Expedition of 1916 when Pancho Villa raided Columbus, New Mexico. Similarities between the Villa raids into the US and al Qaeda attacks against us prove uncanny. “The Punitive Expedition,” part of the “Doughboy Center” website at www.worldwar1.com/dbc/punitive.htm, provide in-depth coverage of this expedition. Brigadier General John J. Pershing formed a provisional division and invaded Mexico in pursuit of the bandit. The units of this division came from mobilized Regular Army units, including for the first time air units.
Pershing experienced frustrations from restrictions imposed upon him by the State Department, deception from Mexican officials and open hostilities from Mexican citizens. Although American troops defeated most of the bandit bands they engaged, Villa always escaped capture. The most important accomplishments of this expedition include combat experience for American soldiers, large-scale maneuvers that included combined arms tactics and extensive logistical support. Pershing and senior US commanders learned the lessons needed for exercising high-level command, including the use of modern motor transport.
Violence continued on the border forcing the mobilization of National Guard divisions from several states. This demonstrated several flaws with existing war plans, and the poor standards of many of the mobilized units. Only two divisions outside the Southwest eventually mobilized, the 6th from New York and the 7th from Pennsylvania. Although this mobilization revealed many flaws, it prepared the Army for a much larger mobilization, World War I.
Again, the forced changes on the Army did not result from a military disaster; however they delayed American forces’ entry into combat. The US Congress declared war against Germany in April, 1917; however American troops did not deploy until June. American leaders struggled at assembling regiments into divisions, the first called the 1st Expeditionary Division. This division consisted of Regular Army regiments, many with Punitive Expedition experience, achieving combat strength through an influx of new recruits.
The American Army at the time lacked most of the technological advances in warfare that European armies routinely used. It further lacked in artillery of the caliber used, and must obtain them from the French. Following training with the new weapons and the new tactics, elements of the 1st Division entered combat in October, 1917. Unfortunately problems with mobilization, deployment and training for modern warfare delayed the participation of significant American forces until mid-1918.
Many critics of the time call the division of this time, “unwieldy,” and “too big,” and historical evidence of this exists. However, some of this stems from insufficient CSS troops for providing the necessary logistical support. Logistical support that for the first time crossed an ocean infested with a “new technology,” enemy submarines. The limitations of the French transportation network caused further problems, those outside influences again.
The “square” division chain of command pyramided down into two brigades, each with two regiments and a machinegun battalion. Combat support consisted of a field artillery brigade with one 155 mm. howitzer regiment and two 75 mm gun regiments. A division also received an engineer regiment, signal battalion and quartermaster trains. This seems not much different from the division organization of the Cold War era, except for aviation units. Despite current revisionism, those Cold War era divisions executed maneuvers with few problems.
Following the experiences of World War I the Army maintained several “permanent” divisions. However, often the subordinate elements did not occupy the same installations and rarely executed maneuvers together. This changed somewhat when World War II began in Europe with several large-scale maneuvers. Today most of these “large-scale” exercises occur through command post exercises (CPX) using computers. These exercises do not use combat units and often do not accurately reflect all the human and mechanical errors of actual exercises.
MacDonald aptly describes the mobilization for World War II, the largest military mobilization in our history. I already discussed some of the problems we faced before we entered the war, and focus now on tactical changes within the division. Learning from the campaigns of 1939 and 1940 we made several changes that increased our use of technology. These changes arose from the war already raging in Europe, and disregarded any domestic budgetary restrictions.
We changed the tactical structure by eliminating the brigade-level command and reducing the number of regiments in the division. This structure became the RCT that I previously discussed, with three in each infantry division. The civilian leadership made winning the war the nation’s highest priority through the mass mobilization of the nation’s assets. Another lesson for our leaders today, during the war our Defense Budget received the highest amount of funding ever.
The “Day of Infamy” at Pearl Harbor occurred for a variety of reasons, all of them relevant today. Despite the military weakness of our nation in June, 1940 we possessed some very ambitious war plans, code-named RAINBOW. War Plan ORANGE covered a war with Japan, culminating in the US Navy’s victory in the “Great Sea Battle.” First, American “intelligence,” really the embassy staff in Tokyo, discovers the deployment of the Japanese Fleet. Properly alerted, the US Pacific Fleet sails boldly from Pearl Harbor and defeats the Japanese far from Hawaii, ending the war. Unfortunately, Japanese leaders did not follow this plan, and proved all of our “experts” wrong.
Then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) focused his priority on Europe, where Germany already conquered all except England. For meeting this threat he ordered the transfer of almost one-fourth of the Pacific Fleet for facing the Germans. American “intelligence” did not exist, except what the Army and Navy attaches gathered in their closely monitored travels. We did gather intelligence through “eavesdropping” on Japan’s communications; however they “lost” the Japanese Fleet in late November, 1941. Even our “advanced technology” failed as atmospheric conditions blocked signal transmissions between Washington and Hawaii early on December 7, 1941. Furthermore, no one expected an attack on Hawaii since the “experts” declared a carrier-based air attack “impossible.”
The Army’s increased personnel strength during the war created several higher echelon commands: corps, army, army group and theater. These levels of command proved necessary for waging a global war on multiple fronts and exercising command and control. Each level of command contained the prerequisite number of headquarters and support personnel for performing its mission. Under today’s personnel constraints we lack the personnel for such command levels, and limit our ability at waging a global war.
The large number of personnel and units provided for sustained operations, something we seemingly lack today. Most sources of the time state a ratio of seven support soldiers for each combat soldier. These troops sustained the line of communications from CONUS across the oceans and ended at the front lines. The higher-level command structures controlled the flow of men and materiel into the combat zones. They further controlled the movement of combat units within the theater providing depth and flexibility. The number of combat units allowed for the relieving of units engaged in prolonged battle and replacing them with fresh units. This maintained the operational momentum and kept constant pressure on the enemy. Today we lack many of these capabilities, or else we do not use them for some inexplicable reason.
When World War II ended the US found itself a superpower, largely by default and the demise of England and France. Pre-war isolationism did not prepare our leaders for the challenges of meeting these new responsibilities. The US now found itself as the only nation capable of addressing the problems created by the devastation of the war. A power vacuum existed throughout much of the world because of this devastation, and the US must exercise leadership. We further found ourselves facing a new threat from a nation we previously considered an ally, the Soviet Union.
I compare this new role for the US with that of the town marshal in the popular Western movies. No longer an “ordinary citizen,” capable of hiding indoors under “isolationism,” the marshal must defend his “town.” This required enforcing the law on “unsavory elements” within the town and defending against “outlaws” from outside as well. Marshals must combine all the characteristics of earning the respect of “ordinary citizens” and instilling fear in the “outlaws.”
Unfortunately the US proved initially inept at this role and unprepared for the Soviet aggression. Our leaders rapidly demobilized our military forces, naively believing the UN capable of solving the world’s problems. Once again the “experts” assured us with their “buzz words” of the soundness of this policy. Ironically on the eve of the Korean War the Army consisted of ten combat divisions, just like now. We relied on our technological advantage, particularly our sole possession of the atomic bomb, for deterring Soviet aggression. This ended in 1949 when the Soviet Union exploded their own atomic bomb, largely through the treason of American communists. This demonstrates that even “experts,” and those working on the Manhattan Project met all the prerequisites of “experts,” commit treason.
During the years between the end of World War II and the beginning of the Korean War our nation grew arrogant and complacent. Reduced military budgets prioritized our efforts toward developing nuclear bombs and air supremacy, relegating ground forces into a supporting role. The “experts” insisted that the horrendous cost of World War II obviously prohibited another ground war among “civilized” nations. They further rationalized that this included the Soviet Union, who suffered over 26 million dead. Therefore, the Army degenerated into an under strength, ill-equipped, poorly trained organization of limited capabilities.
Unfortunately American leaders during this time proved themselves naïve in the challenging world of realpolitik. This German term loosely interprets into engaging in national affairs based on reality rather than on strict ideology. We initially found ourselves stymied by the treachery of the Soviet Union as it established communist satellite governments in occupied countries.
As a World War II “ally,” and permanent member of the UN Security Council, the Soviet Union held veto power. This prevented any action by the UN regarding Soviet aggression, particularly when disguised as “the will of the people.” Communist parties achieved increasing power in war-torn France and Italy, and the Greek communists started a civil war.
While the US focused on the Cold War confrontation in Europe it ignored the spreading of this conflict into Asia. The Chinese Communist Party defeated the Nationalists in 1949, and the Nationalists withdrew onto Taiwan. This partially occurred because several “experts” recommended ending all support for our ally, and permanent Security Council member, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. Other “experts” dismissed intelligence of a rumored alliance between China and the Soviet Union. This alliance became formal in February, 1950, leaving the “experts” wondering what happened.
Communist-led “wars of liberation” against colonial powers erupted throughout Southeast Asia against European colonial powers soon after World War II ended. This placed the US in a dilemma; support its “self-determination” policy, or support our NATO allies against communist-led “revolutions.”
North Korea emerged as a Soviet satellite, something that seemed inconsequential at the time for the Americans. The US responded by drawing a “line” from Alaska, through Japan, the Philippines and ending at Australia. In January, 1950 then-Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, publicly stated that everything west of that line lay outside America’s “sphere of influence.” This “telegraphing” of our strategy became a hallmark of our policies as a superpower, informing our enemies of our intentions. Why we continue doing this, and naively believe that the enemy does not adapt their strategy accordingly, confounds me.
Acheson probably made this statement based on the realities of the time, particularly the eroding combat readiness of our forces. Besides, most of these conflicts occurred in regions controlled by our NATO allies, England and France. None of the “experts” believed that these “insurgents” stood a chance against the military might of these nations. Again I ask, why make a public announcement of your weakness in such a volatile world? This started the three-way conferences between Soviet dictator, Josef Stalin, Chinese dictator Mao ze-dong and North Korean dictator, Kim Il-sung.
Meanwhile the Soviets built North Korea into the model satellite state complete with its most modern weaponry. This included T-34 tanks, YAK fighter aircraft and heavy artillery for waging offensive warfare, with Soviet advisors at every command level. Korean veterans that served in both the Red Army and the Chinese Army filled the North Korean People’s Army (NKPA).
Despite public statements by Kim for “liberating” South Korea the US naively left South Korea unprepared. We purposely denied the Republic of Korea Army (ROKA) tanks, heavy artillery and fighter aircraft, for “discouraging offensive action.” A 700-man Korean Military Advisory Group (KMAG) provided all the advisors for the entire ROKA. The war plan regarding an invasion of South Korea called for evacuating all American personnel and observing from Japan.
The Korean War found our nation shocked and unprepared, as demonstrated with the costly defeats in the opening days. Then-President Harry S. Truman committed American forces based on a UN resolution, without a congressional declaration of war. No one challenged this commitment since everyone believed in the “invincibility” of American military might.
I served two tours of duty in Korea with the 2nd ID and know its history well. Additionally I acquired an official Army history by Roy E. Appleman, U.S. Army in the Korean War: South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu, concerning the opening campaigns. The American high command in Japan scrambled for finding a combat force capable of deploying. It settled on a force called Task Force Smith, created from elements of the 21st Infantry and A Battery, 52nd Field Artillery Battalion. I also served with the 21st Infantry for three years at Schofield Barrack, Hawaii and know this history well.
The “superpower” US, confident of its military supremacy following its leadership role in defeating the Axis Powers, found itself unprepared. First we lacked a combat-ready force for meeting such contingencies and lacked the resources for deploying forces from Japan into Korea. Smith’s under strength command received “fillers” from other commands, and the available ammunition proved inadequate. Despite significant numbers of officers and NCO’s with combat experience, five years of occupation duty eroded combat readiness. The Air Force only possessed six cargo planes in Japan for deploying this force into Korea. For deploying “follow on forces,” the Far East Command commandeered ships from Japan’s Self-Defense Force.
Despite these shortcomings no one anticipated anything other than a minor “police action.” Task Force Smith deployed with only two days worth of ammunition, rations and other supplies. General Douglas MacArthur called this deployment “an arrogant show of force,” believing the appearance of American forces sufficient for frightening the North Koreans.
Unfortunately those inconsiderate North Koreans did not play their part in the plan when facing the “invincible” Americans. First, the North Koreans did not know that they engaged American forces at this position near Osan, South Korea. When they encountered stiff resistance, they merely maneuvered around Task Force Smith’s exposed flanks and attacked. With no other friendly forces nearby, the isolated Americans must either retreat or suffer annihilation.
American leaders learned valuable lessons regarding arrogance, complacency and combat readiness at a high cost for American soldiers. We further learned that the Soviet Union’s capabilities, particularly the atomic bomb, severely restricted our options. Even our air supremacy did not meet its expectations, as it did not detect the advance of Chinese forces. The lesson here, our enemies know of our strengths, particularly since we broadcast them, and develop tactics for negating them. MacArthur and his staff bear the blame for some of this, dismissing reports of captured Chinese “volunteers.”
We further learned of the limitations of the UN and our “Free World” allies, including the impotence of “consensus warfare.” The UN Security Council passed a resolution condemning this aggression and dispatching combat troops, however reality demonstrated weaknesses. Sixteen nations eventually committed troops, however few possessed significant military forces, nor did their populations desire increasing their forces. Therefore only a few committed them in numbers above one battalion and attached them with an American division. With the Soviet threat just across the “Iron Curtain,” our European allies increasingly saw Korea as insignificant.
Our leaders must understand how this affects our reliance on “allies” today. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union these “allies,” that already possessed small militaries, imitated our example and “downsized.” During the 1990’s our NATO allies proved incapable of settling the problems in the Balkans. Furthermore, I hear news reports today regarding the ineffectiveness of our NATO allies’ troops in Afghanistan. Today, just as during the Korean War, our military forces must bear the brunt of the burden, and the casualties.
Unfortunately the Chinese faced no such problem, who initially intervened with about 300,000 troops in late 1950. With millions of replacements, the Chinese did not worry about casualties, from either battle or the harsh winter. China’s principal ally, the Soviets, faced no problem meeting manpower demands, particularly when they threatened actions in other theaters. The US negotiated an armistice for ending the fighting and emerged from the experience severely chastened.
The Soviet Union also learned from the experience; namely that overt aggression caused an international response. Therefore, the Soviet dictator, Nikita Khrushchev, announced a new policy of supporting “wars of liberation.” China also learned a valuable lesson, their massive advantage in manpower negated our technological advantage. They further believed their aggressive use of force proved the US a “paper tiger,” setting the stage for future wars.
Fortunately the US did not demobilize its forces following the Korean War; however it did reduce them. Korea demonstrated for our leaders that a global threat existed that required adequate military preparations. American strategy became one of “containment,” containing communism where it now existed through deterrence.
Unfortunately the US focused most of its military budget, again, on nuclear weapons and air power. “Experts” considered the Korean War an “anomaly,” something that must not change our overall strategy. Subsequently Eisenhower reduced the Army’s personnel strength in favor of nuclear “massive retaliation” for deterring the Soviet threat.
This changed under JFK, shocked by the Cuban Missile Crisis, who adopted a “flexible response” strategy. Originally the idea of General Maxwell Taylor, Kennedy eagerly adopted it. It provided the President a “flexible” policy between “massive retaliation” and retreating before aggression. This included the formation of several “enhanced brigades,” on the model envisioned in Feickert’s article.
The doctrine regarding these brigades remains somewhat sketchy, I believe JFK intended them as a “rapid deployment force.” I envision these brigades as capable of rapidly seizing an airport or seaport in a hostile environment, called “brushfire wars.” This allowed for the slower deployment of larger conventional forces in a secure environment and assembling larger units. These brigades also seemed more capable of supporting Special Forces, engaged in counterinsurgency operations during this time.
I found records that the Army eventually formed eight of these independent brigades and five served in Viet Nam. In 1967 the Army formed three of these brigades into a division, the 23rd Infantry (Americal) Division. Only four of these brigades remained on active duty following the Viet Nam War as the Army refocused on Europe.
The Army’s renewed emphasis on brigades seemingly comes from a refusal on the part of our nation’s leaders for increasing active duty strength. This makes the Global War On Terrorism (GWOT), as Feickert’s document names it, the first war in our history without a significant increase in personnel. I do not know who continuously squashes calls for increasing the Army’s numbers, but it sounds like another “expert.” We found the Army’s numbers incapable of meeting its peacetime requirements during the 1990’s. As previously stated, this started the unprecedented peacetime deployments of National Guard and Reserve units. Furthermore, I mentioned the warning signs issued in 1996, squelched probably for political reasons.
Then-Candidate George W. Bush used this erosion of our military forces during his presidential campaign. Both he and his vice presidential nominee, former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, promised the military, “Help is on the way.” With both houses of Congress controlled by Republicans, a reversal of “downsizing” seemed eminent. In the past the Republican Party “owned” the issue of military readiness, largely because of the Reagan legacy. For some reason the politics of Bush’s “new tone” placed military readiness in the background.
We began the GWOT in 2001 with this military force already worn down by almost a decade of deployments. Our Pentagon planners, more “experts,” seemingly used the rosiest of scenarios for developing the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Unfortunately our enemies did not read the plan, or uphold their part in it, how rude of them.
Since the war bogged down I continuously heard that our field commanders received “everything they needed.” If true, it means that our military commanders under estimated our enemies’ capabilities, or over estimated ours. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stated, “You go to war with the Army you have,” or words to that effect. This proved true in almost every war in which the US engaged, often resulting in early defeats. However, we then built the Army we needed for achieving victory, neither Rumsfeld nor his successor did this.
Rumsfeld encouraged our military leaders and troops “to think outside the box” for overcoming obstacles. Unfortunately “thinking outside the box” does not create troops where none exist, despite the best-prepared Power Point briefing. Once the situation in Iraq changed Rumsfeld and Pentagon planners remained inside their “box.”
Pentagon planners and other “experts” continue waging a war under peacetime constraints, inadequate peacetime constraints as I previously stated. Of course if one of these “experts” thought “outside the box,” it might eliminate their “box.” That means a reduction in their power base, “face time” with the “boss” and possible elimination of their job.
This thinking does not include our civilian political leaders, both in the Executive and Legislative branches. Military strategy originates in the White House, yes with JCS advice, but the president determines national strategy. I do not know what advice Bush received, but I believe his advisors render him a disservice. Furthermore, if the plan continued failing and my Sec Def recommended “staying the course,” he must go.
Bush does not demonstrate the example of a wartime commander-in-chief, nor does he build public support through his “bully pulpit.” Soon after 9/11 he seemingly prioritized his economic policies, much as LBJ prioritized his Great Society over the Viet Nam War. Maybe the supposed ease with which the Taliban collapsed lulled everyone into a false sense of security.
The President sure sounded tough during the “State of the Union” address when he addressed the “Axis of Evil.” Predictably, Bush’s opponents soon sounded a shrill alarm at this pronouncement, calling him a “cowboy.” These opponents included members of the “loyal opposition” Democrats, alarmed at the President’s high approval ratings. Again, instead of using his “bully pulpit” for mobilizing the country behind him, Bush seemed unconcerned. He did receive congressional approval for the liberation of Iraq and support from nations called the “coalition of the willing.” However, two-thirds of the “Axis of Evil” still threaten us, and we may add another, Syria.
“Thinking outside the box” for Congress means changing their priorities and placing their duties above their political agendas. It might mean placing a higher priority on winning the war than buying votes through social spending. More importantly, if the nation achieves victory in the war, it might increase the popularity of a president from a different party. None of the above options promote their political careers or ensure their reelection.
Why mention our civilian leadership in an article concerning “modular” brigades for the Army? I mention this because Feickert wrote this document for members of Congress, the subtitle states “Issues for Congress.” The document seemingly portrays Congress as some benevolent sages deeply concerned with national security. Unfortunately I believe the facts betray them as self-serving political hacks more concerned with their reelection. Ultimately those pompous political hacks that I see sitting on their committees make the final decision. They make decisions regarding serious issues of national security, of which they know very little. Unfortunately this trend of “less than cordial” relations” between the Army and the Congress began early in our history.
Most people know the stories of the suffering of the Continental Army at Valley Forge. The Continental Army fought the British superpower as an under strength, under paid, poorly equipped and poorly supplied force. At that time Congress lacked the authority for compelling supplies from the states, and proved inexperienced at managing those they received.
Throughout our history Congress vacillated between indifference and deliberate neglect with its peacetime legislation concerning the Armed Forces. Unfortunately many of the nation’s Executive Branch leaders proved equally negligent in their constitutional duties. Without statesmen in our civilian leadership the Armed Forces remain handcuffed, despite the external threats.
When our nation adopted the Constitution the preamble stated “provide for the common defense,” as the federal government’s responsibility. In outlining the duties of both the President and the Congress the Constitution specifically mentions the Armed Forces. However, the Constitution does not mention any of the domestic social programs that the politicians prioritize today.
Even during this time of war spending for social programs grows exponentially, while the Defense Department economizes. The Defense Department competes for federal funding as just another government agency, and the commander-in-chief demands no change. We find ourselves debating the issues of “modular” brigades because military personnel make up a small voting bloc. One veteran (I forget his name) described the GWOT as “a military at war and a nation at peace.”
For further evidence we must revisit the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the national emergency it generated. The federal government poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the region devastated by the hurricane. This included military assets and placing the whole effort under Army command, General Russel Honore. For the record, I served under Captain Honore in C Co. 4th Battalion, 54th Infantry during the late-1970’s.
I do not begrudge the victims of this disaster the aid they received, I merely demonstrate changing American attitudes. No one in the federal government questioned any aspect of the aid offered for the Gulf Coast. However, when providing for our Armed Forces waging a war, the heated debate delays needed funds. This change in attitude regarding the priority for waging war disturbs me, a change that began following World War II. For some reason we devoted steadily decreasing resources in the wars of our nation, as if victory seemed less important. Today our troops must perform with less for preventing any inconvenience on the rest of us.
The GWOT remains primarily a ground war, and ground wars require a significant number of troops. This means the Army, the branch of service that holds the primary responsibility for waging these wars. I stated previously that the Army suffered a 40% reduction in active duty strength during the 1990’s. This roughly coincides proportionately with the losses suffered in the aforementioned disastrous 1791 battle with the Miami Indians.
Rebuild the Army into the Army of a nation that calls itself a superpower, capable of waging a global war. Throughout my Army career offensive doctrine dictated the need for a three-to-one ratio between attacker and defender for victory. This means on the frontline, not the total number of forces serving on active duty. Since World War II we never achieved that level, relying instead on our technological edge as a “force multiplier.” We only achieved victory in three instances: Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada, Operation Just Cause in Panama and Operation Desert Storm. Ironically, we achieved these victories through the resources and effort expended during the Reagan defense buildup.
Common sense tells me that every senior commander remembers the Army before it “downsized,” and wishes for those deactivated divisions. Feickert’s article claims that this “modular” brigade concept structures the Army for waging the GWOT. Unfortunately it does not, since a global war means a multi-front war across two oceans. We face terrorist groups from Hamas and Hezbollah extending through Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines.
The media and political “buzz” now focus on Afghanistan, where the “experts” claim we need more troops. Al Qaeda currently rebuilds its strength in Pakistan, a nation technically our ally in the GWOT. These terrorists operate freely in the borderland with the consent of the tribes living there. Pakistani troops do not venture into this area, how do the “modular” brigades solve this? Do we risk starting a war with Pakistan, and if we do, do we then increase the Army’s personnel strength?
These terrorist organizations engage in a brutal technique of guerrilla warfare, attacking our weaknesses and withdrawing before we decisively engage them. Throughout our history we engaged in different forms of guerrilla warfare, from our various Indian wars, the Philippine Insurrection of the early 1900’s and the Viet Nam War. We also used this type of warfare ourselves almost as long, the American Revolution, Confederate raiders during the Civil War, resistance movements during World War II and counter-guerrilla operations in Southeast Asia.
Counter-guerrilla warfare doctrine states that victory requires a ten-to-one ratio between “us” and “them.” This provides for an adequate defense of probable targets and the reactionary forces for counterattack. We never achieved this standard, either in Viet Nam, Somalia or in the GWOT, yet somehow we expect victory. How do these “modular” brigades “stack up” for this type of warfare that does not meet the standards for applying our advanced technology?
The “modular” brigades do not strengthen the Army for defeating the “rogue nations” that support these terrorists. Nations that possess significant conventional forces, the capabilities of guerrilla warfare and unknown nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) capabilities. When we must expand the war into Iran and Syria, and we must eventually, that requires that we defeat their conventional forces. It further means we must defeat their guerrilla forces (terrorists) waging war in our rear areas as we invade their homelands. Our current force structure, the proposed “modular” brigades and our national attitude remains unprepared for this battle.
Iran recently test-fired missiles near the Straits of Hormuz, a strategic location through which passes most of the world’s oil. Intelligence sources later revealed that Iran used “older” missiles,” and not the newer Shihab-3 intermediate missiles of its propaganda. So what, do we wait until Iranian “president” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad test-fires these missiles and then deploys them? Does the US wait until Iran closes the narrow waterway, or do we mobilize the forces necessary and launch a pre-emptive strike? What about Iran’s elusive nuclear program, do we wait until they develop a bomb? Do we wait until Iranian-backed terrorists attack our homeland, using a “dirty bomb” against us?
Media sources range in their descriptions of Ahmadinejad, between the “modern-day Hitler” and a “madman” who poses no real threat. Such comments exist in the media archives of the 1930’s describing German dictator Adolph Hitler. Iran currently supports the insurgents killing our soldiers in Iraq, considered an act of war earlier in our history.
What about facing the forces of North Korea, a country still technically at war with us, that poses a perennial threat. North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jung-il, claims that he destroyed his nuclear weapons program, but does he mean it? North Korea lied about this in 1994, while the “experts” fawned over this as a great “diplomatic achievement.” While North Korean civilians starve, the North Korean military thrives, with over one million personnel on active duty. The mountainous terrain strongly favors a defender, how does this affect the performance of the “modular” brigades?
Nor does this concept prepare the Army for meeting the challenges following the GWOT, such as the growing threat of China. I grow angry at people who claim that China poses no threat “for at least fifty years,” showing remarkable powers of delusion. China steadily increases the size of its military budget by double-digit percentages, including anti-satellite technologies. Furthermore, I believe that China controls the belligerence of North Korea, a country they propped up since the Korean War. I do not favor military action against China at this time; however, I do believe in preparing for the worst.
Russia grows increasingly belligerent because its former Warsaw Pact “allies” prefer an alliance with the US. Recently in the news Russia threatened a confrontation if we deploy a “missile shield” in the Czech Republic. When these challenges become crises, do we stop everything and restructure our Army, which causes confusion, delays and possibly disaster.
Truthfully the situation improved in Iraq when we increased the number of troops through “the surge.” Unfortunately we “telegraphed” our intent, and the time constraints for maintaining this troop level. The terrorists need only bide their time, wait us out and then begin attacks again, after our troops leave. Under these circumstances political pressure probably prevents any intervention by American forces, and the terrorists win. We need an increased number of troops for improving the situation in Afghanistan, Iraq and every other theater. This requires more than a “surge,” it requires a total effort by our nation over the long haul. Until our leaders recognize this fact, victory remains an elusive goal, just beyond our grasp, just as during Viet Nam.
Since no enemy provides advance warning of their intentions against us, we must prepare for the worst. I live near the Mississippi River, where we live with the threat of flooding, as recent news confirms. “Budgetary constraints” do not make us wait until the river floods before building the levees. Most “experts” advise us that we must prepare for the “five hundred year flood,” in other words, the “worst case scenario.” Unfortunately I experienced three such floods during my adult lifetime, and each time produced devastating results. Only idiots favor doing nothing when preparing for these floods; why do we address our national security differently.
As a superpower we must prepare for the worst possible scenario, if we plan on remaining a superpower. The document states that this “modular” brigade concept removes us from the “Cold War mentality.” In the past I read articles condemning people who support the “Cold War mentality” as “dinosaurs.” We “dinosaurs” won the Cold War through our blood, sweat and sacrifice while most of the “experts” studied in college.
This includes engaging in combat in wars the “experts” prevented us from winning. It further includes deterring enemies in global “hotspots” through a rigorous program of combat readiness. Many Cold Warriors endured bloody combat in the frozen mountains of Korea and the steaming jungles of Viet Nam. Others stood guard through all kinds of weather at lonely outposts around the globe where they looked into the eyes of enemy soldiers. They participated in alerts, intensive training exercises, emergency deployments and other duties that required far more than normal peacetime pursuits.
Despite historical revision the Army of the Cold War proved the most capable “peacetime” force in our nation’s history. This became obvious with the Reagan military build-up and the adoption of the AirLand Battle Doctrine of the 1980’s. The Army possessed capabilities ranging from counterinsurgency with Special Forces through full-scale mechanized war. Army commanders enjoyed the capabilities of 18 combat divisions and 4 separate brigades when developing contingency plans. However, even with this robust force, the Army understood that they needed more strength in case of war. The National Guard’s ten divisions and twenty brigades, and the Army Reserve’s three brigades provided additional combat power, if needed. Additionally several National Guard and Reserve units provided massive CS and CSS support of these combat units.
This large number of forces provided the Army with a strategy of waging “two almost simultaneous wars.” It further provided the support needed for sustained operations in case these “two wars” grew in intensity. The Reserves maintained twelve training divisions for running the training centers in case of mobilization. As demonstrated during Operation Desert Storm, these forces also provided for any unforeseen contingency, such as “saber-rattling” by North Korea. A friend of mine stationed in Korea at the time confirms threatening maneuvers by North Korean forces at the time.
Regarding Desert Storm, the Army planners prepared for the “worst case scenario,” and this included sustaining a long-term deployment. This included the mobilization of Guard and Reserve units for CONUS duties, including sustaining the logistical “tail.” Fortunately the operation did not require the “testing” of our readiness for a long war. Nor did it require “testing” of the “two almost simultaneous wars” strategy when North Korea calmed down.
Furthermore, during Desert Storm the Army “interchanged” brigades because of the political constraints imposed by Congress. Many members of Congress and the media saw the Soviet dictator Mikhail Ghorbachev as a “messiah.” They erroneously credit him with ending the Cold War, instead of their own president. The politicians demanded that the Army begin “downsizing” before the Soviet Union collapsed, a dangerous strategy in my opinion.
For maintaining readiness “on paper” while also “downsizing” the Army developed a doctrine called “roundout.” This policy deactivated one maneuver brigade from several Regular Army divisions and replaced them with a National Guard brigade. Once again, forced into dire circumstances by the politicians, the Army adopted a flawed program.
Adopting doctrine does not achieve readiness, particularly given the need of short notice rapid deployment. National Guard brigades require at the minimum a 60-day post-mobilization train up, particularly at that time. When the divisions deployed they found the Guard brigades not ready, and took other Regular Army brigades instead. For example: the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) took the 197th Infantry Brigade (Mechanized); the 1st Cavalry Division took a brigade from the deactivating 2nd Armored Division and the 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized) received another brigade from the 2nd Armored Division. Once in theater, the 2nd AD brigade with the 1st CD task organized with the Marine Expeditionary Force. Overall, the task organizations went well and the operation provided a stunning victory over the Iraqi forces.
When VII Corps deployed from Germany it task organized by replacing its organic 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) with V Corps’ 3rd Armored Division. The one exception, the 3rd BCT of the 3rd ID (M) deployed in place of the 1st BCT of the 1st AD. Several battalion size organizations from the V Corps’ 8th Infantry Division (Mechanized) deployed in support of the VII Corps. Anecdotal evidence I received from veterans stated that this occurred because of new equipment training (NET) training for modernization in the non-deployed units. Again, these cross attachments went well, and the coalition forces defeated the numerically superior Iraqi Army.
Regarding “coalition warfare,” the US provided the bulk of the combat, CS and CSS elements for the war. However, our NATO allies England and France each contributed division size forces, and several others contributed smaller contingents. Many other of our Cold War allies contributed men and materiel in a variety of services. Several former Warsaw Pact nations contributed small contingents as well, particularly NBC decontamination units. All served under the command of General H. Norman Schwarzkopf of the US Central Command.
Furthermore, Arab forces made up at least one-third of the combat forces employed in the war. This occurred because Saddam Hussein broke his word at an Arab League meeting before invading Kuwait. They believed that he needed punishment for his invasion and occupation of an Arab “brother.” Major contributions came from Egypt, two divisions, and Syria, one division, who formed the major part of the Arab Corps. Other smaller Arab nations contributed forces within their capabilities, including a brigade of Kuwaitis liberating their country. Additionally the Arab nations provided limitless support behind the front lines that kept the logistical “tail” functioning.
Although the US-led coalition achieved an astounding victory, the resulting peace revealed all the flaws of coalition warfare. The UN resolution that authorized military action did not authorize toppling Saddam’s regime. “Consensus warfare” also prevented this as our Arab allies threatened withdrawal of support and hostile reaction if we tried. Realpolitik required maintaining a strong Iraq as a buffer against the Arab’s “real enemy,” non-Arab Iran.
I further view the terms of peace a failure of the civilian “experts” in both our State Department and the UN. When hostilities ended so quickly they failed in sending diplomats for negotiating the terms of the armistice. I know that Schwarzkopf conferred with the civilian leadership regarding negotiations; however, flaws in the terms created a bad situation. It further gave our “downsizing” Armed Forces responsibility for patrolling a second demilitarized zone (DMZ).
During the 1980’s the Army fought three different contingency operations; one Cold War related and two not. The Army possessed the capabilities of task organizing the forces for meeting these contingencies without sacrificing its other commitments. During one of these contingencies the Army deployed a light/heavy task force, mixing light infantry with heavy forces. However, today the Army lacks the resources for fighting the GWOT and deterring other potential enemies. In other words, I can cut a piece from a large pie; however I cannot stretch a piece into a whole pie.
The Army possessed a major problem during the Cold War that remains one of its most critical problems today, deployment. Historically the Army always possessed a problem with deployment into overseas war zones. Before the Spanish-American War we fought all of our wars inside our national boundaries. Or we fought in countries where we possessed a common land boundary, such as Canada and Mexico. The Spanish-American War became our first war that required the massive deployment of troops into foreign theaters. I previously stated the usual problems associated with assembling a sufficient force; however, now the nation lacked military transport ships.
When chartered passenger ships arrived no transportation command existed for bringing order out of chaos. Nor did the Army commander, Major General Nelson Miles, establish an orderly process; those ad hoc headquarters again. Regiments boarded the ships based on the ambition and initiative of their commanding officers. Embarking units boarded in such a hasty manner that they often left critical equipment behind. Cavalry units deployed without horses, making them largely ineffective for the missions for which they trained. In Cuba the off-loading proved just as chaotic as the on-loading; fortunately most of them landed unopposed.
Regarding the war in the Philippine Islands, Commodore George Dewey commanded the US Navy’s Asiatic Squadron, in Hong Kong when the war started. This placed him seven thousand miles from his support base, and source of reinforcements, in San Francisco, California. Despite a critical shortage of ammunition he boldly entered Manila Bay and engaged the Spanish defenders. This occurred on May 1, 1898 and the Spanish surrender left Dewey in a precarious situation. While he successfully blockaded the harbor, he lacked ground forces for occupying territory.
I found an account by a Marine officer, Lieutenant Dion Williams (USMC), who served aboard the USS Baltimore. The Spanish-American Centennial Website, www.spanamwar.com possesses volumes of historical information regarding the war. Williams states that on May 3, 1898 a “marine guard” landed at the nearby Cavite naval yard and raised the “Stars and Stripes.”
Additionally Dewey faced the unknown threat posed by observing British, German and Japanese naval squadrons. This war occurred during the “imperial” powers’ struggles for empire in a world of shrinking colonies available. If the US withdrew from the Philippines, these nations might enter and divide the “spoils.” Whoever controlled these colonial nations controlled their commerce, which shut out trade with the US. The growing powers of Germany and Japan began competing in this struggle, taking advantage of the weakness of Spain. Both nations tried establishing influence with various factions within the Filipino revolutionaries for advancing their own colonial empires.
Dewey established an uneasy alliance with Filipino revolutionaries under General Emilio Aguinaldo, who lacked the power for attacking Manila. Like Dewey, he feared the intentions of the observing naval squadrons and awaited Dewey’s actions. Dewey possessed the ability for projecting power; however he lacked the ability for exploiting his advantage. American troops began arriving in late July, capturing Guam enroute, and fought an “honor-saving” battle with Spanish troops in August. Fortunately neither the Spanish or none of the observing naval squadrons challenged Dewey during his long wait for American reinforcements.
Unfortunately, then as now, the Army depends on other services for these deployment assets. Better defined as “competitors” for an ever-shrinking amount of money, these services focus their money on systems promoting their primary missions. The Army relies on the Air Force for cargo aircraft and the Navy for sealift capabilities.
The Air Force commands the Air Mobility Command (AMC), which provides the aircraft for troop deployment. It receives some relief in this effort through the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF), which mobilizes the commercial airlines. On most of my deployments that required air travel I traveled on chartered civilian aircraft. Deployments on Air Force cargo aircraft usually included traveling with military vehicles or pallets of equipment.
The Navy presents a particular challenge through its sister service, the US Marine Corps. Although none of the Marines I know admit this, the Marine Corps serves under the Department of the Navy. The Navy commands the assets of the Military Sealift Command (MSC), and prefers transporting the Marine Corps, instead of supporting a “competitor.”
During the Cold War the Army solved some of these deployment problems through pre-positioned equipment, called POMCUS. However, this did not work for Operation Desert Shield, since no POMCUS existed in Saudi Arabia. Subsequently it required about six months for the build-up of the men and materiel for waging Operation Desert Storm. Fortunately Saddam Hussein proved an inept enemy, who obliged us by waiting until we started the war.
I served with the 1st ID (M) during this time and know some of the deployment problems encountered. First, the division painted all of its vehicles for desert combat, taking a few days for drying and quality inspection. Then we rail-loaded them at Fort Riley for the designated seaport, Beaumont, Texas and then loaded them on ships. After loading on a MSC ship, the sea voyage took between two and three weeks for arrival in Saudi Arabia. From anecdotal evidence I received from veterans of the GWOT I believe the timeline differs little today.
The main body of personnel began deploying by air, in accordance with a modified Fort Riley Emergency Deployment (FRED) plan in early January. Upon arrival these troops spent the time awaiting their vehicles in acclimatization, training and preparing for combat operations. I know anecdotal evidence that lobbied for more funding for the MSC because of this deployment; however, events soon buried this effort.
I do not know the validity of the following theory; however I find no contrary evidence that disproves it. It seems that since the “end of the Cold War” the Defense Department made deployment an unimportant issue. With the collapse of the Soviet Union it seems that the “experts” determined no potential enemy as worthy of a massive deployment. I do know that when the Clinton Administration assumed power it believed our military dominance prohibited any “rational” nation from challenging us. These “experts” determined that our greatest threat came from “stateless terrorist organizations,” and ignored the countries that provided them sanctuary. Of course this strategy perfectly suited the overall plan for “downsizing” our forces, regardless of global circumstances.
This new “peaceful” world did not need the rapid deployment capabilities of the Cold War. Particularly since the strategy placed a stronger reliance on the use of reserve components for combat. As previously stated, Guard and Reserve units required a minimum 60 day post-mobilization train-up. Therefore, we did not need the air and sealift capabilities of the Cold War. It further seemed that no one inside the hierarchy of the Defense Department thought we needed them either.
Operation Desert Storm and subsequent deployments demonstrated major weaknesses in our deployment strategy. A volatile world required rapid deployments in regions previously considered outside our perceived “national interests.” Establishing sufficient POMCUS sites seems unrealistic for meeting all of these new contingencies, and beyond our resource capabilities. Every enemy understood that their best chance for victory required that they advance quickly before sufficient American forces arrived.
The Army previously addressed the shortfall in transportation assets by reducing its units’ combat capabilities. For example, during the 1980’s the Army developed “light” divisions for reducing deployment times. One of my friends who served in one of these divisions described it as “deploying in one-third the time, using one-third the aircraft and dying in one-third the time.” The Army intended these divisions for operations in “Third World” countries, known at the time as “low-intensity combat.”
This too changed with Operation Desert Shield, when we initially deployed the 82nd Airborne Division into theater. Called the “line in the sand,” many paratroopers wryly called themselves “speed bumps in the sand.” This reflected their vulnerabilities when facing a numerically superior armored force in the open desert.
Unfortunately, today’s reduced strength eliminates such luxuries of choosing where these units deploy. Feickert mentions former Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki as promoting wheeled vehicles over tracked vehicles. Shinseki stated that the Army must change or become “irrelevant” in the development of national strategy. This gave us the Stryker vehicle, something I call the “poor man’s tank.” He promoted the Stryker concept because more of them fit in cargo aircraft, placing more of them in theater. My question, do our enemies promise that their tanks will not enter the battle against these Strykers?
The bottom line, obtain more funding for building the adequate number of cargo aircraft for transporting our heavy equipment. Build more roll on/roll off (RO/RO) ships for transporting heavy equipment and the supplies needed for waging war. A competent defense secretary and a competent JCS would lobby the Congress for these items. Subsequently, a competent Congress would appropriate the funding for producing what our troops need. Instead, we create a brigade with reduced capabilities, no matter how you promote it, and risk defeat in battle.
The US “downsized’ its military forces based on domestic political concerns, disregarding the global instability created by the Soviet Union’s collapse. “Experts” declared an “end to the Cold War” because of the collapse of both the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, they ignored the Cold War enemies that we openly engaged in combat, North Korea, North Viet Nam and more significantly China. Furthermore, they ignored the continuing threat from Iraq and Iran, both of whom supported terrorist organizations.
With the threat in Europe now defunct, the Army focused on a contingency plan for “refighting” Desert Storm. All the training in which I participated during this time reflected that mission, including the participation of divisions scheduled for deactivation. These exercises produced the scenario that Saddam “threatened” Kuwait by moving his forces toward the border. It “assumed” that we moved our forces from CONUS and got them into position before Saddam invaded. Of course each exercise resulted in our defeat of Iraqi forces, assuming that Saddam did not learn from his previous defeat.
Meanwhile this ever-shrinking number of personnel and combat divisions deployed their forces around the globe for “humanitarian” missions. Somehow these deployed elements magically appeared with their parent divisions for the purposes of this exercise. The Army continued deactivating divisions, winning “Desert Storm II” exercises in the same manner, despite the decreased forces participating.
Desert Storm victory occurred because the US employed a policy of “overwhelming force,” subsequently called the “Powell Doctrine.” Named for then-Chairman of the JCS, General Colin Powell, the doctrine proved so successful, we stopped using it. We entered a phase I call the “Clinton Doctrine” based on the strategy of then-President Bill Clinton. This strategy assumed a vision of the entire world coming together and singing kumbaya under the benevolent leadership of the UN. It used a limited number of forces participating in “humanitarian” missions, under UN command and with limited combat duties. Somalia seemed the perfect “testing ground” for this strategy, and we all know the results.
Between the Somalia debacle and the continuous wars in the Balkans, Clinton possessed all he needed for stopping this “downsizing.” It always proves easier at maintaining an existing division than rebuilding one; however “downsizing” held priority over combat readiness.
Following 9/11 Bush possessed the opportunity for rebuilding these deactivated divisions since no one knew the extent of the threat. Unfortunately none of the “experts” urged this, believing our enemies insignificant when compared with our technology. Rebuilding the previously “downsized” eight Regular Army and two National Guard divisions probably requires a one-year process. This takes them from activation, through all levels of combat training and higher echelon organization. It gives the Army enhanced combat power and flexibility for meeting global missions without over stretching the force. Furthermore, it provides the strength for engaging in sustained operations and maintaining a “surge” in all of our combat theaters.
These forces also provide depth when engaged in combat operations, defending rear areas from by-passed enemy forces and guerrillas. Almost everyone remembers the ambush of the 507th Maintenance Company in Nasiriyah, Iraq, and PFC Jessica Lynch. Historical evidence calls Nasiriyah a “major crossing point over the Euphrates River,” a “choke point” in military doctrine. Depth provides combat forces for securing such areas as they wait in reserve; or rest and refit for future operations.
Some may ask the question: how do we recruit this force for waging an “unpopular” war? First we increase the pay and benefit package for military personnel, compensating our military personnel for the sacrifices required of them. Reagan did this in the 1980’s and it worked, he further encouraged patriotism that helped recruit the quality people needed. If this fails, the nation faces the difficult choice of brining back the draft, and the potential for domestic unrest.
Some “experts” might claim the yearlong process too long, however 9/11 occurred in 2001 and we did not invade Iraq until 2003. Others might decry the monetary cost in building and maintaining these forces; well then, obtain the funding by “downsizing” the bloated federal bureaucracies. Everyone focuses on “trimming the fat” from the Defense Department, but no one even glances toward the other federal agencies. These agencies consume 80% of the federal budget; surely they must abide by the rules of “streamlining” and “efficiency.” Make Congress eliminate “pork barrel” projects from the federal budget, and forego some of their increases in pay and benefits.
Feickert proclaims this new brigade as “smaller and more lethal,” the same claim made by the “experts” of the 1990’s. He further describes these units as containing all the “bells and whistles” of modern technological warfare. The phrases include “networked battle command system,” “terrain awareness,” “transmit orders and reports” and “exchange other mission-essential items of information.” Those phrases alone must frighten any enemy into submission, deterring them from attacking us.
I fully support technological advances in weapons, equipment and tactics for the Army; however technology does not solve all problems. For example, I embraced the M-2 Bradley as a replacement for the aging M-113 Armored Personnel Carrier (APC). However, the Bradley possessed one flaw when my unit began the NET program. It lacked storage space for rucksacks and duffel bags that carried our equipment for sustained operations. When I approached one of the civilian “technicians” about this, he looked at me with a superior look on his face. He stated, “This is a fighting vehicle, not a sleeping vehicle.” I gave him a similar look and informed him that I did not “clock out” after eight hours of combat and go home. He seemed astonished, as if this thought never entered his mind.
Technology often proves as good as the human who designed it and the human operating it. How many times does one hear the term “computer glitch,” and this occurs in a climate-controlled office. I cannot count the number of times my cable television malfunctions, and the parts do not move. Army equipment on maneuvers receives rough handling, suffers under temperature extremes in the field and suffers exposure during inclement weather. I do not know how many times my radio did not work, until I climbed a hill. When equipment does break we suffer the “turn around” time for getting it back into operation. The Army functions on Murphy’s Law, “What can go wrong, will go wrong,” and that includes high-tech equipment.
Then we take this equipment into combat, where the enemy purposely targets command and control systems. During the Viet Nam War the enemy targeted radiotelephone operators (RTO) by looking for their antennae. They further targeted command groups by looking for a cluster of RTO’s, and those the RTO’s followed. When attacking firebases, the sappers looked for the antennae on command bunkers.
We train our anti-tank gunners in finding the vehicle with all the antennae and knocking it out. Since we provide our enemy reliable intelligence through our public relations campaigns they know our dependence on information technology. Certainly they do not plan on passively awaiting our attack and cowering in fear as we destroy them.
The “modular” brigade concept calls for “jointness,” as if the Army never experienced this before. The history of the 2nd ID states that during World War I, one of its brigades came from the Marine Corps. Twice during the war Marine generals, Major Generals C.A. Doyen and John A. Lejune, commanded the division, and the division still functioned and we won the war.
During World War II Army and Marine units served together in the Pacific campaign, under both Army and Marine commanders. The nature of the Pacific Theater forced a close relationship between the Army and Navy. While inter-service rivalries and other problems existed, in particular the difference in tactics, they did not significantly alter the campaign.
The reduced number of forces committed in both Korea and Viet Nam forced a closer coordination between Army and Marines. The reports from the combat zones today seemingly portray Army and Marines working together.
Regarding the Air Force, it began as part of the Army, which does not mean the two services enjoy a harmonious relationship. Each maneuver battalion in the Army receives an air liaison officer (ALO) for coordinating Air Force support. Each successive higher level of Army command coordinates with an ALO element that travels with the command post (CP). From what I understand these ALO’s serve for a two year tour with the designated Army command for continuity.
I served twice on division level staffs as the senior non-commissioned officer for the G-3 Operations cell. An Air Force officer served as the division staff weather officer (SWO) at each division. In my final assignment before retirement I served in the III Corps G-3 Operations cell. An Air Force officer served as SWO at this level, and probably at higher echelons of command as well.
Therefore, the “jointness” called for in Feickert’s document already exists, however this does not mean it works perfectly. I do agree with Feickert regarding the compatibility of equipment, such as communications equipment. For example, during a training exercise in the mid-1970’s I remember “humping” for several hours. While everyone carried full battle gear and “butt packs,” our platoon RTO also carried a bulky 20-pound AN/PRC-77 radio. Meanwhile the battalion ALO rode up the hill we occupied in a jeep and pulled out a radio. He carried it with one hand and it looked like a large transistor radio, and obviously did not weigh much. With this small radio he easily communicated with aircraft circling high overhead, and I wondered right then, “Why not us?”
I do not know how much this “compatibility” issue hinders operations today, since the Army and Marine Corps mostly use the same equipment. We used standardized NATO ammunition throughout my career; however I do not know of any recent deviations. The Army does not use the ordnance of the Navy or Air Force because we use different weapons systems.
Regarding communications, I do know that “non-secure” devices cannot communicate with “secure” devices. Radio communications require signal operating instructions (SOI) for assigning frequencies for specific units. Does the lack of “compatibility” actually mean that commands cannot communicate because they do not know the proper frequencies? SOI’s establish set frequencies for command and control, instead of the chaos of everyone choosing their own. If every radio in a company used the commander’s frequency, the resulting chaos would render the company ineffective.
Despite the promises of the high-tech communications of the “modular” brigade I believe it poses problems. During my career I learned that one leader controls at the most four subordinate elements under combat conditions. Feickert proposes that one of his higher echelon “units of deployment” control six “modular” brigades. The last division I served with, the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas, controlled three maneuver brigades, one aviation brigade, one engineer brigade, its division artillery and its division support command. This parallels the six subordinate brigades envisioned by Feickert’s document; however, only four qualified as maneuver elements.
The main difference that I see, in all the divisions I served, the BCT’s and all other subordinate elements served under one commanding general. Under the “modular” brigade it appears that we break this relationship, and the Army’s current deployment of brigades proves this. This violates the Army’s principles of cohesion and unity of command that I learned early in my career. For example, “back in the day,” when higher headquarters tasked a unit for a detail, “fairness” directed that an equal proportion come from each subordinate element. I remember the Army leadership manual, FM 22-100 (precursor for FM 6-22), stating that instead of sending (i.e.) four individuals, send a fire team. For a deployment, instead of sending “four brigades,” send one cohesive division, with all the elements familiar with working together.
Furthermore, those division headquarters possessed enough personnel and equipment for exerting command and control over these elements. A division headquarters with reduced personnel and equipment, no matter how high-tech, may find this more difficult. Combat proves stressful on personnel and equipment, and both may break down under the stress. People operate and maintain this high-tech equipment, and people need periodic rest, no matter what the Power Point briefing states.
Feickert does not mention the enemy reaction as these “modular” brigades supposedly “ride roughshod” all over them. I previously discussed many of these concerns and will now focus on the enemy “variable” of our “theory.” Many times during our history we enjoyed technological superiority over our enemy, however the enemy negated it. During the Indian Campaigns the Army possessed superior technology over the various Indian tribes. However, they used guerrilla warfare and familiarity with the environment for negating that advantage. We faced the same problem during the Viet Nam War when the enemy “grabbed our belt buckles” for negating our firepower. In Somalia, a nation with no government and no army, the “technicals” defeated our mobility by piling rubble in the streets.
Since we achieved our superpower status we almost never take into consideration the enemy’s tactics when we develop our strategy. It seems that we feel our military power of such magnitude that the enemy must follow our plans. In each instance the enemy did not oblige us, and even negated our superior doctrine. Why do we expect the “modular” brigade strategy proves any different?
The one exception, the Soviet Union, we developed the AirLand Battle Doctrine of the 1980’s largely based on defeating Soviet doctrine. We used this doctrine during Operation Desert Storm against the Soviet trained Iraqis, and severely defeated them. However, when we faced a “lesser” power, particularly a small, “Third World” nation we never employed “overwhelming force.” When the reduced effort fails, we never change strategy, somehow believing the enemy must submit. Commanders at the operational and tactical level modified their tactics; however they must remain within the restraints of the strategy. Today this forces them into developing “modular” brigades within existing personnel numbers when they really need additional personnel.
Throughout the Army’s 233-year history the soldiers faithfully served the nation during times of war and peace. Unfortunately our civilian leaders too often failed in their responsibilities for serving the troops; and today proves no exception. For explaining the “reinvention of the wheel,” I delved deeply into the history of the Army, and the nation. I further explained that too often our civilian leaders ignore the external factors that must guide our military strategy. Too often the nation’s military leaders fail in their responsibility for providing these civilians with sound advice. Additionally I provided my experience with these “transformations,” and how they often fail. Unfortunately we ignore these results and continue attempting new “transformations” of the old policies.
Some may think that I delved too deeply into the history, however no one mentions these problems we previously experienced in our history. I do not believe the Army War College studies the Army’s history in such detail. No one enjoys revealing their past mistakes, or that their judgment proved so flawed, particularly if it involves a disaster. I often hear of someone describing insanity as “trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Then why do these “experts” continue championing ideas that failed in the past, often with heavy casualties?
While the civilian leadership determines military strategy based on domestic concerns, the Army engages our enemies overseas. If the Army suffers a disaster none of the politicians, or their bureaucratic “toadies” suffer any loss of life. Furthermore, I explained that the Army already experimented with “enhanced” systems, including combined arms tactics. Army history reveals that while many of these experiments worked, other failed miserably, with heavy casualties.
We endured these encountered these problems because both the politicians and military leaders failed their nation and their soldiers. They often ignored circumstances that required the bolstering of our nation’s defenses, justifying this neglect with “expert” rhetoric. Still the Army carried out its duties under some of the most stressful circumstances, sometimes engaged in losing battles. Again, those who created these dire circumstances never suffered any discomfort, or repercussions for their failures.
I also remember a nine-year period in which the Army received the resources it needed. During this period of the Cold War the US produced the best peacetime Army in its history. Through this time I also remember the hard work, sweat and sacrifice for building this force. I also remember the pride in accomplishing the mission and the professionalism of those with whom I served.
The solution for the Army’s current problems requires a significant increase in manpower and the equipment for these personnel. It also includes an increase in funding for building the transportation assets for deploying these units. We must stop requiring that an inadequate peacetime Army continue waging a war under peacetime constraints. Unfortunately in the poisoned political nature of today I see little chance of this happening.
Unfortunately “inside the Beltway” politics dominates every aspect of our nation, including our Armed Forces. Powerful professional “political hacks” wield power far beyond their mental capacities, with little recourse for everyone else. Political power enhances, or destroys, the careers of the bureaucratic “experts” that reside in the comforts of Washington, DC suburbs. Journalists make and break their careers “inside the Beltway,” and report their stories accordingly. Since the Pentagon sits inside this area, and the politicians control the careers of senior officers, it grows too easy for finding “toadies” inside the Armed Forces.
These people see no threat larger than achieving political power and this includes fighting our enemies. Currently, much of that political agenda centers on withdrawing our forces from the fight and appeasing those enemies. Most of them champion these ideas because it opposes the policies of their political opposition, who currently occupies the White House. They believe providing increased federal funding for domestic programs more important than defeating Islamofascists. During the political primary campaign I heard many presidential contenders call for restricting the Defense Budget during time of war.
Therefore, I see the Army forced into continuing these “modular” brigades and making the most of their circumstances. With all the key “buzz words” in the document and the proper Power Point briefing, it must succeed. Another cliché in the Army states, “No plan survives the first bullet fired,” or words to that effect. What happens if the “modular” brigade fails (like the “pentomic” division), what do we do for a contingency plan? Do the “experts” that sold us the “modular” brigades admit their mistake and call for an increase in personnel? More importantly, do the politicians take their constitutional responsibilities seriously, or do they demand an investigation for their political agendas?
We achieved decisive victory in World War II in less than four years because we applied a national effort. The politicians placed victory above all other national concerns, including full mobilization and home front rationing. Maybe the GWOT does not need such a massive effort; however it needs more effort than we currently provide. Besides, once we achieve victory, the politicians can always repeat history and immediately demobilize.
If the politicians truly cared about achieving victory and caring for our soldiers we would not contemplate these “modular” brigades. Furthermore, the Defense Department would not downsize during a war while other federal agencies waste money. Instead, the restraints imposed by the Congress forced the Army into “reinventing” it through these “modular” brigades. The “experts” probably spent hours producing the right briefing, complete with Power Point graphics depicting the superiority of this brigade. Members of Congress now cover their backsides by claiming that the Army suggested it, absorbing none of the blame. Meanwhile the soldiers risk their lives waging war against a determined enemy with inadequate resources, just as in the past.