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Future War: The shape of things to come in force structure
Posted by: McQ on Saturday, February 04, 2006

Dale put an interesting and thoughtful post up concerning future wars and the varying opinions on how the force should be equipped and structured. For the most part I agree with his analysis and assessment. In this piece, I've mostly focused on these thoughts by Dale:
If I were to really think about it, I would probably come up with a proposal to redefine the missions of the Army and Marine Corps. Perhaps one solution would be to concentrate the USMC, with their combined arms force, on the LIC and amphibious missions, while making the Army the "big battalions" conventional force. That would require a major expansion of the USMC, while keeping the Army at its current size. But, even that has its own ingrained problems, because the Army has an institutional experience and knowledge base with LIC that can't simply be jettisoned.

The tension between LIC and TMA is more relevant than ever, and it isn’t going to simply go away. And, frankly, I'm not seeing any indication from the DoD that serious thinking is going on about the often opposing requirements of LIC and TMA at the strategic level.
Having served in 3 decades with the Army, I’ve seen various strategies come and go. As Dale points out, one of the dominant theories held that airpower was sufficient to win a war and all we mere infantrymen needed to do was go in afterward and pick up the pieces. I was a paratrooper when I heard the powers to be declaring that the use of airborne troops was obsolete. Then in 2003 I watched with a huge grin on my face as the 173rd Airborne Brigade (“The Herd”) made a combat jump into northern Iraq.

What we’re discovering, as we consider the impact of technology on warfare and the changes it produces, is some old maxims remain valid regardless of technological advances. Ground isn’t taken and held with airplanes. Ground is taken and held with ground forces. And it will ever be that way. While technology produces changes in lethality, intelligence capability, speed and mobility, the basics of war pretty much remain the same. They don’t call them “combat multipliers” for nothing. And, any more, they don’t claim they can replace the best component on the battlefield, the flexible and thinking, action-initiating, results- producing soldier. What we musn’t do, however, is fall in love with technology to the point that we see it as a panacea which is capable of fixing all our problems.

So what’s the next war going to look like? Who knows? We don’t even know who it might be against or when it will likely be. About the best we can do is guess at a timeframe based on events in today’s world. What that means is although we would love to be able, for once, to not end up fighting the last war in that future conflict, it is the only one in which we have experience fighting from which to draw. Pick any future scenario you like and you’ll find that we are at this time ill prepared to fight it. The reasons are numerous.

One, we have no idea what type enemy we will fight or what their technological capabilities will be. If the war is a conventional war with China 20 years from now, we can only prepare for the China we see today, technologically. With the huge lead times in weapons research and development, platforms for a war 20 years in the future may or may not be adequate or properly address our vulnerabilities or theirs.

If the war is an insurgency or a low intensity conflict, then only some of our technological superiority will be helpful and much will not come into play at all.

That being the case I want to dwell mostly on strategy for the coming decades and I want to base it in a particular world view. That world view says while there is a distinct possibility that at some time in the future we may face a conventional foe, the greatest likelihood for armed combat will be found in the developing world among third world nations who cannot and will not face us on the conventional battlefield. It will also be with what Ralph Peters calls “Criminal Enterprise Organizations” as we see with al-Qaida and narco-terrorists.
 
Let’s deal with the conventional enemies first since this is the easiest organization with which to deal. We know that on the conventional battlefield technological superiority does indeed often result in overwhelming and quick victory. And we’ve become very good at developing and deploying that technology to our advantage on the battlefield. There’s little argument that there are few if any armies in any nation which could stand up against the overwhelming power of the US military. Conventional war is fought against nation-states and has the purpose of defeating or destroying an enemy’s combat forces and forcing the nation in question to capitulate and resolve the conflict in the favor of whatever demands the opposing force can impose.

So our conventional forces, however we structure them in the future (brigade combat teams, divisions, more Marines, less Marines, etc) are going to be the most formidable force on the battlefield. Said another way, we need to continue to develop our conventional forces as we are now, with one caveat: we probably don’t need as much of the technology as we presently have. For instance, we probably need fewer fighter wings, fewer bomber wings and a smaller navy than we presently have … less of the big ticket items which are so costly to build and maintain. As we saw in Iraq and I’m sure we’d see elsewhere, even a relatively small US force is so lethal that conventional wisdom about what is necessary in terms of force ratios is being radically revised. Force multipliers which are exclusive to your force can make up for a fairly large deficit in the size of your force especially when used in an integrated and synchronized battle plan which effectively uses all elements of our military effectively, to include special operations forces.

That leaves the unconventional side of warfare and the one I think we’ll se the most of in the future. Call it low-intensity conflict (LIC), asymmetrical warfare, or whatever; it is the weak nation or CEOs method of fighting a stronger enemy. The War on Terror is the first worldwide unconventional war pitting the nations of the western world against an extra-national organization which we can’t pin down to a specific geographic location. But it’s not much different than an insurgency within the borders of a particular country or a particular region. It’s just over a wider area. In essence the challenges are much the same. The intent of the insurgent is not an overt military win, but instead to eventually wear down and discourage a stronger opponent to the point that it quits the fight. That decision may be driven by internal or external pressures, but regardless, if the weaker foe gets the stronger foe to quit, it wins.

So how do we prepare for that? We know, from experience, that you can’t fight and win an unconventional war with conventional forces. It always reminds me of the Bill Cosby bit (and I paraphrase) where, when talking about the Revolutionary war he acts like a referee at a football game coin toss and says to the winning American side, “Ok, you get to dress in green and brown and hide behind trees. British? You have to dress in red and walk down the middle of the roads”. We know full well that the British conventional tactics were basically ineffective against the unconventional Americans. Nothing has changed much since then in that regard.

That brings us to how we must approach future conflicts. My suggestion (and that’s all this is) is we have two forces, both of which have a role in each type of conflict but with conventional forces taking the lead and dominant role in conventional warfare and unconventional forces taking the lead in LIC.

Obviously that means a complete revamping of missions and, in all probability, a complete restructuring of the Special Operations Forces, because that’s who I’d give the lead in any unconventional war.

First, of course, we’re going to need a bigger Special Operations Force. That includes all services, but primarily Army. It’s where the bulk of the SOF forces now lay and it is also where the bulk of the unconventional experience is as well. We’re looking at perhaps double the size of the force we now have. And since special operators don’t grow on trees, we better begin looking now and training our best. We’d also better be prepared to pay them what they’re worth to the civilian world since it is among our special operators that security firms like those we see operating in Iraq and other parts of the world are going to recruit.

One of the first things I’d do is give SOF a much more robust intelligence gathering ability aimed at gathering intelligence which is critical to battling an insurgency and not a conventional armed force. I’m talking both tactical and strategic intelligence in this case. My guess is, at the strategic level, there’d have to be much more of a plug in with national strategic assets than is now available to conventional forces. Details and specifics will have to wait, but it is imperative that we be able provide this force with actionable intelligence that can be executed swiftly. That is where our technology advantage should be exploited to the maximum. In that type of warfare, more than any other form, intelligence is extremely perishable. We must develop the ability to gather, analyze, confirm and disseminate actionable intelligence within hours, not days. Presently we don’t have an intelligence structure that can accomplish that.

A second vital requirement is the recruiting and retaining of what I’d characterize as special troops. Interpreters, interrogators, analysts and area and country specialists. Since the unconventional enemy can be a trans-national enemy, we need to have the specialists on hand who can plug into the situation immediately and hit the ground running in terms of providing immediate information and intelligence from specific regions of the world. These people won’t come cheap or be easy to find, but it is vital they be recruited and we pay the market price for them necessary to retain them. We need them to be successful and we need them to stay with us to build an institutional memory that will come in handy in future unconventional warfare as we establish and refine our intelligence gathering techniques and abilities.

Another area needing more troops is that of civil military operations (CMO). CMO is defined thusly (Joint Pub 3-57 “Joint Doctrine for Civil-Military Operations”):
Civil-military operations (CMO) encompass the activities that joint force commanders (JFCs) take to establish and maintain positive relations between their forces, the civil authorities, and the general population, resources, and institutions in friendly, neutral, or hostile areas where their forces are employed in order to facilitate military operations and to consolidate and achieve US objectives. Civil affairs personnel bridge the gap between the military and civilian environment.
The purpose is simple in theory but very difficult to attain in reality:
Properly executed CMO can reduce friction between the civilian population and the military force. The objective is to minimize interference with military operations by the civilian population. When possible, a second objective is to reduce military interference with the civilian populace.
CMO encompasses a number of areas and issues, such as foreign humanitarian assistance, populace and resource control, nation assistance operations, military civic action, emergency services, civil administration, and domestic support operations. Or said another way everything from nation building to foreign and domestic disaster support.

A huge mission and one we do well in some areas (disaster support for instance) and poorly in others (populace and resource control). It is in this area where we need a much larger force and much more expertise. Again that requires attracting and keeping a different type of soldier than we see on the conventional side. It also requires an integration of civilian expertise in a manner never before imagined. In fact, in some cases we’re talking about deployable civilians which would go with a CMO unit(s) deployed to a particular theater to help handle the “civilian” side of CMO.

Another extremely important area to be addressed in the unconventional arena is training of indigineous forces. That is precisely what the Army's Special Forces (Green Berets) were formed to do. An expanded SF force must be immediately engaged in such training when they hit the ground in any unconventional scenario. And this mustn't just mean training anti-insurgent military forces, but police and conventinal forces as well. Just is critical is battle staff training of indigineous command staffs. They not only need to learn how to command, plan and integrate efforts, but how to logistically support such efforts. A tall order.

The unconventional battle can unfold in a number of ways. But the two more likely ways are to be seen in our involvement in Vietnam and Iraq. In Vietnam we became initially involved with an already established and ongoing insurgency carried on through the Viet Cong guerillas that eventually evolved into a more conventional conflict. In Iraq, our involvement began with a conventional conflict and devolved into an insurgency.

We must base our strategy on those two scenarios (with the appropriate branches and sequels). The first case involves an ongoing insurgency. The second, an insurgency that develops after conventional warfare.

In the first case, the SOC would be the command in charge of fighting the battle. It would call in conventional forces if and only when certain criteria and milestones in the battle against an insurgency were met. Again, not wanting to get into the weeds on tactics, these criteria should be easily measurable and indicative of a necessary inclusion of conventional forces. There may also be a set of criteria which indicate that the use of conventional forces isn’t called for and that the insurgency can be handled strictly by SOC forces.

In the case of the second scenario, like Iraq, conventional forces which would have the senior command, must be able to quickly and efficiently analyze their situation in terms of where the battle is focused and transition control of the battle space to the unconventional warriors when it is called for (the conventional forces of the opposing nation are destroyed and no longer a threat). Obviously SOC will have been working within the battle space with conventional forces so it isn’t that they’re coming in blind. But what happens is their effort becomes predominant and the conventional forces are used to further their fight against a developing insurgency

It is at this point that strategies like Andrew Krepinevich’s “oil spot” strategy for defeating an insurgency can be implemented. Conventional forces would be the prefect tool for doing so. But only after committed and trained anti-insurgency forces which included extensive CMO assets, civilian assets and trainers had completely and properly prepared the battle space for its implementation.

We’ll see what lessons DoD takes from its experiences in Iraq and applies to future war. Suffice it to say I’m of the opinion, and that’s all this is, that it must face radically different future conflicts with radically different forces and radically different strategies, but that the forces must work together on any given scenario and must not only complement each other, but integrated well enough that transitions from one sort of warfare to another are seamless. How this would be divided up among active and reserve forces, and civilians as well as what numbers would be necessary to put this sort of force together isn't the focus of this piece. However, how we should approach this in future wars is. Your comments are invited.

UPDATE: Interesting. As I was finishing this up today, I noticed this blurb in the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
One way the U.S. military would build new partnerships is to spend more time training other armies, navies and air forces, particularly in places like Africa where U.S. troops have not traditionally operated. That would require Americans to master more languages and learn more about foreign cultures.

More officers will serve stints in foreign militaries to develop long-term relationships and regional expertise. Also, the Navy would create a force of small boats that can be used in inland waterways abroad to help countries build their own maritime forces to combat terrorists.

"The department must foster a level of understanding and cultural intelligence about the Middle East and Asia comparable to that developed about the Soviet Union during the Cold War," the report said.

It calls for expanding the ranks of special operations forces — the Army's Green Berets and the Navy's SEAL commandos, for example. They are trained in specialized warfare skills, like capturing fugitives and conducting sabotage, and they work quietly — sometimes secretly — with the armed forces of small countries.

Also, the Marines for the first time are establishing a special operations force, with an initial goal of training 2,600 Marines for that duty. The other military services have had special operations forces for decades.

The strategy review, known as the Quadrennial Defense Review because it is required by Congress every four years, does not alter the Pentagon's approach in Iraq. It also leaves intact the Defense Department's broader strategy for keeping the U.S. military big enough to fight other major conflicts.

Among other highlights:

_The number of soldiers assigned to psychological warfare and civil affairs units will increase by 3,700, or about one-third. They are in heavy demand in Iraq and Afghanistan because they work with local civilian authorities to build trust and influence perceptions of U.S. forces.

_There will be a new five-year, $1.5 billion program to develop medical countermeasures for bioterrorism threats.

_The fleet of Minuteman III land-based nuclear missiles will be cut by 10 percent, from 500 to 450 missiles. Also, some nuclear missiles on Trident submarines will be converted to non-nuclear missiles within two years. The Pentagon has not said how many will be converted.

_The number of special operations forces will be increased by 15 percent.
In my estimation, a step in the right direction.
 
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A superb and thoughtful analysis of what our military establishment needs to be thinking about. Hopefully, they are.

As an aside, one wonders if a group of officers and civilians from the War Dept. and Navy Dept. sat around 200 years ago thinking about whether or not to build ships of the line to deal with extra-national threats like the British and Spanish, or wanted to spend more money dealing with threats from the Indians! The more things change...
One, we have no idea what type enemy we will fight or what their technological capabilities will be. If the war is a conventional war with China 20 years from now, we can only prepare for the China we see today, technologically. With the huge lead times in weapons research and development, platforms for a war 20 years in the future may or may not be adequate or properly address our vulnerabilities or theirs.
You’re right, of course, that we can’t see the future, but I think that there are several things that we CAN do to predict it. The first is to spare no effort in getting the best possible intelligence about our potential threats. What weapons are they buying? What strategy are they pursuing? How does their geographical position, interests, other rivals, etc. affect their strategic position, and possibly dicatate what they will / will not do?

In the case of Red China, an obvious strategic need for them is the ability to interdict our ability to project power into SE and East Asia, which means that they’ve got to figure out a way to defeat our Navy. I was therefore pleased to read the other day that the Navy, especially CinCPAC, is placing more emphasis on anti-submarine warfare than they have in years. I would think that we also need to keep our edge in attack subs. The new Virginia class will be useful in the relatively shallow waters near the asian mainland and major islands, but I don’t know if they are also as useful for blue water missions in the mid-Pacific.

At any rate, the potential for war with Red China - or any national power or combination of national powers - means having a first-rate conventional military, heavy with sea- and airlift capacity to get our men and vehicles and aircraft into the fight quickly and keep them fully supplied for a long fight. It means lots of tactical fighter wings, mech infantry, main battle tanks, carrier battle groups, etc: the traditional tools of modern war.
For instance, we probably need fewer fighter wings, fewer bomber wings and a smaller navy than we presently have … less of the big ticket items which are so costly to build and maintain. As we saw in Iraq and I’m sure we’d see elsewhere, even a relatively small US force is so lethal that conventional wisdom about what is necessary in terms of force ratios is being radically revised. Force multipliers which are exclusive to your force can make up for a fairly large deficit in the size of your force especially when used in an integrated and synchronized battle plan which effectively uses all elements of our military effectively, to include special operations forces.
I don’t disagree, but those idiots in Congress need to keep this in mind when the military budget comes up every year. Otherwise, we run the risk of having a "70’s-era" military that has lost much of its technological edge and hasn’t got the numbers to offset that due to budget cuts. Complacency kills.
That brings us to how we must approach future conflicts. My suggestion (and that’s all this is) is we have two forces, both of which have a role in each type of conflict but with conventional forces taking the lead and dominant role in conventional warfare and unconventional forces taking the lead in LIC.
Agreed. We had this problem in the early ’60s when JFK saw the need to be able to fight "brushfire" wars, but the brass at the Pentagon was focused on a Soviet invasion of Europe. Trouble was that the military had suffered through the lean years of the Eisenhower admin, and weren’t about to "squander" funds and troop training time preparing to chase guerillas through the hinterlands when they had to worry about dealing with the possibility of tens of thousands T-55’s rushing through the Fulda Gap.

What’s needed is strong hands at the helm, leaders at the White House and the Pentagon who can ensure that the DoD is preparing for both types of threat. This really puts military preparedness in the hands of John Q. Public, because he’s the one who’s going to decide at the ballot box who those strong hands will be.

Another commenter on a related thread suggested that the National Guard / Reserves can provide a lot of specialized troops for such things as riverine warfare, jungle warfare, etc, thus freeing the regulars to concentrate more on high level conflict. I think that this is a good idea, but would require a significant and on-going effort to revamp the reserves.
A huge mission and one we do well in some areas (disaster support for instance) and poorly in others (populace and resource control). It is in this area where we need a much larger force and much more expertise. Again that requires attracting and keeping a different type of soldier than we see on the conventional side. It also requires an integration of civilian expertise in a manner never before imagined. In fact, in some cases we’re talking about deployable civilians which would go with a CMO unit(s) deployed to a particular theater to help handle the “civilian” side of CMO.
While it’s a work of fiction, Leon Uris’ Armageddon provides an excellent window into how this was done after WWII in Germany.
We’ll see what lessons DoD takes from its experiences in Iraq and applies to future war. Suffice it to say I’m of the opinion, and that’s all this is, that it must face radically different future conflicts with radically different forces and radically different strategies, but that the forces must work together on any given scenario and must not only complement each other, but integrated well enough that transitions from one sort of warfare to another are seamless.
A major part of the problem is education within the military establishment. During the years leading up to the Vietnam War, for instance, there was a lot of confusion and ignorance in the Pentagon about low-intensity conflict. Many otherwise superb officers thought that fighting the VC was not really different than fighting the Cheyenne on the plains of the west! After all, they were both "LIC". Many officers thought that the key to beating the VC was learning the tactics of jungle warfare, never quite realizing that the "battle" was really in the villages.

Fighting terrorists is not the same as fighting an insurgency, which is not the same as fighting "partisans", which is not the same as fighting commandoes, which is not the same as fighting a conventional army.
 
Written By: docjim505
URL: http://
The Marines are going to have a special ops. force? Oh goody, just what we need, another chain of command and administrative/logistics structure.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Force Recon’s always sorta kinda been their SO force. And then you have entire MEUs which are SO capable.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
Americas strengths from WW2 to present have been logistics and technology. Logistics depends largely on the strength of your manufacturing base, soon Europe and China will better America in this regard. Your edge is retained in military technology. America must maintain this edge with more development of air, submarine and near space technology.

In terms of land based military conflict an airforce is key, because it can bring the most firepower to bear the quickest. Special operations are useful largely because they can target find for airforce firepower. Iraq did not provide much of a challenge, because American and British airforces had spent the last 12 years destroying it. The only lesson that should be learnt from the Iraq conventional war is that after airpower has destroyed the enemy defences the army can go in and occupy the place.

The previous conflict in Serbia was another example, airpower destroyed and then army occupied.

Improvements in infantry force multipliers, increased local intelligence and civillian military cooperation are good things to do. In the current LIC in Iraq these improvements will increase the kill ratio of the American forces, so less casualties occur. This presumably will allow American forces to stay involved for longer.

The longer America stays the more chance of local Iraqis convincing their countrymen that a democratic debate is a better way of gaining power. And the better chance of Iraqis making the foriegn fighters go home, probably using the traditional aproach of saying to foriegn governments "if anymore of you come over here and kill us, then we will come over there rape your women and children and chop your mens heads off" (said more diplomatically, but meaning the same thing). To do this Iraq needs a threatening army, unfortunately for them they are being trained by Americans to engage in LIC only. Great infantry alone is not enough to threaten Syria, therefore foriegn fighters may continue to infiltrate. Iraq needs airpower and possibly long range missiles, all that technological whizbang stuff, so that it can threaten its neighbours.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
The world changes every day, why do we have to make it so convoluted? I think it is unnatural to have such a dichotomy between the two types of warfare, such as we have become used to doing. That is, the difference between conventional and unconventional warfare.

Basically, while we need some major reform, we shouldn’t reinvent the wheel. We need to maintain our tactical bearing and warfighting skills, but that shouldn’t interfere with the execution of counterinsurgency policies and the local interactions required to do that. But when you set them up as different operation, it gets confusing. Is it war, or operations other than war? Screw that- war is the study of human nature. The nature of our enemy and of our own men, fighting for a greater objective. Different means, but the same objective.

It’s good we’re thinking about this stuff, in contemplation of the conflicts of the future, but does it make sense to specialize so much? That kind of bureacratic focus will just continue to keep us inflexible and rigid in our responses to new problems. SOF are the key, but any SOF will tell you as a primary operating concept, SOF cannot be mass-produced. This is not just to maintain their elite status, this is the reality- and their manning will always be a problem if they maintain the high standards that make them SOF. That being said, we can learn things from them for non-SOF roles.

There is so much more to say...
 
Written By: Sunguh
URL: http://pmclassic.blogspot.com
Now Iran has poked its head above the parapet, only the Airforce can do anything about it. Proving that America needs more and better planes, before it needs more and better ground troops.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/

 
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