Events

Reorganizing America’s Military for the 21st Century

June 21, 2001 // 12:00am

As the Defense community grapples with how the military should transform to become lighter, faster and more lethal to address emerging threats, it must also define its long-term national security needs and priorities for the United States, suggested panelists in a recent meeting on military transformation. In particular the meeting explored how the United States should develop an appropriate military force structure to address future national security threats and highlighted several approaches to Army transformation, in particular. As evidenced by the media scrutiny and as the focus of several studies conducted for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the timing was propitious. The study on military transformation released last week calls for a gradual restructuring of programs to enable services to conduct joint operations around the globe with greater speed, precision and power in order to meet the challenges of the post-Cold War era, including terrorism and operations other than war, noted Lee Hamilton. The call for full spectrum dominance was echoed by Gordon Sullivan, however, he noted that transformation while “easy to say, is hard to do.” General Sullivan recalled that efforts to transform the U.S. Army began prior to World War II, primarily in response to a perceived change in the international situation and the national security requirements of our nation.

While some might argue that the Persian Gulf War initiated a new era of warfare, it is more useful to consider it as the last war employed with the traditional tactics and heavy machinery, said General Robert Scales. And while our defense have superior technology, we must remember the lessons learned in conflicts such as Vietnam. “We will continue to face enemies that are adaptive eager, and have studied us,” he said. “While we seek to win through power, they seek to win by not losing.” Further challenges also include the time versus risk paradox—the faster a force gets to a theater the less tools it will have available, but the longer it takes to reach its destination, the longer the enemy has to adapt and become entrenched. In addition General Sullivan raised the increasing pressure to fight a “bloodless war,” and the apparent, though perhaps erroneous, demand for zero casualties.

Accelerating the transformation of the U.S. military and the Department of Defense more broadly will be a major theme of the new administration’s defense strategy, however to be successful, Secretary Rumsfeld and his team will need to “provide more explicit guidance on: priority, objectives, desired capabilities of transformation as well as the tradeoffs they are willing to make to accelerate the process,” suggested Michelle Flournoy. Assessing the progress since the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review, Flournoy gave both positive and negative remarks to those working on transformation. Recognized as a high priority in U.S. defense strategy, the Department of Defense has articulated an ambitious transformation vision in Joint Vision 2020 and all Services have established transformation roadmaps and activities, including wargames, battle labs/concept development efforts, and experimentation. Still, “barriers continue to block transformation and must be addressed if this administration is to be any more successful than its predecessor,” she suggested. These barriers include a high OPTEMPO that is not conducive to innovation; no clear strategy and roadmap laying out concrete objectives and priorities; the lack of leadership on the issue and dedicated Transformation staff in the Pentagon; and inter-Service rivalry and turf wars stifling jointness and coordination. Presenting an overarching vision that links military transformation and DoD rationalization and creating a sense of urgency at the top were some of her recommendations to achieve the goals of transformation.

Caught in a time warp, the U.S. Army continues to organize, train and equip as it had in preparation for the last two World Wars and is ill prepared for today’s wars, suggested the panelists in the second session. Panelists debated the rate of change within the Army and offered a variety of transformation proposals. Understanding the future trends in warfare such as the devolution of combat power, joint integration at the lower levels, and a revolution in task organization will allow for more fungibility across the spectrum of conflict, offered Colonel Robert M. Toguchi. The future joint headquarters of the Army should be more dynamic, non-fixed, and prepared to respond to a myriad of challenges. For Colonel Doug Macgregor, today’s ground forces must be powerful, adaptive and responsive and the current division based system with its many echelons of command and control hampers such prowess. Yet, technology alone won’t transform the military, nor will joint task forces operating without powerful ground forces, he said. “Today’s emerging paradigm for military operations creates the opportunity to fundamentally reshape American military power through the integration of air, land, and naval forces within a joint network-centric system of warfare based on information, the movement of forces to gain a positional advantage and precision strike,” he said. Colonel Macgregor’s book, Breaking the Phalanx suggests that the Army reorganize its existing war fighting assets into mission-focused capability packages or specialized modules of combat power for deep, close or reach combat operations inside Joint Task Forces. Colonel Macgregor further stressed the importance of jointness by noting that the Air Force and Navy often arrive to the scene of conflict before the Army. In his opinion, a 5,000 “all arms” Light Reconnaissance Strike Group would integrate such maneuver and strike capabilities within a new Joint network-centric operation architecture.

As a member of the study group for Secretary Rumsfeld’s transformation panel, Jim Kurtz relayed that the panel concluded that the synergy resulting from true jointness is the most powerful transformation concept. In his opinion, such jointness is best achieved via joint command and control. The key, he suggested is to transform early entry forces as the first phase of eventual transformation of more of the force and build on forward-deployed capability (stationed and rotating deployments). Future threats will require early response, especially in situations such as “humanitarian emergencies, where you must stop people from dying of starvation or disease; intra-state ethnic conflict, when your aim is to stop people from killing each other; and finally, major regional conflict, when you must stop use of anti-access means, especially WMD, against neighboring states and arriving US forces.” In these situations, three tasks are common: set the conditions—ensure access and freedom of action; establish control—quickly stop further deterioration of the situation; and decisive resolution—achieve desired end state established by national command authority (NCA).

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