Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Military Transformed?

A hat tip to Wretchard at The Belmont Club for noticing this San Francisco Chronicle article on the post-9-11 transformation of the U.S. military. It's an interesting read, although Chronicle staff writer John Koopman manages to get some key points wrong, or he relies on experts (paging John Pike) who are wildly inaccurate in their assessments.

Koopman is correct in noting the obvious--the increased emphasis on counter-insurgency warfare over the past five years. Fighting terrorists in Afghanistan, Iraq (and elsewhere) has forced the U.S. military to improvise and adapt. Before 9-11, you couldn't find a reference to an improvised explosive device in a military journal or field manual. Today, the DoD is spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year on that problem, and commanders in the field have developed tactics for dealing with the threat. Amid the daily "blast reports" from Iraq, you never hear the most salient fact: the vast majority of enemy IED attacks are unsuccessful, and as many as 40% are defused before they ever go off--a testament to the skill and innovation of our troops on the ground, and new forms of technology being applied to the problem.

If there's a key fault with the Koopman article, it's his suggestion that an increase in civil affairs operations--the so-called "hearts and minds" effort may hold the ultimate key to defeating insurgents. True, civil affairs is an important part of the equation. But, if such "carrot" efforts are not accompanied by sufficient force--the "stick" portion of the equation--then humanitarian ops may amount to little more than welfare for an indifferent population, or even aid to the enemy. Iraq and Afghanistan have illustrated the need for more civil affairs specialists, but those conflicts have also highlighted the need for more intelligence specialists, more special forces troops, more ISR sensors, and better ways to fuse information into actionable intelligence. Civil affairs is a part of the counter-insurgency solution, but not a magic pill or bullet.

Surprisingly, the oft-mistaken John Pike manages to recognize the "duality" of the U.S. military mission. While prosecuting the GWOT, the armed services must also prepare for potential conflicts against regional players, namely China. But Pike is way off the mark in describing the Chinese as 25 years behind. In reality, the PRC has taken major steps to improve its conventional and strategic forces, through the development of mobile MRBMs and ICBMs; the acquisition of modern surface-to-air missiles, and the purchase of advanced fighters from Russia. Couple that with developments in space, counter-space and ISR, and you can see why some senior U.S. officers describe China as a full "peer competitor" with the United States in the next decade. Pike is correct in stating the the military's dual mission is not sustainable on a $300 billion defense budget. If you want to prepare for the full range of contingencies, you need the current level of spending--and possibly, even more.

A more burning question: will the transformation now underway continue past 2008, if Democrats regain control of the White House? As we've noted before, some of our problems in Iraq and Afghanistan can be traced to force cuts under Bush #41 and Bill Clinton who, collectively, cut six divisions from the active duty Army. Transformation decisions being made now will have a major impact on the military forces of 2015 and 2025. The real issue is whether our political leaders--from both parties--are willing to stay the course.


Papa Ray said...

I have "Inside the Pentagon" emailed to me each week. I have been trying to keep up with the budget requests, additional requests, denied requestes, changed requests...etc..until I just gave up. I doubt any service knows exactly what is going on at any one time. Even the GAO seems at a loss keeping up with everything.

It's just one big ball of money, flying around and everybody trying to grab what they can until it comes around again.

The AF is leading pack with the money spent on its fighters, expecially the F35, but they can't seem to come up with a bomber package because they can't agree on it's specs and if it should be piloted or not.

The Navy is getting its lion's share too, carriers, subs, little shitty ships and even stuff that they won't need for years.

The Army is sucking hind tit (well one of the hind tits) as well as the Marines and the poor Coasties who can't even get used ships from the stingy U.S. Navy.

The Army has spent BILLIONs on its Land Warfare program over 12 years and has YET to get one asset out of the dozens that are under development STILL.

Wasted money? oh yea, over the years billions wasted on programs that didn't work out or were canceled for other reasons.

Like the IED jammers that not only jam the IEDS but every radio for miles.

Like the Styrkers that the Army still has to pay mfg. tecks (mechanics) over $200,000.00 dollars EACH, per year to keep them running, and there are dozens of them. Why, because the Army can't come up with troops with the right qualifications and keep them along with the maint. packages that they would need.

I could go on, but it doesn't prove anything except that China is getting rich off of us borrowing all these billions from them.

I would just like to see the Marines and the Soldiers get one thing in the next year.

An Individual Infantryman's rifle that fires a larger caliber round than the 5.56 and that will operate reliably in any conditions.

Other Armys have outstanding weapons for their troops, why is it that we can't?

One word. Politics.

Papa Ray
West Texas

Mike said...

Nice to see someone finally talk about the fact that the USAF has a mission other than being the Army's bombing and cargo delivery service.

To answer your question though, the short answer is no. Right now both the White House and Congress are controlled by the party that is nominally military friendly, spending wise. And we still have to fight tooth and nail to get our 50 year old tankers and bombers replaced, to say nothing about the fact that China is very very close to achieving parity in the A2A arena against our Eagles and Falcons.

If GOP remains in control, expect current funding levels to stay; i.e., barely sufficient for gearing to fight a counter-insurgency, sadly lacking for retaining our conventional warfare capability. If the Dems gain power, expect there to be further cuts to the point where we can't even sustain counter-insurgency tech, much less conventional warfare.

Papa Ray said...

Everyone needs to read this piece about one area in Iraq that has been in the news almost daily:

In a Volatile Region of Iraq, U.S. Military Takes Two Paths

I drink coffee every weekend with a retired Special Forces guy (along with a bunch of other mixed service vets)

He states that even today, there is hard feelings between "regulars" and SO forces. He is talking mainly about the officer corp.

Read this article and remember that interservice problems can cause almost as much damage as the enemy.

Papa Ray
West Texas