Friday, September 23, 2016


DC Book Discussion: "Margin of Victory: Five Battles That Changed the Face of Modern Warfare "
by Colonel Douglas Macgregor
Oct 12th 2016 (Wednesday) at 12:00 p.m. till 1:30 p.m.
722 12th Street #600 NW Washington DC. (ATR offices)
Lunch provided
Please RSVP to Michael Ostrolenk at 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

FCS Army Debacle from Rand

What makes the attached RAND REPORT interesting is that RAND analysts knew the Future Combat System (FCS) program was a disaster on day 1. But no one inside RAND would dare to tell the Army Chief of Staff that he was on the road to waste billions and billions of dollars.

Conditions inside today’s Army are not very different from the time when FCS introduced. Even Dan Goure from the Lexington Institute, normally a stalwart supporter of the military status quo and whatever the Army Chief of Staff wants recently wrote: ”Over the past thirty years, the U.S. Army has cancelled some 20 major acquisition programs including armored fighting vehicles, helicopters, artillery pieces, communications systems, infantry weapons and munitions. If you count designs that never got out of the research and development (R&D) process that number more than doubles.” (“The U.S. Army Defeats Itself More Often Than All Its Enemies Combined,” The National Interest, 1 July 2016.)

So why are things so very wrong inside the US Army? RAND’s study fails to point out the real problem in 2000: Leadership at the top. In GEN Shinseki’s case, FCS was a requirement he created. Once written in stone, a Four Star’s program became something that no one in uniform could challenge without risking the destruction of his or her career. Today’s Army continues to suffer with the legacy of the FCS program and the behavior of its Four Star leadership. Consider the following notes:

A successful program requires a sound technical feasibility analysis.
Senior-level involvement can significantly motivate an acquisition effort. (RAND)

1.     GENERAL ERIC SHINSEKI, Army Chief of Staff, demanded that the contractors do what they could not: Break the laws of physics and create a 13-15 Ton wheeled armored vehicle with the protection of a 70 Ton Abrams tank that could fly on a C-130 aircraft. Finally, when Boeing realized that if they would lose the billions that Senators Stevens and Inouye on the SAC would provide to GEN Shinseki if Boeing continued to tell the Army Chief of Staff, “It cannot be done,” Boeing accepted the mission.  Of course, Boeing’s terms were very lucrative and antithetical to the Army’s and the American Tax Payer’s interests, but GEN Shinseki pushed through the contract.

2.     The stated goal of the vague FCS System of Systems was to uniformly equip all ten divisions in the Army. Program Completion was scheduled to occur in 2032. Given that we moved from horse cavalry in 1914 to the Atom Bomb in 1945 (31 years), the idea that equipment designed in 2005 would still be relevant in 2032 never made sense, but no one dared say so. Despite assertions that he was a “futurist and a visionary,” General Shinseki was far more worried about preserving the ten triangular division 1942 structure than he was in future warfare. Privately, he told his general officers, “If I don’t buy something new, no one on the Hill will believe that the US Army is changing.” And, second, GEN Shinseki testified in 2000 before the SASC about the interim combat vehicle—a block III LAV with no armament—that in his judgement SUV technology had reached a level of maturity that “an entire Army on wheels was now feasible.” Even his strongest backers, Senators Stevens and Inouye were surprised at this statement, but given the money involved, neither one was prepared to halt the massive spending spree that was about to begin. Search through C-SPAN’s files and you can watch this event. Only Senator Joe Lieberman pushed back at the time saying, “The Germans were able to achieve revolutionary change by starting with an operational concept. What’s your operational concept?”  GEN Shinseki’s answer was: “I just want to make sure that our ‘kids’ (referring to the 82nd) that go back to Iraq the next time don’t end up without the mobility they need.” Berets and wheels became the “sin qua non” of Army transformation.

3.     It was not long before SASC Staffers figured out that FCS was a scam. One wrote on 27 October 2006, “The Future Combat System (FCS) involves no net increase in army fighting strength. But together with modularity, it costs something like $48 billion (modularity) + $145 billion (FCS) + $25 billion (communications network), and will equip only one-third of the army in 20 years! This is nuts!” However, as the money flowed, GEN Shineki’s Potemkin Village grew to ever increasing proportions. Once GEN Shinseki announced his determination to build ‘FCS’ anyone in uniform who did not sign up for it was DOA. Those officers who wanted to be generals knew that to reach flag rank they had to slavishly support a program that made no sense and had no chance of success.  The sitting three and four stars knew that to get access to the vast sums of money for FCS they had to work closely with the contractor, Boeing and Boeing’s subcontractors. Once the money flowed to contractors in districts and states, it was largely irrelevant to members whether it produced anything of value for the US Army as long as the money flowed and their reelection campaign funds prospered. The outcome is summed up by an anonymous Army Colonel who worked on the project:

“FCS lasted 8 years and squandered nearly $20 billion on a fantasy: that soldiers, bombs and bullets could be replaced by remote sensors and networks. Once the money started pouring in, the Army's top generals did not want to risk their careers by revealing the program’s obvious flaws and unrealistic goals. Members of Congress declined to challenge sub-contracts that brought money into their own districts.”

By the way, no hearings to determine what went wrong with FCS were ever held on the Hill. Clearly, nothing went wrong. “Money spent was capability achieved” in the minds of members.

The bad news is that battlefield lethality is rising dramatically on a scale not seen since WW II. Meanwhile, today’s U.S. Army fighting force is in ruins and falling further and further behind its potential opponents in Eastern Europe, Asia and the Near East. This is due, in part, to FCS; a program that was conceived to ensure the US Army remained frozen in its 1942 ten division construct. The rapid conversion of the U.S. Army during the Iraq/Afghan occupations into a light infantry constabulary force on wheels reinforced with old tanks, brads and artillery designed in the 1970s was in many ways an unavoidable outcome of occupation, but it has simply exacerbated the problem that confronts today’s Army.

Conditions today are frighteningly reminiscent of conditions during the interwar period. As Dr. David Johnson of RAND described several years ago, between 1919 and 1939 the Army’s Senior Leaders:
1.     Focused on traditional roles—re-fought the last “successful” war (or, in the British Army, built a constabulary, motorized force);
2.     Fought for budget share & end-strength, not capability;
3.     Advanced the “Single Service” way of fighting;
4.     Experimented with the “familiar”, but crushed innovation;
5.     Preserved status quo structure and career pattern. Officers that did not conform vanished.

Once more, the mantra from the top is, “Read my lips. Ten Divisions.” However, this time it’s “Light Infantry ueber Alles!” The unrelenting investment in light solutions like the JLTV and Stryker continues with ominous consequences for future Army forces. The passion for dismounted airborne operations, an anachronism whose record of failure in action ( ) and human loss is unmatched in the annals of 20th Century military history is currently shaping future Army investments ( ).

From his vantage point on 19 July 1916 in France, then, Colonel JFC Fuller observed, “The Soldier is the most conservative creature on earth. It is really dangerous to give him an idea, because he will not adopt it until it is obsolete, and then, will not abandon it until it has nearly destroyed him.”

[JFC Fuller, Memoirs of an Unconventional Soldier, page 151.]

Fuller’s assessment perfectly describes the state of thinking, modernization and acquisition in today’s US Army. The real question is whether the next president will do anything about these conditions, as well as, the leadership in the U.S. Army. If reform and reorganization are derailed yet again as they were with FCS, modernization will fail. Moreover, Soldiers won’t have years to gear up for the fight as we did before the two world wars let alone allies that will take casualties for years before we arrive. That’s the strategic dilemma for which the U.S. Army is totally unprepared.

Cheers, Doug Macgregor

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Trouble signs ahead for Army modernization

By George Jackson | Published Friday, August 12, 2016

Col. Douglas Macgregor, USA (Ret.) — executive vice president of the Burke-Macgregor Group — discussed the trouble signs ahead for Army modernization.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Russia Is Only A Threat If We Let It Be One

Mark Galeotti

Russia is a declining power, a part-reformed, part-stagnant fragment of a shattered and spent empire. Vladimir Putin, though, has perfected a foreign policy built on equal parts chutzpah, gamesmanship, and bluff. His aim, after all, is not to rebuild a Soviet Union 2.0, nor to spread any ideological message abroad. It is, rather, to force or persuade the outside world to conform to his will, to allow him to claim a sphere of influence and exempt Russia from those influences of the global order he finds constraining, from international law to human rights.

His is the geopolitics of extortion, to look threatening enough that the West decides it is best and easiest to let him have his way. Judging by articles such as Loren Thompson’s recent ‘Why The Baltic States Are Where Nuclear War Is Most Likely To Begin,’ he is having some success.

Thompson’s fundamental premise is that there is a serious risk of a Russian military assault on the Baltic States, and if the USA resists, this may escalate to a nuclear exchange. So Washington should “find a way of loosening the commitments it has made” to the Balts. In other words, NATO collective security and international law be damned, the Baltic States should be considered eminently dispensable in the name of realpolitik.

A grim prospect for the Balts and exactly what Putin wants to hear. However, I believe there are strong grounds to challenge the premises of this perspective and thus its conclusions. Indeed, I would suggest that the wisest, safest and well as most honourable approach is to provide the Balts (and other front line states) with every guarantee, and that this will best avert even the risk of a hot war.

(Recommended: Russia and America - Stumbling to War)

Russia has no territorial interest in the Baltic States. Estonia is not Crimea. Russia is undoubtedly bringing political and military pressure to bear on the Baltic States. But just as Putin intervened into Ukraine’s Donbas not as a land-grab, but to try to make Kiev accept Moscow’s domination (otherwise, he would have gone ahead with the short-lived notion of creating a puppet pseudo-state of “Novorossiya” there), his pressure on the Balts is as means, not end. His hope is to divide and dismay the West – and the very fact we are having this discussion is a victory of sorts for him – and persuade us to back off on what counts.

Ukraine counts, for Moscow. Whereas they have internalised that the Baltic States are now part of the West, they still see the rest of what was the USSR as their sphere of influence. More generally, the way Russia is treated counts: Putin still believes his is a global power, and ought to be considered as such by the West.
But there is no serious desire to start a war with the West to annex small countries whose main natural resources are their people, people who are demonstrably hostile to becoming Russian subjects. Even the Russian-speakers in the region, while having some specific grievances, show no signs of wanting to swap membership of a liberal, democratic, law-based and prosperous Europe for authoritarian, corrupt and impoverished Russia.

Nor is there any serious belief in Moscow that these states could be the launch pad for a NATO invasion. None of the military or foreign policy establishment figures I have met in Moscow regard this as a genuine risk, nor is it seriously discussed in the professional military press. Russia regards itself at war, to be sure, but a political, economic, and cultural struggle. To the Kremlin, we in the West are the ones trying to undermine the regime and reshape their culture. Of course that isn’t true, but in any case the “threat” Putin and his cronies fear comes not from NATO armies but the internet, sanctions, Interpol, and Western values. Seizing the Baltic States would do nothing to prevent that.

(Recommended: RIP Taiwan)

Russia is a subjective, not an objective threat. There is much debate as to quite how formidable its military really is (we’ve really only seen the best of them, in close-to-ideal conditions in Ukraine and Syria). Even if one accepts that they could quickly and easily overrun the Baltic States – though let’s remember that conquer is not the same as pacify, and the Balts would continue to fight – that would only be the start of the conflict.

Even if the USA and NATO were unwilling to counter-attack militarily, we should not forget that we have many other ways of fighting. We could shatter the Russian economy, seize all the assets of Putin’s cronies and cohorts, interdict its trade (it imports almost 40% of its food), crash its communication systems, and generally demonstrate what real power is in the twenty-first century.
And Putin knows this. We worry about Russian “hybrid warfare” (mixing military and non-military means), but the truth is that they think we invented and perfected this way of bringing down societies from without. They may look tough and confident, but they fear us – until we look too weak and muddle-headed to be fearsome.

Putin is working off prejudices and politicised information, but he is a pragmatist, not a fanatic. For all his macho posturing, Putin is actually quite risk-averse, acting when he believes he can be sure of a positive outcome. He can get things wrong, to be sure, and here I’d agree with Thompson that the risks lie in misunderstandings and intelligence failures. The Donbas adventure was such a blunder, and Syria may still prove to be one. In part, this reflects an intelligence and political apparatus that has learned largely to tell the boss what he wants to hear.

So there is scope for much bad analysis and wishful thinking to get into the Kremlin’s policy process. To this end, it is important that the West get used to communicating in headline, not fine print. The more ambiguity, the more chances that Western intent ends up being (mis)interpreted by Moscow wonks and courtiers.

NATO and security are not divisible, and real stability depends on making that abundantly clear. The day Washington makes the Balts second-class NATO members is the day the whole alliance starts to die. Central to its strength and rationale is Article V of the NATO treaty, the principle that an attack on one is an attack on the many. At present, there is a healthy regard in Moscow for Article V; if anything, I find Russians consider it more seriously than Europeans.

However, if it looks as if the United States, the core member of NATO, is no longer serious about Article V, it will dismay the front-line states and embolden Putin. Individual countries may feel they need to appease Moscow, no longer feeling secure, and the Kremlin in turn may be tempted to test the unity of the West.
At present, we face nothing more than trolling and testing; we are secure so long as we are united, and we are seen to be united. As soon as we start to question that unity and suggest that we may be willing to turn a blind eye to some Russian aggression, that is when the risk of conflict increases dramatically. Dams are strong when they are solid; even the slightest crack, and the integrity of the whole is lost.

Mark Galeotti is an incoming senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations Prague, and formerly professor of global affairs at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs.

Image: Defense Threat Reduction Agency

In German: Höhe des Sieges ("Margin of Victory")