Monday, February 27, 2012

Lean, Mean Fighting Machine

Cutting defense doesn’t mean going defenseless
Topics for Discussion:
•What is America’s top priority?
•What are the threats to the U.S.?
•How should we defend the United States?
•Don’t just cut Defense. Reform and
Reorganize it!
•Closing Thoughts
A presentation by
Douglas Macgregor, PhD
Colonel (ret) U.S. Army
CPAC , Washington, DC
9 February 2012

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Should Special Operations Be Given More Autonomy?


The United States Special Operations Command, or SOC, is comprised of elite military units that perform mostly covert missions in hostile territory. SOC has around 54,000 active-duty personnel from the Marines, Army, Navy, and Coast Guard. In April 2011, President Barack Obama appointed Adm. William H. McRaven commander of Special Operations Command.

SOC has been responsible for a number of dazzlingly successful missions in the recent past, including the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May and the rescue of two kidnapped aid workers in Somalia in January. Since then, Admiral McRaven has requested that his group be allowed to operate outside of normal Pentagon deployment channels. Through a quiet lobbying campaign, SOC is pushing for more independence as well as expanded roles in places like Latin American, Africa, and Asia.

Proponents of more autonomy for Special Operations Command argue that small groups of specialized fighters represent a better type of military style for the world’s ongoing conflicts. They point to the the success of the Osama bin Laden raid and hold that large-scale wars with massive amounts of ground troops, like the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq, are unnecessarily cumbersome and expensive. Instead, they would rather special operations forces take out key operative targets quickly and efficiently.

Opponents contend that giving autonomy to a small group of elite groups would undermine the current defense system. Bureaucracy is the real threat to the pace of military action, and going around the problem instead of fixing it is the wrong solution, they argue. They also worry that an independent SOC could get involved in conflicts too easily if not checked through proper channels, possibly sparking wars that could have been avoided.

Should Special Operations Command be given more autonomy?

A Less Costly but Stronger Military?

Link to audio

Thursday, Feb 09, 2012

Col. (Ret) Douglas MacGregor, a decorated combat vet, PhD and author of four books explains how we can cut military spending and have an even stronger military.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

An Attack on Iran is Pearl Harbor Redux

When the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor, they did so on the basis of assumptions that were all false.

First, the Japanese assumed that Americans who were in the majority opposed to war with Germany and Italy would decline to mobilize and fight the Japanese. Given the passage of the military draft by on only one vote in 1939, the Japanese also assumed the American population had no stomach for a war. Second, the Japanese assumed the strike on American naval forces in Pearl Harbor would not only devastate the United States’ ability to retaliate for at least a year or more, the Japanese also assumed American military industrial production would take years to construct a fleet capable of reaching Japan. Finally, the Japanese assumed they and their forces were morally superior to American forces.

The rest of the story is too well known to repeat here, but the absence of realistic thinking led the Japanese to commit national suicide. How could Japanese leaders have been so misguided in their assumptions? The answer is: It’s easy. When national military strategy fails to answer the questions of purpose, method and end-state, military power becomes an engine of destruction not just for its intended enemies; but for its supporting society and economy too!

If the United States attacks Iran or supports Israel’s attack on Iran, do Americans run a similar risk? The answer is yes.

Regardless of how great or how small the military commitment is, national leaders must always measure what the United States might gain by what the United States might lose. After all, the object in conflict and crisis is the same as in wrestling; to throw the opponent by weakening his foothold and upsetting his balance without risking self-exhaustion. What militates against this line of reasoning is the delusion of limitless national power and the unhealthy condition of American national narcissism that thrives on it.

Today, the same voices that advocated war with Iraq on specious grounds are urging an attack on Iran. They are doing so without serious consideration of the steps required to both contain and end the conflict that an American or American-supported Israeli attack would precipitate. Had anyone in the Bush White House stopped to seriously examine what outcome (end-state) it was they wanted to achieve with military power (purpose) and what military capabilities (method) were really at their disposal to do so, it is doubtful they would have reached the decisions they did. We don’t need to repeat this folly in Iran or anywhere else, particularly at a time when American economic recovery hangs by a delicate thread.

Like the Bush Administration’s decision to intervene with large-scale conventional forces in Iraq, the argument for military action against Iran rests on the delusion that the United States can control the outcome. This kind of wish-based ideology made retreat from inflexible and irrational policy pronouncements on Iraq and Afghanistan nearly impossible when they no longer made sense. In the event Iran is supported by other great powers in its determination to survive the American or American-supported Israeli assault, the strategic consequences for American interests around the world could be profoundly negative.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Don’t waste a drawdown

As budgets shrink, let’s rethink how we organize, train and equip the Army


In 1950, there were 563,000 soldiers on active duty in the U.S. Army — yet, as General of the Army Omar Bradley put it, “It was an Army that could not fight its way out of a paper bag.”

In the five years following the end of World War II, the Army’s four-star generals had transformed a mighty weapon into a light constabulary force on wheels, designed for occupation duty in Japan and Germany and not much more.

As the U.S. withdraws from its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, fiscal pressures are certain to exact a toll on the Army’s end strength. Yet there is no need to repeat the mistakes of the mid-20th century.

In fact, the size of a military institution’s budget may well stand in inverse proportion to the original thinking it creates. A smaller budget that cannot buy everything can be exploited to engage in the unconstrained thinking that creates new fighting power. Corporate thinking — the kind that dominates today’s Army — emphasizes the value of numbers, but how armed forces organize, train and equip makes a far greater difference to the outcome than the quantity of troops.

After World War I, the German Army was reduced to 100,000 men, a fraction of its historic strength. Knowing that Germany could not afford to field large, expensive armies, and preferring in any case to avoid another destructive war of attrition, the German General Staff turned to new ideas: new combat formations based on new technology, new leadership and new tactics.

Further east, another giant military was downsizing in the face of economic pressure. In 1923, Lenin demobilized most of the 5 million men in the Red Army, leaving a standing professional force of 600,000 men to defend one-sixth of the world’s land mass. Forced to think unconventionally, the leadership of the Red Army produced a vision of future war centered on aircraft and armored forces that eventually rescued the Soviet state from destruction in 1943-45.

Both Soviet and German military leaders zeroed in on the central importance of J.F.C. Fuller’s observation: “The fighting power of an army lies in its organization for combat.”

Today’s U.S. Army needs to do the same, focusing on the creation, maintenance and expansion of new fighting power in three ways.

First, maximize ready, available combat forces within the limits of current resources and adopt mission-focused capability packages as the building blocks of the Army’s tactical organization for combat.

Second, streamline the institutional Army to support deployable combat power and eliminate wasteful and redundant overhead.

Third, integrate operational Army command and control across service lines and harmonize Army rotational readiness with air and naval forces.

Finding the right mix of ready, deployable high-performance combat forces that emphasize mobility, survivability and lethality (not mass) for integrated “all arms” operations is vital. Today, accurate, devastating strikes from the air, land or sea using precision-guided conventional or nuclear weapons are enabled by manned or unmanned persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and near-real-time targeting. In practically every strategic setting, “strike” is both the existential threat to and pivotal enabler for all surface forces, whether land- or sea-based. Contemporary air and naval forces also can allow ground forces to economize, to concentrate ground combat forces only when and where they are needed while denying the opposing force the ability to mass against them.

However, air and naval forces alone cannot seize or secure objectives of operational or strategic importance on land to either the enemy or the U.S. Precision strikes from the air and sea can incapacitate enemy command and control, but the confusion and paralysis thus engendered is always temporary unless ground forces exploit the strikes quickly and decisively.

The challenge is to organize ground forces to conduct operations that magnify and exploit the striking power of the joint force. This means the Army must provide high-performance combat forces that emphasize mobility, survivability and lethality (not mass) for joint, integrated, “all arms” operations. These formations must be self-contained, survivable, mobile combat formations (mission-focused capability packages) organized around maneuver, strike, ISR and sustainment. In addition, these combat formations must be able to perform nonlinear and dispersed, mobile operations in a much more lethal battle space than anything seen since 2001.

As I argued in “Breaking the Phalanx” and “Transformation under Fire,” the Army needs conceptual road maps that eliminate brigades and divisions. In their place will rise combat maneuver groups (CMGs) of roughly 5,000 to 6,000 troops commanded by brigadier generals with lieutenant colonels in the key staff positions. CMGs are meant to plug directly into joint force headquarters without deploying the additional layers of single-service command and control provided by large, ponderous division and corps headquarters. This organizational paradigm remains the most attractive and promising way to integrate combat forces within a multiservice framework of maneuver, strike, ISR and sustainment operations.

Historically, the Army has had plenty of success with this force design. Examples include Brig. Gen. Bruce Clark’s brilliant command of Combat Command B, 7th Armored Division, at St. Vith in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge, Col. Paul Freeman’s command of the 23rd Regimental Combat Team at Chip Yong Ni in Korea in 1951 and Col. John Hort’s composite command in the battle for Sadr City in Iraq in 2008.


What should these capability-based force packages look like? Light infantry? Mobile armored forces, theater missile defense forces or ground-based strike forces? Should they include multiple rocket launchers and unmanned combat aircraft along with communications and robust logistics elements to perform in austere theaters on short notice?

Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the recently retired Army vice chief of staff, provided the answer when he returned from service in Iraq: “While many contributing factors helped shape the battle space (air interdiction, close-air support, artillery), ultimately war demands closure with the enemy force within the minimum safe distance of artillery. Our armored systems enabled us to close with and destroy the heavily armed and fanatically determined enemy force often within urban terrain with impunity.”

Tracked mobile armored firepower in a range of variants is the foundation for a survivable, ground combat force in modern warfare. In joint warfare, mobile armored forces provide the capability to initiate decisive offensive operations with a credible maneuver force against any enemy, conventional or irregular. Why? Regardless of how good the individual rifleman’s training and equipment may be, machine guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades compel him to halt and take cover. When these conditions of symmetry apply, the light infantry turns to the radio for help from Air Force and Navy air power, artillery and, as seen throughout the Iraq occupation, tanks. And in a fight with a capable enemy with air defenses, air power — manned or unmanned — cannot be everywhere to compensate for a lack of combat power on the ground.

Unlike light infantry, mobile armored forces can take hits and continue to advance, bypassing or punching through all types of resistance. Effective at joint operational maneuver, they can encircle and destroy sub-national or irregular groups, shatter opposing conventional forces and hold nation-states hostage to American political demands. Properly employed, mobile armored forces can reinforce the striking power of air and naval forces and signal escalation dominance to the enemy (conventional or irregular) by shifting rapidly between dispersion and concentration.

More important, we may look at areas where the U.S. has tangible strategic interests in an effort to predict where future operations may arise. From the Sea of Japan to the South China Sea, the Baltic to the Red Sea or the Caribbean Basin, there is no demand for large numbers of light infantrymen. In fact, light infantry is plentiful in all the states that border these bodies of water. What these states lack are the matchless capabilities the Army can provide: effective mobile command and control, mobile armored firepower, layered, integrated theater missile defense, sophisticated combat engineering and logistics.


At the same time, reorienting the institutional Army to the post-Iraq and Afghan environment demands a new command structure designed to train it, prepare it and launch it for either joint expeditionary warfare or homeland defense. Today, Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) is responsible for both the training and design of the force, but it has little or no impact on the readiness of Army combat forces to deploy and fight. Meanwhile, Army Materiel Command is expected to develop weapons and equipment on the basis of requirements developed at TRADOC. Lastly, Army Forces Command exerts little or no influence over the training concepts developed at TRADOC, but it must nevertheless ensure the readiness of the force.

In an information-age environment where technology is racing ahead at breakneck speed, thinking about warfare should not be separated from the process of technology development. It makes sense to link readiness and training in one headquarters while combining materiel development with force design, education and doctrinal development in another. This action would reduce three four-star headquarters to two. It’s long overdue in the unending fight for more combat capability and less overhead.

Across industry, the impact of change in technology and markets follows a similar track: New organizational models that comprise fewer layers emerge as industries consolidate to attain faster decision processes, greater use of teams and more educated employees to solve problems autonomously. Today, an operational force design with fewer echelons of command and control and a faster decision cycle can employ joint, integrated capabilities with ground maneuver elements to provide the coverage needed to exploit the joint potential in the Air Force and Navy ISR and strike capabilities, as well as advanced aviation and ground combat platforms.

Without unity of command, unity of action is impossible. Having fought for their very existence against the German Wehrmacht, the most sophisticated armed force of its time, no group of military leaders understood this point more thoroughly than the Soviet High Command. The most strategically important offensive of World War II, Operation Bagration, showcased the importance of unified command of all air, land and sea-based forces. “All arms” operations derive inspiration from the Soviet experience because Soviet command structures integrated functional capabilities — maneuver, strike, ISR, sustainment — across service lines inside a seamless, unified command-and-control operational framework.

All previous efforts to create permanent joint force headquarters designed to command and control forces from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps have failed. However, reductions in defense spending can be exploited to change this condition, provided the Army’s senior leadership will step forward with a plan of its own to field and test a joint force headquarters.

Corporate thinking means repaving old roads instead of blazing new trails into the future, sending the Army down the same path with fewer and fewer resources. Put another way, it would be a serious mistake to go to war in the future “with the Army we have” as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld opted to do in 2003. It is time to stop investing scarce funding and resources in land warfare systems that assume the only future threats are from heavy machine guns, grenades and mines.

The clock is ticking. Too few of those in uniform hear it. Few politicians ever do. The risk of interstate regional war is currently low — a condition history suggests won’t last. We cannot predict when the next major war will occur or whom we will fight. I’d like it to be 25 years away, but it might be 15. It might be five or even fewer. We just don’t know.

What we do know is that who wins and who loses in war usually has a great deal to do with decisions in the five to 15 years leading up to the wartime collision. It is in the years before a major conflict begins that a victorious military establishment develops a war-winning “formula” combining technology and human potential within a conceptual framework so overwhelmingly advantageous that no amount of individual or small-unit bravery can overcome it. Now is the ideal time for the Army along with the rest of the joint force to put aside corporate thinking and focus on these formulas.