Thursday, December 27, 2012

2013: Time For US Strategy To Get Real

AOL Defense
December 27, 2012
Strategy & Policy

2013: Time For US Strategy To Get Real

By Doug Macgregor

As the old year dies, AOL Defense has asked its expert Board of Contributors to look ahead at the next (click here for the whole 2013 forecast series: ). Today we hear from Col. (retired) Douglas Macgregor, a decorated combat veteran of the first Gulf War, prolific author, and a passionate skeptic of conventional strategic wisdom.

In his book Only the Paranoid Survive, Andrew Grove describes a strategic inflection point as a point in time when the balance of forces shifts from the old structure and the old ways of competing to ones. As Grove writes, successful business structures adapt and thrive. Archaic structures that fail to adapt, decline and die.

What Grove describes is precisely what the incoming Secretary of Defense and his (or her) team must do in the opening months of 2013: Recognize we've passed a strategic inflection point and adapt the armed forces to new realities, fiscal and military, while extracting real $ savings in the process. After all, if businesses can do it, so can the American defense establishment, right? Actually, it's not so easy.

Hindsight tells us that machine guns and artillery would kill millions of infantrymen during World War I and that command of the airspace would be vital to the outcome of battles on land and sea. Frankly, it never required much imagination to figure out that the Arab Spring would soon turn to winter with the replacement of a secular dictator like Mubarak with a Sunni Arab Islamist like Morsi.

Today, it seems incomprehensible that anyone in or out of uniform could miss these realities. Why, Americans ask, could hindsight not have been foresight if viewed through a better, more focused lens? Yet, since the end of World War II, the political and military leaders of the United States have established a record of recurrent misjudgment and misperception of strategic reality from Saigon to Baghdad.

To be fair, the human ability to see into the future is always limited, but foresight of any kind is impossible if the lens cannot focus. Whenever the rich record of human cultural, historical and economic experience is dismissed in favor of wishful thinking, a world comes into view that does not really exist; the kind of world described in 1992 by the late Secretary of Defense, Les Aspin, where the US Armed Forces are employed to "punish evil doers."

Inside the Beltway, the lens of wishful thinking is further deformed by the unending struggle on Capitol Hill with the myth that only generals and admirals can or should formulate the concepts governing the application of American military power or military doctrine. In the last four years, this myth has transformed the president, as well as the current Secretary of Defense, into door mats for the four-stars. It's why many Americans in and out of uniform think the United States is doomed to experience a military disaster on the scale of Pearl Harbor, or the Communist attack on South Korea in June 1950, before the post-9/11 paradigm of neo-Wilsonian nation building and counterinsurgency are tossed onto the "trash-heap of history." The skeptics have a point.

On the Hill, the cocktail level of familiarity with real warfare, informed by an unhealthy dose of nostalgia for a post-World War II world order that is crumbling fast, is certainly not helpful. Combine these problems with the unreasoning fears of dysfunctional, backward Muslim societies that have no scientific-industrial capacity; with the grossly exaggerated dread of China, a country riddled with corruption and a ruling class obsessed with keeping the lid on unrest amongst 1.3 billion people; and the picture worsens.

However, like it or not, the incoming Secretary of Defense has no choice but to project technology and conditions into the future while they develop armed forces today that will be used a decade or more after their conception. The question for 2013 is whether the incoming defense team will chart a new course in defense?

Will the new team simply reinforce the pursuit of global dominance with the use of military power to control and shape development inside other peoples' societies? Will the new defense team devise a military strategy that does less with less, while concealing as much as possible our trimmed down military posture from the American public?

Or will the new team begin framing a new national military strategy, one tied to realistic, attainable political and military goals? Will the new defense team treat the American military establishment as a hedge against wars we don't want to fight? Will it foster a military establishment designed to maintain our market-oriented, English-speaking Republic, a Republic that upholds the rule of law, respects the cultures and traditions of people different from ourselves and trades freely with all nations, but protects its commerce, its vital strategic interests, and its citizens?

Put another way, will the incoming defense team admit that it is truly a matter of strategic indifference to the American people which Asian nation controls the Spratlys in the South China Sea, so long as our freedom of navigation, our ability to pursue commerce, is not limited or obstructed?

Whatever actions the new Secretary of Defense and his team undertake, it will not be easy to align the structure and capabilities of American military power with strategic reality, but it is still essential they start doing so in 2013.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Building a Smarter, Smaller Military

National Security

Building a Smarter, Smaller Military

By Douglas A. Macgregor

Read more:

Fact: The fiscal crisis will compel reductions in defense spending. More important fact: How do we do it in ways that make sense?

Economists argue that economic crises do nations a service by clearing the way for innovation, more-efficient production, and faster growth. If that’s true, crises also compel us to see with brutal clarity, what tasks and capabilities are critical and what is simply “nice to do.”

With these points in mind, when it comes to cutting defense, there are really three options:

Option 1. Let the Pentagon’s military bureaucracies drive outcomes. The division of effort among the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines compels its uniformed leaders to view all national policies, even conflict itself, in terms of what the policies attain or fail to attain for the specific Service. As a result, the uniformed military leadership is inclined to reject any serious appraisal of alternatives that changes the military status quo (little if any money saved).

Option 2. Politicians can tinker on the margins of the military status quo. Congress avoided confrontation with the four stars in the aftermath of Desert Storm and made the old industrial age force smaller, while retaining a bloated command overhead. Senior military leaders paid for expensive, often failed modernization programs by downsizing soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, leaving intact the enormous bureaucratic command overhead with its Cold War legacy of numerous single-Service headquarters (modest money saved).

Option 3. Politicians can leverage the fiscal crisis to reduce redundant bureaucratic overhead, streamline defense investment and, ultimately, cultivate greater war-fighting capability. These measures mean fewer regional unified commands, fewer four-star headquarters and more capability integration across Service lines. In 1947, General of the Army, Dwight David Eisenhower made the salient point: “Separate ground, sea, and air warfare is gone forever.”

Ike was right then…and now.

Eisenhower was right. Sixty-five years later, it’s time to get on with the job and harvest the major financial savings generated by a smart retooling of the U.S. military.

Option 3 is the only option that allows us to see with brutal clarity what’s required and it promises both savings and increased capability. Given that “Jointness” and the unity of effort it is supposed to deliver is largely an illusion, a national reset of defense policy and national military strategy is vital.

This reset must produce an efficient and effective organization of military power for the optimum use of increasingly constrained resources.

Put another way, lawmakers and the White House should view defense cuts as a once-in-a-century opportunity to harmonize defense investments with the evolutionary trends in military technology, organization and command structures, as well as, the nation’s need for fiscal discipline.

It’s time to craft a new military strategy and a new force designed for the post-industrial age.

The top priority in U.S. military strategy is economic prosperity and the technological superiority that economic strength creates. Conflict avoidance is vital to this outcome.

President Eisenhower’s military strategy led him to invest in capabilities that would make American involvement in wars less likely, conserving America’s military, economic and political reserves of strength in the process. In this regard, open-ended missions to install liberal democracy inside failed or backward societies, missions that are prohibitively expensive and likely to fail, must be discarded in favor of U.S. foreign and defense policies that promote both solvency and security.

Constrained budgets demand armed forces that fight together, creating real unity of effort, and its corollary: American military power that is disproportionate to the actual size of the armed forces employed. This statement describes a force designed to maximize war-fighting capability, a force organized around Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (ISR), Strike, Maneuver and Sustainment.

In an operational military context, economy is about integrating existing and future capabilities within an agile operational framework guided by human understanding. It’s about combining ground maneuver forces with ISR, Strike and Sustainment capabilities from all the Services.

The question is how to do it?

Here are some thoughts:

– Reduce redundant command-and-control overhead and establish Joint Force Commands.

Standing up permanent Joint Force Commands (JFC) in a reduced number of regional combatant commands bring together the aerospace, naval and land warfare expertise from the four functional areas – ISR, Strike, Maneuver and Sustainment — in one Command within a relatively flat, joint command structure inside the regional unified commands.


Defense Secretary Leon Panetta meets Dec. 5 with combatant commanders over breakfast at the Pentagon.

Sir Winston Churchill told his wartime cabinet, “Failure in war is most often the absence of one directing mind and commanding will.” Perhaps, Churchill’s point explains why from March 1942 to April 1945 when there were 15 million men in the Army and Army Air Corps the U.S. had only four four-star generals to command them: Marshall, MacArthur, Eisenhower and Arnold. Today, the U.S. employs 23 four stars to command a combined Army and Air Force of roughly 879,000 soldiers and airmen. The situation inside the Navy and Marines during World War II was similar.

When there were roughly 4.2 million men in the Navy the U.S. had four four-star admirals to command them: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King, and, until March 1945, 485,000 Marines were led by a three-star named Vandegrift. Today, the U.S. has 10 four-star admirals and five four-star Marine generals for a combined force of roughly 500,000. The small number of commanders elevated to four stars during the Second World War reflected the understanding that no subordinate in an organization should report to more than one boss, that lines of command authority must be clear and uncontested.

Joint Force Commands address this requirement by consolidating the numerous two-, three- and four-star single-service commands into three-star Joint command centers that capitalize on the vast array of strike forces networked with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. However, permanent three-star Joint Force Commands are not a gimmick to justify massive new investments in technology.

The brass-to-grunt ratio is out of whack.

Joint Force Commands are really intellectual constructs with technological infrastructure, the lynchpin in the shift to a 21st Century force centered on integrated operations and Joint military command structures. The faster that command structures can accurately assess a situation, make “good enough” decisions on what to do about it, and act decisively to deal with it, the more lethal and agile the force becomes.

In future conflicts and crises involving capable opponents, there won’t be time in future conflicts for the “pick-up game” that cobbles Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine headquarters together, the approach we used in Iraq and Afghanistan where there were no opposing armies, air forces, air defenses or naval forces. In a confrontation with a great power like China, by the time the U.S. gets its operational construct and “command and control” act in order, one or more great powers will defeat or delay attacking U.S. forces and achieve their own strategic aims. In this strategic setting, competing single-Service commands and ad hoc Joint Task Forces are burdens, not assets when the size of general-purpose combat forces and the fiscal resources to support them is diminishing.

– Build mission focused capability packages for Joint employment.

The fiscal crisis in defense spending creates the opportunity to both economize and expand the Nation’s range of strategic options while reducing costs by constructing a 21st-century scalable, “Lego-like” force design, and a design structured for warfare inside an integrated ISR-Strike-Maneuver-Sustainment Framework.

The future points towards smaller, but more lethal force packages under one-star officers designed for missions of limited duration and scope, not mass armies created for territorial conquest and occupation. Building mission-focused force packages designed to deploy and fight under one star command or the military equivalent of “Legos” that can be assembled into larger joint operational forces is something aerospace and naval forces can do now, but the ground force cannot. Maneuver, Strike, ISR and Sustainment formations become clusters of joint combat power under brigadier generals or rear admirals (lower half).

Future wars require lighter, more agile forces

Generals in the Army and Marines are resistant to Joint Command structures that do not ensure their forces operate under Army or Marine Command Headquarters. But in a world where the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction makes future operations by large concentrations of ground troops dangerous, especially operations from large, expensive fixed installations like those in Iraq and Afghanistan, the deployment of large, unwieldy headquarters ashore to manage WW II troop formations is a liability. Instead, the ground force can make virtue of necessity and create battle groups under one-stars organized around ISR, Strike, Maneuver and Sustainment ashore, formations that operate like ships at sea, mobile, self-contained, and capable of independent operations under Joint Command.

Organizing forces to deploy and fight under Joint Command is the next logical step in the evolution of warfare beyond the ad hoc coordination of Federal Agencies or combined arms, air-ground cooperation, air-sea battle, amphibious and special operations. Eliminating the colonel or captain level of command also offers additional advantages. Not only does the one-star/three-star command structure allow more time for officers to become educated and qualified for Joint operations – something current Service career patterns obstruct – it can also speed promotion to one-star rank.

– Create a predictable revenue stream and job creation inside America’s defense industries through Joint Optimized Defense Investments.

There is plenty of evidence that functionally organized military establishments that integrate capabilities across Service lines while simultaneously eliminating unneeded overhead are not only less expensive to operate and maintain, they also reduce duplication of effort with the potential to create sustainable profitability inside America’s defense industries.

The topline in defense investments is going down in real terms, and the pressure to reduce costs will drive government clients to squeeze profits as well. What is needed is a new business model that stabilizes investments, increasing capability returns while offering sustainable profitability. The new business model is intertwined with the implementation of the ISR-Strike-Maneuver-Sustainment Framework.

America’s defense establishment desperately needs stability in modernization programs along with clarity in technology forecasting, the kind of forecasting that promotes a real and substantial return on research and development. Aligning defense investments with evolutionary trends in technology, organization and command structures is an essential feature of creating sustainable profitability. Applying the ISR-Strike-Maneuver-Sustainment Framework as a methodology for investment planning and programming to support informed choices as constrained budgets compel force optimization is an important part of this process.

Thirty years passed between the outbreak of World War I and the dropping of the atomic bomb in 1945. Americans should expect at least as much change in defense technology over the next 30 years. As a result, binding military modernization efforts through massive programs intended to stamp out hundreds or thousands of ideal designs over two decades of production runs is the road to ruin as seen in programs like the Future Combat System.

The Future Combat System: A road to ruin

The point is simple. What works now must triumph over “unobtainium.” Industry can deliver what’s required, but the military leadership must establish attainable requirements.

The Bottom Line

Welding American military power into a coherent operational framework is essential to save money and rationalize modernization, as well as extract greater capability from the existing force.

Action to achieve this outcome, however, requires tough, courageous decisions from lawmakers and the White House, and this won’t be easy.

As Benjamin Disraeli quipped over a hundred years ago: “Courage is the rarest of all qualities to be found in public life.”

Yet, shrinking resources always means a destructive inter-Service fight inside a fragmented defense policymaking process. Numerous active and retired four-stars, along with their political allies on Capitol Hill, will argue furiously against any change in the way the armed forces are commanded, funded or developed. They will always insist that critical capability gaps could emerge with unknown consequences for American national security.

This form of resistance springs from the natural instinct to protect one’s Service, one’s self, and more especially, the business model and war-fighting status quo one knows.

Mahan: Military services can’t reform themselves

Such behavior validates Alfred Thayer Mahan’s view that “No Service can or should be expected to reform itself.” Still, the risk of doing nothing, of living in the past and extending the life of structures and thinking the nation no longer needs, is far greater and, prohibitively expensive.

In the hundred years after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, Britain fought many small conflicts against weak enemies within its overseas empire, actions that did nothing to prepare the British armed forces for the great power wars of the early and mid-20th Century. As H.G. Wells recorded laconically, “I think that in the decades before 1914 not only I but most of my generation – in the British Empire, America, France, and indeed throughout most of the civilized world – thought that war was dying out…”

When the British entered World War I, they discovered what it meant to fight a determined enemy with capable armed forces.

Americans should not fall victim to similar illusions.

Building effective military power takes time, resources and imagination.

To be ready for the world that will emerge in the aftermath of today’s global economic crisis requires change in defense to begin now, not in 10 or 15 years. By then, Americans will be confronting powers that opted to exploit the coming “inter-war” period and wisely adjusted to the evolutionary trends in armed conflict.

Read more:

Friday, December 7, 2012

Armed Aerial Scout Helicopter: To Be Or Not To Be?

AOL Defense
December 5, 2012
Armed Aerial Scout Helicopter: To Be Or Not To Be?

By Richard Whittle

WASHINGTON: Reports that the Army has finally figured out whether the Hamlet of aircraft programs, Armed Aerial Scout, should be or not be are greatly exaggerated. Army aviation acquisition officials have looked at what birds in hand industry can offer to replace the service's aging OH-58D Kiowa Warrior scout helicopters and have decided they'd prefer to go after a bird in the bush. They're still trying to decide, though, whether they can actually afford one.

The Army has been struggling for more than 20 years to come up with an aircraft to replace the Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. OH-58, which first went into service in 1969 and has been upgraded several times. Rumors were reported last week that a decision had been made to buy a new Armed Aerial Scout after a Pentagon meeting. At that session, Army aviation officials briefed the service's assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, Heidi Shyu, on the results of flight demonstrations of helicopters manufacturers could offer for the armed scout role. They also presented options and a recommendation, but no decisions were reached.

On December 18, aviation officials are to present their findings and the recommendation they decide they can afford to the vice chief of staff of the Army, Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III. Sometime in January, they are to take an official Army request to Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall.

"A decision will be made next year," said Army spokesman Dov Schwartz, declining futher comment.

In the flight demonstrations, conducted last summer and fall, five manufacturers flew prescribed maneuvers with helicopters they might offer if the Army were to replace the OH-58D. Some participants were certain their aircraft impressed Army observers sufficiently to inspire a new start, but AOL Defense can report that what Army officials saw left them unenthusiastic about buying existing helicopters for the armed scout mission. Even if outfitted with additional combat gear, the aircraft left Army officialsunconvinced they should invest the $10 million to $15 million apiece they have estimated it might cost to buy 425 new Armed Aerial Scouts.

As a result, aviation officers are studying whether the service should develop a more advanced version of some existing aircraft and thus get a scout able to fly faster and farther and hover with efficiency at higher altitudes, among other attributes. The answer depends partly on how much that would cost, how it might affect the helicopter industrial base, and how it might mesh with the Pentagon's joint Future Vertical Lift (FVL) initiative.

FVL is a science and technology program to develop four classes of advanced aircraft – light, medium, heavy and ultra -- that can take off and land vertically. Under existing plans, the first of the four to be developed would be a medium-lift aircraft known as the Joint Multirole, a vehicle that could be adapted for various missions.

"What they want to do is kind of hold what they've got and go for the next generation capability," an industry source who follows the Armed Aerial Scout issue closely said of Army aviation leaders.

Within the past eight years, two previous Army programs to develop a Kiowa Warrior replacement were cancelled for cost and other issues. The low-observable, futuristic RAH-66 Comanche was killed in 2004 after about 22 years and $7 billion of development. The ARH-70A Arapaho, an attempt to militarize Bell's successful 407 Ranger, was scrapped in 2008 after its costs soared. After the ARH-70A was cancelled, the Army studied its alternatives and decided the only way to meet its future armed scout helicopter needs would be to develop a new manned aircraft because an unmanned vehicle couldn't fly close air support missions. Army aviation leaders, however, decided they couldn't afford such a new start.

Instead, they decided on a plan that Maj. Gen. Timothy Crosby, program executive officer for aviation, described publicly as an "appetite suppressant." They would upgrade their OH-58Ds to an OH-58F model so those wouldn't become obsolete, conduct a service life extension program (SLEP) on the Kiowa Warriors later to keep them flying, and wait for the FVL to provide technology for a new Armed Aerial Scout. Now, however, following the flight demonstrations, Army officials are studying whether a wiser course would be to pursue a more advanced aircraft sooner.

"They'll look for a dramatic improvement in capability," the industry source predicted.

Theoretically, that might mean a compound helicopter based on Sikorsky Aircraft Corp.'s X2 Technology Demonstrator or on Eurocopter's equally futuristic X3 hybrid. Both combine rotors with propellers to fly about twice as fast as an OH-58D can, and both have proven their configuration works, at least on a demonstrator. A helicopter-airplane hybrid tiltrotor able to take off and land vertically and fly like a fixed-wing plane by swiveling rotors up or forward, as the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey does, might be an equally speedy option.

What the Army might need to spend to get a more advanced aircraft is unclear, though the answer would certainly be in the billions. Asking for commitments like that when the sword of sequestration is hanging over the Pentagon budget's neck may sound awfully optimistic, but spending on aircraft development programs tends to start relatively low and rise to significant levels only years later.

In the meantime, the service is committed to its OH-58D upgrade, under which Bell is providing 15 new cabins while the Army replaces the Kiowa Warrior's distinctive mast-mounted sight with a nose-mounted Raytheon Common Sensor Payload sensor ball, also used by the Army's MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle, a Predator derivative. Putting the sensor ball on the nose requires replacing the OH-58D's landing skids with a set that keeps the aircraft higher off the ground when at rest. With color cockpit displays to replace existing monochrome ones and a number of other technical changes, the OH-58Ds become OH-58Fs.

If senior Army or Pentagon leaders were to decide to replace the OH-58 with another conventional helicopter after all, Bell has proposed a Block II version of the OH-58F, followed by a Block III. The block upgrades would give the Kiowa Warrior a new engine, rotor blades, transmission, tail rotor and, in the end, a new cabin and airframe. Bell flew a Block II during its demonstration for the Army.

The U.S. arm of European defense giant EADS demonstrated both an "Armed Aerial Scout 72X" derived from the UH-72A Lakota light utility helicopter the company has built for the Army in Columbus, Miss., as well as an "Armed Aerial Scout 72X+" based on EADS subsidiary Eurocopter's civilian EC-145.

Boeing Co. flew an enhanced version of its AH-6, colloquially but not officially known as the "Little Bird." Anglo-Italian company AgustaWestland flew its AW139, while MD Helicopters Inc. of Mesa, Ariz., offered its 540F, a new helicopter that in profile resembles the Little Bird.

Sikorsky didn't fly anything but briefed Army officials on its S-97 Raider, a compound helicopter concept based on its X2 demonstrator. The X2, which made 23 flights between 2008-2011, used coaxial rotors and a pusher propeller to reach speeds as high as 290 miles per hour in level flight. The S-97 isn't flying yet but Sikorsky plans to have two prototypes in the air in 2014.

If the Army does go after after an advanced rather than an existing helicopter to replace the OH-58, it would come as little surprise. Crosby told the Association of the United States Army's 2012 Aviation Symposium last January that while the Army would look at existing helicopters, it was unlikely to buy one under current budget conditions. "Who thinks that's affordable?" he asked.

Another key official, meanwhile, Lt., principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, told an American Helicopter Society dinner just a few weeks ago that it was "time for the Army to look forward and do something dramatic in aviation."

Douglas Macgregor responds:

The root problem of the problem is here: "the Army studied its alternatives and decided the only way to meet its future armed scout helicopter needs would be to develop a new manned aircraft because an unmanned vehicle couldn't fly close air support missions. "

Says who?

If we can pass control of Predators and Reapers back and forth between local controllers for take-off/landing to mission operators 10,000 miles away in Nevada or Wyoming, why can't we do the same with battalion-level fire support officers or NCOs who would take control of the RPA when it is actively covering a mission, and employ its missiles to engage targets in support of their unit or use what they are seeing to call for fixed wing air support from USAF, USN, or allied/partner Air Forces? In the foreseeable future, there is no requirement for any rotor driven aircraft to fly armed reconnaissance missions beyond the Apache Longbow. Unmanned aircraft can augment, supplement and frequently replace manned aircraft for these Army missions.

ANSWER: We cannot because we have no Strike Coordinators, only fire support officers.

The Army also doesn't necessarily need VTOL at all.

The Helicopter mafia is really pumping these hybrid/compound helos, but this is nothing new. They tried one of those BEFORE the Apache... the XAH-56 CHEYENNE. It was a colossally costly failure, too. The Mil-24 also applied a compound helo approach, and while far faster than most conventional helos, it has virtually no hover capability out of ground effect and is useless over 12,000 feet. I am told heard that the wonderous Sikorsky X2, if it were fully militarized and stripped down for speed test bed, it would be as heavy and costly as a V-22. Absurd.

No, it definitely is NOT "time for the Army to look forward and do something dramatic in aviation." It's time for the Army to learn how to play in the joint arena as a supporting force, leave air power to the AF and Navy, and focus on developing a 20-years-overdue, lighter/more compact, more fuel-efficient, tracked medium armored family that can self-deploy on land, has lethality and survivability against the probable threats, and can be procured in sufficient quantities and variants to replace both our Cold War armored fleet AND the underwhelming Strykers.

Some will ask, “Why not all threats?” The answer is just as it is impossible to build an unsinkable ship, it’s also impossible to build an impregnable armored vehicle. This is why armored vehicles are a balance of armored protection, firepower, mobility and human tactical competence. All of these determine the fighting power and survivability of armored forces.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

USMC Enlistedman Claims Macgregor is Prejudiced--While Posting Korean War Myths

The USMC refused to stay in formation during the march to the Yalu river during the Korean war and began to "bug-out" (run) by building evacuation air strips, opening a gap for the enemy to infiltrate in behind American lines.

Here is what the man said:

Subject: Marine Article
Date: Tuesday, December 4, 2012, 3:07 PM

Mr. Macgregor,

I read your article in Time magazine yesterday concerning your feelings towards the United States Marine Corps. Maybe you should spend some time researching your topic prior to putting pen to paper so to speak. The Marine Corps is a time honored institution that fulfills many roles for our armed forces. One of the topics that you seem to have left out is the men that the Marine Corps produced and that are part of a strong backbone of American heritage.

More often than you would even care to admit through out American history the Marine Corps has stood up to the enemy, has defeated the enemy and has done so with the army in full retreat. Mr. Macgregor you are an army officer with a defined prejudice towards the Marines. I can only imagine somewhere along the way a Marine put you in your place or you are just embarrassed that your service doesn't transcend the values, principles and courage that my beloved Marine Corps represents.

You have your own opinion and it's noted. But it's as dumb of an opinion as they come. You could run for political office as you live in a reality that doesn't exist.


The response to my comments on the light infantry as currently equipped and organized in both the Army and the Marines provides a useful glimpse into the mentality that legislators must confront as they consider reductions in defense spending. In this case, the man is a Marine, but his delusional thinking resonates with far too many in the Army’s light infantry circles.

The notion that Marines want to justify force structure on the grounds that they "the best placed units to provide aid to disaster victims," should raise real concerns about what is being done with the Armed Forces. This may be exactly what Samuel Nicholas always hoped the Marines would become, but I doubt seriously that Generals Lem Shepherd or David Shoup would have considered such a rationale. In addition, it’s also a very expensive way for the American tax payer to deliver humanitarian aid and assistance.

Unless human flesh and bone has been converted to titanium alloy, dismounted men with rifles are the softest and the easiest targets to maim and kill on the battlefield. Tanks are not soft targets as Marine Armor officers will attest. In 2003 after Marine infantry had fought Iraqi paramilitaries in An Nasiryah for three hours taking casualties in the process, a platoon of Marine Tanks showed up and crushed the Iraqi fighters in minutes.

In subsequent actions in Fallujah where the Marines employed large numbers of dismounted infantry, the Marines took serious and unnecessary casualties. The two Army Armored Task Forces had fewer than a dozen casualties. The Marine determination to expose flesh and bone to fire was repeated over and over again with horrible consequences for Marines, dismounted or mounted in wheeled vehicles, or tracked Amphibs.

Alex Berenson of the The New York Times noted the obvious drawbacks to the light infantry-centric Marine formations on 29 August 2004 writing:

“… in Najaf, two battalions of the Army’s tanks did what a lighter marine battalion could not, inflicting huge casualties on Mr. Sadr’s insurgents while taking almost none of their own. The 70-ton tanks and 25-ton Bradleys pushed to the gates of the Imam Ali shrine at the center of the old city. Meanwhile, the marines spent most of the fight raiding buildings far from the old city. Even so, seven marines died, and at least 30 were seriously wounded, according to commanders here, while only two soldiers died and a handful were injured.” Perhaps these comments help to explain why General Colin Powell expressed the concern in 1990 during the run up to Desert Storm that “the Marines are really interested in building another monument to more dead Marines.” Mass plus athleticism does not equal warfighting capability. Delusional thinking of this kind fills body bags, but it is no way to fight a war.

Finally, a person who saw more blood and destruction in his lifetime than any man alive, Sir Winston Churchill, lamented the readiness of British generals to hurl human beings into fire. His words were about the criticality of armor and the failure to exploit it in WW I, but the words are no less true today.

"Accusing as I do without exception all the great Allied offensives in 1914, 1916 and 1917, as needless and wrongly conceived operations of infinite cost, I am bound to reply to the question -- what else could be done? And I answer it, pointing to the battle of Cambrai (where tanks were first used), 'this could have been done'. This in many variants, this in larger and better forms ought to have been done, and would have been done if only the generals had not been content to fight machine gun bullets with the breasts of gallant men, and think that that was waging war."

Saturday, December 1, 2012

USMC: Under-utilized Superfluous Military Capability

By Douglas A. Macgregor


Marines practice an amphibious assault aboard an LCAC in California in September.

Marine Commandant James Amos’ recent remarks on the future of the corps can be summed up as: nothing new.

In shorthand, “Rah, rah, the Marine Corps is awesome, and all we have to do is make sure they have the equipment & training & facilities they need so they can always be awesome Marines, rah, rah!”


The Marines as currently organized and equipped are about as relevant as the Army’s horse cavalry in the 1930s and the Marines are not alone. They have company in the Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps.

But, first, let’s examine the Marines.

In truth, the Marines have a low-end warfare niche, but a very small one for extremely limited and unusual types of operations.

The only amphibious craft they really need are the next-gen LCACs and LCUs. The only wet-well ships they need are LSD 41s — and those need to be kept in production to gradually replace older LSDs and the troublesome LPDs.

No one will set out to establish a defended beachhead because U.S. aircraft from the Air Force and the Navy will easily target and destroy the defenses.

Today, enemy forces will mine approaches from the sea, and rely on stand-off attack to drive surface fleets away from coastlines. They’ll employ their ground forces, particularly mobile armored forces, inland, away from the coast. These mobile reserves will attack within the range of the defending forces’ own artillery and airpower to destroy elements that attempt to come ashore whether over the beach or through ports.

Most of today’s Marine force consists of airmobile light infantry. This Marine force is designed for use in the developing world against incapable opponents from Haiti to Fiji, but not much else.

The use of Marines to assault Iraq’s southern coast during Desert Storm was dismissed out of hand as too dangerous, particularly when Navy surface combatants struck sea mines in the Persian Gulf. Subsequently, in 1991 Marines were used ashore to augment the Army where Marines followed an Army armor brigade from Fort Hood, Texas, all the way to Kuwait City.

The point is simple.

The capability to come ashore where the enemy is not present, then, move quickly with sustainable combat power great distances over land to operational objectives in the interior, is essential. The Marines cannot do it in any strategic setting where the opponent is capable (neither can the XVIII Airborne Corps!).

The Marines cannot confront or defeat armored forces or heavy weapons in the hands of capable opponents. Nor can the Marines hold any contested battle space for more than a very short amount of time, after which the Marine raid or short stay ashore is completed.

Adding vertical-and/or-short-takeoff-landing (V/STOL) aircraft like the F-35B, to compensate for the lack of staying power and mobility on the ground is not an answer, particularly given the severe limitations of VSTOL aircraft, and the proliferation of tactical and operational air defense technology in places that count.

The real question is how much Marine Corps do Americans need? The answer is not the 200,000 Marines we have today.

Many of the same observations apply to the Army’s vaunted XVIII Airborne Corps. The Army’s airmobile infantry in the 101st have been used sparingly for similar reasons. Airmobile forces were used in 1991, but most of its value resided in its attack-helicopter force, not in its air-mobile infantry.

Proposals to use Army airborne forces to seize Tallil air field in An Nassiryah during Desert Storm were dismissed out of hand given the threat of Iraqi air defenses. A similar assault planned for Haiti was cancelled in 1994, and the large-scale use of airborne forces in Iraq and Afghanistan was also ruled out in 2001 and, again, in 2003.

There are several reasons for this:

– First, like the Marines ashore, Army airmobile and airborne forces are “soft targets,” extremely vulnerable to long-range air and missile attack, as well as heavy weapons in the form of self-propelled artillery, mortars and auto-cannon.

– Second, the Army’s airmobile division, the 101st, is extremely slow to deploy. Moving it requires as much cubic space as an entire armored/mechanized division. Its performance in Iraq in March-April 2003 was poor. Its alleged combat potential was never put to the test for the reasons already cited.

– Third, the rotary-wing aircraft in the Army are very maintenance-intensive with often-poor readiness rates. The airmobile force in the 101st is also a major consumer of fuel and requires enormous support, as well as expensive contractor help. Their rotary-wing aircraft are also susceptible to detection and vulnerable to widely-dispersed small arms and MANPADS, potentially resulting in substantial casualties and equipment losses even before the airmobile force is ready to engage the enemy on the ground.

None of these attributes make the force attractive for employment against any enemy with a modicum of capability in its armed forces.

In sum, we need airmobile forces from the sea for limited operations, but we can do this job with far fewer Marines than we have now, or even the 182,000 slated to be on active duty on 2017. We also need far fewer airborne/air assault infantry than the 80,000 in the Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps for equally-limited and unusual operations.

Clinging to the misguided, wasteful and self-defeating policies of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan as justification for no change in the Army and Marine forces is not an argument. The policies, strategy and tactics were flawed, if not disastrous. Reenacting these operations is about as stupid as reenacting Tarawa, Market Garden or the airborne assault on Crete.

In 110 days of fighting the German army in France during 1918, the U.S. Army Expeditionary Force sustained 318,000 casualties, including 110,000 killed in action. That’s the kind of lethality waiting for U.S. forces in a future war with real armies, air forces, air defenses and naval power.

Ignoring this reality is the road to future defeats and American decline. It’s time to look beyond the stirring images of infantrymen storming machine-gun nests created by Hollywood and to see war for what it is and will be in the future: the ruthless extermination of the enemy with accurate, devastating firepower from the sea, from the air, from space and from mobile, armored firepower on land.

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