Friday, June 7, 2013

Why Afghanistan Might Be the Marines’ Last Fight      

Photo: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

By DAVID FRANCIS, The Fiscal Times
May 6, 2013

 In 2010, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates made waves when he ordered the Pentagon to take a hard look at the marines to determine what, if any role they would play in the future of warfare.

 “All of the military services have been challenged to find the right balance between preserving what is unique and valuable in their traditions, while at the same time making the changes necessary to win the wars we are in and prepare for the likely future threats in the years and decades to come,” he said. “Looking ahead, I do think it is proper to ask whether large-scale amphibious landings along the lines of Inchon [the marine’s invasion of the Korea peninsula in 1950] are feasible.” [EDITOR: It was Army General MacArthur's invasion and 7th Infantry Division troops did half the fighting and dying]

 The review, which was completed in 2011, recommended the marines shrink the size of their force dramatically and make other cuts that would lessen their strength. But the review did little to quiet speculation among the defense and policy community in Washington. There are lingering questions about the future of the marines, with some suggesting that their missions are better conducted by the Army, Navy and Special Forces.          

“They’re a service in search of mission,” said Gordon Adams, an American University professor and defense budget expert. 

Because of this lack of mission and ongoing budget pressures, the marines are becoming an endangered branch. In the age of DOD austerity, they represent low-hanging fruit that could easily be picked from the Pentagon’s tree. 


The marines, while considered a separate branch of the military, are actually part of the Navy. They’re often referred to as the “infantry of the Navy.” 

“The marines don’t have a separate fiscal existence. They are a wholly owned subsidiary of the Navy,” Adams said. 

The marines are funded through two different mechanisms. For 2014, President Obama has proposed a marine operations and maintenance budget of $6.2 billion, slight increase from the $5.9 billion it received last year. This money is given directly to the marines. 

But the Navy has authority over the marine’s personnel budget–expected to be $12.9 billion in 2014. This means that Navy brass can decide how it pays to train, house, feed and maintain readiness of the troops. 

Because of this, according to Adams, the marines often find themselves the victims of Navy spending fights. At a time when DOD is facings years of spending cuts, funding for the marines is emerging as a bargaining chip in budgetary poker played among Navy commanders. 

“They’ve always had a struggle on the budgetary side in the Navy,” Adams said. “If acquisition is going south, it’s going to put the squeeze on the marines.” 


The marines’ small budget and relatively small force size might seem like an advantage. They are in the process of scaling down their forces from a peak of 202,100 to 182,100 by 2017 – a drawdown that was quietly announced last year.  Their $19.1 billion budget is also considered tiny compared to other Pentagon programs. 

In this case, small size and budget are working to the marines disadvantage. They’re not “too big to fail,” and their moribund mission is reflected in a force that hasn’t performed amphibious assaults for 73 years. 

This problem became acute during the Afghan war. The Army was conducting the majority of the ground offensives, and Special Forces were performing many of the high-risk missions once performed by marines. The other military branches were marginalizing them while illustrating just how outdated their core competency had become. 

Gates said as much when he referenced Inchon. In another speech in 2010, he said, “the marines do not want to be, nor does America need, another land army.  Nor do they want to be, nor does America need, a “U.S. Navy police force.” 
The future of warfare is unlikely to require amphibious assault capabilities. According to nearly every future threat assessment, the United States needs to focus on counterterrorism operations and cyber warfare, not for an invasion of China. 

Capitol Hill has taken notice. In 2011, it cancelled the $15 billion Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program. It wasn’t just cost overruns that doomed the program – both the Pentagon and lawmakers have long shown the ability to tolerate wasteful programs.  Lawmakers and Pentagon planners determined that the vehicle was no longer needed.   

The marines are likely to survive not because their core competencies are vital to national security, but because they have allies on Capitol Hill who do not want to be responsible for killing a beloved service branch, says American’s Adams.

“I think the marines will survive because we can’t let go of anything,” he said. “They have a lot of friends on the Hill who want to say, ‘Semper Fi! We’re going to save the marines.” 

But Adams added, “It’s a dead mission. It’s an old mission,” referring to amphibious assault. “But it’s at the heart of the marines’ sense of self.”

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Marines¹ $22.2 Billion Mistake?

 Target!  Marines are the only users worldwide of V22 ( a few SOF also), F35B (Italy bailed and Brits are talking a handful), H-1, AH-1, C-46. H53, not to mention their VIP fleet of Cessna's.  F35B carries fewer bombs than the A6 and the Marines don’t use VTOL jets near the fighting. They never have. Add to it the simple truth that the world today has thousands of 6,000 foot runways capable of accommodating all manner of military aircraft and the truth is we can't afford them and we don’t need very many of them. 

The Marines claim they are cheap, but never mention they depend on the Army’s schools for training, Army equipment for fighting and the Navy and the AF to move them and support them. It’s an enormous scam on the American Taxpayer.

Imagine trying to assemble a large fleet of surface ships just “over the horizon” from the objective to mount an amphibious invasion anywhere in the world given the overhead surveillance, commercial and military, as well as, the busy sea lanes that pass virtually every place of potential importance. Setting aside the problems with reaching the shore in such areas and surviving the journey, the assembled fleet would be identified targeted and promptly sunk

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Growing Concern Over Hagel’s Strategic Choices and Management Review
June 4, 2013
National Security

By Douglas A. Macgregor

It seems the Pentagon‘s Strategic Choices and Management Review, ordered by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel more than two months ago, is taking longer than originally anticipated. Some say the whole review is in trouble.

If so, it’s not surprising:

– No one, particularly the service chiefs, wants to give up anything.

– The defense bureaucracy has missed or pushed back deadlines for dozens of short-term, audit-readiness milestones.

– Strategic planning and programming are conducted in an environment of perpetual crisis management.

– When blue-ribbon panels of alleged experts are convened to offer advice the panels are inevitably made up of people with “safe hands” — code for current or former Beltway denizens determined to ensure nothing changes in an overly-complex, industrial-age military establishment that lines lots of pockets in Washington, D.C., and across the country with defense dollars.

Result: The Department of Defense is strategically adrift at a point in time when Hagel has only two more budget cycles to extract savings through positive reform and restructuring. Moreover, the military strategy and forces that emerge from this process must also cultivate powerful new military capabilities for a radically different world that will emerge over the next 20 years.

Just how different?

Today, much of the world is living in a strategic environment that is a cross between the 17th and the 19th centuries. In Europe, economic and cultural realities are killing the utopian dream of a peaceful and united continent. In Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece the social and economic conditions look pre-revolutionary.

In Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, Venezuela and Mexico the chaos is far more menacing. For the United States, what happens in these societies is really about damage limitation, not military intervention. In the Middle East, Africa or Latin America American military intervention would be tantamount to tossing a two-gallon can of kerosene on a house fire and hoping it puts the fire out.

In Syria, for instance, Iran — with limited backing from Russia, China and India — is fighting a regional conflict with its Sunni Islamist competitors, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Gulf Oil protectorates. Good intentions to support the few, alleged ‘liberal democrats’ in the Syrian rebel camp have no more chance of succeeding in Syria than they did in Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan.  Using a “no-fly zone” or any other American military instrument to intervene in Syria, with a rule book designed by American politicians, appointees or generals with a cocktail level of familiarity with real war and its consequences, is the last thing Americans should consider.

Politically-correct halfway houses for the use of military power don’t work well.

When British General Sir Bernard Montgomery was a major in Ireland in 1920, he realized the Irish rebellion against British rule could not be stopped with tea and crumpets. As Montgomery put it, only “Cromwellian” measures would destroy the Irish rebellion, but that those harsh measures were unacceptable to the British public and counter-productive internationally, as well as in Ireland. Montgomery was right.

Fortunately, Prime Minster David Lloyd George agreed, overruled the British generals who wanted to “crush the Irish,” and withdrew the British army from Ireland.

If Iraq had ever been truly important to American strategic interests, we would have crushed the opposition to our unwanted occupation in a week. Not with riflemen posing as “strategic corporals,” but with tanks, automatic cannon, artillery and airpower. But the conquest of Iraq was never strategically vital to U.S. interests. Like the British army in Ireland, the U.S. Army eventually withdrew.

Of course, to admit that our large, forward-based U.S. military forces in the Mediterranean and the Pacific did nothing to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from taking over Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, and creating Sharia law-compliant constitutions and states would mean an end to the justification for much of what the service chiefs say “forward presence” is designed to do. To admit that on any given day most of Africa is vulnerable to civil wars, genocide, and anarchy the United States and the West cannot stop would expose the myth of forward presence.

The truth is that nothing of strategic importance to the American people in these conflicted regions will be changed by drinking tea with the locals, bombing fixed installations or deploying hundreds of thousands of troops to occupy and police them. American military power cannot prevent Turkey and Iran from competing for strategic dominance in the Middle East, nor should it be used to do so.

Changes are needed in U.S. national-security strategy and structure, but Hagel must guard against attempts to adjust the purpose and nature of our armed forces to cope with the deteriorating economies and dysfunctional societies of the Middle East, Africa, Southwest Asia and parts of Latin America. Wars in the decades ahead will resemble the Balkan wars of the early 20th Century — except that fights for regional power and influence will overlap with the international competition for energy, water, food, mineral resources and the wealth they create.

These points are not meant to argue for America’s involvement in future wars over resources in the South China Sea, Africa, and Siberia, Antarctica or anywhere else. On the contrary, in the 21st Century, conflict avoidance — not military intervention — should be the organizing imperative of American and Western military strategies. But if we are compelled to fight, we must be organized, trained and equipped to win. We must be prepared to fight future opponents with effective armed forces.

The last 12 years have severely eroded America’s military technological edge, and advantages in training, discipline and flexibility, particularly in the Army and Marines. America’s military leadership is in no way prepared intellectually, professionally or psychologically for a different future, a future involving “come as you are” conflicts, with powerful nation-state opponents that are capable, well organized and lethally equipped.

U.S. military leadership is too busy clinging to the past, when America’s single-service warfighting structures and citizen-soldier mobilization paradigms have long since reached block obsolescence.

When the marketplace turned against the Bell telephone monopoly in the 1960s and 1970s, the company was psychologically unprepared for the competition.  Bell’s hierarchy and thinking were as fixed and immobile as the Detroit automakers struggling with Japanese and German competition. Rumbles emanating from the Strategic Choices and Management Review process suggest the U.S. armed forces are in a similar mental state.

Meanwhile, at least 80% of the American population struggles with a truly weak economy. The real net worth of America’s “bottom” 90% has dropped by one-fourth. The number of food stamp and disability aid recipients has more than doubled, to 59 million, about one in five Americans.

These Americans are deeply concerned about recent events in Boston and the permeability of America’s borders. But they want to trade globally, and defend locally. What they want is a plan to align American military power with the nation’s real security needs and interests, one without the inefficiencies and redundancies in the current U.S. defense posture.

For a Pentagon chief who grasps these realities, there is no time to lose.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Soldiers Go Global

 Preparing and conducting these kinds of missions with a division (15,000 men) in troubled strategic regions like Africa, a continent with a billion people and a thousand different languages, will further degrade an army that has already lost the ability to fight.
"1st Cavalry Division, aligned with U.S. Africa Command. Army leadership expects 4,500 soldiers to conduct 600 activities in 43 countries. “Activities” is the umbrella term used to cover everything from training and exercises to combat and contingency missions."  (The Marines use the same device to justify MEU commitments to remote places where nothing of importance to the US taxpayer happens).

Explain this: The Army Chief of Staff claims that constrained budgets are going to cause him to reduce the Army by as many as 100,000 more than the currently targeted 490,000 and that he is having to reduce training and preparation even for units soon-to-deploy to Afghanistan - but he's started a realignment that will see upwards of a combat brigade conducting 600 activities in 43 countries related to Africa??? 
Presumably, the CSA, (along with the CMC) has decide that we are unlikely to fight any wars against anyone who can fight back in our lifetimes. Meanwhile, the CSA and the CMC are quietly reconstituting the old Cold War force structures.
We're living "Alice in Wonderland." 

Actually, it’s worse than that. The global bit is, of course, a comfortable illusion for the neocons of the left and right. The rest of it is a shell game to hide force structure. Inside Defense, no one is fooled. If people on the Hill care, they figure it out too. Unfortunately, very few people care. What I find particularly interesting is the reemergence of divisions assigned to specific areas. Behind them come corps, armies and so on. For the four stars, this is fantasy land, the place they love most!

Army Times
June 10, 2013

Cover story

Soldiers Go Global

New deployment model ties 60,000 to new missions

By Lance M. Bacon
Roughly 60,000 soldiers have been tapped to cover a variety of global missions -- and any problems that may arise -- in five regions throughout fiscal 2014.

The designated units are:
* 1st Calvary Division, aligned with U.S. Africa Command. Army leadership expects 4,500 soldiers to conduct 600 activities in 43 countries. “Activities” is the umbrella term used to cover everything from training and exercises to combat and contingency missions.

* 25th Infantry Division, aligned with U.S. Pacific Command, where 7,300 soldiers will conduct 230 activities in 20 countries.

* 1st Armored Division, aligned with U.S. Central Command, where 8,700 soldiers will conduct 440 activities in 18 countries.

* 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Calvary Division, aligned with U.S. European Command. But it won’t be alone. A combined 14,500 soldiers will conduct 930 activities in 59 countries.

* 48th BCT from the Georgia Army National Guard, aligned with U.S. Southern Command, where 3,900 soldiers are scheduled to conduct 260 activities in 18 countries.

And that is just the beginning. Army leadership said another 20,000 soldiers will be involved in 3,000 unspecified activities. U.S. Northern Command will also tap 1,100 soldiers for 180 activities in four countries.

The 18th Airborne Corps will maintain its global response posture.

In case you lost count, that’s 5,640 activities in 162 countries -- in one year.

Units in this regional alignment will serve in direct support of regional combatant commanders.

But don’t expect to sit around waiting for a call for help. Soldiers will conduct hundreds of missions from joint exercises and partnership training to quick-reaction forces and humanitarian assistance.

Much of it will be expeditionary in nature, as “Big Army” won’t have a headquarters set up down the road.

Expect to deploy in company-size or smaller units. And the bulk of your training will be at home station and focus on the “human dimension” of warfare.

The newly announced regional alignments complement those announced when the Army assigned units to assignments in New Zealand, Australia, Japan, India, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Everything you know about deployments is about to change.

What you can expect

By now, you’ve probably heard the catchphrases used to describe the Army for which military and congressional leaders are looking: One that is “operationally adaptable,” “scalable and tailorable,” one that can respond to a “broad spectrum” with “flexibility and agility.”

If you want to know what that means, look to the 2nd Armored BCT, 1st ID. The “Dagger Brigade” and its 4,000 soldiers became the first to deploy under regional alignment this year. Since then, roughly 1,800 soldiers have supported more than 300 events at various times and various durations, said Brig. Gen. Kimberly Field, deputy director of Strategy, Plans and Policy, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-3/5/7.

The missions have included training support in Mali, Niger and Uganda. But there also remains a 129-man quick-reaction force sent in response to the Benghazi attacks in Libya. The Army will deploy 4,338 soldiers to support 662 activities in 34 countries by Oct. 1. The largest scheduled commitment will send 480 people to an exercise in South Africa. In contrast, 22 will deploy to training support in Niger.

The 1st Calvary Division, which will assume this mission, can expect to add proactive missions designed to prevent terrorist safe havens in ungoverned areas, officials said.

The division’s 1st BCT will cover Europe and serve as the NATO Response Force. Formations there have been cut by about 10,000 soldiers, and VCorps will stand down by this summer.

With no tanks remaining in Germany, the alignment of the 1st Armored Division to U.S. Central Command may seem a headscratcher. But keep in mind that hotbeds such as Egypt, Iran and Syria fall under that theater.

The 48th BCT is preparing to send the first 166 soldiers to Guatemala, where they will mentor and advise military forces on control operations, logistics, communications and small-unit tactics, said Col. Carlton Day, Army National Guard Mobilization and Readiness Branch chief.

And the Hawaii-based 25th Infantry Division will be responsible for the Pacific theater, which has the world’s attention. The Army has dedicated 79,000 troops there, put a four-star general in charge and conducted more than 120 events this year, most with a close eye on North Korea.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told Army Times in May that he may consider using rotational forces in South Korea this year.

Regional alignment will take approximately five years to fully implement, Field said. The final design will include a “habitual alignment” between geographic combatant commands and a joint task force-capable division or Corps headquarters. For example, the1st Armored Division is aligned to U.S. Central Command and 1st Cavalry Division is aligned to U.S. Africa Command.

“Eventually, we think Third Corps will be habitually aligned with CENTCOM, and another division headquarters will be habitually aligned with AFRICOM,” Field said. “We have some idea how this alignment will sort out in the future, but we’re really not ready to have that reported yet.”

Overcoming hurdles

The design is not without its drawbacks or detractors.

Some old soldiers are worried about a return to the unit favoritism. Prior to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, units that supported Pacific Command and CENTCOM got the lion’s share of money and gear, while others were left to fight for the scraps. Service leaders have promised not to repeat errors of the past. While the training and equipping of units is taking a nosedive due to sequestration and other budget issues, every unit in the deployment cycle has been approved to get everything it needs.

On the strategic level, combat support has been a concern. Most support and functional brigades train and operate at the division and corps level. Support of and availability for small units has raised questions. The answer, echoed by the Army’s top leaders, is to the point: The warfighter is not the only soldier who must be adaptable and scalable. For example, there is ongoing effort to put operationally adaptable fires in the squad. A boost in joint logistics over-the-shore operations and pre-positioning is likely, as well.

Indeed, “expeditionary” is the new mindset as training and support focuses on the small unit.

Squad and platoon leaders can expect brigades to push capabilities and responsibilities down the chain as the battlefield becomes decentralized. The individual soldier will have greater lethality, survivability and access to intelligence.

While the Army’s primary mission remains its ability to fight and win the nation’s wars, this new model places greater emphasis on those areas “left of the bang.” Training will enable soldiers to prevent and shape so they don’t have to fight and win, especially if that fight may become a large-scale conflict a cash-strapped Army is not equipped to fight.

In the words of one commander, the “battle is to prevent battle.”

Most preparatory training will be done at home station. There will be plenty of run-and-gun aspects to this. Trainers will use virtual, simulated and integrated training to replicate scenarios you are likely to face while deployed. Those threats will range from the complex to the criminal. All company lane training will move to home station in 2014.

But the immersion in language, regional expertise and culture training will be the big difference. Indeed, units assigned to the new deployment model will quickly find themselves on the cutting edge of the “human dimension” doctrine.

That means soldiers will spend a lot of time training allied armies to do things they are now unable to do. Many missions will be proactive rather than reactive. There will be a lot of joint and partner-building exercises to increase U.S. influence and enhance the nation’s ability to gain access if required.

This approach is different from the training and deployments that have filled the past 12 years. But this is a far different and increasingly complex world, Fields said.

Odierno has long asserted that combat ultimately is a human endeavor and success requires the soldier to understand the human dimension, especially as the complexity of the world is so rapidly changing. Simply put, people will see their government, their society and their circumstance very differently from you. Even when standing among allied nations, their views of what they want to achieve will be different. It is critical to understand these before the mission begins.

The chief used his own example when outlining this doctrine to Army Times in late 2012.

“I believe that when we went into Iraq initially we did not understand the underlying fabric of the Iraqi population,” he said. “We did not understand what had happened over the past 20 years in what I call the societal devastation of Iraq that occurred.

“We underestimated the impact of the Sunni issues, the Kurdish issues and the importance of Iraq to Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. All of these factors played into what happened in Iraq over time,” he said. “I do not want that to happen again.”