Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Army Modernization Needs Experimental Force 
June 20, 2018

The Army says it's learned its lessons from more than two decades of failed acquisition. Its Big Six will work. The service will build the weapons it needs to overmatch the Russians and Chinese and it will do it at reasonable speed and cost. Doug Macgregor, a retired Army colonel famous for his penetrating analyses and critiques of the Army he loves, isn't buying it. Why? Read On, dear reader! The Editor. 

 Combined operations during exercise Operation Pacific Reach in South Korea
The Army says it’s learned its lessons from more than two decades of failed acquisition. Its Big Six will work. The service will build the weapons it needs to overmatch the Russians and Chinese and it will do it at reasonable speed and cost. Doug Macgregor, a retired Army colonel famous for his penetrating analyses and critiques of the Army he loves, isn’t buying it. Why? Read On, dear reader! The Editor.
The Senate Armed Services Committee recognized that the Army was falling behind in key warfighting capabilities in 2015. Thanks to the leadership of Sen. John McCain and Rep. Mack Thornberry, with their colleagues in both houses, the Army stopped shrinking and was provided with bipartisan support to modernize the ground maneuver force.
Today, the Congress and the nation expect action, not a five-year, multi-billion dollar Army effort to better define the problem, as the service currently plans. Asking industry to provide solutions without an initial Joint Operational Concept, a viable warfighting doctrine, and a new force design based on rigorous field experimentation that informs technical requirements is worse than foolhardy; it’s irresponsible and wasteful. John Jumper, former Air Force Chief of Staff,described the problem in November 2002 when he said, “We never do the CONOPS, which tells how we are going to integrate up, down and sideways, before we start talking about programs…” 
Soldiers already know what is required: integrate new but mature technologies inside new maneuver formations at progressively lower levels within a Joint command and control structure, one that combines and assimilates powerful capabilities across service lines quickly and effectively. 
To make the leap into this future now, not in a decade, the Army needs shock therapy, not a Big Six, as it calls the key areas of interest that promise marginal optimization of outmoded legacy means, methods, and systems. Shock therapy would mean:
1. A coherent, compelling and understandable vision to match the goals in the NDS. The NDS demands an operationally decisive ground maneuver force for Joint Warfighting. How will the Army build and field this force?

2. A 21st Century Ground Maneuver Force in close cooperation with aerospace and maritime power. There is not enough money in the U.S. Treasury to afford the Army’s parochial single-service programs that promise no change and will likely result in some duplication of effort. Air Force and Navy officers must help build the 21st Century Army. FCS and the current Army Modernization Plan ignore this.

3. The fighting power of an Army lies in its organization for combat. The U.S. Army is more than a collection of equipment and soldiers. Increasing the numbers of soldiers on active duty only make sense if the increases are tied to new formations inside a new Joint force design with far greater lethality and survivability than the current Army ground force with its roots in WW 2 and the Cold War.

4. Rigorous, honest and unconstrained experimentation in the field with real soldiers, new equipment and weapon systems. An experimental force was absent from FCS and it is absent from the Army’s Modernization Plan.

5. An Experimental Force and place it, along with enabling capabilities, under a Combatant Commander who is beyond the parochial and deleterious influence of the Army’s branches. Cultivate a totally new, forward-looking cadre of operators, thinkers and planners. Direct the Experimental Force to conduct full spectrum rapid prototyping; testing and evaluating the best available technology inside a new organizational construct with a new human capital strategy—not just the technology. 

The challenge to Army Modernization is no longer constrained budgets; it is investing to maximize the potential of the Army’s human capital in combination with new technologies; to capitalize on commonsense recommendations from soldiers in the field, as well as, from engineers. As always, leadership is essential. 
The Army’s senior civilian and military leadership must provide what’s missing: an understandable and compelling vision for the future Army and a plan to resist the forces of romanticism in military affairs that defy reason. Describe the threats we face in vivid terms: One precision strike from five BM-30 Smerch (multiple rocket launchers) can devastate an area the size of New York City’s Central Park (843 acres or 3.2 square miles) with the impact of a 1 Kiloton nuclear explosion in a few minutes. Clearly, this environment is not the place for nostalgia.
Building a future ground maneuver force also means explaining what attributes and capabilities Army forces require to defeat the threat. Self-organizing and self-contained fighting formations with thinking leaders capable of rapid decision-making when faced with mountains of data are essential. An abundance of headquarters is not the answer. 
Finally, the Army’s senior leaders must drive toward realistic, attainable objectives that produce tangible concrete outcomes on a relevant timeline
Douglas Macgregor, a retired Army colonel and member of the Breaking Defense Board of Contributors, is a decorated combat veteran, a PhD, and the author of five books. His most recent is: Margin of Victory, (Naval Institute Press, 2016).

Monday, June 18, 2018

Doug Macgregor on SoundCloud Radio

Action Radio with Greg Penglis. One of my most incredible talks ever. Except for that one spot where I wasn't sure he had finished his point. But what we have here is an extremely knowledgeable, experienced, analytical, candid, and direct military and foreign policy analyst with the ability to put them both together. We started with North Korea and the President, and related it to a ton of other issues. We covered the Gulf Wars, whether we need foreign military bases, or aircraft carriers, was Iraq worth it and why are we still in Afghanistan? We covered nation building and the globalist war class that wants to keep the military doing something, anything, to not waste the resource. Why is the military a social experiment? Is Trump being served by his generals? We covered how all the Obama holdovers and swamp rats are always holding back the President, rather than serving him. Why South Korea and Japan can take care of their own security and we don't have to be there. We covered history back to WWII and how that relates today. We took on tough questions like are our soldiers really fighting for freedom, and our freedom, all over the world, even though that's what we keep telling them, and us? I don't think so. I think it's a distraction from the real mission. And this is an area filled with veterans. There is so much more, just sit back and listen. 

Friday, June 15, 2018

The National Guard deployment to the border is a sham

The author is correct. The Regular Army secured America’s border with Mexico from 1846 to 1948. It’s time for the President to commit America’s professional soldiers to the border again. Thanks to years of experience with border security missions in Germany, Korea, Afghanistan and Iraq, the Regular Army has the expertise and the technology to do the job. 

Doug Macgregor

June 15, 2018

The National Guard deployment to the border is a sham

By Ed Straker

Remember when President Trump's supporters were outraged when Trump signed a budget that prevented him from building a border wall?  Trump was so stung by the criticism that he decided to show he was tough on border security by sending the National Guard to the border.  The only problem is, restrictions on the Guard have made their participation almost useless.
A month after President Trump called for sending National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, the head of the national Border Patrol union called the deployment "a colossal waste of resources."
"We have seen no benefit," said Brandon Judd, president of the union that represents 15,000 agents, the National Border Patrol Council.
More from Politico:
Back in April, Trump hailed the deployment as a "big step," claiming, "We really haven't done that before, or certainly not very much before."
But that isn't accurate, either: Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama sent the guard to the border under similar circumstances; Bush in far larger numbers than Trump – some 6,000 compared with up to 4,000 now, and Obama to the tune of 1,200.
A few National Guard helicopters and crew have also been enlisted to join the Border Patrol fleet for aerial surveillance, but more troops are clearing vegetation, serving as office clerks and making basic repairs to Border Patrol facilities.
They're as far away from the border as possible.  In reality, the hundreds of troops deployed in southern Arizona are keeping up the rear, so to speak; in one assignment, soldiers are actually feeding and shoveling out manure from the stalls of the Border Patrol's horses.
Shoveling manure is symbolic of the nature of this assignment.  It was announced to give President Trump cover while he signed that terrible budget which tied his hands on border security.  I suspect that the specific limitations on the Guard are probably not President Trump's doing; rather, they probably fall under the responsibility of either his secretary of homeland security, Kirstjen "Lady DACA" Nielsen or his secretary of defense, James Mattis, who loved the Iran deal and hated waterboarding Islamic terrorists.
President Trump has done some good things to try to secure the border – namely, prosecuting illegals and tightening up asylum rules.  But this border deployment is a sham, and the way it has been executed is a total disgrace.
Ed Straker is the senior writer at

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Multi-Domain Battle Space Scenario

TRADOC obviously lifted a lot of material from my 2003 book, Transformation under Fire. It’s similar to what previous Chiefs of Staff did with my book Breaking the Phalanx: Lift the language, create the appearance, but substantively it’s another Potemkin Village. The critical ISR, STRIKE, MANEUVER, SUSTAINMENT functionality that is essential to Joint integrative operations is missing.

However, the Army dramatically overstates the impact and capability of cyber and SOF,  treats the enemy as static and unthinking, assumes that IADS can be easily defeated with just artillery and seemingly ignores the requirement for armed reconnaissance. The notion that air assault infantry can maneuver in this battlespace presumes the absence of widespread tactical air defense systems. Although the Army acknowledges ASM the Army later ignores it when the marines show up. The Marines are even lighter and less survivable than the current Army. The CONOPS assumes mobility and the Army’s ability to stand toe to toe in a fight. I don’t see how this is possible with the current Army Force structure. Logistics including the short-legged armored force with its red hot tank engines detectable from LEO satellites is not addressed. 

Features of the 2003 book were borrowed, but without the Joint Force Commands that must exist to integrate capabilities across service lines and without the battlegroups organized around ISR, STRIKE, MANEUVER and SUSTAINMENT that contain enough mobility, firepower, protection, striking power and logistics to be operationally independent in a dispersed battle space.  Thus, MDB falls short in both conceptual depth and execution. 

Doug Macgregor

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Boston Dynamics scary robot videos: Are they for real?

"This is the proverbial tip of the alleged 'AI' iceberg. It should sober up the DOD audience! "
Doug Macgregor

Jun 6, 2018

BOSTON – If you’ve ever watched a YouTube video of a Boston Dynamics robot, you probably remember it. But you may not know what the videos leave out.

Millions of people have watched the humanoid Atlas jogging through a field, or the intimidating, 6.5-foot-tall Handle zip back and forth swiftly (and ominously) on wheeled legs. Then there’s the dog-like SpotMini dexterously opening a door — a machine so unsettling it inspired a nightmarish episode of the TV show “Black Mirror” last year.

All of these robots are real, but the videos can sometimes be misleading. Interviews with several former employees — and public comments by Boston Dynamics CEO Marc Raibert — help illustrate what’s really going on.


Probably. But what you don’t see are their many failed attempts.

“The videos are an accurate representation of the best trials of the robots,” said one former Boston Dynamics employee, who asked not to be named out of concern over endangering career prospects in the small and tight-knit U.S. robotics community.

What doesn’t make the cut in those YouTube clips, he added, are the many “blooper reels” shared internally. Spoiler alert: Walking robots fall down a lot.


Rarely. The videos typically don’t show a nearby human test engineer with special remote control systems that guide the robots through their activities. On-stage demos, however, give the game away.

But the human assist is no longer always necessary. In May, the secretive firm posted its first video of the SpotMini robot autonomously navigating a predetermined route through an office. The robot had already built a map of the route during manual testing using cameras mounted on its front, back and sides.


Only if you want them to be, Raibert told a gathering of engineers at the Boston Robotics conference in May.

“Even though there’s a lot of blog headlines that say the robots are scary, if you look at our YouTube videos you see a lot of people like them,” Raibert said. “That makes me wonder, are people really afraid? Or is it afraid like in a horror movie when you’re afraid on purpose?”


Yes. The firm’s first commercial robot, the SpotMini, is all electric. It can run for 90 minutes at a time.

But the battery is “so easy to remove” that the robot could recharge itself, Raibert said. He said engineers are also testing a maneuver where another robot can help recharge its robotic companion.


The YouTube videos started off by accident when a non-employee posted a video of the company’s BigDog pack mule robot about a decade ago, according to former employees who worked there at the time.

It got so much attention that the firm started its own YouTube channel, which now has 32 videos — one with nearly 30 million views.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Why Are We Buying The Army’s Big Six? What Will They Do?

June 4, 2018
By Douglas Macgregor

The last time the US Army tried to modernize it spent $20 billion buying the Future Combat System, which was cancelled as it foundered. Is the Army repeating the same mistakes with its Big Six? 

 Army slide showing elements of canceled Future Combat System

 Rep. Mick Mulvaney held a 2011 meeting in his office to discuss defense spending after learning that the U.S. Army’s Future Combat System (FCS) modernization program had cost American taxpayers more than $20 billion and produced nothing for the Army. The irate freshman lawmaker (now head of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget) asked, “What came out at the hearings?”
Rep. Mulvaney received his answer: There were no hearings. The money was spent and, most important, the money went where it was supposed to go: to defense industries in states and districts across the country where jobs tied to the FCS program were funded. In gratitude for the redistribution of cash to grateful shareholders, re-election campaign contributions poured in. Meanwhile, James Terry, the one-star in charge of FCS until Defense Secretary Bob Gates cancelled the failed program, was rewarded for the $20 billion failure with a second star and command of the 10th Mountain Division. (He was replaced by a certain Mark Milley, now Army Chief of Staff.) Eventually, Terry was promoted to three stars and given command of a corps — so much for accountability.
The money is flowing again. This time, the money is flowing to an Army Futures Command headed by a Four Star general with eight general officer-led cross-functional teams pursuing the service’s Big Six modernization priorities; priorities tied largely to identified gaps or capability shortfalls inside the old Cold War Army. None of these priorities represent breakthrough concepts or capabilities. On the contrary, they are modest upgrades, if that.
Confused? Well, it may help to think of the modernization command in a sports context:
“The Japanese Army and the U.S. Army agreed to a rowing competition on the Potomac River. Both teams practiced long and hard. On the big day, the Japanese won decisively. An Army General Officer Steering Committee (GOSC) was convened to investigate and recommend appropriate action.
The GOSC discovered that the Japanese Army had 8 people rowing and 1 person steering, while the U.S. Army team had 8 people steering and 1 person rowing. In response, the GOSC recommended a modified team: 1 Three Star to command the boat, 3 Two Stars to assist the Three Star, and 1 Colonel to act as coach. The GOSC told the Army Chief of Staff that these changes would ensure that the 1 soldier rowing the boat would row much harder in the future.
The next year, the Japanese Army Team won the race again by an even greater margin. Humiliated, the Chief of Staff insisted that the boat be commanded by a Four Star General assisted by 3 Three Star Generals, and a Two Star Coach along with a new, more physically fit Soldier to row. To cap it off, the Army Chief of Staff changed the name of the Army Rowing Team to the “Army Rowing Center of Excellence,” and posted new ‘requirements’ for paddles, boats and other equipment, as well as lavish awards for new prototype boats for delivery in five to 10 years. Officers from the Air Force, Navy and Marines were naturally excluded from participation in the new center.”
Notwithstanding the chronic problem of unneeded general officer overhead, the whole thing has been tried before—and it failed. Today’s Big Six approach is too close for comfort to the French idea between 1919 and 1939: top-down strategic planning by Four Star generals to prevent that anything new from disrupting the Army’s institutional and structural status quo.
Everyone in an Army uniform knows that the heavy general officer presence inside the modernization command will constrain open debate, cut off critical thinking, and — most troubling — obstruct honest experimentation. Army Futures Command’s true purpose is “to hang on to the old business model;” to incorporate “new technologies” inside the existing Army framework of doctrine, tactics and organization.
What’s missing is something Andrew Grove called strategic action. Strategic action occurs in the present, not in the distant future. It seeks a clearly articulated result, but recognizes that the path to results is marked by a series of incremental changes and adjustments that spring from honest experimentation.
The key questions for Congress, President Trump, and his new Secretary of the Army are: What should the desired result look like? And what kind of strategic action is required now—not in the distant future—to achieve it?
The Germans answered these questions with conceptual analysis and field experimentation between 1927 and 1935 with a small group of talented majors and lieutenant colonels insulated from the larger German Army. All were General Staff officers with experience on the World War I battlefield, as well as at the highest command levels. The strategic action to construct the new force design culminated in 1935 with the shift of resources away from the old Infantry-Artillery Army into new formations containing new platforms, weapons, and communication systems, which became known generically by the term blitzkrieg.
When the answer went public in 1940, it was an operationally decisive force of no more than 125,000 troops organized into new, mobile armored formations of all arms tightly integrated with air power. It crushed the French and drove the British from the European Continent in less than six weeks.
FCS consumed more than $20 billion because two Army Chiefs of Staff and their generals were too heavily invested in the old force to admit failure and change course. The strategic mistake set back Army force modernization and joint warfighting for at least 20 years.
Before more money is squandered on the newest version of the Army Rowing Team, the Army’s senior leaders should be compelled to explain what an operationally decisive ground force in 21 Century Joint Warfighting looks like. If they cannot, they must stop funding programs with no chance to increase military lethality today, tomorrow, and certainly not in the future!
Douglas Macgregor, a retired Army colonel and member of the Breaking Defense Board of Contributors,, is a decorated combat veteran, a PhD, and the author of five books. His most recent is: Margin of Victory, (Naval Institute Press, 2016).