Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


Bush's FY2006 federal budget would increase military spending another 4.8% to $419 Billion—a net 41% increase in military spending since he took office. But this comparatively modest increase masks a quiet revolution ("transformation") underway in the US military.

In the mid-1990s, the Pentagon began to believe that the most significant challenge facing the US military was not the end of the Cold War, but the dawn of the information age. (The reduction in active divisions from 18 to 10 may have inspired this line of thinking.) As the internet had given rise to the "new economy," so military experts thought computers networks should be able to "transform" the military: wars would be won or lost by the flow of information, not of bullets.

Gen. Shinseki seized upon this in the late-1990s. The Stryker Brigades are his brainchild, an intermediary step between the "legacy" force and his ultimate force objective, which he labeled--in a triumph of tautological taxonomy--the "objective force." (It now goes by the name "Future Force," which suggests to some that it may never actually arrive.) He pushed hard to create momentum within the Army to do this before he was due to retire, but he ran afoul of Rumsfeld.

When Rumsfeld first took over, he wanted to cut the Army to 8 divisions. He canceled programs viewed as legacies of the Cold War, including ones like Comanche and Crusader previously thought sacrosanct. He was so unpopular with the military before 9/11 that many thought he would soon be fired. Rumsfeld’s vision was also of a light, nimble force that could be deployed rapidly anywhere, and Gen. Shinseki agreed, but wanted to maintain heavy forces too.

Things came to a head over the war in Iraq. While Rumsfeld was saying the US could fight the war with a "small footprint" of modernized forces, Shinseki famously told Congress it would take sustained deployment of 200,000 troops. Thus began Rumsfeld’s purge of the Army. Shinseki’s retirement was hastened (as were those of his protégés) and Rumsfeld replaced him with Gen. Schoomaker of the Special Forces Command (not the mainstream Army). When Bush’s first Secretary of the Army resigned (Enron ties), Rusmfeld replaced him with a former Admiral (and you can imagine how much the Army loved that).

Now Iraq has become a budgetary bonanza for the Army. Those pushing for transformation cite the success of the major combat phase, while those in favor of traditional forces cite the subsequent stability and support operations. The result? The Army will get both. The new budget shifts at least $25 Billion to the Army; the $100 Billion Future Combat System (the heart of the Future Force) is being accelerated; and Rumsfeld now wants to add 30,000+ active troops. Meanwhile, the Navy is losing submarines and an aircraft carrier; the Marine’s new expeditionary equipment is being postponed; and there are cuts in aircraft orders.

Like Shinseki, Rumsfeld wants to create momentum for transformation before it’s his time to go. The massive investments in technology will surely improve our military forces… but will they improve national security? Is this the right transformation for the post-9/11 world? More federal dollars may be spent on this transformation than on any other new initiative enacted so far except the prescription drug plan, and nobody is debating it.


US West said...

Dr. Strnagelove, thanks for bringing this up. It is an important topic. I am not an expert in military policy. But, my understanding of Stryker Brigades is that it would allow our forces to become more flexible. Correct me if I am wrong, but aren't these like Mini teams where each brigade has its own reconnaissance, its own light and heavy weaponry, etc. rather than having those functions spread out all over the Army? So, in effect, we are collapsing disparate military functions into fewer, but more cohesive brigades. If I am correct, I would think this is a good thing.

From what I have seen of the military, there is a lot of wasted capacity in terms of both time and manpower. And what is worse, there is a severe lack of common sense. The mindset is very narrow and everyone is simply a cog. You produce a solider according to a formula like you produce a tank. You have one solider who is trained to do one thing. That is all he is trained to do, all he is allowed to do. So once he has done his one thing, he sits around waiting to do it again when he could be off working on something new or different. Businesses recognized this problem in their workforces long ago. Multi-tasking within reason is a good thing. So I think the changes represent a more rational and efficient use of resources. It allows soldiers to specialize in multiple functions and it requires them to be smarter. In terms of dealing with terrorism, I think we need to take some lessons from the British. And that isn't about military organization. It is about training for the right kind of conflict. What we learned in Iraq is that you can't fight all your wars from the air and sea. You will need to put ground troops in to do the grunt work. Only they can go door to door.

The Army, unlike the Navy and the Air force, has a much broader mission. The Air force and the Navy clearly specialize in one area of combat. And they are more selective. But the Army is big and unwieldy with a huge job. And for two decades, it has been treated like the ugly cousin, made to take control of functions and people that no one else wants (I know because I work at an Army run installation that none of the other services wanted to deal with, but that they wanted to benefit from). It hasn't gotten a big cash infusion since the 1980s. And you can tell. Its posts are some of the most run down. My brother was driving Heavy army supply trucks that were still around from the late 1950s! They Army just hasn't been given the money to retool. In the meantime, the Air Force and Navy have gotten all sorts of fancy toys. And those services are run pretty well. It is time to get the Army in shape.

Raised By Republicans said...

I would just like to thank Dr. Strangelove again for his thoughtful postings! This one on the politics of military reform is the best yet!

Now, on to substance...I'm not a military person myself but I've always been partial to the role of the Navy and Airforce. If the US has scarce resources it seems to me that we get more security and power projection bang for our buck if we spend it on the Navy (including the Marine Corps) and the Airforce.

The USA is bordered on the North by the best friend a country could have (Canada) and on the south by a largely harmless and decent neighbor (Mexico). Any threats come by air or by sea.

If the USA wants to impose our will on others from time to time, the Navy will be our first, quickest and most powerful spearhead.

Yvan Eht Nioj, Lisa!

US West said...

Perhaps I am biased because of my position. But, Sorry, RBR, I must disagree with your assessment. The Army supports the other services more than most realize. And I think we have beefed up the other services enough to protect the homeland. But we will probably using ground forces to do "soft tasks" at home. And we need to live up to reality: The Pentagon is not worrying about fights on US soil. It is thinking about fights elsewhere. Our troops are increasingly under NATO and UN flags doing peackeeping. They are key if we are going to continue "Nation building". In reality we need all the services. But at the moment, the Army is the one that is in poor shape and it needs some attention. The Airforce might have softened up Tora Bora, but it was the Army's special forces that had to do the cave-by-cave searching. And the Navy wasn't too useful in Afghanistan unless you wanted them to white water raft down some mountain river in tribal territory. Just keep that in mind.

Dr. Strangelove said...

"The Pentagon is not worrying about fights on US soil. It is thinking about fights elsewhere." This is quite right. The key requirements for the Future Combat System (FCS) are (a) the vehicles will fit inside a C-130, and (b) one brigade-sized "Unit of Action" (~4000 soldiers) can deploy anywhere in the world in 96 hours. The Pentagon is preparing for the next war (rather than the traditional peacetime practice of perfecting tactics and equipment that would have worked in the last war)--and this time, we're planning to start it.

The FCS is meant to be a "Joint" force, meaning it will be integrated (to some extent) with Air Force and Navy assets, but it's unmistakably a force designed for Iraq-like major ground combat, not Kosovo-like bombing from above. So aircraft carriers and bombers and submarine-based missile launchers are OUT, while ground vehicles, low-flying UAVs, and precision artillery are IN.

The trouble is that we have three missions that our forces must fulfill: (1) fighting major combat operations ("shock and awe" tactics"); (2) maintaining stability and support operations (SASO), and (3) the somewhat nebuluous "war on terror." The Future Force was designed for (1) and they are trying hard to tweak it for (2). The problem is, ironically, that the less-combat-intensive missions (SASO) may require the heaviest armor!

(As a result, in some of their designs they are taking formerly light FCS vehicles and draping heavy armor plating over them--which makes them too large to fit in a C-130 or too heavy to be deployed in 96 hours, and that kind of defeats the point. The best way to improve the survivability of the FCS system is thought to be to add "active" defenses--a technological tour de force of lightning-fast lasers that can destroy incoming bullets and RPGs before they hit--rather than the passive defense of a chunk of metal. But we're still working on that.)

But the real question of the military's mission in the post-9/11 world is #3. How do we fight the war on terror? What does that mean? What equipment do we need? Right now, the war on terror is being modeled as a combination of homeland security exercises and Iraq-like adventures (major combat followed by SASO). Somehow, that is a rather chilling thought to me.

The Law Talking Guy said...

There is an old adage that goes like this, "To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

The military consistently builds particular forces and strategies and views world problems as soluble by those forces and strategies. Thus does the Roman dictum "si quaeris pacem, para bellum" (if you want peace, prepare for war) have its sad corollary, "qui bellum parat pugnat" He who prepares for war fights.

Producing small quick-reaction units for 'little' invasions makes such invasions more likely. Imperialist adventurism of the old school, i.e., gunboat diplomacy, is the result - only this time with airborne troops rather than marines.

US West said...
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US West said...
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US West said...

So, LTG, are we supposed to not bother with the armed forces? It seems like a no win situation. If you have forces, you will want to use them. If you don't have them, then you will need them. I think the reality is that we need to have them and we will have to use them sometimes. The key is to have leaders who are enlightened enough to save their use for the last resort.

The Law Talking Guy said...

The key is to build armed forces for the purposes we might actually want to use them. For example, defending America and our European allies against invasion. Extending our nuclear umbrella over the Far East as protection against China. Peacekeeping operations. But specially designing forces for interventions and coups-d'etat is a recipe for jsut that.

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