In August 2003, the senior military leadership in the Department of the Army changed. Almost immediately, the new Army Chief of Staff, General Peter Schoomaker, began revising service plans for transforming its forces for the missions of the 21st century.
The Army leadership has demonstrated a perceptive appreciation of future national security needs and has taken encouraging steps to appropriately restructure transformation programs, but additional initiatives are required. Army forces will be needed for a wide range of missions including homeland security; military engagement (assisting other countries in developing anti-terrorism measures); war fighting (including conventional military operations as well as special forces missions such as raids, hostage rescue, search and recovery, and non-combatant evacuations); and post-conflict activities.
America is in for a long war
Some debate whether the United States should or even can be engaged in a protracted, global war against terrorism. One objection argues that there is no universal definition of terrorism, and thus no clear enemy.1 This rationale fails to address a salient point: The terrorists are most certainly at war with the United States and have been for at least a decade.2
Moreover, they think they are in a war that they can win. In an interview before the September 11 attacks, Osama bin Laden declared: "[W]e no longer believe in the great powers.... [W]e have heard from our brothers who fought in Somalia, American soldiers are weak and cowardly.... [T]hey ran away."3 Al-Qaeda leaders frequently cite such incidents as proof that the United States can be defeated if bloodied.
There is, in addition, little doubt that this conflict will be protracted. In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet concluded that despite the destruction of terrorist sanctuaries in Afghanistan and the death or capture of al-Qaeda leadership, the group remains committed to conducting attacks against the United States, as well as recruiting and fund-raising to rebuild its international network.4
There is much work to be done. The U.S. Army's challenge is to avoid becoming a hollow force. Reductions after World War II and the conflict in Vietnam left the Army without sufficient soldiers, training, and modern equipment to handle its worldwide commitments. As a result, U.S. troops were dangerously unprepared for the Korean War and lacked the conventional forces to deter the Soviets in Western Europe throughout the 1970s.5 To avoid a similar fate, today's Army must have sufficient resources to balance overseas commitments, readiness needs, and modernization requirements.
The military must be prepared for many missions
A second objection raised against the global campaign against terrorism is that this conflict is a matter for law enforcement, intelligence agents, diplomats, and social workers. It is not "traditional" war, as one U.S. defense analyst declared, in the sense understood by military professionals. Wars, he argues, are supposed to have "clear beginnings and ends" and "clear standards for measuring success in the form of territory gained and enemy forces destroyed."6
While it is true that any war against global terrorism will require a host of political, economic, and diplomatic measures, the struggle undeniably has an important military dimension. Indeed, U.S. military power has already been required to destroy al-Qaeda sanctuaries in Afghanistan, provide security against insurgents in postwar Iraq, hunt down terrorist cells in the Horn of Africa, supply security assistance and training in Southeast Asia, and protect infrastructure and points of entry in the United States.
In the future, as noted, Army forces will be needed for a wide range of missions: homeland security; assisting other countries in developing anti-terrorism measures; war fighting, including conventional military operations as well as special forces missions such as raids, hostage rescue, search and recovery, and non-combatant evacuations; and post-conflict activities.
Demands for Army forces will wax and wane
In the years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the United States saw the need for the temporary use of troops overseas not only increase, but also vary considerably.7 In the near term, the Army will clearly be pressed to meet the global demand for ground forces. In January, it announced plans to retain an additional 30,000 troops on active duty to provide a larger rotational base for sustaining deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq.8 This will also allow for sufficient active-duty forces to respond to other major contingencies, such as an outbreak of fighting on the Korean peninsula.
On the other hand, long-term needs to fight the global war on terrorism, and meet other demands as well, are difficult to predict. Unlike determining requirements to fight major regional conflicts, future counterterrorism operations could vary significantly in number, size, scope, and duration. A chart of future needs might appear like a sine wave, with troop deployments whipsawing up and down.
Currently, the Army surges its capacity to meet unanticipated demands by modifying peacetime personnel practices that limit how frequently soldiers can be deployed, reassigned, or kept on active duty.9 In peacetime, these rules reduce personnel turbulence, enhance unit readiness, and promote a higher quality of life for soldiers and their families. "Breaking the rules" allows the Army to rapidly expand the size of the rotational base from which it can draw forces for overseas deployments.
During times of emergencies, multiple or prolonged deployments and involuntary call-ups of reserves are understandable. Over the long term, however, frequent deviations from personnel policies could strain the force, adversely affecting both recruiting (attracting new volunteers to the Army) and retention (getting soldiers to reenlist when their term of duty expires). The Army requires means to expand its rotational base without suffering the detrimental affects of personnel turbulence.10
America needs an expeditionary Army
The global war on terrorism and other future demands on the military may demand a different kind of Army. During the Cold War, most battle plans called for the service to be prepared to fight prolonged ground campaigns supported by well-established support bases and supply lines. In contrast, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq required mounting major operations without the massive buildup of troops and support infrastructure. In recent years, the Army has also been required to deploy mixes of forces tailored to specific missions rather than its traditional brigade, division, and corps formations.11
Additionally, in the future, the military might encounter enemies that could employ anti-access strategies--defenses with missiles, mines, computer attacks, and possibly chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons--designed to keep U.S. forces out of a theater. Army units might well find themselves having to fight their way into a country before they begin a campaign.12 Deploying forces with minimal support, tailored in size and composition, and capable of conducting combat operations from the outset is the acme of expeditionary warfare. The Army has had difficulty adapting to this challenge.13
Conversely, while expanding the Army's expeditionary capacity would be desirable, other factors should also be considered. Faster deployments, for example, will rely heavily on expanding military air and naval transport, as well as use of commercial assets, capabilities that may not be available to meet the Army's deployment goals.14
Reducing the weight and support requirements (such as fuel and ammunition) for Army forces will prove equally challenging. A common misnomer is that the weight of armored vehicles, like tanks, is the greatest limiting factor in deploying U.S. forces. In fact, the vast preponderance of the force's total weight is driven up by logistical and other support requirements.
Dramatic advancements in reducing the size and weight of ground forces will require enormous investments and exploiting technologies which are not fully mature.15 At the same time, the preponderance of American power and global alliances gives the United States a lot of options in how to address regional challenges. It may not be wise to "break the bank" to field extremely expensive expeditionary capabilities when an adequate capacity might be sufficient. The Defense Department needs an investment strategy that balances the needs for an enhanced Army expeditionary force with other priorities.
Network-centric operations should become the Army's way of war
The centerpiece of defense transformation is linking disparate systems into a "system of systems" that integrates sensors, decision makers, and operational units.16 This network-centric approach to military campaigns will place an even greater emphasis on joint operations: the coordinated use of land, sea, and air forces.
What matters most in joint warfare is the overall performance of the system of systems, not individual platforms. That said, even in network-centric warfare, platforms (like tanks and artillery pieces) still matter. In war, systems do not always perform as expected. Sometimes they fail, forcing soldiers to depend on platforms. In close combat, robust platforms still matterthey are a hedge against the inevitable friction of battle that drags against any system in wartime. Thus, while Army transformation efforts should fully embrace a network-centric approach, they should also sustain an appropriate focus on dependable and survivable platforms.
[O]ur Nation is at war and we are...an Army at war.... As an Army at war, we must adjust our priorities.... In a world where the strategic environment is transformed, we should be prepared to even reexamine our fundamental way of thinking.17
In November 2001, General Eric Shinseki, Schoomaker's predecessor as Chief of Staff, unveiled the Army's transformation strategy, a plan to make over all of the Army's current units (legacy forces) into new organizations (objective forces).18 He also established the Future Combat System (FCS), a major acquisition program, to provide the equipment needed for the new commands.19 The FCS included developing new, lighter combat vehicles, equipment for individual soldiers, and a host of other combat assets (e.g., intelligence, communication networks, and fire support).20
Since becoming Army Chief of Staff, Schoomaker has rightly continued to emphasize that the FCS will be the centerpiece of the Army's modernization efforts. He has, however, tried to make the program more flexible to achieve the benefits of some transformational systems sooner.
As originally conceived, the FCS represented a huge and complex undertaking with great promise and many problems. It called for transformation at a snail's pace. The first FCS-equipped (objective) unit would not be operational until 2011, and transforming the entire force would take until 2032.21 Nor would transformation be cheap. Outlays for the first 15 years of the program alone were calculated at $70 billion.22
There were other causes for concern as well. Costs and fielding objectives appeared to be overly ambitious, based on assumptions that key new technologies could be rapidly matured,23 and the Army's Comanche helicopter program, another major acquisition effort, was also problematic. Originally proposed in 1986, this platform was later envisioned to support FCS-equipped units, but providing only a modicum of additional capability at great expense. In fiscal year (FY) 2005 alone, the Army requested over $1.2 billion for a program that is clearly less than transformational.24 In a promising initiative, however it was reported on February 23, that the Army planned to cancel the program.
In August 2003, General Schoomaker redesignated the objective force as the "future force," a change that reflected a shift in program emphasis. Rather than stress fielding an ideal objective unit almost a decade in the future and attempting to reshape the entire Army force structure, the goal of the future force is more process-oriented and open-ended, emphasizing fielding future capabilities as soon as they are available with less concern over what the final state of the force might look like.
The Army intends to restructure the FCS program to place more emphasis on overall systems architecture (networks integrating various capabilities together) and linking them with assets from the other military services. Additionally, the program will make "spiral development" a priority.25 Finally, more attention will be devoted to long-neglected enhancements to make individual soldiers more effective. In contrast, less emphasis will be placed on expensive new platforms.
If the Army follows through on restructuring the FCS program, the result will be an acquisition effort that is fiscally prudent, appropriate to strategic needs, sufficiently flexible to meet unexpected challenges, and realistic given available technologies.
The Army should also pay particular attention to managing the FCS program. The FCS represents some 19 different major systems. Army leaders have argued for maintaining a single, large acquisition program so that they can easily shift resources toward the most promising developments. Congress, on the other hand, preferred splitting the program into smaller pieces to provide more effective oversight.26 The FY 2004 budget divided the FCS into three separate acquisition programs.27
While both arguments have merit, perhaps more important than the number of programs is the future of the FCS's overall management. The Welch Panel, an outside task force of experts tasked by the Army to study the issue, recommended appointing a three-star general to head a center at the Army's Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) in Fort Monroe, Virginia, to oversee transformation efforts.28 In response, TRADOC established the Futures Center in October 2003.
While the Welch Panel was right to recommend consolidating responsibility for future initiatives under a senior officer, shifting the supervision of Army transformation efforts out of the Pentagon was a mistake. Army transformation, and the FCS in particular, should be managed by a senior general officer in Washington working closely with the Army leadership, other services, the Defense secretariat, and Congress to ensure the constant communication and interchange necessary to guarantee that the transformation is well understood, expertly coordinated, and adequately supported.
- The Army should restructure the FCS, placing more emphasis on fielding capabilities that will enhance overall system architecture and provide new technologies for individual soldiers as soon as possible. Meanwhile, it should continue to invest in research and development on the next-generation technologies (such as directed energy29 and nanotechnologies30) rather than buying expensive new platforms that only marginally increase capabilities. At the same time, the Army should continue to rely on proven current-generation platforms until truly advanced new platforms are available.
- Overall management of the FCS and Army transformation programs should remain with the senior Army leadership in the Pentagon.
- Congress should support funding for the FCS in the FY 2005 budget. Funding for the Comanche helicopter program might be better employed on more promising near-term FCS systems and long-term research and development for next-generation platforms.
In order to provide more forces for overseas missions and greater expeditionary capabilities, the Army Chief of Staff has directed a reorganization of the current Army division, increasing the number of brigades in the command and developing means to deploy and sustain them independently. As a prototype, the Army directed its 3rd Infantry Division to reorganize from three to five maneuver brigades, each capable of autonomous operations.31
Other initiatives include reorganizing Army National Guard units. The Army National Guard will take some armored commands and combat support units, like artillery and air defense, and reorganize them as lighter and more flexible infantry-centric organizations, including mobile light brigades and other units as well.32
While the Army's efforts to make its combat organizations more flexible and modular are laudable, it is not apparent either that these initiatives are well thought out or that they will speed transformation efforts. For example, it is not clear that the reorganization of the 3rd Infantry Division will offer a desirable or even feasible model for future units. Breaking the division down into smaller independent commands will likely require more support troops than are in the current division design. As a result, future divisions might be even larger and more cumbersome than the current organization.
In the near term, the Army might profitably put more emphasis on expanding the size of its rotational base to ensure that it has enough forces to meet overseas commitments. Rather than adding additional active-duty units, this could be accomplished by eliminating administrative and staff positions and ending nonessential overseas missions. The Army, for example, might consider dismantling TRADOC and its plethora of branch schools and folding their activities into its other two existing stateside commands. The Army should also consider increasing the size, training, and capabilities of the Reserve Components to provide a cost-effective means of rapidly expanding the forces available to meet unexpected demands.33
In addition, the Army should eschew modest reorganizations that will disrupt the force for, at best, only marginal improvements in creating modular, expeditionary forces. Instead, the service should consider adopting an approach similar to the "strike force" concept recommended by former Army Chief of Staff General Dennis Reimer. This would involve building specialized task forces, when needed, out of current units through force enhancements (e.g., advanced training and simulations, new command and control systems, and improved logistics). This approach would be far less costly and disruptive than permanently reorganizing current forces.34
At the same time, the Army should experiment with more radical and far-reaching innovative organizational designs so that its future units could better exploit the new technologies provided by the FCS.35
- The Army needs a larger rotational base. In the near term, this can best be achieved by shifting more force structure into "foxhole strength," consolidating commands, eliminating unnecessary overseas missions, and transferring non-military positions to civilians and contractors.
- Rather than reorganizing divisions, the Army should make the current force more modular while continuing to experiment with more radical organizational designs.
- Congress should refrain from permanently increasing Army end strength until the Army determines what additional resources are needed beyond those made available by an earnest restructuring of the current force.
Army transformation efforts are woefully deficient in addressing two potentially critical missions. First, the Army has no significant initiatives on how to improve performance in post-conflict operations. Post-conflict activities are an integral part of any military campaign in which U.S. forces seize and hold territory either to free an occupied country, as with Kuwait during the 1991 Gulf War, or to dispose of an enemy regime, as during the postwar occupations of Germany and Japan. Such missions are not "optional" operations; they are an integral part of any military campaign.
As recent operations in Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrate, these missions are extremely demanding. They require careful planning and forces that are trained and equipped for the task. The Army simply lacks these kinds of troops.
Second, the Army has made only limited progress in better preparing its forces to support homeland security. The Army National Guard Bureau has proposed "dual-missioning" (assigning both overseas and domestic missions) some units and, when required, forming them into task forces that could support homeland security missions. The Guard plans to create 10 Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and High-Yield Explosive (CBRNE) brigade-size Enhanced Response Force Packages that might include Civil Support Teams,36 a medical company with decontamination assets, an engineer company with search and rescue capability, and a combat unit capable of supporting law enforcement.37
The Army Guard initiative, while encouraging, also has significant shortfalls. First, homeland security will be a secondary, not a primary, mission; thus, troops may well lack the skills, training, and equipment needed to respond effectively to catastrophic terrorism. In addition, the military needs to have far more forces available to respond to catastrophic terrorism than the number currently envisioned by the Pentagon. One analysis found that as many as half a million Reserve troops might be needed to respond to catastrophic disasters--more than four times the number that the Army has estimated is required for homeland security.38
A solution to meeting requirements for forces at home and abroad is to create large specialized units that could be assembled from existing National Guard and Reserve commands. These would include security, medical, engineer, and civil affairs assets capable of supporting emergency response activities and critical infrastructure protection and reconstitution.
Since many postwar responsibilities are similar to possible homeland security missions, these forces could perform double duty, having utility for both domestic and overseas missions. In addition, these units could be used to perform consequence management in a theater during a conflict, helping to protect civilian populations from the threat of attacks involving weapons of mass destruction.39
- The Army should develop large organizations that are better prepared to perform post-conflict, overseas consequence management, and homeland security duties.
- To ensure that the resources for creating these mission-essential, but often neglected, capabilities are not crowded by other defense needs, Congress should consider establishing a separate funding appropriation, much like the special funding set aside from the service budgets to develop special operations assets.
During the Cold War, Army training and education programs prepared soldiers and leaders to meet the challenge of ground warfare against Soviet-style forces. Future enemies could present a dizzying array of threats from high-tech conventional combat units to low-tech insurgents.
To prepare soldiers for a variety of challenges, the Army has directed that operations at its Combat Training Centers be unscripted, presenting a greater range of missions. The goal is to make Army leaders more flexible, adaptable, innovative, and expeditionary-minded. This effort is laudatory. But while Army training has begun a significant transformation, military education lacks similar initiatives.
A particular challenge for the Army will be to expand joint education to meet the demands of network-centric warfare. Joint education received a significant impetus from the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, which established joint education requirements for officers assigned to joint duty assignments and for promotion to general officer/flag rank.40 In the 21st century, however, most soldiers and officers will need extensive joint education. In particular, Reserve and National Guard officers, who are now deployed much more frequently for joint duty, will require much greater access to joint education opportunities. In addition, it is likely that officers will need more training in interagency operations (activities that involve multiple federal organizations).
These demands far exceed the needs envisioned by the Goldwater-Nichols Act.41 The Army's education process requires fundamental reforms to match advancements in training.
- The Army needs to continue to revamp its training programs to provide more modular, flexible, and expeditionary-minded forces.
- Congress should consider crafting legislation, as a follow-on to the Goldwater-Nichols Act, to ensure that the Department of Defense adequately addresses emerging joint and interagency education requirements.
The Army has made significant progress in adapting its programs to today's strategic realities. Ensuring that the service is prepared to support a protracted war against terrorism, however, requires further changes in the Army's agenda. Initiatives should be more fiscally prudent, preserve combat readiness, and promote further transformation. The Army's next steps should be taken in concert with the other services, the Department of Defense, and Congress.
- Refine research and development priorities and management of the FCS program;
- Expand the Army's rotational base through force restructuring;
- Establish new specialized Reserve Component forces that can perform homeland security, overseas consequence management, and post-conflict missions; and
- Develop training programs that develop leaders prepared for expeditionary warfare.
- Support FCS funding,
- Refrain from legislating permanent increases in Army force structure,
- Create separate funding appropriations for specialized Reserve Component forces, and
- Pass legislation, as a follow-on to the Goldwater-Nichols Act, to improve joint and interagency education.
James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow for National Security and Homeland Security in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation.