Options for a Dedicated Stability Operations Force Supporting Large Scale Combat Operations

Kevin Maguire is a graduate student in at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and a U.S. Army Reserve Civil Affairs Officer.  He can be found on LinkedIn or at kevinpatrickmaguirejr@gmail.com.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  As the U.S. military prepares for future large-scale combat operations (LSCO), it risks failure without a post-LSCO stabilization capability. 

Date Originally Written:  April 12, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  April 26, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that the U.S. (and allies) require specific formations to conduct post-LSSO stability operations (hereafter referred to as stability operations).

Background:  Though the U.S. Department of Defense continues to prepare for LSCO, it will fail in its mission without the ability to consolidate gains through stabilization. A telling example is post-Islamic State (IS) Iraq.  While ultimately successful in retaking territory from IS, the counter-IS campaign dealt a devastating blow to the Iraqi people. Cities like Mosul suffered thousands of dead, with billions in damages to infrastructure and the economy[1]. Despite nearly two decades of experience learning from the challenges of stability operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. (particularly the U.S. military) once again failed to conduct effective stability operations. Iraq remains highly volatile and unstable, and there are indications that an IS-led insurgency is growing[2].

Significance:  LSCO will see Mosul-like destruction and chaos in its immediate aftermath. Populated areas where future LSCO takes place risk the same issues as Mosul. One option for the U.S. military to mitigate stability issues is to have formations trained and capable of transitioning to stability operations. Retaining formations trained in stability operations capability will not only be helpful, but are necessary to plan for situations like Mosul on a greater scale. This option paper proposes three possible formations that could undertake post LSCO stability operations.

Option #1:  The DoD reorients its light and advisory forces to undertake stability operations.

The U.S.’ light military forces and Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs) are already oriented towards stability tasks. Stability operations require presence patrols and other operations best suited to light forces’ dismounted capabilities. Advisory brigades already promote skills within their formations that complement stability tasks, such as the language and cultural awareness necessary to work with partner forces. Marine and other light Army brigades, augmented with military police, civil affairs, and other units with stability functions, are also suitable as the dedicated stability operations formations. Given the light and modular character of these forces, they can rapidly assume the stability role in post-LSCO environments. 

Risk:  Light forces still have an advantage in LSCO of operating in restricted terrain, and they may be employed in this manner prior to the cessation of hostilities. Training or emphasis on stability operations tasks will strain the light formation’s ability to train for actual combat missions. The culture of some combat-oriented organizations, such as the 82nd Airborne or Marine Expeditionary Units, might also not be receptive to stability tasks. Advisory forces for their part, are small, and could require additional personnel and support to oversee large areas requiring stabilization.

Gain:  Light forces are among the most adaptable formations in the U.S. arsenal. The Army’s light forces in particular have shifted their force structure several times since inception, to include the addition of a 3rd infantry battalion, the transformation of the special troops battalion to an engineer battalion, and the addition of new equipment and capabilities[3].   Marine formations are also, by nature, scalable based off theater needs. Given the flexible nature of light forces, they are more easily adapted to stability tasks.

Option #2:  The U.S. leads the formation of a multinational stability force. 

This option would leverage the stability-building capabilities of U.S. partner forces to allow U.S. forces to focus on LSCO. Partner forces possess experience in areas where U.S. forces do not typically engage, such as peacekeeping and monitoring missions. Partner forces often use this experience to leverage close ties with development agencies which will be necessary for stability operations. Some partner forces tasked with stability or policing functions fit the stability operations role, such as the Italian Carabinieri[4]. 

Risk:  Though many partner forces are capable, reorienting a nation’s military forces could face domestic pressure. In the United Kingdom for example, proposed cuts to some military capabilities as part of a defense review garnered significant criticism from opposition lawmakers[5]. Many partners will still require LSCO-capable formations due to geographical proximity to an adversary, such as European Union states that border Russia. Restrictions on partner forces reduce flexibility for entire nations, so much so that this option will require significant cooperation between the U.S. and LSCO partners.

Gain:  This option frees U.S. military forces to focus readiness efforts on strictly LSCO. It also ensures that U.S. partners and allies with restrictive defense budgets or rules can focus the bulk of their readiness efforts on post-LSCO stability scenarios. This arrangement also pushes towards greater interoperability between the U.S. and partner forces, strengthening U.S. alliances in the long term.  

Option #3:  The U.S. orients its national guard and reserve forces to conduct post-LSCO stability operations

This option would re-task reserve and national guard forces, namely those formations oriented for combat, as the primary stability operations formations in the U.S. military. National guard and reserve forces already conduct Defense Support for Civil Activities, supporting state governors in areas such as civil unrest, natural disaster response, and medical support. 

Risk:  There will be political pushback from state governors over re-tasking the national guard. In 2018, the Army’s attempt to swap National Guard AH-64 Apaches to active duty in exchange for UH-60 Blackhawks met significant opposition, despite the utility these helicopters provided for states[6]. Similar opposition should be expected with reorienting national guard and reserve formations to a stability role. As a part time force, the reserve and national guard will be challenged in ensuring stability operations readiness efforts meet the needs of active duty formations if required.  

Gain:  This option frees combat units to focus readiness efforts related to LSCO. It also allows the reserve and national guard to focus limited resources and time on very specific stability missions and tasks, rather than prepare for a multitude of other contingency operations. Many reserve formations are already suited to these tasks, especially the U.S. Army’s Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command and numerous medical, military police, engineer, and other “enablers.” As a part time force, reserve and national guard personnel also bring civilian occupation skillsets that active duty personnel are not well versed in, especially those that serve in public service positions.  

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Three years after ISIS, Mosul residents still waiting to rebuild. (2020, July 10). The National. https://www.thenationalnews.com/world/mena/three-years-after-isis-mosul-residents-still-waiting-to-rebuild-1.1047089

[2] Nada, G. (2020, January 17). The U.S. and the Aftermath of ISIS. The Wilson Center. https://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/us-and-aftermath-isis

[3] Vazquez, D. (2020, April 17). Is the Infantry Brigade Combat Team Becoming Obsolete? War on the Rocks. https://warontherocks.com/2020/04/is-the-infantry-brigade-combat-team-becoming-obsolete

[4] Carabinieri. (n.d.). NATO Stability Policing Centre of Excellence. Retrieved April 12, 2021, from https://www.nspcoe.org/about-us/sponsoring-nations/italian-republic/carabinieri

[5] Sabbagh, D. (2021, March 21). UK defence cuts show gulf between ambition and action, says Labour. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/mar/22/uk-defence-cuts-gulf-ambition-action-labour-army-troops

[6] Sabbagh, D. (2021, March 21). UK defence cuts show gulf between ambition and action, says Labour. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/mar/22/uk-defence-cuts-gulf-ambition-action-labour-army-troops

Allies & Partners Civilian Concerns Defense and Military Reform Kevin Maguire Major Regional Contingency Non-Full-Time Military Forces (Guard, Reserve, Territorial Forces, Militias, etc) Option Papers United States

Options to Ensure the Best Indo-Pacific Policy in the U.S. Department of Defense

Chandler Myers is an officer in the U.S. Air Force. He holds a BS in English from the Air Force Academy and a MA in international relations with a focus in cyber diplomacy from Norwich University. Chandler contributes to WAR ROOM, the U.S. Armys online national security journal. Divergent Optionscontent does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Since the 9/11 attacks and the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, the U.S. Secretary of Defense (SecDef) has focused on the Middle East at the expense of the other, greater threats. While U.S. interest in the Indo-Pacific has increased since 2009[1], there has not been a SecDef with deep professional experience in this region.  While some may look at the SecDef, as the principal member in the DoD responsible for executing defense strategy to fulfill U.S. policy goals strictly as a generalist, without a sizable length of professional experience in the Indo-Pacific region, or the right mix of Indo-Pacific experts available for consultation, risk of military failure increases.   

Date Originally Written:  March 25, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  April 12, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that while the DoD’s increasing focus on the Indo-Pacific is the correct strategy, that bureaucratic inertia can cause too many people or not the right people to be in the room when policy decisions are made.  This inertia can contribute to failure and guarding against it is a must[2].

Background:  In an effort to realign the unbalanced focus and strategy the U.S. military executed in the Middle East from 2000-2008, President Barack Obama broke from tradition to restore engagement in and focus on Indo-Pacific regional issues that impact U.S. security, and the security of U.S. allies and partners. President Obama and SecDef Leon Panetta renewed America’s security investments in the Indo-Pacific through increased deployments and enhancing allied and partner collective and individual security capability[3]. The driving force causing President Obama’s redirection was U.S.-Sino relations. After President Obama reaffirmed U.S. national interests in the Indo-Pacific, he ordered SecDef Panetta to increase planning and troop deployments as one way to compete with China’s military modernization and assertive claims to disputed maritime territory[4]. While President Obama’s direction changed the region, SecDef Panetta had little to no experience there[5].  Indo-Pacific problems require thinking in an Indo-Pacific context. U.S. security goals in the region are contingent more on the professional experience of the SecDef, or the access he has to an experienced workforce to help him execute policy goals, not the advancement of the tools the military wields. 

Significance:  The U.S.-China security relationship is arduous in many facets.  Recommendations and options to assuage the relationship bend toward making changes in DoD force structure, but few focus on expertise within the DoD. 

Option #1:  The President nominates people with deeper professional experience in the Indo-Pacific to the position of Secretary of Defense.

Risk:  A mandate that requires professional experience in the Indo-Pacific will greatly limit who can be nominated to be SecDef.  Additionally, a SecDef with highlighted experience in the Indo-Pacific may fall into a similar strategic trap as past SecDefs who served during OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM and OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM; in a sense that, instead of ignoring China to focus on current operations, they will ignore other parts of the world to focus on China.

Gain:  This option will ensure the SecDef has the experience necessary to ensure the development and execution of DoD policies and strategies to support the President’s policy goals in the Indo-Pacific.  A SecDef equipped with Indo-Pacific experience atop the Pentagon will make fewer strategy errors and more wisely employ the military instrument of power in the Indo-Pacific. 

Option #2:  The SecDef establishes an Indo-Pacific Advisory Board, separate from any current advisory boards in existence, to provide him expert advice on the region that will be used to complement the advice he receives in current DoD channels.

Risk:  This option risks alienating the Indo Pacific-focused DoD workforce across both the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Joint Staff, and Defense Intelligence Components.  The employees of these organizations, once they learn that non-DoD personnel are advising the SecDef on the Indo-Pacific, may feel ignored or neglected and their work may suffer.

Gain:  Under this option, the SecDef now has an additional channel to receive specialist advice from Indo-Pacific experts.  This non-DoD channel would enable him to look at Indo-Pacific issues through a different lens.  This different lens would be a valuable complement to the information and advice provided by the DoD workforce and ensure that the SecDef is not looking at courses of action that may only serve the DoD, but contribute to U.S. interests in the Indo-Pacific more broadly. 

Other comments:  None. 

Recommendation:  None. 


Endnotes:

[1] Obama, B. November 14th 2009. Remarks by President Barack Obama at Suntory Hall. Retrieved from:  https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-barack-obama-suntory-hall

[2] Komer, R. January 1st 1972. Bureaucracy Does Its thing: Institutional constraints on U.S.-GVN performance in Vietnam. Retrieved from:  https://www.rand.org/pubs/reports/R967.html 

[3] Lieberthal, Kenneth. December 21st 2011. Brookings Institute. The American Pivot to Asia. Retrieved from:  https://www.brookings.edu/articles/the-american-pivot-to-asia/ 

[4] Manyin, Mark, et al. March 28th 2012. Pivot to the Pacific? The Obama Administration’s “Rebalancing” Toward Asia. Retrieved from:  https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R42448.pdf 

[5] Department of Defense Historical office. January 22nd 2021. Secretaries of Defense. Retrieved from:  https://history.defense.gov/DOD-History/Secretaries-of-Defense/ 

Chandler Myers China (People's Republic of China) Defense and Military Reform Governing Documents and Ideas Option Papers Policy and Strategy United States

Options to Build U.S. Army Headquarters Elements for Large Scale Combat Operations

Justin Magula is a U.S. Army Strategist at the U.S. Army War College. He is on Twitter @JustinMagula. The views contained in this article are the author’s alone and do not represent those of the U.S. Army War College, the Department of Defense, or the United States Government. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Of the United States Army’s four strategic roles in support of the Joint Force, prevailing in large-scale ground combat is the most important[1]. The Army cannot accomplish this strategic role without an appropriately designed operational headquarters.

Date Originally Written:  March 4, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  April 5, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that operational and strategic headquarters play a significant role in the Army’s ability to achieve success in large-scale combat operations and that the Army underinvests in these capabilities.

Background:  In the past seven decades, the United States Army has reduced the number of operational-level headquarters it employs as part of its total force reductions[2]. The United States Army currently uses theater armies, corps, and divisions in roles that often exceed their designated functions. While this method has achieved some success in fighting irregular wars, it would likely prove less successful against a peer competitor.

Theater armies fulfill five persistent tasks in support of geographic combatant commands: set conditions in a theater for the employment of landpower, support theater security cooperation, provide support to other services, maintain administrative control of all Army forces in the theater, and provide operational control and sustainment support of any assigned or attached forces. Even though a theater army performs an impressive array of tasks, it is not designed to command and control units in combat. Alternately, U.S. Army corps serve as the Army’s highest tactical echelon in large-scale ground combat operations, overseeing combat divisions and subordinate units. Where theater armies focus across an entire theater, corps focus on designated areas of responsibility.

Significance:  The possibility of large-scale combat operations against Russia and China continues to increase[4]. A war against either country would likely require the Army to deploy a sizable land force. For such operations, the Army would require more than one corps and operational-level headquarters to oversee tactical operations. Currently, the Army does not have a headquarters designed to effectively command and control multiple corps in large-scale ground combat or serve as a land component command in a joint operational area in the event of a great power war[5].

Historically, the U.S. Army used field armies to control multiple corps and subordinate units in large-scale combat operations, like in both World Wars and the Korean War. The U.S. Army no longer has such a headquarters. Creating new field armies would give the army the ability to quickly transition to combat operations and control multiple corps if required.

This option paper proposes two possible solutions to fill this critical headquarters gap: forward-stationed field armies or expeditionary field armies.

Option #1:  The U.S. Army establishes forward-stationed field armies.

In this option, the U.S. Army would create field armies and forward station them in specific theaters. For instance, the Army could station a field army in the Indo-Pacific region as a subordinate headquarters to U.S. Army Pacific and one in Europe to support U.S. Army Europe and Africa since these are the two most likely theaters where large-scale combat operations would occur.

Risk:  Placing field armies forward in a theater would increase their vulnerability as prime targets for enemy attacks in war. These units would have difficulty transferring to support other theaters if the need arose. The cost of new facilities, equipment, and personnel would be high and would rely on host nation contract support.

Gain:  Creating forward stationed field armies allows the theater armies, as the field armies’ higher headquarters, to focus their efforts across the entire theater during competition and conflict as they are designed to do[6]. Additionally, these field armies could conduct theater-specific exercises, integrate with partner nations forces, and provide training oversight for subordinate units during competition. If the need arose to transition to combat operations quickly, these headquarters would be trained, ready, and integrated across their respective theaters.

Option #2:  The U.S. Army establishes expeditionary field armies.

The Army could create expeditionary field armies and base them in the United States. These field armies would be the same size as the forward-stationed ones. Like its current divisions and corps, the Army could use these field armies in an expeditionary manner to support American objectives abroad.

Risk: Under this option, these field armies would not have the same level of understanding of a specific theater as a forward-stationed unit might or the same level of integration with other theater forces and partners. In crisis, these field armies could deploy directly to a combat zone. In peacetime, these headquarters could risk being stretched thin by global commitments, exercises, and training oversight if placed in charge of other stateside Army units.

Gain:  This option would give the Army the greatest versatility to respond to almost any combat mission. Each expeditionary field army could be deployed in a tailored package to meet the theater commander’s needs, thus reducing the burdens of the theater army staff. The field armies could provide training oversight of other Army units in the United States, enabling better large-scale combat training for them. The field armies could also assist U.S. Army North for homeland defense and Defense Security Cooperation Agency missions. This structure would also provide the greatest employment opportunities for American civilians supporting these headquarters.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] U.S. Department of the Army, Army Doctrine Publication (ADP) 1, The Army. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2019), v.

[2] Bonin, J. and Magula, J. (2021). U.S. Army Europe and Africa Headquarters: Reforming for Future Success. War on the Rocks. Retrieved March 3,2021 from https://warontherocks.com/2021/02/u-s-army-europe-and-africa-headquarters-reforming-for-future-success/

[3] Lundy, M. (2018). “Meeting the Challenge of Large-Scale Combat Operations Today and Tomorrow.” Military Review. Retrieved March 3, 2021 from https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/Military-Review/English-Edition-Archives/September-October-2018/Lundy-LSCO/

 [4] U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. (2018). “U.S. Army Concept: Multi-Domain Combined Arms Operations at Echelons Above Brigade 2025-2045.” TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-8. Retrieved March 3, 2021 from https://adminpubs.tradoc.army.mil/pamphlets/TP525-3-8.pdf

[5] U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Publication (JP) 3-31, Joint Land Operations.  (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2019), I-11.

[6] U.S. Department of the Army, Field Manual (FM) 3-94, Theater Army, Corps, and Division Operations. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2014), 2-4.

Command and Control and Headquarters Issues Defense and Military Reform Justin Magula Major Regional Contingency Option Papers U.S. Army

Options for the Demilitarization of Security in Nigeria

Damimola Olawuyi has served as a Geopolitical Analyst for SBM Intelligence. He now works for a leading airline in Nigeria. He can be found on Twitter @DAOlawuyi. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group.


National Security Situation:  The increased use of the Nigerian military to carry out constabulary duties[1] has created an undue strain on the armed forces[2] and left it unable to focus on its core functions. This strain has coincided with a continued diminishing of Nigeria’s internal security[3].

Date Originally Written:  January 1, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  March 8, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that the roles of the various armed services of the Nigerian state have become unnecessarily blurred by the willingness of political leaders to deploy force (too often deadly) for roles best served by other levers of governance.

Background:  Over two decades after Nigeria returned to democratic rule, the military has continued to play an outsized role in governance at the highest levels[4]. The election and appointment of former military and security personnel into political positions has stifled alternative voices and catalyzed despotic tendencies, even in politicians without regimented backgrounds. The continued deployment of the military in scenarios better served by other agencies has left it unable to deal with the insurgencies ravaging the North-West, North East, and Middle-Belt geopolitical zones of Nigeria[5]. 

Significance:  There is a pressing need to reinvigorate other branches of law enforcement and security in Nigeria[6][7]. Too often, political leaders authorize the deployment of military force as quick fixes to problems better solved by the long term application of legal, political, and social interventions, or other avenues of conflict resolution. These military deployments have lacked oversight and often resulted in human rights violations against Nigerians living in the crisis areas[5].

Option #1:  The Nigerian Government bans the use of the military in Internal Security Operations. 

Risk:  This option risks forcing the government to rely on inappropriate or insufficient resources domiciled in law enforcement or other internal security organizations to deal with violent events. As was seen during the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre[8], unforeseen situations may require capabilities that only the military can provide. Considering Nigeria’s current internal security crises, there will be the need for a transition period for current security operations to be transferred from the military to the civilian side of government.  Considering the length of some of these operations, the transfer may be messy and cause serious operational deficiencies that malign actors may exploit to wreak havoc. The resultant transfer of heavy weapons to civilian law enforcement and security agencies, with their continued lack of accountability and history of corruption and human rights violations, will only exacerbate the lack of trust from the larger society

Gain:  The removal of the option of military force to resolve internal security challenges will force the political class to invest in the manning, training and equipping of those agencies who are primarily tasked with securing the nation from within. This option will also incentivize proactive confrontation of violent and fringe groups before they manifest as major challenges to the peace of the nation. This option will also encourage the deployment of other forces of persuasion in dealing with issues. By freeing the nation’s armed forces of their local constabulary obligations, they are freed to focus on external threats from the near abroad.

Option #2:  The Nigerian Government imposes reporting requirements on the deployment of the military for internal security operations. Also, the military must answer to predefined civil authorities and agencies for the duration of their engagement. 

Risk:  In this option, politicians unwilling to meet additional requirements before deploying troops will simply refuse to call on military assistance when it is appropriate. This option may also exacerbate the inter-service rivalries between the various armed services that have often turned deadly[9][10][11][12][13]. Also, the current lack of accountability that pervades governance in Nigeria means that these requirements will likely simply be ignored without repercussion.

Gain:  Nigerian Government Officials will have to publicly justify their deployment of military force and may face potential repercussions for their choices in the national security sphere. This option also provides a framework for nongovernment security analysts and commentators to examine the decision-making processes of government in the civilian sphere.

Option #3:  The Nigerian Government bans serving and retired personnel of the armed services from holding executive political positions over armed agencies.

Risk:  This option will be very radical and risk alienating very powerful members of the political class. Political leaders without military or paramilitary experience lose a unique insight into the thinking and abilities of the military and how they can contribute in times of extreme national emergency. This blanket ban will rob former military officers with the requisite qualities from serving in these positions.

Gain:  The military has, directly and indirectly, continued to exert a very powerful influence over the direction of Nigeria’s security. This option goes beyond the U.S. National Security Act of 1947[14], which requires a waiver for former military officers separated by less than seven years from service in certain positions. This option ensures that those who are appointed to oversee armed agencies can face political accountability for their actions. This option will make politicians less willing to deploy military might without justification.

Option #4:  The Nigerian Government creates legislation setting out clear limits for when and how military force can deploy in internal security operations.

Risk:  The ambiguity that will result from possibly poorly worded legislation will only intensify the friction between the military and various security agencies. A lack of institutional robustness means that career military personnel, law enforcement agents, and civil servants are unable to prevent political leaders who wish to simply ignore the provisions of such legislation. This option may also lead to a situation where unanswered jurisdictional questions will create cracks to be exploited by malevolent actors who wish to keep their activities below a level that will allow the authorization of more forceful response from the government.

Gain:  This legislation will force the various nonmilitary agencies to scrutinize their capabilities and work towards shoring up any deficiencies. This option will provide another incentive for political leaders to expend the political capital required to pursue non-violent solutions to situations. Option #4 allows the military to begin to transfer the burden of continuous internal deployments and begin to rest and refit to tackle challenges more appropriate to its abilities.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] SBM Intelligence (2020, January 15). Chart of the Week: Military exercises in Nigeria. Retrieved January 7 from https://www.sbmintel.com/2020/01/chart-of-the-week-military-exercises-in-nigeria/ 

[2] Ogundipe, S. (2016, August 4). Insecurity: Soldiers deployed in 30 of Nigeria’s 36 states. Retrieved January 7 from https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/more-news/208055-insecurity-soldiers-deployed-30-nigerias-36-states-report.html 

[3] Nwabuezez, B. (2018, February 3). Why ‘Nigeria’ is now qualified as a failed state. Retrieved January 7 from https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/02/nigeria-now-qualified-failed-state/ 

[4] Osogbue, E. (2018, December 1). Military Hangover and The Nigerian Democracy. Retrieved January 7 from https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/12/military-hangover-and-the-nigerian-democracy/ 

[5] Shehu, S. (2019, August 13). Making Military Reform and Civilian Oversight a Reality in Nigeria. Retrieved January 7 from https://www.cfr.org/blog/making-military-reform-and-civilian-oversight-reality-nigeria 

[6] Solomon, S. (2020, December 2). After Outcry Over Abuse, Nigeria’s Police Reforms Under Scrutiny. Retrieved January 7 from https://www.voanews.com/africa/after-outcry-over-abuse-nigerias-police-reform-efforts-under-scrutiny 

[7] Page, M. (2019, April 2). Nigeria Struggles With Security Sector Reform. Retrieved January 7 from https://www.chathamhouse.org/2019/04/nigeria-struggles-security-sector-reform 

[8] Chambers, G. (2018, August 15). 1972 Munich Olympics massacre: What happened and why is Jeremy Corbyn under fire? Retrieved January 7 from https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/1972-munich-olympics-massacre-what-happened-and-why-is-jeremy-corbyn-under-fire-a3911491.html 

[9] Polgreen, L. (2005, October 6). 3 Killed as Nigerian Police and Soldiers Clash. Retrieved February 6 from https://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/06/world/africa/3-killed-as-nigerian-police-and-soldiers-clash.html 

[10] Ugbodaga, K. (2011, June 23). Soldiers, Policemen Clash Again. Retrieved February 6 from https://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2011/06/23/soldiers-policemen-clash-again/ 

[11] (2013, August 22). Police, army clash in Nigeria. Retrieved February 6 from https://www.sbs.com.au/news/police-army-clash-in-nigeria 

[12] Ogundipe, S. (2018, March 14). Updated: Tension as Police, soldiers clash with Road Safety officers in Abuja. Retrieved February 6 from https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/261751-updated-tension-as-police-soldiers-clash-with-road-safety-officers-in-abuja.html 

[13] (2018, June 15). Three die as soldiers clash with Police in Aba. Retrieved February 6 from https://thenationonlineng.net/three-die-as-soldiers-clash-with-police-in-aba/ 

[14] Levine, D. (2016, December 1). Why James Mattis Needs a Waiver to Be Trump’s Defense Secretary. Retrieved January 7 from https://heavy.com/news/2016/12/why-does-james-mad-dog-mattis-need-waiver-donald-trump-defense-secretary-pentagon-george-marshall-gillibrand/ 

Damimola Olawuyi Defense and Military Reform Government Homeland Defense Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Nigeria

Assessing United States Military Modernization Priorities

Kristofer Seibt is an active-duty United States Army Officer and a graduate student at Columbia University.  Divergent Options content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing United States Military Modernization Priorities

Date Originally Written:  December 13, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  January 25, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active-duty U.S. Army officer.  The author is critical of the tendency to equate modernization with costly technology or equipment investments, and the related tendency to conflate operational and structural readiness.

Summary:  Modernizing the military by optimizing access to, and employment of, readily available digital capabilities such as cell phones and personal computers offers a surer prospect for a ready and modern military when called upon in future years.  Persistent ambivalence towards basic digital tools and processes across the Department of Defense presents vulnerabilities and opportunity costs for both operational and structural readiness.

Text:  The U.S. Armed Forces and the wider public have long appreciated cutting edge technology and powerful equipment as the cornerstone of a modern and ready military.  As the national security strategy and subordinate defense, military, and service strategies shift to address the still undefined Great Power Competition, and long wars in the Middle East ostensibly wind down, modernizing the military for future conflict is a widely discussed topic[1].  Despite an inevitable reduction in military spending at some point in the near future, alongside the already unparalleled levels of military appropriation, a strong narrative has re-emerged that portrays new or upgraded capabilities as a common and unquestionable pillar of operational and structural readiness[2].  

As a function of readiness, America’s military technology obsession ignores the more pressing need to modernize basic and often neglected components of daily military operations in garrison, on mission, and at war.  Outmoded systems, tools, and processes in military organizations and on military installations are one readiness issue that can be solved today with if they had a similar level of investment and top-level coordination traditionally afforded to more costly programs.  Investing in modernizing the military by overhauling daily operations today, at a wide scale, offers a surer prospect for a ready and modern military when called upon in future years, regardless of the unknowable capability requirements future warfare will demand and the uncertain results of technology or capability development[3].

The elephant in the room, so to speak, is the Department of Defense’s mixed feelings towards digital tools and processes[4]. Besides obvious and widely known inefficiencies encountered in all facets of daily military life, at all levels, these mixed feelings contribute to security vulnerabilities and operational constraints on a similar scale.  Consider daily communication, often via cell phone and email[5]. Today, most Military Members are asked to conduct official business on personally procured devices that are connected by personally funded data plans on domestic telecommunications networks.  

Official business conducted at the speed that daily operations in the military supposedly require, out of a perception of necessity and expedience, often occurs through a mixture of unsecure text message, unsecure messaging app, and personal teleconferencing software ungoverned by any DoD or Military Department policy or procedure.  Military workflows on digital devices rely on inefficient methods and limited collaboration through outdated tools on semi-closed government networks requiring a wired connection and a government-issued workstation.   The compounding constraints generated by limited access to networks, phones, computers, and the attendant inefficiencies of their supported workflows necessitate a parallel or “shadow” system of getting things done i.e. the use of personal electronic devices.  

While the DoD certainly issues computers and phones to select Military Members in many organizations, especially executive staffs and headquarters, government-procured devices on government-funded plans/infrastructure remain the privilege of a relative few, ostensibly due to security and cost.  Company Commanders in the U.S. Army (responsible for 100-150 Military Members), for example, are no longer authorized government cell phones in most organizations.  For those lucky enough to have a government-issued computer, before the COVID19 pandemic, obtaining permission to enable their personal hardware’s wireless capabilities or conduct official business remotely via Virtual Private Network had become increasingly difficult. 

In contrast to peacetime and garrison environments, in combat or combat-simulation training environments Military Members are asked to ignore their personally owned or even government-provided unclassified digital tools in favor of radios or classified, internally networked computers with proprietary software.  That leaders in tactical training environments with government cell phones may sneak away from the constraints of the exercise to coordinate with less friction than that offered by their assigned tactical equipment, as the author has routinely witnessed, underscores the artificiality of the mindset erected around (and the unrealized opportunity afforded by) digital technology.

Digital communication technologies such as cell phones, computers, and internet-enabled software were once at the cutting edge, just as unmanned systems are now, and artificial intelligence will be.  Much like a period of degraded operational readiness experienced when militaries field, train, and integrate new capabilities, military organizations have generally failed to adapt their own systems, processes, or cultures to optimize the capabilities offered by modern communication technologies[6].  

Talk of modernization need not entail investment into the development of groundbreaking new technologies or equipment.  An overabundance of concern for security and disproportionate concern for cost have likely prevented, to this point, the wide-scale distribution of government-procured devices to the lowest level of the military.  These concerns have also likely prevented the U.S. Armed Forces from enabling widespread access to official communication on personal devices.  While prioritizing military modernization is challenging, and costly systems often come out on top, there is goodness in investments that enable military organizations to optimize their efficiency, their effectiveness, and their agility through existing or easily procured digital technologies.  

Systems, processes, and culture are intangible, but modernization evokes an image of tangible or materiel outcomes.  The assessment above can link the intangible to the tangible when mapped back onto concepts of operational and structural readiness.  For example, imagine deploying a platoon on a disaster relief mission or a brigade to a Pacific island as part of a deterrence mission related to Great Power Competition.  In this scenario, the Military Members in these deployed units have everything they need to communicate, plan, and execute their mission on their personal government-issued phones which can be used securely on a host nation cell network.  Cameras, mapping software, and communications capabilities already on these government devices are widely embedded in the daily operations of each unit allowing the units to get on the first available plane and start operating.  

The tangible benefits of a digitally adept military therefore also bridge to structural readiness, whereby the force can absorb reductions in size and become systemically, procedurally, and culturally ready to employ new capabilities that demand organizations operate flexibly and at high speeds[7].  If modernization investments today imagine a future with networked artificial intelligence, ubiquitous unmanned systems, and convergent data — ostensibly secure and enmeshed deeply enough to be leveraged effectively — that same imagination can be applied to a future where this same security and optimization is applied to a suite of government-issued, personal digital hardware and internet-enabled software.


Endnotes:

[1] For one example of analysis touching on modernization within the context of the defense budget, see Blume, S., & Parrish, M. (2020, July 9). Investing in Great-Power Competition. Center for a New American Security. https://www.cnas.org/publications/reports/investing-in-great-power-competition

[2] For definitions, their relationship, and their conflation with modernization, see Betts, R. K. (1995). Military Readiness: Concepts, Choices, Consequences (pp. 40-41, 134-136). Brookings Institution Press.

[3] Barno, D., & Bensahel, N. (2020, September 29). Falling into the Adaptation Gap. War on the Rocks. https://warontherocks.com/2020/09/falling-into-the-adaptation-gap

[4] Kroger, J. (2020, August 20). Office Life at the Pentagon Is Disconcertingly Retrograde. Wired. https://www.wired.com/story/opinion-office-life-at-the-pentagon-is-disconcertingly-retrograde

[5] Ibid.; the author briefly recounts some of the cultural impediments to efficiency at the Pentagon, specifically, and their subsequent impact on leveraging technology.

[6] See Betts, Military Readiness, for an expanded discussion of the trade-off in near-term operational readiness alluded to here.

[7] For a broader advocation for bridging structural readiness, modernization imperatives, and current forces, see Brands, H., & Montgomery, E. B. (2020). One War is Not Enough: Strategy and Force Planning for Great-Power Competition. Texas National Security Review, 3(2). https://doi.org/10.26153/tsw/8865

Budgets and Resources Capacity / Capability Enhancement Defense and Military Reform Emerging Technology Kristofer Seibt United States

Options to Enhance Security in U.S. Networked Combat Systems

Jason Atwell has served in the U.S. Army for over 17 years and has worked in intelligence and cyber for most of that time. He has been a Federal employee, a consultant, and a contractor at a dozen agencies and spent time overseas in several of those roles. He is currently a senior intelligence expert for FireEye, Inc. and works with government clients at all levels on cyber security strategy and planning.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  As combat systems within DoD become more connected via networks, this increases their vulnerability to adversary action.

Date Originally Written:  November 1, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  January 11, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a reservist in the U.S. Army and a cyber security and intelligence strategist for FireEye, Inc. in his day job. This article is intended to draw attention to the need for building resiliency into future combat systems by assessing vulnerabilities in networks, hardware, and software as it is better to discover a software vulnerability such as a zero day exploit in a platform like the F-35 during peacetime instead of crisis.

Background:  The United States is rushing to field a significant number of networked autonomous and semi-autonomous systems[1][2] while neglecting to secure those systems against cyber threats. This neglect is akin to the problem the developed world is having with industrial control systems and internet-of-things devices[3]. These systems are unique, they are everywhere, they are connected to the internet, but they are not secured like traditional desktop computers. These systems won’t provide cognitive edge or overmatch if they fail when it matters most due to poorly secured networks, compromised hardware, and untested or vulnerable software.

Significance:  Networked devices contain massive potential to increase the resiliency, effectiveness, and efficiency in the application of combat power[4]. Whether kinetic weapons systems, non-lethal information operations, or well-organized logistics and command and control, the advantages gained by applying high-speed networking and related developments in artificial intelligence and process automation will almost certainly be decisive in future armed conflict. However, reliance on these technologies to gain a competitive or cognitive edge also opens the user up to being incapacitated by the loss or degradation of the very thing they rely on for that edge[5]. As future combat systems become more dependent on networked autonomous and semi-autonomous platforms, success will only be realized via accompanying cybersecurity development and implementation. This formula for success is equally true for ground, sea, air, and space platforms and will take into account considerations for hardware, software, connectivity, and supply chain. The effective application of cyber threat intelligence to securing and enabling networked weapons systems and other defense technology will be just as important to winning in the new multi-domain battlefield as the effective application of other forms of intelligence has been in all previous conflicts.

Option #1:  The Department of Defense (DoD) requires cybersecurity efforts as part of procurement. The DoD has been at work on applying their “Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification” to vendors up and down the supply chain[6]. A model like this can assure a basic level of protection to hardware and software development and will make sure that controls and countermeasures are at the forefront of defense industrial base thinking.

Risk:  Option #1 has the potential to breed complacency by shifting the cybersecurity aspect too far to the early stages of the procurement process, ignoring the need for continued cyber vigilance further into the development and fielding lifecycle. This option also places all the emphasis on vendor infrastructure through certification and doesn’t address operational and strategic concerns around the resiliency of systems in the field. A compliance-only approach does not adapt to changing adversary tactics, techniques, and procedures.

Gain:  Option #1 forces vendors to take the security of their products seriously lest they lose their ability to do business with the DoD. As the model grows and matures it can be used to also elevate the collective security of the defense industrial base[7].

Option #2:  DoD takes a more proactive approach to testing systems before and during fielding. Training scenarios such as those used at the U.S. Army’s National Training Center (NTC) could be modified to include significant cyber components, or a new Cyber-NTC could be created to test the ability of maneuver units to use networked systems in a hostile cyber environment. Commanders could be provided a risk profile for their unit to enable them to understand critical vulnerabilities and systems in their formations and be able to think through risk-based mitigations.

Risk:  This option could cause significant delay in operationalizing some systems if they are found to be lacking. It could also give U.S. adversaries insight into the weaknesses of some U.S. systems. Finally, if U.S. systems are not working well, especially early on in their maturity, this option could create significant trust and confidence issues in networked systems[8].

Gain:  Red teams from friendly cyber components could use this option to hone their own skills, and maneuver units will get better at dealing with adversity in their networked systems in difficult and challenging environments. This option also allows the U.S. to begin developing methods for degrading similar adversary capabilities, and on the flip side of the risk, builds confidence in systems which function well and prepares units for dealing with threat scenarios in the field[9].

Option #3:  The DoD requires the passing of a sort of “cybersecurity sea trial” where the procured system is put through a series of real-world challenges to see how well it holds up. The optimal way to do this could be having specialized red teams assigned to program management offices that test the products.

Risk:  As with Option #2, this option could create significant delays or hurt confidence in a system. There is also the need for this option to utilize a truly neutral test to avoid it becoming a check-box exercise or a mere capabilities demonstration.

Gain:  If applied properly, this option could give the best of all options, showing how well a system performs and forcing vendors to plan for this test in advance. This also helps guard against the complacency associated with Option #1. Option #3 also means systems will show up to the field already prepared to meet their operational requirements and function in the intended scenario and environment.

Other Comments:  Because of advances in technology, almost every function in the military is headed towards a mix of autonomous, semi-autonomous, and manned systems. Everything from weapons platforms to logistics supply chains are going to be dependent on robots, robotic process automation, and artificial intelligence. Without secure resilient networks the U.S. will not achieve overmatch in speed, efficiency, and effectiveness nor will this technology build trust with human teammates and decision makers. It cannot be overstated the degree to which reaping the benefits of this technology advancement will depend upon the U.S. application of existing and new cybersecurity frameworks in an effective way while developing U.S. offensive capabilities to deny those advantages to U.S. adversaries.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Judson, Jen. (2020). US Army Prioritizes Open Architecture for Future Combat Vehicle. Retrieved from https://www.defensenews.com/digital-show-dailies/ausa/2020/10/13/us-army-prioritizes-open-architecture-for-future-combat-vehicle-amid-competition-prep

[2] Larter, David B. The US Navy’s ‘Manhattan Project’ has its leader. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.c4isrnet.com/naval/2020/10/14/the-us-navys-manhattan-project-has-its-leader

[3] Palmer, Danny. IOT security is a mess. Retrieved from https://www.zdnet.com/article/iot-security-is-a-mess-these-guidelines-could-help-fix-that

[4] Shelbourne, Mallory. (2020). Navy’s ‘Project Overmatch’ Structure Aims to Accelerate Creating Naval Battle Network. Retrieved from https://news.usni.org/2020/10/29/navys-project-overmatch-structure-aims-to-accelerate-creating-naval-battle-network

[5] Gupta, Yogesh. (2020). Future war with China will be tech-intensive. Retrieved from https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/comment/future-war-with-china-will-be-tech-intensive-161196

[6] Baksh, Mariam. (2020). DOD’s First Agreement with Accreditation Body on Contractor Cybersecurity Nears End. Retrieved from https://www.nextgov.com/cybersecurity/2020/10/dods-first-agreement-accreditation-body-contractor-cybersecurity-nears-end/169602

[7] Coker, James. (2020). CREST and CMMC Center of Excellence Partner to Validate DoD Contractor Security. Retrieved from https://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/news/crest-cmmc-validate-defense

[8] Vandepeer, Charles B. & Regens, James L. & Uttley, Matthew R.H. (2020). Surprise and Shock in Warfare: An Enduring Challenge. Retrieved from https://www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2020/10/27/surprise_and_shock_in_warfare_an_enduring_challenge_582118.html

[9] Schechter, Benjamin. (2020). Wargaming Cyber Security. Retrieved from https://warontherocks.com/2020/09/wargaming-cyber-security

Cyberspace Defense and Military Reform Emerging Technology Information Systems Jason Atwell United States

U.S. Army Options for Professional Military Education Amidst COVID-19

Matt Sardo has served in the U.S. Army Infantry and Special Forces Branches. He is currently separating from Active Duty to attend Berkeley Law School and will remain in the U.S. Army Reserve as a Reserve Officer Training Corps instructor with the Golden Bears Battalion. He can be found on Twitter @MattSardowski. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The U.S. Army Permanent Change of Station freeze amidst COVID-19 will challenge the Professional Military Education model.

Date Originally Written:  April 6, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  April 20, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an Army Special Forces Branch O3(Promotable) preparing to start a Juris Doctorate at UC Berkeley. The author believes repairing the U.S. civilian-military divide is mission critical to U.S. dominance in a multidomain operating environment.

Background:  The U.S. Army freeze of Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders presents both challenges and opportunities. The cohort of officers preparing to move their families for Intermediate Level Education (ILE) face an uncertain summer due to the global impact of COVID-19. Competitive officers, most of whom have made the decision to pursue the profession as a career, are funneled to the Army flagship institution at Fort Leavenworth’s Command and General Staff College (CGSC). This situation presents a challenge to the education model the Army has relied upon since George Marshall was a Lieutenant in 1906[1].

A model distributed between U.S. academic institutions and the Army Department of Distance Education (DDE) could both meet Army educational needs and ensure COVID-19 safety precautions are executed. The Army DDE provides Common Core and Advanced Operations Courses remotely. American academic institutions have rapidly developed the digital infrastructure to provide online certificate and degree programs in high-demand technology fields. Both Army remote education infrastructure and civilian institutions provide opportunities to modernize Army education.

Significance:  The civilian-military divide in America has long been studied and analyzed by leading scholars from across society; however, the gap in trust between these two groups is widening[2]. The current challenge faced by the Army Officer Corps presents an opportunity to immerse officers in civilian academic institutions. If operating within Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, the Army cannot send it’s cohort of committed career officers to CGSC this summer.

It is difficult to say what the indicator for an all-clear will be during the COVID-19 pandemic outside of an effective vaccination program. Immediate decisions on essential manning, mission priorities, and geopolitical investments will occupy Army senior leaders for the coming weeks and months. The CDC will have a vote on the big decisions and Army leaders are beginning to understand their span of control during this period. Approving PCS orders for officers and their families will violate CDC guidance, and the decision space to identify an effective ILE alternative is rapidly shrinking.

The Army has come to the conclusion that its next challenge will be presented by a highly sophisticated, merciless nation-state adversary who will understand Army vulnerabilities better than the Army understands their own. Multi-domain operations (MDO), cyber support to kinetic strikes, and social influence are strong buzz words for modernizing training guidance; however, they do not answer the question of how the Army and the nation’s tech-savvy youth synchronize for those envisioned fictional battlefield effects. Integrating Army officer education with the American network of universities will provide both the needed education as well as interaction between two already socially distanced segments of American society.

Option #1:  Integrate the Army ILE curriculum with innovative universities in order to leverage sought after skills in the officer corps and build relationships with academic institutions. Either leverage local university graduate and certificate options as best as possible within CDC constraints or enroll in online courses with tech-centric institutions. A Fort Hood stationed armor officer attending the DDE Common Core this summer and completing UT Austin’s 33-week Cyber Academy will be prepared to make future resource decisions to integrate fires and effects with social-media based targeting[3]. A group of paratroopers and special operations soldiers from Fort Bragg will grasp the information landscape and agility of private sector procurement through a Duke Digital Media and Marketing Certificate or a University of North Carolina Masters in Business Administration concentration in strategy and consulting[4/5]. These are some of the skills and some of the options available through an integrated approach.

Risk:  The anti-agility voices throughout the Army will identify gaps in various equities from an integrated, localized, and remote ILE option. If university integration is proven valuable during our current time of crisis, the CGSC model may lose some prestige. There will also be risk associated in which universities are sought after for partnership with the DoD, and which universities deny a partnership based on the current civil-military misunderstandings. The risk of inaction may defer a year-group of officers needed in critical leadership positions in the near future.

Gain:  University integration will bring a human dimension of the Army into the civilian classroom. Option #1 will give opportunities for young minds to challenge the perspective of echo-chamber educated combat arms officers. It will provide an option for a current problem that addresses the institutional challenges of MDO from fires and effects, information operations, logistics, and command perspectives. Finally, this option will build a bridge between the Army and academia, and most importantly, it will solve the current PCS problem for summer movers.

Option #2:  Expand the bandwidth of the Army online ILE infrastructure already in place. The CGSC DDE model is an accredited ILE source which can be completed remotely while officers are observing social distancing. It will require a significant investment in digital infrastructure from the DDE; however, the overall cost-savings from CGSC PCS moves will allow investment in course modernization.

Risk:  The Army DDE portal and online interface are outdated, vulnerable to breach, and not equivalent to civilian online learning systems. Reliance on the DDE for the majority of officer ILE will present the system as a cyber target. Additionally, officers will not directly interact with their peers or mentors during a critical phase of professional development that can be achieved if the Army defers admittance for a semester.

Gain:  Investment in modernization of the premier PME institution will force the Army to learn how to develop better online learning systems. The lessons gained can be applied throughout other Army officer and NCO PME curriculums. Trusted relationships can be built with software developers among the tech sector as the traditional defense sector has proven less effective.

Other Comments:  Integrating Army ILE with university curriculums will not solve the civilian-military divide, but U.S. adversaries are watching closely. U.S. adversaries are most concerned by two aspects of American power. The first is the military’s tenacity and the second is the unrestrained innovation potential of American universities. Desegregation of the Army from academia increases the likelihood of future battlefield dominance.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Kalic, S. N. (2008). Honoring the Marshall Legacy. Command and General Staff Foundation News, Spring 2008.
https://www.marshallfoundation.org/marshall/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2014/04/HonoringtheMarshallLegacy_000.pdf

[2] Schake, K. N., & Mattis, J. N. (2016). Warriors and citizens: American views of our military. Stanford, Calif: Hoover Institution Press.

[3] Cyber Academy Certificate Program. (2020, March 17). Retrieved April 6, 2020, from https://professionaled.utexas.edu/cyber-academy-certificate-program

[4] Digital Media & Marketing. (n.d.). Retrieved April 6, 2020, from https://learnmore.duke.edu/certificates/digital_marketing

[5] MBA Concentrations. (n.d.). Retrieved April 6, 2020, from https://onlinemba.unc.edu/academics/concentrations

 

Defense and Military Reform Education Matt Sardo Option Papers

An Assessment of the Concept of Competition as a Foundation to Military Planning

Jeffrey Alston is a member of the United States Army National Guard and a graduate of the United States Army War College.  He can be found on Twitter @jeffreymalston.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of the Concept of Competition as a Foundation to Military Planning

Date Originally Written:  February 23, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  March 26, 2020.

Author and / Article Point of View:  The author is a field-grade, maneuver officer with nearly 30 years of commissioned service. The article is written from the point of view of an American strategic analyst viewing the developments in the national security space since the release of the 2017 National Security Strategy.

Summary:  The U.S. Military is overextending its intellectual resources regarding great power competition and is losing its focus on core warfighting concepts. Recent national security documents have codified the great power security environment. The absence of any coherent foreign policy and subsequent strategy, coupled with over reliance on the military as the single foreign policy tool, puts U.S. military planning at a critical juncture.

Text:  Dutifully, the U.S. Armed Services (Services) seized upon the competition task following publication of the 2017 National Security Strategy (NSS) and 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) and has-especially at the Joint Staff level-expended considerable effort framing[1] the military aspects of competition. At the same time, the Services are attempting to realize fundamental concepts which embrace the new challenges of a multi-domain environment with the vocabulary of competition seeping into its foundational documents. Without question, a nation’s military makes up part of its power and in the case of the U.S., holds the charge that they fight and persecute the nation’s wars securing victory through its unique capabilities. Logically, it follows then, the expansive idea of competition-at heart an international relations framework- should not be the sole conceptual focus of its military planning.

Seizing upon competition as a framework for structure and employment of the Services is understandable given recent history. The genesis of today’s U.S.’s strategic atrophy coincides with the end of the Cold War. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union left America with a sense of winning-if not hubris. The spectacular victory in Desert Shield/Desert Storm clinched this idea of a unipolar moment for the U.S. The promise of the “fog-lifting” Revolution in Military Affairs, the lack of an ideological or near peer competitor and selective military engagements (Bosnia, Somalia, Desert Fox in Iraq / Kuwait, et al) did not place demands for any type of comprehensive national strategy thinking let alone theory development. Operationally, the military was unsurpassed in its capability.

Then the 9/11 attacks occurred and the nation entered the Global War on Terror (GWOT). The opening phases of the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, initially about regime change, were successful. However, lack of a meaningful goals for the successive phases of the GWOT, a lack of sustained, whole of nation effort to conduct the GWOT saw counterinsurgency and counter terrorism tactics elevate to take the place of actual strategy[2]. Simultaneously, debates about the utility of military force in such environments became more frequent in political and scholarship spheres. Frustration with quantifiable or sustainable goals in either campaign began to center on simple timelines and troop levels. Two decades of GWOT was exacerbating this period of strategic atrophy.

The military was not going to give up the initiative as it sought to make lasting impacts in the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns. The military design movement began to find leverage in the Services as formations struggled to achieve sustainable outcomes in their areas of operations. Design “how-to’s” began to fill the pages of military journals, institutional curricula and be integrated into exercises. Tactical formations were left to seek the best way to leverage their capabilities in the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan[3].  Attempting to leverage design was further evidence of an absence of strategy. Design was an awkward and uncomfortable translation into formations which normally are assigned an objective set of mission essential tasks to master and execute.

Enter the 2017 National Security Strategy and 2018 National Defense Strategy and the corresponding concept of great power competition (GPC). Correctly identifying today’s national security realities, strategic competition is-in the context of the current environment-a concept requiring more thought and analysis for it to be a useful national security construct[4]. “Competition,” as a government wide framework, is not encouraging. The U.S. Department of State strategic plan for 2018-2022 mentions the term “competition” three times; the Treasury Department’s equivalent, once. While not an exhaustive review of interdepartmental policy coordination, it stands witness to the lack of whole of nation integration, if not linkage of competition at the national level. In the absence of a definitive “competition” strategy at the national level, the Joint Staff and Services must resist the temptation to unnecessarily militarize GPC.

The NSS and NDS provide the Services a framework to begin their realignment within an environment of GPC. However, as documents such as the Joint Staff’s Competition Continuum[1] frame the role of the Services as a function of competition. This is a mistake. Strategic competition is an environment for the military and is best if it informs broad decisions in the Services’ role of man, train and equip, but not its warfighting approaches. The Continuum document reflects a tremendous amount of intellectual capacity devoted to and carefully considering the aspects of competition: it is thought provoking, but misplaced. The American military would do well to resist, once again, elevating its capabilities to fulfill a strategic gap at the national levels and instead focus on core warfighting abilities and tasks.

The Services are at a crucial stage in the planning and programming for the out years; all with fresh eyes towards their obligations in an era of GPC. The U.S. Army has initiated a well-intentioned intellectual renaissance on large scale combat operations. The U.S. Army and Air Force (and the others) are collaborating and struggling with realizing Multidomain Operations[5]. In reviving and focusing on these ideas, the Services can appropriately complement national power as an element of GPC vice being its foundation. Until workable GPC foreign policy goals are established, acceptable political risks are identified and corresponding national strategies are in place, best would be for the Services to carefully navigate the contours of GPC.

The Joint Doctrine notes mentioned earlier and related documents (ie. Joint Concept for Integrated Campaigning) are not helping in this cognitive framework. Their prominent use of a continuum of conflict[6] as a foundational model conflates national strategy formulation with military campaigning. While these sample documents speak to the role of interagency contributions to competition, recent campaigns make such whole of government intentions suspect. Most notably, the continuum of completion-conflict-competition is fertile ground for obscuring definitive political objectives. A lack of political objectives upends strategy formulation. Combined, this is not the space to expand military planning efforts. Competition is without a doubt, part of the global security environment, but it is a condition of that environment, not a principle of warfighting planning.


Endnotes:

[1] U.S. Department of Defense. (2019). Joint Doctrine Note 1-19, Competition Continuum. Washington, DC. From https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/jdn_jg/jdn1_19.pdf?ver=2019-06-10-113311-233

[2] Stachan, H. (2013). The Direction of War: Contemporary Strategy in Historical Perspective. Cambridge University Press.

[3] Keller, J. (2018, January 22). The 1st SFAB’s Afghan Deployment Is A Moment Of Truth For The Global War On Terror. Retrieved December 12, 2019, from https://taskandpurpose.com/analysis/sfab-train-advise-assist-afghanistan

[4] Wyne, A. (2019, February 11). America’s Blind Ambition Could Make It a Victim of Global Competition. Retrieved February 13, 2020, from https://nationalinterest.org/feature/americas-blind-ambition-could-make-it-victim-global-competition-44227

[5] Air Force, Army Developing Multidomain Doctrine. (2018, January 25). Retrieved January 7, 2020, from https://www.jcs.mil/Media/News/News-Display/Article/1425475/air-force-army-developing-multidomain-doctrine/

[6] U.S. Department of Defense. (2018). Joint Concept for Integrated Campaigning. Washington, DC. p. 8 From https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/concepts/joint_concept_integrated_campaign.pdf?ver=2018-03-28-102833-257

Assessment Papers Competition Defense and Military Reform Great Powers United States

Options for a Joint Support Service

Lieutenant Colonel Jason Hughes has served in roles from Platoon Leader to the Joint Staff with multiple combat deployments to Iraq and operational deployments to Africa and Haiti.  He is presently the Commander of 10th Field Hospital, a 148 bed deployable hospital.  He can be found on Twitter @medical_leader, manages the Medical Service Corps Leader Development Facebook page, and writes for The Medical Leader.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  “The Department of Defense will reform its business practices to gain the full benefit of every dollar spent, and to gain and hold the trust of the American people. We must be good stewards of the tax dollars allocated to us. Results and accountability matter[1].” – Former Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis

Date Originally Written:  December 24, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  February 3, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that without dynamic modernization solutions the DoD will be unable to sharpen the American Military’s competitive edge and realize the National Defense Strategy’s vision of a more lethal, resilient, and rapidly innovating Joint Force. While DoD’s strategic guidance has evolved, its force structure has not.

Background:  Common support roles across the military create redundant overhead, separate doctrines, equipment and force designs, development and acquisition processes, and education and recruiting programs. Resources are scarce, yet organizations within DoD compete against each other developing three of everything when the DoD only requires one joint capability to support the operational requirement.

The Department’s sloth-like system and redundant capabilities across services create an opportunity for change. Reform and efficiencies realized in manpower, resources, and overhead cost directly support Lines of Effort One and Three of the National Defense Strategy[2]. Consolidation efforts could realize a 20-40% overhead[3], training, and equipment savings while providing the Joint Force access to low density, high demand capabilities.  Each Armed Service recruits, trains, and educates; develops policy, doctrine, and equipment; and manages careers separately for similar requirements. A review of similar capabilities across the services illustrates 16 commodities that could possibly be consolidated:

  • Human Resources
  • Logistics
  • Engineering
  • Communications
  • Intelligence
  • Medical
  • Cyber
  • Public Affairs
  • Religious
  • Finance
  • Contracting
  • Legal
  • Military Police / Criminal Investigation Forces
  • Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear
  • Operations Research/Systems Analysis
  • Modeling and Simulations

Significance:  Similar reform efforts – health care transition from the services to the Defense Health Agency – have or will produce significant savings and efficiencies. Dollars saved focus scarce resources on combat readiness and lethality at the tip of the spear.

Option #1:  The DoD establishes a separate Armed Service focused on Joint Support.

The commodities listed above are consolidated into a separate Joint Support Service with Title 10 authorities commensurate with line requirements. The line (other Services) provides the requirement and “buys” what they need. This system is similar to the United States Marine Corps (USMC) relationship with the U.S. Navy (USN) regarding medical support. In this relationship the USMC defines their requirement and “buys” the commodity from the USN.

Risk:  Armed Service requirements documents are esoteric and do not allow the Joint Support Service to plan for force structure and requirements to meet those concepts.

Gain:  Option #1 ensures commonality and interoperability for the Joint Force (e.g., one scalable Damage Control Surgery set versus 8-10 service sets; fuel distribution systems that can support all forces; management of low density, high demand assets (Trauma Surgeons, Chaplains etc)).

Option #2:  The DoD pursues “Pockets of Excellence.”

The commodities listed above are centralized into a single existing Armed Service. The Secretary of Defense would redesign or select an Armed Service to manage a commodity, removing it from the other Armed Services. The lead Armed Service for a specific commodity then produces capacity that meets other Armed Service’s operational demands while building capability, doctrine, equipment, education and recruiting center of excellence for that commodity.

Risk:  The Armed Services, with resident expertise in specific commodities may impose their doctrine on other services instead of building a true joint capability that supports line operations across multiple Armed Services.

Gain:  The Armed Services are more likely to support this effort if they receive the manpower and appropriations increasing their bottom line.

Option #3:  Hybrid.

Each Armed Service develops commodity talent at the junior officer / Non-Commissioned Officer level much like today. This talent transfers into the Joint Support Service, providing support at “Echelons above Brigade,” later in their career.

Risk:  This option increases overhead in the Department by building a Joint Support Force without eliminating existing Armed Service requirements.

Gain:  This option would create a Joint Support Force that brings understanding of Armed Service systems, culture, and requirements.

Other Comments:  Lethality requires a support force organized for innovation that delivers performance at the speed of relevance, commensurate with line operational requirements, using a global operating model. The Armed Services hurt themselves by competing within the DoD. This competing leaves the overall DoD unable to produce a streamlined force using rapid, iterative approaches from development to fielding, that directly supporting the defeat of U.S. enemies, while protecting the American people and their vital interests at a sustainable cost to the taxpayer.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Mattis, J. N. (2018, January 19). Remarks by Secretary Mattis on the National Defense Strategy. Retrieved from https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Transcripts/Transcript/Article/1420042/remarks-by-secretary-mattis-on-the-national-defense-strategy/

[2] LOE 1: Rebuilding Military Readiness as we build a more lethal Joint Force; LOE 2: Reform the Department’s business practices for greater performance and affordability.

[3] German military reform forecasted a reduced total force by 18% while tripling the readiness force availability to support crisis management deployments. Larger cost savings should be expected in a force that is much larger than the German military. https://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/30/opinion/30thu2.html

 

 

Budgets and Resources Capacity / Capability Enhancement Defense and Military Reform Jason Hughes Option Papers United States