Organizing for Large-Scale Maritime Combat Operations

Michael D. Purzycki is an analyst, writer, and editor based in Arlington, Virginia. He has worked as a communications and media analyst for the United States Marine Corps and a technical writer for the Department of the Navy. In addition to Divergent Options, he has been published in Charged Affairs (the journal of Young Professionals in Foreign Policy), Merion West, Braver Angels, the Washington Monthly, France 24, the Truman National Security Project, and Arc Digital. He can be found on Twitter at @MDPurzycki and on Medium at https://mdpurzycki.medium.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:  China and Russia pose threats to U.S. interests and allies. While the Biden administration seeks to deemphasize military force relative to other aspects of U.S. power, only a credible deterrence, including an appropriately sized and based maritime capability, can enable maximal use of America’s non-military strengths.

Date Originally Written:  April 16, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  May 3, 2021. 

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the perspective of U.S. policymakers who seek to prepare the United States for the maritime aspect of large-scale combat operations with China and/or Russia. These policymakers are constrained by limited industrial and shipyard capacities, a shortage of Americans fit to serve, and probable cuts to military spending.

Background:  The U.S. defense industrial base is in decline[1]. The Navy’s public shipyards are unable to meet its repair needs[2][3]. The COVID-19 pandemic made nearly a quarter of the shipyards’ workforce “unable to come in to work due to being deemed ‘high risk[4].’” Data released by the U.S. Department of Defense in 2017 found 71% of Americans ages 17 to 24 would not qualify for military service, largely due to obesity, inadequate education, and criminal records[5]. Defense spending is likely to fall in the coming years. All these problems curtail the Navy and Marine Corps’ ability to respond quickly to emerging threats and crises. 

Greater use of unmanned vessels offers a partial solution to manning problems. However, unmanned technology is still in its early stages, and the rapid cost increases of the F-35 and the Littoral Combat Ship are warnings not to scale up any major system too quickly[6][7]. 

Significance:  While increased investment by European and Indo-Pacific allies in their own militaries would greatly help the U.S., basing more U.S. vessels in allied ports would make clear America’s commitment to its allies’ security. Meanwhile, the stated wish of Commandant of the Marine Corps General David H. Berger to reduce reliance on “legacy” systems and large numbers of personnel provides an opportunity to experiment with smaller, more mobile Marine units[8].

Option #1:  The U.S. bases more vessels at locations closer to its great power competitors, and seeks new ports to host them.

Risk:  Increasing the number of U.S. vessels close to China and/or Russia may increase the sense of insecurity both countries feel. China and/or Russia may respond by attempting to base their own vessels in the Western Hemisphere. The March 2021 case of Argentina refusing a U.S. Coast Guard cutter the right to dock in its ports illustrates China’s influence in the South Atlantic: China has made major investments in Argentina’s energy and transportation infrastructure, and a Chinese company operates Brazil’s second-largest container port[9]. The fact that Argentina and Brazil are both Major Non-North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Allies (MNNAs) of the U.S. does not mean they will not align with China on certain issues; Pakistan, also an MNNA, has long been a military partner of China due to the countries’ shared rivalry with India[10].

Increased forward basing may strain the Navy in some ways. In his award-winning 2018 essay for Proceedings, “How We Lost the Great Pacific War,” Captain Dale Rielage details how the U.S. could lose a major conflict in part by increasing forward deployment of vessels without maintaining enough vessels at home[11]. The importance of the total number of each type of vessel must not be forgotten.

Gain:  A greater number of vessels at a greater number of bases near China and Russia would give the U.S. more flexibility in responding to challenges. A 2017 study by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments suggested South Korea and the United Kingdom as possible new locations, as well as increasing the number of ships based in Guam, Japan, and Spain[12]. The announcement in 2020 that USS Hershel WoodyWilliams would be based in Souda Bay makes Greece another potential host[13].

Increased forward basing at more locations also provides a hedge against possible threats to U.S. overseas bases from criticism and discontent by locals. For example, local opposition to the Marine Corps presence in Okinawa[14] has influenced the decision to move some Marine units based there to Guam[15]. If, to take one hypothetical example, Spanish political and public opinion turned against the presence of U.S. guided missile destroyers in Rota, Spain, then Souda Bay could provide an alternative location (although this, in turn, could strain already tense U.S.-Turkish relations)[16].

Option #2:  The Marine Corps reduces the size of its Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs).

Risk:  Depending on what sorts of conflict a MEU is deployed to, a smaller MEU may be less well suited than a larger one. Even if tanks are not necessary, it is plausible that, if a MEU’s Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) includes an LHA or LHD with fighters, it will fare better in a particular scenario than if it had come without fighters.

Gain:  With General Berger seeking to divest all the Marine Corps’ tanks and reduce its reliance on large vessels for amphibious operations[17], a smaller MEU, either in Marine Corps manpower or in the size of the ARG, is worth exploring. Fewer Marines, perhaps carried on fewer ships and aircraft, could deploy more quickly, making it easier for the U.S. to respond to crises. Scaling down the MEU so all its personnel and equipment could fit on one or two amphibious transport docks[18] could also free up amphibious assault ships, specifically the LHA/LHD, to serve as “lightning carriers,” giving the U.S. another option for sea-based airstrikes in addition to large aircraft carriers[19].

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Tadjdeh, Yasmin. “Report Finds U.S. Defense Industrial Base in Decline.” National Defense, February 5, 2020. https://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2020/2/5/defense-industrial-base-earns-c-grade-in-new-report

[2] Hooper, Craig. “The US Needs a New Public Shipyard.” Defense One, January 16, 2019. https://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2019/01/us-needs-new-public-shipyard/154221/

[3] Weisberger, Marcus. “As Navy Pushes for More Ships, Experts Warn Repair Yards Are Crumbling.” Defense One, September 30, 2020. https://www.defenseone.com/business/2020/09/navy-pushes-more-ships-experts-warn-repair-yards-are-crumbling/168905/

[4] Werner, Ben. “Navy Calling Up 1,600 Reservists to Fill in For Shipyard Workers Out for COVID-19.” USNI News, June 11, 2020. https://news.usni.org/2020/06/11/navy-calling-up-1600-reservists-to-fill-in-for-shipyard-workers-out-for-covid-19

[5] Heritage Foundation. “The Looming National Security Crisis: Young Americans Unable to Serve in the Military.” February 13, 2018. https://www.heritage.org/defense/report/the-looming-national-security-crisis-young-americans-unable-serve-the-military

[6] Insinna, Valerie. “Inside America’s Dysfunctional Trillion-Dollar Fighter-Jet Program.” New York Times, August 21, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/21/magazine/f35-joint-strike-fighter-program.html

[7] Roblin, Sébastien. “The Navy spent $30B and 16 years to fight Iran with a littoral combat ship that doesn’t work.” NBC News, July 19, 2019. https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/navy-spent-30b-16-years-fight-iran-littoral-combat-ship-ncna1031806

[8] “Commandant’s Planning Guidance: 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps.” https://www.hqmc.marines.mil/Portals/142/Docs/%2038th%20Commandant%27s%20Planning%20Guidance_2019.pdf?ver=2019-07-16-200152-700

[9] Espach, Ralph. “A New Great Game Finds the South Atlantic.” War on the Rocks, March 22, 2021. https://warontherocks.com/2021/03/a-new-great-game-finds-the-south-atlantic/

[10] Blank, Jonah. “Pakistan and China’s Almost Alliance.” RAND Corporation, October 16, 2015. https://www.rand.org/blog/2015/10/pakistan-and-chinas-almost-alliance.html

[11] Rielage, Captain Dale, U.S. Navy. “How We Lost the Great Pacific War.” Proceedings, May 2018. https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2018/may/how-we-lost-great-pacific-war

[12] Clark, Bryan, Peter Haynes, Jesse Sloman, Timothy A. Walton. “Restoring American Seapower: A New Fleet Architecture for the United States Navy.” Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, February 9, 2017. https://csbaonline.org/research/publications/restoring-american-seapower-a-new-fleet-architecture-for-the-united-states-

[13] Becatoros, Elena (The Associated Press), and Derek Gatopoulos (Associated Press). “Pompeo says USS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams will be based at Souda Bay.” Navy Times, September 29, 2020. https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2020/09/29/pompeo-says-uss-hershel-woody-williams-will-be-based-at-souda-bay/

[14] Congressional Research Service. “U.S. Military Presence on Okinawa and Realignment to Guam.” April 9, 2019. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF10672/3

[15] United States Marine Corps. “Marine Corps Activates Camp Blaz in Guam.” October 1, 2020. https://www.marines.mil/News/News-Display/Article/2367980/marine-corps-activates-camp-blaz-in-guam/

[16] Jakes, Lara. “U.S. Will Base Mammoth Ship in Greece, Near Disputed Territory.” New York Times, October 1, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/29/us/politics/greece-turkey-us-navy.html

[17] “Commandant’s Planning Guidance: 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps.”

[18] Waddell, Major Joshua C., U.S. Marine Corps. “Rethink the MEU for Tomorrow’s Expeditionary Operations.” Proceedings, April 2020. https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2020/april/rethink-meu-tomorrows-expeditionary-operations

[19] Eckstein, Megan. “Marines Test ‘Lightning Carrier’ Concept, Control 13 F-35Bs from Multiple Amphibs.” USNI News, October 23, 2019. https://news.usni.org/2019/10/23/marines-test-lightning-carrier-concept-control-13-f-35bs-from-multiple-amphibs

China (People's Republic of China) Deterrence Major Regional Contingency Maritime Michael D. Purzycki Option Papers Russia United States

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

Assessing the Value of the Lariat Advance Exercise Relative to the Louisiana Maneuvers for Preparing the U.S. Army for Large-Scale Combat Operations

James Greer is retired U.S. Army Officer and an Assistant Professor at the U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies.  You can follow him on Twitter @jameskgreer77.  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 the Value of the Lariat Advance Exercise Relative to the Louisiana Maneuvers for Preparing the U.S. Army for Large-Scale Combat Operations

Date Originally Written:  March 20, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  April 19, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a retired military officer who served in the Cold War and now instructs officers who will likely lead the U.S. Army and Joint Force in future competition and conflicts.

Summary:  The U.S. Army’s organization and doctrine for Large Scale Combat Operations (LSCO) are correct.  The Army lacks exercising multi-echelon command and control (C2), which was key to victories in Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom.  If the U.S. Army resurrects a training event, the Cold War C2-focused Lariat Advance[1], is of more value than a new version of the Louisiana Maneuvers[2], to ensure future victory in LCSO.

Text:  The Louisiana Maneuvers were one of the great achievements in Army history. With little recent combat experience, rapidly expanding toward Corps and Armies in size but only having a small cadre of professionals, and confronted by large scale, mechanized warfare, the Army entering World War II, was largely unprepared. The Louisiana Maneuvers enabled the Army to understand that huge gulf between their capabilities in 1941 and the capabilities needed to compete with Axis forces in World War II. The maneuvers were eminently successful, enabling rapid development of doctrine, organizational training, systems, and logistics needed to fight high tempo, mechanized, integrated air-ground campaigns.

For today’s Army many of the challenges facing the Army of 1941 are not a problem. Today’s Army is a professional one, whose squads, platoons and companies are well trained, manned by volunteers, led by seasoned Non-Commissioned and Officers with professional military education and combat experience. Current Army doctrine is about right for LSCO, whether the Army fights tomorrow or in five years. Army organizations are balanced combined arms teams, coupled with a task organization process that enables force tailoring at every echelon to situation and mission requirements.

The present challenge is not that of the Army of 1941 that engaged in the Louisiana Maneuvers. Instead, the challenge is that this is an Army that has all the necessary pieces and parts, but has had little opportunity to put them together, routinely and consistently, in a way that will develop the excellence in multi-echelon operations necessary for victory in LSCO.

On November 8, 1990, VII Corps, stationed in Germany, was alerted and ordered to deploy to Saudi Arabia[3]. In Saudi Arabia, VII Corps would immediately move north, assemble into a coherent corps of multiple divisions, cavalry regiments, and separate brigades and conduct operations to defeat the Iraqi Republican Guard Corps and eject the Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

Consider the challenge. VII Corps had spent the last 40 years preparing to defend in the hills, valleys, forests, and towns of Germany against an attacking Warsaw Pact foe. What they were being asked to do upon their arrival to Saudi Arabia was the exact opposite. Instead of defending, they were going to attack. Instead of rolling wooded and built-up terrain, they were going to maneuver across the flat open desert. And, they were going to do so over a distance of hundreds of kilometers when they had planned on defending Germany with a depth of a few dozen kilometers. Ultimately, there were many reasons for the U.S. overwhelming victory in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm, most of which have been detailed elsewhere. But, one factor that is rarely written about is command and control, and, more specifically, multi-echelon C2.

Today’s Army has long had strong home station training programs that are effective in building competent and capable squads, platoons, and companies. And, for almost 4 decades now the U.S. Army has had Combat Training Centers[4] that enable effective training of battalions and brigades as combined arms teams. Finally, since 1987 the U.S. Army has had a Mission Command Training Program that trains the headquarters of Division and Corps[5].

What the Army has not had for more than three decades, since the end of the Cold War, is the means to put those three components together. Since Desert Storm, the only time the Army has fought a corps that consisted of multiple divisions and brigades was during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 when V Corps attacked north into Iraq. And, since the last REFORGER in 1993[6], the Army has conducted no training with entire Corps or Divisions, exercising C2 and operations. This year’s Defender Exercise will be an initial proof of principle of large-scale formation training similar to REFORGER, but expensive and not Army-wide[7].

Ultimately, headquarters at all echelons (Corps, Division, Brigade, Battalion, and Company) exist for one reason and one reason only. These headquarters translate the vision and decisions of the senior commander into reality on the ground through execution by platoons, sections, squads, crews and teams. The reason that VII Corps was as successful as it was under unbelievably challenging conditions during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm was because its various headquarters were able to do exactly that. And the only reason that they were able to take vision and decision and translate it into actions in orders was because they had practiced it over and over and over again.

For decades every month at a random and / or unknown time every unit in Germany would be alerted for deployment within two hours to be able to fight the Warsaw Pact and defend NATO as part of Lariat Advance. Every division, regiment, brigade, whether maneuver, fires, intelligence, protection, communications or support and every Soldier from Private to General would drop whatever they were doing and prepare to fight. And, the first thing they would do is establish communications from Corps down to the squad and every echelon in between. Then, they would execute some set of orders, whether a simple readiness inspection, or a deployment to a local dispersal area, or a 3-day field exercise. That meant every month the Corps exercised C2, commanders and staffs coordinated together, orders were given and executed, and the three components of small units, larger units, and formations were integrated together into a cohesive team. And, the lessons learned from Lariat Advance produced terrain walks, tactical exercises without troops, and command field exercises, led by commanders at all echelons, enabling the synchronization and integration necessary for victory in LSCO. While the Army’s doctrine and organization for LCSO is correct, it is out of practice in multi-echelon C2, which is why a return to Lariat Advance is more valuable than Louisiana Maneuvers for defeating a peer competitor in LSCO.


Endnotes:

[1] Wilson, W.B. (2015, June). The Fulda Gap. The Blackhorse Association. https://www.blackhorse.org/history-of-the-fulda-gap

[2] Gabel, C. (1992). The U.S. Army GHQ maneuvers of 1941. Center of Military History.

[3] Bourque, S. (2002). Jayhawk! The VII Corps in the Persian Gulf War. Center of Military History.

[4] Kitfield, J. (1995). Prodigal soldiers: How the generation of officers born of Vietnam revolutionized the american style of war. Simon and Schuster.

[5] Kahan, J., Worley, D., Holroyd, S., Pleger, L., and Stasz, C. (1989). Implementing the Battle Command Training Program. RAND.

[6] Citino, R. (2004). Blitzkrieg to Desert Storm: The evolution of operational warfare. University of Kansas.

[7] U.S. Army Europe and Africa Public Affairs (2021). Defender – Europe 21activities begin this month. U.S. Army. https://www.army.mil/article/244260/defender_europe_21_activities_begin_this_month_include_two_dozen_nations

Cold War James Greer Major Regional Contingency Option Papers Training U.S. Army 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 U.S. Department of Defense to Balance Peer Competition with Military Operations Other Than War

Greg Olsen is a cyber security professional and postgraduate researcher at University of Leicester doing his PhD on peacekeeping and civil wars. He can be found on Twitter at @gtotango. 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. Department of Defense faces a significant challenge trying to balance preparations for peer competition while maintaining the capability of executing military operations other than war (MOOTW).

Date Originally Written:  May 9, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  July 1, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a cyber security professional currently researching the determinants for successful peacekeeping in civil wars for a PhD at University of Leicester.

Background:  With the release of the 2017 National Security Strategy, the United States is executing a policy pivot towards preparing for peer competition and away from nearly two decades of counterinsurgency. Yet, the most likely future military conflicts will continue to be small wars[1] and MOOTW—such as security force assistance, counter terrorism missions, evacuating U.S. nationals from conflict zones, and robust peacekeeping.

Significance:  The post-Cold War period of unipolarity has ended with a return to great power competition. Revisionist great powers are asserting themselves militarily in their near abroad and challenging Western hegemony. Consequently, the United States’ national security priorities have shifted to counter the threat. However, small wars and MOOTW are likely to be the dominant form of actual military conflict for foreseeable future. The challenge for the U.S. military is preparing for peer competition and continental conflict while maintaining the ability to execute MOOTW. For example, the U.S. Army has shifted from Brigade Combat Teams designed for counter insurgency warfare to warfare against peers[2]. What follows are three options for addressing the continuing need for conducting MOOTW.

Option #1:  The U.S. primarily employs Special Operations Forces (SOF) to address small wars and MOOTW. Currently, much of the U.S. counter terrorism mission is executed by SOF. Within SOF, the U.S. Army Special Forces were created to assist host governments in developing the capabilities to execute counter insurgency and counter terrorism missions. Other SOF are trained and deployed for direct action missions against high value targets. In many ways SOF is ideal forces for executing certain missions with a low footprint.

Risk:  The principal risk to this option is that special operations forces are not large enough nor equipped and trained to execute certain types of MOOTW, for example, evacuation of nationals during conflict, humanitarian disaster response, nor peacekeeping/peace enforcement missions.

Another risk is the inability to train and deploy enough SOF to the myriad conflict zones around the world. There is currently an arc of ethnic and sectarian conflict from Mali in western Africa through central Africa to the Horn of Africa[3]. Libya, Somalia and South Sudan are already failed states[4]. Transnational terrorist networks are active in the Sahel, the Middle East, and South Asia, and Southeast Asia[5]. Three Latin American states are in crisis: Guatemala, Honduras, and Venezuela[6]. These forces are part but not the whole solution to the MOOTW challenges across the globe.

Gain: SOF are ideal for executing hostage rescue, counter terrorism missions, and for training partner forces in counter insurgency missions.  SOF taking the lead for MOOTW frees up conventional forces to focus on their conventional mission.

Option #2:  The U.S. primarily employee military reserve units to address small wars and MOOTW.

Military reserve units provide capabilities that are useful for various types of MOOTW. The military reserves have been the bank upon which the active duty draws specialized capability from in surge scenarios, such as logistics, communications, intelligence, medicine, construction, and military policing.

Risk:  The principal risk to a strategy based on mobilizing reserve forces is political. If reserves were mobilized for a mission with low stakes, such as six months of peacekeeping in South Sudan, then public opposition to the policy is likely to be high. Furthermore, significant casualties would increase opposition and limit policy options.  An additional risk is the time it takes to mobilize these forces.  Certain crises require a rapid reaction and these forces take time to prepare for overseas deployment to a conflict zone.

Gain: These military reserve capabilities would be valuable to missions such as humanitarian disaster relief, occupation, security sector reform and partner training missions, and peacekeeping.

Option #3:  The U.S. primarily employee the Marine Corps, in a role it has historically held, to address small wars and MOOTW.

The United States Marine Corps (USMC), with its embarked Marine Expeditionary Concept, is ideal for rapid response to humanitarian disasters, evacuation of nationals from conflict zones, robust peacekeeping, and military assistance to host governments facing an insurgency. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Marines were landed for America’s “small wars”. Indeed, the deployments to Haiti (1915-1934) and Nicaragua (1926-1933) were precursors to modern twenty-first century robust peacekeeping operations[7]. Marines landed to restore order, evacuate nationals and/or secure multinational corporation property, organize and supervise elections, train police and military forces, and conduct counter insurgency operations. This “halls of Montezuma” and “shores of Tripoli” heritage is part of the strategic culture of the USMC.

Risk:  The principal risk is that it will divert the USMC from operating concepts needed for peer competition, but this risk can be overstated. Presence is key to the deterrence mission. In the European theater, this is the principal role of the USMC: deter by presence as both a trip wire and force for countering adversary hybrid warfare strategies[8]. In the Pacific theater, two operating concepts define the USMC role in great power conflict: (1) Littoral operations in a contested environment and (2) expeditionary advanced base operations[9]. The viability of both concepts has been brought into question based on analogies from World War II. The opposed amphibious landing may be an obsolete operating concept due to the political price paid for the high casualties that result if facing a peer enemy. The expeditionary advanced base operations (EABO) concept is innovative but may not be viable. EABO proposes to use land-based resources to augment the Navy’s surface fleet for sea control, logistics, and ISR. The fundamental flaw is the vulnerability of forces ashore. A ship on an ocean is a difficult target to find and fix, but an atoll is a stationary target. Like the defenders at Wake Island in World War II, they are exceedingly vulnerable. The primary benefit of deployment to islands in the Pacific is as a tripwire deterrent, not as a viable fighting force when the shooting starts.

An additional risk is the damage that may be done to esprit de corps, if Marines begin to think that they are not contributing to the primary strategic challenge of peer competition. The USMC must guard against the impression that MOOTW amounts to “scallywag soldiering” like that of the period of British high empire. The USMC has a unique warrior ethos that must be maintained. In addition to the primary mission of small wars, the USMC must continue to be able to deter aggression and blunt the military adventures of a peer adversary as the “first to fight.”

Gain:  The United States Marine Corps (USMC), with its embarked Marine Expeditionary Concept, is ideal for rapid response to humanitarian disasters, evacuation of nationals from conflict zones, robust peacekeeping, and military assistance to host governments facing an insurgency. Rapid reaction and a flexible mix of capabilities makes this an ideal tool, especially in non-permissive environments. A battalion of Marines is the wrong tool for counter terrorism missions, it is the best tool when coercive presence is required.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Mary Kaldor, New and Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era, Stanford: Stanford University, 2012.

[2] Todd South, “New in 2019: From tanks to Strykers, major brigade combat team conversions are coming this year,” Army Times, 2 January 2019. Retrieved from https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2019/01/02/new-in-2019-from-tanks-to-strykers-major-brigade-combat-team-conversions-are-coming-this-year/

[3] SIPRI Yearbook 2018, Stockholm: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2018.

[4] Fragile State Index Annual Report 2019, Washington, D.C.: The Fund for Peace, 2019.

[5] Country Reports on Terrorism 2017. Washington, D.C.: United States Department of State, 2018.

[6] SIPRI op cit.

[7] Max Boot, The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power. New York: Basic Books, 2002.

[8] Shawn Snow, “No more Marine rotations to the Black Sea. The Corps is focusing here instead,” Marine Corps Times, 29 November 2019. Retrieved from https://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/your-marine-corps/2018/11/29/no-more-marine-rotations-to-the-black-sea-the-corps-is-focusing-on-the-arctic-instead/

[9] Sam LaGrone, “Lt. Gen. David Berger Nominated as Next Marine Corps Commandant,“ USNI News, 27 March 2019. Retrieved from https://news.usni.org/2019/03/27/lt-gen-david-berger-nominated-next-marine-corps-commandant#more-42200

Greg Olsen Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Major Regional Contingency Option Papers United States

U.S. Options for Responding to Sharp Power Threats

Anthony Patrick is a student at Georgia State University where he majors in political science and conducts research on Sharp Power.  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:  Threats to U.S. and allied nations by sharp power actions (defined below).

Date Originally Written:  June 16, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  July 30, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an undergraduate student of defense policies and an Officer Candidate in the United States Marine Corps.  This article is written with the base assumption that foreign actions against the U.S political system is a top national security challenge and a continuing threat.

Background:  Recent U.S. news cycles have been dominated by the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the U.S political system.  Other allied nations such as the United Kingdom, France, Australia, and New Zealand have also recently dealt with foreign political influence campaigns[1].  While historically nations have projected power either through military might (hard power) or cultural influence (soft power), rising authoritarian actors like the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Russia, Iran, and North Korea are resulting to a hybrid mix of classical power projection through emerging technologies with revisionist intent in the international system known as sharp power[2].  Sharp power is more direct than soft power, not as physically destructive as hard power, and does not cause enough damage to justify a military response like Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. 

Sharp power actions are normally covert in nature allowing the perpetrator plausible deniability.  Given the combined military and economic power of western democracies, sharp power is the preferred method for disruptive actions against the international order by authoritarian powers.  The effectiveness of sharp power is amplified by the open nature of democratic societies, especially in the information age[3].  Other examples of sharp power attacks include the North Korean hacking of Sony Pictures, the Iranian hacking of a dam in New York, PRC surveillance of Chinese students in foreign classrooms[4], and Russian actions in Ukraine and Moldova[5]. 

Significance:  The effects of sharp power actions can be very dangerous for western democracies.  One effect is a decrease in democratic legitimacy in an elected government.  When the citizens question if it was themselves or foreign actors who helped elect a government, that government is hamstrung due to a lack of legitimacy.  This lack of legitimacy can create new divisions or heighten polarization in the targeted countries.  Foreign actors can use the internet as a guise, pretend to be domestic actors, and push extreme ideas in communities, creating the potential for conflict.  This series of effects has already happened in U.S communities, where Russian actors have organized a protest and the counter protest[6].  These new divisions can also heighten political infighting, diverting political resources from international problems to deal with issues in the domestic sphere.  This heightened political infighting can give these revisionist actors the breathing room they need to expand their influence.  The increasing prevalence of these effects is a direct threat to U.S national security, chipping away at the government’s freedom of action and diverting resources to the domestic sphere away from international problems. 

Option #1:  Adopt military operational planning methodologies like Effects Based Operations (EBO) and Systematic Operational Design (SOD) at the interagency level to organize a response to adversary sharp power actions.

Risk:  The U.S also has the largest pool of soft power in the world and reverting to sharp power actions would hurt that important U.S resource[7].  Also, since these adversary countries are not as open, targeting would be a difficult task, and actions against the wrong group could be used as a rallying cry in the adversary country.  This rallying cry would give these adversaries a greater mandate to continue their actions against western democracies.  Lastly, successful sharp power actions against authoritarian countries could lead to more destructive domestic instability, harming allies in the region and disrupting global trading networks[8].

Gain:  By utilizing sharp power methodologies, the U.S would be able to strike back at opposing countries and deter further actions against the U.S.  The U.S has a large pool of resources to pull from in the interagency, and only needs a methodology to guide those resources.  Military style operational planning like EBO and SOD contain important theoretical constructs like System of System Analysis, Center of Gravity, and the constant reviewing of new information[9][10].  This planning style fits well for sharp power actions since it allows the government to create an operational plan for directed international political actions.  The U.S government can pull from the wealth of knowledge within the Department of Defense on how to combine these various frameworks to achieve sharp power action given their experience with designing complex operations on the joint level[11].  Successful actions would also give the U.S more leverage in negotiations with these countries on other areas and would divert their political resources from international actions 

Option #2:  Congress passes a Goldwater-Nichols-like Act to create a horizontal organization within the interagency, to address sharp power threats[12].

Risk:  Such reform would be substantial and would take a long time to implement.  The length of this process could delay any government response to both continued foreign interference and other international problems.  The congressional process is historically slow and designing the bill would also take a substantial amount of time.  Different agencies have set rules, procedures, and operating cultures, and changing those enough to allow effective interagency cooperation would also be difficult.  Option #2 would not change the defensive posture of the U.S government, thus it would not create the desired deterrent effect. 

Gain:  Streamlining the interagency process would increase the government’s ability to counter sharp power threats.  Option #2 would lead to better allocation of resources, more intelligence sharing, better allocation of authority during interagency deliberations, and provide more clarity on rules, regulations, and processes that govern interagency cooperation.  By adopting this reform, the national security council would be able to give task to a joint structure instead of a single lead agency.  This joint structure could operate like the joint command within the Department of Defense and create broad policy for interagency work[13].  By keeping a defensive posture, the U.S would also be able to protect its soft power appeal[14]. 

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendations:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Kurlantzick, J. (2017, December 13). Australia, New Zealand Face China’s Influence. Retrieved from https://www.cfr.org/expert-brief/australia-new-zealand-face-chinas-influence

[2] National Endowment for Democracy. (2017, December 5). Sharp Power: Rising Authoritarian Influence. Retrieved from https://www.ned.org/sharp-power-rising-authoritarian-influence-forum-report/

[3]  Wanless, A., & Berk, M. (2018, March 7). The Strategic Communication Ricochet: Planning Ahead for Greater Resiliency. Retrieved from https://thestrategybridge.org/the-bridge/2018/3/7/the-strategic-communication-ricochet-planning-ahead-for-greater-resiliency

[4]  Sulmeyer, M. (2018, March 22). How the U.S. Can Play Cyber-Offense. Retrieved from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/world/2018-03-22/how-us-can-play-cyber-offense

[5]  Way, L. A. (2018, May 17). Why Didn’t Putin Interfere in Armenia’s Velvet Revolution? Retrieved from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/armenia/2018-05-17/why-didnt-putin-interfere-armenias-velvet-revolution

[6]  Lucas, R. (2017, November 01). How Russia Used Facebook To Organize 2 Sets of Protesters. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2017/11/01/561427876/how-russia-used-facebook-to-organize-two-sets-of-protesters

[7]  Nye, J. S., Jr. (2018, January 24). How Sharp Power Threatens Soft Power. Retrieved from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2018-01-24/how-sharp-power-threatens-soft-power

[8]  Breen, J. G. (2017). Covert Actions and Unintended Consequences. InterAgency Journal,8(3), 106-122. Retrieved from http://thesimonscenter.org/featured-article-covert-action-and-unintended-consequences/

[9]  Strange, J., Dr., & Iron, UK Army, R., Colonel. (n.d.). Understanding Centers of Gravity and Critical Vulnerabilities(United States, Department of Defense, United States Marine Corps War College).

[10]  Vego, M. N. (2006). Effects-based operations: A critique. National Defense University, Washington D.C. Institute for National Strategic Studies.

[11]  Beutel, C. (2016, August 16). A New Plan: Using Complexity In the Modern World. Retrieved    from https://thestrategybridge.org/the-bridge/2016/8/16/a-new-plan-using-complexity-in-the-modern-world

[12]  Dahl, U.S. Army, K. R., Colonel. (2007, July 1). New Security for New Threats: The Case for Reforming the Interagency Process. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/research/new-security-for-new-threats-the-case-for-reforming-the-interagency-process/

[13]  United States, Department of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2018). Joint Concept for Integrated Campaigning.

[14]  Nye, J. S., Jr. (summer 2004). Soft Power and American Foreign Policy. Political Science Quarterly,119(2), 255-270. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20202345

Anthony Patrick Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Deterrence Major Regional Contingency Option Papers United States