Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?  Options for the U.S. Presence in Syria

Dr. Christopher Bolan has served in Jordan, Tunisia, and Egypt and worked as a Middle East foreign policy advisor to Vice Presidents Gore and Cheney.  He presently teaches and researches national security issues at the Strategic Studies Institute at the U.S. Army War College.  He can be found on Twitter @DrChrisBolan.  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:  U.S. Force Posture in Syria following the strategic defeat of the Islamic State (IS).

Date Originally Written:  February 23, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  February 26, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Author writes from the perspective of a seasoned regional analyst focusing on the Middle East.

Background:  The U.S. military battle against IS is nearing completion in both Iraq and Syria.  An intensified U.S. air campaign in support of local ground forces has effectively (and literally) destroyed the physical infrastructure of the so-called IS “caliphate” that at its peak occupied a territorial expanse roughly equivalent to that of Great Britain, extended its brutal authority over 11 million people, and gave it access to annual economic resources estimated at $1 billion[1].  In Iraq, a combination of U.S.-equipped and trained Iraqi security forces fighting alongside a variety of Shi’ia militia groups (some backed by Iran) allowed Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to declare victory over IS in early December 2017.  In Syria, Kurdish and Syrian Arab forces enabled by U.S. special operations forces and an aggressive coalition bombing campaign liberated the IS caliphate’s self-proclaimed capital at Raqqa last fall and IS is now largely restricted to the Idlib province.

Significance:  The combined coalition military advances in both Iraq and Syria represent the strategic defeat of IS as a terrorist organization capable of holding territory in the Middle East.  These visible defeats strike at the heart of IS’s claim to leadership of the global jihadist movement.  The destruction of the ‘caliphate’ leaves IS a much diminished and impoverished organization.  Nonetheless, these significant battlefield victories do not entirely eliminate the IS threat as it remains capable of inspiring (if not planning) attacks that threaten regional instability and target Western interests.  In Iraq, a continued U.S. military presence codified through traditional security assistance programs in coordination with the central Iraqi government in Baghdad is virtually a foregone conclusion.  However, Syria presents a different strategic calculus for U.S. policymakers as they weigh options at a time when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appears to be consolidating his control with the active support of his allies in Moscow and Tehran.

Option #1:  Establish a long-term U.S. military presence in Syria.  U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced in mid-January 2018 that the U.S. “will maintain a military presence in Syria” for an indefinite period of time[2].  In doing so, Tillerson committed the U.S. to achieving an expansive set of strategic objectives that include: ensuring the defeat of IS and al-Qa’ida; diminishing the influence of Iran; facilitating the return of Syrian refugees; advancing a United Nations (UN)-led political resolution to the crisis; and guaranteeing that Syria is free of weapons of mass destruction.

Risk:  The continued presence of the U.S. military in Syria is opposed to one extent or another by virtually every other important actor in Syria including the internationally recognized government of President Bashar al-Assad, Russia, Iran, and even North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally Turkey.  The proximate defeat of IS and the failure of the U.S. Congress to explicitly authorize U.S. military operations in Syria seriously erodes the international and domestic legal basis for this presence.  More importantly, the actual risk of direct military conflict between the U.S. and any one of these outside actors or their local proxies is real and growing.  In early February 2018, the U.S. conducted defensive strikes killing hundreds of Syrian troops and dozens of Russian contractors.  Meanwhile, the U.S. announcement that it was creating a Kurdish security border force in northern Syria prompted the ongoing Turkish incursion into Afrin that is now threatening a direct military confrontation between a NATO ally and both the Syrian Army and U.S-backed Kurdish militias.  Lastly, Turkish President Recep Erdogan has directly threatened the U.S. with a punitive ‘Ottoman slap’ if the U.S. doesn’t end its support for Kurdish elements or abandon its positions further east in Manbij[3].

Gain:  Russian and Iranian military support to Assad have given him the decisive advantage in the civil war restoring his control over the majority of Syria’s population and key economic centers.  Given this existing reality, an indefinite U.S. military presence in eastern Syria may well be the only concrete leverage that the U.S. has to influence the behavior of the other actors in this crisis.  To accomplish the wide-ranging goals of U.S. strategy as articulated by Tillerson, however, this presence will likely need to maintained or even expanded for the foreseeable future.

Option #2:  Withdraw U.S. military forces from Syria.  The U.S. could use the recent battlefield victories against IS as a justification to declare ‘mission accomplished’ and begin a phased and conditions-based withdrawal of forces from Syria.

Risk:  As Tillerson himself argued, a U.S. withdrawal from Syria could create a security vacuum which IS and other Islamist terrorist groups would exploit to regain a foothold in eastern Syria.  Moreover, with the UN Geneva peace process moribund, the absence of a physical U.S. presence on the ground will leave policymakers with precious little direct leverage to influence the ultimate political or military outcomes in Syria.  This approach also feeds the perception of declining U.S. regional influence and could bolster the reputation of Russia and Iran as reliable partners.

Gain:  U.S. policymakers could use a phased withdrawal as diplomatic leverage to press for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Syria to include Russia, Iran, and their paramilitary proxies (e.g., Hizbollah, Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps).  The scale and timing of the U.S. withdrawal could be explicitly tied to the departure of these other foreign forces, as well as to progress in defeating the remnants of IS.  This would accomplish the two most critical U.S. strategic objectives outlined by Tillerson:  the defeat of IS; and reducing the influence of Iran.  Additionally, such a phased withdrawal would relieve the U.S. of the substantial costs of reconstruction in Syria which is estimated to easily exceed $250 billion[4].  Finally, the prospect of an imminent U.S. military withdrawal would increase pressure on Kurdish elements to come to a workable compromise with both Damascus and Ankara and thereby bolster prospects for a durable political outcome in Syria that enhances regional stability.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] John Feffer, “The Fall of the House of ISIS,” Foreign Policy in Focus, October 25, 2017.  Available at: http://fpif.org/fall-house-isis/.

[2] Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, “Remarks on the Way Forward for the United States Regarding Syria,” Hoover Institute at Stanford University, January 17, 2018.

[3] Bethan McKernan, “Turkish President Erdogan offers US ‘Ottoman Slap’ ahead of Rex Tillerson’s visit to Turkey,” The Independent, February 15, 2018.

[4] UN estimate quoted by Somini Sengupta, “Help Assad or Leave Cities in Ruins?  The Politics of Rebuilding Syria,” The New York Times, December 3, 2017.

Dr. Christopher Bolan Islamic State Variants Option Papers Syria U.S. Army War College Violent Extremism

Future Risk & Surge: Brian Christopher Darling

Editor’s Note:  This article differs from the regular format we use at Divergent Options per a request from Nate Freier of the Strategic Studies Institute at the U.S. Army War College.  This article has the writer imagining that they are a Special Assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Defense (SecDef).  The writer is responding to a request from the SecDef for a two page memo that defines or describes strategic and military risk and identifies national security situations that may take place from 2017 to 2027 that would require the U.S. Department of Defense to surge personnel or capability to address.  The entire call for papers can be found here.  


  Brian Christopher Darling has served in the United States Army in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Qatar.  He has master’s degrees in Liberal Studies and Public Service Leadership from Rutgers University and Thomas Edison State University, respectively.  Mr. Darling is presently employed at Joint Force Headquarters, New Jersey National Guard.  He can be found on twitter @briancdarling and has written for NCO Journal.  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.


20 February 2017

Dear Secretary Mattis,

The Department of Defense faces a number of significant challenges in the coming decade.  Some of these situations involve familiar scenarios, some involve rising threats, and worst-case scenarios involve combinations of state and non-state actors and cyber warfare.  Not all threats to national security come from outside influencers either as the current state of the economy places the entire Department on precarious footing.  The purpose of this memorandum is to define strategic and military risk in the context of three areas that might well require a surge of United States armed forces.

It is prudent here to discuss risk assessment.  Although the previous administration sought to create more multilateral relationships and to conclude contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the current President is faced with threats from an unstable North Korea, a resurgent Russia, and continued violence by state and non-state actors in CENTCOM.  The scenarios discussed herein require major risk considerations in terms of force management risk (manpower and readiness), institutional risk (funding and logistics), and future challenges[1].

The first area where the United States may be obligated to commit additional forces is the Middle East, commonly referred to as the CENTCOM Theater.  The Overseas Contingency Operations ongoing in CENTCOM drain manpower and readiness from forces which might otherwise be employed in EUCOM, PACOM, and elsewhere, thereby emboldening adversary states in those regions.  Further, surging forces to existing contingency operation locations risks an appearance of impropriety by the United States through support of oppressive regimes with records of human rights violations[2].

By surging forces in CENTCOM, the United States demonstrates its continued commitment to stability in the region.  Modular escalation of forces also serves to deter Iranian intervention in conflicts in Iraq and Syria[3].  A surge of forces to allied countries in the area would allow for rapid response to conflict within the region, to wit: the destruction of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and ongoing conflicts with Al Qaeda and their affiliates and the Haqqani network[4], the conclusion of the first being a stated goal of the new administration.

A discussion involving the ongoing hostilities in Syria logically leads to a consideration of a rising hegemonic threat.  This second possible area of consideration is the EUCOM Theater, involving a rising Russia and a surge of forces in Eastern Europe.  By surging forces to Eastern European nations formerly associated with the Warsaw Pact, the United States risks escalating tensions with Russia.  Further, reassigning forces from the pool available to CENTCOM creates an operational risk in the Middle East and a future challenges risk in both CENTCOM and PACOM.

A surge of forces in EUCOM would demonstrate the new administration’s continued commitment to NATO[5].  The President has previously publicly questioned the value of the alliance[6]; surging forces to counter Russian territorial expansion is a visible demonstration of the United States’ continued support of the existing international order. A surge of forces in EUCOM would also deter further Russian annexation of territory previously controlled by the former Soviet Union, as it has been aggressively active in previous years[7].

The final area where a surge of forces may be necessary is in South Korea, in the PACOM Theater.  The North Korean regime has become increasingly unstable and its nuclear threat has become more volatile[8].  Surging forces to PACOM risks nuclear intervention by the unstable North Korean regime, as well as grating the Pakistanis and emboldening our Indian allies.  Perhaps most significantly, a surge might also risk aggravating the United States’ relationship with China.

Demonstrating support of our allies in PACOM continues the themes of the previous administration’s pivot to the pacific.  The President has continued to demonstrate an interest in improving America’s Pacific alliances[9].  The United States would provide a balance of power between the rising economies in the area and a hegemonic China.  A surge presence in the Pacific theater would also reassure Taiwan, which might fear Chinese aggression[10], while also balancing potential conflicts between India and Pakistan[11].

Given the current manpower of the armed forces, any of the options above present an unsustainable future challenges risk to the Department of Defense.  Consideration must also be given to the condition of the platforms available to the services; the Air Force and Navy are currently dealing with issues regarding decades-old weapons platforms[12].  Although the President has sought more cost-effective relationships with vendors[13], there is a long-term institutional risk to development and acquisitions.


Endnotes:

[1]  Gates, R. (2010). Quadrennial defense review. Washington, DC.

[2]  Dorsey, James. (2017 January 18). “Qatar’s Backtrack On Labor Rights And Cooperation With Russia Reflects New World Order”. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/qatari-backtracking-on-labour-rights-and-cooperation_us_587c5ef5e4b077a19d180f56

[3]  Bar’el, Zvi. (2017, Feb 11). “In Iraq, the U.S. Invests, ISIS Loses and Iran Gains”.  Retrieved from http://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/iraq/.premium-1.770944

[4]  Lamothe, D. (2017 February 9). “Top U.S. commander in Afghanistan opens door to a ‘few thousand’ more troops deploying there”. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2017/02/09/top-u-s-commander-in-afghanistan-opens-door-to-a-few-thousand-more-troops-deploying-there/

[5]  Smith-Spark, L., and A. Shubert. (2017, January). “Poland welcomes thousands of US troops in NATO show of force”.  Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/14/europe/poland-us-troops-nato-welcome/

[6]  Gordon, M.R. (2017, January 15). “Trump Criticizes NATO and Hopes for ‘Good Deals’ With Russia”. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/15/world/europe/donald-trump-nato.html?_r=0

[7]  Dews, F. (2014, March 19). “NATO Secretary-General: Russia’s Annexation of Crimea is illegal and illegitimate”.  Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brookings-now/2014/03/19/nato-secretary-general-russias-annexation-of-crimea-is-illegal-and-illegitimate/

[8]  BBC News. (2017, February 12). “North Korea ballistic missile test sparks condemnation” Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-38950733

[9]  Reuters.  (2017, February 11). “Trump and Japan’s Abe take a swing at golf diplomacy”.  Retrieved from http://www.cnbc.com/2017/02/11/trump-and-japans-abe-take-a-swing-at-golf-diplomacy.html

[10]  Graham-Harrison, E. (2017, February 4). “Islands on the frontline of a new global flashpoint: China v Japan”.  Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/05/china-v-japan-new-global-flashpoint-senkaku-islands-ishigaki

[11]  IANS. (2017, February 12). “Pakistan sounds alarm over ‘nuclearisation’ of Indian Ocean by India”. Retrieved from http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/pakistan-sounds-alarm-over-nuclearisation-of-indian-ocean-by-india/story-Hdp49Lb4wpsPHYhbjs8A1M.html

[12]  Serbu, J. (2017 February 8).  “Military readiness problems can’t be fixed overnight, Defense chiefs warn”.  Retrieved from http://federalnewsradio.com/defense/2017/02/military-readiness-problems-cant-fixed-overnight-defense-chiefs-warn/

[13]  Cohen, Z. (2017 February 4). “After Trump attack, Lockheed Martin slashes F-35 cost”. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/03/politics/f-35-lockheed-martin-cost-reduction/

Brian Christopher Darling DO Partners Risk Assessment Strategy U.S. Army War College

Future Risk & Surge: Chris Townsend

Editor’s Note:  This article differs from the regular format we use at Divergent Options per a request from Nate Freier of the Strategic Studies Institute at the U.S. Army War College.  This article has the writer imagining that they are a Special Assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Defense (SecDef).  The writer is responding to a request from the SecDef for a two page memo that defines or describes strategic and military risk and identifies national security situations that may take place from 2017 to 2027 that would require the U.S. Department of Defense to surge personnel or capability to address.  The entire call for papers can be found here.


Chris Townsend is an active duty U.S. Army officer with 20 years of service.  He is a Middle East and North Africa Foreign Area Officer.  He can be found on Twitter @FAO_Chris and has written for the Journal of Defense Resources ManagementSmall Wars JournalArmchair General, and the Strategy Bridge.  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.


16 February 2017

MEMORANDUM FOR: Secretary of Defense

SUBJECT: Strategic and Military Risk

1.  DEFINING RISK:  Risk is any uncertainty that could complicate military operations or limit strategic options in responding to threats to U.S. interests.  Risks to strategic and military response can be categorized into three areas:  Operational, Institutional, and Global.

a.  Operational risk represents potential threats to military options and includes the presence of near-peer adversaries capable of area denial and the creation of threats across multiple domains simultaneously; weapons of mass destruction; adversarial Cyber, Space, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance capabilities; and the potential for simultaneous multiple-theater, multiple-phase conflict.

b.  Institutional risk includes the forces, funding, and acquisition uncertainties and inefficiencies.  These affect the size, training, equipping, readiness, and resilience of the fighting force and the ability to project power in response to dispersed threats while defending the homeland and assisting civil authorities.

c.  Global risk represents the uncertainties introduced by climate, politics, and societal factors.  Complications introduced from changes to climate or natural disasters, competition for resources, challenges to sovereignty, cultural friction, and global, criminal—independent or state-aligned—actors all present risks that must be mitigated and used to inform planning.

2.  THREAT SCENARIOS:  The greatest threat to the United States response capability is a simultaneous, multiple-theater, multiple-phase, multiple-domain conflict compounded with a homeland defense requirement in an era of dwindling resources and forced reductions in manning and equipping in a global political environment where the U.S. has reduced basing, access, and overflight options due to lapsed efforts in relationship maintenance, coupled with a lack of partner capacity and poorly defined political and strategic end states.

a.  The most likely scenario for the next ten years is for America to continue its military involvement in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan as Iran seeks to increase its influence through the continued proliferation of the Iranian Threat Network and meddling in regional politics.  As the conflicts resolve, there will be significant requirements for the U.S. to train and equip security forces to maintain the fragile stability in these countries.  Periphery conflicts like Egypt in Libya, Turkey in Northern Syria and Iraq, and Saudi Arabia in Yemen will strain resources as the U.S. continues to support partners with equipment and training.  Counterterrorism efforts will continue to require attention and resources around the globe and here at home.

b.  The most dangerous scenario is state-on-state aggression that either through treaty or interest requires U.S. engagement in addition to the ongoing security missions around the globe.  Potential conflicts include Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, Iranian-Saudi War, Chinese seizure of Taiwan and surrounding waters, clashes between India and Pakistan, and North Korean attacks on South Korea or Japan.  Any such conflict would expose the inability of the U.S. military to truly project power in multiple theaters while protecting the homeland.

c.  The most disruptive scenario would be a full-scale, multiple-domain attack on the homeland while forces are deployed into multiple theaters.  Potential adversaries have demonstrated the capability to disrupt internet, power, and communication systems in addition to the ability to shoot down satellites.  Significant network outages would create chaos in civilian arenas and significantly challenge military planning.  Space capabilities of new satellites deployed by potential adversaries could threaten lateral physical or cyber attacks against our satellites creating long-term disruption.  The U.S. could find itself unable to address threats from distant adversaries that have developed capabilities that increase stand-off distances and preclude insertion of forces without significant risk.  Other belligerents would likely seize on U.S. preoccupation by launching efforts to resolve regional disputes.

3.  SURGE REQUIREMENTS:  In every scenario the U.S. would be required to surge forces in response to aggression or instability.

a.  U.S. Forces must be capable of surging forces into two separate theaters while maintaining ongoing security requirements at home and abroad.  Current manning, arming, and equipping forecasts are insufficient for this kind of conflict, straining the ability to respond, reducing the margin of error, and increasing the costs.  Potential conflicts with near-peer adversaries would be longer wars with higher casualties that embolden those that threaten our interests while undermining the confidence of allies and partners.

b.  The priority now must be to shift current security and training responsibilities to partner nations with U.S. support.  Domain owners must refocus on basic proficiency in their respective domain: air, land, sea, cyber, space.  Efforts to establish relationships between domain owners that allow for quickly assembled Joint Task Forces to effectively operate are vital to addressing potential threats.  The risks from multi-domain battle and anti-access/area denial must be addressed through focused strategic planning for ways to defeat these threats and develop our own capabilities in these areas.

c.  While global risk can only be understood and used to inform planning, operational and institutional risk can be managed by military and civilian leaders.  Legislative and doctrinal efforts must define the institutional and operational risk tolerance thresholds and match those assessments with funding and programs to mitigate residual risk.  Without a rebalance away from ongoing security requirements, and a refocus on core domain competencies absent the uncertainty of sequestration, the U.S. will find itself challenged in the most likely scenarios and sorely outmatched in the most dangerous and disruptive ones.

4.  POC for this memorandum is Christopher P. Townsend, MAJ, SC.

Chris Townsend DO Partners Risk Assessment Strategy U.S. Army War College

Future Risk & Surge: Nathan Wike

Editor’s Note:  This article differs from the regular format we use at Divergent Options per a request from Nate Freier of the Strategic Studies Institute at the U.S. Army War College.  This article has the writer imagining that they are a Special Assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Defense (SecDef).  The writer is responding to a request from the SecDef for a two page memo that defines or describes strategic and military risk and identifies national security situations that may take place from 2017 to 2027 that would require the U.S. Department of Defense to surge personnel or capability to address.  The entire call for papers can be found here.  


Nathan Wike is an officer in the U.S. Army and a member of the Military Writer’s Guild.  The opinions expressed are his alone, and do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. 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. 


13 February 2017

MEMORANDUM FOR:  SECRETARY OF DEFENSE

SUBJECT:  The Ability to Surge Personnel in Response to Contingencies

INTRODUCTION:  The Secretary of Defense recently requested a series of position papers that describe national security situations that may take place from 2017 to 2027 that would require the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to surge personnel or capability. This is a critical step in considering the potential threats to U.S. national interests that may arise within the next decade. However, it rests upon a key assumption: that the DoD is capable of surging personnel to respond to a contingency. This topic directly relates to all four components of risk, outlined on page 90 of the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review. This memorandum discusses the means by which the DoD can surge personnel to rapidly expand the joint force in response to a contingency, and the potential risks.

BACKGROUND:  Since the 1970s, the U.S. military has relied upon the all-volunteer force (AVF) to fill its ranks. This force is unquestionably one of the most professional and capable militaries in all of history. The AVF has met every challenge with distinction, and is a credit to the nation. However, the AVF may not be enough to ensure victory against a peer or near-peer competitor in a conflict where vital U.S. interests are at stake. History reveals that in every major war, where the U.S. has faced an existential threat (e.g. the American Civil War, WWI, WWII), more than volunteers were required to achieve victory.

An unfortunate side effect of the AVF is that the methods and skills for utilizing the various means of surging military personnel have atrophied, or completely passed from the lexicon. These means equate to methods of conscription, which are inherently unpopular in any society. However, they are crucial in a major contingency.

DISCUSSION:  A well-conceived and tested system of surging personnel is a strategic capability that serves U.S. national interests. It provides assurance that the DoD can rapidly grow the joint force with the most qualified personnel available. This in turn serves as a deterrent to conflict. The options may be politically and socially difficult to implement, or even to contemplate. But losing a war would be even more so.

There are four primary methods through which the DoD may surge personnel. They may be applied in any sequence, or concurrently with one another. All are governed by the United States Code (USC). These four methods are: involuntary extension, ready reserve mobilization, enhanced recruitment strategies, and military selective service. Each method has various pros and cons that must be assessed prior to implementation.

Involuntary extension, colloquially known as “stop-loss,” is the fastest way to surge military personnel. This method retains a service-member beyond their initial end of term of service (ETS) date and up to their contractually agreed end of active obligated service (EAOS). Involuntary extension, which generally affects junior officers and enlisted personnel, is governed by Title 10, USC, Section 12305(a). This option has LOW operational and institutional risk, as it provides an immediate pool of trained personnel who are already assigned to units, and it has been used throughout the various operations throughout the 21st century. However it entails MODERATE force management risk, especially as is relates to morale and recruitment, and it is not sustainable over time.

Ready reserve mobilization affords the ability to recall service-members to active or reserve component service within 400 days of their ETS. This method affects a broad range of personnel from all ranks and occupational specialties. Ready reserve mobilization is governed by Title 10, USC, Section 12301(a). It has LOW operational risk, since affected personnel are not too far removed from military service, are generally of higher ranks and experience, and may quickly be re-integrated into units. This method has HIGH force management and institutional risk. It has been utilized within the last decade, but only for a minute percentage of personnel, and though all personnel assigned to the ready reserve are legally required to meet certain standards, in practice there are virtually no incentives to comply.

Enhanced recruitment strategies are the means by which the various recruitment apparatuses of the DoD can induce new personnel to volunteer for military service. This method primarily affects initial entry personnel, though it may extend to lateral entry personnel for select occupational specialties. This method has MODERATE operational risk, as it requires compromises in standards, and personnel arrive at units lacking valuable experience. It has MODERATE force management and institutional risk, as it preserves the spirit of the AVF, and the DoD can manage this method within existing structures, provided additional financial and material resources can be made available.

Military selective service, colloquially known as the draft, allows the DoD to draw upon the entire (male) population to meet personnel requirements, for all specialties. This is the most strategically significant option, by far. Military selective service is governed by Title 50, USC, Chapter 49. However it has HIGH risk across all categories. It has not been used since 1973, excludes eligible females, and the DoD no longer has the apparatuses or plans in place to monitor, induct, and assimilate the potentially vast numbers of eligible personnel.

CONCLUSION:  The risk to future challenges is currently HIGH, given that none of the aforementioned options are currently planned for, let alone regularly tested in the context of a major contingency operation. Reduction in risk can only come through a comprehensive review of the DoD’s processes to surge personnel, according to the USC. The options of involuntary extension, ready reserve mobilization, enhanced recruitment strategies, and military selective service must be incorporated into DoD strategic planning, then operationalized as part of exercises, and in practice for select cases. The ability to rapidly surge personnel is a strategic capability that must be preserved and modernized in order to safeguard U.S. interests from 2017 to 2027 and beyond.

DO Partners Nathan Wike Risk Assessment Strategy U.S. Army War College

Future Risk & Surge: A U.S. Army War College & Divergent Options Call for Papers

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Acknowledgements:

Before we discuss this call for papers, Divergent Options would like to publicly and sincerely thank Loren DeJonge Schulman of the Center for a New American Security.  Loren, without you this call for papers would never have happened.  Divergent Options is in your debt.  If you need anything in the future, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Background:

One of the four things we aspire to do at Divergent Options is to partner with research organizations to call for papers on a national security situation they have requested us to explore.  It is within this context that Divergent Options is proud to announce a partnership with Nate Freier of the Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) at the U.S. Army War College.

In the summer of 2016 SSI began a year-long study of strategic and military risk and risk assessment.  The Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development, Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff J-5 Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate, and the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-3/5/7, Headquarters, Department of the Army sponsor SSI in this undertaking.

Since initiating the research, SSI has assembled a joint team of defense analysts, serving officers, and national security professionals to take a comprehensive look at the U.S. Department of Defense’s risk assessment challenges.  In the final analysis, SSI is endeavoring to arrive at meaningful conclusions for the entire U.S. Department of Defense by examining how the Pentagon defines, identifies, and accounts for risk in strategy development and strategic decision-making.

Opportunity:

This call for papers represents an opportunity for potential Divergent Options authors to assist in SSI’s research efforts.  If you have ever wanted to be able to provide your ideas to the Pentagon, here is your chance.

Call for Papers:

In this call for papers, we invite potential authors to imagine that they are a Special Assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Defense (SecDef).  The SecDef has asked you to prepare a two-page memo that:

–  Defines or describes strategic and military risk and their various components.

(Note that the SecDef views components of risk as akin to operational, force management, institutional, and future challenges risk as described on page 90 of the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review).  

–  Describes national security situations that may take place from 2017 to 2027 that would require the U.S. Department of Defense to surge personnel or capability to address.  The SecDef asks that you describe national security situations that are the likeliest (e.g. routine), most dangerous (e.g. most militarily lethal), and most disruptive (e.g. highly demanding and unanticipated).

–  Describes how these surge demands will impact U.S. Department of Defense priorities and strategic and military risk assessments.

Deadline for Submission:  February 3, 2017.

Submission Papers To:  submissions@divergentoptions.org

Call For Papers DO Partners Risk Assessment Strategy U.S. Army War College