Options for the U.S. Army to Build More Combat Condition Resilient Soldiers

J. Caudle is a Civilian Defense Contractor and a Captain in the U.S. Army Reserves with 18 years of experience in all three U.S. Army components. He has specialties in Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear, Cavalry, and Armor operations and has a M.A. in National Security. He can be found on Twitter @MOPP_Ready. 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 United States Army overemphasizes safety during training which has the potential to create risk adverse Soldiers and Commanders.

Date Originally Written:  April 25, 2022.

Date Originally Published: May 16, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author has served in the Active Army Component, the Army National Guard, and the Army Reserves as both an officer and a Non-Commissioned Officer. The author believes that soldiering is a dangerous business and that while Commanders should look out for the well-being of their Soldier, this looking out should not sacrifice combat effectiveness.

Background:  Soldiers that are treated like professional warfighters from day one and expected to embrace tough, realistic combat conditions will be less surprised by, and more resilient to, the stresses of combat. Commanders require the freedom to prioritize training Soldiers as warfighters over risk adversity.

Significance:  Commanders that are trained to be timid and driven by a fear of being relieved due to safety incidents in training may not be effective in combat. This ineffectiveness will negatively impact U.S. National Security. Soldiers led and trained by timid leaders have less potential to develop the aggressiveness and decisiveness needed to win battles. As Carl von Clausewitz said, “Given the same amount of intelligence, timidity will do a thousand times more damage in war than audacity[1].”

Option #1:  The U.S. Army increases hardships to produce tougher, more resilient warfighters.

Napoleon Bonaparte’s Maxim #58 says “The first qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only the second; hardship, poverty, and want are the best school for the soldier[2].” The ability to endure fatigue, privation, hardship, poverty and want can be trained just like any other skill. Battlefield conditions require that leaders develop resilient Soldiers. One hardship that Soldiers endure on the battlefield is constant exposure to extreme weather conditions. Leaders can increase the amount of time their Soldiers are exposed to the weather while training. To enhance focus on the tactical mission instead of administrative box checking, the Army Physical Fitness Uniform could be abandoned in favor of the duty uniform during daily fitness training and during the Army Combat Fitness Test. Increasing the amount of training conducted in using Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (JLIST) can also be done. Training in the JLIST increases Soldier proficiency in a simulated chemical warfare environment, adds physical stress into field problems, and trains the Soldier to focus on their mission instead of their physical discomfort in the suit. Leaders could also conduct training on a reverse cycle i.e. training at night and sleeping during the day. This reverse cycle would enable Soldiers to better know how they react to sleep deprivation so they can be effective in combat.

Risk:  Recruiting and retention would suffer as some Soldiers would not like this lifestyle. The Army will need a focused narrative on justifying this option. Army recruiting commercials would show these hardships for expectation management and also to attract a different type of recruit. There is also a safety risk as training gets harder, more mishaps are bound to occur.

Gain:  This option produces tougher, more resilient Soldiers. However, this option will only succeed if Soldiers are treated like professional warfighters. Training Soldiers in the ability to endure fatigue, privation, hardship, poverty and want not only serves their unit and ultimately the nation, but may have a lifelong impact on the resilience of the Soldier and their mental health.

Option #2:  The U.S. Army reevaluates its use of DD Form 2977, the Deliberate Risk Assessment Worksheet (DRAW).

The author has seen DRAWs up to 28 pages long that never make it down to the individual Soldiers it is designed to protect which establishes the perception that the DRAW itself is more important than actually implementing safety. In addition to the DRAW not being accessible to the Soldiers it is designed to protect, the U.S. Army’s implementation of the DRAW also ensures Commanders prioritize not being relieved due to a training mishap over conducting realistic training.

Better use of the DRAW would ensure the contents of the form are briefed to the Soldiers involved in the training. Additionally, Commanders would not let the DRAW overly restrain them in conducting realistic training. Keeping Soldiers unaware and training safely instead of realistically does not enable the U.S. Army “To deploy, fight, and win our Nation’s wars by providing ready, prompt, and sustained land dominance by Army forces across the full spectrum of conflict as part of the Joint Force[3].”

Risk:  The option will increased the probability of training accidents.

Gain:  This option will build risk tolerant leaders within the U.S. Army. It will also build more resilient Soldiers that are experienced in completing more realistic training. This realistic training will increase Soldier resiliency by exposing them to battlefield stressors.

Other Comments:  Colonel David Hackworth, U.S. Army (retired) states “Training for war must be realistic at all costs. We can’t just discontinue a curriculum when something bad happens, provided that something is not the result of misconduct on the parts of sadistic or unqualified instructors.” He later states “Training casualties, tragic as they may be, must be accepted as an occupational hazard in the tough and dangerous business of soldiering. The emphasis on safety at the expense of realism…sets up soldiers it presumably is protecting for failure by stunting their growth and inhibiting their confidence in themselves and their supporting weapons[4]”.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]U.S. Army. (2019). ADP 6-0 Mission Command: Command and Control of Army Forces. Washington D.C.: Headquarters, Department of the Army

[2] Bonaparte, N. (1902). Napoleon’s Maxims of War. (G. D’Aguilar, Trans.) Philadelphia: David McKay. Retrieved from Military-Info.com.

[3] U.S. Army. (2022). Army.mil. Retrieved from https://www.army.mil/about/

[4] Hackworth, D. H., & Sherman, J. (1989). About Face: The Odyssey of an American Warrior. New York: Simon and Schuster.

 

 

Capacity / Capability Enhancement Governing Documents and Ideas J. Caudle Leadership Option Papers Readiness U.S. Army

An Assessment of Thinking Big About Future Warfare 

Marco J. Lyons is a U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel who has served in tactical and operational Army, Joint, and interagency organizations in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Afghanistan, and in the Western Pacific. He is currently a national security fellow at Harvard Kennedy School where he is researching strategy and force planning for war in the Indo-Pacific. He may be contacted at marco_lyons@hks.harvard.edu. 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 Thinking Big About Future Warfare 

Date Originally Written:  April 15, 2022. 

Date Originally Published:  May 2, 2022.

Summary:  There are critical, outstanding disconnects between U.S./western military theory, forces, and doctrine that hamper linking military strategy to national policy. Big ideas about future warfare matter primarily around seizing and maximizing advantages over potential adversaries to compel favorable policy outcomes. The big ideas are useful and matter because identifying, developing, and deploying warfighting advantages unfolds over long periods of time.

Text:  Far more than any particular revolution in military affairs, western powers are witnessing what may be called an extended revolution in strategic affairs. Such dramatic and wide-reaching change in warfare and how it is conceived involves 1) fundamental questions of the utility and most effective forms of power and diplomacy; 2) challenges to future force planning caused by advances in information technologies, long-range, precision fires, and hybrid combinations of symmetrical and asymmetrical capabilities, and whether these define a new warfighting regime and character of war; and 3) influences of globalization – or more specifically, the security environments created by the various forces making up social and economic globalization – on militaries. Bringing these three dynamics together – and more may be added to the list – in a deeply integrated way will almost certainly yield a new paradigm of warfare. 

Both change and continuity are expected characteristics of the future security environment. Thinking about future big ideas is really only possible because there is enough continuity in history and military affairs[1]. Understanding future war is helped by elaborating on seven critical contexts or broad categories of circumstances: political, social-cultural, economic, military-strategic, technological, geographical, and historical[2].

It is difficult if not impossible to talk about big ideas in future warfare without referencing the possibilities for revolutionary change. One of the more popular ideas about the likelihood of new forms of warfare is the revolution in military affairs, or RMA, which nearly dominated defense publications and discussions in the 1990s. The term has a special linguistic power by implying historic, almost inevitable change[3]. Examinations of military history yield periods of profound change in war’s ever-changing character, and sometimes these periods may be called revolutionary, but these assessments are still difficult to complete in a fully persuasive manner[4]. There is no consensus view of the RMA as a way of thinking about future warfare. 

The early days of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) seemed to fall both within and outside the more traditional lines of western war[5]. But just because the U.S. Air Force contributed the core capabilities that allowed Joint Force commanders to achieve effects with air power in Afghanistan following the 9/11 terrorist attacks did not mean that the character of military operations more broadly had changed. Early OEF was a case of what was possible given the seven critical contexts identified above. Although there are convincing reasons to believe that the character of future warfare will change, and probably change in significant ways, the fundamental nature of war will remain the same[6].

Defense planners thinking about the character of future warfare will be well-served by using a simplified list of four operational challenges. These operational challenges could be used to explore needed capabilities and force postures. The four might be: 1) early halt of an invasion with depth (e.g., Ukraine) or without (e.g., the Baltic states); 2) early attack and early counteroffensive to destroy an enemy combined arms army without the benefit of a massive force buildup first (e.g., Taiwan); 3) effective and low-risk intervention in an ongoing, complex conflict zone or region; and 4) effective low-risk peace enforcement in complex terrain including megacities[7]. There is nothing revolutionary about these four. 

It is inherently difficult to predict the exact course of future change, especially since future enemies will invariably have a say in these eventualities. Nonetheless it is important for defense planners to have a clear sense of the character and general scope of future conflict. While technology will almost certainly continue to evolve, including in the critical areas of reconnaissance and long-range precision fires, there is no overwhelming evidence that the character of future operations will change dramatically for ground forces in most types of missions, and especially in close combat in complex and urban terrain[8]. Tactical continuity is supreme. 

Big ideas about future warfare matter primarily around seizing and maximizing advantages over potential adversaries. Generally, the big ideas are useful and matter because identifying, developing, and deploying warfighting advantages always unfolds over longer periods of time. Finally, the exact nature of future warfighting advantages is highly situational – or contextual – and potential adversaries are presumably trying to counter friendly attempts to secure advantages[9]. The tension in “big idea versus context” illustrates the interactive nature of war. 

Doctrine and the other dimensions of force development are profoundly shaped by the reigning big ideas that capture the attention of military leaders and organizations. Those big ideas sketch what the organizations in question are prepared to do, against which opponents, in which operational environments[10]. So the U.S. Army, on the one hand, may want to cling to the big idea that the most consequential future conflicts will be major theater, conventional forces, maneuver and fire campaigns. Nonetheless, the indicators are that irregular fights – alongside large-scale combat operations – in complex hybrid combinations are not going anywhere. 

Implementing big ideas involves turning vision into things, concepts into capabilities and formations, and orchestrating grand actions in accordance with the vision[11]. Big ideas matter but after all, success is judged by adaptation.

Land forces, and particularly the U.S. Army, have been affected more than other military forces by the existential crisis in supposed relevance caused by the end of the Cold War, the lopsided victory in the First Gulf War, the advent of information technologies, revival of irregular and stability operations, and globalization. There are critical, outstanding disconnects between U.S./western military theory, forces, and doctrine that are, most likely, hampering the effective linking of military strategy to national policy. 


Endnotes:

[1] Colin S. Gray, “Another Bloody Century?” Infinity Journal, no. 4 (Fall 2011): 4–7, https://www.militarystrategymagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Infinity_Journal_Special_Edition_war_and_strategy_back_to_basics.pdf#page=14. Gray makes some of the most reasonable and persuasive arguments against assuming too much change in the character of war over time. 

[2] Colin S. Gray, “The 21st Century Security Environment and the Future of War,” Parameters 38, no. 4 (2008): 18, https://press.armywarcollege.edu/parameters/vol38/iss4/7/. Also see Warren Chin, “Technology, War and the State: Past, Present and Future,” International Affairs 95, no. 4 (July 2019): 765–783. Chin concludes that the relationship between war and the state may be in for dramatic change – an existential crisis – as another wave of industrialization, impacts of artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies on societies and economies, as well as possible global climate emergencies tax the modern state to the point of breakdown. 

[3] Lawrence Freedman, The Revolution in Strategic Affairs, 1st ed. (London: Routledge, 1998), 7–8. 

[4] Carlo Alberto Cuoco, The Revolution in Military Affairs: Theoretical Utility and Historical Evidence, Research Paper, no. 142 (Athens, Greece: Research Institute for European and American Studies, April 2010), https://www.files.ethz.ch/isn/115259/rieas142b.pdf. 

[5] Colin McInnes, “A Different Kind of War? September 11 and the United States’ Afghan War,” Review of International Studies 29, no. 2 (2003): 165–184, https://library.fes.de/libalt/journals/swetsfulltext/16323302.pdf. 

[6] David J. Lonsdale, The Nature of War in the Information Age: Clausewitzian Future (London: Frank Cass, 2004). Also see P.E.C. Martin, “Cyber Warfare Schools of Thought: Bridging the Epistemological/Ontological Divide, Part 1,” Royal Canadian Air Force Journal 5, no. 3 (Summer 2016): 43–69, https://rcaf-arc.forces.gc.ca/assets/AIRFORCE_Internet/docs/en/cf-aerospace-warfare-centre/elibrary/journal/2016-vol5-iss3-summer.pdf#cyber-warfare-schools-of-thought. 

[7] Paul K. Davis, David C. Gompert, Richard Hillestad, and Stuart Johnson, Transforming the Force: Suggestions for DoD Strategy (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1998), https://www.rand.org/pubs/issue_papers/IP179.html. 

[8] Michael E. O’Hanlon, The Future of Land Warfare (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2015), https://library.oapen.org/handle/20.500.12657/25774. 

[9] Colin S. Gray, The Airpower Advantage in Future Warfare: The Need for Strategy (Maxwell Air Force Base, AL: Air University, Airpower Research Institute, December 2007), https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA477043.pdf. 

[10] Terry Terriff, “The Past as Future: The U.S. Army’s Vision of Warfare in the 21st Century,” Journal of Military and Strategic Studies 15, no. 3 (2014): 195–228, https://jmss.org/article/view/58119/43736. 

[11] Robert H. Scales, Future Warfare: Anthology (Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute, 2000), https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA365316.pdf. 

Assessment Papers Defense and Military Reform Governing Documents and Ideas Marco J. Lyons Policy and Strategy U.S. Army

U.S. Army Options to Regain Land Power Dominance

Marco J. Lyons is a U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel who has served in tactical and operational Army, Joint, and interagency organizations in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Afghanistan, and in the Western Pacific. He is currently a national security fellow at Harvard Kennedy School where he is researching strategy and force planning for war in the Indo-Pacific. He may be contacted at marco_lyons@hks.harvard.edu. Although the analysis presented here is the author’s alone, he has benefitted extensively from discussions with Dr. Ron Sega of U.S. Army Futures Command and Dr. Anthony “Tony” Tether a former Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. 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 has a modernization enterprise that is second-to-none but facing the highly capable militaries of China and Russia is an unprecedented challenge. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army planned to have a Taiwan invasion capability no later than the early 2020s[1]. The Russian military will probably have substantially increased its missile-based stand-off capabilities by the mid-2020s[2]. More alarmingly, Russia has succeeded in modernizing approximately 82 percent of its nuclear forces[3]. Russian conventional and nuclear modernization have both been factors in Moscow’s recent three-pronged invasion of Ukraine. 

Date Originally Written:  April 5, 2022. 

Date Originally Published:  April 18, 2022. 

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author has researched future operational concept development through the Army Science Board. The author believes that U.S. Army decision makers and analysts can more aggressively leverage past future force initiatives to address emerging threats from China and Russia. 

Background:  The ability to operate directly against adversary centers of gravity defines dominance. Dominant land power refers here to the ability of a land force to operate directly against the most decisive points that sustain an adversary force[4]. In land operations, a final decision requires control – through seizure, occupation, or retention – of terrain, people and resources using actual or threatened destruction or presence, or both[5]. America’s position as a global leader rests on its dominant land power[6]. 

Significance:  The character of warfare, the increasing interaction between the levels of war, and a concomitant need for higher echelon commanders to exercise military art on a broader scale and wider scope than earlier in history, all demand the U.S. Army refocus on the operational level[7]. The planning and command challenges at the operational level are more demanding than current doctrine would suggest. Moreover, the consequences of failure in major operations are difficult to overcome[8]. What has been called the theater-strategic level of war, or higher operational art, is poorly understood[9]. Three decades of post-Cold War stability and support operations, and two decades of counterinsurgency have helped the U.S. Army lose touch with the art of major operations. 

In only a few years China will have a trained, equipped, and cohesive invasion force and Russia will have a combat-capable force with recent experience in cross-domain operations. U.S. Army strategic leaders are already pressing for force transformation against these large-scale threats[10]. The Army can build on more than five years of modernization, the 2018 multi-domain operations concept, and a new global posture strategy to maintain the momentum needed to break the mold of the Brigade Combat Team-centric, Unified Land Operations-based force[11]. Importantly, U.S. Army planners can rapidly harvest important work done since the end of the Vietnam era. In competition, crisis, and armed conflict – in war – the United States needs a ready land force to deter unwanted escalation, assure allies and key partners, and compel beneficial geostrategic outcomes through force, if necessary. 

Option #1:  The U.S. Army revives and updates AirLand Battle–Future (ALBF). ALBF was meant to be a follow-on doctrine to AirLand Battle but was interrupted by the end of the Cold War and breakup of the Soviet Union. ALBF took the fundamentals of AirLand Battle and applied them to nonlinear battlefields and to advanced-technology capabilities – the same dynamics seen in the emerging operational environment. Additionally, ALBF extended operational concepts to operations short of war – like the competition short of armed conflict idea today[12]. 

Risk:  Major additions to the U.S. Army’s current doctrine development projects run the risk of delaying progress. Adding ALBF to the current Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) doctrine development may impose additional testing and validation demands. 

Gain:  An updated ALBF would provide a ready road map for the U.S. Army to move from the narrowly conceived 2018 Army in MDO concept to a published MDO doctrine which would replace Unified Land Operations. With the incorporation of a detailed view of multi-domain battle – still the heart of the MDO concept – an updated ALBF would provide the broad-based, low- to high-intensity doctrinal framework for the coming decades. 

Option #2:  The U.S. Army reinstitutes an updated Army of Excellence (AOE). The AOE was the last organization designed against a specified threat force – the Soviet Army and similarly-equipped enemy forces. The original rationale for the AOE was to reduce force “hollowness” by bringing personnel and materiel requirements within the limits of Army resources, enhance U.S. Army Corps-level capabilities to influence battle, and improve strategic mobility for immediate crisis response in regional conflicts[13]. This rationale is still relevant. Building on this rationale and using the Chinese People’s Liberation Army as a specified threat force, the Army could update the AOE (Light) Division to a “hybrid warfare” force and the AOE (Heavy) Division to a “high-technology, cross-domain maneuver” force. Echelons above division, with a reinstitution of corps-directed battle, could focus on layering advanced technology with multi-domain operations capabilities to conduct nonlinear and deep operations. 

Risk:  AOE was resource-intensive and a new AOE might also demand resources that may not materialize when needed. 

Gain:  An updated AOE organization would provide a familiar blueprint for fielding the land force for a more fully developed MDO doctrine. A new AOE would quickly restore robust and more survivable formations. 

Option #3:  The U.S. Army restarts the Army After Next (AAN). AAN locked on to technological maturation timelines that turned out to be wildly optimistic[14]. But many of the concepts, not least information dominance, precision fires, and focused logistics, were valid in the mid-1990s and remain so – the challenges are in testing, validation, and integration. Today, some of the early-envisioned AAN capabilities will soon be fielded. Various new fires systems, including Extended Range Cannon Artillery and Long-Range Precision Fire missiles, will provide the greatly extended range and higher accuracy needed to destroy enemy anti-access, area denial systems. As part of MDO, these new fires systems can be linked with forward operating F-35 multirole combat aircraft and ideally a constellation of low earth orbiting sensor platforms to achieve unprecedented responsiveness and lethality. The first battery of tactical directed energy weapons are in development, and even the combat cloud imagined by AAN planners, now called the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (or an alternative capability solution), is a near-term reality[15]. 

Risk:  AAN may not have focused enough on lethality at the operational level of war, and so in reviving the effort, it is possible this same shortcoming could hamper MDO against near-peer enemy forces. 

Gain:  What AAN provided that is missing today is a comprehensive blueprint to channel the Army’s genuine and ‘unifying’ modernization campaign under Army Futures Command[16]. 

Other Comments:  The U.S. Army’s strategy defines a land power dominant force by 2028[17]. Under the current Army Chief of Staff, beginning in 2020, the U.S. Army is trying to more closely link readiness, modernization, posture, and force structure under a broad plan for “transformation”[18]. To focus force transformation, the American Army could revive past work on nonlinear warfare, corps battle command, and technologically-enabled, globally integrated operations. 

Recommendation:  None. 


Endnotes:

[1] Franz-Stefan Gady, “Interview: Ben Lowsen on Chinese PLA Ground Forces: Assessing the future trajectory of PLA ground forces development,” The Diplomat, April 8, 2020, https://thediplomat.com/2020/04/interview-ben-lowsen-on-chinese-pla-ground-forces/. 

[2] Fredrik Westerlund and Susanne Oxenstierna, eds., Russian Military Capability in a Ten-Year Perspective – 2019 (Stockholm: Swedish Defence Research Agency, December 2019), https://www.researchgate.net/publication/337948965_Russian_Military_Capability_in_a_Ten-Year_Perspective_-_2019. 

[3] Dakota L. Wood, ed., 2021 Index of U.S. Military Strength (Washington, DC: The Heritage Foundation, 2021), https://www.heritage.org/sites/default/files/2020-11/2021_IndexOfUSMilitaryStrength_WEB_0.pdf. 

[4] Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Vision 2020: America’s Military – Preparing for Tomorrow (Washington, DC: National Defense University, Institute for National Strategic Studies, 2000), https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a526044.pdf. 

[5] Michael A. Vane and Robert M. Toguchi, “The Enduring Relevance of Landpower: Flexibility and Adaptability for Joint Campaigns,” Association of the United States Army, October 7, 2003, https://www.ausa.org/publications/enduring-relevance-landpower-flexibility-and-adaptability-joint-campaigns. 

[6] Williamson Murray, ed., Army Transformation: A View from the U.S. Army War College (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, 2001), https://publications.armywarcollege.edu/pubs/1560.pdf. 

[7] David Jablonsky, “Strategy and the Operational Level of War: Part I,” Parameters 17, no. 1 (1987): 65-76, https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA516154.pdf. 

[8] Milan Vego, “On Operational Leadership,” Joint Force Quarterly 77 (2nd Quarter 2015): 60-69, https://ndupress.ndu.edu/JFQ/Joint-Force-Quarterly-77/Article/581882/on-operational-leadership/. 

[9] Michael R. Matheny, “The Fourth Level of War,” Joint Force Quarterly 80 (1st Quarter 2016): 62-66, https://ndupress.ndu.edu/JFQ/Joint-Force-Quarterly-80/Article/643103/the-fourth-level-of-war/. 

[10] James C. McConville, Army Multi-Domain Transformation: Ready to Win in Competition and Conflict, Chief of Staff Paper #1, Unclassified Version (Washington, DC: Headquarters, Department of the Army, March 16, 2021), https://api.army.mil/e2/c/downloads/2021/03/23/eeac3d01/20210319-csa-paper-1-signed-print-version.pdf. 

[11] Billy Fabian, “Back to the Future: Transforming the U.S. Army for High-Intensity Warfare in the 21st Century,” Center for a New American Security, November 19, 2020, https://www.cnas.org/publications/commentary/back-to-the-future-transforming-the-u-s-army-for-high-intensity-warfare-in-the-21st-century. One recent study concluded that Unified Land Operations does not sufficiently focus on large-scale war against an enemy force. See Alan P. Hastings, Coping with Complexity: Analyzing Unified Land Operations Through the Lens of Complex Adaptive Systems Theory (Fort Leavenworth, KS: School of Advanced Military Studies, United States Army Command and General Staff College, 2019), https://cgsc.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/api/collection/p4013coll3/id/3894/download. 

[12] Terry M. Peck, AirLand Battle Imperatives: Do They Apply to Future Contingency Operations? (Fort Leavenworth, KS: School of Advanced Military Studies, United States Army Command and General Staff College, 1990), https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a234151.pdf. 

[13] Pat Ford, Edwin H. Burba, Jr., and Richard E. Christ, Review of Division Structure Initiatives, Research Product 95-02 (Alexandria, VA: Human Resources Research Organization, 1994), https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/citations/ADA297578. 

[14] Robert H. Scales, “Forecasting the Future of Warfare,” War on the Rocks, April 9, 2018, https://warontherocks.com/2018/04/forecasting-the-future-of-warfare/. 

[15] Dan Gouré, “Creating the Army After Next, Again,” RealClearDefense, August 16, 2019, https://www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2019/08/16/creating_the_army_after_next_again_114670.html. 

[16] U.S. Army, 2019 Army Modernization Strategy: Investing in the Future (Fort Eustis, VA: Army Futures Command, 2019), 1,  https://www.army.mil/e2/downloads/rv7/2019_army_modernization_strategy_final.pdf.

[17] The United States Army, “The Army’s Vision and Strategy,” Army.mil, no date, https://www.army.mil/about/. The Army’s “WayPoint 2028” focused on concepts and modernization. The United States Army, “Gen. Michael Garrett Visit,” U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, August 18, 2020, https://usacac.army.mil/node/2739. The Army’s “AimPoint Force” structure plan was meant to revive capable warfighting echelons above brigade. Andrew Feickert, “In Focus: The Army’s AimPoint Force Structure Initiative,” Congressional Research Service, May 8, 2020, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/IF11542.pdf. The “AimPoint Force” was about designing networked capabilities for overmatch. Devon Suits, “Futures and Concepts Center evaluates new force structure,” Army.mil, April 22, 2020, https://www.army.mil/article/234845/futures_and_concepts_center_evaluates_new_force_structure. 

[18] Association of the United States Army, “McConville Advocates for Aggressive Transformation,” Association of the United States Army, October 14, 2020, https://www.ausa.org/news/mcconville-advocates-aggressive-transformation. 

Capacity / Capability Enhancement Defense and Military Reform Governing Documents and Ideas Major Regional Contingency Marco J. Lyons Option Papers U.S. Army

Options to Modify Title 10 U.S. Code to Improve U.S. Security Force Assistance

Major James P. Micciche is a U.S. Army Strategist and Civil Affairs Officer. He holds degrees from the Fletcher School at Tufts University and Troy University and can be found on Twitter @james_micciche. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the USG. 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:  Without modifications to Title 10 U.S. Code (USC), Subtitle A, Part I, Chapter 16, §321 and §333, U.S. Security Force Assistance (SFA) contributions to strategic competition will not be fully realized.

Date Originally Written:  March 23, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  April 4, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes SFA can address strategic competitors’ most likely and most dangerous courses of action while also supporting competitive efforts through other instruments of national power. 

Background:  The DoD defines SFA as “activities that support the development of the capacity and capability of foreign security forces and their supporting institutions[1].”   SFA improves the ability of the Joint Force to support, enable, and enhance campaigning across all elements of the competition continuum[2].  Despite SFA’s prominent role in supporting the Integrated Deterrence concept underlying the 2022 National Defense Strategy, current statutory authorities limit SFA’s effectiveness. The 2022 National Defense Authorization Act’s (NDAA) Section 1323 (Study on Certain Security Cooperation Programs) and Section 1261 (Report on Security Cooperation Authorities and Associated Resourcing in Support of the Security Force Assistance Brigades) of the Senate’s proposed NDAA signal Congressional interest in improving SFA authorities to address strategic competition[3][4].  

Significance:  Allies and Partners are a cornerstone of U.S. policy. The first National Security Strategy identified an “area of U.S. strength and Soviet weakness is alliance relationships[5].” Current DoD leadership continues to emphasize Allies and Partners as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Capabilities testified to the House Armed Service Committee “The U.S. network of alliances and partnerships is a strategic advantage our competitors cannot match[6].” That advantage enables the realization of Integrated Deterrence, the foundation of the 2022 National Defense Strategy. Integrated Deterrence synchronizes Joint Force and Interagency capabilities with those of Allies and Partners to deter or compel strategic competitors[7]. SFA builds the requisite partnerships and interoperability with Allies and Partners in key locations to generate Integrated Deterrent effects mitigating threats to U.S. interests. 

Sun Tzu prioritized negating an adversary’s strategy and then destabilizing their alliances[8]. China, America’s identified pacing threat, did this by investing in capabilities preventing the deployment of U.S. military power. China also uses diplomatic, information, and economic instruments of national power to degrade U.S. access, influence, and presence globally. From Anti-Access Area Denial technologies to coercive economic and diplomatic practices, China is denying options and increasing the costs for the U.S. military. Due to these concerted efforts, the Joint Force now faces two strategic challenges, “time and distance[9].” 

SFA provides options for combatant commanders to compete below levels of armed conflict through establishing or maintaining access, presence, and influence while improving partners’ military capability and interoperability with U.S. forces. SFA increases adversarial escalation costs and allows the Joint Force to begin conflict at a positional advantage. Despite SFA’s capabilities, the current statutory authorities do not enable the DoD to maximize its employment of purpose-built SFA formations, like the Army’s Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs) and the Air Force’s Mobility Support Advisory Squadrons.

Title 10 USC, Subtitle A, Part I, Chapter 16, authorizes the majority of DoD security cooperation activities, of which SFA is a subset. The current chapter 16 authorities represent the unipolar world of 1991-2003 or the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) from 2001-2017. Within the current legislative framework §321 (Training with Friendly Countries) and §333 (Foreign Security Forces: Authority to Build Capacity) are the primary mechanisms for the DoD to conduct SFA. Each authority has limitations and strengths but neither is optimized for strategic competition. 

Option #1:  Congress changes “only with the military forces” to “security forces” within the limitation clause of §321.

§321 authorizes general-purpose forces of the United States to train only with the militaries of partners for the overall benefit of the U.S. unit[10]. §321 prevents the development of new partner capabilities and restricts materiel, construction, or contract support to training events only. While §321 is a flexible option for combatant commanders to establish access, presence, and influence it limits the development and integration to indirect benefits of training with U.S. forces. 

Risk:  Expanding the amount and type of security forces that U.S. conventional units can train without State Department concurrence risks over-militarizing aspects of U.S. foreign policy and delegitimizing whole of government efforts to develop capacity in non-defense sectors. §321 expansion risks potentially duplicating authorities within §322 (Special operations forces: training with friendly foreign forces) without an overarching program manager like U.S. Special Operations Command’s Joint Combined Exchange Training. 

Gain:  Increasing the aperture of who U.S. conventional forces can train with increases the flexibility and utility of using §321 to establish access, presence, and influence. This is especially beneficial within nations that have internally-focused security forces that are not part of a traditional military architecture. 

Option #2:  Congress creates a tenth capacity category authorizing “improved combined military interoperability” in §333.

§333 authorizes materiel, training, and operational support to foreign partner forces in developing capabilities across nine different mission types with seven of the nine being focused on GWOT-era objectives. Unlike §321 activities, §333 missions require Department of State concurrence and coordination and have specific Congressionally appropriated funding through the international security cooperation programs account. 

Risk:  Despite developing long-term partner capabilities, §333 activities take 18-24 months to approve, preventing its use in emergent and unforeseen requirements. Additionally, both conventional and special operations forces use §333 and its associated funds and adding additional mission types will increase competition for an already limited resource, especially with the loss of overseas contingency operations funding. 

Gain:  SFA works best over prolonged periods through persistent presence. §333’s ability to build partner capacity and provide materiel and operational support make it ideal for improving the effectiveness of partner forces to deter aggression and generating interoperability with U.S. Forces. Department of State concurrence and monitoring of §333 also facilitates the integration of other instruments of national power.  

Option #3:  Congress creates an SFA-specific authority and funding source. 

§321 broadly allows combatant commanders some flexibility in where they conduct SFA requiring months to approve and fund but vastly limits the long-term impact of their activities. Inversely, §333 is specific in allowing concerted efforts with a given partner that takes years to approve and its codified mission types constrain use to developing nations. Creating a responsive SFA-specific authority and funding source provides the Joint Force the ability to address strategic competition and prioritizes Partners and Allies.

Risk:  After the failures of the Afghan National Security Forces in August 2021 and the deaths of four U.S. Army Special Forces Soldiers during an ambush in 2017, there is substantial pushback on increasing the autonomy of the DoD to execute SFA. Increasing SFA’s ability to employ military members in advisory roles requires Congress to assume risk and put faith back into the DoD to execute global competition missions. 

Gain:  An SFA-specific authority and funding source highlights U.S. commitment to allies, partners, and strategic competition. This authority, with an accompanying appropriated funding source, will generate the long-term strategies needed to maximize the effects of SFA. 

Other Comments:  Combatant commanders continue to warn of legislative inaction in a world defined by competition between autocracies and democracies. In competition autocratic states enjoy an asymmetric advantage in speed, responsiveness, and reach due to no bureaucratic restrictions or adherence to international norms and laws. The Commander of U.S. Africa Command highlighted the issue of speed warning that U.S. assistance, “can sometimes take a long time to unfold, and that sometimes forces our African partners to go with the bird in hand, which is sometimes China, sometimes Russia[11].” The Commander of U.S. Southern Command outlined the need for flexibility when asking Congress to explore a “21st century flexible and responsible tool to allow us to outcompete and win by meeting our partner’s needs[12].” Inaction risks potential degradation of U.S. access, presence, and influence needed to establish integrated deterrence.

Recommendations:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Joint Chiefs of Staff (2021), DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms. page 192. Retrieved from https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/dictionary.pdf

[2] Joint Chiefs of Staff (2019) Competition Continuum (Joint Doctrine Note 1-19). Retrieved from https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/jdn_jg/jdn1_19.pdf?ver=2019-06-10-113311-233 defines three competition as having three nonlinear elements nonexclusive elements cooperation, competition below levels of armed conflict, and conflict.  

[3] United States. (2022). National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year: Conference report. Washington, D.C: U.S. G.P.O. Retrieved from https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/1605/text

[4] United States. Congress. Conference Committees 2022. (2022). JOINT EXPLANATORY STATEMENT TO ACCOMPANY THE NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2022: Washington :U.S. Govt. Print. Off.. Retrieved from https://rules.house.gov/sites/democrats.rules.house.gov/files/17S1605-RCP117-21-JES-U1.pdf 

[5] Reagan, Ronald  (1987). National security strategy of the United States of America. Executive Office of The President Washington DC Washington United States. Retrieved from https://history.defense.gov/Portals/70/Documents/nss/nss1987.pdf

[6] C-SPAN (2022). Defense and State Officials Testify on U.S. Engagement with Allies. Retrieved from https://www.c-span.org/video/?518194-1/defense-state-officials-testify-us-engagement-allies 

[7] Garamone, Jim (2021). “Concept of Integrated Deterrence Will Be Key to National Defense Strategy, DOD Official Says.” U.S. Department of Defense – DOD News. Retrieved from https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Stories/Article/Article/2866963/concept-of-integrated-deterrence-will-be-key-to-national-defense-strategy-dod-o/ 

[8] Griffith, S. B. (1963). Sun Tzu: The art of war (Vol. 39). London: Oxford University Press.

[9] McConville, James (2021).  Army Multi-Domain Transformation: Ready to Win in Competition and Conflict, Chief of Staff Paper #1. Headquarters Department of the Army. Retrieved from https://api.army.mil/e2/c/downloads/2021/03/23/eeac3d01/20210319-csa-paper-1-signed-print-version.pdf 

[10] 10 U.S.C. § 321 (2016), accessed 5 March 2021, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/USCODE-2016-title10/html/USCODE-2016-title10-subtitleA-partI-chap16-subchapIII.htm.

[11] Senate Armed Service Committee. (2022). HEARING TO RECEIVE TESTIMONY ON THE POSTURE OF UNITED STATES CENTRAL COMMAND AND UNITED STATES AFRICA COMMAND a.” Retrieved from https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/22-12_03-15-2022.pdf 

[12] House Armed Service Committee. (2021). National Security Challenges and U.S. Military Activity in North and South America.” Retrieved from https://armedservices.house.gov/2021/4/full-committee-hearing-national-security-challenges-and-u-s-military-activity-in-north-and-south-america  

Allies & Partners Capacity / Capability Enhancement Competition James P. Micciche Option Papers U.S. Air Force U.S. Army

Assessing the Forces Driving the Redesign of U.S. Army Land Power

Marco J. Lyons is a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army who has served in tactical and operational Army, Joint, and interagency organizations in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Afghanistan, and in the Western Pacific. He is currently a national security fellow at Harvard Kennedy School where he is researching strategy and force planning for war in the Indo-Pacific. He may be contacted at marco_lyons@hks.harvard.edu. Although the ideas here are the author’s alone, he benefitted from feedback provided by Colonel George Shatzer (Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College) on an earlier draft. 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 Forces Driving the Redesign of U.S. Army Land Power 

Date Originally Written:  March 23, 2022. 

Date Originally Published:  March 28, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that threat, geopolitical, and technological changes necessitate a reassessment of broad U.S. Army future force design parameters. Without this reassessment, the U.S. Army and the Joint Force risk wasting resources on obsolete conceptions. 

Summary:  Redesigning U.S. Army land power for the twenty-first century will require policy makers and defense leaders to negotiate numerous conflicting dynamics. Future U.S. Army forces will need to be immediately ready for crises but also adaptable. They will need to be powerful enough for major combat operations and organizationally flexible, but also tailored to missions and tasks. 

Text:  The principles that have historically guided U.S. Army force planning—size, mix, and distribution—to meet strategic needs include: early use of the Regular Component in a contingency; reliance on the Reserve Component for later-arriving forces; primacy of defeating an aggressor in major combat operations; capabilities for short-notice deployments; and the importance of readiness to deploy over cost considerations[1]. These principles will likely persist. 

Future technological factors will shape U.S. Army strategy, force structure, and planning decisions. Important technological changes that may decisively influence future U.S. Army force design include advances in information acquisition, processing, distribution, and utilization; capabilities for light, medium, and heavy forces; integrated air defense and protection; and changes to support and maintenance requirements for advanced systems. Demands to reconfigure forces for a broad range of contingencies will not shrink in the foreseeable future. The overriding imperative for air deploy-ability will not change significantly[2]. Like in the 1990s, come-as-you-are wars are still likely, but these require reconceptualization in a Great Power context. 

There will continue to be missions and tasks that only Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, or Airmen can realistically accomplish. Military power employment and military power integration and significantly different – the sum, integrated, is greater than the parts, acting independently. Missions and tasks of the future joint force will be assigned based on military necessity and objectives, and not based on predetermined formulas or a desire for equitability. Future force planning will balance forms of military power and the different major components within land power with the understanding that high-/low-technology mixes are generally superior to a reliance on only one end of the technology spectrum[3]. 

Military affairs are evolving rapidly as events in Ukraine illustrate. Ballistic missiles, precision strikes, unmanned systems, space and cyberspace, and weapon of mass destruction technologies are spreading to various areas around the world. The means and ways of warfare are changing. Battle space in the air, sea, space, and cyberspace domains, in which U.S. forces have enjoyed various degrees of dominance, is becoming increasingly contested[4]. This contestation directly threatens U.S. integration of joint functions, especially fires, movement and maneuver, and sustainment. 

Globalization creates both economic wealth and activity, along with security vulnerabilities. For many advanced economies, the range of security threats is expanding and becoming more varied. The twenty-first century is likely to see more so-called coalitions of the willing than formalized alliance structures like during World War Two. It is not clear that traditional military forces and capabilities will still retain their value and utility[5]. 

The unclassified summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) recognized a weakening, post-1945 international order. The 2018 NDS also called for increased strategic flexibility and freedom of action to manage a high volume of change[6]. Although accurately forecasting the future strategic environment is inherently prone to error, it is also practical to assume that major changes will happen rapidly in the wake of particular high-impact events[7]. 

Because future great power competitors will likely have formidable escalation capabilities, the importance of designing for escalation advantage in future force planning will increase. Part of the complexity being generated in the emerging operational environment is caused by the increasing number of competition-warfighting domains, expanding options for synergy between them, and their disparate considerations with respect to speed, range, and lethality. As the reach, penetrability, and effectiveness of sensors, networks, and weapon systems improve, the demands for integration of capabilities and effects across domains multiply[8]. One characteristic of the emerging operational environment worth watching is that more power centers have more ways to push events on the international stage to their liking[9]. This pushing might be called hyper-competition[10]. 

Future adversaries will almost invariably be fighting on or near land, near their home or otherwise controlled territory, with shorter and simpler lines of communications. Platform for platform, land ones are cheaper, less technologically complex, easier to produce in large numbers, and quicker to replace than their air and maritime counterparts[11]. Part of what makes the twenty-first century military challenge so seemingly intractable is that the drivers of change appear to be forcing adaptation across the full breadth of policy, security, and military dimensions[12]. This means that these traditional factors will almost certainly change in the near- to mid-future: federated military forces based on physical domains; alliances and partnerships of convenience; and “runaway” technological advances that are formulated for purely civilian use. 

Numerous dynamics suggest that the future joint force will be smaller but will still need to retain technological overmatch, rapid deploy-ability, joint and multinational interoperability, and organizational agility[13]. Force development is about getting the joint force to do what it does better while force design is about getting the joint force to do new things in new, more disruptive ways[14]. Changes to both force development and force design are needed to protect current and future overmatch. For national security, and for getting to the future force needed, force development is best when linked directly to the right kinds of research clusters looking at disruptive technologies, that can then be integrated quickly into the right kinds of military capabilities[15]. As for force design, U.S. Army Futures Command is a primary vehicle for delivering rapid technological integration to ground forces. Integrating various technological, research, and military activities based on a coherent view of future national security will take reformed national policy. 

Redesigning U.S. Army land power for the twenty-first century will require policy makers and defense leaders to negotiate numerous conflicting dynamics. Future U.S. Army forces will need to be immediately ready for crises but also adaptable. They will need to be powerful enough for major combat operations and organizationally flexible, but also tailored to missions and tasks. Countering Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine or the Chinese People’s Liberation Army will take forces dominant in and through the land domain while being fully relevant in all competition-warfighting domains – properly integrated with other forms of domain power. 


Endnotes:

[1] Joshua Klimas and Gian Gentile, Planning an Army for the 21st Century: Principles to Guide U.S. Army Force Size, Mix, and Component Distribution (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2018), https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/perspectives/PE200/PE291/RAND_PE291.pdf. 

[2] National Research Council, Board on Army Science and Technology, Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems, STAR 21: Strategic Technologies for the Army of the Twenty-First Century (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1992), https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a275948.pdf. 

[3] William T. Johnsen, Redefining Land Power for the 21st Century (Carlisle Barracks, PA: Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute, 1998), https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA349014.pdf. 

[4] John Gordon IV, Igor Mikolic-Torreira, et al, Army Fires Capabilities for 2025 and Beyond (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2019), https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR2124.html. 

[5] The United States Commission on National Security/21st Century, New World Coming: American Security in the 21st Century Major Themes and Implications, The Phase I Report on the Emerging Global Security Environment for the First Quarter of the 21st Century, September 15, 1999, https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=2087. 

[6] James Mattis, Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 2018), https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=807329. 

[7] John A. Shaud, Air Force Strategy Study 2020-2030 (Maxwell Air Force Base, AL: Air University Press, Air Force Research Institute, January 2011), https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a540345.pdf. 

[8] Training and Doctrine Command, The Operational Environment, 2035-2050: The Emerging Character of Warfare (Fort Eustis, VA: United States Army Training and Doctrine Command, n.d.), https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/mad-scientist/m/articles-of-interest/217736. 

[9] Richard Kaipo Lum, “A Map with No Edges: Anticipating and Shaping the Future Operating Environments,” Small Wars Journal, November 2020, https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/map-no-edges-anticipating-and-shaping-future-operating-environments. 

[10] Cf. Nathan P. Freier, John Schaus, and William G. Braun III, An Army Transformed: USINDOPACOM Hypercompetition and U.S. Army Theater Design (Carlisle, PA: U.S. Army War College Press, 2020), https://press.armywarcollege.edu/monographs/912. 

[11] Shmuel Shmuel, “The American Way of War in the Twenty-first Century: Three Inherent Challenges,” Modern War Institute, June 30, 2020, https://mwi.usma.edu/american-way-war-twenty-first-century-three-inherent-challenges/. 

[12] National Defense Panel, Transforming Defense—National Security in the 21st Century, Report of the National Defense Panel, Arlington, VA, December 1997, https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=1834. 

[13] See Prepared Statement by Dr. Mike Griffin, Senate Hearing 115-847, Accelerating New Technologies to Meet Emerging Threats, Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities of the Committee on Armed Services, United States Senate, 115th Congress, 2nd Session, April 18, 2018, U.S. Government Publishing Office, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CHRG-115shrg41257/html/CHRG-115shrg41257.htm. 

[14] Jim Garamone, “National Military Strategy Addresses Changing Character of War,” Department of Defense (website), July 12, 2019, https://www.defense.gov/Explore/News/Article/Article/1903478/national-military-strategy-addresses-changing-character-of-war/. 

[15] Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Operating Environment, JOE 2035: The Joint Force in a Contested and Disordered World (Washington, DC: Joint Chiefs of Staff, July 14, 2016), https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/concepts/joe_2035_july16.pdf?ver=2017-12-28-162059-917. 

Assessment Papers Capacity / Capability Enhancement Governing Documents and Ideas Marco J. Lyons U.S. Army

Assessing Airborne Status in U.S. Army Special Operations Forces

Stuart E. Gallagher is a Special Operations Officer in the United States Army and a graduate of the National Defense University. He has previously served as a Commander, a Military Advisor to the United States Department of State, and Senior Observer Coach Trainer at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center. He currently serves as the Chief, G3/5 Plans and Analysis for the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. Divergent Options content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, organization or group.


Title:  Assessing Airborne Status in U.S. Army Special Operations Forces

Date Originally Written:  August 26, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  October 18, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View: The author has spent the majority of his career in U.S. Army special operations and on airborne status. The author contends that although there are a significant and legitimate number of reasons airborne status should be removed from special operations units, maintaining this status is essential to the posterity of elite Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF).

Summary:  Airborne operations date back to World War 2. During this time, airborne operations delivered large numbers of paratroopers and special operations personnel (Office of Strategic Services) into denied territories[1]. Today, despite improved technology and the rise of great power competition, there is still a place for this capability in the ARSOF as it still fosters “eliteness,” and camaraderie, and is an effective assessment and selection tool.

Text:  Since its humble beginnings, airborne operations have played a critical role in U.S. military operations throughout the world. From World War 2 to Vietnam to Grenada to Iraq, paratroopers answered the nation’s call. However, as the face of battle has changed over the last century, so too has the need for delivering large numbers of paratroopers behind enemy lines. As this metamorphosis has taken place, many senior military and civilian decision makers have begun to question the practice of maintaining large standing formations of airborne qualified troops. This practice is called further into question when applied to ARSOF, as their employment is even less probable.  

There are many compelling arguments against keeping special operations soldiers on airborne status such as: money, training time, injuries and lack of practical application. The first, and arguably most discussed is cost – a paratrooper on status is currently paid 150.00 dollars per month for hazardous duty pay. This equates to 1,800.00 dollars per year per soldier. Multiplying that number over a battalion sized element of 800 soldiers equates to 1.44 million dollars per year. If applied to an airborne brigade of 4,500 paratroopers this number swells to 8.1 million dollars. This is just airborne pay to the soldiers – this number does not account for the maintenance and employment of the airframes and equipment utilized to conduct airborne operations. 

Another argument often made pertains to training time required to maintain currency. On average it takes, conservatively, anywhere between four and twelve hours to conduct an airborne operation depending on the number of personnel, type of aircraft and weather conditions. In order to maintain currency, by regulation, a paratrooper must jump four times per calendar year. This is time that could arguably be used for other training that promotes soldier and unit readiness. 

Finally, jumping out of airplanes is a hazardous endeavor, which often leads to a litany of injuries – back, knees, hip, ankle, and head, just to name a few. Injuries of this nature directly impact readiness either temporarily (soldier gets injured, recovers and returns to duty) or permanently (soldier gets injured, cannot make a full recovery and is in turn discharged from the Army altogether).  

So why should ARSOF maintain airborne status? 

Although all of the above are legitimate and justifiable arguments as to why airborne forces should become a thing of the past, there are a multitude of reasons to maintain airborne status in both conventional and ARSOF units such as: elitism, camaraderie, and assessment and selection. One of the most important is elitism. Although in many circumstances elitism is construed in a negative light, when applied to elite military units, this is not the case. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, elitism is defined as “the belief that some things are only for a few people who have special qualities or abilities [2].”  By definition, being a paratrooper is being one of the elite in the Army. Elitism promotes esprit de corps, and esprit de corps promotes the good order, confidence and discipline required in military units to fight and win in battle. 

Another intangible that is invaluable in military formations is camaraderie. As counterintuitive as it may sound, engaging in activities that are life threatening forges a bond between soldiers that simply cannot be replicated anywhere else – jumping out of airplanes is one such activity. Soldiers put their lives in one another’s hands on a daily basis. As such, it is imperative that they trust one another implicitly – that they have a tight bond. Airborne units forge and promote that bond as it pays tremendous dividends in stressful situations such as combat. 

Finally, in order to become a paratrooper, a soldier must volunteer for airborne school. For ARSOF, airborne school serves as a form of early assessment and selection. It is not uncommon for ARSOF soldiers to face danger and be uncomfortable. In fact, this facing of danger is more often than not a common occurrence. As all ARSOF units are airborne units, if a solider is unable or unwilling to jump out of airplanes, they are probably not the right fit for special operations.   

Throughout United States history, airborne forces have played a key role in the nation’s defense. However, for various reasons, over the past two decades, airborne units were scaled back, hence decreasing the number of paratroopers on airborne status. Although understandable in an age of shrinking military budgets and increasing technologies, there is still a place for the airborne as it is an elite force providing both the tangibles and the intangibles necessary to fight and win the nation’s wars. Airborne! 


Endnotes:

[1] The Office of Strategic Services or OSS was a wartime intelligence agency of the United States during WWII. It was the predecessor of both the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Army Special Forces (Green Berets). The organization was disbanded at the conclusion of WWII.  

[2] Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved August 26, 2021 from: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/eltism

  

Assessment Papers Force Delivery Methods Special Operations Stuart E. Gallagher U.S. Army

Assessing U.S. Army Diversity Efforts in the Context of Great Power Competition

Louis Melancon, PhD has served in the U.S. Army around the globe for 25 years. He presently represents the U.S. Army to the Joint Hard Targets Strategies program. 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 U.S. Army Diversity Efforts in the Context of Great Power Competition

Date Originally Written:  May 21, 2021. 

Date Originally Published:  June 7, 2021. 

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active duty military member who believes diversity of work force is a potential asymmetric advantage in great power competition. 

Summary:  The heuristics (mental shortcuts that ease the cognitive load of making a decision) that people rely on matter.  Relying on outdated heuristics can be problematic. While U.S. Army talent management efforts have been important in realizing increased diversity, the effort to create matching heuristics is lacking. The result will likely undermine the U.S. Army’s efforts at achieving diversity. 

Text:  On May 20, 2021, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz made comments about U.S. Army recruiting advertisements[1]. Twitter users responded to the senator’s tweet quickly and in a highly negative manner.  Beyond these twitter responses, the situation Senator Cruz’s comments created highlights a larger implication of similar behaviors in the U.S. Army. The issue at hand is a reliance on flawed heuristics; approximations of knowledge that are useful in making immediate, though not necessarily the most efficient, decisions. 

Despite Senator Cruz’s attempts to back away from his position about the efficacy of the U.S. Army compared to the Russian military[2], the heuristic that he used is clear: efficacy of a military is defined by its ability shape its members into a similar, unthinking mold; a vessel to contain violence, unleashed automatically in response to a command given by their masters. The senator’s tweet illustrates a belief that soldiers are identical cogs in the machine of an army; when a cog breaks, it is replaced, and the machine grinds on. This heuristic echoes the industrial revolution and does an adequate job of describing Queen Victoria’s army[3], but is not useful today.

The nature of war remains constant, but the character of war changes[4]. The characteristics of an industrial revolution army are not useful in modern, great power competition. Senator Cruz’s heuristic is outdated. However, his foible highlights a similar problem of similar heuristics that are often used within the U.S. Army regarding talent management. 

The U.S. Army, over the past several years, has taken great steps to leverage the diversity of its force and should be applauded for this effort. A large talent management effort has created a web-based market place to match soldiers to units based on preferences. Official photos have been removed from personnel files in an attempt to reduce bias by units and in central selection boards. Gender neutral pronouns are now used in evaluations. New methods of selecting battalion and brigade leadership are in place[5]. These  steps improve diversity but by themselves will take too long, perhaps a full work generation of 15-20 years, to effectively address and correct biases that emerge from old, outdated heuristics. 

Breaking and replacing heuristics is hard; it takes energy, thoughtfulness, and leadership focus. Diversity of a population, and by the transitive property, the military force it raises, can be an asymmetric advantage in competition and conflict justifying that energy and leadership focus. Context matters in competition and conflict; strength only has value when placed in the context of an opponent and that opponent’s weakness. The goal is always to create an advantage and a successful military engages an opponent at their weakness. A military is deceiving itself if it relies on its self-assessed strength in isolation of an opponent.  Success in both competition and conflict comes from turning interactions with an opponent into an asymmetric engagement where the balance is not in the opponent’s favor.  For the U.S. Army, in this era of great power competition, this strength rests in the children of the American people, all the American people with all their diverse backgrounds. New technologies can be duplicated, new weapons can and will be countered, but a diverse people, bringing their unique perspectives and experiences to problems, cannot be easily replicated. The longer the U.S. Army waits to break its talent management- related heuristics and fully utilize its soldiers, the more behind it falls in competition, especially with China.  

As a society, and as a military force, the U.S. and U.S. Army have significantly greater ethnic and gender diversity than either China or Russia. China’s People’s Liberation Army is a monument to glass ceilings for those that are not ethnic Han or male[6]. The picture is not better in the Russian military for those who are not ethnic Russian or male[7]. This is not to say either military force is monolithic in their outlook, but near homogeneity tends to create predictability, inflexibility, and an inability to identify self-weakness[8]. There is an opportunity here for the U.S. Army to truly find and leverage talent management as an asymmetric advantage against the Chinese and Russian military personnel systems, and so by extension their militaries as a whole. 

The U.S. Army has not been as effective in breaking and replacing old heuristics in conjunction with the active steps to increase diversity. Anecdotal evidence is emerging that new heuristics are naturally emerging within the force that will slow down the efforts to improve diversity; this is a result of not deliberately seeking to replace heuristics at pace with new diversity initiatives. As an example, rather than focus on matching skills needed for a position with a candidate, some units are seeking out personnel whose career trajectory closely matches previous concepts of a successful soldier. Preferring a concept of what makes a good soldier over recognized skills needed for mission success goes against what the U.S. Army desires with talent management. There is no maliciousness here, humans rely on heuristics and so older, flawed concepts are tweaked on the margins if nothing is provided to replace them. The units are seeking to do the right thing, but are limited by what the individuals within them know. Without a deliberate effort to shape heuristics that support new policies, the ones which emerge in the force will inevitably and inadvertently buttress the old biases.  

Senator Cruz provided a teachable moment. His constituents will decide with the ballot if he will have to pay a price for having outdated and flawed heuristics. Were the U.S. Army to share Senator Cruz’s outlook, the price paid in both competition and conflict with peer competitors will be much higher for soldiers if the issue of heuristics is not addressed now.


Endnotes:

[1] Cruz, Rafael E. [@tedcruz]. (20 May, 2021). “Holy crap. Perhaps a woke, emasculated military is not the best idea…” Twitter. https://twitter.com/tedcruz/status/1395394254969753601

[2] Cruz, Rafael E. [@tedcruz]. (20 May, 2021). “I’m enjoying lefty blue check marks losing their minds over this tweet, dishonestly claiming I’m “attacking the military.” Uh, no. We have the greatest military on earth, but Dem politicians & woke media are trying to turn them into pansies. The new Dem videos are terrible.” Twitter. https://twitter.com/tedcruz/status/1395586598943825924 

[3] Brown, M. (2017). Cold Steel, Weak Flesh: Mechanism, Masculinity and the Anxieties of Late Victorian Empire. Cultural and Social History, 14(2), 155-181.

[4] Johnson, R. (2017). The Changing Character of War: Making Strategy in the Early Twenty-First Century. The RUSI Journal162(1), 6-12.

[5] The variety of in-place and future initiatives can be seen at https://talent.army.mil

[6] Kania, E. (4 October 2016). “Holding Up Half the Sky? (Part 1)—The Evolution of Women’s Roles in the PLA.” China Brief. https://jamestown.org/program/holding-half-sky-part-1-evolution-womens-roles-pla

[7] Chesnut, M. (18 September 2020) “Women in the Russian Military.” The Post-Soviet Post. Center for Strategic and International Studies, https://www.csis.org/blogs/post-soviet-post/women-russian-military

[8] Cooke, A., & Kemeny, T. (2017). “Cities, Immigrant Diversity, and Complex Problem Solving.” Research Policy46(6), 1175-1185.

Assessment Papers Diversity Louis Melancon Readiness U.S. Army

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

Can You Have it All? – Options for Readying for Both Stability and Large Scale Combat Operations

Dr. Jacob Stoil is an Assistant Professor of Military History at the U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies and Fellow of the West Point Modern War Institute. He received his doctorate in history from the University of Oxford. His research and publications primarily focus on indigenous force cooperation, Israeli military history, special operations in the Second World War, peripheral campaigns in global war, and the use of the subterranean environment in warfare. Dr. Stoil is a member of the International Working Group on Subterranean Warfare and the Second World War Research Group (North America).  He can be reached on Twitter at @JacobStoil.

Dr. Tal Misgav is a Chief Superintendent in MAGAV where he serves as the commander of the MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center. Prior to assuming his post in 2002 he served as special unites and training officer in the operations branch of the Israel Police. He holds a PhD in Military History from the Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra and MA in History from Touro College. Tal has served as an advisor to the commander of MAGAV on MAGAV’s combat history and structuring and building the future of the force. He has authored numerous articles and several books including a forthcoming work “The Legal Framework for Security Force Activity in Judea and Samaria” and “Between the Borders in a Changing Reality: Magav in the run up to and during the Six Day War.”

The views, facts, opinions, and conclusions expressed herein are those of the authors and neither necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Government, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Army, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, School of Advanced Military Studies or any other U.S. government agency nor Israeli Government, Israel Police, or MAGAV. 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. military shift from stability / counterinsurgency operations (COIN) to large scale combat operations (LSCO) requires challenging force structure decisions.

Date Originally Written:  January 11, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  January 20, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The authors believe that for the U.S. military to emerge victorious in future conflicts, it must retain the knowledge and capabilities for both large scale combat operations (LSCO) and stability / counterinsurgency operations (COIN), and that this will require deliberate planning.

Background:  Over the last twenty years, the U.S. military has paid a heavy price to learn the lessons for fighting COIN campaigns and stability operations. As the U.S. military now focuses more exclusively on LSCO, it risks having the pendulum swing too far in the other direction. The doctrine for LSCO recognizes that in the future, as in the past, stability operations and COIN will play a significant role in both the consolidation zone and the phase of consolidating gains[1]. The historical record supports this. In the Second World War and American Civil War, the U.S. Military expended significant resources on stability, security, and reconstruction[2]. There is every indication that stability and security operations will continue to play a major role in operations below the threshold of LSCO. While there are several ways the U.S. may try to address this problem, other countries, such as Israel, have come up with novel solutions.

Significance:  Historically, the U.S. military has tended to swing between focusing on COIN and stability and focusing on large scale conventional operations. As Iraq and Afghanistan showed, this swing had a cost. The U.S. can find a way to retain knowledge, expertise, and readiness to engage in stability and COIN as well as, and as part of, LSCO. It cannot rely on the experience of the officers and personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan alone. Soon there will be officers who have no experience in COIN or stability operations. Yet despite the challenge, developing and retaining expertise in COIN and stability will be critical to the success of future LSCO as well as combating hybrid threats.

Option #1:  The Israeli Option: The U.S. military models a portion of its forces on the experience of MAGAV (Israel’s Gendarme).

Among MAGAV’s responsibilities is maintaining security in the West Bank – an operation which the U.S. military would term as a COIN or stability operation[3]. In LSCO, MAGAV fulfills the same role in the consolidation area[4]. For example, in the 1982 Lebanon War, MAGAV entered Lebanon with the responsibility for security in the costal consolidation area[5]. In order to maintain its specialty for both LSCO and regular operations, MAGAV trains its personnel for operations among the civilian populations[6]. This process begins in boot camp which focuses on this mission, including instruction in how to deal with a wide range of civilian-led demonstrations and terrorist activities—among both friendly and hostile populaces[7]. This process continues in special bases known as “greenhouses” that enable service members to practice their skills in urban and open-territory scenarios as well as targeted training in dispersing demonstrations[8]. This training gives MAGAV a specialized skill set in COIN and stability operations[9].

Risk:  While soldiers from a COIN / stability centric branch like MAGAV would have the ability to conduct basic infantry tasks, they will not be interchangeable with conventional combat focused units. This may create a problem when it comes to deployments and missions as in the current strategic environment, the more stability focused branch will likely have more frequent deployments. Bureaucratically, this also means creating another career and training pipeline in which they can advance, which itself will have a budgetary effect.

Gain:  As the case of MAGAV demonstrates, having a specialty force for stability and COIN can take the pressure off the rest of the branches. This model already exists within the U.S. Army, whose various branches recognize the different skill sets and training required to conduct different types of missions and that the total force benefits from integration of the branches. The experience of MAGAV in the 1982 Lebanon War shows that a specialist branch will solve the challenge of the allocation of forces to consolidation zones in LSCO and may help prevent some the problems that plagued the Iraq War. This option will allow the Army to retain the knowledge and skills to prevail in stability and COIN operations while allowing the bulk of the Army to focus on LSCO.

Option #2:  The Generalist Option: The U.S. military tries to balance its force structure within existing concepts and constructs.

The U.S. military seeks to end the bifurcation between COIN and stability operations on one hand and LSCO on the other. In this option, the military recognizes that COIN and stability tasks are a critical facet of LSCO.  The focus on integrating the two will be in all training and professional military education (PME). While at the most basic level, the training requirements for LSCO may apply to COIN and stability tasks, at higher echelons the tasks and mindsets diverge. To compensate for this, COIN and stability will be included in training and PME for echelons above the battalion. This option would keep within the intent authored by Lieutenant General Michael D. Lundy, former Commanding General of the United States Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, not to lose the lessons of COIN while pursuing LSCO[10]. However, this option differs from the tack that the U.S. military is currently taking by explicitly requiring the retention of a focus on COIN and stability operations, as well the capabilities and structures to execute them within the framework of a force preparing for LSCO.

Risk:  In a budget and time constrained environment this option can be supremely difficult to retain an integrated focus, which could leave critical aspects of COIN and LSCO uncovered. This option risks having one or the other type of operation undervalued, which will result in the continued problem of radical pendulum swings. Finally, even if it proves possible to incorporate stability and LSCO operations equally in training, education, structures, and thought, this option risks creating a force that is incapable of doing either well.

Gain:  This option will create the most agile possible force with a fungible skill set. It allows any formation to serve in either form of operation with equal efficacy, easing the job of planners and commanders. This option will create the broadest possible pool from which to draw, allowing deployments and other missions to be balanced across the force without leaving one or another formation overburdened.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Hernandez, R. (2019, July 2). Operations to Consolidate Gains. Retrieved January 13, 2021, from https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/NCO-Journal/Archives/2019/July-2019/Operations-to-Consolidate-Gains

[2] See for example: Shinn, David H. and Ofcansky, Thomas P. Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia p. 309; https://history.army.mil/books/wwii/Occ-GY/index.htm; https://history.army.mil/html/books/075/75-18/cmhPub_75-18.pdf 

[3] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, Organizational Command #11/12, June 2012, p. 2; MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, MAGAV Judea and Samaria, December 2015, p. 2

[4] According to FM 3-0 the consolidation area is the portion of an “area of operations that is designated to facilitate the security and stability tasks necessary for freedom of action in the close area and support the continuous consolidation of gains.” Dept of the Army (2017) Operations (FM 3-0). 1-158

[5] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, Summary of MAGAV Action in Lebanon: 1982–1985, p. 3; 

[6] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, Survey of Public Disturbance Trends, 2004, p. 9

[7] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, “Border Patrol Unit Course”, March 2012, pp. 9–12; MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, “Rifle 05 Training Course” 2008, p. 6

[8] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, “Rifle 05 Training Course” 2008, p. 6; MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, “Magav Commanders Course”, April 2014, p. 7

[9] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, Survey of Magav—The Future Has Already Arrived, 2019, pp. 25–26

[10] Lundy, M. D. (2018, September). Meeting the Challenge of Large-Scale Combat Operations… Retrieved January 13, 2021, from https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/Military-Review/English-Edition-Archives/September-October-2018/Lundy-LSCO

Capacity / Capability Enhancement Dr. Jacob Stoil Dr. Tal Misgav Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Israel Option Papers Training U.S. Army United States

Options to Prioritize People and Improve Readiness: Decreasing OPTEMPO to Increase Learning

Josh Linvill has served in 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment as a regimental planner, rifle company commander, and headquarters and headquarters troop commander. He is assigned to the 10th Mountain Division and serves as a planner for Operation Resolute Support in Kabul, Afghanistan. He can be found on Twitter @josh_linvill. 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 is transitioning its number one priority from readiness to people. Part of the transition is an attempt to reduce the operational tempo (OPTEMPO) so units can focus on dedicated periods for mission, training, and modernization.

Date Originally Written:  November 7, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  January 4, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a graduate of the U.S. Army’s School for Advanced Military Studies whose research focused on how the Army can learn from Rotational Training Units’ (RTU) experiences. The author believes a lower OPTEMPO by focusing the purpose of Combat Training Center (CTC) rotations or reducing the number of CTC rotations will increase learning for the Army and therefore increase readiness.

Background:  In October 2020, the U.S. Army published its Action Plan to Prioritize People and Teams. The plan describes how the focus on readiness, “resulted in an unsustainable OPTEMPO and placed significant demands on units, leaders, and Soldiers and Families and stress on the force[1].” The action plan describes two ways the Army will reduce OPTEMPO; specially designed rotations where the entire brigade will not deploy to a CTC and potentially not requiring CTC rotations for units scheduled for non-combat deployments.

Significance:  Experiential Learning Theory (ELT) provides a model, figure 1, the Army can use to increase learning while reducing OPTEMPO. Theorist David Kolb explains the dialectic nature of ELT, “learning is defined as ‘the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.’ Knowledge results from the combination of grasping and transforming experience[2].” The ELT cycle consists of four stages: concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation. In ideal circumstances the learner grasps and transforms knowledge while progressing through each stage of the cycle. As Kolb writes, “immediate or concrete experiences are the basis for observations and reflections. Theses reflections are assimilated and distilled into abstract concepts from which new implications for action are drawn. These implications can be actively tested and serve as guides in creating new experiences[3].” Changing the current design and/or rate of CTC rotations, or concrete experiences for units, enables the Army to give primacy to the other stages of the ELT cycle. By implementing different options for CTC rotations the Army can learn more by harnessing the power of a complete ELT cycle.

Figure 1. Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory Model. David A. Kolb, Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2015), 51.

Option #1:  The Army focuses CTC rotations on Army learning, not just the RTU. In this option, the Army can treat each CTC rotation as a means to an end by assessing and integrating the needs of the RTU with the overall needs of the Army. In other words, each CTC rotation can serve as a new concrete experience in the ELT cycle of the Army. The Army can use lessons learned from current conflicts or previous War Fighter Exercises and CTC rotations to tailor rotations focused on one unit or warfighting function. For example, division cavalry constructs, the use of armor in an Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaisance saturated environment, or consolidation area operations.

Risk:  The primary risk to Option #1 is that the experiments fail and a fiscal risk in that rotations are extremely expensive. If there is no balance between active experimentation and training the fundamentals of warfighting and therefore readiness will suffer.

Gain:  Rather than using similar rotational constructs for each Brigade Combat Team, in this option the Army will benefit from using the ELT cycles that begin with different experiences to test (ELT active experimentation) a theory or hypothesis (ELT abstract conceptualization) developed by reflecting on pervious experiences (ELT reflective observation). In this option ELT cycles that begin outside of CTCs will directly influence CTC rotations. By linking ELT cycles at CTCs the Army can develop new ideas following a variety of experiences.

Option #2:  The U.S. Army slows down to speed up learning. A certain level of detachment from experience is required to progress through every stage of the ELT cycle. An organization consumed by events cannot effectively learn. By reducing the number of CTC rotations the Army can learn more by focusing on the other stages of the ELT cycle and exploit the knowledge of other organizations who shared the experience with the RTU. Organizations like Operations Groups and the Opposing Force (OPFOR) are just some of the key players to extending the learning process. More time between rotations would allow these organizations time to progress through their own ELT cycles and share that knowledge directly with other units[4].

Risk:  Although quality over quantity is important and in-line with the Army Action Plan, this option risks leaders in key positions not having any CTC experience at all. Fewer events mean fewer concrete experiences to initiate the learning.

Gain:  Fewer rotations means CTC Operations Groups will be able to focus more time observing and coaching units through the entire ELT cycle instead of focusing on the concrete experience of each rotation. Fewer rotations will enable members of the Operations Groups to follow up with previous RTUs and coach them through the reflection on, conceptualization, and experimentation of ideas that began during their rotation, extending the learning cycle that started at the CTC. This same process could take place for units training for upcoming CTC rotations. Members of the Operations Groups would have the time to share the reflections and observations of previous RTUs and their own observations and ideas to support commanders training their units for a CTC rotation. Fewer rotations would also enable other CTC organizations, like members of the OPFOR, to take part in the process and further enhance units’ learning cycles.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] U.S. Army, Action Plan to Prioritize People and Teams. Army.mil, October13, 2020, accessed October 25, 2020, https://www.army.mil/article/239837/action_plan_to_prioritize_people_and_teams

[2] David A. Kolb, Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2015), 51.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Dr. Robert Foley examines the process of horizontal learning, using the experiences of other units to learn, is his article, A Case Study in Horizontal Military Innovation: The German Army, 1916-1918. Available at https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01402390.2012.669737

Josh Linvill Option Papers Readiness U.S. Army

Options to Improve U.S. Army Ground Combat Platform Research and Development

Mel Daniels has served in the United States military for nearly twenty years. Mel is new to writing. 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 or person.


National Security Situation:  The modernization of U.S. Army ground combat platforms includes risks that are not presently mitigated.

Date Originally Written:  August, 16, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 23, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that the U.S. Army’s over reliance on immature technologies are a risk to national security. Further, the author believes that the risk can be mitigated by slowing development and reducing research and development (R&D) investments while reinvesting in proven material solutions until new systems prove technologically reliable and fiscally feasible to implement.

Background:  The U.S. Army is investing in programs that remain unproven and are unlikely to provide the capabilities sought. Specifically, the Army is heavily investing in its Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV) and remote combat vehicles[1]. These programs are predicated on optimal battlefield conditions. Firstly, the assumption exists that enemy forces will not be able to degrade or destroy the battlefield network required to operate unmanned vehicles. Secondly, the risk of the enemy developing weapons that specifically target transmissions coming from control vehicles is a factor that needs to be taken seriously in threat assessments and in planning purposes[2].

Significance:  If the Army’s assumptions are incorrect and if these efforts fails to procure reliable and sustainable ground combat platforms for future operations, there will not be additional resources to mitigate this failure. Moreso, if the Army procures vulnerable systems that fail to deliver effects promised, the Army risks catastrophic defeat on the battlefield.

Option #1:  The U.S. Army could reduce and spread out its R&D investments to further invest in its legacy combat forces to offset the risks associated with funding unproven and unreliable technologies.

Risk:  The significant risks associated with Option #1 are that the technological investments needed for future capabilities will be delayed. The Army would lose its plan for fielding, as the Army will not fully field the OMFV until the early 2030’s, assuming there are no complications to the program of record. Additionally, Robotic Combat Vehicles (RCV) would be delayed until they can also be realistically evaluated. Lastly, investments into legacy systems could threaten the need for future platforms.

Gain:  If the Army elected Option #1, it would have the time to properly and realistically test RCV’s, OMFV and Manned-Unmanned Teaming concepts (MUM-T). This additional testing reduces the chances of investing significant resources into a programs that do not deliver as promised. It also reduces disingenuous and fraudulent claims prior to further funding requests. Simply put, the chances of ineffective systems being funded would be mitigated because proper and realistic testing from an independent entity would occur first. The Army would also gain additional capabilities for its current systems that otherwise would not be upgraded but yet will remain in service for decades.

Option #2:  The Army consolidates their modernization efforts and cancels select requirements. Currently the Army funds 4 major ground combat programs; the Mobile Protected Firepower, RCV program (Heavy, Medium and Light), OMFV, and CROWS-J/30mm. The Army could cancel the MPF program because the program is questionable due to its inability to defeat enemy near peer armored threats that will likely be encountered[3]. This cancelation would allow the Army to invest into the RCV light program, armed with the 50mm cannon and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGM). The Army would retain a viable anti fortification and direct fire support vehicle, while reducing needless expenses. Further, the Army could cancel or delay the unmanned requirement of the OMFV until the technology and network is fully secured and matured, with no limitations or risks.

Risk:  A significant risk associated with Option #2 is that the Army will not get a light tank or get RCV Medium or Heavy platforms and it will not receive the “optionally manned” portion of the OMFV until later. The risk with not obtaining these desired capabilities mean that the Army would have to accept an alternative material solution that defeats enemy fortifications and armor as opposed to the MPF.

Gain:  The Army retains its desired capabilities while maximizing resources. The Robotic Combat Vehicle-(Light), armed with a 50mm cannon and ATGM’s, is less expensive, lighter and carries more ammunition than the MPF. Further, the RCV-L is better armed to defeat enemy armored threats, as the MPF’s 105mm cannon is inadequate to defeat enemy tanks[3]. Additionally, by removing the unmanned requirement from the OMFV, the Army would gain savings and reduce reliance on unproven technologies, reducing risk of battlefield defeat[4]. This option enables the Army to retain remote controlled concepts by shifting the focus to the RCV-L and equipping the Infantry Brigade Combat Team community with it, as opposed to the Army risking its combat strength and forcing immature technologies upon the Armored Brigade Combat Team community, which is the Army’s main combat formation for near peer conflict.

Other Comments:  The Army is heavily investing in vulnerable technologies without first ensuring it has an effective network able to completely support the operational concepts it desires. Without ensuring that the required network will be immune to enemy countermeasures, these technologies will not fully support operational requirements. Further, the costs associated with these efforts are already exceeding 60 billion dollars, and do not afford the service increased lethality or survivability, even by common English definitional sense. Army R&D efforts will continue to be at risk if they refuse to allow independent agencies full access and evaluation rights prior to further funding.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Freedberg Jr, Sydney. August 6th, 2020. Breaking Defense. GAO Questions Army’s 62B Cost Estimates for Combat Vehicles. Retrieved from: https://breakingdefense.com/2020/08/gao-questions-armys-62b-cost-estimates-for-combat-vehicles

[2] Trevithick, Joseph. May 11th 2020. The War Zone: This is What Ground Forces Look like to an Electronic Warfare System and Why It’s A Big Deal. Retrieved from: https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/33401/this-is-what-ground-forces-look-like-to-an-electronic-warfare-system-and-why-its-a-big-deal

[3] Central Intelligence Agency. Gorman, Paul. Major General, USA. US Intelligence and Soviet Armor. 1980. Retrieved from: https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/DOC_0000624298.pdf

[4] Collins, Liam. Colonel, USA. July 26th 2018. Association of the United States Army: Russia Gives Lessons in Electronic Warfare. Retrieved from: https://www.ausa.org/articles/russia-gives-lessons-electronic-warfare

Budgets and Resources Emerging Technology Mel Daniels Option Papers Research and Development U.S. Army