Sometimes It Just Takes a War Richard Hart Sinnreich. Army. Arlington: Dec 2003. Vol. 53, Iss. 12; pg. 9
Sinnreich discusses the decision of the Army's new Chief of Staff to transform the force. The Army has taken an extensive analysis and experimentation to a wealth of desirable force improvements not wholly hostage to the acquisition of new technology. The recent operations from the Balkans to Afghanistan and Iraq have abundantly demonstrated both the Army's strengths and weaknesses. This article is relevant because it shows a very impersonal side of the army and how the only thing they talk about in this article in reference to the war is the betterment of technology and military tactics.
Copyright Association of the United States Army Dec 2003
Sometimes it takes a war to change an army-in this case, two wars. According to recent reports, the Army's new Chief of Staff has decided that, rather than wait for new high-tech weapons that won't show up for several more years at best, the Army will get on with transforming the force we have.
His decision is as welcome as it is belated. The Army began reexamining future requirements nearly a decade ago, long before 9-11. Since then, extensive analysis and experimentation have surfaced a wealth of desirable force improvements not wholly hostage to the acquisition of new technology.
Nevertheless, until now the Army has stubbornly declined to adopt them, deprecating its fielded forces as a "legacy" and reserving transformation for a futuristic Objective Force that it has found as difficult to define as it ultimately may be to acquire. In the process, it has alienated supporters in and out of government who by rights should be among Army transformation's strongest advocates.
With any luck, that now will change. It had better, because recent operations from the Balkans to Afghanistan and Iraq have abundantly demonstrated both the Army's strengths and its weaknesses.
Its strengths include soldiers whose dedication, discipline and training are second to none, weapons that, despite their age, continue to outperform most foreign counterparts, and leaders whose tactical and technical skill is equaled only by their versatility.
Its weaknesses reside largely in doctrinal practices and organizations that have yet to catch up with emerging battlefield requirements. Those are precisely the areas, as it happens, in which all that study and experimentation already have shown the way.
One example suffices to illustrate the point. For several years now, it has been clear to nearly everyone participating in Army futures work that the Army's tactical organization is ill-suited to the conditions in which ground forces increasingly are committed.
The product of a time when weapons were less lethal, communications less robust and battlefields less diverse and dynamic, the Army's current organization sacrifices nimbleness for mass. It was designed, after all, for prolonged high-intensity combat against a similarly armed and numerically superior enemy. Hence the 10 divisions that comprise the bulk of the Army's fighting strength are very large animals. The corps under which they fight are larger still.
Today, however, a single brigade can bring to bear from its own resources nearly as much combat power as an entire World War II division. By routinely applying joint capabilities-those of the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Special Operations Forces-it can multiply that combat power even further.
But today's brigades weren't designed to fight independently. They need the administrative and logistical support of a division, even in circumstances when much of that support is superfluous. A brigade can deploy and fight autonomously today only by improvising in some way the support it requires.
Similarly, reconfiguring a division to perform a mission for which its organic brigades are inappropriate is very difficult. It can be done, but it takes time. And in war, time is one resource that, once surrendered, can't be recaptured. Likewise, whether in war or peace, deploying whole divisions abroad is a lengthy process, and since there perforce aren't many of them, rotating them frequently as whole units simply isn't feasible.
The obvious solution, confirmed repeatedly by the Army's own studies and experiments, is to make the brigade the basic self-sustaining fighting unit, drawing its support directly from corps or a joint task force, and relegating to the division echelon the more limited task of directing whatever mix of brigades and supporting units may be attached to it for specific missions.
That, in fact, is exactly the way the Army has visualized organizing its future high-tech force. But inexplicably, it has until now declined to apply the same logic to the Army in the field.
If recent reports are accurate, that's about to change, and high time. Organizational redesign won't solve every doctrinal problem confronting the Army. It's certainly no substitute for adequate numbers. But it will solve some of those problems and moreover is a prerequisite to solving others. Meanwhile, it will permit much more efficient use of the forces we have.
But the more important implication of the Chief of Staff's decision is what it reveals about his attitude toward change. Until now, the Army has approached transformation as if it were "out there" somewhere, unrelated to the present. But real transformation knows no such artificial boundaries. Divorcing the future from the present is a prescription for stasis, not change.
The Army's new boss has it right: To succeed, transformation needs to start with the Army we have, which happens to be the best in the world. It's time to quit mooning about the future force and start building it by transforming today's. In the end, that's the only way we'll get the one we want tomorrow. It's just a shame that it took a war to convince us of it.
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