Monday, December 4, 2006

A Modest Proposal for Resetting the Force

Candidates for Congressional office most lately have been presenting argument about what they would do in Iraq and Afghanistan, about staying the course or cutting and running. The Constitution, however, gives those kinds of decisions to the President in his specified powers as in charge of foreign affairs (less trade) and as Commander in Chief. The President, however, does not have the authority to determine what kind of military he has to command unless the Congress has given him by appropriation or law, the authority to do so.

Too many on the Hill, in the White House and across the Potomac think that Congress’s authority in military affairs is limited to just raising the money. The Pentagon now takes the position that Congress doesn’t have the authority to dictate what kinds of weapons it gets. It does have that authority and is more specific in the case of war and the military than in any other endeavor as is specified in Article I, Section 8 and Section 10 of the Constitution along with the Second Amendment, extracted here:

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And

In accordance with these specified powers, the Congress dictated that all reserve component units be trained and mobilized as units, and that each has a mission tied to specific war plans. As such and under both the Powell doctrine and Abrams doctrine, a Total Force was built, trained, and exercised to a high degree of detail and competence. A division of labor ensued in the progress between components with the less sexy types of units and functions such as combat support and combat service support being concentrated in the reserve components and the combat forces concentrated in the active components. The Guard retained its traditional combat focus. But these divisions seemed to have been worked out as I witnessed in dozens of major field and command post exercises. As an MI battalion commander in support of the 49th Armored Division, I knew exactly where in Northern Germany my battalion would bivouac. As acting Chief of Intelligence of US Army Japan in an Operation Yama-Sakura with the Japanese Self Defense Forces, I met 49th Armored Division troops also preparing for their role in the defense of Japan. A co-worker of mine at the City of Houston spent one AT in Korea doing the same thing.

But the Pentagon really never intended to go through with it. There were early signs of it before Desert Storm, and during Desert Storm, the Pentagon just couldn’t let the mobilized National Guard combat brigades deploy. That was just too much of a challenged to their image of self importance. And when the deployments in the Balkans arose, the tools of evasion of Congressional mandate were developed with the creation of “derivative” tables of organization to cannibalize and cherry pick reserve component units.

Despite the Congressional mandate that reserve component units be trained and mobilized as units, the Pentagon never really intended to obey that requirement. As I assumed my duties as commander of the 204th MI Bn, I found all my MI troops being trained as replacements for NSA field stations (aka Elephant Cages) at a facility in Austin in ways unrelated to my combat mission of operating and maintaining a direction finding base at the front of a moving armored division.

Most recently, the BRAC closings and rearrangements of RC units included consolidated training of pilots at a great distance from home station and closing down facilities in the pilots home towns. The arguments presented by the Pentagon included bogus data, and retired aircraft with years left of service on them. The high degree of competence in battle of Guard and Reserve pilots shook the Air Force to its core, and such a Clear and Present Danger to the Active Component’s budget had to be squashed lest the Congress find out that a superior force could be maintained at one third the cost.

Likewise, as the requirements for a green water and brown water navy became apparent in the War on Terror, the Navy began to shut down Navy Reserve units with those capabilities. Instead of units with equipment, the Navy Reserve is being relegated to the function as a repple depple for the “fleet”.

The disastrous circumstances we face today in Iraq is directly related to the division of labor of the Total Force with such functions as logistics, psychological operations, civil affairs, and combat support such as military police and rear area security in the Guard and Reserves, particularly the Army Reserve, being left out, civilianized, sub-marginalized and out-sourced. It is now commonly accepted that the failure to properly identify the reaction of the Iraqi people to our incursion, and to properly plan for the governance of Iraq is at the root of our disastrous performance there. And it is US Army Reserve Psychological Operation units and Civil Affairs units that have the expertise to have prevented all this with proper Estimates of the Situation and with proper deployment of the units with the requisite expertise.

In short, the Pentagon’s evasion of Congressional mandate expressed in law and appropriations that is the root cause of our failings in Iraq.

Once the forces crossed the border and drove into Iraq, as a military analyst on News24Houston, I expected to hear of Civil Affairs units racing forward to secure the archives, monuments, and museums against mob rule. They weren’t there. Once Saddam’s irregulars attacked the flanks of our advancing troops, I expected National Guard Rear Area Operations Centers to deal with them using National Guard Light Infantry Brigades and other RC Military Police units as I as a 75th Division controller had watched them do in countless command post exercises. They too weren’t there.

I had been a 75th Division Controller on several major combat support exercises including one with MG Hultman’s Corps Support Command in which supplies and transportation were managed by Movement Control Centers and Material Management Centers and protected by MP Brigades and RAOC’s. And the supplies were carried by USAR logistics units including Petroleum Groups, Area Supply Groups, Ammunition Groups, and the like. They weren’t there, and still aren’t. What is there are contractors, some armed, some not, traveling on mined roads through ambushes in accordance with a jury rigged accommodation in lieu of established doctrine.
The best one can say about the Pentagon is that their intense focus on the ten percent of the forces up front left them to ignore the ninety percent that keeps them there. This is a natural unintended consequence of the Warrior Ethic and is at the root of the original separation of functions. Logistics, administration, psychological operations, civil affairs aren’t really warrior-like and not sexy enough for Warriors and in particular, one doesn’t want them competing for promotions against Real Warriors. Thence, out of sight, out of mind.

And we come now to the Center of Gravity of the problem, promotions, for promotions are the profit motive for all save entrepreneurs, investors, and the self employed. It all boils down to what gains advantage in the boss’s eyes, and the boards behind them. It’s about suck up, kick down, and move up. Failure to do so has serious consequences, one fails to put food on the table, a roof over one’s head, and to provide for the kid’s education.

Essential for survival is self esteem and self confidence, for pride in accomplishment and for the support of one’s peers and one’s family. Survival is, however, seen as a zero sum game. Even when it is not, the predisposition continues.
Arrogance, however, begets incompetence. Over confidence begets defeat in battle. Western arrogance under-rated Japanese competence, and at Hong Kong on December 8, 1941 the British reported that Japanese aircraft were flown by Germans as it was impossible for Imperial Britain to believe that little yellow people could whip us. Despite having decoded Japan’s Declaration of War before the Japanese Embassy in DC had, we claimed them and do now, that Pearl Harbor was a “sneak attack” despite the military dictum that says that unsneaky attacks are called defeats. And then there is the business of “bitter enders”.

Exclusion of outsiders is an ancient social device to exclude competition for the gene pool and limited food supplies. Or promotions to the next higher grade. It is natural, it is normal, and it is important in the survival for the tribe, plus or minus a wipe out or two, or maybe taken for slaves or an interesting protein supplement. There are some serious downsides to career centrism in combat development.

The competition within the services for a place on the promotions list impacts on force composition and weapons development. We all know of the competition within the Navy between surface, sub-surface, and air forces. Some war essential capabilities such as ASW and Anti-mine warfare lack the panache and glamour of other parts of the Navy and as such are either left to wither or transferred to the Navy Reserve. The Air Force slipped its UAV/drone warfare units experienced in Vietnam to oblivion or to the reserve components.

The desire for exclusivity at the promotion trough is manifested in other walks of life such as found in those special places for the elite to water such as in the lunch room, the play ground, certain stalls at Mel’s Drive in, the country club, and in exclusionary professional groups such as the AMA, ABA, Teamster’s union, and the Regular Army. And, DOD is a union shop run by the unions of the unions and for the unions, and the Guard and Reserves are scabs.

Desert Storm proved the Total Force worked and that was totally unacceptable as deep down the union fears, loathes, and despises the Guard and Reserves. It is natural, normal, inevitable, and ineradicable. And they have a great deal to fear.
The days of the shoot and run village militia are gone. The popular image of Guard and Reserve units made up of under-trained, poorly led amateurs misses the simple fact that the Guard and Reserves are like Napoleon’s Old Guard. They (we) are the veteran force, the post graduate force, the troops with the most experience on the ground, in the seas and in the air. The Guard and Reserve forces are not only veteran, but older and mature with the eclectic experiences required for the War on Terror. This is what scares the Pentagon, and what generated their response which they call Transformation.

Much of Transformation is modernization and an infatuation with the technological trickery first introduced in the Vietnam War and which was crowned as the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA). Systems engineering was applied to notional enemies that fit the kind that Warriors would fight ignored the simple fact that enemies don’t all have systems or critical nodes. Such was the lessons of Lenin, Mao, Ho and Giap in Protracted War as was taught in the terrorist training camps in Libya, Moscow, and East Germany which is now taught by their graduates in the Muddle East.

After Vietnam we decided to fight only in the Fulda Gap and after the Cold War ended we had to find a justification to keep the Cold War active force structure employed. Otherwise, the country might revert to the default small regular force and large Guard and Reserve force structure that had won all the wars before the Cold War. The Marine Corps moved first and re-occupied their traditional role as adjunct to the Navy’s role in securing the sea lanes of communication and as such a role in preserving global commerce including oil. The Corps’ expeditionary model suddenly became the rage and everything Air Force or Army had to have the “E” word in addition to the “T” word to be truly warrior-ish.

This ignited a long festering conflict within the Army between the Infantry and Armor branches and schools, a conflict as serious as any within the Navy. And from my viewpoint of 33 years of service beginning in the Pentomic Army of the Fifties, I could see the battle unfold. When I enlisted in 1957, there were two types of combat divisions, the Armored Division and the Pentomic Infantry Division. The Armored Division had four four-company Armored Rifle Battalions and five four-company tank battalions of which one was heavy. These battalions were assigned as needed between three Combat Commands (A, B and C). The Pentomic Infantry division had five Battle Groups of five line companies each. A Colonel commanded the Battle Group.

The logic behind the Battle Group was that the atomic (nuclear) battlefield required independent rapidly moving groups to avoid destruction by nuclear weapons. The battle group concept, however, didn’t give command experience to Lt Colonels and as such, had to go. The armored division model was then adopted for all divisions with battalions reduced to three companies to increase the number of O-5 command slots but at a cost of two O-6 command slots in the division.

Back in 1986, I had returned to the 75th Division and attended a briefing from DARPA on the next big thing in tactics called Units of Action which were described as independent rapidly moving groups to avoid destruction by nuclear weapons. Imagine my surprise when these Units of Action became Modular Brigades each with two maneuver battalions of three companies each. Thus a ten battalion division would now have five Modular Brigades each commanded by a Colonel. The Battle Group returned, but with the O-5 bug command bug fixed. And, the Armor School was moved from Knox to Benning to mind meld with the Infantry. Strange, I thought, since there hasn’t been a “leg” infantry division in the Army since Vietnam except in the Guard.

DARPA also was the author of a tactical system in vogue after Vietnam we called “mathema-tactics” in which over eighty percent of maneuver forces were committed forward and little left in reserve. Someone had figured out that in a maneuver division using the two-up, one-back formation left eight maneuver (infantry/armor) companies on the front line out of twenty seven in a nine-battalion division with two brigades forward, one back with the two brigades each with two battalions with two companies forward in each. Mathema-tactics allocated units along “axes of advance” defined by the gaps between the green on a map with little consideration for the ability of forces to maneuver in forests. As G2 controller of the Division Exercise Group of the75th, I watched NG division staffs try to cope with a typical Soviet offensive finding themselves unable to shift forces laterally across the front of an advancing enemy.

Thus the Modular Brigades were sold as a thirty percent increase in firepower by adding ten Colonels with staffs to the existing number of battalion then organized in thirty three brigades, both divisional and non divisional. As such it is a thirty percent increase in Colonel Command slots. In order to support these modular brigades, the brigade’s slice of support from division is now organic to the brigade such as a two battery artillery battalion. The net effect on promotions for O-5 was reduced for the Combat Support branches by twenty percent which has recently been addressed by the Army Chief of Staff by allowing Engineers and Artillery officers to compete for maneuver battalion command. Those having prior battalion command experience are ineligible, of course.

It gets worse. The Army’s new Modular Brigades are task organized by Table of Organization (TOE) to fight as is without further task organization in accordance with METT (Mission, Enemy, Terrain, Troops available). The battalions and companies are pre-task organized into “combat arms” companies. While armored cavalry units had been combined arms, the commander could always scramble or unscramble then to meet the situation. The new Transformational Modular Brigade was task organized by the Pentagon instead of by the unit commanders. This intent was made clear to me by a former project manager of this program during a briefing he made as 4th ID commander enroute to Iraq at a meeting of the Houston Military Affairs Committee. He bragged about making sure all the new brigades had exactly the same TOE, unappreciative of the fact that enemy firepower has the capacity of punching holes in TOEs. Besides, the TOE and MOS’s are highly structured paper drills that keep the Anal Retentive busy until their talents in cleaning up messes is needed on the very messy place battle tends to be.

No commander in his/her right mind would even think of employing any such force as is, and aren’t according to all reports I read or hear of action on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. We fight the way we always have, with what we have to do what we have to do. And in the War on Terror and our other missions world wide, we are using and are training in the training base to use whatever resources are needed in the eclectic dynamic mix of military, political, economic, and social tools we need. And the Guard and Reserves, due to their eclectic mix of those experiences are better suited than the narrow scope of the Modular Military.

The old Battle Group, however, was flat enough to allow for detachments and still keep a two-up one-back formation without breaking up the forward companies. The Modular Brigades, by design and intent, are not to be further task organized and leave the Brigade commander no choice than to violate the intent of DCSPER to form a reserve. The old Pentomic division did leave the Division Artillery intact to allow massed fires across the battle field. Division artillery in the Transformed Modular Military is now a maneuver brigade with it’s guns penny parceled amongst the Modular Brigades. Thus the DARPA designed DCSPER centric Transformed Army unable to form a reserve or mass fires on the intensive battlefield.

Added to this madness are the unintended consequences of a marvelous innovation called the National Training Center (NTC) first at Ft Irwin, CA and now in other parts. NTC afforded the opportunity for large forces up to brigade to maneuver in a computer assisted simulated near real force on force field exercises. In no small way are our victories in battle are due to NTC and the Action-Condition-Standard system of training adapted from SAC in the Army in 1974. But since NTC only handled one brigade at a time, brigades have been “rotated” between home station and NTC on a scheduled basis. Thus the concept of rotational warfare was born with our forces being rotated in and out of the combat zone. We no longer hear of campaigns, but of rotations.

One of the dictums of training is to train the way you fight. The downside is fighting the way you train and training against the enemy you think you are going to fight which may or may not be a bad decision. Given the rotational system of unit replacement, continuity on the battlefield is sacrificed despite some innovative and creative ways to minimize the disconnect on relief in place. Stability operations require stability of forces and experience as war is an act of politics and all politics are local. I hear the same story over and over again about one unit stabilizing an area only to be destabilized when the next unit moves in.
Unit rotation was adopted as an incorrect evaluation of low morale and effectiveness in Vietnam as being attributed to individual rotation. Units in Vietnam tended to stay in the same general area and became familiar with the terrain and the enemy. A radio intercept related to me told of a VC commander in 1968 telling a subordinate to hit the Americans at the same place they hit the French in 1952. Ditto the AQ, the Sunni, Shiite, and Pashtun.

The morale problems in Vietnam were related to the fact of over-reliance on the draft, the failure to call the Guard and Reserve, the exodus of the WW2-Korean War vets and the concurrent expansion for war stripped middle management bare. Whole classes of OCS grads were often wiped out within ninety days of graduation. We had “shake and bake” NCOs. And 18 months in service to the grade of Captain. And to which we add the Red ranting of the Viet Cong activists on those socialist madrassas we called institutions of higher education and thousands of them marching under enemy flags in our national capitol.

Unit commanders in combat cannot handle one year tours as was found out in Korea, Vietnam in both world wars. There is too much responsibility for too many lives at risk. Likewise, there were always the old guys who had survived to keep the FNGs (funny new guys) alive or to serve as examples of how to get another wake up. Under rotational warfare, the whole rotational brigade is FNG. And the terrorists rotate back into cleared areas.

It gets worse. Transformation proceeded with the immediate fielding of these top heavy under-gunned Modular Brigades without a clear concept of what the higher echelons were going to look like. The division has been gutted, and the Army Corps hasn’t been configured to provide support to the brigades. The places for Reserve Component CS/CSS plugs to plug into weren’t there or filled by the Transformational Lifer-Contractor paradigm deemed better than the Life-Conscript force that fails on export such as in Indo-China and Algeria for the French, the Falklands for the Argentines, and US in Vietnam. Under the Lifer-Contractor paradigm, forces are provided by Civil Servants, private contractors, and the Guard and Reserves employed in derivative cherry picked chunks. While the Civil Servants and contractors include many reservists and veterans, they are paid from Operations and Maintenance Funds, while the Guard and Reserves are paid for by Military Pay which competes with the active component at least at the level where a cost cutter might get the idea that maintaining the same force at one sixth the cost might bet a bigger bang for the buck.

Even worse, the rotation of units of the Guard and Reserve are done at least in the Army by ARFORGEN (Army force generation) which is organized to rotate RC units in and out of a deployment on a seven year basis. The personnel person loves projections and predictions of predictability, career paths, all to smooth out promotion flow points and opportunity. All to be done without even the benefit of a good crystal ball. And, without considering the perils of death and injury on the pool of eligible. During a recent Mid-Winter ROA Convention, I asked LTG Helmly, then Chief of the Army Reserve, about how we would deal with casualties in this rotational caracole. He was taken aback, it appeared as if he hadn’t considered it and he gave no answer except to refer to his rotational module.

In short, the problems in the Arc of Instability require solutions of stability enhancement which, as is being taught at NTC, are eclectic, dynamic, multi-talented ad hoc forces deployed with a long term stable presence. The rotational expeditionary personnel centric modular military is none of these. Its purported magic is all smash and no grab, a whack-a-mole modality more suited to 18th Century piracy on the Main without the employee benefits at worse and 19th Century gunboat diplomacy without the diplomats at best.

Even worse, this essentially counter-productive rotational force is being rotated back to CONUS where they are too close to the flag pole and too far from the unstable. The Founders were very clear about their fear of the Man on Horseback, of a neuveau Oliver Cromwell, that the only default force guaranteed in the Constitution is the Guard as in the Second Amendment under conditions specified in Article 1, Sections 8 and 10. Given that the Founders were well aware of their own British history and through their classical education knew that the Roman Republic gained an Emperor when its citizen legions became a long serving standing military. The quintessential guru of political gamesmanship, Niccolo Machiavelli, considered a citizen force as the best and most reliable force for the state.

We are at a major crossroads in the continued existence of our republic in deciding what to do with the first even long serving standing military. To be sure, there are threats out there. Ask any soldier. But then again, soldiers, if he/she is any good will seek out and destroy our enemies unbidden. Wouldn’t be any good otherwise. As such, empires have risen and fallen to the ordinary ambitions of the ambitious warrior. The Roman Empire was built by ambitious governors and generals often without approval from the Roman Senate or Emperor. The French conquered North Africa in defiance from orders from Paris. Most of the Japanese conquest of China was in defiance of orders from commanders in the field and from Tokyo. Soldiers worthy of the name go in harms way and if no harm is available, stir some up.

Given this natural normal tendency to stir up trouble and the transformed silliness of the means devised to do that, the simplest solution to preserve the republic and the tax base is to demobilize our forces not needed overseas, and transfer the mission and equipment to the Guard and Reserves. For those overseas, they can come home with their shield or on it.

Or, one can adopt a more modest proposal that deals with Congressional revision of the promotion process, the military’s center of gravity.

1. End the Up or Out System. There is no good reason why once on reaches his or her level of competence to stay there.

2. Open the promotion system to all qualified regardless of component or service.

3. A rank or grade goes with you, regardless of service or component promotion in one is good for any other.

4. A service member may compete for positions of a lower grade with no loss of grade on retirement.

5. All service is computed in points and at 7200 points, the benefits of a twenty year full retirement are available.

6. All service in any component is by contract such as is done for enlisted personnel.

7. The President may designate service with other countries or government branches as creditable service for experience and points as authorized by the Congress.

8. The Congress will resume the practice of authorizing the creation of units and activities and personnel therein for the duration any emergency or contingency deemed of importance.

9. The federal military reserve components will contain units intended to be deployed as units and of units and other activities intended to provide trained individual replacements to the other services and components as needed.

10. No civilians will be employed in combat save as under the UCMJ and meeting minimum training standards for deployment as the military services.

11. The Total Forces in active or drill status will be maintained at a level to allow for expansion of a fully mobilized force of ten percent of the population within three years. This is the same level achieved during WW2.

In such a modest proposal, a service member can come and go when needed or as desired and in a career path suited to the individual’s and the service’s needs. This proposal, if it seems oddly familiar is the traditional method used in the Guard and Reserves for personnel management. The model for the Total Force is us. It returns to the model for raising forces used prior to the Cold War. It allows the rapid development of the forces needed from the talent available free of considerations of career paths, or promotion flow point and opportunity as forces impacting on the organization, equipment, tactics for war and combat operations.

The Rough Riders, the 1st US Volunteer Cavalry, was raised from scratch as such and certainly did well on San Juan Hill. The officer in charge of the Mulberry project for the D-Day invasion was called from civilian life and given the rank needed for the job. Most of the generals on both sides of the Civil War including graduates of the academies returned to active duty from civilian life. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more academy graduates in the Guard and Reserve anyway. Certainly the type of risk takers needed for quick decision making in murky circumstances wither on the vine in vacuous staff positions marking time for field duty. The Navy in WW2 picked sailors whose annual income exceeded $30,000 for duty in on shipboard Command Information Centers (CIC), which is similar to recent experiments in using stockbrokers as players in a certain recent major exercise.

The quandary we face in the War on Terror is that the forces needed for irregular warfare and stability operations are not those required for high tech intensive war but include talents normally found in the Guard and Reserves. The forces required for high tech intensive war can be maintained in the Guard and Reserves at one third to one sixth the cost. The kind of eclectic force needed in irregular warfare and operations should include a very professional active force of special operations troops augmented, supplemented, and complemented by specialist units and personnel from the Guard and Reserve. Otherwise, the basis for a standing military force should be the need for forces whose sustained deployment or presence is required such as sea and service overseas of duration. In this regard, it makes no sense to bring forces from bases in Asia and Europe to the US so they can be deployed more quickly to places farther away than where they were.

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