Monday, January 7, 2008

The Operational Artless

The shift in using the Guard and Reserves from a strategic reserve to an operational reserve suggests that the Guard and Reserves (RC) will operate without a strategy. It begs the question as to what exactly are meanings of strategy and operations mean, at least to the Pentagon.

In the halcyon days of wars between nations, where politics and warfare were considered to follow one after the other, there was an implied hierarchy between tactics and strategy with something called the “operational level” of warfare. This latter was made popular during the era of “AirLand Battle” which emphasized the movement of large units on a grand scale. It raised the view of battle from taking the next hill to doing what comes after. Jackson’s Valley campaign, the 1940 invasion of France, Patton’s breakout from Normandy and the maneuvers of Napoleon were classic examples of bold maneuver and the Invasion of Iraq in 2003 is the best example of the operational art.

Understood in this paradigm is the notion that strategy dictates the operational art which, in turn, dictates the tactics and techniques use at the cutting edge of the force. In this paradigm, the guns move first in tactics, while trucks (ammo and fuel) move first in the operational art as in the “Hail Mary” of Desert Storm. As used, the operational art was centered on the movement of divisions within a corps, and on corps operations itself. Under the Abrams Doctrine, the bulk of the “trucks” and a good slice of the big guns were in the RC, and as an unintended consequence, the expertise of the operational art shifted to the RC, leaving the Active Army the run of the tactical level, and little sense of how and where the ammo, gas, repairs, and trucks were coming from.

This begs the question of the meaning of a shift from strategic to operational levels as the strategy for war included both operational and tactical operations and organization. As Transformation has sunk it’s claws into the military, operations have, until FM 3-24 was published consisted of rotations of units from Festung Kansas to the Eastern Front, and back without regard to any scheme of maneuver as any decent example of the operational art or strategy would have.

The establishment of modular support brigades for the Army Reserve fits the overall notion of “plug and play” but this concept that logistics isn’t modular, but systems and functionally organized and vertically oriented such as the flow of gas, ammo, repairs, and transportation. Putting a support brigade in a divisional task force doesn’t deal with anything until linked to a chain going all the way back to depots, arsenals and factories.

Under Army doctrine from WW2 until now, ammo was delivered from containers stateside to a Corps Ammunition Supply Point (ASP) where it was loaded on trucks (or trailers) for delivery to the guns. It was called throughput. The default rate of delivery was ten tons of ammo per gun per day.

Trucks hauling ammo require fuel and repairs enroute. The roads they need, need to be built and maintained, and traffic control exercised. Movement Control Centers (MCC) and Material Management Centers (MMC) coordinated the effort from rear to front. Rear Operations Centers (RAOC) managed the security of the routes along with Military Police Brigades. Early reports from Iraq suggested that little management or movement or materials were in effect as contractors unfamiliar with the totality of combat service support replaced the trained RC structure.

It might be useful to note that, hierarchically speaking, strategy dictates the operational level of war which in turn dictates the tactical level. Shifting the RC from “strategic” to “operational” has meant operating without a strategy.

There is a powerful and long standing offensive being waged from within the Pentagon to complete the process of modularization, so long standing that it has been several complete rotations of senior military officers and of political appointees through the Pentagon. This suggests that the force behind Transformation is civil service and/or industry oriented.

The Air Force and Navy is being subjected to policies focused on personnel that are consistent with the Army’s. The effects appear to be the same on the support structures of those services. The operational art without the art.


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