Friday, June 27, 2008

Impromptu Force Generaton

Those of us familiar with career management within the military likely know of the step stone ladder of promotion showing a progression of assignments and schooling leading up through company and field promotions. Career managers and personnel gurus delight in pointing out to the assembled postulates the predictability of challenges leading to the A-Ring, and the prospects of competition for flag rank. This ladder typically shows where the postulant commands a company, serves on battalion staff, goes to professional schools, and if lucky commands a battalion and serves on high level staff.

Likely the career progression indicates the requirement to go to sea, serve overseas, or even have a tour in combat, or service in some godforsaken clot of dirt on the ramparts of freedom. And we take for granted, this programmed climb to fame and fortune.

The natural extension of this concept is an underlying factor in Transformation, that of providing a predictable platform for progression upon which the postulant includes service on the ramparts and, at the same time, provide this predictability for family life. The All Volunteer military is a married force, and the rotation of assignments now is linked to the progression of units in harms way.

Thus we now are familiar with the terms “dwell time”, “rotation”, and “reset” in the process of force generation. The Army calls it ARFORGEN, the Army Force Generation model. And to make it work, Army tactical organizations have modularized into chunks that are intended to optimize personnel progression of assignments, schooling, promotions, and deployment. Likewise the Navy and Air Force clump units into “expeditionary” task organizations to attempt the same.

The underlying assumption is that threats to national purpose will also be made to mesh with the needs of promotion, stateside assignment, and command tours in field conditions. In order to make things fit, the enemy must be programmable and predictable to serve the needs of promotion timing and opportunity.

It must be extremely annoying to personnel planners that the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and others of the same bloody ilk, do not mesh their terror campaigns with the needs of career progression. And we hear today much wailing and gnashing of teeth about the services being stretched, and of the paucity of Captains in the Army, a condition which precluded 9-11.

Ordained theoreticians of the Order of the A-Ring call this concept, “capabilities based” planning to replace the old, outmoded, Cold War paradigm of “threat based” planning, that is, planning force development in terms of Mission, Enemy, Terrain, Troops Available, Time and Civilian considerations (METT-TC).

The tension between capabilities and threat based planning in the War on Terror has some interesting trade-offs: the creation of a well trained, combat hardened, and experienced force at the expense of a decisive victory in Iraq and Afghanistan. The positive side effect of rotational capabilities based operations has been to build a generation of superbly qualified junior and mid rank officers and noncoms with the know how to know how to fight an extremely complex form of military operations, that of counterinsurgency and stability operations.

It is of considerable interest that the revolution in military doctrine has come from the training and education establishment, which in the Army is the Combined Arms Center at Ft Leavenworth. Therein lies the roots of tragedy. Ft Leavenworth is not the Pentagon, and the various factions within the Pentagon which formulated capabilities based planning are still there, and likely are either frustrated or fuming over the loss of control over the future mind set of the Army and likely the Marine Corps to forces beyond the E-Ring.

The failed attempt by the Pentagon to move General Petraeus from Iraq to Germany is an example of the sense of desperation within the Pentagon. The ascension of Secretary of Defense Gates to the central sanctum of the Puzzle Palace is a clear indication that the President has lost faith in the capabilities based paradigm which has gutted his efforts in the Middle East, and which has generated a groundswell of discontent and loss of confidence in the American electorate in national leadership not seen since the Sixties.

Unlike the Sixties, and as a result of the Abrams doctrine that one should never go to war without the Guard and ReServes which brought the hearts and minds of the American electorate in support of our troops. This is in sharp contrast with the contempt that was expressed against the veterans of the Lifer-Draftee Army of Vietnam. It is fortunate that the combat effectiveness of the Citizen-Warrior is now accepted by the Fair Haired and /Full Time warrior.

Perhaps it is time to implement a force generation model that is matches capabilities to threats, instead of the other way around.

Some basic principles:

Murphy’s Law is the first law of war. Traditional task organization for ground warfare calls for “two up, one back”. That refers to the default assumption that one third of one’s ground power be held back for contingencies, the kind at which Murphy excels in. The composition of forces forward is based on the best guess at what will needed up front. The underlying assumption for this task organization is that the one thing that is predictable is change.

Force development at the strategic level must also plan for Murphy’s Law, for uncertainty and change. This is at the root of the “Full Spectrum” doctrine emerging now and in play in combat. A Full Spectrum force development and personnel strategy calls for a dynamic and eclectic mechanism for keeping reserves in depth for skill sets and units that focuses on full time forces keyed to full time threats, and reserve forces stepped in order of the best estimates of Muphy’s antics.

Full time force planning must include provision of forces of a type and number not anticipated by the best of planning. The extraordinary ability of the our training base and of our troops to change radically to match the needs of fighting in the Middle East is remarkable, and shows that such changes should be made an expectation of all forces in times of relative peace. This isn’t all that new an idea. We took cavalry off of horses and into tanks, and infantry into planes and gliders in two years between the initial mobilization of the Armed Forces in 1940 and their deployment in 1942.

The 1st US Volunteer Cavalry AKA “the Rough Riders” was made up of cowboys and polo players by Teddy Roosevelt to adapt the capabilities he knew to the war at hand. Likewise, individuals in the Civil War raised units of unique qualities, given the charter to do so. The existence of private military companies like Blackwater shows that exotic and highly qualified units and troops can be stomped out of the populace at hand without the need for elaborate career stepping stones.

The capability of impromptu force generation can be made into law by the Congress, and should be brought to the attention of the new Congress and new Adminstration.

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