Sunday, December 21, 2008

FM 7-0 Half Fish Half Fowl

The latest Field Manual on Army training, FM 7-0, is just out and represents a decisively equivocal stance between the Rumsfeldian Modular Rotational Expeditionary quick fix style of war and training versus a training system based on traditional factors of mission planning (METT-TC), concurrent multi-echelon training for a period of persistent conflict.

The good news is that the naming conventions of Transformational units (Unit of Action, etc) are scrubbed in favor of the traditional which has evolved under the pressures of wildly changing technological and operational environments for several centuries. Battalions, brigades, divisions and corps stay on.

Likewise, the good news is that training for Full Spectrum operations now requires training for stability operations as well as for defense and offense. The balance between the three depends on the situation for each unit.

More good news is that the company commander and the non commissioned officers are placed firmly in control of the training of their troops with a clear statement that the latter train the troops and officers train the unit as a whole. The Cold War paradigm had officers override and bypass the non commissioned officer corps.

The bad news is the retention of the force structure of rotational, modular, expeditionary force based in the States to be able to react quicker to foreign contingencies from Kansas than could be done from Germany or other forward bases. Likewise, brigades are seen as inherently more flexible than forces generated by task organization with a wider choice of units as has been done since before 1776.

More bad news is that ARFORGEN (Army Force Generation) based on the building block approach to training that failed to match the high order of training produced by the Battalion Training Management System (BTMS). BTMS gave the battalion commander the decisive and final say on training, a stance that was, however logical, was unwise as it cut out the rating and endorsing officers.

The building block approach of ARFORGEN not only cuts the battalion commander but the company commander from direct management of the training of their own troops. ARFORGEN also is based on a precise prediction of the conditions of METT-TC of a contingency several years in advance. This is also a direct conflict with the directives of the manual itself. The front end of the manual requires that the chain of command drive training, while ARFORGEN does not.

So far, I know of no study that proves or even illustrates the assertion that Modular Brigades are inherently more flexible or effective than a modernized traditional structure. Nor do I know of a study that explains how rotating whole brigades in a stability operation achieve the necessary unity of effort to overcome conditions and enemies that don’t rotate any further than the local mountain or forest hiding places.

Each brigade rotation gave our enemies a new lease on life during the time it took the new guys to get up to speed. This was particularly true for the first three years of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It took almost four years to get with the program, four years longer than WW2 but just as long as it took in Vietnam.

Rotations make sense for personnel reasons. Unit rotation preserves the cohesion of the primary group (the company or section) upon which combat survival depends. In no other war has the morale of our troops been tested for so long. The tricky part is figuring out how to maintain unity of effort on the battlefield over time and space. It won’t be easy.

Career management during Vietnam included the three “C” for young officers: Combat, Career Course, and Command. The current policies of the Pentagon is the match this same type of individual rotation in concert with unit rotations to match a kaleidoscope of missions, enemies, terrain, time, troops available, and civil considerations. Nice trick if your crystal ball works.