Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Shaft to Come

The future of the war in the Muddle East has been decided. We are not only pulling out, we are downsizing the Army by at least a third. The decision has been made, and implementation has commenced, as announced by the Pentagon to cut officer accessions by half through ROTC and OCS. The Pentagon does not want to be caught with it’s pants down by having more junior officers than the attenuated post conflict military establishment can handle.

The groundwork for this drawdown was anticipated a decade ago with the clear and present danger that Army Guard and Army Reserve units would displace the peacetime civilian logistics and personnel empire built by the careful transfer of a wartime logistics structure to the Guard and Reserve after Vietnam

The side effects of “The Warrior Ethic” eroticism used to paint anyone not directly involved with small arms something less erotic than “Warrior”. Since the Field Artillery kills large numbers from a distance greater than direct fire weapons, the erotic status of the Cannon Cocker was downplayed and the ration of gunner to grunt was cut in half. Thus, should the Army have to face another People’s Army, the gunners won’t be there to blow them away. God help us if we face an army with big guns.

The downsizing of the Artillery also reduced the logistic foot print of an Army in the field with corresponding cuts in expenditures for ammunition that now can be spent on comfort contractors and hamburgers. The cost (MPA, O&MA, and PEMA
Secondary) of a Vietnam combat division was about one billion dollars (Nixon-Ford) plus or minus half a billion depending on how much ordnance was expended. I was the XO of the US Army Field Operating Cost Agency, Comptroller of the Army during their study of this.

Planning factors for the kinds of war we fought in both world wars, Korea, and Vietnam called for an average expenditure of ten tons of ammo per artillery piece per day. That works out to one ten ton truck trailer combo on the road per day per gun. The entire field logistics structure was built around the effort to move artillery ammo.

Well, say the petulant pundit, our guns are more accurate than those old messy guns and we don’t have to shoot so many shells anymore. And, since artillery is so inaccurate, they can’t be used in counter insurgency. Huh? If we don’t need so many shells per target, why not increase the targets per guns? Of more often?

Napoleon once said that a soldier marches on it’s stomach. Someone else said that amateurs talk about tactics, professionals talk logistics. Today’s stomach is run by contractors eighty percent of whom are local nationals according to a CRS recent report, most of which support is base operations.

The Soviet Combined Arms Army was 100% truck or track mobile. The counterpart US Corps were about thirty percent wheel/track mobile. Now we don’t have corps support commands where soldiers control their own logistics. Now we don’t teach logistics to soldiers, we teach contract management.

What would the contract Army have looked like in the withdrawal from Chosin, or the breakout from Normandy, or the Normandy across the beach logistics. What would the battles of the South Pacific looked like with Brute and Scoot in charge.

The shape of things to come in the Post Terror War military establishment is before us. The shredding of the Division, Corps and Field Army structures to be replaced by the Senior Executive Service (SES – the old GS 15+) raises the question as to whether we need flag rank officers at all.

Why spend billions grooming field grade officers though schooling and assignment manipulation if they have no real role in war fighting? Or maybe we ought to take a serious look at letting tenured weasels manipulate war for job security.

Gordon S Fowkes

Lt Col, US Army (Ret)