Friday, January 21, 2011

The Shapes of Things to Come

The Shape of Things to Come Always is an illusion at best. Some get parts of it right, some miss it completely, and forever, and some are in the right spot at the right time. Innovation cannot be institutionalized, and where it is, is a booby hatch, This particularly applies to the profession at arms where the life of the state can be decided on whim, whimsy, and wishful thinking. I refer to our booby hatch, known as the Pentagon as it is walled off from reality by pipe dream and Byzantine intrigue,

It’s not that our Pentagon is particularly venal or stupid, it’s that no ones Pentagon is that smart. The correlation of factors of mission, enemy, terrain, troops available, technology, time and culture between multiple players is far too complex and shifting with technological tides to be all that predictable. Yet, there are constants in the continuum of war by other means that go to the hearts, minds, body and terrain that demand that understand, from the outset, the secrets of Hannibal, Napoleon, Robert E Lee, Abraham Lincoln, Adolf Hitloer, and others whose foot prints sink deep in the shape of things that are.

Consider the “Light Fantastic” concept of battle in which heavily armed wonder weapons cut, slash and run faster than the enemy could bring fires to bear. Thus British “battle cruisers” intended to hunt cruisers were used in the battle line at Jutland in WW1 and the HMS Hood against the Battleship Bismarck in WW2. They blew up.
Consider the US Army Air Force’s justification of the B-17 as the perfect battleship sinker in order to win the budget wars. No battleship was ever sunk by the B-17, but bigger targets like cities were flattened with no particular impact on enemy war production and the cost of a third of the air crews.

The Defense Department specifically forbad the Army to have helicopter gunships until the AH-1 Cobra was fielded behind their backs as a UH-1 modification, which itself was a modification of a Medical Corps requirement for an evacuation helicopter. Another ambulance modification is the M113, now the most ubiquitous armored personnel carrier in the world.

Our Pentagon has latched onto a particularly flawed concept of the continuation of politics aby other means, principally that one ends and the other picks up instead of the other way around, that politics is war continued by other means. The misnomer COIN (Counter Insurgency Operations) used in Afghanistan misses the essential point that iSAF is the insurgent trying to foist a foreign misdeology on an ancient culture that has it’s own ways of doing things. The older concept of “stability operations” focuses not only on the stable not the unstable. Stability operations only work when the locals fall in line without the omniscient presence of greater firepower.

Mrs Clausewitz edited and published her husband’s personal blog, after his death in a pompous tome that lacks the sharp professional snap of General Clausewitz’s other publications. The most illusory item taken out of context is the concept of a “Center of Gravity” which is the center of malevolent attention. World War 1 was fought over entrenched centers of gravity, the collapse of which left the combatants permanently drained of their precious bodily fluids.

Today’s Centers of Gravity are firmly founded in PowerPoint presentations, particularly with interactive links to animated avatars. The Briefing Wars contend with Back Room Bargains by brokers of power often too ugly to prance and preen in front of the screen. Such is the fate of collective debate, be it corporate, Parliament, Palace, or Princely Court. The fate of this nation now is more dependent upon courtly demeanor than the Congressional exercise of Specified Powers as written in Article 1, Section 8 of our Constitution.

Warriors wince at the mere mention of Congressional “oversight” of professional operations, but Congress has the specified (exclusive) powers to shape the force. Yet the constancy of error and arrogance in the Pentagon is of a durability that exceeds to duration of rotation of flag ranks and field. Or, the limited impact of the appointed anointed of political party, It is not in our Constitution that career Civil Servants be the superior civilian in charge of military affairs. There is no reason why our military be administered by corporate wonders and whiz kids with the administration of sharp objects that go boom in the night.

Our Founders did not envision a large long serving professional military force as the minions of defense. In fact, they were quite specific in allocating powers that made a large standing force temporary. The default defense of the US is the National Guard (Air and Army) and a Federal Navy. States are prohibited in keeping standing forces or ships of war in time of peace, save in times of invasion and disorder. The onset of the Cold War demanded a larger standing force that was customary, and a large temporary force including the Army of the Untied States, faced off against the Evil Empires of the Red Flag. In the mid Sixties a plan was hatched to purge the ranks of those pesky long term professionals of uncertain certification (reservists) and restore the Nineteenth Century paradigm of a separation of components on the battlefield.

The Vietnam War stalled the onset of the purge until post war force reduction provided a cover for the purge, which took place in 194-76. Since the purge of professionals in their second decade of service went down, there has been a critical shortage of Captains (O-3) for the last thirty years. The current solution to the Captain shortage has been to reduce the ration between Colonel and Captain by reducing the numbers of battalions per Colonel. Modularization as its basest.
And the future of the national defense is now spoken of by the anointed is focused on the shape of “the officer corps” which means the regular officer corps as if were vested by God the saviors of the American state. This is a very normal occurrence in other nations such as Argentina, Turkey, China, Prussia, and Tsarist Russia. It’s human nature, but a nature which doesn’t always work out, and is not in our Constitutional sytem.

Nor is it in the best interests of our foreign policy. It is a bit sad to see our prancing purveyors of princely advice to foreign powers, such as I have seen in my own tired eyes in Europe and South America of the wonderfulness of power projection by expeditionary expedience. Little do these clowns realize that these words are evocative of Pax Britannica, the Glory of France, and what these misinformed souls see as American Imperialism. Absent the Red Menace, is it any wonder that our former allies are forming different constellations of power that gives them more control over their own fate, without Pentagon and Foggy Bottom meddling.
We need to reverse the imbalance of full time career and the citizen professional to the latter, keeping on full time service those forces specifically required to extant threats from outside CONUS, and restore an integrated structure of follow on and mobilization forces based on the Guard and Reserves. The basic plan is one leading to full mobilization, and the determination of which parts need to be full time, part time, half time, and stomped out of the ground. In this regard the planning is more important that the plan. Any forces allocated in whatever mix, should have plans in hand, plans on the shelf, and plans on the drawing table.
If necessary, a dart board should be used to determine the combinations of threats and forces for a given set of parameters. Battles are won by those who can react to a totally unique set of circumstances with forces able to adapt as quickly. Think of Task Force Taffy Three in the Battles off Samar in 1944. Think of Patton’s Third Army at the Battle of the Bulge. Think of the Berlin Airlift, put together on the fly by Curtis Lemay.

The present task organization of rotational expeditionary forces supported by contractors and civil servants isn’t suitable for any kind of operation. The successes of our troops today is in spite of “transformation”, not because of it.

Gordon S Fowkes

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Replace the SES with a New General Staff Corps

Replacing the Senior Executive Service with a Military General Staff Corps.

Have you heard the one about the war in Afghanistan is cutting into the time needed to train for a big war? That’s a popular refrain from the opponents of actually winning the war in Afghanistan. Not that these worthies are in favor of a defeat, which is something they can define out of existence, but fearful of actually winning. For winning wars is not in the long term vested interests of a long service professional service or profession. Big wars have been dismissed as not in the vision for the future. Congress might get the wrong notion that a long service professional service might not be needed.

If crime could be prevented, then there would be no need for SWAT teams, SCI labs, or undercover narcs. Mental health professionals would go out of business if patients actually got well. Lawyers insist on maintaining a death grip on law and order with the inane blather that one cannot take the law into one’s own hands. Restoration of dueling would cut billions in trial and incarceration costs, with a profit to the public coming from the Entertainment Division of your local law enforcement agency.

9/11 was the signal for a coup d’├ętat in the Pentagon which rushed to rebuild the military establishment while engaged in battle to “transform” the military from a “battle ready” force into a “battle hardened” force as stated in the now infamous QDR 2006. The battle proven field tactical organization of Theater, Field Army, Corps, and Division was disassembled. The end product was a modular maneuver brigade barely half the size of the average divisional brigade consisting of two maneuver elements. The Support and Artillery Commands of Division, Corps, and Field Army were dissolved to allow the addition of command and field grade staff officers from the Combat Arms.

Were it not for the fact that the extant General Officer Corps has some vestige of prestige to salvage many of their commands to be used as a matter of convenience to manage the battle here and there. While General Dempsey is aware of the fact that there is a real need for armies, corps, and divisions, the Pentagon is bound to keep the General Officer Corps at bay.

Since WW 1 experiences were documented in our field manuals, also known as Field Service Regulations, the doctrine was a single body of tactics, procedures, practices, principles, and policy for the care, feeding, and deployment of field forces, and of those forces that support them. The organization and principles of task organization and deployment was a body of skills, knowledge, and attitudes needed for victory in the field. This body of knowledge was under constant revision, and the politics that went into changing it was the stuff of constant competition within and between the services. That body of doctrine for the operational and strategic levels of war has dissolved into remnants here, and memories there.

Absent the well tested and war winning structure, the US Army is not likely to be ready to fight a really big war for less than three years, once a serious effort is launched. Or longer, because the chaos of today’s task organization has to be undone, and mighty organizations rebuilt. Three years is wishful thinking based on the experiences of WW1 and WW2. In both cases massive casualties had to take place to gain sufficient command interest in fighting the way in front rather than the politics in the rear. Few want to recall that the largest US Army organized combat force was in the Philippines in December 1941, or the fact that they were overrun on Bataan and Corregidor by a vastly inferior force of Japanese troops. Nor should we forget the time it took for combat hardened divisions from WW2 to dissolve into ineffectiveness before the North Korean Army in obsolete T-34 tanks nearly smashed their way to Pusan. We had to learn the hard way, again, to begin to cope with the Viet Cong whose courage and utter determination to defeat us kept then VC to continue to attack, attack, and attack regardless of loss or troops, material, and terra firma.

It is difficult to measure the smug factor of the brains in the Pentagon, until one realizes that the Pentagon isn’t run by those in uniform or those appointed by the Commander in Chief. By following the buzz words associated with Evil Transformation one follows them back to the Fifties and the Pentomic Division which had five Battle Groups of five infantry companies to fight the highly mobile and open battle field of the radioactively induced image of atomic warfare.

The Battle Group was commanded by the Colonel with companies commanded by captains; there was one slot for a Lt Col, That was bad news for field grades and had to go, and it was replaced by the ROAD division which was modeled after the Armor Division that had three O-6 “Combat Commands” aka brigades. The reduction of the five Battle Groups into three brigades cost the infantry two O-6 commands per division. Transformation restores the balance by eliminating Divarty and Discom O-5 commands and making them mini-maneuver brigades.

Thus the dissolution of combat task organizations and the doctrine pertaining thereto was and is driven by personnel management concerns. Virtually the entire Combat Service Support (CSS) has been dissolved and replaced by Civil Service and their slave labor force, the contractors. Even the term is banished. I have a little difficulty in visualizing a civilianized beach head like at Normandy, Inchon, Saipan, Tarawa, or Okinawa. But that is what the Senior Executive Service (SeS) is doing. They have co-opted the role of the (German) General Staff in mufti.

Ninety percent of the troops in the Pacific were in the logistic tail, eighty percent in Europe. And that doesn’t include the third of the US Army that was in the US Army Service Forces (ASF) equal to the Army Ground Forces (AGF) and Army Air Forces (USAAF). And we didn’t have to pay the Taliban to have our supplies delivered. The supplies also didn’t include pre-fab bunkers and burger joints.

The good news that there is the human capital to build anew a proper task oriented flexible organization on combat proven organizational principles. The effect of the revolution in information technologies will reduce the size if not the need for the Pentagon which should be mustered out immediately.

While the fact of a General Staff is in place, it does not include the same carefully educated, trained, and experienced in operations. They just have time in grade, and are permanently assigned in a position to negate any hot shot who thinks he can change the shape of water in a bucket with quick hands. We need to have a General Staff something like the Germans had before that unfortunate affair with that Bohemian corporal. Qualification as a General Staff officer should go with the officer and not tied to the position. Competition for accession to General Staff should be continuous through an officer’s career.

Command of field units in the German Army did not automatically go to General Staff Officers. Command and Staff often call for different personalities. As a branch, the Guard and Reserves will be required to maintain sufficient GS qualified personnel in the event of full mobilization. Full mobilization means a ten to twenty percent increase in the size of any service. WW 2 sets ten percent of total population as an average level of full mobilization with a corresponding war industry base of five times the size of the forces.

There has been an unfortunate aftertaste in Western filmography that associates German military science as robotic of which much fun is made. The prototype was the portrayal of a German officer by Erich von Stroheim, an Austrian of no great lineage in his films. So enamored of the efficiency of the German Army in WW2, that arrogant strutting image has survived in the American military as strut of emulation believing that absolute adherence to detail is worthy in it’s own way. The German military then and now stresses individual initiative, mission type orders, and professionalism. We threw the baby out, but kept the dirty bath water, to revise an old saying.

The Pentagon has repeatedly demonstrated its inability and reluctance to take full mobilization any higher than the next promotion boards for the current crop of O3’s through O-6. When President Carter took office, he found that GSA Region III had the national responsibility for manpower, resources. Transportation, and defense industry. He followed with a series of “Nifty Nugget” mobilization exercises which resulted in the present state of mobilization readiness that includes the local Armory or Reserve Center. The Pentagon should be torn down and the space used to expand the National Cemetery to make room for the next round of dead from our battlefields.

OBTW; There is no Constitutional principle of “civilian control of the military”. The President’s military rank is that of Commander in Chief. He is no civilian. Congress is the source of authority for issues of doctrine, equipping, and staffing, but has pointedly stayed unaware of their primary responsibilities. It is the Congress that these changes can be made.



Gordon S Fowkes

Lt Col, US Army (Ret_