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’état 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_