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9/22/2017 12:11:25 AM
Posted: 2/3/2006 8:56:48 AM EDT
Good piece. Enjoy.


Washington Times
February 3, 2006
Pg. 23

Bolstering The Military

By Robert Scales

Today the Quadrennial Defense Review hits the Beltway. While I don't agree with some of the provisions in the document, I was impressed with the commitment of the Defense Department to preserve substantively intact modernization of the ground services. This is a historical departure from the past when the Army and Marine Corps always arrived at the dispensing of materiel largess with hands out and expectations low.

The second most expensive program within the DoD is the Army's Future Combat System. FCS is in fact a collection of many smaller systems, ranging from light armored vehicles to aerial drones and ground robots. The entire suite of technologies is tied together with an expansive information network. While the system is complex, its purpose is fairly simple: to elevate the Army into the third dimension. Experience in Iraq and Afghanistan reinforces the truism that ground forces will never be effective against an enemy who goes to ground in distant places unless they can lighten their weapons sufficiently to reach the battlefield and stay for the longer periods demanded by unconventional wars.

The Army should be delighted. But a substantial and influential portion of the Army is not. A bit of history will explain. During the two decades between the world wars a few far-seeing admirals recognized that command of the seas would depend on the ability to command the air above the seas. Adms. Simms and Moffett fought a campaign inside the Navy and in the halls of Congress to build a fleet of large-deck aircraft carriers capable of destroying the Japanese fleet at a distance -- from the air. Before Pearl Harbor the "Battleship Barons" argued that carriers and aircraft were too vulnerable and battleships too invincible to be destroyed from the air. The Japanese would be defeated by besting them with a few more knots of speed, inches of armor and longer-ranging guns.

The Army is substantially in the same place today. A legion of battleship generals, most of them retired officers, have come out of the woodwork to proclaim that today's fleet of massive Cold War fighting vehicles are good enough. Just rearrange some of them into smaller, more agile units. Add some informational technology and, by God, what was good for Patton and Schwartzkopf will meet the needs of a 21st-century Army. Theirs is a seductive voice, particularly to a Congress that wants desperately to help an overstretched Army but is well aware of the fiscal challenges that loom just over the horizon.

The battleship generals are a dangerous lot because they are as wrong today as the battleship admirals were seven decades ago. Today's ground forces are too massive and immobile to be effective in a war against a distributed, dispersed, elusive enemy who has learned to avoid the superior killing power of American weapons by hiding in places that iron monsters cannot reach.

Today's armored forces were designed to fight on German highways and in open deserts. They cannot be transported quickly to hot spots, nor can huge tonnages demanded by these gas-guzzling behemoths be sustained without creating a logistical tail so vulnerable that it, not the fighting vehicles, becomes the object of the enemy's attention. This issue was demonstrated dramatically during a recent trip to Iraq when a general told me that he was conducting 42,700 round trips per month to supply heavy forces in Baghdad. That's simply too many targets that translate into too many needless deaths to sustain a force that's too heavy.

Battleship generals say that vehicles light enough to be transported in large numbers by Air Force aircraft are too vulnerable to stand up to enemy fire. But experience in Iraq with Stryker, an early FCS vehicle prototype, confirms that light armored vehicles are no more vulnerable and perhaps less so than Abrams tanks because they are fast and agile enough to avoid dangerous chokepoints, bridges and intersections.

The battleship generals argue that aerial maneuver would be both prohibitively expensive and unnecessary. The error of their argument was illustrated by an operational commander who described to me the tense days in March 2004 when his tank unit was dispatched south to take on the insurgent forces in Najaf.

Just outside Baghdad the enemy blew the only bridge that his tanks could cross. He said: "You know the Abrams can go 50 miles per hour. But I learned there that its velocity at a blown bridge is exactly...zero." This QDR gives the Army a chance to achieve overwhelming dominance on the ground. It will be expensive. But as one general told me last week: "Land warfare is no longer the cheap alternative." Today soldiers do virtually all of the fighting and dying in Iraq. They deserve the best tools we can give them to insure that they will prevail on all future battlefields.

Retired Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales is a former commander of the Army War College.

Link Posted: 2/3/2006 9:01:10 AM EDT
Link Posted: 2/3/2006 9:05:11 AM EDT
The FCS-LOSC is supposed, I believe to have equivalent armour ratings to the Abrams, and a better gun, while being half the weight. I've no problem with something because it's new and expensive.

Besides, I think the M1's out-of-use-date is 2037 or some such. My guess is that my entire tanking career will be on Abrams, so I'm not too worried about any perceived flaws in FCS, real or otherwise!

NTM
Link Posted: 2/3/2006 9:15:10 AM EDT
Link Posted: 2/3/2006 9:25:39 AM EDT

Originally Posted By H46Driver: Today's ground forces are too massive and immobile to be effective in a war against a distributed, dispersed, elusive enemy who has learned to avoid the superior killing power of American weapons by hiding in places that iron monsters cannot reach.
Our iron monsters can reach everywhere, given the proper ROE. "Sir, authorization to put an MPAT round into the mosque, sir?"
Link Posted: 2/3/2006 9:45:30 AM EDT
Yes, but the mistake we always seem to make is planning future wars based on how we fought the last one. The biggest lesson we SOULD have learned from Gulf War I was the importance of logistics. We seem to have forgotten most of what we learned and hed to re-learn it again in GWII.

All this theory is great if we get into another Iraqi type insurgent war. If, and it's a good future possibility, that we ever go up against China, Iran, or North Korea, we'll wish we had those big heavy tanks, artillery, and heavy divisions.

Link Posted: 2/3/2006 9:53:56 AM EDT
One of my Marine buddies thinks its a good and bad thing the Army is thinking about going lighter.

The good, we can get there quicker with large numbers, relieving others who may already be there.

The bad, the Marines generally pride themselves on being quick reaction forces and forward deployed combat ready to handle problems quickly. He thinks that the Corps will either take all of the quick jobs, or get shafted on runs.
Link Posted: 2/3/2006 11:10:17 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/3/2006 11:12:19 AM EDT by H46Driver]

Originally Posted By TRW:
Yes, but the mistake we always seem to make is planning future wars based on how we fought the last one. The biggest lesson we SOULD have learned from Gulf War I was the importance of logistics. We seem to have forgotten most of what we learned and hed to re-learn it again in GWII.

All this theory is great if we get into another Iraqi type insurgent war. If, and it's a good future possibility, that we ever go up against China, Iran, or North Korea, we'll wish we had those big heavy tanks, artillery, and heavy divisions.




I completely disagree with your analysis. Not the importance of logisitics. - the problem with the present force is that it is extremely logistics intensive and not capable of strategic maneuver. Part of the reason that the US deployed no ground forces in Kosovo was that there was no effective way to get heavy forces into theater. The roads and bridges from Albania could not stand up to the weight of M1 tanks and Bradleys. Don't get me started on the logisitics fuel tail that these forces require.

It is the folks who keep talking about "the next big war" who haven't learned the lessons of the past. Conflicts between nation-states using large uniformed armies are not the norm throughout history. If one assesses the likelihood of various conflicts, IMO the probabilities are very much stacked towards "small wars", counter-insurgency, and other low intensity conflicts. The GWOT will most likely last for a generation or more.

The country can mitigate risk by maintaining a cadre of conventionally aligned heavy forces, but the risk of not transforming is far greater. In the words of a much smarter man than I, "if you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less".
Link Posted: 2/3/2006 11:20:56 AM EDT
Actually, General Scales appears to be the one fighting the last war. He is planning to fight the current small-scale war that we have today which, by the time the new systems are introduced, will be the "last war."

I have a problem with a military doctrine that focuses solely on these "small groups of people." We won't be fighting this type of war forever. We need a forced designed to take on the whole range of threats we will be facing in the future, from the Chinese all the way down the scale to the small groups of terrorists. As such, we will still need both heavy and light forces in the future.

Link Posted: 2/3/2006 11:41:34 AM EDT
I think that most of the senior brass don't get it. Our army is still configured for the cold war, not counter insurgency, the most likely type of war the US is going to be fighting. If the army senior leadership could be transported back in time to Northern Ireland during the troubles, or Rhodesia when it was still Rhodesia, maybe they could learn some lessons about what equipment to buy for the next conflict.
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