Hotrod Speaks (on the Draft, etc.)

Hotrod Hotrod is a self described National Guard soldier.   I will say the following to him (her or it),  You win the prize.  (so far)  This is great stuff.  Someone else has remembered that MacGragor was mentioned in depatches by Ricks or Gordon as having recommended an invasion with a few hundred armored vehicles.   Seems like we should be humming a few bars of the "Panzer Lied" at the thought.  pl


"MacGregor seems like a smart guy. I read Breaking the Phalanx, and have the other one sitting on a shelf somewhere waiting. That said, I never quite know what to make of him. One second he’ll be pushing some really clever idea re reorging the brigade into battlegroups, then the next he’s being used by Rumsfeld\Gingrich (an anecdote from either Fiasco or Cobra II) to justify a small force in Iraq. I’m not insisting that he pigeonhole himself – but I’m not sure he’s good at consistently advocating his views. FCS – as a junior, reserve component officer, I’m not particularly experienced on the military side of the house – but on the civilian side I’m a pretty good, pretty experienced, technology guy. The following is sometimes hard to communicate, but I feel like I need to try, so here I go – It would be difficult to overstate how much the pitch for FCS sounds and smells like the pitch for a large scale, massively complex software implementation (think ERP) that everyone knows is doomed to failure, but for different reasons (to different people), won’t be cancelled until it absolutely blows up in everybody’s face. – The Army is honorably concerned about recapitalizing the force, and somewhat less honorably concerned about keeping it’s slice of the pie. So the Army came up with ideas it couldn’t implement, manage, or even fully understand, and they hired Boeing. Boeing has done it’s part for the shareholders and the triangle. Congress will eventually pull the plug, though probably in the form of a restructuring – and everyone got rich in the meantime. The shame of it is – the Army went for the Air Force school of procurement, "system of systems" instead of incremental ideas that help troopers and commanders at every level. They did the incremental thing too – but hastily, tacked on, and thrown in downrange. FCS has a lot of really clever, doable individual ideas – but Big Army insists that it adds up to some sort of video game vision of warfare.

Let me be clear – I’m not "in the know". I’m not privy to anything classified re the project – but I’ve been convinced for a long time that I don’t need to be. The "vision" of FCS depends not on incremental improvements in command and control, but on a level of situational awareness that is fundamentally unachievable in the fog of war. COL (then LTC) McMaster described this better than I ever could in "CRACK IN THE FOUNDATION: Defense Transformation and the Underlying Assumption of Dominant Knowledge in Future War". But even if I’m wrong about the big, Clausewitzian issues – FCS still depends on what amounts to, in my mind, a bunch of lightly armored ground versions of JSTARS or AWACS – in the mud, commanded by an exhausted 25 yr old E6, PMCSd by a scared, tired, hungry 19 year old E3. The one potentially saving grace – FCS has been so poorly defined and described that it would be easier to shift fire towards those incremental improvements and away from the boondoggle than it might be in another project. Rebel07 – I’ve never really liked the "war of choice\necessity" formulation, but even if I accept it – Afghanistan was a war of choice? Really? Regarding 4GW – I’m not a huge fan of Lind, though I find him interesting on a reasonably consistent basis. That said, I’ve never understood why people get quite so worked up one way or another about the whole concept. Look at it this way – it’s an intellectual construct, the same as "bipolar world" – an imperfect term used to describe the Cold War. I still remember my post cold war poli sci texts twisting themselves into knots trying to reinvent "bipolar" as "multipolar" or "unipolar multi-variant" or whatever. An intellectual construct is useful as long as it clarifies more than it distorts, and the "4GW" description of non-state actors and forces becoming more consequential strikes me as somewhat clarifying, though probably less so than "bipolar world". If you disagree – don’t use it. "Insurgency" or "Population Centric" works also. I will say that Lind tends to discount analysis that runs contrary to the concept, but he’s hardly the only one guilty of that sin. Re: Future Threats – it’s well and good to talk about saving the Army for the big one – massive state on state conflict – but does it really seem that likely – especially now? COL Henry Foresman, a product of a undergraduate education that was as equally flawed as COL Lang’s and my own, makes the point that, to paraphrase, the Army has spent 80% of it’s existance fighting small wars, rather than big ones. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t hedge our bets, and training for the "graduate school of warfare" implies picking up a Bachelors somewhere along the way. But it strikes me that it’s more likely that we could build a force that could do both than we could magically recover the mindset and training five, ten years down the line. The Brits and Marines seem okay at it, though probably not as good as they think they are. And to everyone that thinks that some sort of neo-isolationism will keep us out of trouble – you don’t have to think that Iraq was a great idea to realize that we tend to stumble into\onto these situations. Somalia and Afghanistan weren’t planned, and I doubt Darfur\Pakistan\Nigeria\Cuba, or wherever else will be either. No, I don’t want to invade any of those places – but the time is going to come that both sides of the aisle think that some sort of intervention is a great idea – then what? COL Lang and Publius touch on a good point – a soldier, particularly an active duty one, doesn’t really have much of a life anymore – at least not in the sense of get up, go to work, come home, spend time with the wife and\or kids, go to bed, repeat year after year, with PT and the occasional NTC rotation thrown in. Divorce is up, retention is down. What that changes the Army into – I don’t know. Most here will be unsurprised to hear that Joe and Jane Snuffy didn’t magically turn into alter-boys and girls during the 80s. I’m Baptist, and was raised in a very conservative evangelical church. I’m always a little amused to hear someone from the church idealize a trooper, who’s probably at home on Sunday, in bed, likely not alone, nursing a hangover. In the near term – Unless that trooper gets a DUI, behaves recklessly, hurts someone, does something to jeopardize a clearance, etc, no one is likely to mess with him. Now there is a little bit of a zero defects mentality, and stuff makes its way onto paper faster than it used to – but I’m not sure that means the Army is a hotbed of Puritanism. With all that – what does the Army become when most everyone has a social life straight out of a John Ford mov ie – ask me when I’m smarter. CWZ, I understand you’re trying to make a point, but the formulation of "send draftees to war while the reserves stay home" has been tried – I’m told it didn’t go so well. I personally think the "operational reserve" mode is preferable to the deep, profoundly unready, "strategic reserve" model. It’s not really new – mobilizations were up all through the 90s for the Balkans, and the Air Guard has been active for a long time running. Iraq could end today (it won’t), and you’d still need the reserve component to support Afghanistan, Dijibouti, and lots of other places. Oh, you wouldn’t need the manuever brigades, and the mobilizations would come down – but they wouldn’t stop. I’m biased – I’m a reserve component soldier, and though I don’t have a burning desire to get shot at, I wouldn’t have joined a force of sandbag fillers either. The Guard and Reserve do have some work to do – but for what my anecdotal experience is worth – the National Guard I serve in today has nothing in common with the Guard I joined a few years ago. Professionalism, competance, and all around seriousness are heads and shoulders above what they were. If anyone formed an opinion of the Guard back in, say, the 80s or early 90s, you’re welcome to visit. It’s not perfect – a Guard\Reserve unit will never be as good at, for example, brigade (even batt) level maneuver, complex logistics, etc etc etc. They can’t be, irrespective of professionalism, given the time issue, and professional schooling will always be tough. But in a small unit war, Big Army needs the numbers, and to a lesser degree, the civilian skills, of the Guard. If you’d rather draft guys, CWZ, well by all means – shout it from the rooftops."  Hotrod

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17 Responses to Hotrod Speaks (on the Draft, etc.)

  1. Larry K says:

    Hotrod: People like you and Col. Lang make this a remarkable place — not only because of the reality-tested clarity of your thought but also because that clarity makes it much easier for people like me to recognize when self-serving b.s. is masquerading as logical-clever necessity, “anyone can see it” common sense, brilliant “transformative” innovation, etc. Many thanks.

  2. Cold War Zoomie says:

    Who can argue with that?
    I have no real argument for reinstituting the draft. It’s based entirely on emotional frustration at our current predicament, and the hope that forcing everyone to sacrifice *something* will inject some sanity into our political system. History is most likely not on my side.
    One of the most important lessons I’ve learned here at SST is that there are two militaries much more so than I realized – the front line and the rear. Although I’ve been working in DOD as active duty, civilian and contractor for over 12 out of my 20 years in the workforce, I’m still mostly clueless about what the “warfighters” are doing out front. I know their comms systems. I know how they connect to our strategic networks. I help engineer and keep those strategic networks up and running. But the day-to-day operations out front are a mystery. If it’s a mystery to folks like me, then it has to really be a mystery to those who have never been inside.
    Maybe the system is too big to manage. It’s grown beyond human control. It’s so huge that people only concentrate on their small slice. And having a draft would just make it even bigger and harder to manage.
    I don’t know. That’s why I’m here reading everyone’s thoughts every day that I can.
    News from a former coworker now in the bowels of FCS at Booze Allen isn’t too encouraging other than there’s lots of money being thrown around. Hotrod is most likely right – it will die a slow death and morph into something else.
    The transition will never end.
    Long live Net-Centricity!

  3. Cold War Zoomie says:

    BTW – I forgot to add last night. I don’t think the NG and Reserves should stay home because they can’t handle the job. Rather, it’s because of my affinity for tradition – they were the local militias. Communities are sacrificing quite a lot to have their NG and Reserve units deployed so much.
    It’s not fair.

  4. Donovan says:

    Federalize Blackwater USA, and give them soldiers pay.
    Problem solved.

  5. Cold War Zoomie says:

    While we’re talking about where the Army is going, here’s something from a group of people I met about a year ago. They wanted to work with my employer on building up some business, and they gave us some books on our way out of the meeting. I opened one called “Power to the Edge: Command…Control…in the Information Age” and it was a bunch of gobbledeegook written by a bunch of PhDs. It was promptly filed away to the Do Not Read section of my bookshelf.
    Well, Hotrod’s post was the final straw in convincing me that I really need to get a grip about how the commanders in the front are managing their people and missions with the tools they have. And the first thing I need to beef up on is Command and Control.
    Here’s something that popped up from those same PhDs during my research:
    CCRP Sensemaking Report
    I truly don’t know what to make of this report. Six months ago I would have written it off as a bunch of PhDs with no real world experience suckling the biggest money-oozing teat of all – the OSD teat! One can only imagine how much they get paid to publish these books and reports.
    But it appears to address many of the concepts Col Lang and others bring up here. It’s just so “high fallutin” that it turns me off within seconds. Hell, any document that uses phrases such as “Mindful Alertness to Anomolies” and terms like “ambiguity absorption” makes my head spin. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some truth hidden in there.
    It would be interesting to hear from folks who actually have to *do* these things whether or not this report is accurate or useful.
    Welcome to the modern DoD.

  6. Wondering says:

    This is a compelling argument against a draft. Yet one of the things one reads about Iraq is that there are simply not enough “boots on the ground” to make a real change. We cannot put more boots there without doing great wrong to the soldiers available – we have already forced National Guard troops to return for second, third, and even fourth tours of duty.
    Assuming that the Iraqi adventure is worth pursuing to a successful conclusion – how does the US provide enough “boots” without a draft? Or is it the sense on this blog that we’ll manage somehow to – I don’t want to say “sneak away” – more like “tactically draw down troop strength” while avoiding disaster?
    I’m a complete ignoramus regarding these matters – simply a concerned citizen. I ask because I really don’t know.

  7. Thomas Kleeman says:

    I read last night of the plans to move the source of supply from Kuwait to Aqaba. I have been frequently visited by this depressing vision of all hell breaking loose in Basra and the South if the Bush administration decides to extend “Shock and Awe” on Iran. One starts thinking about Gordon in Khartoum or the Germans in Stalingrad. If the Shia insurgents took out only 1 truck in 3 life would be harder for the folks in Baghdad.
    Jordan may offer a safer transit, thought the trucks will wear out a lot faster. Though that’s better than having trucks blow up. Of course, there is the possibility that people who want to blow up our trucks will not respect the Jordanian border, not to mention Anbar Province.

  8. rjj says:

    WRT Aqaba as base:
    What will they do for water?

  9. rjj says:

    Halliburton must have the [no bid] rainmaking contract.

  10. John Shreffler says:

    I checked Aqaba on Gogle Earth and it seems way too small a port to handle serious logistics of the sort that the Kuwait-based LOC can. Check ou the comments thread on the Moon of Alabama post Ceding South Iraq (Updated) especially comments 14, 15, and 21 by”Dan.” 180,000 troops is one hell of a lot of beans and bullets, not to mention POL and all the rest.

  11. dan says:

    There are no “plans” to move the source of supply from Kuwait to Aqaba – the whole thing is a fantasy.

  12. Antiquated Tory says:

    My employers were in Web service development platforms and are now in Service Oriented Architecture governance solutions (don’t ask). We sell a lot of stuff to DOD, no doubt part of FCS development. However, all of our software is designed around a business environment (and imperfectly at that), not a combat environment. We’ve been laughing for a couple of years over the completely unsuitable use the USN was trying to make of one of our products, to provide subs with a real-time map of battlefield assets upon surfacing. Our product was designed for banks, to be launched and never turned off–takes 30 minutes to boot…

  13. Publius says:

    COL Lang, “Hotrod” is a fellow who used to frequent Phil Carter’s Intel Dump on occasion. He’s not shown up for some time, but I always liked his input and I think he’s the real deal. I’m glad you highlighted him; he’s the kind of young officer we can never have enough of.
    As it turned out, the way you presented Hotrod was kind of in a stream of consciousness mode. Fine with me. I’d love to sit down with him for a beer sometime.
    I figure Hotrod is in his late 20s or early 30s. He’s far wiser than I was at that point in my life (may still be, for that matter) and I appreciate the insight he provides.
    A thinking officer. My, what a novel concept. I contrast Hotrod with Sanchez, who’s now in the news, but who, of course, doesn’t really understand why he proved lacking. Hotrod wins.

  14. kd2kd says:

    I would like to echo some of the points made on this and the previous thread and add my own. I believe, a draft is a crucial in engaging the American people in their future.
    As Hotrod points out, defense weapons and systems planning are predicated on needs and desires (read profit) of the defense industry, and a not the defense needs of the nation. Ike warned of this when I was a boy. An empire has been built and maintained, first to contain the Soviet Union, and later to further big oil and corporate hegemony. For example, why are there three new fighter and strike aircraft being put into production? Why a new carrier and three new attack submarines? Are these being built to counter a perceived threat or to make money? Money borrowed from a likely future adversary–China, I might add. As has been mentioned here, the debt created to finance these weapons systems is a far more imminent existential threat to the republic than any on the horizon. Any that I perceive, anyway.
    I have lived all over the world since I left the States instead of responding to the order to report for a physical. What shocks me most each time I return is the fractured, unconcerned self-centered nature of the people I meet (mostly middle and upper middle class). Plenty of griping, (“the war sucks … what a waste of money,” etc) but no real concern or commitment either way. As someone who organized for, marched for, and voted for my beliefs, I have been appalled at the lack of concern or even interest. The remotes go “click” when news of the Middle East appears in the TV. It is despairing to experience. The republic will not survive without an engaged citizenry.
    I believe that in order to repair the rent sense of citizenship, a draft is necessary. Nothing focuses the mind like the possibility of a loved one being sent into harms way. There would be serious debate before the nation goes to war. The Congress would be less likely to, as Mario Cuomo recently wrote, abdicate responsibilities that it had no constitutional right to abdicate.
    A number of thoughtful, well-put arguments against the draft have been made on this site. All points taken. But the American citizenry needs to reengage itself in the running of its government. Otherwise, the corporate industrial complex will drain the treasury dry before moving to assist and profit from China, India, and Russia on their rise to power.
    Perhaps, a draft coupled with some form of national service will rekindle a spirit of community, the shared sense of obligation, responsibility, and belonging that characterized the America of the depression and WWII. Besides, isn’t the concept of citizen soldier one of the principles that the republic was founded upon?

  15. confusedponderer says:


    I’m not a huge fan of Lind, though I find him interesting on a reasonably consistent basis. That said, I’ve never understood why people get quite so worked up one way or another about the whole concept. Look at it this way – it’s an intellectual construct, the same as “bipolar world” – an imperfect term used to describe the Cold War… An intellectual construct is useful as long as it clarifies more than it distorts, and the “4GW” description of non-state actors and forces becoming more consequential strikes me as somewhat clarifying

    Amen for that!

  16. W. Patrick Lang says:

    The Bundeswehr is /was an army designed to fight on its own soil with soldiers who were never far from the places they came from, were based, supplied, etc. After their 18 month service these conscripts served in the reserve also virtually on their own doorsteps.
    The position of the US is very different. 18 months is not sufficient for an army that has the prospect of deploying people across the world. 24 months as we previously had it was hardly long enough to make use of soldoers that had been trained within that period. pl

  17. confusedponderer says:

    yes, my base was two hours from the place I was born, I was indeed almost literally defending my own soil. This disposition also makes much easier the motivation of the soldiers in a war.
    An expeditionary army, and that’s what I see in the US army, clearly has different requirements. Maybe what the US needs for expeditionary service overseas is more along the lines of the British regiments of the Victorian era.
    According to Wiki Cardwell’s localisation scheme of 1871 divided Britain into Brigade Districts, based on counties and population density. All infantry regiments would consist of two battalions, sharing a Depot and associated recruiting area. One battalion would serve overseas, while the other was stationed at home for training. The Reserves would then form a third battalion. That allowed for one regiment to be permanently deployed overseas. One other potential advantage would be improved unit cohesion. But that wouldn’t be the lean army Rummy dreamt of, and would by rule of thumb require relatively long conscription periods. It might be better suited for a professional force tasked with colonial duties. Brigade or regimental combat teams could be formed on a comparable basis.
    Back to the draft itself, military service of 16 to 18 months, even less, was relatively unpopular in Germany, and I doubt a longer service will be greeted with greater enthusiasm by draftees in the US. The problem of draft justice will remain. There’s nothing new to expect in this regard. Draft dodgers will always find a way to cheat themselves out of the draft.

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