There are some really serious things going on in the United States Army.
The Army is a unique institution. It is part federal and part state. It has always been an institution close to the people. It is the oldest of the Armed Forces.
It is now experiencing a transformative period so profound that it will result in a very different Army from the one that was re-built after the end of the searing experience of the Vietnam War and the hostility which the Army as an institution received from much of the American people.
The post VN War Army was re-built as an army of volunteers, of family people, essentially middle class and oriented toward middle American "family values." Standards were made high for enlisted soldiers, and the force that emerged was filled with people who represent "mom and pop" America. The combat arms came to be more filed with Caucasians from small cities and rural areas. Anyone who looks at the pictures of the fallen in the news knows that to be true. Smoking and drinking were strongly discouraged. Drug use was virtually stamped out. Sexual mores reminiscent of the Victorian Age were enforced to the point of absurdity.
That Was Then:
Now, in the age of Rumsfeld, we have a very different thing emerging. I have pieced together my understanding of what is happening and would like to offer my observations. These are informed by my 27 years in the Army and my military education as represented by diplomas from the Command and General Staff College and the Army War College. I welcome informed comment.
Firstly, the Army is being made into a light force in which its primary combat units will be lightly armed Brigade Combat Teams (BCT) of about 3000 infantry soldiers rather than the 15000 to 17000 soldier Divisions which now exist (DIV). These divisions contain a great many more troops divided into a number of functions.
A typical division today contains: three ground maneuver brigades (tanks and infantry) , one artillery brigade, one aviation brigade and a large number of supply, maintenance, signal and othr support units. This is a potent force which can sustain itself in the field logistically for a long time and which has a lot of built-in firepower with which to defeat enemies who have something other than IEDs, car bombs and rifles with which to fight.
In Rumsfeld’s Army the force will be made up of many small BCTs in which there will be little in the way of organic (built in) artillery and tanks.
Artillery is the big killer on the battlefield. Artillery (with guns of caliber above 100mm) can fire day and night with great dependability and accuracy at targets so distant they can not be seen from the guns, and unlike aircraft are available all the time. In Rumsfeld’s Army there will be much less artillery.
Tanks. Rumsfeld evidently does not like tanks. He thinks they are too heavy, too expensive and an example of the kind of "old thinking" that he is trying to get rid of. He thinks this in spite of the fact that the Abrams tank was an indispensible element in the ligthning advance to Baghdad and the additional fact that our troops in Iraq would be severely endangered in the absence of tanks. In Rumsfeld’s "New Model" army the armored vehicle of choice will be the "Stryker" wheeled armored vehicle. This is essentially an "armored car." Any Tanker wil tell you that a "Stryker" is a poor substitute for an Abrams Tank.
Army Aviation. Rumsfeld thinks there is too much of this as well. It is too expensive, too maintenance dependent, and requires too much cubic space in shipment by aircraft to be as deployable as he would want.
Bottom Line: Rumsfeld brought Chief of Staff Peter Schoomaker back from retirement to implement this concept. Schoomaker is a Special Operations Forces officer whose greatest achievement during his career was to command the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). This is America’s SWAT Team. Light troops, lightly armed with no tanks or artillery. They are used in air deployments overseas in small groups for short periods of time against lightly armed terrorist forces.
Get the connection? The right man in the right job.
At the same time, Rumsfeld is re-making the leadership of the Army in the same way by personally vetting all senior officer promotions and assignments. He interviews them himself. This is unheard of. Well, you can be sure that there will be no more men like General Shinseki to trouble him.
What’s the problem with this whole makeover? Is this not the age of superior technology and intelligence in which the civilian academic’s theories and dreams of small forces, acting on perfect intelligence, in "surgical" attacks dependent on perfect technology has come at last?
No. We could be defeated in some future struggle.
Enemies embarrassingly do not do what you want them to do and often show up for the party in awkward numbers.
As a rule, technology usually fails at the most difficult moment possible and the more advanced it is, the more likely it is to fail.
Intelligence analysis is never perfect. It is always done perforce on the basis of incomplete information and therefore is always at least a little wrong. This usuually leaves the "grunts" holding the bag for its flawed predictions.
We will be OK so long as we don’t fight any enemies who are; numerous, who continue fighting for long periods, or who have tanks or artillery.
Let’s think twice before we take on someone like Iran, China or North Korea.
There is another whole side of this story in the effect that Rumsfeld’s plans for re-positioning the new force will have on the people of the Army. Tomorrow, maybe.