The military



Crack in the Foundation

Defense Transformation
and the
Underlying Assumption of Dominant Knowledge in Future War

by Lieutenant Colonel H.R. McMaster

Army War College Center for Strategic Leadership Student Issue Paper
November 2003

Executive Summary:

The author argues that
acceptance of the assumption of certainty in future war is illogical
the claimed source of certainty - technology -
is unable to remove or even reduce significantly
principal sources of uncertainty in war.

The idea that future war will be near-certain
  • fails to account for enemy actions,

  • reduces the complexity of warfare to identifying and targeting things, and

  • ignores the human and psychological dimensions of war.
Instead of pursuing situational certainty,
only an embrace of the ambiguity of war,
and the development of
balanced Joint Forces, effective joint integration, and adaptive leaders
will permit the flexibility that is the true key to future victories.


When a readiness ‘crisis’ is a real crisis
By David Isenberg
Asia Times Online, 2007-04-04

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

According to [retired army Colonel Douglas] Macgregor,
a decorated combat veteran and now an independent businessman,
“We are at an all-time low in soldier and unit readiness in the army.”
Why isn’t this a topic of discussion?
He thinks the reason is that
there is enormous pressure on generals to say things are going well.

America’s Broken-Down Army
Time, 2007-04-05

Pace Says He Refused to Quit Voluntarily
Associated Press, 2007-06-15

What Is the Purpose of the Military?
by Laurence Vance
Antiwar.com Blog, 2007-12-16

[Emphasis is added.]

As I have written about over and over and over again,

the purpose of the military should be
to defend the country.

That’s it.
One would think that the Secretary of Defense would know that.
in a recent speech before the Association of the United States Army,
Robert Gates articulated the following role for the U.S. military:

Army soldiers can expect to be tasked with
∙ reviving public services,
∙ rebuilding infrastructure and
∙ promoting good governance.
All these so-called nontraditional capabilities
have moved into the mainstream
of military thinking, planning, and strategy—
where they must stay.

That is, anything but do what the military should do.

[I volunteered to serve in the Army in the heart of the Cold War,
to defend our country against
the communist threat to the American way of life.
But if, by some miracle, I were young again,
no way would I volunteer to serve
the imperialistic ambitions of America’s current ruling elite,
nor aid, abet, and contribute to their
willful, deliberate and obstinate refusal
to acknowledge and address
the causes of anti-Zionist terrorism.

President Approves Realignment of the Army
New York Times, 2007-12-20

[An excerpt.]

President Bush has approved what officials are describing as
the most significant realignment of the Army since World War II,
signing off on a plan
that will keep more troops than previously envisioned in Europe
and add large numbers of soldiers to bases in Colorado, Georgia and Texas,
Army officials said Wednesday.

The basing plan is the final step
in a detailed program for deciding
where a larger Army will live and train in the years ahead,
as it grows by 65,000 active-duty soldiers.
It significantly changes the military’s footprint
from before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001,
and alters a global basing plan
adopted with great fanfare by the Pentagon in 2004.


The full basing plan for the United States, Europe and South Korea
was presented to Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney
in the Oval Office on Monday by
Gen. Richard Cody, the Army vice chief of staff, and
Pete Geren, the Army secretary.
It was driven by the president’s approval
to expand the Army by 74,000, including the Reserves,
to meet the needs in Iraq and Afghanistan and to prepare for future threats.

[What happened to the Chief of Staff, General Casey?
Is he that unpopular
due to his views on reducing the Army’s component in Iraq?]


“The Army is undergoing the largest transformational change since 1942,”
General Cody said,
as a full one-third of the Army will be based at different stations by 2011.

[I don’t know how he measures that.
To me, a bigger change was the drawdown
from 18 Army divisions at the end of the Cold War
to 10 divisions under Clinton.]


Heavy & agile
Armed Forces Journal, 2008-01

Nine steps to a more effective force

We Still Need the Big Guns
New York Times Op-Ed, 2008-01-09

[Its conclusion:]

Yes, there is always the possibility
that we may again find ourselves battling an insurgency,
and the [new Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency] manual
has many great ideas.

The problem emerges when we consider
pouring excessive resources into
preparing for only one kind of conflict.
Doing so would put us at real risk
of losing the technological superiority
that has kept America’s vastly more dangerous threats at bay.
Consider, for example,
that our warplanes are on average more than 25 years old.

[And we just lost the use of about half the F-15 fighter fleet;
after 25 years of service their structures are no longer reliable.]

The enormous cost of the Iraq war,
not to mention the loss of life on both sides,
would seem to counsel against the idea of a similar operation elsewhere.
Looking ahead,
America needs a military centered not on occupying another country
but on denying potential adversaries the ability to attack our interests.
This is not a task for counterinsurgents,
but rather for an unapologetically high-tech military
that substitutes machines for the bodies of young Americans.

Charles J. Dunlap Jr. is an Air Force major general
and the author of “Shortchanging the Joint Fight?,”
an assessment of the Army’s counterinsurgency manual.

Modernizing the U.S military
By Daniel L. Davis
Washington Times Op-Ed, 2008-01-10

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

To date, our [Army] modernization efforts have:
  1. led some among us
    to exaggerate what technology can do and
    to underestimate what the enemy can do;

  2. of our own volition
    we have reduced the combat power of current organizations
    in the as-yet-unproven promise
    of what technology will someday be able to do;

  3. in the belief our air- and space-based intelligence platforms
    will always give us sufficient critical information about the enemy
    to offset this decrease in mass
    [even though the Chinese
    have already demonstrated an anti-satellite capability!]
    we have dissolved
    the most powerful reconnaissance formation in our nation’s history
    and replaced it with
    an organization that cannot operate in sub-optimal conditions;

  4. we plan to replace
    what has been proven in combat as the world’s best main battle tank
    a lightly armored vehicle
    which may not be able to survive
    head-to-head engagements with enemy tanks;

  5. and despite numerous, high-level
    Defense Department and governmental studies
    explicitly quantifying the threat China’s military poses
    to future American forces,
    the Army has made no effort to design a future force
    capable of defending against such a threat
    (for a detailed analysis see my essay, “Heavy and Agile,”
    at www.armedforcesjournal.com).

The next administration
will have the responsibility for setting Army modernization policy.
It is therefore crucial
to ascertain where each candidate stands on defense modernization
the decisions the eventual winner makes in the first 100 days in office
will establish the type of Army we have for the next several decades.
Though economic, social and foreign policy are of great importance,
we must press each candidate
to articulate their vision of Army modernization and
how they’ll correct the deficiencies that currently plague our efforts.

The lives of our soldiers and success or failure on future battlefields
depends on getting this right.

Maj. Daniel L. Davis is a cavalry officer
who fought in Desert Storm in 1991 and served in Afghanistan in 2005.
The opinions expressed are his own and
do not reflect the official position of the Department of Defense or the Army.

[It is not clear to me that the United States should plan on engaging in a land war with the 1.3 billion Chinese.
That sounds like a real no-win situation for the U.S.]

General: Army strained, combat tours may be cut
The Associated Press, 2008-02-26

[Emphasis is added.]

The Army’s chief of staff told a Senate panel Tuesday that

combat in Afghanistan and Iraq
has left “our Army out of balance, consumed by the current fight,”

and could affect troop levels in the near future.

“[We are] unable to do the things we know we need to do
to properly sustain our all-volunteer force
and restore our flexibility for an uncertain future,”
Gen. George Casey said.

Casey testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee
along with Peter Geren, the secretary of the Army.

Casey said the goal is to reduce combat tours
from 15 months to 12 months by midsummer.

He said that if Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq,
“is able to execute the announced plan of getting to 15 brigades by July,
it would be our goal at that point
to return to 12 months vs. 15-month deployments.”

The testimony revolved around
the defense authorization request for fiscal year 2009
and the stresses and challenges faced by troops.

Geren, urging senators to support the $141 billion requested by the Army,
said he wants to “ensure that
our soldiers have what they need when they need it.”

“We are a nation long at war, facing an era of persistent conflict,” he said.
“Our soldiers and families are stretched.
We are an Army out of balance.
And we are consuming our readiness as fast as we build it.
But our Army remains strong.
It’s stretched, it’s out of balance, but it’s resilient.”

Heavy Troop Deployments Are Called Major Risk
By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post, 2008-04-02

Readiness Is Dangerously Low, Army Chief Says

[Emphasis is added.]

Senior Army and Marine Corps leaders said yesterday that
the increase of more than 30,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan has put
unsustainable levels of stress
on U.S. ground forces

and has put their readiness to fight other conflicts
at the lowest level in years.

In a stark assessment a week before Gen. David H. Petraeus,
the top U.S. commander in Iraq,
is to testify on the war’s progress,
Gen. Richard A. Cody, the Army’s vice chief of staff, said that
the heavy deployments are inflicting
“incredible stress” on soldiers and families
and that
they pose “a significant risk” to the nation’s all-volunteer military.

“When the five-brigade surge went in . . .
that took all the stroke out of the shock absorbers for the United States Army,”
Cody testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee‘s readiness panel.

He said that
even if five brigades are pulled out of Iraq by July, as planned,
it would take some time
before the Army could return to 12-month tours for soldiers.
Petraeus is expected to call for a pause in further troop reductions
to assess their impact on security in Iraq.

“I’ve never seen our lack of strategic depth be where it is today,”
said Cody, who has been
the senior Army official in charge of operations and readiness
for the past six years and plans to retire this summer.

Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno,
one of the chief architects of the Iraq troop increase,
has been nominated to replace Cody.
Odierno is scheduled for a Senate confirmation hearing tomorrow.

The testimony reflects the tension between
the wartime priorities of U.S. commanders in Iraq such as Petraeus
and the heads of military services
responsible for the health and preparedness of the forces.
Cody said that
the Army no longer has fully ready combat brigades on standby
should a threat or conflict occur.

The nation needs
an airborne brigade,
a heavy brigade and
a Stryker brigade
ready for “full-spectrum operations,”
Cody said,
“and we don’t have that today.”

Soldiers and Marines also lack
training for major combat operations using their entire range of weapons,

the generals said.
For example, artillerymen are not practicing firing heavy guns
but are instead doing counterinsurgency work as military police.

The Marine Corps’ ability to train for potential conflicts
has been “significantly degraded,”
said Gen. Robert Magnus, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps.

He said that
although Marine Corps units involved in the troop increase last year
have pulled out,
new demands in Afghanistan, where 3,200 Marines are headed,
have kept the pressure on the force unchanged.

“There has been little, if any, change of the stress or tempo for our forces,”
he said, calling the current pace of operations “unsustainable.”

Magnus suggested that if more Marines are freed from Iraq
they could also go to Afghanistan.
Marines “will move to the sound of the guns in Afghanistan,” he said.
But he said it would be difficult
to keep the force split between the two countries
because the Marine Corps has limited resources
to command a divided force and supply it logistically.
[If curious, note the Marine Corps force structure.]

The Marine Corps is “basically in two boats at the same time,” he said.
Both the Army and Marine Corps
are working to increase their ranks by tens of thousands of troops --
to 547,000 active-duty soldiers and 202,000 Marines --
but newly created combat units
will not be able to provide relief until about 2011.

U.S. soldiers are currently deploying for 15-month combat tours,
with 12 months at home in between.
Marines are deploying for seven-month rotations, with seven months at home.

Both services seek to give their members
at least twice as much time at home as time overseas.

“Where we need to be with this force is no more than
12 months on the ground and 24 months back,” Cody said.

Military Chief Warns Troops About Politics
New York Times, 2008-05-26

[Its beginning.]

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has written
an unusual open letter to all those in uniform,
warning them to stay out of politics
as the nation approaches a presidential election in which
the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be a central, and certainly divisive, issue.

“The U.S. military must remain apolitical at all times and in all ways,”
wrote the chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, the nation’s highest-ranking officer.
“It is and must always be a neutral instrument of the state,
no matter which party holds sway.”

Statement Regarding the Bid Protest Decision
Resolving the Aerial Refueling Tanker Protest by The Boeing Company

U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2008-06-18

G.A.O. Backs Boeing on Aerial Tanker Deal
New York Times, 2008-06-19

[This is probably not of general appeal,
just a situation I happen to be interested in.
Consider this item a note to myself.]

Weakened Warriors: When the Military Gets Combat Fatigue
Has the Bush administration maxed out the military?
By Bruce Falconer
Mother Jones, 2008-09/20

Outmaneuvered And Outranked, Military Chiefs Became Outsiders
By Bob Woodward
Washington Post, 2008-09-08

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

The president said later in an interview,

“The military, I can remember well, said,
‘Okay, fine. More troops. Two brigades.’

And I turned to Steve [Hadley] and said,
‘Steve, from your analysis, what do you think?’
He, being the cautious and thorough man he is,
went back, checked, came back to me and said,
‘Mr. President, I would recommend that you consider five. Not two.’
And I said, ‘Why?’ He said,
‘Because it is the considered judgment of people
who I trust and you trust
that we need five in order to be able to clear, hold and build.’ ”

'You're Not Accountable, Jack'
How a Retired Officer [General Jack Keane]
Gained Influence at the White House and in Baghdad

By Bob Woodward
Washington Post, 2008-09-09

[The contents and commentary for this news article
have been moved to my document “The financial-military complex”.]

Defense Chief Criticizes Bureaucracy at the Pentagon
New York Times, 2008-09-30

Standard Warfare May Be Eclipsed By Nation-Building
By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post, 2008-10-05


U.S. Military Will Offer Path to Citizenship
New York Times, 2009-02-15

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

Stretched thin in Afghanistan and Iraq, the American military will begin recruiting skilled immigrants who are living in this country with temporary visas, offering them the chance to become United States citizens in as little as six months.

Immigrants who are permanent residents, with documents commonly known as green cards, have long been eligible to enlist. But the new effort, for the first time since the Vietnam War, will open the armed forces to temporary immigrants if they have lived in the United States for a minimum of two years, according to military officials familiar with the plan.


Although the Pentagon has had wartime authority to recruit immigrants
since shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks,
military officials have moved cautiously
to lay the legal groundwork for the temporary immigrant program
to avoid controversy within the ranks and among veterans
over the prospect of large numbers of immigrants in the armed forces.

A preliminary Pentagon announcement of the program last year
drew a stream of angry comments
from officers and veterans on Military.com, a Web site they frequent.

Pentagon Rethinking Old Doctrine on 2 Wars
New York Times, 2009-03-15

Gates Budget Plan Reshapes Pentagon’s Priorities
New York Times, 2009-04-07

[The following is from the preliminary version of the article,
on the web 04-06.]

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Monday announced a broad reshaping of the Pentagon budget, with deep cuts in many traditional weapons systems but billions of dollars for new technology to fight the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The decisions represent the first sweeping overhaul of American military strategy under the Obama administration, which wants to spend more money on counterterrorism and less on preparations for conventional warfare against large nations like China and Russia.

Mr. Gates announced cuts in missile defense programs, in the Army’s expensive Future Combat Systems and in Navy shipbuilding operations.

The Fourth Generation Armies Are Winning
by William S. Lind
Antiwar.com, 2009-04-16

The Pentagon's Wasting Assets
The Eroding Foundations of American Power
by Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr.
Foreign Affairs, July/August 2009

Summary --
The military foundations of U.S. dominance are steadily eroding,
thanks to the spread of advanced military technologies
to rising powers, hostile states, and nonstate actors.
These changes demand a major strategic review by Washington --
one that leads to both new sources of military advantage
and a more modest grand strategy.

The military foundations of the United States' global dominance are eroding. For the past several decades, an overwhelming advantage in technology and resources has given the U.S. military an unmatched ability to project power worldwide. This has allowed it to guarantee U.S. access to the global commons, assure the safety of the homeland, and underwrite security commitments around the globe. U.S. grand strategy assumes that such advantages will continue indefinitely. In fact, they are already starting to disappear.

Several events in recent years have demonstrated that traditional means and methods of projecting power and accessing the global commons are growing increasingly obsolete -- becoming "wasting assets," in the language of defense strategists. The diffusion of advanced military technologies, combined with the continued rise of new powers, such as China, and hostile states, such as Iran, will make it progressively more expensive in blood and treasure -- perhaps prohibitively expensive -- for U.S. forces to carry out their missions in areas of vital interest, including East Asia and the Persian Gulf. Military forces that do deploy successfully will find it increasingly difficult to defend what they have been sent to protect. Meanwhile, the U.S. military's long-unfettered access to the global commons -- including space and cyberspace -- is being increasingly challenged.

Recently, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates argued in these pages for a more "balanced" U.S. military, one that is better suited for the types of irregular conflicts now being waged in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, he also cautioned, "It would be irresponsible not to think about and prepare for the future." Despite this admonition, U.S. policymakers are discounting real future threats, thereby increasing the prospect of strategic surprises. What is needed is nothing short of a fundamental strategic review of the United States' position in the world -- one similar in depth and scope to those undertaken in the early days of the Cold War.


is President of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments
and the author of Seven Deadly Scenarios.


Gates Shakes Up Leadership for F-35
New York Times, 2010-02-02


[Secretary of Defense Robert Gates] released
the Pentagon’s proposed $708.3 billion spending package
for the fiscal year 2011.


[T]he proposed spending plan represents
a consolidation of Mr. Gates’s desire
to add money to try to win today’s wars
rather than spending as much on future weaponry.


All told, the administration said Monday that
it wanted to increase the Pentagon’s regular spending by 3.4 percent,
to $548.9 billion in the 2011 fiscal year
from $530.8 billion this year.

It also asked Congress to approve $159.3 billion for next year
to cover the cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The White House said it was also seeking an additional $33 billion now
to pay for the 30,000 extra troops being sent to Afghanistan.
That would bring the total war spending for this year to
$162.6 billion.


To calm critics who might argue that
his emphasis on winning today’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
put future American security at risk,

Mr. Gates noted that his budget had shifted only
7 percent to 10 percent of spending to today’s missions and needs, and that
40 percent would pay for weapons that can fight all types of wars.
That leaves half the budget still devoted to traditional threats.

Every four years,
Congress requires the Pentagon to produce its Quadrennial Defense Review,
an assessment of long-range strategy and the budgets to pay for them.
In unveiling the review Monday, Michèle A. Flournoy,
the under secretary of defense for policy,
said the strategy document for the first time
jettisoned a historic planning requirement that
the American military prepare to fight two major conventional wars
at the same time.

Instead, the Pentagon’s new strategy calls on the military
to prepare for a much broader — and more complicated —
set of national security requirements,
that may include traditional combat against a state adversary,
operations against foreign terrorists,
counter-insurgency efforts,
missions to mitigate natural or terrorist disasters at home and
operations in cyberspace.


Scott Horton Interviews Gareth Porter
Antiwar.com, 2010-06-26

Gareth Porter,
independent historian and journalist for Inter Press Service, discusses
Afghanistan policy with Gen. David Petraeus in charge,
how the military has achieved ideological hegemony in the US,
Obama’s window of opportunity to deflect blame for failure in Afghanistan and
why Petraeus was close to declaring defeat in Iraq
before his 2007 testimony to Congress.

[This has some interesting comments on Petraeus.]

Making Good on Pledge, Gates Outlines Military Cuts
New York Times, 2010-08-10

[This is from the preliminary web version on the web 2010-08-09.
An excerpt (not in the final, print version):]

Mr. Gates had warned in May that the era of blank checks for national defense was ending.

[There never was such an era.
If there had been,
the Army would now be deploying its Crusader field artillery system,
the Air Force would be continuing to add 24 F-22s per year,
heading up to a total of around 400
(by the way, there are some fantastic photos and a fascinating five-minute video --
when it starts, have your eyeballs ready for a very rapid and hot takeoff! --
at that Wikipedia web page for the F-22)
(wonder if Boeing might add a video like that to the F-15 Eagle Wikipedia page --
maybe even a joint video showing the 15 and 22 performing maneuvers together!),
and would be continuing to develop its much-needed E-10,
a replacement for all those 707-based intel and C4ISR platforms,
while the Navy would have deployed
its last Nimitz-class carrier, the GHW Bush,
with more advanced systems.]

Civilian Control? Surely, You Jest.
by Andrew J. Bacevich
The New Republic, 2010-08-18


A more recent example occurred just a year ago.
With President Obama agonizing over what to do about Afghanistan,
The Washington Post offered for general consumption
the military’s preferred approach, the so-called McChrystal Plan.
Devised by General Stanley McChrystal,
who had been appointed by Obama to command allied forces in Afghanistan,
the plan called for a surge of U.S. troops
and the full-fledged application of counterinsurgency doctrine—
an approach that necessarily implied a much longer and more costly war.

[There is quite a bit of evidence that the plan,
while it may have been given his imprimatur,
was not “devised by General Stanley McChrystal”.
For a list of
the committee of Washington think-tank denizens and floating insurgency "experts"
who worked on McChrystal’s 60-Day Afghanistan Review, see
So Who Were the Advisers for McChrystal’s 60-Day Afghanistan Review?”.
On the other hand, Michael Scheuer, who I suspect knows quite a bit about this matter,
attributes the COIN approach followed in Afghanistan by the Obama administration
to John Nagl, major domo of the Center for a New American Security,
and David Kilcullen.
I suspect Scheuer is absolutely right about that matter.]

The effect of this leak,
almost surely engineered by some still unidentified military officer,
was to hijack the entire policy review process,
circumscribing the choices available to the commander-in-chief.
Rushing to the nearest available microphone,
members of Congress (mostly Republicans) announced that
it was Obama’s duty to give the field commander whatever he wanted.
McChrystal himself made the point explicitly.
During a speech in London,
he categorically rejected the notion that
any alternative to his strategy even existed:
It was do it his way or lose the war.
The role left to the president was not to decide, but simply to affirm.

The leaking of the McChrystal Plan constituted
a direct assault on civilian control.
Yet ... no one complained about the McChrystal leaker
providing Osama bin Laden and the Taliban leadership with
a detailed blueprint of exactly how the United States and its allies
were going to prosecute their war.

[I think Bacevich gives way too much power to the leak.
So what if it leaked?
What drives the Obama administration is political pressure.
There is so much political pressure to keep the war going.
The real issue is
who is applying that pressure, and why.]