The U.S. Army has been working very hard to reinvent itself. It has published a new Capstone concept that defines the future security environment and broadly what it demands of the Army in the way of capabilities. It has a draft operating concept that defines in more detail the missions the Army must perform and how its forces need to be organized, trained, educated and equipped. The central theme of the new Army vision for itself is the need for adaptability in all things. The future operating environment will be extremely complex; the Army will need to perform missions across the spectrum of conflict. Because the Army will never have a force structure large enough to devote specialized components to the high, middle and low ends of the conflict spectrum, the force will have to adapt rapidly and correctly to different demands and changing circumstances.
The Army has concluded, rightly it seems to me, that its basic organization is adequate to meet the range of challenges that could confront it in the coming decade. The first thing that needs to be more flexible is command and control. The Army proposes the idea of mission command which would be different depending on the type of mission. A combined arms operation against a foe equipped with modern weapons will require a top-down command and control. However, a wide area security mission such as the current conflict in Afghanistan is best served by a decentralized, distributed command and control system. This has major implications for networking, information dissemination and command relationships. In addition, the Army has concluded that many of its enablers such as intelligence, signals, ISR and fires need to be reoriented and even re-equipped in order to be more responsive to the demands of wide area security missions. Most important, the Army is taking an entirely new look at leader development, military education and unit training.
One area where the Army has run into difficulties is with its requirements for the new ground combat vehicle (GCV). The Army’s initial instinct was to have a vehicle that could do everything. This led to a land battleship that was likely to weigh more than an Abrams tank. Now, the Army leadership has rethought its acquisition approach, trimming requirements and focusing on getting a good 75 percent solution soon, rather than waiting a decade or more for the perfect answer. That is what the Army did with the Stryker; the initial deployed models required enhancements to deal with the threat leading now to an improved vehicle with a V-shaped bottom to defeat IEDs. But the Army had years of valuable service out of the Stryker brigades while new requirements were identified.
So far, most of the Army’s new thinking has been very process oriented. It addresses the questions of what and how but not why. There is no vision of future warfare or even of land combat. The discussion of threats and possible scenarios is an attempt to address this question but it is inadequate. Is the ultimate challenge facing the nation’s military and thus the Army to defeat hostile military forces, free conquered nations or occupy foreign lands? It is important to be clear on this subject not only because of its implications for the Army’s operating concept but also because it is key to explaining the importance of the Army to the American people.
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