In the opinion of many defense analysts, the Pentagon’s new defense strategy severely disadvantages the U.S. Army. The strategy both rejects the idea of future protracted, large-scale stability operations and shifts the focus of security concerns to the Asia-Pacific region where air and sea forces are considered more useful. Recent events such as Iran’s repeated threats to close the Strait of Hormuz seem to underscore the growing irrelevance of land power.
Apparently, the Army didn’t get the message that it was irrelevant. As reflected in a series of acquisition decisions, the Army is recreating itself with a new vision of how land operations will be conducted. In the future, Army units will operate in small, dispersed and highly mobile formations, exploiting networks, tactical maneuver and air-ground integration to accomplish their missions. Because U.S. adversaries are acquiring advanced precision weapons and pursuing so-called anti-access/area denial strategies, the Army may have a new role to play as the hammer to the anvil of air and sea power.
Reflecting the Army’s belief in a future of decisive land operations is its decision to halt the planned Humvee recap program and put the extra money into procuring the advanced Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV). The Humvee, even if upgraded, is a vehicle for the last wars. The JLTV, with greater protection, mobility, flexibility and connectivity, is a platform for future conflicts. Happily, with its additional armor, the JLTV will also be extremely useful if the Pentagon’s strategic vision is wrong and stability operations make a comeback.
The JLTV is only one of several acquisition programs intended to transform the Army from a broadsword into a rapier. Another is the Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) which is envisioned as a replacement for the venerable Bradley Fighting Vehicle. The GCV will combine high survivability, greater carrying capacity, advanced network capabilities and high mobility. Along with the Army’s other advanced platforms — the Stryker and M1A2SEP/TUSK, Advanced Aerial Scout helicopter and Shadow/Warrior Unmanned Aerial Systems — the GCV will enable the Army to dominate future land operations.
The JLTV program still has some hurdles to overcome. One of these is to define better the program’s acquisition strategy. The Army’s original idea of repeated buys of small lots was a sure fire disaster. If the Army goes “all in” for the JLTV it will need an acquisition strategy to match.
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