The Army’s effort to define its future force structure suffers from a critical weakness. This is an inability to provide any clarity regarding the future of conflict or the Army’s role in it. In almost breathless tones, Army documents conjure up images of titanic social, demographic, economic, ideological and geophysical forces that are about to inundate the world as we know it. To some extent the Army cannot take the full blame for this state of affairs; it is being fed a diet of mega-trends and complex challenges by the civilians in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
The Army’s answer to the problems of uncertainty and asymmetric threats, the maintenance of a so-called “full spectrum force,” is organizationally and fiscally unsustainable. Not all forms of conflict are equal strategically or operationally. An Army that can dominate the changing middle ground in the spectrum of conflict can move to either end. One that focuses on operations at the ends is in danger of ceding the middle ground. In most cases, challenges at the ends of the spectrum can be addressed through specialized tactics, techniques, procedures and technologies. Warfare in the middle will continue to require sophisticated and robust forces.
What the Army needs is a “medium-weight” force. This is what it thought it would get with Stryker/FCS, but did not achieve. The force needed to meet the future threat should have high tactical mobility. It does not need rapid strategic mobility, although clearly there should be a component for NEOs and other emergencies that is strategically mobile. It must be able to sustain heavy fires and be itself highly lethal. Close combat will predominate. The Army must develop the combination of organization, equipment and tactics to successfully assault defended terrain, most specifically fortified urban centers, without either leveling the place or expending inordinate numbers of friendly forces.
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