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Regionally Aligned Forces: Less About What It Is, More About What It Can Be

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Regionally Aligned Forces: Less About What It Is, More About What It Can Be

Jay Morse

The Army’s recent strategic shift from a two-front, “fight and win” Army to the Regionally Aligned Force’s (RAF) “shape and prevent” (and so “win” by not fighting) has, unsurprisingly, caused consternation from all corners of the security birdcage.  Despite the many lessons learned after a decade of unconventional warfare, counterinsurgency, and what most observers conclude was a general failure of COIN operations to succeed in dealing with the human element, the military industrial complex still clings to the traditional force-on-force conception of future threats.  Hawks scream that RAF puts America at risk by ignoring the looming (always, looming) threat of China and a resurgent Russia; Doves coo that RAF stands for the insidious militarization, American style, of every country on the African continent with no benefit to American security.  Some even pass RAF off as a “brilliant” attempt to justify the continued relevance of a bloated defense budget.

Both ends have it wrong. The Regionally Aligned Forces concept is certainly not business as usual, but is also the result of a sobering truth: leveraging national military power to secure our vital interests in today’s threat environment cannot be business as usual. At its most fundamental, RAF is a troop delivery platform, designed to provide habitually aligned forces quickly to Combatant Commanders responsible for unpredictable threats all over the world.  But it can’t stagnate at that – we are already experts at the science of warfare, we now need to be artists.  The art of RAF lies in the constant enhancement of the human experience and human judgment of both our regional partners and our own forces. Indeed, at recent AUSA Annual Meetings, senior Army leaders repeatedly emphasized that RAF success depends on “person to person” engagements. In a 2014 joint statement to Congress on Army Posture, the Chief of Staff and Secretary of the Army wrote that we need to “build trust” and “develop relationships,” and in the Army’s 2014 Strategic Guidance for Security Operations, they wrote that security cooperation “is primarily a human endeavor (that) goes far beyond providing military equipment or technology.”

Human engagement is the crux of RAF. It is a visionary concept of military security cooperation that embraces the lessons of the past decade – a recognition that it is not enough to provide weapons and ammunition to our partners and teach them how to set a better L-shaped ambush. We must help them understand not just how and who to shoot, but who not to shoot.  We have to teach them how to care for the sick and wounded, and why the humane treatment of prisoners of war or detainees is a strategic multiplier.  Though our primary goal is always to win the conventional fight, RAF recognizes that to prevent a fight before it starts, we must equally emphasize the goal to build leaders in foreign militaries who have a healthy respect for institutions, understand the necessity of a disciplined force under democratic control, and who embrace sacrifice, not entitlement.

RAF is innovative and it can even be revolutionary, but it doesn’t need to spawn a revolution.  We can both fight and win the nation’s wars with our conventional forces, and prevent and shape to minimize the number of future battlefields. But innovation requires change, even incrementally. We must:

  • Focus on the middle, internally. Having culturally attuned Soldiers is good, but we don’t need an Army of cultural Jedis. We just need a lot more than we have now. Nearly 40% of the Army is of the enlisted rank of Specialist and below, and we lose much of that population to attrition. If we try to train everyone, we waste valuable time and skills. Better to focus instead on the middle – give our midrange NCOs and officers longer tours of duty, and allow them to return to a regionally aligned “home base” after short, professionally-developing tours elsewhere. RAF is less about what it is, and more about what it can be, and focusing on the “middle” will pay dividends as RAF matures.
  • Focus on the middle, externally.  Visiting every African nation is valuable, but why go to Comoros, the Gambia, and Madagascar when we could go to Mali three times?  Find the most stable governments and those with the most (or potentially the most) regional influence and focus our efforts on them.  Assist in building stable African institutions, and then let those institutions stabilize the region. Focus on the quality of our engagements, not the quantity.
  • Focus on soft, not SOF, power. Civil affairs units, Judge Advocates, doctors and nurses, military police, and the bottomless resource that is the National Guard and Reserve must be leveraged to maximum effect. They are cheaper to deploy, suitable for short-term engagements, particularly well-suited to espouse the value of institutions and, perhaps most importantly when we talk “people to people”, show up without guns. With soft power focused on national police, gendarmes, care-providers and attorneys, we can focus on building the integrity of those internal institutions the host nation’s citizenry deserve. This leads to internal stability, which leads to fewer insurgencies and fewer forums for Transnational Criminal Organizations to thrive – and ultimately to greater security for America.
  • Change our internal mindset.  RAF can’t just be about how we deploy troops, it has to be why we deploy them. The default mindset for Army leaders should be REF instead of RAF – with Regionally “Engaged” rather than Regionally “Aligned” Forces, the emphasis is clear: Make your partner nations better through repeated and meaningful engagements. We accomplish this using small numbers of American trainers who live and work with our partner nations, even for short periods of time. Use those culturally sensitive forces who understand the value of engaging with humility rather than hubris.
  • Manage Expectations and Define Success. Both the Army and those who fund it like numbers and results, but success is difficult to quantify (and, unfortunately, when the Army can’t find a way to quantify a task, we look for tasks we can quantify). Success in RAF is proving a negative (No insurgencies! No coups! No war violations!), and we must resist the urge to quantify success in number of engagements, number of soldiers trained, or number of countries visited.  Look instead to the integrity and transparency of foreign systems: Is the Army accountable to civil leadership?  Are both leaders and soldiers held accountable for their actions? Do civilians trust their institutions?

RAF is innovative, but for innovation to mature into something truly useful it requires experimentation, dedication, and creativity. By changing assignment patterns, allowing our core junior leader base to develop long-term relationships with partner nations, and utilizing the existing resource of soft power, the Army can satisfy the old and the new.  We can, in fact, both prevent and shape to deter warfare and still fight and win when we need to. Do we have the patience to get there?

About the Author(s)

Jay Morse is retired US Army lieutenant colonel and is a partner in the law firm of Corn, Jensen & Morse.  He can be reached at jaymorse.org or jay.morse@cornjensenmorse.com.

Comments

Vicrasta

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 4:45am

Sir,

Very concise assessment and I especially like the incremental innovation and change. Below is the link to a recent RAF assessment contained in the current MIPB. Below are also some excerpts from the article which speak to some of your points regarding multidimensional engagement.

http://fas.org/irp/agency/army/mipb/2015_04.pdf (Page 14)

Excerpts:

The requirements of the Regionally Aligned Forces (RAF) concept within the movement and maneuver warfighting function’s expanded role is best captured by the phrase “prevent, shape, and win,” a phrase that was uttered many times by General Raymond T. Odierno, and is the core of the Army’s strategic vision and Army’s Operating Concept 2020-2040.An emphasis on building partner capacity to enhance security shifts importance to shaping and deterring, so operation planning phases involving seizing the initiative, dominating, and stabilizing may not become necessary. The objective of steady-state activities and shaping operations is to dissuade and deter potential adversaries while strengthening relationships with partners and allies. As recent conflicts that span the globe have dictated, partner capacity building requires a multi-faceted and versatile approach to understanding, connecting, and deterring threats throughout the full spectrum of conflict to include “gray zone strategies” and evolution of 21st century conflict (see Figure 1).

This article outlines how an intelligence model specifically tailored for the contemporary OE better supports unified action involving the U.S. Army’s RAF, and associated joint, interagency, intergovernmental and multinational (JIIM) partners during all joint and multinational operation plan phases (see Figure 2) through collective human network identification
and engagement (NIE) methods.

These methods and processes are employed in the human and physical domains
and also exhibit effects in the information and electromagnetic environments and cyberspace during Army-centric Unified Land Operations (ULO).

The model was modified from the existing ULO model contained in ADRP 3-0 and foundational elements of brigade combat team (BCT) Intelligence techniques.

The proposed model is collective NIE and is rooted in an emerging NATO concept of a similar name which broadens joint countering threat networks (CTN) efforts.3 This model accelerates intelligence in ULO to better fit the 21st century strategic environment and proliferation of urban operations in dense population centers and the multidimensional battlefield. This particular model is also all-inclusive and supports a holistic understanding of the OE, sustained presence, partner capacity
building, intelligence organization, parallel planning, and execution of regional missions at all echelons through nested engagement methods. Those nested methods are: NATO Human Network Analysis and Support to Targeting (HNAT), Attack the Network (AtN) which has been expanded and re-named Network Engagement (NE), and Company Intelligence Support Team (COIST) processes (see Figure 3).4 All of the these understanding and engagement methods are applicable to traditional and irregular warfare operations and include academic assessments and doctrine as a common language.

Model Summary:
Unified Action involves all unified action partners conducting collective NIE informed by HNAT, NE, and COIST operations by means of intelligence core competencies and capabilities, which are guided by the Commander, the intelligence process and staff, specialized cells (COISTs/RAF cells) and the greater intelligence enterprise.

Conclusion:

Conflict is rapidly evolving, and multinational forces must adapt and evolve through effective collective NIE practices in operational and strategic environments involving displaced populations, hybrid and deceptive threats, high precision weapons systems, and transnational irregular forces.

A Regionally Aligned Force, associated sustainment readiness model, Decisive Action (DATE 2.2), and RAF training environment (RAFTE) assist in shaping the global security environment by setting conditions and relationships prior to any potential crisis. An additional requirement is to develop leaders who are capable of teaching and learning skills from partner nations in support of security cooperation activities and NATO readiness action plans to prevent, shape, and win.

Bill C.

Sat, 01/31/2015 - 10:34am

Added to and enhanced a little bit:

While it might be postulated that the concept of Regionally Aligned Forces suggests that the raison d'etre of our military forces today is not "war" but "peace."

This, in fact, does not seem to be the case.

Rather the basis for Regionally Aligned Forces would seem to be related more to:

a. The type(s) of wars that we expect to fight (in one way or another). And

b. The large number of such wars that we expect to be engaged in.

In this regard, to see RAF more in terms of C.E. Caldwell's "Small Wars," and Rudyard Kipling's "Savage Wars of Peace."

Thus:

a. The formal throwing off of idealism -- and such related concepts as "universal values," "a few dead-enders" and the "end of history" -- these, as our organizing principle. And

b. The formal embrace/re-embrace of realism -- and the formal acknowledgement of such things as "diverse and conflicting values," "a Clash of Civilizations" and "the West versus the Rest" -- these, as our proper view of the world.

Bill C.

Mon, 02/02/2015 - 12:11pm

In reply to by Bill M.

RMA and Off-Set (Air-Sea Battle) to deal with conventional threats?

RAF (US Army and Marines) to deal with -- in one way or another -- unconventional threats/small wars? (As per my comment at the top of the page.)

Bill M.

Mon, 02/02/2015 - 8:31am

In reply to by thedrosophil

We need to think strategically, but I think the case for having a traditional strategy for everything can be overstated. Throughout much of our history we didn't have a strategy, the Cold War was an exception. In some regards that strategy narrowed our view of the world, and we missed opportunities to shape it in a way that would have been more favorable to our interests. We need to develop strategies when they are needed. I'm starting to think the never ending cry for a strategy that is carved in stone consisting of defined ends, ways, and means is overstated and little more than a plea for making our lives easier (ways and means should always change, so they're little more than starting points). What we really need is a strategy to transform the U.S. government so it can be increasingly agile and flexible in responses in the international environment. That strategy would have to be underpinned by a greater understanding of the environment than we have now.

We're at another point in history where rapid change and increasing uncertainty is the norm. We need to be able to adapt to shape the environment. The Off-Set Strategy in my opinion is an emerging strategy (not a comprehensive strategy for national security) to enhance our deterrence and war fighting capabilities. The ends are based on having a decisive edge over projected (unknown) adversaries and their future war fighting capabilities. Since it partly based on speculation (all strategies are), it could be off base.

The military needs to do this, it must do this, but my concern is DOD will get overly focused on the future Star Wars fight, and fail to truly learn the lessons we should have learned since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, or the fall of the Shah in 1979, and the 9/11 attacks. The subsequent revolutions and unraveling of the international order have resulted in a series of small wars that are strategic in character and can't be ignored. Yet I get the sense the military wants to treat these problems as nuances that can be ignored.

thedrosophil

Sun, 02/01/2015 - 10:08pm

In reply to by Bill M.

War on the Rocks has been spending a lot of time on these "offset strategies" lately, which are, of course, not strategies at all. Based upon our previous discussions, you won't be surprised that my big concern is that this is yet another "strategy" that is more about ways and means without anyone having identified any ends. I'm all for implementing innovations and technology, but as you rightly note, RMA/Transformation is back with a vengeance in the form of flashy solutions to poorly/un-defined challenges. You also may not be surprised to learn that I'm not so worried about which "defense stocks will be making big gains" - that seems a bit like blaming alcoholism on the brewery, not on the guy who won't admit that he has a problem.

Bill M.

Sat, 01/31/2015 - 6:16pm

In reply to by thedrosophil

"Is it fair to say that although these doctrines were developed, they were not vigorously disseminated? My understanding is that the Army worked aggressively to unlearn the lessons of Vietnam."

The above statement is somewhat correct. I think the manuals were widely disseminated. Back then they came in box, not via electrons. They did not seem to be widely read, nor emphasized in training. The exception was if a unit was deploying on a peace operation. As for Vietnam, I recall a Battalion Commander who retired one of our last Special Forces Vietnam vets, and told him in front of the Battalion that we didn't need Vietnam vets in the Army any more. If one person would have stepped out ranks and charged that prick the entire Bn would have broke ranks and killed him. It was all part of the 90s arrogance that the new doctrine and methods were better.

I do think senior Army leaders today are pushing for junior officers to think and act independently. BUT there are a lot turds between the top brass and the junior officers who are imposing their egos on junior officers because it was the way they were brought up. Cultural change is very hard. However, if they hold to the current course in another generation the Army has a real chance of implementing mission command. I realize that may be overly optimistic, but it is an important concept (not a new one) sorely needed.

Yes, RMA's twin has raised it head again. It is certainly worth reading the recent SWJ interview discussing the New Off Set strategy. 75% of it seemed logical based on real threats, but 25% of it appeared illogical and in my view dangerously off course. As the Brits say, we have lessons observed, not necessarily lessons learned. Of course if you're an investor, you'll soon see what defense stocks will be making big gains :-(.

thedrosophil

Sat, 01/31/2015 - 5:51pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill M.: A few thoughts.

<BLOCKQUOTE>I would like to see your data that supports your conclusion that the Marines have traditionally been tasked with small wars. The data may support it, but looking back at our history to include the Indian Wars, chasing Poncho Villa in Mexico, Philippines, to post WWII Army FID in Greece and elsewhere, and then the exponential increase in small wars after JFK recognized the USSR subversive threat and noted Army Special Forces was the ideal force for countering communist inspired insurgencies. Later and appropriately, the Army and Navy SOF developed outstanding counterterrorism capabilities. Air Force SOF supported all these operations. Just not sure how the Marine's participation in a few banana wars and of course Lebanon (twice) would top that volume wise? No doubt the Marines developed many strategic thinkers who contributed immensely to small wars doctrine, but that isn't the same as your argument.</BLOCKQUOTE>

I feel like we may be addressing two different questions here. It's obvious that both the Army and the Marine Corps have prosecuted their shares of America's small wars, but there's a difference between that and <I>tasking</I>. Before going forward, I first want to challenge the notion that the Corps has only been involved in "a few banana wars and of course Lebanon (twice)". In fact, the Corps' and our nation's first official war was with the Barbary Pirates, and it was the Corps, not the Army, that prosecuted the campaign. Other examples exist throughout America's history, as do examples from the Army which you rightly noted.

Your thoughts also omit the inconvenient fact that inter-service rivalries and turf wars have also taken place throughout America's history. Both the Army and the Navy have carried out fixed wing air strikes in Afghanistan and Iraq, even though this is supposedly an Air Force mission. I'm reminded of a documentary that discussed the Navy SEALs' mission to take an airfield (I think in Panama) despite the fact that capturing airfields is apparently a specialty of the Ranger Regiment. So, the fact that the Army has waged a number of small wars and limited campaigns doesn't necessarily prove anything.

<BLOCKQUOTE>Regarding doctrine, we had COIN doctrine developed in the 80s and 90s as part of our LIC and MOOTW doctrine. That actually made sense, since conflicts today are generally hybrid in character and rarely are simply an insurgency. I enclosed links below to a couple of documents I found doing a quick search.</BLOCKQUOTE>

Thanks for posting the links, I'll have a look. Is it fair to say that although these doctrines were developed, they were not vigorously disseminated? My understanding is that the Army worked aggressively to unlearn the lessons of Vietnam.

<BLOCKQUOTE>More importantly, since you seem to be studying military history and strategy, it is important you look at the intellectual history of the army (and other services). The Army's officers were very well educated in history and the nature and character of war prior to WWII. Many leaders had experience in WWI. This is why they were capable of adapting so quickly, and producing some brilliant strategists in my opinion. Doctrine served as a framework for thinking, not as a method one had to follow blindly.</BLOCKQUOTE>

Agreed.

<BLOCKQUOTE>Some of the best doctrine produced since then, in the Army, was in the 1980s by the Vietnam War vets who also understood the reality of war. As they faded away, we started seeing a lot of unrealistic doctrine produced in the 90s (I can attest to that for SF) that was separated from the reality of war. Education in history and the study of war was deemphasized (Marshall was probably rolling over in his grave), and graduate degrees in management was all the rage. Doctrine became gospel, and officers were expected to follow it, instead of using it as a guide. In other words, instead of thinking.</BLOCKQUOTE>

Your memory is obviously longer than mine, but this is broadly consistent with my memory and/or study of the topic. My memory and study of the era between the Cold War's end and 9/11, the Marine Corps was preparing for the "Three Block War" and the Navy were preparing for missions in the littorals; meanwhile, the Air Force and the Army were basically preparing to re-fight the '91 Gulf War. Hindsight being 20/20, it still seems painfully obvious how misguided some of the doctrine and expectations developed in the 1990's really were.

<BLOCKQUOTE>Fast forward to 9/11 and the subsequent missteps and the noted need to study war again in its entirety (not just COIN) became apparent. Doctrine written in the 90s quickly became almost irrelevant. Now we are asking our junior leaders to think again, and a concept like mission command seems new to many (it isn't), but it certainly needs to be re-energized.</BLOCKQUOTE>

Again, broadly agree, save for a couple of caveats. I agree that "doctrine written in the '90's quickly became almost irrelevant", and I've been very concerned to see some of the old RMA/Transformation concepts once again rearing their ugly heads. I also think it has yet to be seen whether the Army is actually encouraging junior leaders to "think again"; it's certainly possible, and I'm more familiar with the Marine Corps' style of officer training than with the Army's. I remember much of the training/education I received alongside the Marines being painfully formulaic, though there were a lot of tactical decision games in which we were encouraged to innovate. I worry that the military, and particularly the Army and Air Force, will continue to encourage junior leaders to think in word, and discourage them from doing so in deed.

<BLOCKQUOTE>In my opinion, the old SF doctrine and way of thinking (still relevant, but seldom practiced) emphasized the importance of doing a country study before you deployed, and then a continuously updated area assessment when you were deployed, and to adapt based on ever changing conditions(would be called a learning organization today). We thought about problems much like system operational designers do today, but that was dumbed down to a process called the military decision making process (MDMP). The process, not thinking and understanding, will give you the answer. Instead of viewing all the variables, you focused on a central point (in short we ignored complexity). The best doctrine wasn't written, it was handed down by word of mouth by senior mentors/coaches. Team Sergeants back in the day were worth their weight in gold, as were the senior SF officers who had combat experience and constantly increased their knowledge (they were always current on the evolution of real warfare, not imagined warfare).

Today we may be developing the next generation of great leaders, but it is yet to be seen what impact they'll have the future of the force. Unfortunately, they're stuck with a much tougher political environment to work in that will limit their ability to be creative.</BLOCKQUOTE>

Again, agreed, and I appreciate your reflections on these topics.

Bill M.

Thu, 01/29/2015 - 6:49pm

In reply to by thedrosophil

I would like to see your data that supports your conclusion that the Marines have traditionally been tasked with small wars. The data may support it, but looking back at our history to include the Indian Wars, chasing Poncho Villa in Mexico, Philippines, to post WWII Army FID in Greece and elsewhere, and then the exponential increase in small wars after JFK recognized the USSR subversive threat and noted Army Special Forces was the ideal force for countering communist inspired insurgencies. Later and appropriately, the Army and Navy SOF developed outstanding counterterrorism capabilities. Air Force SOF supported all these operations. Just not sure how the Marine's participation in a few banana wars and of course Lebanon (twice) would top that volume wise? No doubt the Marines developed many strategic thinkers who contributed immensely to small wars doctrine, but that isn't the same as your argument.

Regarding doctrine, we had COIN doctrine developed in the 80s and 90s as part of our LIC and MOOTW doctrine. That actually made sense, since conflicts today are generally hybrid in character and rarely are simply an insurgency. I enclosed links below to a couple of documents I found doing a quick search.

More importantly, since you seem to be studying military history and strategy, it is important you look at the intellectual history of the army (and other services). The Army's officers were very well educated in history and the nature and character of war prior to WWII. Many leaders had experience in WWI. This is why they were capable of adapting so quickly, and producing some brilliant strategists in my opinion. Doctrine served as a framework for thinking, not as a method one had to follow blindly.

Some of the best doctrine produced since then, in the Army, was in the 1980s by the Vietnam War vets who also understood the reality of war. As they faded away, we started seeing a lot of unrealistic doctrine produced in the 90s (I can attest to that for SF) that was separated from the reality of war. Education in history and the study of war was deemphasized (Marshall was probably rolling over in his grave), and graduate degrees in management was all the rage. Doctrine became gospel, and officers were expected to follow it, instead of using it as a guide. In other words, instead of thinking.

Fast forward to 9/11 and the subsequent missteps and the noted need to study war again in its entirety (not just COIN) became apparent. Doctrine written in the 90s quickly became almost irrelevant. Now we are asking our junior leaders to think again, and a concept like mission command seems new to many (it isn't), but it certainly needs to be re-energized.

In my opinion, the old SF doctrine and way of thinking (still relevant, but seldom practiced) emphasized the importance of doing a country study before you deployed, and then a continuously updated area assessment when you were deployed, and to adapt based on ever changing conditions(would be called a learning organization today). We thought about problems much like system operational designers do today, but that was dumbed down to a process called the military decision making process (MDMP). The process, not thinking and understanding, will give you the answer. Instead of viewing all the variables, you focused on a central point (in short we ignored complexity). The best doctrine wasn't written, it was handed down by word of mouth by senior mentors/coaches. Team Sergeants back in the day were worth their weight in gold, as were the senior SF officers who had combat experience and constantly increased their knowledge (they were always current on the evolution of real warfare, not imagined warfare).

Today we may be developing the next generation of great leaders, but it is yet to be seen what impact they'll have the future of the force. Unfortunately, they're stuck with a much tougher political environment to work in that will limit their ability to be creative.

http://www.cgsc.edu/carl/docrepository/FC_100_20_1986.pdf

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/army/fm/100-20/

Robert C. Jones

Mon, 02/02/2015 - 8:04am

In reply to by thedrosophil

My point is simply that we need to stop thinking of the temporary suppression of symptoms as being the resolution of conflict.

The military can create time and space for for civil leaders to create governance that is legitimate, fair and inclusive - but that must include the segment of society associated with those military force was just applied against.

typically it does not, and conflict comes roaring back as soon as conditions allow.

thedrosophil

Sat, 01/31/2015 - 5:57pm

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

RCJ: Well, we'll simply have to agree to disagree. You asked for an example, and I gave two, then you altered the conditions in order to exclude them. You'll excuse me if I differ with that method of inquiry. Beyond that, in essence, you seem to be arguing that each campaign is different, which is obvious. The idea that methods and concepts from former campaigns, even dissimilar campaigns, can't be adapted to produce successful outcomes seems inconsistent with the corpus of military history.

Robert C. Jones

Thu, 01/29/2015 - 4:14pm

In reply to by thedrosophil

Any solution that worked twice in the same location half a generation apart has never worked at all. Suppression of symptoms is not the same as resolution of problems. Plus Oman was very carefully designed with very unique attributes of resources, geography and demographic to favor carving a slice of stability out of a larger, incredibly unstable region. But even Oman is making people nervous with the health of Sultan in question. He may well be the figurative cork in a bottle of popular discontent.

By your measure, and it is the same measure used by RAND and others, so you are in good company, this approach has worked half a dozen times in the Philippines. We just cannot keep defining a COIN win as the insurgent defeated and the government un coerced - as that is suppression of the larger problem between some significant segment of the population and the government - not resolution.

To summarize my primary assertion, I believe this globalized world we live in has created a new and powerful "era of self-determination;" and that in such an era the time honored TTPs of imperialism are obsolete.

thedrosophil

Thu, 01/29/2015 - 2:48pm

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

<BLOCKQUOTE>So rather than proving to you where these approaches have not worked, I think that a much shorter list would be for you to offer a single place where they have.</BLOCKQUOTE>

By your own definition, and subject to your own limitation of a single place: Oman. Twice, in fact: Jebel Akhdar War, 1957 to 1959, and Dhofar Rebellion, 1965 to 1976.

Robert C. Jones

Thu, 01/29/2015 - 12:21pm

In reply to by thedrosophil

I think it is much simpler than what you suggest.

Create an impossible policy problem, and the military can come up with a nearly infinite number of infeasible solutions.

The policy problem of colonial activities was a very different one than those we face today. The small wars doctrine was based on the mission of creating a degree of artificial stability necessary to maximize the profits versus to costs of extracting some resource or resources from some place ; or simply to sustain in power some leader of a place deemed vital to our interests.

We take the tactics, techniques and procedures learned in those operations and attempt to apply them to the world as it is today, and the requirements of our interests today.

Policy makers are also leaning hard on their own versions of small wars lessons learned. They still seek to create or adopt foreign governments in places where we want to exercise control, governments they believe will be willing to prioritize the interests of the United States over those of their own populations. They still believe they can simply send in the military to protect these de facto illegitimate regimes from the internal challenges that will naturally arise. Most damning of all, they believe that what we offer is so good, so superior to what existed before, that these populations will overlook the illegitimacy of the thing and thank us for saving them from themselves. We are so British. So French. So wrong.

So rather than proving to you where these approaches have not worked, I think that a much shorter list would be for you to offer a single place where they have.

thedrosophil

Thu, 01/29/2015 - 9:39am

Robert C. Jones: I appreciate your challenge, and agree that there's some merit to Bill M.'s observations, though I think you're taking his argument further than it can actually stretch.

Of the four services, the Marines have traditionally been the branch tasked with "small wars", what we would now consider COIN. Bill M. is right that they have not traditionally "embraced" this role, though I would phrase it differently: the Marines have been more institutionally willing to adopt or shift their tactical styles as necessary for whichever campaign they happen to find themselves in than their cousins in the Army. Regardless, the Marine Corps retained its COIN doctrine, as the 1990 recirculation of <A HREF="http://www.survivalebooks.com/free%20manuals/1963%20US%20Army%20Vietnam… 12-15</A> demonstrates. By contrast, the Iraq War era FM 3-24 was the first COIN doctrine circulated by the Army since Vietnam. The <A HREF="http://www.survivalebooks.com/free%20manuals/1963%20US%20Army%20Vietnam… pre-'06 Army COIN manual I can find online</A> dates to 1963 and was apparently intended solely for SOF units, as Bill suggests.

Yes, the Marines' "small wars" experience was traditionally colonial in nature, and yes, those methods require some tailoring for application under modern circumstances. While I understand and respect some SWJ commentators' opinion that colonial "small wars" are irrelevant to modern campaigns, I have yet to see a convincing argument to that effect.

We have discussed, recently, at length, the varying reasons for why the Marines' (and some Army units') tactical and operational performance has not translated into strategic success in recent campaigns, and I would once again point to poor generalship, strategic illiteracy, and an institutional resistance to counterinsurgency in the Army, rather than poor performance by the Marine Corps. Even with Marines commanding ISAF at various times, the influence of Big Army was nearly impossible for the Marines to overcome. (To the best of my knowledge, no Marines ever commanded MNF-I.)

Morgan

Tue, 01/27/2015 - 10:30am

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

I agree with your assessment regarding RAB's and dedicating one to each GCC. If we were to actually apply our "lessons learned" from Afghanistan, DA could capitalize on the efforts of GPF units partnering with SF / SOF IOT "thicken" the teams as they execute VSO. Not every GPF/SOF partnering effort was successful but I'm told the majority were.

While some criticize such a "permanent" partnering by citing the differences in deployment cycles, training etc, etc.....by dedicating a RAB (BCT) to each GCC, that BCT could become "special operations capable" (to borrow from the USMC), get on the same deployment time-line as the SOF teams, while becoming experts in their particular AOR as Robert stated. Should a "big war" break out in a particular GCC, the RAB bubbas could serve as trainers, or cadre, for other active units or RC units sent to those areas.

Just my two cents.

Robert C. Jones

Tue, 01/27/2015 - 9:34am

The US military over-engages the world in general; and typically through the wrong ways for the wrong purpose. This nearly as true of the Army's SOF forces as their conventional forces - but the consequences of error are far less with the former.

So my first recommendation would be a general reassessment across the joint force as to why we engage, who and where we engage, how we engage and for what purpose. It is a very mixed bag out there right now, and I doubt it adds up to the effects we hope for, and certainly not for the effects we need.

Three or four years ago during Army-SOCOM annual talks I recommended to the Army J-5 that RABs could be a very powerful and effective capability if the Army were willing to dedicate a single brigade to each GCC AOR, regiment those brigades so that soldiers and leaders spent 15 of their 20 year careers in the same brigade; tailor each brigade over time to the unique requirements of it's respective AOR; and finally, co-locate each of these brigades at the same installation as the Army SF Group dedicated to that same AOR so as to facilitate the development of true SOF-Conventional integration over time. (At the time the Army concept was to rotate several brigades through this mission for each GCC AOR, and to have SOF trainers prepare the Brigades prior to deployment for regional attributes during a training rotation at Ft. Polk.) It was my personal/professional recommendation, and not that of USSOCOM.

The recommendation was not well received, but I stand by it as the best way for the US Army as a whole to posture for effective engagement and to truly develop better SOF-Conventional integration in the process.

eriknpf1

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 1:40pm

In reply to by thedrosophil

RAF does provide food for thought, but what is the catalyst for effective cooperation. The answer to that is national self interest. For example, the U.S. has been engaging in the Philippines since the end of WW II (I know prior to as well, but I’ll just focus on the period since 1945). For most of that time, the Philippine Armed Forces show little to no real improvement after billions of dollars spent. Why? Mainly cause the Philippines new that we had their backs. That is until the rise of China.

With China’s rise came a scenario in which the U.S. might not have their backs particularly in territorial disputes like what is going on in the South China Sea. For once, the government of the Philippines saw a scenario in which the U.S. couldn’t necessarily respond and that they would have to deal with it alone. With that cold source of motivation, you can see logarithmic improvements in Philippine military capabilities and effectiveness particularly in the past 10 – 15 years.

I think we (the U.S.) would like to think it was all because of the Muslim insurgents in the southern Philippines and all the activities that we did to support that effort (JSOTF-P) and make no mistake, those efforts contributed the effectiveness in no small measure. However, it was the ham-handedness of China that brought about the desire in the Philippines to retain that knowledge. Self Motivation if you will

Scott Kinner

Sat, 01/24/2015 - 10:52pm

In reply to by thedrosophil

Fair enough on all points. I would agree with the idea that our theater security cooperation activities are fairly effective in gaining access, overflight, collecting intelligence, etc. Beyond that, I'm not so sure.

While the Egyptian Army may have been more tempered in its response to events in the street, our years of interaction did not stop it from engineering a coup and taking power, imprisoning political opponents, etc. The human rights abuses of the Mali Army - a US Army trained force - is indicative of how client states may take great advantage of the skills we offer, but ignore the philosophy we espouse.

Of course, the performance of both Iraqi and Afghan armies, who got very long, very close, and very personal attention from the US military, would indicate that we should expect even less from the episodic activities that fall under TSC.

Another issue with RAF and TSC is that it is not a one way street. The host country gets a vote. Some want interaction with the US military, but specifically do NOT want improvement to their armed forces, for political or other reasons. For example, that's why some US trainers keep finding themselves doing basic marksmanship over and over. Others have specific constraints on the length and purpose of interaction, etc.

More food for thought...we'll see...while appropriate to a certain point, I do not believe RAF should receive the attention that advocates would like to see.

thedrosophil

Sat, 01/24/2015 - 9:50pm

<BLOCKQUOTE>But regionalization is only a corollary, it is not central to being the force of decision - because the Army, like the other services, must be world wide deployable and employable. Too much time spent creating regional experts in the general operating force is time wasted when they find themselves routinely deployed and employed elsewhere. This problem - this drive to create specialists over generalists - is compounded as the Army gets smaller and there are less soldiers doing more work.</BLOCKQUOTE>

I've not had a chance to read FM 3-22 yet, so I'm not sure whether it discusses this (and as some of us discussed, ad nauseum, in December and early January, the Army's not known for actually reading its own doctrine), but I suspect that there are two answers to this. First, RAF is designed as a preventive measure: by cooperating with regional partners, the goal is to build security force capacity and host nation governance to prevent small wars from breaking out in the first place. In that sense, American soldiers' specialization is marginal, and reinforces soldiers' basic warfighting skills rather than compromising them. In the event that war actually breaks out, American soldiers have two options: enable host nation security forces to take the lead in operations on their own soil, or use the RAF units aligned to that region as embedded advisors in other U.S. Army formations in the event that a crisis requires a larger footprint. Again, I'm not sure whether this scalability is actually part of the doctrine outlined in FM 3-22, or whether the Army would actually operate in such a manner under such circumstances, but I think the potential to do so is a good thing.

Also, I think your comparison with Kipling's work is compelling. To me, RAF implies wider implementation than only developing nations. One would think that some units would align with Europe, others might align with developed Asia-Pacific nations like Australia, Japan, and the Republic of Korea. And I realize that this view isn't particularly popular around here, Western states' history of successfully influencing events in other nations has been more successful than some folks presently acknowledge. A few months ago, the BBC published an <A HREF="http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-28896860">excellent article</A> on the influence that Britain has in the Gulf after years of educating GCC royalty and high ranking personnel at Sandhurst. The degree to which American military relationships with Egypt since the Camp David Accords have mitigated some of the potential fallout of Egypt's 2011 revolution and its 2013 reversal has been grossly underreported. So, if RAF is carefully executed, I think there's some potential there.

Just some food for thought.

Scott Kinner

Sat, 01/24/2015 - 11:14am

I have two points regarding this article. The first is that, though I doubt it was the intent of the author, some of the language used sounds like a variation on the White Man's Burden...

"it is not enough to provide weapons and ammunition to our partners and teach them how to set a better L-shaped ambush. We must help them understand not just how and who to shoot, but who not to shoot. We have to teach them how to care for the sick and wounded, and why the humane treatment of prisoners of war or detainees is a strategic multiplier...we must equally emphasize the goal to build leaders in foreign militaries who have a healthy respect for institutions, understand the necessity of a disciplined force under democratic control, and who embrace sacrifice, not entitlement."

In short, this is right from the Vietnam movie "Full Metal Jacket"..."inside every gook is an American waiting to get out." This is an issue - not because we seek to endorse the converse, but because it assumes a metric of success that is unhealthy, inappropriate, and historically unachieveable.

The second point is this...the Army bills itself as America's "force for decision" and it is spot on in doing so. Importantly, the term "decision" isn't a default code for armored corps - but rather a reminder that the Army is what brings closure to the shaping efforts of the other services. If that is a long-term nation-building campaign, so be it. If that is the seizure of a country such as Panama, so be it. If that is to create conditions on the ground that support a political condition, fine.

But regionalization is only a corollary, it is not central to being the force of decision - because the Army, like the other services, must be world wide deployable and employable. Too much time spent creating regional experts in the general operating force is time wasted when they find themselves routinely deployed and employed elsewhere. This problem - this drive to create specialists over generalists - is compounded as the Army gets smaller and there are less soldiers doing more work.

thedrosophil

Fri, 01/23/2015 - 4:00pm

I found this article to be very insightful. There are certainly some challenges associated with the RAF concept, but it merits praise that I'm not often afforded the opportunity to give: it's not the absolute worst concept the Army could have come up with to address the next ten or fifteen years of American security challenges. It has the potential to help the Army in particular, and the DoD in general, maintain the critical lessons learned over thirteen years of counterinsurgency operations, while offering additional capabilities to facilitate more traditional force-on-force, combined arms maneuver, conventional missions. My biggest concern is that it will emulate the "three cups of tea" mentality, rather than actually aligning formations with their geographical partners (<A HREF="http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/cultural-awareness-and-language-pr… language training</A> being a good indicator of this, in which the Army will either succeed or fail).

I would address two of LTC Morse's points. First, I would challenge his cliche line about the the "military industrial complex". Though exceptions exist (a few examples of which were discussed in a <A HREF="http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20091118/1amentors18_c… USA Today article on the senior mentors program</A>), contractors tend to provide solutions according to requirements determined by the military. The DoD has, in recent years, done a poor job of determining those requirements, and a poor job of oversight. A good example of this was the MRAP program. This <A HREF="http://www.wired.com/2011/07/locked-and-loaded/">2011 article</A> is sensationalized to suggest that several companies were gaming the system, but if you read between the lines (and read the report the article cites), the bottom line is that the DoD provided requirements in its Rapid Fielding Initiative RFQ, numerous companies provided prototypes, the DoD bought a number of them from a subset of those companies, the DoD assigned too few Contracting Office Representatives (CORs), the CORs were unable to provide oversight commensurate with the size of the program, and contracted program management personnel were then put in a position where they had to write contracts on the CORs' behalf. The claim that "the military industrial complex still clings to the traditional force-on-force conception of future threats" ignores the fact that it's the Pentagon's duty to determine a realistic conception of future threats, and the individual services (particularly the Army and Air Force) cling to force-on-force conceptions because other contingencies are outside their parochial comfort zones. It's popular to blame the "military industrial complex", but the truth of the matter is that the Pentagon has gotten itself into a self-fulfilling feedback loop of defining its future needs poorly, and then doing a sub-stellar job of coordinating the resulting programs, which then impact the process of defining those future needs.

My other point of contention is with his RAF versus REF distinction: a distinction worth making, but he implies that the two are mutually exclusive. I would prefer the Army to be both aligned (language training, culture training, focused situational awareness of a given unit's area of responsibility) <I>and</I> engaged. That said, I believe his thoughts in his "<I>Focus on the middle, externally</I>" paragraph provides a good model for how the operational concept should be implemented.

Again, a very worthy discussion of some of the issues and opportunities associated with the RAF operational concept.

Bill C.

Fri, 01/23/2015 - 12:42pm

What the Regionally Aligned Forces have to contend with is an environment in which it is the well-known intention of the United States to transform outlying regions in such a way as to gain greater access to and greater utilization of the human and other resources contained therein.

This means, in both our eyes, and in the eyes of those that would oppose us, the transformation of the states and societies of these regions more along modern western political, economic and social lines.

Consider here Morganthau's description of the somewhat similar dynamic in the Cold War:

"The United States and the Soviet Union face each other ... as the fountainheads of two hostile and incompatible ideologies, systems of government and ways of life, each trying to expand the reach of its respective political values and institutions and to prevent the expansion of the other ... Thus ... a contest between two secular religions. And like the religious wars of the seventeenth century, the war between communism and democracy does not respect national boundaries. It finds enemies and allies in all countries, opposing the one and supporting the other regardless of the niceties of international law. Here is the dynamic force which has led the two superpowers to intervene all over the globe, sometimes surreptitiously, sometimes openly, sometimes with the accepted methods of diplomatic pressure and propaganda, sometimes with the frowned-upon instruments of covert subversion and open force."

With the former USSR now defeated, today the United States would seem to be at similar loggerheads (see Morganthau above) but, in our case today:

a. In conflict, in many cases, with the governments and populations of the less-powerful states and societies of the world and, therefore,

b. In a conflict which seems to have more of a secular v. religious character; rather than the secular v. secular construct of the Cold War.

And, thus, to a/the potential BOTTOM LINE:

a. Will the application of "soft" power" (backed up by hard power in the form of our regionally attuned and regionally aligned forces),

b. Will this cause outlying states, societies and regions to:

1. Throw off, shall we say, their more-traditional ways of life -- and the more-religious foundations of same? And, in the place of these,

2. Adopt our more-modern and more-secular way of life -- and the very different values, attitudes and beliefs associated therewith?

(Items "1" and "2" above being considered essential to the more-western, more-modern and more-secular nations of the world being able to gain greater access to, and greater utilization of, the human and other resources of the lesser and remaining states and societies.)

Robert C. Jones

Tue, 01/27/2015 - 9:45am

In reply to by Bill M.

I have to agree with Bill on this one. I always enjoy working with Marines, but their historic experience captured in the Small Wars Manual (and carried forward into the Clear-Hold-Build approaches applied in Anbar and Helmand) is with colonial policing, not resolving insurgency.

Good tactical operations in Anbar and Helmand, but as history has been quick to expose, neither efforts produced any kind of positive, durable strategic effect. We need to be careful to not be so quick to applaud well executed tactics that we lose sight of the larger strategic issues that shaped our failures to achieve over-arching policy ends in those two countries. The same holds true to the Village Stability Operations designed and led by SOF.

We misunderstand the nature of insurgency and over-state the power/goodness of the political mechanisms we force onto distant cultures that we have chosen to dispossess of their organic (legitimate) systems of governance.

One strategic lesson not-learned, is that when one creates an impossible problem through policy, there are no number of infeasible military solutions we can apply against it.

Bill M.

Sat, 01/24/2015 - 10:15am

In reply to by thedrosophil

I don't agree the Marines traditionally embraced COIN as a mission set, but they certainly conducted several COIN like operations in the Americas (The Banana Wars) and contributed some worthwhile intellectual contributions to thinking on COIN and Small Wars. They also embraced a COIN approach more so than the conventional army in Vietnam, at least for a period of time. I would offer that our COIN operations in the Philippines, predominantly conducted by the Army, the later part of the 19th and early 20th Century probably had a more telling impact on our approach to COIN. We lost our way when tried to mimic European colonial war COIN in my opinion.

SF has had major successes in some parts of Iraq and Afghanistan where they were allowed to interact with the local populace. However, you are correct that in many locations, usually based on restrictions imposed by their leadership, they relied on walk ins for information and only left the wire to hit a target. That meant conventional forces were often more effective at developing a better understanding of the area, and could more effectively respond to tips on HVIs. I think we'll shift back to SF interacting more with the populace once the larger wars come to an end. There were reasons, some of them sound, we shifted to a DA focus, but we failed to shift back to a more durable and effective approach later because frankly DA is easy and fun. Living among the population, constantly exposed to danger, not so much, but it can be more valuable strategically.

thedrosophil

Sat, 01/24/2015 - 9:55am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill M.: I'm in full concurrence with your thoughts. The wealth of post-9/11 SOF autobiographies (mostly from SEALs, but also reflecting some Army SF history) reflect that SOF units have spent the last ~14 years almost entirely focused on direct actions, and that the demand for those DA missions outstripped the supply of available SOF personnel.

Because my girlfriend requested that I read several SEAL autobiographies with her (it's the truth, I swear), I can report that <A HREF="http://www.amazon.com/Lone-Survivor-Incredible-Story-SEALs-ebook/dp/B00… Survivor</A>, <A HREF="http://www.amazon.com/American-Sniper-Autobiography-Military-History-eb… Sniper</A>, and <A HREF="http://www.amazon.com/No-Easy-Day-Firsthand-Account/dp/1611763460">No Easy Day</A> all talk about how busy both the SEAL teams and the Army SF teams have been with DA missions in Afghanistan. "Mark Owen" describes himself and other SEALs augmenting Army SF units to make up for shortages of folks to meet the demand for DA manpower, mainly for hunting Saddam Hussein and the "deck of cards" folks.

I'm also reminded of a <A HREF="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAbK9lhUMu0">2002 documentary</A> in which Army SF folks were performing a variety of missions - one being searching Afghan compounds for weapons - that struck me as things that "Big Army" could have been doing. That last item also reminds me of Dr. Mark Moyar's <A HREF="http://smallwarsjournal.com/documents/moyar-3rdway_in_sangin_jul2011.pd… Third Way of COIN: Defeating the Taliban in Sangin</A> (hosted here at SWJ) which said:

<BLOCKQUOTE>The resource augmentation did not include additional special operations forces (SOF). Morris believed that his Marines had the intelligence information and operational capabilities to handle the enemies they faced. The Marines cooperated with SOF that worked in the area, but 3/5 ended up eliminating more high-value individuals (HVIs) in Sangin than SOF did because they interacted more frequently with the population and conducted more operations that either eliminated HVIs or garnered information that led them to HVIs.</BLOCKQUOTE>

Robert Kaplan's <A HREF="http://www.amazon.com/Imperial-Grunts-American-Military-Philippines/dp/… Grunts</A> discusses Army SF doing training missions in Colombia and the Philippines around '03/'04, and I suspect that such missions continue, but they seem to be ancillary to the degree of DA raids that the SOF community has been occupied with since 9/11. Beyond that, the Marine Corps has traditionally been the DoD's COIN specialists (hence the fact that the <A HREF="http://www.marines.mil/Portals/59/Publications/FMFRP%2012-15%20%20Small… Wars Manual</A> is a Fleet Marine Force Reference Publication, vice an Army Field Manual), but the Marine Corps is understaffed to undertake such missions on the scale of an Afghanistan or Iraq, and the modern propensity for joint and coalition operations preclude the Marines (or the other services) from operating wholly independently as they might have back in the 1940's when the SWM was originally published.

Bill M.

Fri, 01/23/2015 - 9:32pm

In reply to by thedrosophil

We do not have units that are dedicated to FID and COIN, that misperception has existed for years. That mission belongs to the joint force writ large. SF was originally designed for UW, and while it maintains that skillset, it does a lot of what we used to call collateral missions and activities that used the same, or similar, skills as though used for UW.

Title 10 states SOF does FID "as it pertains to special operations." That doesn't mean SOF is the only organization in the military that does FID. Ideally it would focus on training police, SOF, and light infantry units. Big Army or the Marines can conduct basic training, teach C2 at the higher level, and of course a host of other skills that are not resident in SOF.

COIN by its nature generally requires a large presence of security forces on the ground, so conventional forces would likely be in the lead if the U.S. is doing COIN (versus doing FID where we're supporting a nation fighting an insurgency).

Urban legends are tough little bastards that just live on and on.

thedrosophil

Fri, 01/23/2015 - 8:04pm

In reply to by schlub2

I fail to see how acknowledging the obvious - that recent history has taught America that the bulk of its forces require both combined arms maneuver <I>and</I> COIN/COIW proficiency - is "going too far in the other direction". If anything, it's the very definition of moderation. Given the Army's performance in both Afghanistan and Iraq from 2001 to 2007, and arguably to this day, I'm not sure how anyone could come to the conclusion that "we have units whose job is COIN/UW/FID" is an acceptable or even accurate answer. If that were the case in any significant way, then why has the Army performed so poorly at that mission? Why has the learning curve to socialize COIN principles to all of those combined arms manuever folks been so painful? Why is a significant portion of Iraq now either controlled or under siege by a terrorist army that had been nearly obliterated when American forces withdrew in late 2011? Why are most folks so pessimistic about the short-term prospects in Afghanistan? If the answer were really as simple as saying that the U.S. Army "has units whose job is COIN/UW/FID", wouldn't all of those questions be significantly less embarrassing to answer? The idea that having a few "units whose job is COIN/UW/FID" while Big Army retools itself exclusively for a force-on-force contingency that's increasingly unlikely to play out in our lifetimes "is what America's strategic needs require right now" would seem to ignore the last twenty years of history, and some pretty obvious short- and medium-term military and geopolitical trends, in their entirety.

schlub2

Fri, 01/23/2015 - 5:53pm

In reply to by thedrosophil

Going too far in one direction (as after Vietnam) doesn't justify going too far in the other direction. We have units whose job is COIN/UW/FID. We should not turn our fighting divisions and brigades into what are frankly specialty forces who advise/assist foreign militaries.

The "Big Army" can be okay at both COIN and decisive maneuver war. or we can maintain a mix of forces that are great at one or the other. Seems to me that that is what America's strategic needs require right now.

thedrosophil

Fri, 01/23/2015 - 4:16pm

In reply to by schlub2

<BLOCKQUOTE>"Why does the Army need to reinvent the wheel with RAF rather than focusing on the force on force fight (at which it excels)?"</BLOCKQUOTE>

Short answer: So, you're saying the Army should do exactly what they did after Vietnam? I don't feel like history looks kindly upon that decision.

Because regardless of what we might hope, a force-on-force fight in the foreseeable future is not a foregone conclusion, while insurgency prevention and even counterinsurgency operations likely will be. A significant part of why America's results in Afghanistan and Iraq were so challenging and mixed is that the DoD generally, and the Army in particular, spent the 1990's preparing to re-fight Gulf '91 and conflicts like Bosnia when those conflicts were actively influencing the early 21st Century battlefield into what American troops encountered in USCENTCOM after 9/11. I'd rather not see America double down on its failed 1990's plan now that we know that it was ill-conceived. Should either of those non-force-on-force contingencies occur (and again, it should be obvious that they're more likely than a force-on-force conflict against any of our potential rivals), we don't have nearly enough SOF folks to fill the gap. The only solution is to have "Big Army" cross-training to do both counter-irregular warfare/counterinsurgency, <I>and</I> training for the force-on-force contingencies. You suggest that "Big Army" should focus on what it's good at, and the truth is that America's strategic needs require that "Big Army" gets good at both.

schlub2

Fri, 01/23/2015 - 10:25am

If only we had a small groups of experienced, regionally focused, well trained long service NCOs that can train foreign military forces well and consistently return to build on prior training!

If we try to train and organize Big Army to efficiently and effectively train FMF to meet the policy and security needs of the United States, we end up with an SF ODA and attached enablers/support personnel. Why does the Army need to reinvent the wheel with RAF rather than focusing on the force on force fight (at which it excels)?

Let's focus on building our expertise at our particular niches (and I mean niche in the most non-pejorative way possible). SF is not immune from this attitude of overreach for mission sets, either, by the way. Nor is SOF the answer to every problem. We all have our place, let's be good at it.

I enjoyed the line of thought in this article, as it focuses on potential versus the current reality of the Army's RAFs' concept. Operationalizing proposals like this are challenging, but not impossible. For the most part,regional campaigns are developed by Geographical Combatant Commanders. Their staffs often out of necessity default to becoming process monkeys based on their workload. That means we have incredibly talented officers that our forced into industrial age planning or risk becoming a cog on the plan development assembly line. Time constraints generally result in solutions based on what did we last year. Our engagement/security cooperation programs and associated authorities are another obstacle. They were largely designed for the Cold War and are increasingly irrelevant in today's world.

The new authorities are almost all counterterrorism focused, which means we have to see every problem through a CT lens to get the money. We all become tactical HVI hunters (directly or indirectly) even when the prevailing evidence indicates this is little more than a disruption effort that falls far short of expectations.

There is a similar problem with counternarcoterrorism (CNT) funds. They can't be used unless you draw a connection to narcotics trafficking, so you end up with an operational approach that targets the symptom instead of the real issues.

Our terrorism and CNT problems (among other problems) are on the upswing after years of combating the wrong target, but Congress doesn't get it, and until they do our potential to " prevent and shape to deter warfare and still fight and win" will be challenged.