Leaders hope to enhance Army capabilities as new threats emerge
March 20, 2013
By David Vergun
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- Army News Service
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 20, 2013) -- The world is becoming an increasingly complex and dangerous place, requiring a more agile, lethal and capable force, said Army leaders.
To illustrate, forward-deployed forces in Korea are adequate to respond to a crisis, but elsewhere, the Army needs to improve its response times, said Gen. Robert W. Cone, commander, Training and Doctrine Command.
He was referring to a worst-case scenario involving a simulated collapsed nuclear state with "loose nukes." The U.S. response time for deploying 90,000 troops to the crisis area in a recent exercise took 55 days -- a response time deemed inadequate. That simulation was held in February at Carlisle Barracks, Pa., during the Unified Quest 13 Winter Wargame.
Cone's remarks were delivered during a media roundtable at the TRADOC-led Army Campaign of Learning Senior Leader Seminar, or SLS, Tuesday, at the National Defense University on Fort McNair. More than 100 senior leaders attended the seminar, including Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, as well as joint and multinational military leaders and civilian subject-matter experts.
The SLS provided an interactive forum on insights derived from the Network Integration Evaluation, Army Experimentation and Wargaming, and seminars held over the past year.
Discussions focused on how the Army can be regionally engaged and globally responsive in the years and decades ahead, despite the twin elephants in the room -- decreased funding and manpower.
Speed, the right mix of capabilities and adequate numbers of boots on the ground are the critical factors in responding to national security threats globally, said Lt. Gen. Keith Walker, TRADOC's deputy commander for Futures and director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center.
Some 28 nations have some type of weapons of mass destruction capability, Walker noted, indicating that the problem is not just isolated to the Korean peninsula.
One of the SLS participants called loose nukes the "single biggest existential threat to Western survival." And, those nuclear materials are kept in hundreds of sites without global safeguards in place for securing them.
To promote candor and meaningful dialogue, SLS discussions were for non-attribution only, except for the media roundtable participants.
In the past, the U.S. has sometimes had the luxury of ample warnings and long lead times, said Cone, referring to the buildup of troops and supplies prior to Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom.
The Winter Wargame, however, provided no such lead time in the simulation. The lesson was not lost on Army leaders. The immediate goal should be to lower the response time from 55 to something much less, for example, 28 days, said an Army general.
To obtain faster response times to crises and improve its strategic and operational maneuver posture, the Army is conducting a comprehensive review "across the DOTMLPF," said Walker. DOTMLPF is a term the Army uses to describe "doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel and facilities."
The problem of moving troops quickly to an area is not solely an Army problem. "It's a joint mission" imperative said Maj. Gen. Bill Hix, TRADOC's director of the Concepts Development and Learning Directorate, during the roundtable. Multinational partner coordination is also essential, he added.
Participants said the wargame demonstrated the difficulties with strategic maneuver without adequate intermediate staging bases, especially as the Army becomes increasingly U.S.-based. Proposed solutions included prepositioning supplies on ships or ashore in distant places, and partnering with allied capabilities.
The wargame also illustrated problems once Soldiers arrive -- specifically the so-called "anti-access/area denial" challenge.
"We saw the brittleness of our ability to defeat projected 2020 anti-access/area-denial challenges of potential adversaries during the game as units became isolated and some withdrew," said Col. Kevin M. Felix, TRADOC's chief of the Future Warfare Division, during the roundtable. "We got some forces in but there were problems with the build-up of follow-on forces and sustainment."
The enemy already knows which ports and airfields the U.S. would rely on in a crisis and would target those, said participants.
Even without the enemy targeting key entry facilities, there could still be challenges getting troops and supplies in, Felix said, illustrating the problems faced by U.S. forces in providing post-earthquake humanitarian assistance to Haiti in 2010 due to competing demands for priority for slot times for landing arriving combat forces and humanitarian aid support/supplies.
"If you can't get there quickly to achieve the desired effects, you lose (U.S. and global) support quickly," Felix said, referring not only to humanitarian operations, but also to the loose nuke scenario.
Masses of refugees could also hinder access, Hix said. He noted that during the wargame, the refugee situation was resolved somewhat by setting up a humanitarian staging area away from the area of operations and encouraging the locals to go there by air dropping leaflets with instructions.
Another lesson learned from the wargame is that the U.S. forces cannot always go it alone. Rather, the U.S. needs to continue to build partnerships and regional engagement with other countries and their militaries, Hix said.
He added that the Army should also continue to "leverage its other capabilities, like special operations forces" and use those of its sister services.
"The good news story over the last decade has been the participation of the Guard and Reserve in partnering" with the active component, said Cone. "They have expressed the desire to remain part of the operational force and have demonstrated their performance" in war.
"(The Guard and Reserve have also) provided an array of talent," he continued. Going forward, "we have to find the best ways to train and integrate them with the active component."
Over the last decade of war, the U.S. has learned the importance of the human domain, said Cone. Building personal relationships and learning host-nation culture, language and customs have been shown to yield dividends.
Underestimating the enemy's "will to win," or at least not lose, can be a big mistake, Cone said, providing one of the many examples from history:
"We collapsed Iraq's command and control and then its ability to conduct operations, but that didn't stop them from finding alternative ways to wage war," he said, referring to the insurgents' use of roadside bombs, other forms of terrorism and effective propaganda.
Although the U.S. dominated on the battlefields of Iraq and now Afghanistan, in terms of firepower and technology "their will was still there," he said. "While technology is critical, war comes down to a human struggle."
Despite IEDs and other unconventional threats in Iraq and Afghanistan, Soldiers were able to adapt and overcome those and other obstacles, Walker said, noting that Soldiers helped to come up with counter IED tactics, materiel solutions, jammers and improved vehicle armor.
Walker attributed Soldiers' ingenuity to top-notch training, education and leadership development programs. Walker said he hopes the lessons learned from the wars and the professionalism demonstrated by Soldiers will continue.
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