There's no such thing as "free" transformation. What are the money and
budget issues facing the army?
He is executive director of the non-profit Center for Strategic and Budgetary
Assessments and also served as a member of the National Defense Panel. The
Panel was set up in 1997 by the Secretary of Defense to reevaluate changing
military needs in the new post-Cold War environment.
Both the senior Defense Department leadership and Congress have been
cheerleading the army in terms of supporting transformation. But the fact of
the matter is that they're not providing any additional funding to help fund
transformation. General Shinseki has projected that transformation will cost
the army somewhere on the order of $40 billion to $70 billion over the next 10
or 15 years to create these new kinds of forces and capabilities. The army,
which is already short of money, has been told pretty much that this is a
self-help program--"Don't look to us for help."
So under those circumstances, people are saying, "Okay, army, you're being put
to the test now. How serious are you about transformation, if it's coming out
of your own hide, and if it's not a free lunch? Where are you going to make
the tough cuts to come up with this money?" The only two places where that
kind of money can be found is by reducing the army force structure, or by
cutting the army's Comanche program--its aircraft or helicopter modernization
So far, the army has refused to do both. On one hand, you could say it's
refused to do both because the army is already over-committed in the near term.
It has to maintain forces for the two-war posture and for peacekeeping. On the
other hand, there's a whole political aspect to this. The army could engage
right now in major cuts, either in force structure or in modernization, to free
up that funding.
When the new administration comes into office and conducts its strategic
review, what it will see is a navy and an air force and a Marine Corps that has
severe budget problems. It will see an army whose budget problems are much
less severe, because it's engineered these cuts. But it's engineered these
cuts with an eye toward funding transformation. The great risk the army runs
in that bureaucratic game is that it will be the only service at the budget
table without a tin cup.
Consequently, the army will be the service that is denied any kind of budget
relief that a new administration might offer. So in a kind of perverse sense,
the army is actually disincentivized from making the kinds of cuts it will need
to make in order to jumpstart transformation. Of course, this makes General
Shinseki's problem all the more acute, because he's working on a four-year time
clock to really get momentum going in this program. You can see there is the
strategic issue. There is the operational and internal culture issue, and then
there's the bureaucratic budget political issue.
And it also punishes General Shinseki for trying to do transformation,
because the only place he can get it is out of his hide. . . .
Here you get to the issue of leadership at the top of the Defense Department.
What is the army being incentivized to do? The army has talked about
transformation. But the army has also been told that it is still on the line
to provide us forces for two major theaters of war. You are not getting any
relief in terms of your obligations to support peacekeeping. So in a sense,
while transformation is important and advocated, at the end of the day, few
people are willing to put their money where their mouth is in terms of that.
. . . And you can also see it on the Hill, in terms of Congress's request for
the services to lay out their unfunded requirements. Each year over the last
few years, we've seen that number go up and up and up. The services were
engaged in unfunded requirements escalation, where no one again wants to appear
to be less needy than anyone else. So this kind of reverse logic, which makes
sense from a budgetary perspective, makes very little sense from a strategic
perspective. And again, that's where leadership at the top is needed to break
that kind of logjam.
Could you talk about the army in relation to the other services? . .
The new administration that comes in following this fall's election will
inevitably conduct a strategic review. And the army has got to be concerned
with a defense program that's far too ambitious for the budgets that are
projected. So the army may become the "piŅata" for the other military
services, in terms of freeing up funding to support the defense program.
Put another way, one might expect after the operation in Kosovo that the air
force would say, "Goodness, we never realized what a formidable peacekeeping
role we could play." And of course, the navy says, "We were
Johnny-on-the-spot. We were there very quickly. We're strategically relevant.
The army was too slow." And the Marine Corps is whispering in someone's ear,
"Goodness, those interim brigades that the army talks about making sound an
awful lot like the U.S. Marine Corps. You've already got one of those, don't
It's not a case of the other services being malicious. But they make the case
that they have a relevant role to play--that they are strategically relevant.
So the army, in a sense, has to convince people that it has either solved the
Task Force Hawk problem, or is well on the way to solving that problem, lest it
become the red-headed stepchild when the budget cuts come along.
So it faces an uphill battle in that sense? . . .
That's right. There is the sense that, again, the Balkan war proved that
twenty-first century gunboat diplomacy can be conducted by the air force, and
that perhaps boots on the ground is an old-fashioned notion. But again,
there's a great trap of falling into believing that the last military operation
you conducted reflects all future military operations.
Somebody suggested that the National Training Center might be a dinosaur.
What's your assessment of what goes on out there, related to likely future
. . . That is the center that really helped pave the way in the 100-hour war
during Desert Storm. The question now is, are training centers like the
National Training Center really oriented for the kinds of military operations
that we're going to have to conduct over the next 10 to 20 years? ...
What did other militaries learn from Desert Storm?
Other militaries have taken note of the lessons of Desert Storm. They have
enormous incentives not to fight that way in the future. . . . Essentially, you
don't want to take on American army tank forces in the open. What you want to
do is to deny them the ability to ever confront you to begin with. And you do
that by holding at risk, driving up the costs, creating those ambush sites by
targeting these major forward bases with missile forces. And that is the
perhaps number one challenge for the American army in the twenty-first century.
Not only getting there quickly, but getting there quickly in a way that is not
the site of a repeat of Omaha Beach. You need a way that gets you there
quickly and safely with the ability to generate combat power.
I was talking to an old retired colonel, an Eighty-Second guy, who was
saying, "Well, we can already get there quickly." You don't agree with that?
Certainly the American military can project ground forces around the world more
quickly than any other military. There is no contest. The question is, how do
you do it? One question the army is addressing now is, can we do it quickly
Task Force Hawk showed that the army couldn't get there quickly enough. But
there's also the question of what kind of a price you want to pay. Certainly
you can get a token force there quickly. But that force is going to be at high
risk. If you want to get a force there that doesn't suffer enormous casualties
going through major ports and airfields and one that has combat punch, then
you're going to have to think about operating in very different ways. You have
to think about different kinds of force structure, different kinds of doctrine,
different kinds of equipment, different equipment mixes. What you're talking
about is transforming the army.
You mentioned before that the army has to cut certain things. They haven't
let go of Crusader totally, but they have cut back in the number and they've
cut down its weight. But they are still talking about upgrades to
M-1s--Wolverine, Grizzly--which are essentially part and parcel of M-1
technology. Is there just too much attachment to the legacy weapons?
Given the responsibility the army has to fight and win the nation's wars,
certainly one thing you don't want to do is throw the baby out with the bath
water in terms of transformation. You don't want to throw out what you know
works until you have something new that you know works. And so it would be
certainly reasonable for the army to maintain its heavy mechanized forces as a
major hedge against its ability to transform to an effective fighting force.
You don't want to just transform to anything for transformation's sake.
The question is how you balance out the resources for transformation with
respect to maintaining the legacy forces. My sense is that the effort to
enhance the capability of heavy mechanized forces is probably money spent on
moving those forces a little bit further along the flat of the curve. In other
words, I don't think we're going to make those forces terribly much more
effective at destroying Republican Guard-like forces than they already are. And
given the army's serious budget problems and the need to jumpstart
transformation, I would put relatively greater priority on transforming the
force than I would on digitizing, for example, the mechanized force.
What about the notion of skipping a generation? . . . There are Republicans
suggesting skipping a generation. The Democrats say you can't do that because
you'll endanger the force.
One of the most difficult issues in transformation is that you have to think
about modernizing your force in a wholly different way than you do in an
evolutionary kind of situation. . . . Before you decide what to buy, shouldn't
you decide how you're going to go about solving the operational problems or
exploiting the operational opportunities that you have at hand?
So, for example, to cancel Crusader, buy Comanche, do away with Wolverine and
Grizzly--that's premature. The question that needs to be addressed is how are
we going to deploy forces quickly in the absence of access to forward bases
where we can't generate iron mountains of supplies to sustain them? How are we
going to operate effectively in urban areas, both to seize and control urban
terrain? How are we going to defend the American homeland against chemical and
biological attack? How are we going to see deep and shoot deep?
Those military organizations, those armies that have transformed in the past,
typically have undertaken a rigorous series of war games and field exercises
with varying kinds of forces. For example, the Germans experimented with seven
different kinds of field formations in the late 1930s, trying to get a handle
on how they would restore mobility to the battlefield. And they ended up
adapting about four of those formations. That's what the American army needs
to do. The Germans, for example, originally started out with a Panzer division
of 561 tanks. They found out that that would have been far too many
tanks--that what they needed was a more balanced force of motorized engineers,
motorized artillery, and so on. . . . It's impossible to say what equipment
you'll need until you get a sense of how you're going to solve this problem or
exploit this opportunity. . . .
What are the challenges facing the U.S. Army today?
The great challenge for the army today is to prepare for the very different
kinds of emerging threats that we now see on the horizon. It also needs to
exploit the opportunities that rapidly advancing technology, especially
information-based technology, is giving the army. The army is going to face
challenges in terms of its ability to project power. ...
So the near-term problem for the army is, how to solve the Task Force Hawk
problem--how to get to that austere forward base more quickly. The longer-term
problem that the army faces, though, is how to project power, how to move over
great distances in the absence of access to forward bases. I think that is
going to be the big challenge for the army in the twenty-first century. But
when the army gets there, it's probably going to face an environment that's
With the urbanization of the Third World--urban sprawl and so on--the army will
likely find itself engaged in more Groznys, Mogadishus, Belfasts, and Port au
Princes in the future than rice paddies, mountains and deserts. And so it's
going to have to learn to fight differently. Plus, its adversaries will want
to fight in that kind of an environment. The urbanized environment is an
environment where the value of technology is dumbed down, and where manpower
requirements go up. This goes against the grain of the US military, which
typically emphasizes technology and tries to minimize the risk to manpower and
to the individual soldier.
Finally, in a sense, the army is going to come home again. The army is going
to find that the American homeland is going to be increasingly at risk. And
this is not only because of the proliferation of ballistic missiles and Cruise
missiles to a number of nations. It's also due to the fact that this military
revolution is going to empower small groups and individuals.
It's been said that if you have the know-how today to run a baby formula
factory, you have the know-how to fabricate chemical weapons. If you have the
know-how to run a microbrewery, you have the know-how to fabricate biotoxins.
There are long open borders and an open society. That adds to the potential
for disaffected groups, whether they be terrorists or perhaps agents of a
foreign government hostile to the United States. The threat to the defense of
the American homeland is going to grow. That's traditionally been an army
What was the lesson that Task Force Hawk taught the army? And what was the
lesson that it should have taught the army?
The army learned several lessons from Task Force Hawk. Perhaps the first one
was the political lesson. More and more people in Congress, even people in the
Pentagon, began to ask if the army is strategically relevant--can the army get to
one of these unpredictable trouble spots in a hurry? To a certain extent,
there's a political as well as a strategic need for the army to address the
Task Force Hawk problem. But again, that is only a small part of the overall
ability of the army to project power. In the future, what the army is going to
confront is not just the need to move quickly to a distant trouble spot, but
the ability to do it in the absence of access to large forward fixed bases.
And the reason for this is that, increasingly, adversaries are going to take
advantage of this military revolution to acquire technology that enables them
to stare at these large fixed forward bases, say, from space. And with the
combination of the proliferation of ballistic and Cruise missiles, they're
going to target these bases.
One recalls the old western movies where the wagon train is trapped by the
Indians. The cavalry is riding to the rescue. The quickest route is through
the canyon, and of course the Indian scout says, "Don't go through the canyon.
They know that's the quickest route. That's where you'll be ambushed." And of
course the young lieutenant always takes his troop in, and gets ambushed. And
sooner or later, John Wayne has to rescue them all.
In a sense, these fixed forward bases are the canyons of the twenty-first
century. As long as we continue to project power that way, the enemy knows we
has to pass through that choke point. The army must transform itself to be
able to operate independent of these forward bases, to project power into a
threatened region without having to funnel forces through them. Or else these
kinds of bases could become the Omaha Beaches and the Anzios of the
twenty-first century for the U.S. Army.
General Shinseki testified to Congress about this. He said that the biggest
threat to us is being predictable, such as having an airfields where you must
land your forces, or the one port you must come in through. Is there a gap
between recognizing the problem and solving it, or incorporating it into what
you do? Where is the problem?
The army confronts several problems. One is a resource problem. The army is
already strapped in terms of its budget, so any new initiative has to come out
of its hide. And there's no one right now willing to give the army the slack
it needs, for example, in terms of maintaining forces for the two-war posture
or in terms of its rotations of forces to various peacekeeping operations. So
that's problem number one--getting the resources to do it.
Problem number two is that, to some extent, addressing these problems requires
the cooperation of the other services. For example, if you're looking at
avoiding putting your forces at risk by funneling them through hostile airbases
or major ports, then you've got to talk to the air force about different kinds
of airlifts. You've got to talk to the navy about different kinds of sealifts.
Perhaps a sealift that can deploy forces over beaches, for example, as opposed
to going through ports. And of course, these services are also strapped for
resources right now. What that means is you need leadership from the top. You
need someone--a senior defense official, the secretary of defense--to say,
"Look. What I want you to do is place greater emphasis on preparing for these
kinds of future challenges. And yes, I'm willing to take a little bit of risk
in terms of our ability to wage two wars in the near term. I want to free up
the funds that it's going to take to experiment with new kinds of equipment and
new kinds of operations."
And perhaps, finally, the challenge the army faces is an internal challenge.
What you're talking about here is an emphasis on different kinds of forces.
Typically the forces or the dominant cultures within the army over the last 40
or 50 years have been the heavy mechanized forces, the armor, the mechanized
infantry, and the tube artillery. And what you're saying here is, "You folks
are not going to be unimportant. But you're going to be relatively less
important as we conduct these kinds of operations."
And that's a tough thing to hear when you have a legacy of racing across Europe
as Patton's Third Army, staring down the Soviets during the Cold War, and
winning the smashing victory in Desert Storm. To somehow be told that, "Well,
that was a fabulous job, but in the future you may be less relevant." That's
some pretty bitter medicine to have to swallow.
How much will General Shinseki be able to achieve?
General Shinseki's term is limited to four years. And I think there's a strong
belief on his part that somehow he has to lock down this transformation before
he leaves, lest the forces that oppose change begin to reverse the work that
he's done. Unfortunately, when you look historically at a transformation, a
large-scale change in military organizations, it typically takes at least a
decade, often more, to bring about this kind of change. So in a sense,
Shinseki is caught between a rock and a hard spot. If he doesn't lock it down
quickly enough, he risks his work being undone. If he focuses on the
longer-term challenges, for example the challenge of deploying in the absence
of forward bases, and keeps the process of transformation going, he runs the
risk that his successor won't see the value of that kind of transformation.
How do you assess his chances?
Right now the, the army is focused overwhelmingly on resolving the Task Force
Hawk problem. When you hear the army talk about the interim brigade formation,
the phrase you keep hearing is, "We're going to deploy that brigade 96 hours
after wheels up." To a certain extent, if you look at the growing risks to
forward bases, that's almost akin to the army saying, "We're going to get to
the twenty-first century ambush point more quickly." It's like
Custer saying, "I want to get into the valley faster."
If you don't think through the long-term consequences of the near-term
transformation, what you can end up with is essentially transforming yourself
down a blind alley--ending up with a false or a dead end transformation. You
could get a force in 2010 that solves the 1999 Kosovo problem very well. But
that force isn't really prepared to deal with the challenges of 2010 and 2015.
. . . Will transformation only happen when war is on the horizon?
It's always difficult for a large successful organization like the U.S. Army to
engineer a major change in the absence of "a confirming event"--a wartime
situation that exhibits some sort of shortcoming or failure. But successful
militaries have done it in the past. Look at the American navy and the rise of
naval aviation in the 1920s and 1930s. Successful military organizations
adapted and transformed from a battleship-centered navy to a carrier-centered
navy. You can look at the German military around the same time. And again it
points out the importance of the leadership having a clear vision and a clear
understanding of what the new challenges are at the operational level or the
campaign level of war.
The German head of their shadow general staff after World War I told his
officers, "The last war was a war of position. The next war will be a war of
movement. The last war was a long war of attrition. The next war will be a
short war, a blitzkrieg kind of war. The last war was a war of mass armies.
The next war will be decided by elite forces." That foresaw the Panzer forces
or the tank forces that became part of the first air-land mechanized battle
formation that was known as the blitzkrieg. So if you're looking at the
American army today, you could ask, where is the corresponding vision that
says, "This is what is today, and this is what will be tomorrow, and this is
why tomorrow is going to be very different from today?"
The German army in the 1920s and 1930s essentially said, "Our operational
problem is restoring mobility to the battlefield. We can't afford to fight a
long trench war like we did in World War I." And they employed tanks, they
employed aircraft, they employed wireless or radio to coordinate fast-paced,
fast-moving operations--all to solve that operational problem. And as they
began to build on that, they asked, "What do we do after we break through the
lines and we're penetrating deep into the enemy rear, so he can reform his
trench lines? How do we protect our flanks?" After experiments and exercises,
it was determined that the German air force could provide flank security, and
that the Germans would have to not only have mechanized tanks, but also
motorized artillery that moved along with the armored formations to protect
So this is why a long period of experimentation is important. But more
importantly, this is why it's important for the army leadership to communicate
clearly and effectively--not just to the civilian leaders in the Pentagon, and
not just to the people on the Hill and the people in the media--but to its own
officer corps. "This is our vision, clearly stated. These are the operational
challenges we want you to address. How do we project power in the absence of
forward bases? How do we evict enemy forces from urban terrain? How do we
control urban terrain in a peacekeeping operation? How do we develop
formations that could do what no other army can do, which is to see deep and
shoot deep? And how do we think about defending the American homeland when
it's very politically incorrect to talk about doing that in the current
environment in this country?"
Why is it a good idea to get rid of 2MTW?
The people who look at the 2MTW posture say we are over-investing in a very
low-probability event. What we have here is a very low risk in the near term
that a war will erupt in the Gulf and in Korea. Above that, if a war does
erupt in the Gulf, we probably have too much war structure, because there is no
version of the Republican Guard there today. It's a pale shadow of what it was
in 1990. If you look at Korea, the problem is different. It's not likely that
you're going to get those five army divisions into Korea in time to win
quickly, decisively and antiseptically.
So, number one, you're over-insuring against the risks. Number two, you are
buying the wrong kind of insurance. You've got too much insurance in the Gulf.
You've got the wrong kind of insurance for Korea. And not only that, but the
real danger, the big risk, is long term. What we're talking about here is
power projection, whether you're talking about the Persian Gulf or Korea or
someplace else in the future. And the longer you hang onto these forces that
do power projection the Desert Storm way, the longer you give your adversaries
to frustrate them on a power projection, specifically by going after base
access in the future.
Begin to transform your force now. Take on some increased risk. Rearrange
your insurance portfolio. If you don't do those things, you're going to defeat
the purpose of strategy, which is to minimize the near term and the long-term
risk. You're going to get to that future with a heritage Desert Storm force
that would be great if only you could go back to 1990. And it's going to be
less and less relevant as you get to 2010 and 2015.
You seem to be saying that we may have to fight two wars and that we do need
to prepare for that possibility--but that there is an old way of preparing and
doing it, and a forward-looking way of doing it.
It's not only that. . . . In Desert Storm, we used 7 percent of our munitions
with precision-guided weapons. Right after that war, we started to increase
our inventories of PGMs. Then, in Kosovo, even after the carpet bombing toward
the end of the war, over 30 percent of the munitions used were precision
guided. In Desert Fox, it was almost 100 percent precision guided.
So, in that respect, we were a much more effective force, even though the force
structure was a bit smaller. . . . If there had been an issue when inspecting
the Iraqi plants in 1994, we could have done that. . . . If there was a danger
of war then, obviously one reason that the Iraqis backed down is that they
understood that that the American giant wouldn't have to do a lot of heavy
weapons to be a weakened version of what it had obliterated in 1991.
When you say we need to change the nature of the forces, you've used a
The American army is perhaps almost certainly the only army in the world that
has an opportunity over the next 20 years to develop formations that can see
deep into the enemy rear area and strike deep. . . . You'd want to seize that
kind of opportunity if need be. Imagine a fight between two boxers. The first
phase is to be close in and destroy the enemy. You beat up the other guy in
the clinches. Well, imagine a boxing match where you can blindfold the other
guy, and you've got a reach advantage on him. Then fighting in the clinches
would be the last thing you'd want to do. You could just stand back. He
couldn't see you, and you'd just pop away because you have a reach advantage.
That's the kind of opportunity I think the army has. And it already has some
of the basic tools to begin to experiment with that kind of formation.
In terms of seeing deep, the army can tap into the assets of other services,
and use satellites, for example. The army can borrow from the marine concept
of hunter-warrior, using extended range and small patrols to fill in gaps in
terms of the ability to see deep. The army can also use staff helicopters to
develop that deep picture of the battlefield. Then the army can strike deep.
And it can experiment with things it has on the shelf now. It has rocket
artillery that can fire over 100 miles. It has attack helicopters. It can use
surrogates for unmanned combat aerial vehicles--pilotless aircraft that can
drop bombs. . . .
And if you can't get those five heavy divisions to Korea in a hurry, you could
get a couple of these deep strike brigades into Korea. Wouldn't that be a
marvelous thing to have to support the South Korean army? They could begin to
break up these North Korean formations before ever getting to the point of
closing with and destroying the enemy. So the army has the potential to seize
an opportunity at the operational level. It would be a shame to see that
opportunity pass, the way that some militaries failed to catch on to the value
of armored formations and Panzer divisions during the 1920s and 1930s.
You said that all the military services have walked up to the abyss and
looked down and seen what's required to remake the military, and then stepped
back from the brink. What is scaring them?
This military revolution is presenting new kinds of challenges to the American
military, and that's inducing a rather high level of discomfort. The service
chiefs look at this issue of forward basing access . . . in their own war
games. This would be the abyss. They see how difficult it is. They see how it
challenges some of the dominant service cultures.
For example, the air force is engaged in modernizing its short-range tactical
aircraft. These aircraft have to move through forward bases. They are chained
to those forward bases; they are stuck in those canyons. For the air force to
say, "We need to change. We need to think about other options in addition to
this," is to challenge the dominant culture of the air force today, which is
the fighter pilot culture.
The navy's new attack aircraft that are replacing the ones we're facing now
actually have a shorter range, not longer range. "If we, the navy, want to
help the army and the air force win the battle ashore, we're going to have to
belly those carriers up to the coast, or at least as close as we can get. That
gives us less warning time against anti-ship Cruise missiles or against a
submarine attack." That's challenges the dominant culture of the navy.
It's similar for the army. "Perhaps we can't get those heavy mechanized forces
in there quickly, and perhaps even if we can, we can't support them
logistically the way we'd like to." Again, that challenges the dominant
culture. . . . Perhaps in the future, the army forces will screen the deep
strike assets. In fact, these formations will emphasize long-range
aviation--rocket artillery as opposed to tube artillery, and light infantry in
small formations, as opposed to mechanized infantry. Those are all difficult
operational problems to deal with. But they are also difficult cultural
problems for the services to deal with as well.
What are the dominant cultures in the army? . . .
The most dominant culture in the army is the one that emerged as a consequence
of U.S. Army operations in World War II, with Patton's famous armored forces'
dash across France and into Germany. The armored forces were the centerpiece
of standing off the Soviets in Europe during the Cold War. And certainly the
mechanized forces were so spectacularly successful in Desert Storm. Those
forces are built around armor--mechanized infantry and tube artillery, as it's
called. It's really the core culture along with an associated culture in the
General Shinseki is experimenting with a thing called the Future Combat
System (FCS). What's your opinion on . . . this effort to shift to the
The more military tools you put into military systems and capabilities you can
put in the toolbox of those commanders out at Fort Lewis to help them address
these future operational challenges, the better off the army will be.
However, there's a great danger in picking any particular tool too early and
locking into that. It would be a danger for the army really to narrow down to
a few systems prematurely, especially if the threat is still low. You can make
a case that if there's an immediate danger on the horizon--then you need to
scale up and flesh out these formations.
But look at again the example of other militaries. If you have a situation
where technology is moving fast and where the future adversary is very ill
defined, there's an enormous amount of uncertainty. When is that adversary
going to go show up? Who is it going to be, and how are they going to fight?
It's hard to lock into particular systems without knowing answers to those
questions, and so what you do is you buy yourself options. You try out
different systems, different formations. They're all oriented still on solving
this problem or these operational problems.
It's the same with technology. You may want a future combat system that does
thus and thus. Will technology give that to you? How do you hedge against the
fact that it may not? What kind of alternatives are there for accomplishing
the mission? And again, can you diversify your research development test and
evaluation strategy to where you give the commander significant numbers of
prototypes, so that he can essentially fashion a toolbox that he needs to take
with him on this particular mission?
There's been criticism . . . that you really can't get revolutionary change
unless you change the division structure. So the proposal is floated to break
the phalanx, to move to a much smaller unit. . . .
Brigade formations are something you want to experiment with. You don't know
if they're the answer. Is that the optimum force for urban control with
eviction? Is that the optimum force for deep strike operations? That answer
can be much better determined after war gaming and experimentation. It's
putting the cart before the horse to try and determine that now.
It seems critically important to experiment with a range of formations, and not
restrict yourself to a particular kind of formation. If you look at the
history of military revolutions over the last century or so, what you typically
see is an explosion of technology enabling new forms of military operation,
both for us and our adversaries. That technology gives you military systems or
capabilities--new tools for the commander to create these opportunities, or
problems. Doctrine helps inform how we can use these new tools to optimum
effect. How can we integrate these new capabilities into existing
capabilities, allowing us to boost our effectiveness on the right kinds of
threats and challenges that we've identified?
Finally, there's the force structure issue. Can we restructure ourselves as a
fighting organization to execute this doctrine, this new way of war in an
optimal fashion? Really, what you see are four elements. Technology begetting
systems. Systems, when they accumulate in significant numbers, allowing for
new forms of conducting military operations that greatly increase
effectiveness. But the process of doing that or the doctrine, is typically the
intellectual breakthrough that's needed. And once that's identified, then how
do you restructure the formations, what's the right mix of forces . . . that
will allow us to do that?
For the army, a key part of the vision is coming to terms with just what it
means by way of transformation, and force structures is one way to focus that
kind of attention. In my discussions with army leaders, I've said, "Is your
transformation a Panzer division transformation? Is it on the scale of
blitzkrieg, where you see a new central field formation in the army that
displaces the armored division? Or is it a kind of an air assault division
innovation? Is it a major new field formation, like the air assault division
has been for the army that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, but which doesn't
displace the dominant form of military operations? Or is it some kind of an
innovation or adaptation of existing formations that's on the periphery--
something that might be better termed innovation, as opposed to
What answer do you get back?
The answer I get back is, "We don't quite know." . . . But if you don't have a
vision of talking about a new formation that is, say, the centerpiece of ground
warfare or the centerpiece of urban warfare, then it's very difficult to turn
loose the enormous talent of the army officer and NCO corps to essentially
realize that vision.
So you're saying that, ultimately, you're not convinced that there is a
I certainly don't feel as though there is a clearly communicated vision.
There's not a vision that lays out, in a simple direct fashion, a compelling
case for transformation--a vision that says, "This is what is so different
about land warfare tomorrow. This is why we need to take the world's most
successful, most formidable army, and at great expense and great turmoil within
the organization, transform that force to something else."
You say that ultimately, the biggest barrier to change isn't strategic, but
The biggest barrier to change or transformation within the army is not fiscal.
I think it is intellectual. To be sure, the army has resource problems; it has
funding shortages. But the real challenge is in enunciating a vision that
says, "This is where we need to go. This is why we need to transform. These
are the consequences if we don't. There is a penalty that we will incur if we
stay the way we are, if we stay on the course that we presently have set for
There's an absence of that kind of intellectual or strategic breakthrough that
says, "This is the future in which we have to operate. These are the
challenges and opportunities we face in that future that are very different
from today. This is a future that we're not moving towards right now. We're
not on a path to get to this future and operate effectively as an army. So we
need to transform. We need to set up on a different path that's going to
require us to move resources. It's going to require us to create winners and
losers, in terms of systems, in terms of force structure, in terms of army
It's going to require a Herculean effort to bring our sister services on board.
But if you don't have a clear, compelling, persuasive message, you cannot hope
to persuade a secretary of defense. You cannot certainly hope to persuade
other services, and you cannot hope to persuade the Congress that it ought to
fund you to do this at the expense of other competing priorities.
What do you think of the readiness crisis?
There is no easy formula that one can use to say that the army is ready.
. . . Ready for what? Ready for big wars? Ready for little wars, ready for
war in six months, ready for war in two years? So an important issue is how we
define what we want to be ready for. Then there's the interrelationship of the
services. You can have heavy divisions that are ready to deploy to a
threatened area, but if there isn't enough airlift or sealift to get it there,
is that true readiness? So it's a complex issue.
Certainly there is reason to be concerned in the army . . . over the issues of
army recruitment and army retention. There's growing concern about the army's
ability to retain talented young officers. The migration, as I understand it,
is away from combat arms and into other supporting arms. There's growing
dissatisfaction with the quality of life issues. These are things that speak
somewhat to near-term readiness. But they portend problems for readiness over
the long term. Readiness degrades gracefully up to a point, and then you reach
a kind of snowball effect.
I was in the "hollow army." For example, in my unit, spare parts shortages led
to frustration on the part of mechanics and maintenance people, who then left
the service. They were replaced by less capable people who misused the
existing spare parts we did have. So there was increased frustration on the
part of other soldiers. And you get this compounding effect. The great danger
the army faces now, as with the other services, is there's a sense that it's on
the ragged edge. It's at the point where, if it's not careful, readiness may
become more precipitous in terms of a decline. That gets you back to this
issue of an unprecedented challenge for the American army. Never before has
the American army had to support a US policy of being an active global power,
and at the same time transform itself to a different kind of fighting force.
These are uncharted waters.
Military revolutions typically bring about not only new forms of operation, but
new kinds of military capabilities and a shift in the kinds of military systems
that dominate the battlefield. . . . What strikes me as odd is that, to a
certain extent, we are moving forward in some areas very aggressively to
procure large numbers of systems. Those systems may be dominant today, but
they may not be dominant at all tomorrow. In short, they may depreciate very
rapidly in value.
A case in point is tactical aviation. Right now, the Defense Department is
planning on spending several hundred billion dollars to modernize its
short-range tactical air forces. This seems to be a case in extremes of
putting the modernization cart before the strategy horse. It seems to me that
one would at least want to have some idea of how one we're going to protect
these kinds of forces from missile attack over time as they're deployed to
fixed forward bases. If the price tag for protecting these kinds of systems
also includes massive air and missile defense systems, then maybe there are
better and cheaper ways of modernizing our strike forces.
In terms of the army, is the Crusader one of those things where you put a
lot of money into something of questionable value for the future?
The Crusader is problematic for the army in several respects. It's quite a
heavy system, so it's not easy to get to the scene of the crime very easily.
But second, when it gets there, there's the issue that it is a single system.
It's logistically very dependent and you have two vehicles there. . . .
Committing to a large-scale modernization of army tube artillery with a
Crusader system begs the question, "Can you tell me first how you plan to
conduct your operations?"
How would you answer Fred Kagan when he says that we basically need to
double our military budget and double the size of our forces?
Certainly you'd like to have more money. But in this case, more money would
reinforce the tendency to buy what's already in the pipeline--to improve the
Desert Storm force--as opposed to prepare for the transformation force.
The real game in terms of military effectiveness and military capability is
much more to be had by orienting our forces more on preparing for future
challenges, as opposed to giving them increased funding to work with.
John Hillen proposed . . . "Okay, 20 percent of the whole military budget is
going to go through the secretary of defense's office. So we give it to you,
but you only get it if we tell you how you can spend it." Is this what is
necessary to steer in the direction you'd like to go, which is more forward
There's going to have to be a movement of money for transformation to work.
You have to emphasize a new way of fighting, with a different systems mix
within the forces. Transformation really involves a redefinition of what we
want our military to do. And certainly there's very little reason for the
world's number one military to transform itself, unless it thinks that the
kinds of challenges it's going to face tomorrow are going to be very different
from the ones it faces today.
So the first and key issue is, can you redefine the missions that you want the
services to accomplish? Can you redefine the operational environment that they
will have to conduct themselves in? Once you do that, then you set the new
performance parameters. And that is something that the joint forces command
was intended to do. . . . You begin to conduct those kinds of exercises.
Pretty soon you see that certain forces are used more than others, that certain
prototype systems are valued very highly. And those are the things you begin
to use to begin to restructure your budgets, to move things around.
. . . You've got to force the services to compete on post-transformational
challenges. And you're got to encourage the services to compete across
services. You don't want to establish a service monopoly. The air force is
responsible for deep attack, for example. You want any service involved in
that mission to have a say, to have an opportunity to compete. Not only does
it . . . enhance a particular military capability, but it also keeps the air
force's toes close to the fire.
Because we've been so successful militarily, it's going to take an event to
prompt change. . . .
Change never comes easy in large complex organizations, be they corporations or
military organizations. Fortunately the American military has a pretty good
reputation as being an innovative military. The principal challenges to
transformation today are much more intellectual challenges than they are
I think, quite frankly, that the service chiefs see these emerging challenges
on the horizon. Unfortunately there are a number of barriers that impede their
ability to move aggressively in the direction of transformation. To some
extent, they are victims of their success. To another extent, transformation
involves challenging some internal dominant cultures. Also, they need top
cover from the secretary of defense and perhaps even the president. Somebody
has to go to the Congress and make a convincing case that these congressmen or
these senators must act in interests other than those of their own constituents
Transformation often involves winners and losers across military services,
especially in this case where technology has given each service the ability to
operate so deeply into one another's traditional battle space. There is an
appreciation for the need to transform. In a biblical reference, Moses knows
where the promised land is. He also knows that to get there, he's probably
going to have to take a very circuitous route. The question is, does he get
there before adversaries do? In a sense, the adversaries present us with very
different kinds of problems. They have the capability to do that in ways that
begin to jeopardize our security interests, or in ways that force us to incur
what we think today would be unacceptable costs.
So General Shinseki's problem is . . .
One clear problem for General Shinseki is that he feels he must not only
jumpstart, but institutionalize transformation within his four-year tenure as
army chief of staff. . . . In case after case, senior military leaders
associated with transformation have had extended tenure. That makes sense. If
transformation is a 10-15 year project, you can't give a man two or four years
to take care of that job.
Is transformation going to consume large amounts of money?
Historically, transformation doesn't consume large portions of the defense
budget. Look at the American navy of the 1920s and 1930s, which transitioned
from the battleship and the battle line to carrier aviation. The navy buys six
aircraft carriers out of a fleet of hundreds of ships. But it buys four
different classes of carriers. It never buys a class that has more than two
ships in it. It buys big carriers and small carriers, and it uses a prototype
carrier. It's essentially hedging against uncertainty--where are things
headed, and how will this help us solve the problem of moving the fleet across
the Pacific to deal with Japan.
It also buys us an option so that after Pearl Harbor, after the battles of
Coral Sea and Midway, the navy can scale up rather rapidly. It has an
industrial base that knows how to build carriers. It has officers who know how
to operate carrier task groups. It has trained pilots. It's bought an option
on an uncertain future that has rapidly moving technology. It doesn't lock in
any large numbers to any kind of carrier until the threat really begins to
materialize in the late 1930s. So, buying options on different kinds of force
structures needn't bust the army's budget. . . .
What major problem did the National Defense Panel try to solve? How
successful was it?
The National Defense Panel essentially tried to do three main things. First it
tried to lay out what it saw as the post-transformational problems the military
had to solve. We talked about homeland defense, the basing problem and power
projection, space control, about information warfare--these kinds of things.
These are specific problems that the military had to address.
Secondly, in our conversations with Congress, they said, "You have to give us
an actionable agenda. How will you deal with this modernization program that's
before us?" And we said that we wouldn't rule anything out. "Don't take
tools out of the commander's toolbox. . . . But don't pile so much of one kind
of tool in the toolbox that that all you have is a very restricted number of
capabilities to work with." There's an old saying at the Pentagon. "If all
you have is a hammer, everything better look like a nail." But we may have
other jobs to do than drive nails.
And the third thing was to say, "How do you get an answer to what kind of
modernization program you should have? How you should distribute resources
between the services?" That had to do with joint experimentation in joint
operations that were oriented on the future challenges that we saw.
The means to solve these problems is experimentation. So we recommended the
construction of a joint national training center--a joint urban warfare
training center to give you a real urban environment. One with skyscrapers,
subways, sewers--these sorts of situations to fight across a number of city
blocks. It's fairly expensive, in the sense that they cost several billion
But those were the three things. These are the problems that you have to
solve. Don't rush to buy systems until you've done experimentation. You'll get
an answer, as long as the experimentation is focused on the challenges of
The National Defense Panel . . . and the Hart-Rudman Commission came out
with findings. But any administration that comes in has the freedom to reject
or accept those findings. How critical a juncture is the coming next six
This presidential election will offer perhaps the first true opportunity for a
strategic review that we've had in the post-Cold War era. We had the bottom-up
review in 1993, which pretty much set the course for the Clinton
administration's defense posture and defense program. If you assume a two-term
presidency, a 2001 review might be the only fundamental review you get between
1993 and 2009.
We have enough evidence now to know that the post-Cold War world is
geopolitically very different from what we saw during the Cold War. And we
know in terms of the trends in technology diffusion that the kinds of
challenges we're going to face in the future are going to be quite a bit
different. We've accumulated an understanding that we don't live in the world
of Desert Storm any more. We have an opportunity here that you typically get
when a new administration comes in. It's a chance to really make a course
correction on where we're going. So the next six months . . . could be the
best opportunity we have to jumpstart transformation.
And is it safe to say that . . . this could be the first real strategic
transformation of this depth in 50 years? . . .
Some people are talking about the upcoming strategic review by a new
administration as being the most fundamental review since the National Security
Act of 1947. I think that's not likely for a couple of reasons. In 1947, we
faced an immediate threat in the form of the Soviet Union. And we had just
come out of a world war in which we learned an awful lot in terms of what
worked militarily and what didn't. So you had the basis for a large-scale
change. We don't have that in 2001. We're still relatively secure in the near
term. There's no great public cry for new ways of conducting our national
security affairs, or shaping our military. The incentive to spend political
capital is relatively lower. The barriers to transformation are relatively
higher. I suspect that it'll be a tougher job to engineer a large-scale change
in 2001 than it was in 1947.
Where should we look for the leadership to make that change possible?
Ultimately . . . certainly in the form of a secretary of defense who can
influence the military leaders who are in senior positions in the Defense
Department. There is an opportunity to chose and select those people will fill
those billets. There is top cover for the secretary of defense from the
president, who is the commander in chief, and key leaders in Congress, who can
come forward and speak eloquently on the part of military transformation.
If you're talking about tenure being a key aspect for the long haul, members of
Congress who tend to stay in office for 10 or 20 years are certainly
congressional leaders who can be an important element of the mix.
Are you skeptical or hopeful of the possibility?
I think there's reason for cautious optimism with respect to jumpstarting
transformation following the inauguration of the new administration. A new
administration will want to look for opportunities to strike out in a new
direction. They won't be imprisoned by the decisions made over the previous
eight years. To some extent, any administration--including the Clinton
administration--has to confront that constraint.
Both candidates have said some encouraging things, such as increasing research
development, testing and evaluation funding so that you can experiment more
thoroughly with a wider range of systems. There's been a call to redirect 20
percent of our modernization funding. That means that money will flow out of
certain kinds of systems, into the new systems. That could mean expanding the
toolbox by which our commanders can experiment to identify how best to
transform the force. So the glass is, perhaps, not quite half-full. But at
least it's not empty.
experts' analyses ·
army chronology ·
gore & bush's military agenda ·
tapes & transcripts ·
pbs online ·
web site copyright 1995-2014
WGBH educational foundation