the future of war
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a u.s. army firing excersize
discussion: what are your reactions to this report on remaking the u.s. army into a fighting force for the 21st century? what will future wars look like and how should we prepare for them?

Dear FRONTLINE,

It was refreshing to watch a program which portrayed the problems facing the American Army without the political rhetoric. I certainly hope the presidential candidates or at least their closest advisers watched.

I applaud General Shinseki's efforts to modernize the force and put aside the strategy and tactics used in the Col War. If he can withstand the pressures from the politicians and lobbyists to retain the status quo, he may be considered the "George Marshall for the 21st Century".

I wish your program would further emphasize that the Defense Department does not need more money but the money should be re-allocated from useless weapon systems and supporting infrastructure such as the M1 Tank to these lighter, special strike force units.

Linda Rice

Dear FRONTLINE,

I'm a retired tanker, Armor units, Border Cav, 6 Years in the OPFOR, over 500 battles at NTC, Senior O/C at CMTC, Op SGM,
Program Master Gunner for AGS.

Now I work for the Evil Empire or so Gen. Shinseki would have you think. I work for United Defense, Yup I'm still training soldiers, did BFIST NETT in 3rd ID. When I first heard Shinseki speak last year, I believed he cared for the welfare of his soldiers, I'm not so sure now.

The American people are not stupid and unimformed, neither are our potential enemies. The Great learning curve in the Army in the eighties was the unrestricted OPFOR, that changed the way we fight. Our new enemies know where we are weak, and sending Americas sons out on a LAV gives our enemy the opportunity to make them die for thier country. The great debate over wheels and tracks is centered on the mountain of evidence that our track systems are more mobil, and more survivable.The new bad guys don't need expensive weapons to kill LAVs. 7.62AP, will do it. I would not take a rocket scientist two seconds to figure out, block the road burning tire, wrecked vehicle, rubble, all the things that tracks run over without stoppingthen kill the crew. You can shoot right through the vehicle, if they dismount you just made their day. The World News would catch it all and be talking about casualties in another failed policy.

Until Future Technology can equip the Objective Force we should not gamble on putting our forces in vehicles with such low survivability stats. The AGS was built to replace the Sheridan in the 82nd. The great difference was the standard the Army demanded then and how much lower it is now. Did somebody forget to tell me that the worth of a soldiers life went down. I'm prepared to debate this with anyone, anytime.

1SGret John Bittay
San Jose, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I would like to respond to some of viewer Tim Bauman's criticisms of the "military-industrial complex:"

First, having a strong military engaged worldwide contributes to our culture in several ways. By ensuring access to oil supplies, it lowers oil's cost, lowering inflation and allowing higher economic growth and more jobs.

It allows Americans to exercise the moral responsibility to defend the threatened, help the helpless, and uphold peace and democracy wherever they choose, rather than watch helplessly and issue diplomatic comdemnations. By maintaining enough strength to deter anyone from starting a major war, it prevents such wars and all of the harmful worldwide social effects which come along with them.

There are also many reasons that our military must spend a large multiple of the defense budgets of our potential adversaries. First, most potential adversaries are Third World nations paying the soldiers Third World wage, or less. We pay our soldiers a First World wage, and indeed, as a volunteer force, must provide incentives such as scholarships and health care to encourage people to do a difficult job. I suspect Mr. Bauman does not favor a return to the draft.
Second, power projection is enormously expensive. Our adversaries plan and spend to fight within, or near, their own borders. The sealift and airlift needed to deliver and then sustain forces anywhere in the globe, in several places at once, incur astronomical costs.
Third, a basic principle of innovation is that the leader must pay additional costs. As the nation working out technical challenges the first time, we will inevitably make costly missteps that following nations will be able to avoid.
Fourth, as a people that loves life, we place a premium on avoiding casualties, even if it involves enormous expense. Undemocratic nations with conscripted armies can afford to cut corners on safety and redundancy.

Mr. Bauman's other criticism is that defense contractors are often corrupt and overcharge taxpayers. This is by far his most defensible assertion, but is not an argument that we do not need as large of a military. Indeed, it is a call to find ways to reform procurement to fulfill the objectives we will have no matter how clean - or corrupt - contractors are.

Martin Duke
Tacoma, Washington

Dear FRONTLINE,

I'm losing respect for our country's military and the members of our government who have found it necessary to spend countless billions on weapons. The recent terrorist attack on a mult-million dollar ship has clearly shown us how vulnerable our military is despite high-tech weapons.

While the military is plagued by mismanagement, the leaders of this mismanaged organization use its failures to justify funding itself would increases while practically every other country is downsizing.

The countries that are spending more on military buildup are trying to keep pace with U.S. spending.
Our schools need funding, our infrastructure needs rebuilding, our families are overburdened, our Social Security system may go bankrupt, but we have the damn best military in the world.

Edit Toth

Dear FRONTLINE,

I feel that your program did an excellent job of showing the primary problem facing the Army, which have been approaching the crisis stage for many years. I applaud General Shinseki's candor in this matter, and his willingness to take a revolutionary approach to the situation. However, other issues you addressed are just as important as the force structure question.

Part of the reason we have this situation now is careerism among our military planners and leaders. Too often, commanders at every level are unwilling to address problems early on, because in today's Army making waves can mean career death.

If long-term changes are to be more than band-aids, leaders should be allowed to make changes and decisions, and give appropriate criticism, without fear of reprisals.

One portion of your program showed the defense industry lobbying Congress to adopt their weapon/force structure package. I know that Congresspeople like weapons systems that are manufactured in their districts, but I couldn't believe that a contractor has the brass to step up and say to the Senate "Well, maybe the Army is wrong, this is what we think they should have". This industry mentality has been around far too long, and needs to go the way of the 2MTW plan. Soldiers, not stockholders, know what works in the middle of a firefight.

Morale is every bit as serious a problem as the force structure. Unless the senior staffers, the people Col. David Hackworth refers to as "Perfumed Princes", are willing to change the politically correct, all-things-to-all-people mindset that permeates the armed services, we will continue to suffer the hemorrhaging of junior officers and enlisted members. Without addressing the issues of pay, extended deployments as "peacekeepers", and the resignation of the "Warrior Spirit", the leaner meaner force of tomorrow will be little better than what we have today.

General Shinseki is off to a great start, but unless he addresses other issues related to military culture and morale we won't be any better off that we are now. Lets pray that he is allowed to follow through with the changes that are so desperately needed, and keep the ball rolling in a positive direction.

Eric W. Griffin
US Army Signal Corps
1987-1991

Eric Griffin
Tucson, Arizona

Dear FRONTLINE,

I enjoyed your show as usual, but I was wondering why you did not include more of the Congressional Process in the shaping of the military. Three Hundred Billion Dollars is a lot of money, but is it small comapared to the demand placed upon the forces which guard our country.

The industrial lobbying, and infighting between services for funds needed for troop support, research and development, and just buying spare parts are the voices heard by the law makers who hold the purse strings. The troops in the field are often left high and dry by politicians who are warm and cozy in their Congressional hearings.

Money talks and all too often the decision makers can't hear their troops from the noise of the cash changing hands.

I know this because I was part of President Regan's 600 ship Navy, but left the service under clinton because we couldn't even get the money to buy the parts we needed to make the boats work. We were floating targets without the ability to properly defend ourselves. Persident Clinton didn't cut our purse strings, he cut our throats. No matter what the Chief of Staff, Army or Navy, does, he can't force a politician to spend money. Only dead soldiers have that power.


Jason Wallace
Cincinnati, Ohio

Dear FRONTLINE,

I watched with high interest the Frontline show on
the future of war since I served with a counterterrorist group in the Air Force.

One glaring point that was missing was how special
operations would be deployed during future conflicts. Clearly, most of the future security probelms around the world will involve unconventional warfare, terrrorist activity and
guerrilla warfare. What mission would SEAls, Delta, Special Forces, Marine Corps recon. and other elite units have during the future war? Perhaps FRONTLINE could produce a separate feature
on that question.

Another glaring point not addressed is the enormous number of soldiers in the Chinese Red Army, which is now at 200 billion. Unless we increase the size of our Armed Forces, no amount of technology and tactics can offset the shear strength in numbers of their army.
Thank you for addressing these issues.

Clifton Powell
Denver, Co

Dear FRONTLINE,

Excellent show last night! Our small Canadian Army has been looking at "transforming" for some time mostly because defence and security issues do not have the same constituency in the Great White North as they do for you -- ergo, very little money for defence spending but many, many deployments nonetheless for our stretched troops.

Anyway, your Gen Shinseki has it right. I am a former Regular Armour officer and regret seeing the demise of large heavy formations we will eventually have none, but Shinseki's balancing of the requirements seems to be correct. The vehicles being used are the LAVs from GM Canada and while not being perfect for high-intensity combat as per WWIII, certainly are capable of handling most situations that western armies find themselves in these days. More importantly, they are strategically available quickly -- more meaningful in your army because you actually have proper strategic lift in your Air Force. Canada does not. By the way, in your army chronology website, don't forget that the 1812 War as we call it is one that British and Canadians figure that we won -- if for no other reason than the main aim of conquering Canada by US forces was not achieved. Having said that, you have conquered us economically but then again it has been a mostly amicable victory for both sides...

Paul Crober
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Dear FRONTLINE,

The real lesson of the Gulf War was that unless war breaks out where the US Army is at the time, we cannot get there before the fight is over. Luckily, we were up against one of history's worst military leaders in Saddam Hussein, and had six months to move our heavy-forces into place. You can bet that future adversaries will destroy port facilities where the US Army's beloved M1 tanks can be offloaded.

Gen. Shinseki realizes that if the Army is to continue to be an effective participant in US national security, it must be capable of rapidly deploying, by air, a highly lethal force. Fortunately for the Army, technology will make this possible. A LAV-III type platform with Hellfire missiles mounted will replace the M1, but a bigger problem is transforming the way the Army fights from a WWII style maneuver warfare paradigm to a precision warfare paradigm. In precision warfare paradigm, visibility of the battlefield situation and abiltity to exploit your superior knowledge of the situation is the key to victory. Command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence C4I are the most important factors on the battlefield. Integration of new C4I technologies into the Army's forces and learning how to use them most effectively is the challenge.


Jeffrey Brown
Kansas City, MO

Dear FRONTLINE,

I both enjoyed and was impressed by your "Future of War" program. As a sometime military analyst, I probably have greater familiarity with some of the issues discussed than most of your viewers, but that probably isn't terribly important.
I wanted to note a couple of things. First, General Sinseki's overall effort is right on target. The world has changed dramatically since the late 1980s, and the Army needs to, indeed MUST, change with it. The old patterns of doctrine and equipment no longer fit the likely operational environment. The issue of tracked versus wheeled combat vehicles is kind of window dressing, though. Wheeled vehicles are lighter, cheaper, and entirely satisfactory against opponents who don't have tanks. In other situations, though, nearly all wheeled combat vehicles would be outclassed and extremely vulnerable.
Second, and somewhat related to the "light combat vehicle" debate is the fact that the US Army has had no decent light tank since the early 1960s, when most M-41 "Walker Bulldogs" were retired in favor of the M-551 Sheridan. Combat experience in Vietnam showed that the Sheridan's aluminum alloy armor was too light and flammable to offer much protection, and its 152mm Shillelagh excuse, I've trouble spelling Gaelic from memory gun-missile system was an interesting idea but notably ineffective. The M8 Armored Gun System, alas, fell victim to budget tightening in the early- to mid-1990s, but would have been a good replacement. A twenty-odd ton vehicle with add-on armor and a modern 105mm gun, it could have fought tanks but was light enough to move by air. The M1 tank is wonderful, but at 70 tons its too darn heavy to move quickly in a strategic sense: you have to send it by slow cargo ship.
The Army also needs to think seriously about a light armored personnel carrier. The M2 Bradley is a great vehicle, but it's heavy 40 tons, expensive, and carries too darn few infantrymen 6 at best. The M-113 is older and cruder, but at least it carries 10-11 men a normal infantry squad and their equipment. As an interim, returning some M-113s to frontline service as APCs would help out the "medium brigades"; at the best, something newer and more survivable would bring a real boost to Army capabilities.

David Bongard
Alexandria, Virginia

Dear FRONTLINE,

Everybody likes thier new toys, including me. However, What good is all this new equipment if nobody knows how to use it? The two biggest problems facing the armed forces are moral and training. People are not staying in because of fiascos like Tricare. People are not staying in because they are deployed away from thier families for months at a time on "peacekeeping" missions to places they have never heard of. People are getting out because thier friends back home make more money at McDonnalds.

You will NOT keep quality people in if they do not feel that it is worth it. When a highschool dropout can go to some shop and make two or three times what a Soldier or Sailor does and it does happen and be able to sleep in his own bed every night you have to ask yourself why you want to stay in. This is the first readiness issue that needs to be dealt with.

The second issue is training. James O'Keeffe's post regarding sensitivity training vs. the rifle range hits it on the mark. When women were deployed to the USS Eisenhower in '94 we went through hours of Sexual harrasment training. That was followed up by an annual one week class called Prevent. Was this a bad idea? Not nessesarily. But I can't even think of justifing that when the military training is so neglected. After serving for four years of active, and three reserve, I should NOT be able to even guess at how many rounds I have fired in training , but I can. 50 rifle rounds are barely enough to start to learn proper technique, let alone how to work under fire. Yet if you can hit a paper target at a known distance in optimal conditions more times than not, you are considered "qualified" and combat ready for two years. "Why do they do this?", you might ask. The reply I get is because they do not have the money for training. This is insane.
What this all comes down to is that you can spend billions on your new toys, and you can develop new tactics, but all that money and time is wasted. It will be wasted as soon as someone decides to challenge us with a trained, motivated force. This will happen, because our troops will not be able to use what they have, and those who do know how to fight will have left the force.

Jeff Binder
Romeo, MI

Dear FRONTLINE,

I must protest your statement in the chronology that the war of 1812-14 was a "second war of independance". In fact, it was a blatant invasion of Canada based on the bizarre notion of Manifest Destiny. The US thankfully lost that war and settled in to become our neighbor and best friend.

Paul Lemoine
Ottawa, Ontario

Dear FRONTLINE,

First I want to congratulate you on a well presented program. Unfortunately I noticed that some information was used to reach assumptions which clearly cannot be supported.

For example: After the destruction of the simulated forces led by Col. Fontenot, your reporter threw in the statement, supported by some civilian commentator, that this victory could've only been accomplished with forces that will not exist for 25 years. Correct, to a point. What the reporter fail to state is that a force like the simulated "NIR" would also take between 20-30 years to create. Although an "NIR" could come to power tomorrow, and possess the INTENTIONS to attach the US, intentions do not provide CAPABILITIES. The "NIR" would not obtain the equipment, personnel, training skills, and logistical tail re: CAPABILITIES, for a long period. Time enough to prepare and adapt our forces.

Lastly I would like to bring up the point of Gen Shinseki's lack of vision towards urban warfare. An LAV in the urban enviroment is akin to providing the troops with a minivan. If the lessons of history are followed, then a study of the Russian army's victories at Stalingrad, Berlin, and lately in Chechnya, can assist us in preparing a force to deal with an urban threat. The Russians do not storm buildings. They just allow the artillery to bring the building down to ground level. Watching war films of Stalingrad, Berlin, and Chechnya shows that the Russians decided to bring in large amounts of tanks and armored artillery within visual range of buildings so as to assist the grunt. Not a rinky-dink LAV, a tank and an SP Gun.

Nothing defeats firepower.

Javier Arroyo
Rockville, Maryland

Dear FRONTLINE,

I enjoyed the program last night. I'm a "Marine Corps" Vet. and agree that the military will have to change their structure and training to be ready for the new challanges that face our nation.

However, I do not agree that we should be a peace keeping force for the whole world. We have a tendency to stick our nose where it does not belong.

With the decrease of recruits entrering the Arm Forces and active personal not re-enlisting we should be more focused on a lighter and more effective millitary than one that is short handed and geographically challenged.

Please keep these programs coming.

Greg Peel
waterford, MI

Dear FRONTLINE,


While I enjoyed "The Future of War", I am concerned as to where Gen Shinseki is leading the Army. I feel he is correct in looking to assemble light forces , able to be transported almost anywhere at a moment's notice. However, these same light forces, using LAV's or other similar vehicles, don't afford the protection the M1 does. Any Third World warrior armed with an RPG or even a T-34 can quickly take out a LAV. We would have to be very selective as to where we deploy these vehicles{we should be anyway}. I feel that a mix of light and heavy armor is a more realistic answer to any future conflicts.

When the 82nd Airborne went to Saudi Arabia for Desert Shield, the only armor they had were Sheridan light tanks. And the Iraqi T-72's would have chewed them up. I dont feel it's sound thinking to decide that the Gulf War was the last war of it's kind. No one can predict that. And fighting a two-front war in LAV-type vehicles is not my idea of a good time.

Sgt.Lee Meyers
East Brunswick, NJ

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