the future of war
homeexperts' analysesinterviewschronologydiscussion

interview: general eric k. shinseki

Appointed Army chief of staff in June 1999, he is calling for an Army transformation that will better prepare it to fight the new 21st century wars. As part of this effort, he wants to put a brigade combat team anywhere in the world in 96 hours, a division in 120 hours and five divisions in 30 days.
Why did you send copies of the book America's First Battles to the House and the Senate?

It's a perspective of what our nation, and primarily our army, has seen over our history. And it is an army that oftentimes went into those first battles less prepared than they could have been, and certainly than they should have been. It was background as I went to testify on why transformation was important to this army at this period of time. I wanted to at least share that perspective, so that this discussion didn't start nowhere and end nowhere, but had a foundation.

What was the experience you were trying to convey to them?

It's less than stellar. The first battles of all of the wars we have fought have seen tremendous price and human loss because of our lack of preparedness for that war. This it the fiftieth anniversary of the Korean War and we are about to celebrate events like Task Force Smith--valorous fighting by great young Americans. Unfortunately, they were not as prepared as we should have been for that conflict. And it's about not repeating the Task Force Smith experience. We're better than that, and that's a matter of being able to generate the support that we need for this transformation.

At the U.S. Army armor conference, you said that if we took lessons from Desert Storm, our enemies did, too. What do you mean by that?

If you go back and look at the events that led up to that very decisive victory that the our army and our allies won in Desert Storm, the precursor events that led up to that victory pointed out some operational shortcomings. And that is when Saddam began his move south and overran Kuwait City, and was moving very quickly towards the border with Saudi Arabia. South of that border lay the airfields and the ports that we would have needed to get into with our heavy forces. It looked like he was on a time line that we were not going to be able to match.

the army that fought in Desert Storm is a great army. But  one we designed for the Cold War. And the Cold War has been over for ten years Our response was to take a brigade of light infantry, our airborne infantry, the great Eighty-second Airborne Division, airlifted them quickly and put the in the desert to block. And they dug in with not much in the way of lethality of anti-tank capability or artillery. But they went into the desert to take on that movement that was coming south. It's not a battle that we would have designed. Heavy mechanized forces were coming up against light infantry, and frankly, we held our breath.

For reasons still unexplained, Saddam stopped for six months and then, of course, everything else is history. But our condition ten years ago has not been corrected today. If we had the same situation and had a breakaway threat and had to respond, our move would be with the light infantry and primarily the Eighty-second Airborne Division again. That would be our strategic response. Then we'd wait for the heavy divisions to arrive, which would be a number of weeks. We need to correct that. That's an operational shortfall. I personally feel a moral obligation to those soldiers that we would first have something to go in right behind them to give them the kinds of capabilities that that brigade of the Eighty-second did not have ten years ago. They didn't have technical mobility. They didn't have weapons platforms and they did not have an assault gun capability. And frankly, this is something we have to take care of.

What would you say then was the biggest lesson that enemies watching took away from the Gulf War?

That when they commit to battle, they should not take a six-month pause. They should follow up their early victories with sustained momentum, because the pause is what gave us the opportunity to structure the outcome of that war.

You had an intense statement on transformation within days of your appointment as chief of staff in June 1999. What prompted you to want such a big program?

Transformation is only a word. If you want it to lead to something, there's a foundation that only comes with 30-plus years in this profession. And it's being around to see what worked and what didn't work--being around to listen to young soldiers talk about how things could be better or what their concerns are. It comes with spending 15 months as a deployed operational commander in places like Bosnia. It's reading the lessons of Desert Storm, not the headlines of Desert Storm. The lessons of Desert Storm tell you about the incident I just described to you. And in order to make transformation a vision for something that has real potential for achievement, you have to begin with those foundations that tell you where you want to end up once you begin this process.

What's the outcome if things stay on the same course?

It's how not to continue preparing for the last war. And frankly, the magnificent army that fought in Desert Storm is a great army, and it still is a magnificent army today. But it was one we designed for the Cold War, and the Cold War has been over for ten years now. As we look forward to the next century, we've seen a bit of what that next century is going to look like, and the kinds of deployments we've had in the last ten years. And yes, it is Desert Storm. But it's also Somalia and Haiti and Panama, Bosnia, Kosovo, and East Timor.

Look at the condition of the army and our ability to move quickly to these hot spots. We need to have sufficient capability on the ground to deter and to hold crises where they are, with the intent of then returning to stability. That takes a kind of agility and flexibility and versatility that we need in the force. It's looking for solutions to these kinds of problems that have given us a bit more focus on what to accomplish in transformation. It is not just the low-end business, but it's also being able to fight those wars as we did in Desert Storm. We need an army with versatility and agility to be able to do all of those missions on the spectrum. And today we are a bit focused on our capabilities. The heavy divisions to do the war fighting, the light divisions to do lots of things, but are a bit more challenged in the high-intensity war fighting. We have not looked after their lethality or their survivability quite as we have done for the heavy force.

What did you mean when . . . you said that our intellectual doctrine hasn't quite kept pace in dealing with small actors on the one hand, and the high end on the other?

This does tie to that. If you look at the elements of power any nation employs, we would agree there are about four of them: political power for sure; economic power; information; and military power. . . . Look in the headlines for the kinds of things that are happening, whether it's the relations between India and Pakistan, China and Taiwan, the Koreas, or southwest Asia. You can see all of those elements of power being employed in a variety of ways, whether they're economic sanctions or political initiatives being used to leverage behavior and stability from the protagonists. If you look at the use of the military as one of those elements, you'll see us in places like Bosnia and Kosovo. And so you see a requirement for those capabilities. If you read the articles in the newspaper closely, you'll also see the emergence of some things that I would call "complicators," for lack of a better term.

I'm talking about organized crime. I'm talking about narcotrafficking. I'm talking about terrorism, and maybe the fourth piece is the one that I would lump as weapons of mass destruction. All four of those actors seem to be gaining a kind of nexus where organized crime is generating dollars through narcotrafficking, the use of terrorist actors and the employment of weapons of mass destruction. If they come together, they provide a significant capability that we doctrinally don't have a way of describing, intellectually, how we would deal with it today.

For the military element, we talk about missions. We talk about war fighting. We talk about peacekeeping. But these complicators provide us what I would describe as a low-end actor with very high-end capabilities. If they were to employ weapons of mass destruction, how do we deal with them? As a military force, this doesn't necessarily fall into our description of missions. There is a good opportunity for us to do some intellectual work here that will help answer some of these questions for us.

When you testified this year to the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee, Senator Lieberman asked you if you can articulate a vision similar to the German general who created the blitzkrieg doctrine. You said that you have a lot more things to worry about than the German general did . . . like Haiti, Bosnia, and Somalia. . . . What you were trying to convey to Senator Lieberman?

It's the challenge of being in an army that has global recognition for significant capabilities, for doing good work in a variety of mission profiles and then being called upon to do it. It's an army of ten active component divisions. There are six National Guard heavy divisions, two more National Guard divisions that have specialized missions, and then a host of other units that deploy early out of the army reserve. The reserve, the guard and the active component come together with their very special skills to put together forces that we can deploy rather quickly.

The missions that we're asked to perform run from humanitarian assistance, fire-fighting, and non-combatant evacuation from the most remote corners of the world. When American representatives are there at the behest of our government and when the affairs of those countries start to unravel, our responsibility is to get them safely out on very short notice. It is about peacekeeping. It is also about the high-end business. That's the business of war fighting, and dealing in an environment where violence is very much a part of that environment.

The challenge is to understand how to organize your limited forces to do all of those things. You can't fall into the trap of organizing yourselves for specific missions, and then not being able to perform other missions when the conditions change very quickly--as they can in places like Kosovo--in 20 minutes. You find yourself having to go very quickly intellectually and physically from what was a peacekeeping mission into war fighting. And how have you prepared your youngsters, both intellectually, from a point of being trained and prepared, and with equipment, to be able to very quickly prevail in that more intense higher mission requirement?

This is about versatility. If you were to design forces, you would want to design them for the high-end business of war fighting. When the conditions change and put you into this very intense war fight, your units would prevail. But then you have the requirement to train those same forces to be able to adjust, and to perform some of the lower-end missions.

You also said . . . that the biggest threat to us is being predictable, such as having to go through an airport or a port, and having a big logistics tail behind you. You said, "If I were the enemy, that's where I'd come after us." How would a transformed force try to deal with that?

All of us who have grown up with this profession understood that we could take on our adversaries in a number of ways. We could meet them at the front line where all of this combat capability is arrayed the way he wanted it-- all of his guns looking at us, all of his artillery pieces prepared to engage us. Or we could take our adversaries on a bit differently and reduce his capability for sustaining a war fight--take away his soft targets, his command and control. Take away his artillery, and his logistical support, and within 24 hours his ability to continue the fight would have been seriously degraded.

If you look at it on the larger scale, our ability to get into areas of crisis today is very much determined by where we can get our strategic lift in, whether it's airlift or sealift. And it's ports and large airfields. For the asymmetric actor out there, who has limited opportunity to influence our fight, we provide the kind of predictability they're looking for. So if we can find a way to get our forces quickly into theater without having to go predictably through the ports or through the airfields as we have in the past, we have begun to change the equation and the calculus of the battlefield. We're then able to reduce our vulnerability and deny predictability in our operations. Then they must face us when we are deployed and ready to do combat.

. . . Are you just focusing on speed? Is that a vulnerability of the new transformation? Or does it take into account being denied theater access through airfields and ports?

Transformation is more than just one piece of the spectrum here. It's not just about platforms. When you look at our lift requirements today, the heavy divisions' requirement for strategic lift is eighty to ninety percent in our logistical tail. It's not in the weapons platforms. Those weapons platforms count for maybe twenty percent of our lift. The rest of it is in our logistical tails.

So as we talk about transformation, we intend to get into the design of our units. It is about looking for a common chassis design. It is about looking for smaller caliber ammunition. It is about fuel efficiency. It is about micro-technology. As we reduce the size of our platforms, we also reduce the size of this rather significant logistical footprint, and that gives us the kind of agility that will put us in places that are least expected. We can reduce our predictability and get in there faster. And then when we have to change directions and go on another mission, we will also have the agility to be able to do that.

By bringing together these various principles and designs, eight to ten years down the road the force will have the characteristics that the future force will need. It is about responsiveness. It is about deployability. It is about agility, versatility and lethality--better than we have today, and survivability much better than we have today. It's a far more sustainable force than we have today.

When you were a commander in Bosnia, you saw things that we could not do, or that we would rather have done differently. Are those things that could be taken care of by a transformed force--in the way that you're thinking?

We discovered that most of our heavy equipment, in a country that was wrestling to reestablish itself economically, tore their roads up so badly that commerce could not get through. And then we had to come back in and repair those roads. And a many-ton combat vehicle is going to leave an imprint on the ground. If the weather goes bad and the ground gets soft, that imprint is far, far more significant, to the point where commerce was seriously impacted.

You probably know that, in time, we put most of that equipment on a ready status inside our installations in Bosnia, and really went to patrolling with much lighter wheeled vehicles. Our Humvees are fine for driving the roads, but when you go to a hot situation you would revert back to those heavier pieces of equipment. I think we need something to do both, and it's not just in Bosnia. A majority of the places that we've deployed to in the last ten years are encumbered, or at least our missions are encumbered by the heavy platforms. So thinking about how would we do this differently drives some of the designs we're looking at in transformation.

Is the two major theaters war scenario (2MTW ) getting in the way?

The two major theaters of war scenario is really a sizing function. It tells us how many formations we need to be able to respond to the demands of the regional commanders in chief who have to fight those wars for us. It's a reasonable scenario, because it stresses us in our planning to go one direction and then, with a brief 45-day period to go in another direction. It would stress any institution.

There is some talk that 2MTW may be passé. Perhaps. Those discussions are part of strategic decision-making. But for the time being, the 2MTW scenario is the one that I have been asked to plan for. It makes sense. I can execute it today with the forces that the army provides. The first one is a moderate risk, the second MTW is at high risk. And I think all of us who sit on the Joint Chiefs of Staff would come to the same conclusion. Whether it's two major theaters of wars or a single major theater of war with multiple complex contingencies. I guess it would come down to definitions. . . And what do we specifically mean by a complex contingency? Is it a Bosnia or a Kosovo? Is it a Somalia or is it a Desert Storm? We need those defined, because those are the descriptions that will decide how much capability is sufficient.

One requirement of our scenarios that has not been quite understood today is the element of time.

In what way?

Time as a factor isn't really addressed in either the two major theaters of war scenario or one-plus scenario. Time on the front end has the sense of urgency. It's getting there with the right sufficient capability to be able to be decisive quickly. The standing military force is about the only capability you can rely on. Time on the back end of an operation has a different quality, and it has to do with the longevity that goes with these deployments. We have been in Kosovo now a year. We're coming up on five years in Bosnia. The Sinai Desert is 18 years, and Korea is 40. Each mission begins to strip away inventory and capability. So when you arrive at the point in time where you're now talking about however many major theaters of war you're going to try to provide forces for, that inventory has now been spread-eagled on a variety of missions. We need to address what that element of time does to us on missions.

You've said there's an innate tension between those having to deploy in the Sinai or in Kosovo or in Korea or in peacekeeping operations, and maintaining the readiness for 2MTW.

The tension is there because there are really two demands here. One is today's demand, and the demand for any commander in the field meeting today's requirements. . . . If it's training, it's the military contact. If it's units deploying for training, it's sending out small mobile training teams to help the professional armies that we work with. Always in the background is the long-term requirement of being ready to fight that major theater of war, should that crisis develop. So you have this dual focus. You're always being ready to do the major theater of war requirement, but you're dealing with today's challenges. And commanders live in both rooms.

A year ago we had North Korean fishing boats bumping into South Korean naval vessels. The discussion between the commander in Korea and myself was being sure that we were watching the same situation closely, and that if things went badly, we were prepared to respond with those four fighting forces. When those boats are not bumping into each other, or Saddam isn't rattling his saber, then the discussions between the chief of any service and that commander still occur, but they have a different flavor. It's about today's requirements, it's about mobile training teams and it's about training exercises between units. What can we do better, and how much more capability should we provide?

We need to do both things--look after today's needs, and always have that capability to respond on a very, very short time line in case we go to crisis, Those two are in tension, and require a C-1 military readiness rating. A fully ready army does both well. But they do compete, and today, frankly we are not at that full C-1 capability. Historically we have been, and so we know how to operate at that level. We are challenged at our rate of about a C-2 army, which is an army with some deficiencies, to insure that we have the capabilities properly balanced for both requirements. We need to be a C-1 army.

Last year, General Campbell rated the Tenth Mountain Division as C-4: not ready. Is there a readiness crisis? Was the firestorm over that division and the other unit a real crisis?

The firestorm occurred in Washington. It didn't occur in that unit and it did not occur inside the army. Certainly I think General Campbell will share with you that he felt that he made his assessment, and that his report of C-4 was intended to get the attention of the army. He could not meet the timelines I just described to you, given the current condition of his force. As a result, we addressed his shortfalls to give that capability back to him. It had to do primarily with being able to get quickly out of Bosnia back to home station; getting his unit then trained for a war fight; then deploying on the timelines that he had been asked to meet that war fighting requirement some commander in chief out there expected of him. And when he did his analysis and could not meet it, he raised his hand and said, "I've got a problem." The great virtue in all of this is that you've got a superb young commander, and I think you'll find him to be exactly someone who had the confidence to make that tough call. No one does that willingly, but he did and got our attention and we took care of it.

The Apache helicopter mission in Kosovo (Task Force Hawk) was an embarrassment. The army appeared to be slow to the punch. What was the lesson that you took away from the Task Force Hawk experience?

Just as I've cautioned us not to study the wrong lessons out of Desert Storm, we need to be sure that we take the right lessons out of Task Force Hawk. And there are some very good lessons in terms of how we prepare aviation units and how we have looked after their equipment. And frankly, I think embarrassment is an unfortunate word. I certainly would not subscribe to that. There are those who have described this as not a good moment for the army, but I think most of that has played out in the media, and not in the professional discussions.

What you had was a commander in chief in Europe who decided that he needed this capability in-country. The flow of equipment and personnel to meet the mission Task Force Hawk was more than just a number of helicopters. It ended up being a very significant heavy force of about 5,000 people to include tanks, artillery pieces, and engineering equipment. The flow into the airfield there in Tirana, in Albania, was complicated because it was also the center of a large humanitarian effort to care for refugees that were crossing the Albanian border. They had to balance both missions. You had a real world life-saving mission, and a real world military requirement. And of the capability in that airfield, eighty percent was given to taking care of the Albanian refugees, and twenty percent was given to the arrival of Task Force Hawk.

With the arrival of heavy equipment to that part of Albania, there were no roads that we could drive on, and the early-arriving units literally had to build an installation in which to then deploy those helicopters. Everything was under mud. It wasn't unusual to see soldiers up to their thighs and hips wading around setting up that station. So the early-arriving engineers brought in rock to lay a foundation to bring in the heavier equipment, tanks, artillery pieces, and infantry vehicles, in order to give that mission some capability. That was very much tied to on a time line that the regional commander in chief wanted. His time line was satisfied. And the fact that twenty percent of the flow into that airfield was allocated to Task Force Hawk suggested that he was comfortable that that was an appropriate time line.

He will also tell you it was not until Task Force Hawk arrived that the Albanian government felt comfortable about moving to the border themselves. And when that happened, you had a collision between ground forces in Albania and the lineup of Serbia forces at Kosovo. When that happened, we began to have tactical targets that the air force and our other weapons systems could now identify and begin targeting.

Up until this point, most of our targeting was against bridges and buildings. They were important targets, strategic targets, but they're not tactical. In the business of war fighting, it's destroying those targets that bring about the effect that we're looking for.

How would you respond to the statement that the air force won the war in Kosovo?

I don't think any one of the chiefs would argue that their service has the capability to win the war single-handedly. I take my hat off to the great pilots that flew those missions. They were tough. The affairs in Kosovo would have gone far differently had we not had a complement of air and ground capability. However, the air campaign resulted in an agreement that, ten months later, still has significant ground force presence in Kosovo. And the mission goes on. So it's not about winning or losing. We all contribute to those missions.

You talked in a congressional hearing about the country having a narrow window to make the transformation like this. You call it "the most significant effort to change the army in this century." Why is it so important, and why is there so little time?

It has to do with the tenure of leadership, and I think that's true for any enterprise, whether it's business or military. In my case, the appointment is for four years. As I've looked back at the tenures of other chiefs, generally the good ideas that found their way into implementation are the ones that were begun early. There are other opportunities where chiefs attempted something in their last two years of tenure, and generally those initiatives did not survive the departure of the chief. I just believe that I've got to get the momentum early. That's important to transformation, and my contribution to wherever transformation ends up happening is providing that momentum so that future chiefs can build on it.

How much time do you think you have?

About another year. I'm a year into this now. Frankly I'm pleased at the momentum we've gotten. But this second year is going to require a lot more progress, so that in the last two years we can begin to shape and define where transformation, so it will go as we hand it off to the next chief. But generally it's the first two years that'll make a difference.

And why don't you want this transformation identified with you? You're very careful about that.

It's important in any organization that if visions have any reality at all, it's because the organization believes that the vision is right and that they share in it. Otherwise it becomes the good idea of one person, and that even more importantly contributes to the sense that it will not survive the departure of that individual.

So this is the army's vision. And it's my responsibility is to give it momentum, to educate and to inform, and to get a buy-in from the rank-and-file and from the very top. One of my senior generals said that every last driver and soldier in a tank turret and truck should understand it and believe that's what needs to be done.

What's the dilemma that we face with our heavy and light forces?

The heavy force is a magnificent war fighting force. It is not versatile or agile enough to meet all the missions that we're asked to perform today, or that I see that we'll be asked to perform in the next 25 years. The light force is the best light infantry in the world. We can get them to all the places that we're asked to go. But if it goes hot, they lack the lethality and the survivability that our heavy forces have, and frankly we need to do something about that. So it's bringing heavy force capability with light-force deployability, and giving the light force the staying power that they currently don't have, yet not sacrificing their speed in getting to places.

What are the medium brigades? What does the interim force buy us?

The interim force buys us the ability to close the gap that I described in the situation with the Eighty-second Airborne Division in Desert Storm. The light force is getting there quickly and then waiting for weeks until the first heavy divisions arrive. These light brigades are a bridge between light force capability and those heavy divisions. It provides tactical mobility. . . .

During the congressional hearings, you used the phrase "holding our breath" in Desert Storm. Succinctly, just what happened in that situation with the Eighty-second Airborne? What was the reaction for commanders like yourself who were looking on?

The situation in Desert Storm was a quick break away by Saddam's forces headed south to the Saudi border. We knew that if those forces overran the ports and the airfields, we would not be able to get in quite as easily with our heavy forces that would come by air or by sea. In order to deny Saddam that kind of early success, we lifted a brigade of the Eighty-second in, put them in the desert, and had them dig in to wait for the arrival of Saddam's forces. It was not a fight we would have designed--heavy mechanized enemy forces against our magnificent light infantry. And frankly, we held our breath. Frankly, to this day, we are not quite sure why he stopped. But he did stop, and the six months that he chose to do nothing allowed us to get the heavy force in.

It is a situation that we have not rectified in the last ten years. If that same situation were to occur today someplace else in the world, our reactions would be the same. The light infantry component would go in first, awaiting the arrival of heavy forces and these interim brigades are intended to bridge the gap in the interim between our light and our heavy forces. It's an operational shortfall we've had for 10 years, and frankly, this chief feels that there is a moral obligation to do something about it.

If we can do this in the interim, this gives us time to spend on the science and technology and research and development efforts; they can be the quality that we need to spend. Invested dollars will give us future technologies for an objective force eight to ten years down the road.

You said you had a moral obligation to build this force. Yet you've got critics who are saying that we're making ourselves vulnerable by going into wheeled vehicles, that they can't go toe to toe with heavy armor, that they can't go places that tracks can go. What is this focus on equipment?

If you read the three-page army vision statement, there is one sentence in there that contrasts wheels and tracks. We say when technology prevails, we are prepared to go in one direction. It may be unfortunate that it was put in the vision, but it was primarily intended to get the attention of the army. If you look at us, what better symbol is there for our heavy and light forces than tracks and wheels? The commitment is to create a force with capability that matches or merges both our heavy and our light capabilities today--war fighting like our heavy divisions, and surviving and moving like our light divisions--getting to places we need to get to.

So the question was raised about wheels versus track. The answer is immaterial. We are interested in the best of the capabilities, whether it's wheels or tracks or both. And I think it's a legitimate question that we address as we look for the long term, as technologies become investigative. For those future objective vehicles, it may be wheels; it may be tracks; it may be neither But I think it's a legitimate discussion to have.

The interim force is where you've heard the wheels and track discussions resonate most loudly, and frankly, none of us cares. If the solution is wheels, fine. If it's tracks or a mixture of both, that's fine as well. Just for the interim, we would like the very best capability we can get off the shelf, to very quickly get that operational shortfall addressed.

. . . This subject of wheeled vehicles is their sticking point for the House Armed Services Committee. It seems to matter to some folks, and especially to some folks on the Hill. Why is that?

. . . I don't know what the answer is. I've asked the question and I'd like the debate to occur. Some who have already decided what the answer is are certainly making their arguments. I just need to be sure that, as we go down this road, that we maintain as much flexibility or as much openness so that we get to the right answers. I can tell you about today's condition. Twenty years ago, we did a track versus wheel study, and at that time, at about 24 tons you had to go to tracks as a solution, because cross-country navigation required track vehicles. If we look back over the last 20 years, what we'll also understand is that wheel technology has come a long way, primarily because of our own recreational habits--four-wheel drive vehicles, all-terrain vehicles, tires that run flat. I'm not sure that the same kind of energy has gone into track technology. And my raising the issue of wheels and tracks was to insure that those who are proponents for tracks would also get into the intellectual investigation of whether or not today's track technology is good enough.

Perhaps the concern that's being reflected by some members about wheels is because someone has convinced them that the army has already predetermined that wheels is the answer. And frankly that answer is left for the next chief to decide. That answer will come with the technology investigations that we hope to have returned to us in the next three to four years. That will help answer this final issue.

How does an army change from the ground up?

There are three vectors in this effort. Transformation looks at a legacy force that we have to maintain and keep war fighting ready today. The second vector is the objective force that will involve sincere technology, research and development and experimentation, wheels versus track. These are all appropriate questions that should be left to that vector, where science, technology, research and development are designed to take care of experimental questions. The third vector, which is where much of this discussion has become resident, is the interim force. And as I have described earlier, the interim force is designed to fix a current operational shortfall. We know what it is. It is the lack of staying power in our light infantry, and the need to bridge between the insertion of light infantry and the arrival of heavy divisions today.

I am not sure what we gain out of experimentation. We had our experiment in the desert ten years ago, and we didn't like it. This is an operational shortfall that must be addressed. And the requirement to conduct a side-by-side test of comparable organizations, first of all, is going to place a requirement that will involve time. It'll take us probably a year to stand up this kind of an experiment, and it may be most of another year before we get the results.

I talked about momentum earlier, and I find this a significant challenge to the army's ability to develop momentum here in this very early and critical period in such a way that transformation will carry on beyond my tenure. Experimentation for the interim force is probably less helpful. The comparison between an interim brigade and the lack of capabilities in the light brigade is the comparison we're looking for. It is not the interim brigade compared to some other mechanized capability.

We interviewed Ralph Peters, the retired army officer and author, who is very supportive of your efforts. He said basically that what you do is test your unit, and your doctrine will follow. . . . Is that what's going to happen?

We will do that with these formations. There is still a lot of learning that goes on. We've begun some of that in computerized force on force modeling. We have an idea about the organization, and as we create the units that will have resident in it the kinds of off the shelf equipment we're looking for. We will take them and work them in the desert and learn from those experiences.

But frankly there's an even more important piece here. As you take these units and exercise them in these training environments, you're growing today's leaders who are going to be commanding divisions ten years from now. When the objective force arrives, it'll arrive with platforms. What we also need are leaders who are prepared to organize, command and fight those formations. And they will not appear unless you include that kind of training ground as part of this development. That's where these interim brigades provide us the opportunity to create today's brigade and battalion and company commanders who are going to be more senior in their future objective formation.

You mentioned the computer model. We were at the Army War College a month ago when that was going on. What were the lessons that you learned?

The computer modeling I'm talking about was done inside TRADOC (army training and doctrine command). What we did was experiment with different kinds of formations. For example, in the new interim brigade, you'll find what is called a Reconnaissance Surveillance Unit. It does not exist inside our brigades today. It's a new organization that we're creating.

That modeling was done with captains, former company commanders playing company commander roles who are instructors in the TRADOC institutions. But they fell back in on this modeling effort and played the roles of company commanders, former battalion commanders. Now instructors came to play the roles of battalion commanders and so forth. And so we created units with experienced personnel and created a war game. We used a variety of organizations and capabilities based on equipment that we knew was on the shelf today. And we began to design this interim brigade combat team. And that's what you'll see if you were to go up to Fort Lewis today and investigate the first of our interim brigades, the Third Brigade, Second Infantry Division.

The lessons that we learned out of that modeling experiment suggested that inside these brigades, you had certain capabilities that must be resident. Not just the ability to fight, but the ability to see and understand our surroundings, so that before you venture into that fight, you have a pretty good understanding how to shape it and what the outcomes will be.

In the early 1980s, there was another experiment out at Fort Lewis, with the Ninth Infantry Division. Was that an experiment that many people thought was ahead of its time?

As I recall going back to the Ninth Infantry Division's high-tech experiment, the big challenge there was getting momentum. The initiatives contained in the Ninth Infantry Division's experiment were good ones. We see many of those good ideas showing up in the force, even today, 20 years later, which suggests that there was nothing wrong with that experiment. It just didn't get enough momentum.

We are off to an excellent start with this transformation. . . . There is a very good chance that we will develop the kind of momentum we need, both in support from Congress, support from OSD (the Office of the Secretary of Defense) as we continue to find funding and build momentum. But an early start--an early momentum--is essential.

What is your background?

I am an armor officer. I grew up as a part of the team that helped to field M-1s and M-60-A3s to the army back in 1980s. It's still a magnificent tank, and we designed it for the Cold War and central Europe. It continues to excel today. It is a great tank. To all the places that we can take it, it continues to be the difference in capabilities. But frankly all the places we're asked to go are challenged to accommodate that tank--bridges, roads, the support system in terms of fuel, distribution, the ability to distribute parts.

So it's important that we make this a reasonable decision for those who have fought with the M-1 tank and those great armor soldiers out there. That is still a great tank. And any institution that is going to undertake significant change is challenged. An army that fought and won a war decisively finds it even more difficult to undergo change. But this is the right step in order to prepare ourselves for future conflict and not saddle ourselves with preparing for the last war.

What is this new future combat system that you're working towards? Why do you think it's vital to the brigade combat teams and to the future course?

What we have to do is go and look at new technologies to enable us to design platforms in a different way, and I've begun doing that. I've gone to the army's research lab. I have been to some of the labs of our industrial partners. And I must tell you, I am encouraged by what I see out there. They go far beyond where I thought we were. And I think there's a real good opportunity that, in about three years, we will get the kinds of answers to our questions that will make design of this future combat system a reality.

There's a camp that says we can build it right now. . . . And we have another group that says you're talking a fantasy. You're not five years away, you're not ten years away. What is the reality?

The reality is that I think all of us need to hear both sides. There is a need to educate. . . . I can tell you that the technologies that I'm looking for are already being worked on. They're not mature enough. I have seen the makings of a microturbine the size of your thumbnail. Is it good enough? No, it's not good enough. Is there a great potential here? Absolutely. That will give us a capability to power in a way we don't do today. Fuel efficiency; low observable technology; the capability to handle lethality at smaller calibers than we do today on our heavy weapons systems; all of this is going on. That research is underway and I've seen it. So for those who say that this is beyond the realm of the possible, we need to educate. We need to share.

These are good folks. They have invested a good bit of time in our profession, and I think if they see what I've seen, they'll be very pleasantly surprised. To those who say that the solutions are here today, I'd like to see them. I have asked the question, and that's what I hope to get answers on.

How important are science and technology, research and development to you? We interviewed General Paul Funk (retired). He says he thinks you're the only chief who ever came to an Army Science Board meeting when their summer study was hot off the presses.

Twenty years ago when I worked on the tank team and we were fielding new equipment, I had the opportunity to be exposed to the great capability and the great potential and the great patriots that we have serving in our labs-- primarily civilian scientists. And it was an insight that's never left me. There is tremendous potential in this country in science and technology. And frankly, we need to do more to harness it.

Our advantage has always been to overmatch, and it is in those laboratories that overmatch becomes a reality. . . . My challenge is to find enough money to be able to stimulate the thinking and the investigation that gives us not just answers in 2003, 2004, but good answers and many of them, so that we can have the best of our choices as we put them together for the future combat systems.

We're going down to the Institute for Creative Technology in Marina del Rey, California. We're going to be sitting in on a session on future combat systems. . . . It seems like a rather strange alliance of the army and Hollywood. Where did that come from?

There are lots of strange alliances. . . . In Hollywood, there are capabilities with information technology that we tend to think are entertainment. In fact, it's information technology, whether it's in entertainment or in my profession. It's important because it deals with the human dimension. It's dealing with people who have to understand what they are about and then make decisions and carry through. I think there's much to be learned out of out of Hollywood.

What do you say to a critic who says that all that General Shinseki is doing with his medium brigades is building a peacekeeping force?

If you were to go back to my explanation of how the interim brigades bridge between the early-arriving light infantry forces and the arrival of the heavy divisions weeks later, you'll understand that they're intended to have a war fighting responsibility. And they provide tactical mobility to that initial infantry element on the ground, so you could pick them up and move them to another battle position on the battlefield. Otherwise they stay where they are. It gives them mounted weapons platforms and it gives them assault guns. These are capabilities they don't have today, and are important if we're going to add to their lethality and their survivability.

That's not the only capability we want to have in the interim brigades. We also want them to perform peacekeeping missions as well. We would see them get to a crisis very quickly and have combat capability on the ground that outmatches any one else's. If we're able to get them there early, we're able to stabilize the situation and not have to go to war fighting. Just the fact that you've got early deploying combat capability allows you then to shape the outcome of a crisis.

And if they're going to be there for a while, then you need more than just one or two or three brigades. If you're going to rotate these units in over a period of time, you're really talking about five brigades. We have been in Bosnia now for five years, going on six. And if you're going to have a long-term rotation policy as we do now--six months per unit--you'll need more than just three interim brigades. You'll need something on the order of five, as a minimum. So for both our small-scale contingencies and the war fighting requirements, these interim brigades will be able to provide that capability.

What about the critics who say the transformation that is underway is a very short-term answer to the deficiencies of Task Force Hawk?

No effort to transform ever ignores any of those experiences where we lacked capability that we would have liked to have. Although Task Force Hawk is part of it, it is not the only contributor here. As I've indicated, we have had an operational shortfall in the force that goes back ten years. And frankly we need to do something about it, and the interim brigades are intended to correct that shortfall.

Critics say you are just lightening the force, not changing it. They say that in order to really have radical transformation, you've got to attack the division structure, and unless you restructure it and get rid of divisions and make brigade combat teams, all you're doing is tinkering around the margins. How do you respond to that?

We are a force that has seen deployment across a variety of situations, from war fighting down to peacekeeping in Bosnia. We have a division headquarters in Bosnia. Despite the fact that there's only a brigade there, we have a division headquarters deployed and a division commander with staff. We will continue to look at how we are organized, and how we are structured. That's an appropriate question for some time down the road, when objective force formations have arrived. But until then, for the next eight to ten years if we went to war, we would go with formations we have; and we are organized as brigades, divisions and corps today.

All good institutions look at themselves over time, and challenge our own assumptions. We will continue to do that. Those who have decided that brigades are the way to go have really shorted themselves on a larger intellectual discussion about the versatility required in the force.

It does seem that you've actually begun to adopt some ideas of smaller self-contained units, in that the new brigades are combined arms teams. They're not pure units. You've introduced the reconnaissance and intelligence (RISTA) squadrons to them. Is this already the beginning of changing the old structure?

We talked about combined arms battalions years ago. And we started down an experimental path and then decided not to go any further. We think this is a good time to go and look at the lessons that were gained then, put them in place, carry this the next step forward, and create brigade combat teams that are in fact combined arms at the battalion level.

But is there a built-in resistance to combined arms, because you've got these pure units. They all have their histories. They all have their centers of power.

It is tough and these are what make change in any institution difficult. But it's important that we have people understand that branches won't go away, but that we have to organize for our primary responsibilities. And our primary responsibility is to war fight, and prepare and organize and equip our units and then train them so that they can function properly. In this host of missions that we're going to be asked for, conditions change very quickly. We'll have our branches, but we need to organize properly.

Nothing is free. By your estimate, the transformation is going to cost $70 billion over ten years.

I've heard several estimates, and I like the lower ones.

Let's just take $70 billion through 2014. Half will go to developing and preparing new weapons, but the next biggest chunk is upgrading the legacy systems. Why not take advantage of the strategic pause and cut back on legacy weapons? . . . Some people are saying that we can't pay for two forces, much less three forces at once. If the army isn't willing to cut the old to pay for the new, how serious is it about transformation?

If you look at what's happened in the restructuring of the force, I think you will find that the army has done exactly that. We understand that in the next eight to ten years, some predict that this is going to be a strategic pause. I'd like to have the same assurance. But if any of us are wrong, I do know who is going to have to meet that deployment requirement, and it's going to be an American solider. And I just want to understand that we have done right by him and her in the next eight to ten years. So we have taken the risk. We have focused our recapitalization efforts into a single corps--three division corps in which things like the M-1A2 tank and other modernization efforts will be focused. . . .

But for the rest of the force, we will sustain them in their war fighting capability pretty much as we know it today. About the only thing that may be inserted would be our digitization efforts. But for the most part we will freeze in place the rest of the force with the capabilities they have today. And we will turn the rest of our investments into science and technology for the future objective force. The future readiness of the force and the current readiness of the force is the responsibility of the chief--to insure that we got those requirements properly balanced. And I think that's about right.

Other critics say . . . that General Shinseki is sacrificing near-term war fighting capability for this long-term vision--that he's already sacrificed ten weapon systems.

It's tough never being right (laughs). I think you know that's an appropriate question to ask--and we are not in fact doing that. We are very much concerned about near-term readiness. We have taken risks, and we think, with this strategic pause, most agree that is something that we ought to consider. We've taken risks in concert with that and focused our modernization or our recapitalization efforts in a way that we've generated funding to take care of the science and technology investments that we believe are equally important.

We didn't get all the help that we wanted when we entered the budget discussions this past fall, but it's understandable. Transformation was launched by the army after a budget was submitted and before the second budget was being discussed. It's hard to change the budget process once you're mid-stride. And so we accepted where we were and did some reasonable adjustments. We made some tough decisions that allowed us to generate funds ourselves to begin to get momentum. And then we looked for the opportunity to discuss some help with Congress for the year 2001. Then we'll be able to go back to our counterparts in Defense to get support for the budget years 2002 to 2007, which is what we are doing right now. . . . We think a good bit of the discussions regarding funding and resources will be settled. But we're hopeful that momentum will continue to build. It looks good.

Senator Joe Lieberman said, "We're able to sort of make things happen this year, but next year push is going to come to shove." . . . Is it the simple fact that the army doesn't get its fair share?

These are tough decisions. I would say each of the services come with its best arguments for why it justifies its share of the budget. I will tell you that the balance between readiness and transformation places significant pressure on the army. There frankly is not enough money to do both, and to do it quickly. We don't want to come out with the wrong answers in the transformation process. And so the army is forced to be able to describe a requirement for more money, and I think that's appropriate.

If you look at where we are in terms of our defense budget, I think you would find that currently about 2.9 percent of our gross domestic product goes to defense. And historically, if you were to look back, I think you would find that investment significantly higher. There is a reasonable discussion to see whether a modest adjustment to that investment is appropriate. The American people ought to decide that. If you enjoy living in this country--which happens to be a lead nation--if you like the economy the way it is, does a strong defense and a strong military contribute to that? And if it does, is 2.9 percent the appropriate level of investment?

The House Defense Appropriations Committee report was interesting. On one hand, it gave the money that you asked for, but it also handed it out with almost a lecture to the army. It was almost a scolding, and it said basically, "We've taken a dim view of the slow and protracted way that the army procurement process has happened before." . . . What would you say to them?

I happen to agree with them regarding the length of time it takes us to acquire and field new equipment and new capabilities. You will see the eight to ten year period to the objective force is very much my concern. . . . And some of this is driven by a sense of urgency that I am trying to create in the force. If we can't get there in eight to ten years, then anything longer challenges our ability to remain relevant over time.

In terms of experimentation, when you're designing an objective force experimentation needs to be part of that process. We want the right answers. But all that is driven by how much you are able to invest early on to begin asking the questions and getting the right answers, creating the capabilities that answer the shortfalls that we see. That takes funding. And frankly, the army's funding accounts have been pretty tight over the last ten years. Hopefully we can begin to make the right arguments, the reasonable arguments that transformation is right for the army, and that this is the right direction to move to justify additional investments.

You have served your country for over 30 years. You were wounded three times in Vietnam, and remained in the service. Les Cotton says you're the finest person and the best officer he ever served with. What does it mean to you to be a soldier?

The reason I stayed on active duty at the time I did was because I had the utmost respect for the young American soldier I encountered in a place called Vietnam. And even though we came back to a country that wasn't quite sure that we did great work there, that young soldier did everything we asked of him and her and never complained. And I just thought that I could not serve in a better organization--that's why I stayed.

In my 35 years, I've always enjoyed since a great relationship with non-commissioned officers. Les Cotton was one of my very first. I was a young lieutenant in Vietnam when I encountered him. And in many ways, I grew up to be the officer that Les Cotton trained, and he and I have never forgotten it. But there is inside each and every one of our formations in the army a great relationship of human beings working very hard, handling difficult tasks that underscore the phrase "soldiering is an affair of the heart."

Today you spoke to these Army War College graduates. These are the people who are going to lead the force. . . . What are your hopes or fears for them?

I would like them to understand that the army is people, and our responsibilities for meeting our obligation to the nation in providing war fighting capability is a non-negotiable contract with the American people. When called to fight and win those wars for our nation, the army is about people--about readiness. This army has a requirement to transform itself in the years ahead to be ready for the kinds of missions that we see in this next century. As we talk about transformation, much of our discussion today has talked about platforms and equipment and what's right. . . . But I'd like those young leaders to remember that the centerpiece of our formation is the American soldier. It's not the tank, it's not the infantry fighting vehicle, it's not the attack helicopter. It is the American soldier who is the centerpiece of that formation. And all of our magnificent achievements as an army have been delivered by those young soldiers. Those leaders' responsibilities to our formations is to provide inspired leadership, the passionate service that creates in those youngsters a willingness to carry on with the very difficult tasks we ask of them.

In the army we do two things ever day. We train our soldiers and then we grow them into leaders, because frankly, we don't hire out. We grow our own leaders. It takes 15 years to produce a battalion commander doing the kinds of tough work our officers do to be ready for that kind of command. It takes 19 to 20 years to grow a brigade commander, and the command sergeant's major that accompanied them in those responsibilities. It is about leadership, training soldiers and growing the leaders for our future conflicts. I would say it's our stock in trade. It's developing leaderships for future conflicts.

When we were out at the Gettysburg battlefield with Major General Scales, the discussion was how both commanders in that historical time did not really reap the lessons of the past. . . . They didn't see . . . technological change, and they didn't see that they were letting men die unnecessarily because they weren't willing to change the way they thought about the way wars were fought. Do you see a lesson here in terms of the transformation for the army?

Absolutely. There is a great parallel here for us to understand the lessons of the past, but not be shackled by our experiences, and to look forward with as much clarity as we can to design future capabilities in new ways. And so as we talk about transformation, I think any unwillingness to go forward at this point would clearly place us as an army looking only backwards at the last victorious war that we fought.

The time is right. Our country is at peace, and we lead the world economically. There is potential here. There is a pause in world affairs where we can advantage ourselves to make some changes with minimal risk.

. . . Otherwise, we will go through transformation at some later date when the risk is much higher. And if our history of first battles is any suggestion, that may come on the eve of the next war. And that would be unfortunate.

What prompted you to push this army transformation at this time in history?

As I arrived at the position of chief of staff, I looked back, because I understood I was going to be the chief that would walk through the door of this century. I looked back historically to see what the last chief and the last secretary were thinking about a century ago. . . . I'm not sure that they saw that the First World War that was only 15 years away. All of their papers, all of their discussions and decisions in 1899 would not have reflected that they understood they were only 15 years away from a major global conflict.

And so I asked myself in the year 1999, "What do you see 15 or 20 years down the road?" We think we see better, but I'm not so sure. So the encouragement is while you have this opportunity in terms of peace and economic capability and the opportunity to transform this army, why not move up? Why not your align of your capabilities for future missions when you know that there is relative peace in the world now to get this done?

home ·  experts' analyses ·  interviews ·  army chronology ·  quiz ·  discussion
gore & bush's military agenda ·  readings ·  synopsis
credits ·  tapes & transcripts ·  pbs online ·  frontline

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation