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Breaking the Phalanx by Col. Douglas Macgregor

In 1997 Army Col. Douglas Macgregor, a military strategist known for unconventional thinking, wrote a book on reforming the Army that laid out an interesting scenario: a war in 2003 between a U.S.-led coalition and an allied Iraq and Iran. He wrote of "a new strategic environment in which dangerous and cunning enemies armed with information age technology can achieve surprising and often unanticipated outcomes in future conflict." To respond to future threats, he argued, the U.S. Army should reorganize itself into smaller units -- an idea consistent with transformation, which at the time was gaining momentum within the Pentagon. He also outlined the rise of unmanned aerial vehicles, like those used to great effect in Afghanistan in 2001.

But Macgregor's scenario included caveats. He forecasted that despite advances in deep-strike missiles, close-up ground fighting would continue to be a critical factor in the outcome of the war. And his chapter contained a warning to those who would become overly dependent on technology: "In the right hands, modern military technology increases the American Armed Forces' ability to diminish its adversary's capacity for independent action, but in the wrong hands it cannot compensate for the absence of human insight, understanding, or effective leadership. This is because technological advances cannot eliminate ambiguity, uncertainty, chance, and the forces of chaos from the field of conflict."

Some of Macgregor's ideas on reforming the Army were later read by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and as the Pentagon was formulating its Iraq war plan, Macgregor was invited to consult with military officials. Below are excerpts from Macgregor's 1997 book. Also, read FRONTLINE's interview with Macgregor.

"Fighting with the Information Age Army in the Year 2003"

While exact totals are unknown, the services spend billions of dollars each year on simulation programs, initiatives, and demonstrations. Most of these activities are enormously helpful to defense planners. Yet, many civilian and military leaders are increasingly skeptical of the way in which many high-technology weapons are modeled and simulated. While serving as Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Carl Mundy warned against what he called the "Spielberg effect," in which the impact of simulation overwhelms and frequently misrepresents the geniune capabilities and limitations of new technology. Experienced military leaders know that although simulations can greatly improve the military's understanding of what weapon systems may or may not work in the future, the most realistic computer simulation cannot replace actual fieldwork with ground troops and aircrews. This is because all computer simulations are by their very nature only mathematical approximations of wartime reality. Notwithstanding these limitations, the Department of Defense has implemented the Joint Warfare System (JWARS) initiative, which will consolidate all OSD, service, and Joint Staff analytical efforts under one theater-level modeling architecture.

With very few exceptions, however, most of the current models and simulations are very limited in that they were originally designed to measure tank versus tank or aircraft versus aircraft engagements. Consequently, the more esoteric, but equally important contributions of tactical and strategic intelligence, communications, information warfare, manned reconnaissance, and ground force maneuver are seldom adequately considered.

For similar reasons, the prosecution of modern land warfare with both new precision strike capabilities and tactically and strategically mobile ground forces demands significant change in the way quantitative models are used to simulate warfare. Of course, this is easier said than done. The capacities and complexities of modern ground forces are much more difficult to quantify than the presumed effects and accuracy of precision guided munitions and missiles. Therefore, because their combat power derives from their maneuverability through enhanced battlespace awareness and the speed at which they can strike, information age ground forces like the ones described in the preceding chapter are devalued in virtually all current models and simulations.

The primary focus of the scenario outlined in this chapter is the value of landpower in the context of joint warfighting. It is designed to be a tool for exploration, not an answer machine. The rendering is not perfect. A fully joint appraisal would address the entire range of activities across the services and unified commands that must also be tracked and understood to appreciate the impact of modern space-based and sea-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities on the conduct of land warfare.

However, the goal of this chapter is more modest. It is to begin to develop a concept for the potential employment of information age ground forces that will enhance the reader's understanding of landpower's contribution to joint operations in a new strategic environment in which dangerous and cunning enemies armed with information age technology can achieve surprising and often unanticipated outcomes in future conflict. War, in common with sport, has the characteristic that what worked well yesterday may not work well tomorrow, precisely because it worked yesterday. "History shows that the making of false assumptions about the enemy is a perennial problem."


* It is the year 2003. Israel, Syria, and the United States have signed peace accords resulting in the placement of an Army Heavy Combat Group in the Golan Heigbts to demilitarize the area. This ends the Israeli-Syrian conflict, but the agreement also prevents both states from directly participating in any conflict between the United States and other regional actors. This does not prevent Israel from linking the sensors in its own antimissile defense system with deploying U.S. systems.

* After sanctions against Iraq are lifted in late 1997, Iran and Iraq negotiate a secret Nonaggression Pact obligating both parties to cooperate militarily against the United States and its allies in the event of conllict. The two countries begin work on establishing a secure C4I network in the region. In the 3 years following the lifting of sanctions, Iraq's leader, Saddam Hussein, resolves the internal dispute with the Shi'a Arab population in the south and reestablishes control in the north. Under pressure from the Turkish military, the Kurds are forced to submit to Iraqi governmental control.

* Once sanctions are lifted, infusions of Russian, Chinese, and North Korean military aid assist Iraq in recovering most of its former military capability along with improved air defenses and modem theater ballistic missiles. Iraq adds T-80s and MIG 29s to its inventory. With the help of private sector firms in Japan and Western Europe, modem cruise missile and air defense technology finds its way to Iran and Iraq.

* Alarmed by the steady buildup of Iraqi and Iranian military strength, Kuwait and the United States decide in 1997 to station an Army Heavy Recon-Strike Group in Kuwait to assist in the training of Kuwaiti and allied GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) forces as well as to deter Iraqi or Iranian aggressive action in the region.

* Disappointed with its inability to gain membership in the European Economic Community (EC) in 1998, Turkey decides to renegotiate the terms of its membership in NATO and to opt for temporary neutrality until its demand for entry into the EC is met. A short war with Greece in 1999 adds to Turkey's problems in Europe and the United States. NATO pressure on Turkey to withdraw its victorious forces from Athens poisons Turkey's relations with the West. In its neutral status, Turkey becomes an overland conduit for the transport and sale of Iraqi oil to the world market. In the same year, Bahrain's government is overthrown and replaced by a pro-Iranian Islamic revolutionary regime.

* Turkey's unwillingness to continue its participation in the NATO Alliance is balanced by the entry of the Polish, Hungarian, Czech, and Slovak republics into NATO in January 2000. On the one hand, this strengthens America's position in Europe and America's military alliance with Germany. On the other, Russia drops out of the partnership for peace program and seizes the opportunity to distance itself further from the United States and Western Europe.

* In the fall of 2002, opposition to Saudi family rule becomes open revolt. Arabia's Eastern Shi'a province is paralyzed by discontent while religious opposition to the Saudi family in Mecca and Medina prevents the Saudi National Guard from protecting the regime. At Saudi insistence, all U.S. military personnel are withdrawn from Saudi Arabia. Fearing internal unrest on the Arabian model, the remaining Gulf States decline to grant U.S. military access until there is irrefutable evidence for Iranian or Iraqi aggression.

* With assured access to world oil markets through Turkey and Russia, Iranian and Iraqi leaders meet in October 2002 to plan a joint attack to seize control of the oil fields on the Arabian peninsula.

* Events in the Arabian Peninsula and rumored Iraqi cooperation with its old enemy Iran prompt the government of Kuwait in December 2002 to ask for a cautionary deployment of U.S. ground and air forces to deter an Iraqi attack, despite Iranian and Iraqi warnings that American attempts to reinforce Kuwait will result in "catastrophic consequences for Kuwait and the United States." The United States responds by deploying (1) III Corps Close Battle Command Post and an Army Heavy Combat Group that draws equipment from the Army's prepositioned set in Kuwait; (2) U.S. Air Forces consisting of three Wings with AWACS aircraft, fighters, bombers, tankers, and support elements to airfields in Egypt, Spain, and Italy; (3) an Army Theater Air Defense Group to Egypt; and (4) three Carrier Battlegroups (CVBG) and a Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) to the Indian Ocean. These deployments begin on 1 January 2003.

* Presidential Selective Reserve Call-Up is announced on 4 January. U.S. Military Airlift and fast sealift procurement programs as outlined in the latest Mobility Requirements Study Bottom-Up Review Update, 28 March 1995, sections I-IV, are executed on schedule.

The Iraq-Iran Plan of Attack

Encouraged by events in the Arabian peninsula, Iranian and Iraqi leaders conclude that it is time to attack to seize the oil fields on the Arabian Peninsula and to strike back decisively against the West. When Iraqi and Iranian military leaders meet in early October 2002 to plan their offensive to capture the Arabian Peninsula, their thinking is dominated by the Gulf War experience. This thinking underpins a plan of attack that is focused in its early phases on the American military's traditional centers of gravity -- ports, airfields, fuel, water, and prepositioned equipment sites.

Before the detailed planning begins, the Iraqi and Iranian military representatives agree to a set of guiding operational principles: First, Iraq will focus its military effort on the area north of Bahrain to include Kuwait, northern Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. Second, Iran will focus its military effort on the area from Bahrain to Muscat with the object of denying U.S. forces access from the sea to the Persian Gulf region. Third, how and when Mecca and Medina will be seized and occupied will be determined after the eastern half of the Arabian Peninsula is firmly in Iraqi and Iranian hands. This geographic focus eventually produces a three phase plan for Iranian and Iraqi forces. Fourth, Iraqi and Iranian military leaders agree that weapons of mass destruction should not be employed against Muslim population centers. Ports and airfields that lie in close proximity to Muslim populations must be attacked in other ways. However, all weapons can be used against ships at sea.

In phase I, Iran deploys its MIG 29 fighters, new tactical ballistic missiles (TBM) and ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) batteries to key points along the Persian Gulf coast from which strikes can be launched against ships within 100 miles of the Iranian coastline and against targets in the Emirates. When these forces are in place, Iranian amphibious and air-mobile forces concentrate at five points along the coast inside the Gulf to prevent alerting U.S. strategic intelligence to their activities while Iranian diesel submarines position themselves inside the Gulf near the entrance to the Straits of Hormuz. Iranian ground forces to include 500 T-72 tanks disperse to three general areas which are defended by recently modernized Iranian air defense forces. These points include Tehran, two areas just inside Iran near Ahvaz and Bushehr, and Bandare Abbas in the southwestern region of the country. At the same time, Iran and Iraq divide their ballistic missile forces into mobile and fixed launchers, both heavily protected and dispersed. Mobile units are given additional protection by elite special forces units. Iraq deploys its TBM forces to the northwestern corner of Iraq near Co Rutbah and Tikrit. Iran concentrates its TBM and cruise missile forces in the southern portion of the country. Iraqi ground forces do not move from their planned exercise locations near Karbala and An Nasiriyah until the disposition of both Iranian and Iraqi TBM and ground-launched cruise missile forces is completed.

In phase II, Iran quietly begins to seed the Straits of Hormuz with approximately 500 sea mines from its islands and ships near the Straits. When the first 500 mines have been launched, Iraqi ground forces move into their attack positions south of the Euphrates River and prepare to launch a surprise attack to seize Kuwait City, King Khalid Military City, and the Saudi ports and airfields on the Gulf Coast-AI Jabayel and Dahran. Iranian naval infantry and special forces prepare to seize the remaining ports and cities of the Gulf Emirates which lie inside the area defined by the Persian Gulf. Oman is initially excluded from this action in the hope that it can be persuaded to remain neutral and deny American access to Omani ports and airfields. The same condition applies to Jordan (Syria, Turkey, and Pakistan have already assured Tehran and Baghdad that they will not interfere in any fight Iran has with the United States and the Emirates).

Phase III begins with the launching of TBM and GLCM strikes to disable harbors, airfields, and American prepositioned equipment sites. Having weaponized a limited number of warheads for chemical munitions, the Iraqis want to use these early against targets on the peninsula to establish the credibility of this threat for American and allied forces. Simultaneously, Iranian and Iraqi forces attack on the ground and across the Gulf to seize the objectives mentioned earlier. After much discussion, the senior military leaders of both states agree to 13 January 2003 as the earliest date for execution. The Iranians make no mention of the fact that they have a limited number of low-yield nuclear warheads for their TBMs and cruise missiles.

Before the Iraqi and the Iranian National Defense Councils agree to the proposed plan and date for the operation, questions arise concerning Jordan's possible role as a bridgehead for U.S. and allied military action. The Iraqis acknowledge this as a possibility but argue that the offensive through Kuwait can be executed quickly enough to make a later American offensive from Jordan irrelevant. They also point out that King Hussein of Jordan is in ill health and that several Palestinian organizations will cooperate in the effort to subvert Jordan's internal order if King Hussein grants the United States access to his country. The Iraqis are also quick to remind the Iranians of the importance of keeping Oman out of the conflict. If Oman decides to provide access to the Americans, Iran's hold on the Straits becomes tenuous. There is also much discussion about the incomplete C31 networks in both states. However, with Arabia in chaos and American access to the Gulf Ports and prepositioned equipment sets denied, both parties are confident of success.

·   ·   ·

Macgregor goes on to outline a proposed U.S.-led military response in which a small number of troops, assisted by technology, manage to successfully invade Iraq and Iran. In this scenario, Saddam Hussein is killed when his aircraft is shot down by Air Force fighters and "predictably Iraq's forces melt away with the news that Hussein is dead."

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Southwest Asia was chosen only because the area is now somewhat more familiar to Americans than North Africa, Eastern Europe, Korea, or Southeast Asia. However, similar events could have occurred in those places too. It is no exaggeration to suggest that the implications for the U.S. Armed Forces of a scenario like the one outlined here are significant. Technology changes the ways in which conflicts are conducted, won, or lost. Technology aIso shapes or influences events by amplifying American strengths and minimizing the effects of mishaps, mistakes, or technical failures (friction). In the right hands, modern military technology increases the American Armed Forces' ability to diminish its adversary's capacity for independent action, but in the wrong hands it cannot compensate for the absence of human insight, understanding, or effective leadership. This is because technological advances cannot eliminate ambiguity, uncertainty, chance, and the forces of chaos from the field of conflict.

In the U.S. Army there is an old saying: "Intelligence is almost always wrong!" There is little in the historical record to suggest that this saying is any less true today than it was a hundred years ago. It is still unclear whether the American intelligence community is actually capable of either mapping out critical enemy strategic and operational capabilities or explaining enemy intentions and actions. At most, intelligence analysts can point with certainty to the high probability that future adversaries will work hard to exploit "niche" vulnerabilities in the American force structure through the use of mines in littoral waters, TBMs, GLCMs, and sophisticated air defenses. This will allow enemy ground forces to outpace the American military response if U.S. Ground Forces either are not already ashore, as was the case in Kuwait during 1990, or cannot arrive in time. This observation reinforces the need to organize both air assault and heavy ground combat forces to deploy rapidly and fight effectively within a joint framework. It also means forward-stationing Army ground forces in critical regions like Southwest Asia.

Despite the development of American deep-strike attack weapons, capable of attacking targets hundreds of miles in the enemy rear, the results of the close battle -- the area where the combatants are in direct contact -- will remain critical to the outcome of the war. If war in the future will be a contest between regional powers that will seek to exploit new information age military technology for limited regional aims, it will still involve closing with the enemy and killing him at close range. It will not be possible to destroy all of the enemy's forces before they get to the battlefield, and so it will continue to be necessary to engage and defeat the enemy's forces in battles when the two sides are in sight of one another. The tendency over time in land warfare is to disperse ground forces and concentrate the effects of weapons rather than troops. This makes it very inefficient as well as expensive to allocate one PGM (Precision Guided Missile) to every enemy ground system. Moreover, merely killing the enemy's fixed sites will not win the war. Unless the information age Army is able to fight and defeat opposing forces in face-to-face combat, the ability to launch deep strikes will be of limited strategic value in future contlicts.

An enemy who cannot see its deep targets fails to cope with the rapid overland advance of the Army's close combat formations. The faster and deeper Army air-ground combat teams advance into enemy territory, the less dangerous and effective the enemy's weapons of mass destruction become. "All-arms" formations smaller than the current divisions thrust forward behind a screen of manned and unmanned reconnaissance and stand-off weapon systems. Air-land forced entry operations are made possible today by new aviation technology, and new sophisticated light armor and recon-attack helicopters. It is now possible to launch such an operation from the United States and reach halfway around the world in less than 24 hours.

Once enemy and friendly troops begin the close battle, it is difficult to rely on Air Force fighters for close air support. The difficulties in directing accurate fire from altitudes in excess of 15,000 feet against ground targets that are relatively close to friendly troops that are also camouflaged, scattered, moving, and defended by antiaircraft systems cannot be overstated. Current and future generations of fighters simply fly too fast and too high to discriminate between friendly and enemy forces in close combat. The constraints and limitations on the application of air power at night or in adverse weather only make these matters worse. Digitization may succeed in partially solving the combat identification problem, but in the interim there is little prospect of sufficiently removing the fog of war to prevent fratricide from the air. Beyond these points, the Air Tasking Order (ATO) process works well for planned strategic strikes, but its 48-72 hour planning cycle does not lend itself to quick reaction strikes or close air support missions. There is also another reason.

American and allied Air Forces will be fully engaged in an all-out deep strike effort to suppress, neutralize, or destroy the enemy's weapons of mass destruction when future ground offensives are just beginning. In fact, this was the conclusion drawn from the Yom Kippur War by the Commander of all the regular Israeli Forces in the Golan region. Rafael Eitan, the former Israeli Defense Force Chief of Staff, went so far as to suggest that in the early phase of future offensive operations Israeli Ground Forces would have become self-reliant in the context of close air support:

The air force must not be involved in support missions for the land forces until it has assured itself reasonable freedom of operation by destroying the enemy's missile networks. This being so, the land forces must be prepared to bear the burden in the war's opening stages, and not pin their hopes on the performance of the aircraft.

It would make sense in the new strategic environment to shift the funds committed to close air support capabilities from the Air Force into Army programs for attack helicopter modernization and artillery stand-off weapon system development. The Air Force response time to Army requests for close air support has risen consistently since the end of World War II, and there is no evidence to suggest that this will change in the near future. Furthermore, relieving the Air Force of the close air support mission would conform to an Air Force requirement to concentrate its attacks against deep targets in the first phase of any future conflict.

"Army deep fires" from improved MLRS rocket systems destroy a variety of enemy targets, including air defense sites, TBM sites, C4I installations and reserve troop concentrations -- some with a single missile. These capabilities augment, supplement, and magnify the impact of airpower in the theater of war. C4I integration through the structures outlined here is essential to ensure that air and ground forces are mutually reinforcing and supporting. Moreover, in contrast to those of airpower, the response time and accuracy of these systems are unchanging. Joint C4I structures like the proposed C4I battalion are vital to the exploitation and use of the systems in operations to suppress, neutralize, or destroy enemy air defenses.

Airpower tends to operate in surges of firepower and does not apply constant pressure against enemy forces. It is also very vulnerable to periodic swings in technology. In the Gulf War, American airpower operated in an environment where it had a relative advantage over Iraqi ground forces. In the years ahead, passive detection and tracking systems, speed of Iight antiaircraft systems, tactical ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles will change warfare in ways not yet comprehended. However, technological surprise poses special perils to airpower where sudden, one-sided supremacy in aerospace defense, lasers, and smart weapons could create spectacular shifts in the balance of military power.

An enemy able to neutralize U.S. airpower as a result of either breaking through air defense technology or TBM strikes will not succeed if Army Ground Forces are designed to cope with this contingency and can assist the air component to overcome the threat. Airpower enthusiasts conveniently forget that the Egyptians gained a 6 day respite from the effects of Israeli air superiority in 1973. In this short time, over 100,000 Egyptian troops with 1,000 tanks and armored fighting vehicles were able to cross the Suez Canal and nearly overrun the state of Israel. The Israelis have never forgotten the lesson that overreliance on any one arm of combat or weapon system is ill advised. Just as new antitank capabilities and new air defense technology surprised Israeli Defense Forces in 1973 during the Egyptian offensive to retake the Sinai, modern information age technology in thee hands of innovative military leaders can potentially reduce or neutralize the effectiveness of high altitude air strikes. Passive radar systems are evolving to the point where they are sensitive, accurate, and persistent enough to locate and identify aircraft at long range. Because passive detection sites do not radiate, it is extremely difficult to identify or locate them. Clearly, the consequences of relying on airpower to achieve strategic aims without ground forces in this 2003 scenario would have resulted in certain defeat for U.S. forces.

In this regard, missiles, however revolutionary in character, are still like bullets: once fired, they cannot be retrieved. Just as it is unwise to rely too much on airpower, it is equally unrealistic to expect stand-off missile systems to win wars. When the inventory of expensive missiles is gone, their role is over. Therefore, their use should be reserved for critical periods and for targets especially difficult for other weapons to handle. As sensor-to-shooter technological enhancements make fires more responsive, it will be necessary to ensure that an expensive Tomahawk missile whose warhead is intended for a hardened target is not allocated for use against softer, more mobile targets. For these reasons, government-sponsored research and development programs in Europe, Japan, and China are working to create new, less expensive cruise missile systems of increased range and striking power. As more inexpensive cruise missiles become available, reliance on manned aircraft to conduct deep operations will probably decline. This is true for Army as well as Air Force aircraft.

Inexpensive unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with thermal imaging technology for night targeting linked to terminally guided missile systems are also proliferating. The mobile cruise missile batteries firing sea-skimming missiles with ranges in excess of 80 miles that were central to the defeat of forced entry operations from the sea in this setting will be present for the next conflict whether it occurs in Southwest Asia or in the straits between Taiwan and China. When these points are considered in connection with the penalties in performance suffered by naval aircraft compared with land-based aircraft (the aerospace engineer's rule of thumb is that catapult launches and arrested landings impose a 1,200 pound penalty for additional structural weight), these observations raise serious questions about the viability of the U.S. Navy's new concepts for littoral warfare.

In future conflicts and crises, carrier and amphibious battlegroups will have to adjust constantly for a wide range of emerging threats: shallow water submarines, stand-off missiles, underwater mines, space-based surveillance, and unmanned aerial vehicles. Prudent response to these threats influences where naval and amphibious forces operate, and that, in turn, establishes how far inland naval and amphibious forces can influence the action. Sea-based forces are ideal targets for weapons of mass destruction when they attempt to execute forced entry operations from the sea. The concentration of several thousand sailors, airmen, and Marines in an amphibious or Nimitz-class aircraft carrier risks single-point failure in future warfighting. In contrast, dispersed, highly mobile ground forces present poor targets for these weapons and land-based aviation can operate from protected locations beyond the range of these weapons.

Provided that ground forces organize to disperse, historical evidence indicates that casualty rates in land warfare do not necessarily increase when weapons of greater lethality appear. In the last century, it was not unusual for armies to lose between 10 and 20 percent of their strength in a single day. But despite the increasing destructiveness of weapons during World War II, this loss rate dropped to around 1 to 3 percent a day. Loss rates for Israeli forces during the 1973 war were estimated at 1.8 percent per day. Loss rates for U.S. Ground Forces during the 4 day ground war with Iraq were less than 1 percent. Why? As weapons become more dangerous, armies reorganize to disperse and to increase their mobility, reducing the density of troops in jeopardy. Sea-based forces that rely on large, expensive industrial age platforms like aircraft carriers and amphibious carriers have to depend on a vast array of costly defensive systems to survive the proliferation of less expensive missiles, mines, and land-based aircraft. These fiscal and technological constraints on naval power interact and add up in ways that simply reinforce another important trend in military affairs: the long-term military superiority of land-based ground forces, missiles, and aviation.

These points further reinforce the enduring requirement for United States-sponsored alliance structures and the forward-basing of U.S. Army contingents to overcome these constraints. Without Army contingents positioned in areas of vital strategic interest, U.S. forces are unlikely to gain access from the sea in future crises or conflicts. At the same time, naval forces that must position hundreds of miles away in order to operate beyond the reach of the enemy's weapon systems are unlikely to act as a persuasive deterrent. In addition to being extremely high-risk combat tactics, forced entry operations from the sea are capital intensive. Most important, not only do forward-deployed ground forces defend America at a distance and demonstrate America's determination to honor its overseas commitments, they provide proof of a visible and credible link to America's ultimate strategic power. The force described here would have to be examined against a range of warfighting criteria and command arrangements in simulation before any decision were made to adopt this specific force design; however, the implications of this warfighting structure and scenario for the Army's future role in the context of joint warfare are significant. Of these, probably the most important is that the U.S. Army is positioned to be a core element of most future joint operations. Beyond this, there are others:

* The Army's senior leadership must rethink its commitment to preserving all current echelons of command and control. If it did, the Army could reorganize its current forces to field corps-based JTFs by transforming its ten divisions into twenty-five to thirty Groups like the ones outlined here. This would help to shape the Army's organization within the trendlines by clearly establishing the urgent requirement for additional rocket artillery systems, advanced rotor-driven aircraft, tactical ballistic missile defense systems, armored vehicular survivability equipment, light survivable air-delivered armor, modularity in tactical logistics, and improved C41.

Reorganizing the Army's forces along the lines suggested in this scenario would seem be essential in a strategic environment in which the time for mobilizing and massing forces to attack is likely to be quite short. The political fragility of future American-led coalitions under the weight of regional conflict and the impact of instantaneous communications on public perceptions of mililary operations will not improve this situation. For these reasons, the readiness and ability to deploy quickly will be more important than ever before. The speed and tactical surprise of units from the same divisions in the 1989 invasion of Panama clearly contributed to their success. In both cases, the first troops began to be airlifted less than 18 hours after the order was given. However, Army troops in the future will have to be armed with the required C41 capability, sophisticated light armor, advanced recon-attack helicopters and rocket artillery and still move just as quickly in order to both survive and win in action. This means funding and deploying all of the equipment and systems in the Mobility Requirements Study including the C-5 upgrades, the C-17, fast sealift, and Army Prepositioning Afloat. It also means reexamining the protection afforded to facilities for prepositioned sets of Army equipment around the world. In some cases, sites will have to be either hardened or positioned where they will be protected from the type of attack described in this seenario.

The question of how much force to assemble is no more important than the question of how quickly that force can be deployed in a major crisis. Prepositioned equipment accelerates the readiness of arriving combat troops to fight and commits allies to cooperation. Enhancing current additional prepositioning of Army (APA) equipment afloat should be considered, but this does not mean abandoning plans to preposition Army equipment in allied states. Prepositioning ashore secures the strategic high ground in pivotal states. Early entry ground forces will, however, have to be equipped, trained, and prepared to decontaminate prepositioned equipment sites if they are attacked with chemical or biological agents as in the scenario described.

To obtain a real advantage from rapid deployment, however, Army forces must be structured, equipped, and trained to execute offensive operations almost immediately on arrival in a theater of conflict. The U.S. Army's passion for centralization, pooling of resources, and conducting war by remote control, which contributed to the long lead times needed by Army forces to prepare and launch offensive operations in Vietnam and Southwest Asia, cannot shape operational thinking in the future. Compared with those of Desert Storm, the numbers of Army troops and equipment are lower. Operationally, the distances covered are greater.

* Striving for speed and decisive force on the strategic level goes beyond rapid deployment. This means that the nation cannot afford to trade forces on land for the promise of forces delivered from the sea over the beach. To do so means risking the certainty of another war in the Gulf. The 1991 war to regain control of Kuwait cost the United States-led coalition at least $60 billion. An additional $25 billion was spent in the reconstruction of Kuwait. Compared with the costs of responding repeatedly to future crises as the Armed Forces did in 1994 and 1995, the estimated cost of establishing an Army ground presence of less than 5,000 troops (a Recon-Strike Group or Heavy Combat Group) in Kuwait -- roughly $300 million to $400 million per year -- is modest in comparison. Kuwait and the GCC states would also share some of this burden.

* The assertion that Kuwait is indefensible constitutes an American confession of impotence in a confrontation with reactionary regimes that threaten not only regional stability, but global economic prosperity as well. For reasons that are reminiscent of German insistence on the stationing of U.S. ground forces in Central Europe after World War II, today's Gulf Arab elites understand that U.S. ground forces represent a tangible commitment to regional stability that neither Iraq nor Iran can afford to ignore. Just what the United States might do to protect its ground force in Kuwait would figure prominently in any Iraqi or Iranian plan to attack Kuwait and the Arabian Peninsula. This is, after all, the essential feature of deterrence.

* In contrast to the air-ground team of the MEF, the Army is capable of combining its elements for operations with all of the services at the Corps/JTF and Group levels. With few exceptions, it is simply a question of organizing existing Army assets differently to exploit new technology and human potential more efficiently and effectively. Organizing to support the implementation of a joint C41 structure is already in blueprint in the form of the Defense Information Infrastructure (DII) Master Plan and its associated Defense Information System Network (DISN) Joint Capstone Requirements Document. The C41 battalion structure would be linked through the Global Command and Control System to this new overarching architecture; thereby significantly enhancing the joint information content available to Army Ground Forces.

The questions, then, are the following: How can current Army doctrine and training with their heavy emphasis on detailed planning, lengthy deliberation, and maintaining control of forces be reoriented to a new information age force design which depends for its effectiveness on joint C4I, "war-ready" combat forces, and operational flexibility to win? And how can the Congress be persuaded of the strategic and economic benefits of a national military strategy built primarily around American land-based air and ground forces for control of events on land without jeopardizing American dominance at sea?

·   ·   ·

Breaking the Phalanx: A New Design for Landpower in the 20th Century, Douglas A. Macgregor. Copyright (c) 1997 by Douglas A. Macgregor. This material may not be copied, displayed or reproduced unless written permission is obtained from Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc., 88 Post Rd. West, Westport, CT 06850 USA.

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posted oct. 26, 2004

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