Although there are important elements I disagree with — in some cases strenuously — US Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor (Ret.) has written an important piece on the fundamental changes and massive budget reductions that are needed to improve America’s ability to survive into the future.
Macgregor gets the three essentials right, I believe:
1) the threat America faces is now massively reduced; its future character may very well not be what conventional wisdom expects, and Americans need to fundamentally change how we interact with the rest of the world,
2) before any changes are effected in the size, character and funding of our armed forces, a comprehensive audit must be successfully and immediately completed to understand how we spend our money, and funding should be withheld unless and until that is done, and
3) massive changes are needed in our armed forces and their leadership, organization, staffing, weapons, and more.
Phi Beta Iota: The US Marine Corps understood all this in 1989, and sought to change the defense paradigm from worst case to most likely in 1992; then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and his subordinates were not at all interested. Right-sizing defense–and the whole of government–is not that difficult, provided that one has absolute integrity rooted in real-world truthful intelligence. That cannot be said of the US Government today.
In 1997, Colonel Douglas Macgregor provided a well thought out blueprint for affecting a Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) within the U.S. Army, and to a lesser extent the entire U.S. Armed Forces. The blueprint, as detailed in this book, apparently served as an inspiration for the restructuring of the U.S. Army from an organization based on stand alone divisions to its current brigade structure. Yet apparently neither the Defense Department (DOD) nor the Army fully accepted Macgregor’s remarkably prescient thinking. His goal in this book was to demonstrate the Army’s strategic relevance in the 21st Century as force to counter the bewildering multiplication of threats to U.S. National Security that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Macgregor noted that “military strategy” really refers to the use of military power to achieve strategic goals, but how effective that military power would be is a function of force structure, tactical and operational doctrine, and training. He also persuavely argues that RMA is not a matter of mere technological innovation, but rather concerns the willingness of the armed forces to “devise new ways to incorporate new technology by changing their organization, their tactics, and sometimes their whole concept of war.”
Rather interestingly Macgregor adopted two of the then prevalent concepts of `Network Centric Warfare” (although he never uses this term) as the basis for his proposal to restructure the army. He argued that the newly conceived command system known as C4I [SR] (Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence [Surveillance, Reconnaissance] ) offered the means to build a new ground force structure based on smaller more flexible units which he calls “Combat Groups.” He also argued that the Army should adopt a `networked type’ of organizational structure based on a C4I system that would have a much flatter command structure than the traditional army hierarchical structure. His argument was centered on historical examples that demonstrated that when command authority was dispersed to smaller units, warfare by maneuver and adaptable tactics leading to battlefield success became possible. This latter was probably one reason why the Army only adopted his force structure concept and not his C4I proposal.
Macgregor also argued that the perennially out of control DOD budget could be brought under control by the sensible method of tying force structure and weapons procurement to actual strategic needs based on a rational analysis of real and potential threats to national security. Although DOD would claim that it always does just this, the evidence suggests otherwise as demonstrated most recently F35 strike fighter.
A remarkable book that is as relevant today as when it was written and is for the shelf of anyone seriously interested in military reform.
We were all right then, we are still right now, but unless General James Jones, USMC gets himself a deputy that is grounded in strategy & integrity, this Administration is toast, in part because there is NO DIFFERENCE among the apparatchiks that trade places within the two-party system. They ae ALL out of touch with strategy, and hence reality.
I hold this author to a higher standard, for he is in the top rank of perhaps 10 people who really know what they are talking about with respect to transformation. I believe he is the single most important mind behind the Army’s recent transition from 10 divisions to 40+ brigades as the basic form of organization. Where he falls short (and remember, this is a master who in falling short is still light years ahead of the others) is in not going far enough: in not carrying his ideas out to inter-agency collaboration and multi-national inter-agency planning and coalition operations.
He also fails to properly put the failings of the US Navy and the US Air Force in context. The US Navy today is a disgrace, largely incapable of moving anything or getting anywhere at flank speed, and the US Air Force is even worse off–incapable of lifting what needs to be lifted, when it needs to be lifted, in the distances and quantities that need to be lifted. Without a chapter on this joint “sucking chest wound,” the author’s otherwise brilliant work loses much of its potential at the SecDef level.
This is a very serious book, not an essay. It is packed with substantive information, it is well-documented, and the footnotes are as useful as the main text.
The underlying theme in this book is that the Chief of Staff of the Army will not succeed until he breaks the back of the cultural mafia that persists–like the horse cavalry of old–in focusing on big units and expensive platforms. While the author is among the foremost and earliest proponents of small, fast, and many, it is clear to me that he does not consider the current Army to be moving in the right direction–a direction that he makes clear could lead to our achieving a sufficiency within months rather than years.
Perhaps the most revolutionary underlying theme in this book is that of how to deal with information. The author may well be the most intelligent helpful commentator I have read in this respect. On page 102 he focuses on the fact that “Command centers where information is collected and transmitted should not be information monopolies,” and he focuses throughout on the urgent need to use “commander’s intent” (a concept of operations pioneered by Marine Corps Commandant Al Gray) and fluid lateral information sharing to increase situational awareness and agility at the tactical level.
Published in 2004 and not doubt polished in 2003, this book gives the US Army a failing grade for the future while noting that it could–with application and innovation, get back to the Honor Roll within months, rather than years.
I am a Marine and I discount the “hate and discontent” from disgruntled Marines writing reviews against this book. There is a big difference between Marines from the sea carrying out largely amphibious missions, and soldiers (and increasingly in today’s army, contractors at a ratio of 1:1) in for the long haul. We need a 450 ship Navy, a 2 Berlin Airlift Air Force, a 45+ brigade Army, a 3 MEF USMC, a doubled Coast Guard, a tripled State Department, and a whole new focus on inter-agency and multinational armies and related peacekeeping cadres. It is not enough to fix Army–we need a grand strategy for using all of the instruments of national power over a 100 year timeframe. In this context, the book gets an A for giving Army the slap in the face it needs right now, and a C+ for missing the larger picture within which the Army, no matter how transformed, will fail because everything else in the USG is failing when it comes to coordinated sustainable inter-agency operations. Theater commanders and Army ground forces cannot win the war alone, nor can they make peace on their own.
One final word of praise: the author is an honorable man of great moral courage who speaks his mind in the public interest. Within the book he has harsh things to say about ticket-punching careerist officers, and think tank harlots who give their masters what they want, not what they need to hear. I salute and will follow any man such as this. We need more like him.