Small Wars Journal

Rethinking the US Army

Rethinking the US Army -- 10 October Los Angeles Times by Peter Spiegel and Julian E. Barnes.

Absorbing the lessons of a troubled war, U.S. military officials have begun an intense debate over proposals for a sweeping reorganization of the Army to address shortcomings that have plagued the force in Iraq and to abandon some war-fighting principles that have prevailed since the Cold War...

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates is expected to weigh in today in a major address in which he will warn that the Army is unlikely to face a conventional war in the future and must reorganize to fight in unconventional conflicts...

Gates also will single out the need for changes in Army personnel policies to better recognize and reward young officers who show promise in less traditional areas, including those skilled in foreign languages and in advising foreign forces...

On the foreign military training issue:

The leading advocate of establishing a stand-alone advisor corps within the Army is Lt. Col. John Nagl, a co-author of the Army's new counterinsurgency field manual who is considered a rising star within the service.

In an article published in a policy journal in June, Nagl, who served as an operations officer in a battalion in Iraq three years ago, proposed a permanent force of 20,000 advisors...

"If we need advisory teams for a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, it makes sense to build this force structure permanently," Nagl said.

In his speech, Gates is expected to emphasize that such training missions could prevent future wars...

Related from today's New York Times - Faster Army Expansion Plan Approved.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has approved a plan to ease the strain of two wars on the military by increasing the size of the active-duty Army to 547,000 by 2010, two years sooner than planned, officials said Tuesday.

Mr. Gates approved the accelerated timetable in a Sept. 26 memo that also barred the Army from reaching the goal by lowering its recruiting standards or employing "stop loss," a practice of prohibiting soldiers from retiring...


US Army's Turmoil Has Only Just Begun - Westhawk


Rob Thornton

Wed, 10/10/2007 - 10:09pm

Hey Schmedlap,
Some reasons we might not want to MTO&E Advisory Teams to a BN or BCT has to do with "better" vs. "OK":
One of the things that make an advisory team more effective is its aggregate professional and emotional maturity - in terms of experience, education and knowledge. This means its pretty rank heavy with SNCOs and senior company grades and FGs filling most of the billets. Some of these might be MOS specific, but many could be branch immaterial - depending on what PME theyve had in their career - most of our folks have had more cross training by that point in their career then many of the specialized indigenous forces of greater rank may have ever had (or will). What matters is your ability to recognize a problem, then work on a solution - often this means communicating it to higher and getting it resourced from some where - this is where experience and maturity matter in terms of making decisions. Some of our best guys found they could accomplish things they did not think in their lanes, but realized that they had better knowledge then their IA peers. So you might have more CPTs, more MAJs, multiple LTCs and a COL with in a TT package designed to go advise a division level element then in the BN and possibly the majority of the BCT - to say there would be friction between personalities in a BCT or TF and a high powered TT is probably an understatement. You have to have these ranks often because the people you are advising are often MAJs/LTCs/COLs and General officers in their own countrys military.
The "advisor" team organization and its mission would require sufficiently different sets of resources, different training plans, a different sustainment overhead, and different deployment schedules then our existing MTO&E units. Unless we want to tie the advisory team deployment schedule to the MTO&E unit, meaning the whole BCT deploys - you are probably talking about sustainment overhead close to that of a BCTs worth of vehicles in a Division level advisory package like the one I described above (and this is a very rough estimate) - probably 80 × 1151 HMMWVs or MRAP equivalents, 10 x FMTVs, all the weapons and weapons maint stuff, mechainics, comms, and other life support type issues, etc. Putting a DIV advisory sized element (roughly 9 x BN teams, 3 x BDE teams, and a DIV team all probably around 15-20 guys - (remember no CF infrastructure like in OIF or OEF as they are right now so they are going to be bigger the 11 man teams currently fielded in OIF) - so if we say 20 guys per team that is about 260 and we have not even looked at the support element(s) required. All of these guys are going to have specialized training requirements such as language and cultural skills that enable them to build the relationships required to be effective. Its a large burden to place on a BN or BCT HQs to train these advisory teams up, deploy them and meet the requirements of their families while they are deployed while trying to meet the requirements of training the rest of their MTO&E BN or BCT on other skills.
That is why your options are either to give it to the BCT as mission and allow them to task organize and spend probably a BCT life cycle on this mission to do it well, or to create an organization that manages all this for you and deploys these teams as a package over say a two to three year life cycle where you might build in the flexibility of having one package that trains for 6 months to a year and deploys for a year, then comes back and trains new advisory teams, or one that does a 6 month deployment (or smaller ones) and refits then goes out again - think of how the USMC does MEU deployments with a 6 month train up, 6 month deployment, 6 month refit. There is also nothing to say that we have to use a "one size fits all" type of deployment model - smaller teams could be sent in where the environment is more permissive and the infrastructure more accommodating.
There are lots of ways to skin this cat - it really depends on how much importance you (meaning the powers that be) place on building indigenous forces and how well they want it done, and what resources you commit to it. There is an element of risk involved - so everybody needs to know what is at risk, and what is to be gained - then decision makers can decide how important it is as part of their tool box to execute policy.
Can a BCT do the mission? Yes.
Can they do it "as well" as it could be done if we took part of the force, and allocated it to building something along the lines of what LTC Nagl proposed? I dont believe so
If we established something along the lines of an advisory corps we leverage all those wearing ACUs - regardless of career field - ops/institutional/institutional support, FORSCOM/TRADOC) - so the burden and the benefits go out across the entire Army - maybe even the military vs. having to task a BCT
This is one of those skill sets that require focus on multiple levels to get it right - and sometimes you need to get it better then just "OK".
The good news - we can get a two-fer. As these TT personnel come back into the main stream Army off their 2-3 year tour - they bring with them their experience set. The may now have geographic, language skills and cultural knowledge unique to the BN and BCT - among many other unique sets within the BN & BCT. That knowledge may make a huge difference if the BN or BCT goes to combat in the region. Working on an advisory team is a two way street - you learn as much about the people you are working with as they do about you. Youll learn about how things run in the country you work in - is it tribal based, who are the players, what is the infrastructure like, how do they fight, climate, health issues, etc. The skill sets required to operate in relatively small teams with indigenous forces for sustained periods of time foster innovation and adaptive thinking skills we dont always need within MTO&E units. So there are benefits to the larger force aside from just doing the mission better.
Like I said in the first post - these are hard choices. However we need to consider what is our long term strategy for the "Long War" even beyond OIF and OEF. Building partner security capacity on the front end may prevent having to send larger ground forces later to resolve a conflict, then bring security amongst the anarchy and try and stabilize the situation. It might be worth considering sending a Military Advisory package early as part of a security cooperation agreement to help prevent instability from overtaking a state and destabilizing a key region.
Like I said - no easy answers, only tough questions.
Best Regards, Rob

Schmedlap (not verified)

Wed, 10/10/2007 - 5:49pm

Instead of creating a new branch of the Army, why not simply create an authorization for these teams within the MTOE of each battalion? Every team that I've interacted with was relying upon the TF/BCT that they're paired up with for logistical support and lots of direct operational coordinations. One of the benefits of creating maneuver battalions of 2 tank, 2 infantry, 1 engineer, 1 FSC, and an HHC is that we were often task organizing in that manner anyway. Changing the MTOE allowed for a habitual relationship of these different companies within their battalion, rather than pairing them up prior to action. Why not do the same with advisory teams? Commanders already have a large enough alphabet soup of external entities to coordinate with - SOF, PRTs, NGOs, MiTTs, PiTTs, etc, etc.

Rob Thornton

Wed, 10/10/2007 - 8:40am

If you read the piece its interesting to see LTG Chiarelli's thoughts.

Its a tough call. On the one hand we need balance and flexibility, on the other I believe the establishment of an "Advisory Corps" of reasonable size could provide benefits beyond just having a ready pool to streamline the our commitments.

The "article" infers that LTG Chiarelli's opposition stems from rationalizing that if SOF needs augmentation then they can get it from GPF because we don't have the resources to create more specialized force structure for separate purposes. I think its also worth considering that reduction in available BCTs means higher OPTEMPO for ARNG and USAR forces as well as AD BCTs at least as long as our commitments remain as they are, or close to where they are - how do we get to the goals stated by the CSA of X amount deployed and Y amount refitting in CONUS or home station for Active and Reserve component forces? There are related recruiting and retention issues to consider.

But we also have the challenge of looking further forward - toward what capabilities we'll need in the future. I believe the Advisory Corps is worth the risk as long as it does not become an end unto itself. What I mean is that it cannot become a separate branch or even an elite regiment like the 75th. I think it would serve two purposes. First as LTC Nagl has stated, it provides the means to not only streamline the fielding of advisory teams of all flavors, while building those advisory mindsets. Second, it could provide a means of getting certain attributes, skills and traits back out into the force so our GPF forces benefit in ways that make them more flexible for the demands we expect them to meet. By going out on a TT you learn to stretch yourself and think differently - the leadership that works in more rigid organizations will not always work on a TT, and you grow. I think this has the potential to increase the effectiveness of our GPF across the full range of military operations. I think by increasing these skills we create expandable capabilities and by doing so generate options for campaigns that we have not foreseen. For example, if we decided to do a major UW campaign somewhere that outstripped our SOF capability - would we be able to do that effectively? or would we decide that it was beyond our capability and as such go with something we really wish we had a better options for?

These are tough questions, but I think we can do both without creating a hard/no cross line between force structure - in fact I believe we can benefit by having an organization (like an Advisory Corps) where soldiers can develop new skill sets and employ them, and then return to the larger force to strengthen those formations.

I'm glad the SecDef is leading/fostering the debate, we have to be in line with how the civilian leadership sees us being employed to remain relevant to the policy objectives and needs of the nation.

Best regards, Rob