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A Laboratory for Preparing Forces to Win in a Complex World

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A Laboratory for Preparing Forces to Win in a Complex World

William R. Orkins

The U.S. Army Operating Concept: Win in a complex world (TRADOC PAM 525-3-1) (AOC) is the strategy for operating in the world from 2020-2040. An unpredictable environment requires adaptability, perseverance, and above all, innovation. Currently, the Army is undergoing a strategic downsizing commensurate with post WWII and is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. To address the national security challenges involving land power it is imperative for increased discipline and innovation to solve complex problems while simultaneously adjusting to fiscal constraints imposed by the realities of global economic pressures. Developing a dominate land power force described in the AOC necessitates experimentation and an understanding that the answers will not be “one size fits all”, but the best solutions will likely originate from combined and multinational exercises. The Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) at Hohenfels, Germany is a laboratory for creating solutions to address the unknowable complex problems in the future.

JMRC exists to train both U.S. and multinational partners in conducting decisive action training exercises (DATE), and for examining how to address challenges associated with multi-national interoperability. The approach is congruent with the AOC that admits “the Army will conduct operations as part of joint, interorganizational, and multinational teams.[i]” The framework consists of integrating U.S. and European partners during high intensity conflict scenarios including movement to contact, preparing for defense, and the decisive attack all while simultaneously being confronted by conventional and nonconventional forces. In essence, the training provides a way to use the conventional force to apply pressure against potential adversaries in phase 0 environments.[ii] The uniqueness lies not within the standard three part conflict scenario that includes civilian and terrorist complexities, but rather it is the application of multiple countries working together as a team to solve a set of complex problems. Results often show that U.S. commanders gain a valuable understanding of non U.S. military capabilities and the challenges of integrating those capabilities into the U.S. Army operational constructs such as the seven warfighting functions.

Requirements for Current and Future Forces      

In order to meet the harbingers of future conflict outlined in the AOC it is important that we consider the shortcomings of U.S. doctrine, NATO doctrine, and partner nation doctrine to create a system that is adaptable to whatever security dilemma is faced by our nation or our partners. During the post OIF and OEF world, it is understandable that each U.S. service will focus heavily on their own “refit” strategies to develop new doctrine, and compete to acquire new weapons systems. However the U.S. Army in particular, must ensure during this refit process that multinational interoperability is not lost in the quest for perfection of U.S. dominated Unified Land Operations (ULO). JMRC offers the medium which US forces based in Europe and regionally aligned forces (RAF) can continue to address the challenges of interoperability in the 21st Century. The U.S. will likely find that all future conflict will require a coalition of the willing. Challenges endured during training rotations are critical to developing the appropriate doctrine and command mindset to facilitate a rapid coalescence of militaries to address security challenges even in the absence of identical doctrine or similar operational approaches. Moreover, a venue for “Army forces [to] engage regionally to ensure interoperability, build relationships based on common interests, enhance situational awareness, assure partners, and deter adversaries” is as important as developing new weapon systems.[iii]

A common aphorism within the national security realm is the DOD fights the current war with the last war’s techniques. This is increasingly problematic with the expansion of hybrid warfare as seen in Ukraine[iv]. As an organization operating ahead of that dictum, JMRC offers no text book or doctrine that training units can follow that will give them the answers to the test. Only through creative leadership, disciplined initiative, and applying lessoned learned can a U.S. brigade combat team incorporate the strengths of multinational partners. Training rotations fit not only within the theoretical unpinning of the AOC, but rather execute the strategic guidance of the DOD Priorities for 21st Century Defense, and USEUCOM 2015 Posture Statement through the European Reassurance Initiative by building partnership capacity[v] [vi]. Operationally, JMRC achieves the enduring USAREUR lines of effort and associated objectives to ensure land forces are trained and relationships are built with partner militaries. Tactically, BDE and below elements are tested, trained, and certified to conduct complex multinational operations.

The development of partner national capacity and improvement in interoperability must not be viewed as a U.S. only outcome. Partner nation forces improve by returning to the training center multiple times while partnering with different U.S. forces each time. While each RAF will contend with the challenges of deploying and redeploying a force from CONUS to the EUCOM AOR, the partners are challenged by operating with different operating and command styles than the U.S. unit. For instance, the 1st Brigade 1st Cavalry Division was the first CONUS based unit to participate in Operation Atlantic Resolve (OAR) and train with multinational forces at JMRC. Improvements occurred by both the U.S. and partner forces, but 1/1 CAV and their partners were expeditionary in the sense it was the first execution of the RAF. The second RAF, 1st Brigade 3rd Infantry Division, has shown increased efficiencies in interoperability and has completed additional training throughout the AOR that indicates an increase in institutional knowledge by both the U.S. and partner forces. JMRC facilitates additional short notice exercises known as “Freedom Shock” to stress both U.S. and partner units outside of the Hohenfels Training Area on river crossings, live fire events, and so on.[vii] These events enable RAFs and USAREUR based units to increase their ability to operate with partner forces on a more frequent and in a less time consuming manner.

Achieving national and theater level objectives requires the ability for multiple militaries to coalesce at the same time and place with common goals. Given the financial and geographical constraints of conducting multinational training in CONUS, bringing U.S. forces to Europe is the only viable option to continuously train militaries from over a dozen nations at one time. Short notice “Freedom Shock” events and extended DATE rotations are the foundation for creating human and organizational networks to deter regional and global adversaries.

Lasting Knowledge and Adaptable Training

Although U.S. units that train in “the box” at Hohenfels learn valuable lessons, there is still room for improvement for the training audiences and JMRC. First, the leadership of each unit must capture their experiences in writing and publish them for consumption by U.S. and multinational audiences. This includes professional articles, and externally published after action reviews (AARs) following the completion of the training events, and increased multinational participation during planning cycles. The value of sharing the knowledge is that each rotational training event varies widely from the previous rotations. Different multinational partners participate, the scenarios are adjusted, different U.S. Reserve and National Guard units are attached to the active duty BDE, and the training focus alters from Armored BCT conflict to preparation for peace and stability operations in Kosovo. Even U.S. units that conduct successful rotations at NTC and JRTC find the training events at JMRC add level of complexity well beyond CONUS training. The outcome of the variance in training leads to the innovation required by the AOC “to anticipate future demands, stay ahead of determined enemies, and accomplish the mission.[viii]

Second, much like General George Washington could not succeed in decisively defeating the British without the aid of the French, the other CTCs must determine on how to include multinational participants in each of their rotations with the assistance of JMRC. Conducting a DATE rotation at Fort Irwin with a U.S. only force is only beneficial to a limited extent. Units can master platoon through brigade tactics, but that mastery is biased when trying to understand how to involve a partner (e.g. Thailand, Canada, and Jordan) in a real world situation. Training with multinational partners must become the norm to develop enduring TTPs and doctrine. As it stands now, the two European based BCTs and the rotational RAF units that train at JMRC do not produce enough volume to fully exercise all warfighting functions with multinational partners in order to generate doctrine to meet the security needs of the 21st century.

JMRC rotations are relatively short, with only 7-8 days of force on force training (X-days), and helping commanders create multiple dilemmas for the adversary is difficult to accomplish. For units that conduct multiple rotations at JMRC (e.g. RAF units) they should see their second rotation with in an altogether different training model that may include extended, or altered, X-days allowing time to truly understand the adversary, understand their multinational partner capabilities, and learn how to create multiple dilemmas to complicate the OPFOR scheme of maneuver. There is always some degree of leadership turnover between rotations that would make this difficult, but increasing the complexity through altering X-day training provides time for commanders and staff to create adaptive and innovative solutions called for in the AOC.

Most importantly, JMRC and the other CTCs would benefit from instituting experimental designs into the training rotations. Current AARs and internal IDRs (issue, discussion, recommendation) include observations and conclusions that lead to confirmation bias by using the available information to support previously held views. This is not done with unjust intent; rather it is a human tendency to justify the investment in time and effort. With MILES data, communication recording, movements, etc. the training center collects enough data to have an epistemological approach for enhancing training methods. For instance, problem statements and hypotheses are developed and data is collected throughout the rotation to conduct statistical and qualitative analysis to confirm or deny the pre-rotation hypotheses.  An example would be determining the level of multinational involvement during the planning process throughout a training rotation.  Multinational participation is normally higher at the beginning of the rotation and steadily declines. Applying an experimental design will show if this is true statistically, and provide the CTC planners with the ability to adjust the training conditions to ensure that multinational interoperability and building partner capacity is being achieved. Moreover, the results will increase the institutional knowledge needed for the U.S. Army to contribute to the global land network of relationships.[ix]

Moving Forward and Preparing for the Unknowable

The JMRC laboratory must, and will, extend beyond the training area at Hohenfels to learn new ways to build partner capacity and enhance multinational interoperability. Military to military training events such as Freedom Shock, Rapid Trident, and Saber Junction, to name a few will only increase in size, scope, and frequency. These events need adaptable planners and observer coach trainers (O/C-T) to not only add training value, but to capture the unique approaches developed during complex exercises and share them with the wider force. Experimental approaches and adaptable training models instituted at JMRC will lead to understanding not only how to operate against an adversary, but also to understanding how to operate with partners effectively.

The takeaway from JMRC training events is that the U.S. does not operate in a vacuum, and is unlikely to fight unilaterally any time soon. The British learned that tough lesson during the Falkland War. The U.S. learned this during Vietnam, and the examples of “go at it alone” going badly continue throughout history. U.S. operations and doctrine are sound in their own right, but lack specific guidance regarding incorporation of allies and partners, especially when achieving the goals of AOC. JMRC provides the setting with which interoperability doctrine is formulated and tested; planning and execution of large scale military-to-military events throughout Europe are achieved; and proficient use of O/C-Ts in a Phase 0 environment is demonstrated. By thoroughly exploiting this complex network of challenging training and multinational military exchanges, the U.S. can create multiple dilemmas for potential adversaries.


Breedlove, Phillip. 2015. "United States European Command Posture Statement: Hearing Before the House Armed Services Committee, 114th Congress." Washington DC.

Command, United States Army Training and Doctrine. 2014. "The U.S. Army Operating Concept: Win in a Complex World (TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1)." Fort Eustis.

Dixon, Jesiah. 2015. "Multinational units conduct assault river crossing operations." The Official Homepage of the United States Army. June 6.

Garamone, Jim. 2015. "NATO Commander Breedlove Discusses Implications of Hybrid War." U.S. Department of Defense News. March 23.

United States Department of Defense. 2012. "Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for a 21st Century Defense." Washington DC.

End Notes

[i] United States Army Training and Doctrine Command, The U.S. Army Operating Concept: Win in a Complex World (TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1) (Fort Eustis, VA: 2014), 8.

[ii] This consists of an environment prior to open hostilities that includes both military and interagency activities to shape the perceptions of partners and adversaries in a manner that ensures success. Militarily this includes such activities as building partner nation military capacity, improving information exchange among partners, gaining access to a given location, and developing multinational operating procedures.

[iii] Ibid, 17.

[iv] Jim Garamone, “NATO Commander Breedlove Discusses Implications of Hybrid War,” U.S. Department of Defense News, March 23, 2015.

[v] United States Department of Defense, Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for a 21st Century Defense (Washington, DC: 2012), 3.

[vi] United States European Command Posture Statement: hearing Before the House Armed Services Committee, 114th Cong., (February 25, 2015)(statement of Phillip Breedlove, Commander of U.S. Forces Europe), 14.

[vii] Jesiah Dixon, “Freedom Shock: Army Europe, Ready at a Moment's Notice,” U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs, June 6, 2015,  

[viii] United States Army Training and Doctrine Command, The U.S. Army Operating Concept: Win in a Complex World (TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1) (Fort Eustis, VA: 2014), 22.

[ix] Ibid, 17.


About the Author(s)

William Orkins is psychological operations officer serving as a planner at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center at Hohenfels, Germany. He is a graduate of the Naval Postgraduate School with a M.S. in Information Strategy and Political Warfare.



Sat, 08/22/2015 - 5:58pm

From the article:

"Experimental approaches and adaptable training models instituted at JMRC will lead to understanding not only how to operate against an adversary, but also to understanding how to operate with partners effectively."

This is a highly accurate statement and will be reflected in the upcoming article entitled: "Expanding the Counter Improvised Explosive Device (C-IED) Network Engagement Line of Operation:Comprehensive Network Engagement (CNE) U-K-R-A-I-N-E


The purpose of this assessment is to elucidate how expanding a counter improvised explosive device (C-IED) line of operation and approach better supports Ukrainian Armed Forces rapid capacity building, interoperability and enduring Anti-terrorist Operation (ATO) 1 in the eastern part of the country. The threat in the Donbass Region involves multiple actors employing combinations of conventional and unconventional instruments, some of which involve improvised explosive devices.

The proposed expanded C-IED line of operation involves Comprehensive Network Engagement (CNE) which combines Brigade and Battalion Staff Attack the Network (AtN) (now called Network Engagement) 4 with Company Intelligence Support Team (COIST) 5 operations.

Furthermore, the contemporary operating environment and current training needs of Ukrainian Armed Forces, necessitated further tailoring of the CNE model to better support their training gaps and requirements. The acronym for this initiative is UKRAINE which is outlined below and is integrated into the overall CNE framework.


Sat, 08/22/2015 - 5:59pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09


Overall, I agree with your DATE assessment as it pertains to non-linear war strategies. JMRC is curently executing DATE Version 2.2 as the next evolution. What you are speaking of would certainly take a significant amount of time to plan, resource, execute and exploit. Generally speaking (assumption), it would resemble CF-SOF integration on a larger scale (Jade Helm + Combined Resolve minus type rotations).

To add some additional commentary based on the "beyond the training area at Hohenfels" points from the article. Partnership and FID operations involve C-IED lines of operation and individual-collective training in Ukraine (BN and below).

The C-IED and overall Staff training addresses the IED threat mixed in with everything else that you mentioned. The education + training + ATO experience of the soldiers= effective interoperability and capability building. The capability building can be directly applied to the ATO and fuses OJT with doctrinally sound training and SOP development, which is lacking across the board for UAF. All of this is an extension of the CTC, relationships developed at the CTC and utilizes the same DATE scenario for company through BN/BN Staff education and training.

You also make good points about “deep battle” and BTGs which is addressed during Ukrainian Staff MDMP and IPOE training (also includes company level maneuver packages). I’m not sure if this addresses the overall argument, just wanted to hit a few points that came to mind.

Finally, I'm a bit skeptical with this statement:
"I would argue right now no US Army unit can match and hold their own against the current Russian active army units/mercenary units in eastern Ukraine in that current environment depicted above."

I'm willing to bet that when given the opportunity involving non-OIF/OEF era ROE any BN TF (which includes SOF) from an (I)(A)(S)BCT would be effective during offensive and defensive operations in a highly urban environment. In 2010, entire SBCT Fires BNs were operating as maneuver elements with AT Company and light infantry platoons attached in Baghdad; alternating between "hot gun" missions and offensive operations weekly.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 08/22/2015 - 8:33am

To get the conversation back to the middle I will thrown the following---there is absolutely no DATE training scenario that can come anywhere close to replicating the current Russian UW strategy referred to as "non linear warfare".

None whatsoever and that includes actually the recently completed exercise at the NTC which many alluded to as being a prep for the Ukraine.

NO DATE scenario can exercise a A2C2 environment of no comms, under heavy EW 24 X 7, 150 to 200 tons of munitions ie incendiary/flame/HE/guided and cluster, tank on tank, total UAV surveillance and tied to arty units.

NO DATE scenario can replicate the USAF having to fly SEAD in the face of an AD system that is as advanced as is currently parked inside the Ukraine and that has a defensive range of up to 600kms, and no US unit has every experienced their UAVs getting shot down on a regular basis. AND that does not include combined Russian SF/conventional armored led ground attacks with US counterbattery radar being fully jammed as well as all UAV flights being totally jammed.

UNTIL the NTC and the other Joint Training Centers are ready to fully exercise under the exact conditions seen in the eastern Ukraine--everything else is a total waste of time and money.

Was recently surprised to hear the outgoing ACoS state that 30% of the current active duty units are is prepared for that kind of environment.

Naïve at best to believe that.

WHY--the earliest available date for new EW equipment coming into the force is 2020 and there are only 600 EW trained personnel and that is for CIED not what is being thrown at the UAF on a daily basis.

WHY do I say the recent NTC scenario was a tad off--it was planned to be against a "near peer" opponent--I would argue right now no US Army unit can match and hold their own against the current Russian active army units/mercenary units in eastern Ukraine in that current environment depicted above.

AND on top of that the fighting has shifted now away from non linear warfare and more to the Russian military doctrine called "deep battle" which is just as effective as is non linear warfare and it is fought with a complete compact maneuver BN that has a complete attack package to include artillery, armor and APCs.

The US Army has not discussed "deep battle" since the AirLand Battle days--but the Russians have and they practice it in the never ending series of snap exercises over the last tow years--all 4000 of their exercises.


Sun, 08/23/2015 - 5:19am

In reply to by thedrosophil

From thedrosophil commentary:

"Training with multinational partners at the JMTC is, for the most part, akin to practicing street hockey with your friends, but when it comes time for a game, those same friends don't have pads, helmets, sticks, or even permission from their mothers to attend the game in the first place."

Let's try this version:

Training with Ukrainian multinational partners at the JMTC, is, for the most part, akin to practicing street hockey with your friends, but they have to leave early, put on their pads, helmets and sticks, to get back in the arena, where the rest of their team has been shredding ice and blood for the entire last period. Some guys are in the penalty box, some are in the locker room and some are in the hospital, but they are still fighting for the cup.


Can prob make the same statment for the French, EUROCORPS and African forces conducting operations in Mali and elsewhere on the continent.


Sat, 08/22/2015 - 10:48am

In reply to by orkinswilliam

orkinswilliam: For operational security reasons, I don't want to go into too much detail in my answer. I'd suggest three overarching changes.

First, we allow the BLUFOR to operate as a brigade, but treat the OPFOR as a disorganized gaggle. Instead of using the OPFOR as a tool of the training cadre, they should be allowed to operate as a regular, irregular, or hybrid formation in their own right, with the capacity to mount more complex operations - essentially, given carte blanche. This might require an additional week in a particular rotation, but the end result would be a superior learning experience for the rotational unit, and a better grasp of the danger in which those troops might soon find themselves.

Second, the training needs to be done to standard. I saw far too many compromises of that standard when I was involved in training, and encountered far too many training area lawyers who would look for any specious excuse not to count a particular OPFOR attack.

Third, that standard needs to be based upon sound doctrine. To use the Army as an example, the Army conducted COIN training prior to the release of FM 3-24. FM 3-24 was released in 2006, but was deeply flawed and omitted most of accepted scholarship on insurgencies and how they have been successfully and unsuccessfully countered in the past; the 2014 revision isn't a significant improvement. Few instructors or troops actually read FM 3-24, the Army didn't really train to it at the CTCs, and the Army didn't really execute it in Afghanistan or Iraq. In the last few years, there's been a lot written about hybrid warfare, but the Army lacks an FM codifying it. The Army is fixated on this "DATE" model, which is basically another rehash of "Remember that time when we walloped a third rate Iraqi Army that was exhausted, undermanned, and poorly supplied after a nine year war with Iran? That was awesome, we should totally do that again!". As I mentioned previously, get some smart people at reputable think tanks, as opposed to the careerists in TRADOC, to formulate strong doctrine for several contingencies on the spectrum of modern warfare, build CTC training packages from those doctrinal models, and then train to them.

I'm glad that you've had the opportunity to work with professional and proficient multinational partners. I stand by my earlier observations that their professionalism and proficiency loses its luster when they are unable or unwilling to properly staff or resource their forces to create sustainable capabilities that contribute to mission accomplishment. I would recommend that you invest thirty minutes of your time to watch <A HREF="">this video</A> (originally a podcast) in which a retired British general discusses how poorly resourced the British contingent in Helmand was. In the end, the U.S. Marines had to be sent to Helmand because America's closest ally and one of the two most capable members of NATO couldn't adequately resource its contingent and, thus, couldn't achieve its objectives. All of the JMTC training that Hohenfels can support can't make much of a difference when results such as these have become the norm.


Fri, 08/21/2015 - 4:02pm

In reply to by thedrosophil

Would you please provide an alternative. There are several counters in your discussion without suggested alternatives. Please help us know what the right approach is. And for your information, I have spent several years deployed with my NATO allies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and others, and yes they have been extremely professional and proficient at their jobs.


Fri, 08/21/2015 - 3:46pm

In reply to by orkinswilliam

Mr. (Captain? Lieutenant?) Orkins:

1) You are the one who called the AOC a strategy, and you did so in your opening paragraph, not I. Understanding what a strategy is, and what it isn't, is fundamental to achieving national goals. The point that the AOC is the approach that the Army has taken is not overlooked, my counterpoint is that considering this a "strategy" represents the sort of flawed thinking that has cost America so dearly in the last twenty years.

2) If "U.S. doctrine is sound in the context for which it was written", then it was written in the wrong context. American doctrine is severely flawed, as numerous discussions at SWJ have demonstrated. In many cases, the DoD would do best to "throw it out with the bathwater" and hire reputable think tanks such as the RAND Corporation or CSIS to write fresh doctrine from scratch. This includes the AOC - the fact that it's received positive reviews from the Army should be considered a demerit against it, rather than an endorsement of its quality.

3) I'm sorry, you have failed to convince me that the training regime in Hohenfels is somehow fundamentally different to those executed in California or Louisiana. You acknowledge in your article that the duration of training is shorter than in the CONUS CTCs. Further, regarding experimentation, I would recommend that you read any of Elinor Sloan's writings about USJFCOM and RMA/Transformation, which shall (hopefully) temper your enthusiasm for DoD "experimentation" - most of which takes place without sufficient analytical rigor, and with entirely too much confirmation bias.

4) Your appraisal of Odyssey Dawn is simply ridiculous. You are literally the only person whom I've heard praising that operation since late 2012. Any time you read any news about NATO that doesn't proceed from the alliance's own press office, it's a discussion of how the European members are wilfully underspending and deliberately relying on the American provision of security guarantees. Robert Gates excoriated the European allies for this in one of his final speeches as SecDef. While I have no doubt that you've enjoyed many interactions with America's multinational partners on favorable conditions at the JMTC, I suggest that you confer with some of your colleagues who have actually spent time serving with NATO allies in Afghanistan or Iraq. Training with multinational partners at the JMTC is, for the most part, akin to practicing street hockey with your friends, but when it comes time for a game, those same friends don't have pads, helmets, sticks, or even permission from their mothers to attend the game in the first place.


Fri, 08/21/2015 - 2:55pm

Dear thedrosophil,
Whether or not the AOC is a strategy, or capstone, or operational approach is not the issue discussed in the article. It is the approach the U.S. Army has chosen to take in order to win in the future. Interestingly, it appears the point of the discussion was overlooked.

First, the concern about doctrine is misunderstood. U.S. doctrine is sound in the context for which it was written. Throughout the article I point out several deficiencies that should be addressed that do not meet the criteria for a complex environment. Doctrine must be enhanced, and through experimentation the force can develop new approaches warfare. Please read the paper in the following link tha shows how sometimes doctrine only needs a little help rather than throwing it out with bathwater,%20C%202014.pdf .

In reference to the concern about DATE rotations, I agree with the rebuttal that NTC style rotations do not fit within the security context of the 21st century. This is again discussed throughout the article such that the existing model needs to be adjusted. Furthermore, comparing CONUS based training center operations with how JMRC operates indicates a misunderstanding of the discussion. First rotations at Hohenfels consist of DATE, KFOR, Multinational lead non-DATE rotations, training events synchronized with several locations in several countries a once, no-notice exercises, and the list goes on. It is through these experiences that the Army can be helped to look forward rather than suggesting that we only look to our “serendipitous victory.” So, to lump this winding argument into the “DOD doesn’t know what to do next” validates the thesis of the article.

You admit you have never been to JMTC and suggest that you’re experience at a CONUS CTC correlates to the opposite of innovation at Hohenfels is unfortunate. You “saw a lot of room for improvement”. Well sir, the entire article discusses the need to take what is good and improve what needs to be improved. We can improve our doctrine and operations through the use of experimentation, create a truly multinational doctrine, incorporate our partners at NTC and JMRC, and through investing in talent. Again, your rebuttal is unclear.

Finally, you question the contribution of America’s allies. I will only discuss one in the interest of time. The U.S. provided the “lion’s share of both fuel and munitions” to Odyssey Dawn, which is great. That means that we are achieving a degree of interoperability, we are seeing that our European partners are putting forth a commitment, and by the way, nations were still recovering from the global financial meltdown. The U.S. providing fuel and munitions seems like a pretty good deal. The Europeans that provided fighters, bombers, special operations, and naval assets to the fight seem to well beyond your claim of a “handful of allied troops.” Hopefully, I was able to clarify my discussion as a serving officer.


Thu, 08/20/2015 - 1:54pm

Before I begin to grouse, thanks to the author for presenting this piece for the community's consideration and discussion. That said, I have a number of concerns.

First, just because this is a hot button issue for me: TRADOC PAM 525-3-1 is not a strategy. The Army in particular is in the habit of describing operational concepts as "strategies", but an operational concept defines how the ground branch will conduct its campaigns according to organizational models, logistical procedures, equipment and materiel employment, and the like. Those considerations are distinct from the manner whereby campaigns shall be leveraged according to the delicate balance of ways and means in order to achieve desired political ends. The latter is strategy, the former is not.

Second, the author states in his closing paragraph that "U.S. operations and doctrine are sound in their own right". I'm stunned that a serving officer in the U.S. Army would make such a ridiculous claim in 2015, after the DoD's performance in the last two wars. Most veterans will place the blame for recent shortfalls squarely on political leaders on the mistaken assumption that if two clocks are placed together, and one is broken, then the other one must be functional. The author's own article betrays this with the discussion of "Decisive Action Training Exercises" - "decisive action" being, in essence, the Army's euphemism for repeating the exceptionally serendipitous victory of early 1991. The DoD is myopically focused on being good at Phase 0 operations, but once killing lots of uniformed enemies and destroying their vehicles and basing facilities is complete, the DoD's frequently doesn't know what to do next.

This leads me to my third point: I'm at a bit of a disadvantage, as I've never been to the JMTC, but I spent more than a year at the NTC. Two words I would not use to describe the training conducted there are "adaptive" or "innovative". I certainly wouldn't discount the value of a CTC rotation, but I saw a lot of room for improvement in the way that a CONUS CTC trains a given brigade prior to deployment, and the DoD's <A HREF="">d… and execution of that doctrine have not produced satisfactory results in recent memory</A> (save for the Gulf War, which was a blip on the operational radar that too many in the Army still try to pass off as the model for how all wars should be fought). While the addition of the multinational component is commendable, I question how much more sophisticated a seven or eight day exercise with multinational participants is relative to a fourteen (really twenty-one; not sure if the JMTC conducts any training events during RSOI?) day rotation at a CONUS CTC.

Fourth and finally, while the contribution America's allies make to international security should be commended, those contributions are increasingly symbolic and/or political. In late 2013, Foreign Policy ran a piece outlining the various capabilities that the United Kingdom <A HREF="… no longer capable of</A>. War on the Rocks recently published an article outlining Denmark's <A HREF="… to sustain a modest F-16 deployment</A>. The European-led Operation Odyssey Dawn famously required the United States to provide the lion's share of both the fuel and munitions necessary for the NATO partners to conduct strikes against the Qaddhafi regime. In Afghanistan, most NATO members imposed such strict ROEs on their troops as to preclude them from fighting - for example, the German SOF unit that <A HREF="… to conduct a single mission in three years</A>. America's NATO partners consistently fail to meet their agreed defense spending commitments. Under these conditions, the alleged value to American troops of training with multinational partners who are not committed to sustaining or deploying their own warfighting capabilities is questionable at best. If real world operations have taught us anything in the last fifteen years, it's that the United States will increasingly "go it alone", save for a handful of allied troops from various nations serving as superfluous staff officers or, at best, specialists in one aspect of sustainment or another.