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"Mr. Gates Doth Protest Too Much"

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"Mr. Gates Doth Protest Too Much"

by Neoptolemus

Download the Full Article: "Mr. Gates Doth Protest Too Much"

Mr. Gates continued his farewell tour with a strong speech at the Air Force Academy last week. Unlike his talk at the US Military Academy he did not talk over the student's heads or treat them as tethered goats. Nor did he suggest that they'd wasted four years at the wrong Service academy or that their future profession was in doubt—as he unintentionally did at West Point. Instead he talked to them as the future Air Force leaders, the ones that will ultimately be "tackling the challenges of the 21st century head on." He spoke plainly but passionately about what the Air Force of the 21st century must look like -- as well as the challenges and moral issues they would face as leaders.

As at West Point, the Secretary candidly discussed the conservative culture of the Pentagon, noting that when he arrived he still found all the Services -- including the Air Force -- looking at the world "through the prism of the 20th century," preparing to win conventional and large scale fights against comparably armed competitors. His efforts, he noted, ran into a stone wall of cultural resistance and bureaucratic sacred cows, especially from the Air Force.

Download the Full Article: "Mr. Gates Doth Protest Too Much"

Neoptolemus, a retired infantry officer, is currently imprisoned as a senior defense official in the Pentagon. Neoptolemus was the son of the warrior Achilles and the princess Deidamia in Greek mythology.

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Some great points by Grant and COL Jones earlier.

Not advocating abandoing patrols. I'm advocating making them more survivable for full spectrum platoon and squad operations.

Uparmor Bradley. Give it a more powerful engine in the same space. Go to a remote or one man turret to provide more interior room. Keep weight at or below 75,000 lbs.

Develop a new three-man armored ATV. Assign one per Bradley to handle a nine-man squad, three per platoon, delete one Bradley per platoon. Go to a 10-tank company as FCS had planned. Add three-man armored ATVs to tank company. Doing this provides armored OPs and scouts for both Infantry and Armor platoons.

Develop a variant of the same three-man ATV to replace the LRAS3 HMMWV and M3 Bradley.

Develop a variant that is air-droppable.

Keep weight at 15,000 lbs to be CH-47F transportable in high/hot conditions.

Make it optionally manned to send after distant insurgents and lead dismounted troops on patrols once in the area where walking will occur.

Requirements would drive the design but I can picture troops sitting behind one another three-deep to create a V-Hull that doubles as side armor and is as narrow as possible...maybe 3 feet at widest armored point. Air bags on the interior would go off in an explosion.

Wheels/tires would extend out from body like a formula car. Overall width would be no more than 8' to fit two in a C-130 and up to eight in a C-17. Add-on armor and dualie wheels/tires are a possibility once in theater.

Bob's World

Thu, 03/10/2011 - 6:36pm

You might be onto something. This is one of many problems associated with employing the Guard for peacetime conflicts, they start to become just like the active duty. It also puts a tremendous burden on employers and soldiers trying to keep both bosses happy, and typically failing on both. It also puts a whole lot of military families out there on their own while their spouse is deployed without the resources and community one has for active families near bases. It does however tie the civilian community to the conflict, and elected officals as well, far more than the deployment of regulars does. That last one is sadly odd, but very true.

As an aside, there is a noted quote from the early days in the Philippines in the fighting on Luzon where several Oregon Volunteers were awarded the Medal of Honor. A messenger caught up to the Regular Army General in command of a unit that was in hot pursuit of the enemy. They had outrun other units and the messenger looking around asked, "Sir, where are your Regulars"?

"Do you see those Oregon greyhounds out there"? "THOSE are my Regulars!"

(I have it on good authority that none had ever read much if any doctrine)

G Martin

Thu, 03/10/2011 - 4:42pm

I was wondering how the "irregulars" won their COIN in the Phillipines! :)

Are you saying that that is why we're having so much trouble in Afghanistan: our Guardsmen and Reserves know the doctrine too well? ;)

Robert C. Jones (not verified)

Thu, 03/10/2011 - 2:38pm

(We didn't "ignore" our doctrine in WWII, it's just that the war was fought primarily by Guardsmen and draftess who had never read our doctrine to begin with. That has been our historic secret weapon. We use the regulars to write doctrine about the last war, which is then read and studied by our opponents. Then, when they attack us, we fight them with citizen soldiers who simply fight the war in front of them without being hindered by the deep thinking on the one behind them.)

This is truly "the American Way of War" :-)


G Martin

Thu, 03/10/2011 - 11:15am

I can't imagine anyone knows what the next war/conflict will be like and what we will lose the most of our guys to. I think it is very interesting that our solution today to IEDs and other so-called asymmetrical threats is to build mobile "mini-FOBs". This signals to many what I think should be obvious: we're fighting an insurgency without the support of our people (support defined as willing to accept casualties in exchange for being effective). IEDs only work when you've ceded the avenues of approach and outlying areas to the insurgents and stay locked up for the most part on FOBs/in MRAPs. Can we really afford a force that can deploy on politicians' orders without the support of our people?

I think looking to the past/present/guestimates of the future is fruitless. Things will be different unless we change- then they could look very similar. If we build a lighter force capable of rapid deployment and/or COIN/stability-capable forces then look for our competitors to threaten us with large conventional formations. If we rely on the WWII/Cold War standard of MCO-capable forces then look for our competitors to shy away from head-on confrontation and go with proxy/assymetrical types of capabilities. If we try to cover both then look for them to overtake us via economic means (as we spend ourselves into defeat- or are we already doing that?), cyber/or other more indirect ways (religious/cultural?).

I think the best we can do is look at our national security through a more holistic frame as opposed to a false choice between 2 extremes. If non-state actors launch attacks on our country from failed states after we've spent billions on a new Joint fighter- then I'd say we have let down the nation. Likewise, if a peer competitor can maneuver armor divisions to threaten our interests (clear interests) and they do so because we have no capable counter to that, then I'd say we have let down our nation as well. If we bankrupt our nation while trying to cover down on every conceivable threat (or just 1 or 2 stability actions) then, again, we would have let down our nation.

The trick will be to project the perception that we and a large "coalition of the willing" have the capability and willingness to cover the most probable threats (or at least rapidly develop them from a core level competency)- and a few others- without bankrupting our country and the others involved. This will require other nations to take on a shared burden- and will require us to take the lead on this, figure out a structure/concept and get buy-in/ensure participation.

I would also argue it will be key for us to be more flexible and able to adjust on the fly. I think that has been and continues to be our core strength- but we can do better. Re-structuring ourselves, experimenting, and getting rid of some legacy traditions/systems/concepts will be paramount.

We've had the draft. We've had an all-volunteer force. What kind of structure will be best for the future? How can we improve upon our systems and processes to encourage the kind of experimenting and restructuring needed- and improve our ability to learn quickly? Do we need to ignore our doctrine like we supposedly did in WWII? Do we need to make our doctrine better and incorporate it more? Or maybe a little bit of both?

Bob's World

Thu, 03/10/2011 - 10:17am

Move Forward,

You describe the challenges of day 1 of future war very well. But what of day 2? What happens when the satellites for comms and nav go down, or the linkages are jammed?

Back when I participated in a lot of exercises and simulations I was always bothered/amused by the fact that we always practiced the opening round of the fight, and then always with 100% of everything. Even in exercises where TPFDDs were in play, problems were typically magically resolved. As a Major I thought that all the Commanders should get together for dinner the night before the exercise for a nice dinner and drinks, concluded by each stepping forward to the front of the room where a big multi-color wheel and spinner stood prominently. Each would then spin for every class of supply and disposition of his force. Instead of all dug in the defense or lined up in the assault positions with 100% of everything a command might instead find that he is 50% on ammo and fuel, 70% of his force is still strung out along the MSR, where 30% of it is broken down, and where he is only at 70% for personnel. Each commander would have a different challenge. Then spin for bandwidth, ISR and other enablers as a whole.

Will the US go toe to toe with Russia or China in the next 10 years? Perhaps not; but currently Taiwan could drag two reluctant parties into such a conflict against their will. Similarly, it is quite reasonable that Russia begin to exert its influence as well, and perhaps build a closer relationship with Germany to that end. How many former Soviets states are "ok" for a non-deterred Russia to exert influence over? One? Two? Where is Mr. Chamberlain when we need him to help answer such questions?

Yes the world has changed. There was a "War to end all Wars" as I recall. That was 1918.

Only two things are certain:

1. The next war will be different than the last one; and

2. There will be a next one.

High technology elevates us from the symmetric fight on the battlefield now, but opponents are hard at work developing asymmetric ways to pull us back into a symmetric fight. What we are doing now are little different than the bannana wars of the 20s and 30s in many regards. Transition is messy, but it really isn't war. But war will come.

Because with today's vests, Soldiers can survive most small arms and artillery shrapnel. Many troops would survive spall from a HEAT round hitting armor when inner liners are included and Israeli style Trophy is used externally with 30mm capable armor.

The 125 or so dead that 2006 Israel suffered against insurgents who had years to prepare positions were minor compared to a few months of IED casualties from OIF and OEF conflicts. Most future conflicts would be assisting nations being invaded. Rapid response would preclude effective defensive preparations similar to Lebanon.

Can't picture MCO against North Korea, China on Taiwan itself, or anybody in the Mid East lasting more than a few months. The stability operations are today's major killer.

How would you avoid those stability operations, whether we practice COIN or not? If the surges prove that numbers are essential, how do you protect and sustain those numbers without breaking the bank or shifting casualties to the sustainer and dismount.

When I think of WWII or other past conflicts, cannot imagine a commander PURPOSELY sending his troops into a minefield. Yet isn't that essentially what we do today when we send troops out on mounted and dismounted patrol? We can protect most larger vehicles against IEDs and mines...not so much the dismounts. The double amputees of today are too easy to overlook when we look at relatively low death tolls compared to past conflicts.

Pre-1970, war involved plentiful air-to-air conflict and aces. Since our aircraft have become more effective (and costly), we have no more aces because most foes can't afford the aircraft to match us and have chosen either air defenses or TBM as the better means to counter our technological and training air advantages.

A similar seed change in ground warfare has occured...not created by EBO or net-centric operations and long range fires, but by overwhelming advantages in Joint and Combined Arms warfare that largely render irrelevant past tank-on-tank and infantry charging infantry with no outside assistance.

Now it is tank and armor being assisted by attack helicopters, precision fires, and CAS aircraft that can stay at 25,000' and still plunk tanks with stealth to avoid radar, using altitude to avoid IR air defense.

You can hide onesies/twosies and small trucks/dismounts in urban areas and complex terrain. You no longer can hide massed armor if it is attacking. Shaping and decisive operation by Joint and Combined Arms and plentiful allies overwhelm such enemy attacks. The Sustainment and Stability operations will be the hard part for longer term mop-up operations, IMHO.

You don't need 50-70 ton GCVs for 90% of the long war. You do need fewer sustainment convoys to hit IEDs and be ambushed, and other ways of protecting dismounts to include perhaps a new small, well-armored ATV that can limit pure dismounted ops and chase down those distant insurgents taking 500-700 meter shots.

You do need to get the trouble spot in time to be relevant and preclude an otherwise less necessary forcible entry. Airlanding forces in Romania is far safer and just as effective as storming the beaches of the Ukraine after Russians have established a defense.

Charles Spiegelman (not verified)

Thu, 03/10/2011 - 9:05am

I think its time to seriously consider how much time, effort and manpower is spend thinking about old wars and not new, time to think outside the box, time to spend more time understanding that large armies, navies and Air Forces are a thing of the pass. Instead quick very quick solutions will have to be found, that at least is what Mr. Gates ones. like his predicessor neither one of them understand reality but hell we are in difficult times and the DOD has done a great job. My thoughs are eleminate the DOD and go back to the Department of War, with a Secretary of War and eliminated 1000s of bur and wasted and get the services to do what they are there for fight wars and win. We spend too much on nothing that beats an emeny time to get real and elinatate waste. Elinate the DOD hasn't done its job in over 50 years.

Bob's World

Thu, 03/10/2011 - 7:36am

I think Bobby Lee warned us about this kind of thinking:

"In addition, far more troops have been killed by IEDs in current conflicts than would ever be killed by missiles or enemy tanks in the major combat operations portion of future armored warfare."

when he observed:

It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it.

GWOT for all it's hardships has been a great ride for many. High adventure, rapid promotions, plenty of chest candy, and relative low risk. IEDs are a terrible thing, and I feel for the 3/5 Marines who lost 29 good marines in Sangin during this past tour, earning the hard distinction as the highest losses for such a unit in this conflict. 9 Marines lost in 4 days this past fall. Far more than most units lose in an entire deployment. But veterans of this proud unit in its past wars would likely see that as a light week considering:

World War I
*Battle of Saint-Mihiel
*Meuse-Argonne offensive
Banana Wars
*Occupation of Nicaragua
World War II
*Battle of Guadalcanal
*Battle of Peleliu
*Battle of Okinawa
Korean War
*Battle of Pusan Perimeter
*Battle of Inchon
*Battle of Chosin Reservoir
Vietnam War
*Operation Swift
*Operation Union I & II
*Battle of Hue
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Iraqi Freedom

It's time to wrap this current adventure up, and that likely won't be defined in terms of "winning" or "losing," but rather in terms of getting good units like the 3/5 Marines back into a normal rhythm of training and deployments that better deters such wars as on the top of this list, and better prepares them to fight the same.

GWOT has not been too terrible, and many have grown too fond of it.

Ken White (not verified)

Wed, 03/09/2011 - 11:31pm


...aka Pyrrhus was not the Pyrrhus of eponymous victory fame. Nor is the contemporary Neoptolemus mythical. He does, however, seem to wish to damn with faint praise. :D.

Quothe he:<blockquote>"Despite his audience, Mr. Gates addressed the critical fallout from the wake of his controversial West Point speech. There he quipped that a future defense secretary who recommended sending large armies into future conflicts abroad "should have his head examined." Many commentators across the political spectrum jumped on that statement as dubious, including Les Gelb, the
former NY Times columnist and President emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and Bill Kristol at The Weekly Standard..."</blockquote>It may be just me but if those two disagree with the SecDef, I'd be inclined to say that Secretary had it right. I saw nothing controversial in the 'quip,' indeed, thought it made perfect sense.<blockquote>"My own objections to that quip was that it was a misreading of history and a mistaken conclusion that would return the United States to techno-centric ―Standoff Warfare."</blockquote>I do not see it as misreading history nor, taken in context of the full speech, as a conclusion that would return the US to techno-centricity -- not that many in the heirarchy of the Army and DoD ever abandoned said warfare -- nor should we give up an edge we do have when compared to others...<br><br>

Neoptolemus also wrote <blockquote>"I do not object to the need to better shape our investments and future capabilities and dont subscribe to preserving our sacrosanct division of the Joint budget pie in fixed shares."</blockquote>On that he and I can agree. I also agree with his conclusion:<blockquote>"History will eventually conclude that Mr. Gates stands at the apex of defense leaders in this century. He achieved a difficult balancing act, with an extraordinary amount of bureaucratic guile and grit. Despite his tired jokes about Washington, he has out mastered and outlasted the Mandarins in government. His patient tenacity in dealing with each Service helped steer a reluctant Pentagon into the 21st century. While we can quibble with his speeches, when our Nation needed great leadership, he stepped forward, and for that he has our profound thanks."</blockquote>I will forego saying that to many Americans, Washington is a tired joke but I certainly agree that Gates has done a good job and merits gratitude. Perhaps not the Apex but having served or worked under 19 of the 22 who have occupied that office to date, he's definitely in the top three...<br><br>

<b>M.L.</b><blockquote>"The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan...To suggest that we avoid such conflicts in the future would appear to be good policy."</blockquote>Exactly...

<b>Move Forward:</b>

I agree with most of your comment but ask what is your basis for this rather -- to me -- startling statement:<blockquote>"In addition, far more troops have been killed by IEDs in current conflicts than would ever be killed by missiles or enemy tanks in the major combat operations portion of future armored warfare."</blockquote>

IMHO, believe all Sec Gates was saying was the same thing the House Armed Services Committee leaders said today. Why do we need a Ground Combat Vehicle the size of a tank?

Can anyone honestly tell me that we would land heavy BCTs in China or sail them into the Black or Baltic Sea?

More realistic scenarios involving airlanding on the east side of Taiwan, South Korea, or the Mid East in an emergency are more realistic with which load per C-17:
* one 50-70 ton GCV or Abrams
* two uparmored Bradley's
* three uparmored Strykers/LAV
* or two GCVs weighing 80,000 lbs instead of 50 tons?

The AirSea Battle concepts should have been a major wake up call to the Army. Gates-cited threats to Marine ships and landing craft should have alerted the Army, as well. To be relevant, speed of deployment and battlefield supportability will be critical in future wars..and doing it all by sea is a non-starter to get their firstest with the mostest.

The Bashur, Iraq 173 ABN/armored company TF, airlift of Strykers ahd M-ATV to Afghanistan, fiasco of TF Hawk and 4th ID stuck in Turkey, and 6 month deployment of Desert Shield should teach us far greater lessons than anything experienced by Israel with its short lines of communication (supply) and no intertheater deployment.

In addition, far more troops have been killed by IEDs in current conflicts than would ever be killed by missiles or enemy tanks in the major combat operations portion of future armored warfare.

A 300 gallon GCV costing $200/mile to operate is not a full spectrum solution when we can barely support light forces and Strykers/LAV and a single company of tanks in Afghanistan.

I think Mr. Gates' grand strategic calculation is simple:

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been long, costly, and bloody, while producing little in the way of tangible benefits to US national interests, and perhaps even undermining them.

To suggest that we avoid such conflicts in the future would appear to be good policy.