Small Wars Journal

Expect Desert Storm II Navy Admiral Tells Army

VCJCS Winnefeld Tells Army: Forget Long Land Wars by Sydney Freedberg, Jr., Breaking Defense.

A candid Vice-Chairman of the Joint Staff delivered some tough messages to the Army yesterday and got in a few swipes at Congress and “the political leadership” in general.

Adm. James “Sandy” Winnefeld’s  raised the most hackles among the serving and retired officers gathered at the headquarters of the powerful Association of the US Army Thursday night when Winnefeld said the nation would probably not need an Army sized to do any large-scale, long-duration ground operations. The admiral did not only downplay the possibility of prolonged counterinsurgencies like Afghanistan, Iraq, or Vietnam, although he certainly emphasized the decline of COIN: He raised doubt about long wars of any kind…

Read on.


Of course getting those decisive ground forces there requires the ability to control the air and maritime domains, so once again the answer will be joint forces.

Move Forward

Sat, 09/14/2013 - 11:38pm

In reply to by 82redleg

The problem is you are describing the Cold War Army that wasn't even available in 2003, nor should it have been given the lack of major modern armor threats anywhere in the world. Many airborne things can kill what little modern threat armor there is without relying on excess armored BCTs or artillery.

However, the point remains that if you desire a more rapid war similar to Desert Storm, you require adequate initial active component ground forces to mass and end it rapidly. That must include a more effective post-war stability operation (that could be many reserve forces) and transition to host nation forces. With more accurate threat A2/AD threats, the era of 6 months of unopposed Desert Shield deployments is looking impractical. That's where the Admiral's idea of rapid deploying contingency forces beyond "speed bump" level makes sense. Only infantry, airborne, and air assault forces realistically can air deploy in great numbers. However some Strykers with M1A2 Abrams substituting for Mobile Guns Systems could air deploy if planned properly and rehearsed to accompany lighter forces.

Let's face it, all full armored BCTs (especially with 3 CABs and more engineers) will need fast sealift that isn't that fast, and prepositioning in general areas that still require additional movement to likely battlefields. Those ships also are vulnerable en route and need real ports secured by lighter BCTs and Marines that don't need those larger ports to deploy. That's why lighter BCTs need some sort of rapidly deployable armored battalion...not just a light tank. Attack helicopters can substitute for light tanks in many circumstances.

General Odierno who led Task Force Hawk as a full Colonel might tell you that the bigger problems then were the heavier security forces that were required given the location near danger, and the pervasive muddy conditions. Given the current experience moving large Army elements (to include armor in Iraq at Bashur and Strykers/M-ATV to Afghanistan) by airlifter, the Task Force Hawk idea still has value. With current aviator experience, well-planned small battalion task force sized units with all types of helicopters and UAS could support many a contingency very effectively.


Sat, 09/14/2013 - 12:56pm

The ADM's 3 key points of never fight unless you have to, never fight alone, and never fight for long are perfectly valid. And the points about rapid deployability (preferably with mobile, protected firepower, although what level of mobility and protection are certainly debatable) are also spot on.

Using those points to support force sizing are specious at best. Remember, for OPN DESERT STORM, we employed (according to Wiki,…)
27 US Army Armor BNs (x 4 COs) + 6 ACR SQDNs (each with 1 CO) = 114 tank companies
19 US Army Mech IN BNs (x 4 COs) = 76 mech companies
18 US Army ABN/AASLT IN BNs (x 4 COs) = 72 light companies pgs 351 & 353 shows 25 AR and 18 Mech, but apparently doesn't count 1st (Tiger) BDE/2nd AR DIV which was task organized to I MEF.

Artillery is a little less clear, but both Lucky War and Wiki show 20 BNs between the 2 CORPS ARTYs, in addition to the 20 DS BNs. Wiki doesn't show MLRS batteries, but Lucky War shows 5 separate US MLRS batteries, which matches the number of mech/ar division artilleries. Counting only US Army FA, I count 23 x 155SP BNs (+6 batteries in the 2 ACRs), and 20 x MLRS Batteries (including the ATACMS batteries).
At that point, all the 155 BNs will be 3 x 8 (24 cannons total) while MLRS will be 3 x 9 (27 launchers total/BN, with 9 in each battery).
This totals 600 155SP cannons and 180 MLRS launchers.

Compare these totals (114 tank companies, 76 mech companies, 600 155SP, 180 MLRS) with the planned force structure of 33 BCTs (12 ABCT, 14 IBCT, 7 SBCT, listed and FA forces listed in the 2012 Fires REDBOOK ( and in wiki…

14 ABCTs (with 3 CABs each) will have 6 tank companies and 6 mech companies each = 84 tank companies and 84 mech companies- the whole active armored force is required to make the force that did ODS, and we're still short 30 tank companies, partially offset by 12 mech companies.

14 ABCTs each have a BN of 18 x 155SP howitzers = 252 155SP.
7 Fires BDEs have 11 MLRS BNs, each of 18 x MLRS = 198 MLRS.
We have slightly more MLRS (18 more systems) offset by the 8in SP that they replaced and I didn't count in the ODS forces, and by the huge reduction in 155SP.

There are some reserve component forces in the FA forces for ODS that I didn't account for- 1 MLRS BN and 1 155SP BN, if I counted correctly.

One could argue that our current systems are more capable than ODS systems. I'd argue that any advantage there is offset by increased adversary capabilities. Additionally, even during ODS, we maintained a reserve of active forces in the US that were not committed- at least 2nd Infantry Division, 4th Infantry Division, 5th Infantry Division and 194th Armored Brigade were significant heavy forces not committed to ODS, in addition to 6th Infantry Division, 7th Infantry Division, 9th Infantry Division, 10th Mountain Division and 25th Infantry Division (all light forces) and several forces in Germany (3rd Infantry Division, 8th Infantry Division, 3rd Armored Division) were heavy forces, although in various stages of standing down after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and portions filled out the forces deployed to ODS.