The Tactical Operations Center
Originally written in 1997
Strategy in the 21 st Century will be defined by the duality which structured it in the 20 th: Technology and politics. The prime difference between these eras in strategy is that emerging technology will offer political leaders the capability to impose their will on others with little or no chance of repercussion from the international community. Alliances, social, ideological and economic factors will continue to exert considerable influence on the nature of emerging threats and conflicts. However, the scope of emerging threats is widening at a rapid pace, and armed conflict itself is undergoing a transition. Civil and social unrest, the rise of powerful international criminal organizations, the increased power of international business interests and deepening rifts between industrial/technology based countries and Third World countries guarantees a formula for a competition for resources, settling of long scores and a struggle for local and regional domination during the 21 st Century. The use of emerging technology and a new dimension for warfare only widens the scope for conflict.
The technology offered by Precision Guided Munitions (PGMs), the perfection of situational awareness by information architecture and overhead collection platforms, combined with the integrated dimension of space in strategy and national security considerations all plus up the technological dimension of strategy. The old limits which technology placed on a leader’s capability to impose his will during conflict development and resolution are rapidly vanishing. While it may be argued that the international community can continue to place political and moral limits on rogue behavior and aggressive military action, there is an increasing reluctance by the international community to do anything other than verbally condemn hostile action. This is hardly surprising, given that the democratic republics of the world are shrinking their militaries and increasingly concerned with solving their own internal problems rather than fixing someone else’s. The very diminishing conventional militaries has crreated a void for arms manufacturing firms and a resultant surplus of available weaponry. So while demand has decreased, supply has if anything, increased. Hence, arms suppliers are seeking new markets in which to at the least, sell off their current stocks at discounted prices. Potential buyers are numerous and far more dangerous and unpredictable than established nation states.
The strategic art has historically been defined as applying one’s will to one’s capabilities. Opponents have long been vexed by the delta between a foe’s intent and his potential to apply that intent. If international relations is defined as a great, albeit deadly game of poker, it is likely to be 7 card draw poker. Potential opponents usually have a fairly complete picture of their opposite numbers forces and capabilities. What remains unclear is an opponent’s desire, will and goals. Ideology, religion and outright greed historically have driven leaders, people and societies to war with each other.
On this note, we must recognize that conflicts in which the U.S. will be involved will undoubtedly suffer the paradox of war since time immemorial: The more things change, the more they stay the same. New threats have emerged, but old ones have merely changed and adapted to current circumstances. Most importantly, American national security interests have changed. American involvement in armed (and unarmed) conflict has been in a state of slow transition since 1945. However, the difference now is that the pace of change has so rpaidly sped up, that the American national security system and the military have not kept apace. This is obviously an old lesson, but as in the past, our foreign policy and military strategy have been and continue to be reactive, rather than proactive. As usual, we continue to plan to fight the next war in the same manner as we fought the last one. Our only advantage is that our conventional enemies continue to do the same thing. Witness Iraqi preparation to fight the coalition during the Gulf War. American doctrine should have surprised no one, as it was merely an application of how Air Land Battle would have been fought in Western Europe against the Warsaw Pact. Still, in context, Erwin Rommel would have planned a similar operation. This may be a vital flaw in our future involvement: American operational doctrine is essentially more than 50 years old. Added to this is that our national strategy is reactive, not proactive. Against an unconventional foe, this combination adds up to defeat for the U.S. in the next major conflict.
Consider that the Korean War began five years after World War Two ended. Our involvement in Vietnam began in 1958, five years after the end of the first limited war of the nuclear era. The more conventional that war became, the better we fought it. During the Tet Offensive for example, when the NVA went toe to toe with the American Army, the Americans did very well. Conversely, the more unconventional the war became, the worse we did, at least using conventional forces. However, elite units such as the Special Forces detachments, continued to do very well. From 1975 until 1979, as our military rebuilt itself technologically, morally and physically; the true nature of our future military involvement became much clearer. Operations Other Than War (OOTW) may seem a fairly new term, but the U.S. military has been involved in such operations since at least the 1950s, notably in Africa, supporting various European deployments in the various brushfire wars in the Congo and western Africa. While OOTW may not involve national security per se, operations such as the peace effort in Bosnia are in the national interest. Frankly, these type of operations are a growth industry as no one is likely to attack American interests directly. An indirect information or economic attack however, is one of the emerging threats we must face and will be discussed later. To return to the issue at hand, American involvement overseas has increased, not decreased, even in an era of force reductions, base closures and budget cutting. The prime result of such cuts has served to force the U.S. military to become more joint in nature, putting aside interservice rivalries and jostling.
The abortive Desert One mission in 1979 was, in context, a joint service, combined arms rehearsal for Urgent Fury (Grenada 1983) followed by Golden Pheasant (the deterrent operation to prevent Nicaraguan incursions into Honduras), Just Cause (Panama 1989) and the Gulf War (1990). Operations in Somalia followed in 1991, an event which deserves further scrutiny for implications to Rules of Engagement and just how far the U.S. should go in pursuing humanitarian interests and democratic principles. As badly as things went in Somalia, Lady Forutne smiled in 1994 when the U.S. intervened in Haiti to oust the military and reinstate President Aristide. During the latter operation, Army helicopters with soldiers from the 10 th Mountain Division staged off an aircraft carrier. Perhaps Chester Nimitz rolled over in his grave. But the conclusions are obvious. Traditional employment of conventional units and equipment must change to meet existing and future requirements. Joint operations are the rule and no longer the exception. Simple though this sounds, there is still a great deal of interservice rivalry and lack of willingness to train for unconventional missions. But these types of missions are more likely to be the ones assigned to the American military. While different threats to national security and the national interest emerge, as the world’s socio-political environment changes,we will be drawn more often into limited conflict situations. As we do so, what is required is a new strategic approach to conflict resolution. Additionally, we must restructure our military with a candid disregard for tradition and parochialism. In the time honored tradition of matching ends to means, we must rebuild and look forward in developing the means through which we can achieve our desired ends. In the 21 st Century, the U.S. will participate in more conflicts, more often, which will be both conventional and unconventional in nature. In truth, we may find these conflicts with a mix of both or transitioning from one to other while we are involved. We will also have opportunities to conduct conflict resolution through the leveraging of national resources rather than using only military force.
In general, American strategy must aim at resolving, in our favor, political, economic and military conflicts which impact the national security and national interests. Easily said, but how best can we accomplish this wide ranging goal? How can we be proactive rather than reactive?
First, we should dispense with some of our preconceived notions. Possibly the most bankrupt notion which we are currently building, training and resourcing our force on is the two Major Regional Conflict (MRC) strategy. While it is possible that we will fight major wars in the future and that we must continue to prepare for such an eventuality, it is unlikely that we will fight two MRCs simultaneously. We must assess emerging threats and train accordingly. This serves as both preparation and deterrent. Further, we must realign our conventional units to build in the resources necessary to conduct unconventional missions.
Second, we must focus our technological development of advanced weaponry and intelligence/surveillance platforms towards meeting a wide range of threats, not simply focused on one type of conflict resolution. Our leadership must be willing to have the personal courage to place political considerations and service parochialism aside. Third, we must adopt a more indriect approach in leveraging national power and resources.
Historically, the American art of war has been in line with the Western art of war. As espoused by Clausewitz, Jomini and Napoleon, war is a complete conflict between opposing societies for political ends. This total commitment of resources usually culminates in battles of attrition and annihilation directed against an opponent’s will and his resources. But this has always proved costly to both sides. How then can we accomplish conflict resolution in our favor with a minimal expenditure of bloodshed and resources? The answer to this dilemma is partially solved by aspects of Information Warfare.
Information Warfare, the application of technology and information in order to physically and mentally place an opponent off-balance, offers the opportunity to impose our will on an opponent and place ourselves inside his decision cycle. In other words, we are able to anticipate an opponent’s moves and countermoves before he even makes them. IW, properly applied, gives us the ability to gain and maintain the initiative. While IW may grant us the ability to “fight” conflicts without bloodshed, the more likely use will be to use IW as a battlefield preparation tool. We must use IW as a combat multiplier prior to and during the commitment of military resources.
In the 21 st Century, the commitment of our military requires reliance less on the Western Art of War and more on the Eastern Art of War. Simply put, the U.S. military’s approach to conflict resolution must become more indirect, rather than a mere application of, bluntly, brute force.
We face a bewildering array of threats in the 21 st Century. The U.S. military’s defined mission is to fight and win the nation’s wars. However, what we define as war will increasingly be dissimilar to the conventional conflicts of the past.
Traditional societies, governments and power structures are no longer held together by the same glue as previously. While the break up of the Soviet Union is cited as the major reason for this, it may be closer to the truth to see this as a result of the Information Age. Indeed, in many ways the Information Age has essentially turned back the clock to the era previous to World War One. But while that era had multiple centers of economic and social power, the Information Age has added a situational awareness and interdependency lacking at the turn of the 20 th Century.
The growing awareness of transnational ethnic groups and a breakdown of national loyalites, combined with bitter historically and religously rooted hatreds has splintered many countries and will continue to do so. This splintering has a ripple effect and what may have originated as a civil war will easily spill over traditional international borders and mutate from a localized unconventional war to a conventional one. One of the impacts of the Information Age is that this type of conflict quickly becomes the subject of worldwide attention and interest.
Say for example, that inside the country of Alpha, civil war erupts between the Green and Red ethnic groups. The Greens are the better educated, better financed majority currently holding the reins of governmental power. The Reds are a tribal minority, unable to build the political support needed to legitimately share in political power. The Reds begin attempting to change the balance of power by conducting demonstrations in the capitol city, printing political newspapers and registering voters. Seeking global attention, the Reds establish a presence on the Internet and begin broadcasting television programs on satellite television and via radio. In addition, the Reds establish ties with other Reds living in neighboring countries.
When change does not occur fast enough and the Green government begins to clamp down on Red political efforts, the Reds revolt. Civil war breaks out and casualties are high. Bravo country has a significant economic stake in Alpha’s X resource and puts a peacekeeping force on the ground in an attempt to stabilize the situation. An international terrorist group, sympathetic to the Reds, launches a terrorist campaign against Bravo by bombing Bravo airliners and assassinating Bravo citizens living overseas. When this has no effect, a terrorist enters Bravo country and drives a truck bomb into the parking lot of a stadium where a Bravo national championship game is being played. The bomb detonates and Bravo withdraws its peacekeeping force from Alpha, leaving the civil war to continue while Bravo suffers without a supply of X resource. Such an indirect attack on a country’s national will is perhaps the essence of the Eastern Art of War. By attacking the national will, rather than the resources, a foe attacks the pysche as much as he attacks the body. But how does he accomplish this?
One of the problems with the speed at which new weapons technology is emerging is that the old technology, while outmoded, is still very effective. Additionally, old weapons can be upgraded with new technology. It was no surprise to discover Iraqi T-62s outfitted with reactive armor and Magnavox laser range finders at the conclusion of Desert Storm. A Springfield 1903A3 bolt action rifle can be easily equipped with a Night Vision Scope.
While most of the world’s disarmament and peace movements have focused on Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), the true emerging technological threat is the availability of sophisticated weapons, surveillance and electronic equipment on the open market. The arms race has taken on new meanings. Because most countries’ militaries are cutting back their defense spending, arms suppliers are scrambling to build better systems than their competitors and searching for new markets. In addition to this, cash starved Russia and the former Soviet republics are eagerly selling off the Warsaw Pact’s hardware. Current customers include narcotics traffickers, terrorists and Third World militaries. Future customers will include multi-national corporations, extremist fringe organizations, criminal organizations and separatist movements. As dangerous as weapons proliferation is, the threat posed by narcotrafficking organizations represents a real clear and present danger.
The threat posed by narcotraffickers cannot be understated. Not only do illicit narcotics pose an overt threat to established societies through the venues of addiction, crime and the health related burden placed on the economy; but the threat posed to republican governments from corruption, graft and the undermining of the justice system is equally dangerous. Within the U.S., the threat is perhaps even more insidious. In a society which is hooked on conspiracies, the concept that a secret government, dedicated to the genocide of minorities, introduced crack cocaine on the streets of LA, creates the illusion that the blame for the decay of the inner city and a high mortality rate is somehow not entirely the fault of the victims or victimizers, the drug users and the dealers. This type of conspiracy It is easy to forget that the illicit narcotics business is worth billions of dollars. There are several countries which are already run by traffickers and a dozen more which are heavily influenced by the money and power wielded by the traffickers. Burma and Surinam are already run by narcotraffickers, with both the money and power to stay in power, with no one to hold them accountable for their actions. Several islands in the Caribbean are heavily influenced by drug money, their casinos used to launder money, including Aruba. Most of Colombia east of the Andes mountains has essentially been handed over to narcotraffickers backed by FARC guerrillas. The population has no choice other than to work for the traffickers, who use coercion and money to achieve their goals. Narcotics continue to flow over our porous borders in response to an unharnessed demand from a cash enriched population. Narcotraffickers do not recognize international boundaries and have shown themselves to be remarkably flexible in adjusting their methods in response to pressure exerted by national and international law enforcement agencies, intelligence organizations and other organizations dedicated to the Counternarcotics effort.
Blinded by Success
Possibly the greatest threat which American society runs is that we do not see ourselves as an enemy or threat to anyone else. We have literally been blinded by our own mores and success. Americans are perennial optimists; what is needed is a dose of paranoia, tempered with reality. In many parts of the world, the U.S. is seen as the bully on the block. As the world’s only superpower, it is only natural that we have acquired hatred from other countries. This hatred may stem from jealousy and/or religious/ideological mores. To the Islamic world, we are viewed as barbarians and of course, known as the “Great Satan” in Iran. While Islam has declared jihad on the U.S., for the most part, we, as a society have ignored this threat, both implied and real. There is no doubt that the World Trade Center bombing was a product of this jihad, or that this is an isolated incident. While the FBI and other national agencies are doing their best to protect us from such incidents, we remain vulnerable, as any democratic, open society would be. Possibly the most fundamental question we must address in our public policy is, do we remain reactive or proactive in the face of such threats? Do we respond overtly or covertly to such threats and actual attacks? If the primary role of government is to protect society, then our response to such attacks must be immediate and forceful. We can no longer be merely satisfied with bringing the terrorists to justice, when the real directors of such a campaign of terror remain inside their own countries. Again, our strategy should be defensive, but proactive, rather than reactive. Keeping in mind the precept that perceptions are reality; we must recognize that as long as we appear vulnerable and weak, we will be attacked. The nature of these attacks will not be direct, rather they will be indirect attacks, launched against ‘soft’ targets, such as population centers, our information systems and our infrastructure. Imagine for a minute, the effect of the demolishment of all of the Mississippi River bridges 300 miles to either side of St. Louis. We are potentially weaker in a great deal of areas than is generally realized. An attack against our information and financial management systems would be potentially crippling, especially for the psychological impacts of such an attack.
Applying the Force
In September 1995, the U.S. stood on the verge of invading Haiti in order to restore President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power and force General Raoul Cedras from it. The 82d Airborne Division planned to conduct a combat jump into the Port au Prince area if forced entry. A Marine force was to go into the Cap Haitien area in the north to secure the airfield and port facilities. The 10 th Mountain Division meanwhile stood offshore as a relief force and if forced entry was not required, would conduct a peaceable entry. As events occurred, an American negotiating party, headed by former President Jimmy Carter met face to face with Cedras in an attempt to convince him to leave Haiti without force. As USAF C-130s and C-141s carrying the 82 nd lifted off from Pope Air Force Base, a telephone on the negotiating table in front of Cedras rang. When he answered, the Haitian soldier was told by an agent calling from a pay phone on Fort Bragg that the 82 nd was enroute. Cedras promptly decided to step aside.
The Chinese strategist Sun Tzu would have heartily approved. The U.S. had achieved its goals by altering the opponent’s will to resist, thus achieving a bloodless victory and meeting the desired end state. If this may be called a diplomatic victory, it is wise to bear in mind that negotiations had gone nowhere until the phone rang. As has been said before: Diplomacy without the threat of force is like baseball without a bat. It may not be far from the truth to say that this victory was a result of the significant aspect of Information Warfare. The U.S. military had the ability, via its information architecture, to halt an invasion, literally in mid-air, less than two hours from execution, and conduct a peaceful entry into Haiti with the 10 th Mountain Division. Situational awareness had a great deal of influence in determining this conflict’s resolution, both from the American and the Haitian point of view. The U.S. negotiating team was aware of the progress of the invasion force and in communication with the White House situation room. Cedras was informed of the impending invasion, which in earlier times would have been regarded as a complete breach of operations security and a resulting loss of strategic surprise. However, surprise was still achieved because Cedras was not convinced that America had the will to actually commit U.S. ground forces to removing him. He remained unconvinced until informed by his agent in the U.S. of the 82 nd’s launch from Pope Air Force Base. This situational awareness altered his will to resist, because information (intelligence) was leveraged against his preconceived notion that America would not risk sending troops to Haiti, risking another Somalia. This pattern is likely to repeat itself in the future against unconventional enemies.
In the 21 st Century we will have to leverage force, both physical and non-physical in situations of national security and interest. How we apply that force will depend on the situation, but we must look for new, judicious ways in which to do so. Why? Simply because we no longer have the national will or resources to commit the U.S. willy-nilly to every crisis spot, even where the national interest is involved. America historically has the tendency to close the barn door after the horse is gone. There is no reason to believe this will change in the future. Hence, we need to look for ways to leverage our technology and the intangibles offered by Information Warfare against future opponents. We will essentially face three types of opponents: Conventional, unconventional and anomalous. Against each, we will have to adopt different strategic and tactical approaches.
In all situations, gaining and maintaining the initiative is of paramount importance. We must fight, but not always in the traditional sense of the word. Our battlefield, as we define it, must not simply be the old two dimensional, or even three dimensional force on force scenario. The modern battlefield must embrace the use of information technology and space to influence perceptions and popular will; as well as applying lethal, judicious force at the right time and place. Our technology is just as important as our ability to outthink our opponents.
The only way to get inside your opponent’s decision cycle is to think faster than he can and implement (execute) your decisions before he reacts. You must be able to anticipate his action, reaction and counteraction to your own moves. This ability will obviously require first rate human intelligence agents and personal/biographic intelligence on future opponents. While organizations, countries and tribes make war, individual leaders make the decisions. Against these leaders we must focus our attentions. Technologically it is feasible to specifically target individual leaders as well as Command and Control nodes. If you eliminate the decision makers, you can at least cause a ripple in the time required for decision making. You may also cause an internal shift of power inside an opponent’s government and erode the national will to continue the fight. At the least, you can gain the critical advantage of time, during which you can rearm and resupply, and deploy more forces into theater if needed. Fighting in a different geographic area presents all of its own unique challenge, which is basically getting “there first with the most.” In the end, time may be the most important variable in 21 st Century warfare.
Developing the Force
How best can we build the means to achieve our ends? We need to tailor the military to meet and defeat the wide variety of emerging threats previously discussed. But again, defeating an enemy is no longer a matter of killing soldiers and blowing up tanks. Even though the military likes to say that its purpose is to break things and kill people, this attitude simply ignores and dismisses our current world situation and the future concepts of conflict. Further, many military leaders and thinkers cling to the outdated two MRC concept, even though this has not occurred since the end of World War Two, despite three major opportunities, as discussed previously.
A popular aphorism about the military is that it constantly prepares to refight the previous war. In the Gulf War (1990-91), the U.S. military simply applied the doctrine and training which (though it evolved) had carried it through the years of the Cold War in Western Europe. Fortunately, the Iraqis did the same, to their detriment. Next time, we may not be so lucky to fight a predictably conventional foe.
The U.S. military structure is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Our Army structure has not essentially changed since the Civil War. In a bow to tradition, we still have regimental affiliations for units, even if there is only one active duty battalion in that regiment. While historic traditions are important for lineage and morale and the feeling of belonging to an historic regiment, it is emblematic of one of the most serious problems in the Army. Doctrinally, there are supposed to be three maneuver brigades in each division. In addition to this, there is an aviation brigade, an artillery brigade, and a support brigade, plus several combat support battalions. As a result of the drawdown, we currently have ten divisions. However, most of these divisions are not at full strength. The end result is that we have divisions with only two and sometime one brigade. When the 1 st Armored Division deployed to Bosnian, it had only two brigades. The division commander did not want to deploy with only 2/3 of a division and was given a brigade from the other two brigade division in Germany. So, in effect, the result was a one brigade division in Germany, or more accurately 1/3 of a division. Why is this so? This is the self-fulfilling prophecy.
The Army is a competitive society. Officers make the next rank by doing well, but most importantly, by commanding a unit. It does not matter how big the unit is, or even what type of unit it is, but it has to be a command, i.e. with UCMJ authority. As a short tutorial, Captains command companies (except in Special Forces units, where it is a major), Lieutenant Colonels command battalions, Colonels have brigades, Major Generals command divisions, Lieutenant Generals take over Corps, and Generals have Major Commands (also called MACOMs) or unified commands, such as Southern Command or Pacific Command. Now there is a pecking order here, and a definite triangle. Obviously, your chances of commanding a company are very good, but the cut for battalion command selection is about 25% of former company commanders. As one may guess, there are certain criteria for selecting officers at each successive level, some more substantive than others. Battalion commanders and above are usually in command for two years, that’s 24 months. So a commander has that much time to literally make or break his next chance for promotion. And this is following usually 18-20 years of a previously sterling, hardworking career in staff jobs in a cubbyhole somewhere. A battalion’s or brigade’s performance at a Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) or National Training Center (NTC) rotation can sound the trumpet call or bring the curtain down on a commander’s career. In one case, a battalion which had just returned from the Gulf War went to NTC, and when a soldier in the unit wrote a letter (which was published) to the Army Times questioning how the battalion could have performed so miserably, the battalion commander’s career promptly stalled. While the command of troops is undoubtedly important, an unspoken truism is that staff work is more demanding and requires strict attention to detail. While a commander can delegate work out to his subordinates, the staff officer is the person who ends up doing the work to ensure that the commander’s vision and orders are carried out. It is no surprise that the best commanders were often former operations officers . Yet, command is seen as the true rank maker. While there are plenty of demanding staff jobs, there are fewer command positions available. The true problem today is that while the number of troops has been decreased, the number of units has not been decreased proportionately. We have a system in place where “command” is the all-important position and officers are literally in holding patterns waiting for their chance to “check the block.” Command of battalion level units and higher is two years. The main problem is that there are plenty of qualified, experienced officers who, because of luck and timing, never have the opportunity to command and are subsequently passed over. Command should not be the primary discriminator in the promotion process. As the French learned the hard way during the Franco-Prussian war, staff work wins wars, leaders win battles.
The fixation with command has led to the situation as described with the 1 st Armored Division. If we are to, as the popular aphorism goes, “Train as we fight” we must apply some common sense to how we structure our force. Do we want to have 10 divisions at 60% strength, or 6 divisions at 100% strength. If the former, then we have 10 Major General command slots. If the latter, then only 6 Major General slots. The blunt truth is that the Army places too much emphasis on command and wishes to maintain as many high level officer positions as possible so that officers can continually be promoted. Is there a solution? Yes, there is, but it is a bold move.
The Regimental Solution
The solution to our manning, warfighting posture and career problem is to realign our Army units along the British Regimental system. Our brigades need to be more self-sustaining and resemble the current armored cavalry regiment structure. Perhaps one of the most predominant problems with the way the Army is officered, is that while leadership positions are considered key, too few officers are assigned these positions and staff sections are overweighted with officers waiting for the next command position or critical staff slot to open. Yet scant attention is paid to the fact that our peacetime leadership manning is woefully lacking under wartime conditions. Officers tend to get killed quickly in combat conditions and Non-Commissioned Officers become the platoon leaders and company commanders. The solution is to assign more officers to leadership positions in order to provide redundancy.
At the highest level, regiments should be commanded by brigadier generals, hence the term “brigades.” Currently, brigades/regiments are commanded by colonels. Under the career progression track, a brigade commander who has “successfully” commanded a brigade has a good shot at attaining flag rank. However, once he is a brigadier general, he is really only waiting around for selection to division command and the next grade of major general. There are few brigadier general command positions. Most brigadiers are slotted as Assistant Division Commanders, or as primary staff officers serving at the Pentagon, MACOM or Unified Command level. Instead, by making the regimental commander a brigadier general, it is possible to slot colonels as Executive Officers or Second In Command, which gives that colonel a chance to learn the ropes in preparation for regimental command and provides the flexibility required if, during wartime, the commander is killed. Now, with a battalion command experienced colonel available, he can assume command of the regiment. His seniority and experience will give him a level of credibility which he otherwise would not have, or will take him time to acquire. Currently, most brigade executive officers are junior lieutenant colonels waiting for their “turn” at battalion command. Indeed, there are XOs who never get selected for battalion command.
The same problem exists at the Major and Unified Command level. We have so-called commands in the military, which are merely skeletal organizations with four star commanders and the requisite number of generals and colonels who are merely waiting around for the next promotion or for the next command list to be published. The amount of work done by these staffs is merely inflated by the internal requirements which are deemed as essential by various staff directors. There is a great deal of overlap work between the staff elements, all of whom are competing for the commander’s attention. For instance, there is redundancy in the work between the U.S. Southern Command J2 country analysts and the J5 political-military desk officers. Another example is the shared use of intelligence analysts between the U.S. Space Command and the U.S. Strategic Command. This alone is indicative of redundant requirements. A final example is the definition of what the U.S. Atlantic Command’s mission is now that the Soviet navy is no longer the predominant threat and the Caribbean and the South American land mass belong to the Southern Command. Will the Atlantic Command now protect the U.S. from Canadian incursions, or declare posse comitatus null and void and prepare to defend the Rio Grande from the Mexicans? We need to inject some reality into our force structure. But, these are the sacred cows of the military. The Catch 22 is that while we are decreasing the amount of soldiers we have, the amount of general officers has remained the same, and in fact, a proposal to increase that number actually went to Congress in 1997.
The argument that each of these commands holds responsibilities for different geographic Areas of Responsibility and that they must be able to assume command of large forces is valid, but only truly if we disregard the current command and staff manning within the Continental U.S. The honest truth is that within the Pentagon, there are staff planners engaged in much the same type of wargaming and planning which goes on at the Unified and Major Command level. In other words, there is an overabundance of redundant work going on. We seem to have accepted as a mandate from heaven that a four star general is entitled to a certain size of staff and subordinate general officers. What we have inherited are bloated staffs with an abundance of senior officers all vying for their commander’s attention and seeking ways to make themselves important.
While some amount of contingency planning for major crisises is mission essential, the question becomes this: Should the planning be done in the Pentagon, or with knowledgeable people who are currently in theater? The answer is obvious. But, just how many senior officers do you really need to accomplish that sort of planning? A small staff, with a good work ethic and no hidden agenda to pursue, is a more worthy candidate for such a mission, than a large one with bickering division chiefs, which ensures that they have their own personal stamp on any worthwhile project. Indeed, the blundering, stumbling staffing process, through which every staff element gets its “chop,” is more of an obstacle than it is a staff tool ensuring that each element has had a chance to make its comments and provide input.