The Future of DoD

After tackling Somalia and scientific warfare, I thought I’d try something easier, like restructuring the Dept. of Defense.  As some of you know, I’ve written three books on this subject, starting with A Swift, Elusive Sword in 2001, all exploring the notion that the force we built to deter and if necessary fight the Soviet Union might not be what we need now that the Soviet Union is gone and has not been replaced.

Paul Kane, who served in the Marine Corps (one dare not say ex-Marine), takes on this subject today in the NYT.  His conclusion is slightly different from mine, though:  He wants to abolish the USAF, which, as a retired Air Force officer, I can assure you is a truly dumb idea.  I certainly agree that we don’t need four air forces, but if we follow Kane’s suggestion, we’ll still have three, plus we’ll lose the advantage of a single service dedicated not only to air warfare but to strategic, space, and cyberwar, where the focus on creating and employing high-technology systems is essential (as Bousquet demonstrated, technology may often be oversold, but it’s not unimportant;  Boyd was a technologist, after all).

In any case, one might also ask why we need two armies.  I suggested in A Swift, Elusive Sword that the USMC provides all the heavy combat power we need, particularly when augmented by USAF tacair — A-10s, with F-16s and now it appears F-22s.  Nothing that has happened since 2001 contradicts this.  Plus we have allies.

It all comes down to what we’re going to use military force for.  There is a disturbing trend to build a new DoD to fight our current wars, only better.  This is “lastwaritis,” as it’s often called and although we’ve been calling it that since at least when I got to DoD (1971), we still do it.  In particular, we only need better ways to combat insurgencies overseas if we intend to counter insurgencies overseas.  And the only reason we’re trying to counter insurgencies overseas is because we decided to occupy foreign countries with large populations that espouse religions and other social patterns quite different from our own.

On that subject, Bernard Finel, of the American Security Project and formerly at the National War College, has an article in the Small Wars Journal that examines the argument that we must occupy Afghanistan in order to prevent new terrorist attacks from originating in that country.  Here’s the money ‘graph:

The policy consensus on Afghanistan — that we must remain because a return to the status quo ante is intolerable — is fundamentally a claim about the counterterrorism mission. A better debate on Afghanistan will become possible once we stop assuming that our presence there will prevent a handful of determined and ruthless men from committing an act of mass-murder in an American city. It won’t, and the assumption that it will may provide us a false sense of security at home and inspire an overreaching commitment abroad.

It should be noted in passing that the same logic applies to Somalia or for that matter to any location outside the jurisdiction of the United States.

So what kind of military do we need?  There are many reasonable answers involving various levels of strategic (nuclear), conventional, and special forces.  However the one answer that is not reasonable is to make radical changes in our military posture based on what has or has not worked in Iraq and Afghanistan.  [Cognoscenti of the late quality guru, W. Edwards Deming, will immediately recognize the Demming Funnel at work.]

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8 Responses to “The Future of DoD”

  1. loggie20on 21 Apr 2009 at 6:59 pm 1

    If there were a real need for this “not only to air warfare but to strategic, space, and cyberwar, where the focus on creating and employing high-technology systems is essential”, the US would be history.

    An Air Force which does nothiong well is neither necessary or efficient.

    The Marines were good in Central America keeping the bankers’ interests covered. But they are seriously short on artillery (away from the old destroyer force with the 4 5 inchers) and maneuver (cavalry). But they did a hell of a job in Belleau Wood while the 3 US Infantry and the other brigades of the 2 US Infantry held the force of the Germans at bay.

    I suspect a land force similar to the British Expeditionary Force of 1914 may be a model.

    Full spectrum dominance is fiction and excuse to waste the taxpayers’ dough.

    Why plan and spend (badly) to fight the war you want for the profits?

    [CR: Yeah — it all comes down to what kinds of wars you think we’ll be fighting. Two caveats to keep in mind when playing amateur force structure analyst: On the one hand, we can’t predict the future (and don’t want to provide exploitable weaknesses to potential opponents); on the other, resources aren’t infinite. In fact, they’re a lot less infinite than they used to be.]

  2. Maxon 21 Apr 2009 at 7:59 pm 2

    “we can’t predict the future”

    But if you’re really good, you can anticipate, and if you’re brilliant
    you can prepare. That requires
    superior intelligence, focus, and dedication.

    This is the hallmark of the most successfull pepole, agencies, and enterprises in history.

    Extrapolating from the OODA, arguably one can argue that
    in a sense it maybe possible to, if not forsee the imeadate future,
    but to again, to anticipate it, the” what ifs,” ( I learned that from motorcyle racing and street survial, similarly perhaps to Boyd’s
    experience in the air) and hopefully, in an enviroment a step removed from politics, prepare.

    This requires dedication to honesty and the truth.
    This begins with ourselves.

    That’s the rock bottom fundemental issue facing America.
    Andrew Bachavich makes the point so well “it’s about looking
    in the mirror.”

    Call that having God, or Karma on your side.

    Until you can bring yourself to do that, look in that mirror,
    that won’t happen.

    That’s the was US intelligence services were supposed to work,
    but never seem to deliver.

    “don’t want to provide exploitable weaknesses to potential opponents”

    But Chet, hasn’t, and dosn’t the US do that, time and time again,
    from the battleship Maine, to Pearl Harbour, to Vietnam, to Lebanon, to 9-11 ?

    It’s also becoming apparent that it’s becoming increasingly
    more difficult for the US to bounce back, and take the initiative
    in a decisive way.

    We’ve lost our edge.

    Strength VS weakness, where weakness seeks to undermine
    and circumvent strength.

    The Oklahoma City bombers did not attack Fort Drum,
    just as the 9-11 hijackers did not attack NORAD HQ.

    ” on the other, resources aren’t infinite. In fact, they’re a lot less infinite than they used to be.””

    Absolutely, and part of the blame lies in the continued squanderance
    of resourches on several fronts.

    There I go again,,,

    *”That will be all”

    **”That’s all ! That’s enough, isn’t it ?!”

    *Peter Finch in the hollywood classic “Flight Of The Pheonix”
    ** Ian Bannens comeback line.

    [CR: True — one of the implications of Orientation as a mental model is that you can use it for prediction. That is, you can run it forward. You’re going to do this, like it or not, but against a thinking opponent you usually can’t run it very far.

    The idea of “operating inside the OODA loop” is that you can augment prediction through two other options:

    • You can quickly respond to events, usually moves by your opponents, that you didn’t predict, and
    • You can shape your opponent’s perception, that is, you can move him in ways that are advantageous to you.


  3. Sgt Oblaton 22 Apr 2009 at 10:27 am 3

    The OODA loop is increasingly being used to just cover up and avoid unpleasant questions. It’s probably the reason why it’s so popular.

    It was Pride that lead the US to attack Iraq, Hubris that caused it to think it would be a walkover and Ignorance and Ideology that turned it into a Fiasco.

    It wasn’t because “the Iraqis were operating inside the US OODA loop”.

    I’m beginning to think that the OODA loop idea is mainly being used to obscure the situation rather than illuminate it.

    [CR: Thanks – I seem to be missing something here: can you supply a reference for the statement that the US attacked Iraq because the Iraqis were operating inside our OODA loop?]

  4. Ed Beakleyon 22 Apr 2009 at 3:04 pm 4

    Future of DOD, migrating out of 2GW, development of Grand Strategy, creating adaptable senior leadership, all important but history doesn’t show this to be just a post 9-11/Bush-Chaney problem or frankly, ever resolved very well. When can we say this was ever a postive element going into a war?

    Possibly the best we’ve ever done was the 20s and 30s “experiments” with amphibious warfare and carrier based aviation. DoD tried to emulate this in the 90s with warfare experimentation, but was not looking at the 4GW/war amongst the people threat.

    As one example of “bad results:”

    During Operation Rolling Thunder, Carrier Air Wing 16 suffered the highest loss rates of any unit in naval aviation during the Vietnam conflict.

    … The significant losses experienced by CVW-16 while flying from the Oriskany can be attributed to several factors. (but) Foremost was the strategic divide between those running the war, and the pilots flying the actual missions. The restrictions placed on pilots by senior military leadership and the politicians they advised caused unnecessary losses and destroyed morale. These restrictions were a direct result of a strategic disconnect with the tactical level. The Oriskany’s pilots found themselves fighting a total war against the North Vietnamese, who were also waging total war, while American leadership in Washington, D.C. sought to fight the war in limited terms. Airpower could not be successfully used to send political signals to Hanoi.

    … This failure of American strategy in Vietnam found its roots in the development of thermonuclear weapons. Many military professionals in the late 1950s and early 1960s believed that previous notions of strategy and force were rendered obsolete. These strategists believed that the fear of escalating conflicts which could possibly culminate in nuclear war would prevent total war as witnessed in the Second World War. Thus nuclear weapons and the associated premise of limited war had an extremely corrosive effect on the United States military, which became focused on defense economics and the attempt to achieve the maximum deterrent at the least cost. Throughout this period, the Department of Defense became preoccupied with technical, managerial and bureaucratic concerns. It was this preoccupation that led to sortie counts in North Vietnam, and attrition warfare in South Vietnam. These numbers became strategic dogma and further served to mask the real American goals. The cost was high. When the country needed it the most, the senior leadership of the military was incapable of providing what the nation needed the most, a coherent national strategy for Indochina.

    by LCDR Peter R. Fey, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 2006

    The strategic problem migrated down to the senior leaders in the airwing. Is it any different now? Teaching “adaptability,” a la Don Vandergriff seems only realistic hedge.

    [CR: Retired naval aviator and Vietnam A-7 pilot Ed Beakley is the head honcho at Project White Horse. It’s always a pleasure to welcome him to DNI.]

  5. Maxon 24 Apr 2009 at 8:09 am 5

    CR: Thanks – I seem to be missing something here: can you supply a reference for the statement that the US attacked Iraq because the Iraqis were operating inside our OODA loop?]

    An excellent post.

    Not Iraqis, but obvously Alquida , since the get go.
    The most obvious ploy was to sucker the US and
    western allies into the quagmire of Afganistan.

    Also known as
    “The graveyard of empires.”

    But, that wasn’t enough for the Incumbent US
    leadership, they went into Iraq as well at
    the sametime, because the US military as everyone here
    can readily attest, has
    obtained “full spectrum dominance.”

    The only question is, should you laugh, or cry ?


  6. Gregon 27 Apr 2009 at 7:15 pm 6

    If we observe all of our potential threats, shouldn’t we also note, despite current belief, that we have other potential adversaries in the future, like China and Russia? We have made a shift and a commitment away from the Warsaw Pact type threat to smaller, more regional conflicts. Have we created a weakness to exploit? The other point that I would like to make is that our weapon systems and Command & Control are largely vulnerable to electronic attack – it is happening already. I know that the DoD has put some effort into this, but should we put a LOT more attention to the offensive and defensive capabilities in this area? It could be that the next war is won or lost with digits.

    Wonder if our next enemy is, in fact, China or Russia? We would likely need some (maneuverable) muscle. What if it would be in defense of country “X” or other regional conflicts; we need speed and reach. For the terrorist ops, we need longer term operational Intel, with smart special ops. How we overlay the Army, Navy, Air Force, and USMC into this is up to us. But I am getting the feeling that we need to slowly break down what we have and re-build it based on all potential adversary types in the future. I agree with Chet on not looking at the current wars for reflection. We need to ask “what if” more openly.

    [CR: Absolutely … although I still don’t see any great conventional threat emerging from Russia or China.]

  7. Maxon 28 Apr 2009 at 6:07 am 7

    “although I still don’t see any great conventional threat emerging from Russia or China.”

    I agree with Chet.

    In a phrase, economic interdependency, mitigates the probability.

    Some conventional military capability is of course essential.

    However, global economic investment and inter-dependency, otherwize known as “gloablisation” has reduced the likelyhood of major confflict, between major powers.

    Travel and the internet has also revolutionised communications
    and scociety, over the last decades.

    I think it’s exceedingly foolish to advocate war with China, over say
    Taiwan, being a few million pepole, and with mainland Chinese
    scociety, and politics shifting towards capitalism, the ideological
    basis, if it ever that really made any sense, no longer exists.

    Anymore than it would make any sense for China to attack the USA over Peurto Rico.

    Similar applies to Russia, India, and most of the ROW.

    Can you still get a lunatic, surrounded by like minded fools in charge, of some countries ? Sure, N. Korea, Iran, come to mind, and yes, even the USA has come perilously close.


  8. loggie20on 28 Apr 2009 at 6:55 pm 8

    “potential adversaries in the future, like China and Russia?”

    These will not be adversaries like the Tsar and the French were to the Kaiser. At least not for a long time.

    Think of what a Schleiffen plan by either might look like.

    How would China double encircle Washington?

    Russia for that matter.

    And stopping the Russians from pushing around West Ossetians is more an Austro-Hungarian side show.

    The US is stuck imitating the failures of the Prussian general staff, when the writings of Sun Tzu need to be followed.

    It was and remains fully waste and war profiteering to defend useless investments by planning insane offensives against non threats, wasting money needed to keep (being wildly optimistic) a robust society which could hold together in the coming ecoonomic-environmental cataclysm.