The Case for Army XXI
Authored by Mr. John Gordon IV, Mr. Peter A. Wilson.
May 27, 1998
The authors believe there is a mix of extant and near-term combat systems and technologies that will allow the Army to create a number of "aero-motorized" divisions within likely budgetary constraints by the end of the next decade. These medium-weight combat units would exploit the large investment the Air Force is making to modernize its strategic and theater airlift fleets during the first decade of the 21st century. The authors believe that forces equipped with light armored vehicles, next generation combat aviation, and enhanced indirect fire support will provide the Army with a strategic "fist." Aero-motorized forces can be used either as part of a leading edge of a large and inherently slower to deploy expeditionary force or as a central combat component of future lesser contingencies including operations other than war. Finally, the aero-motorized concept will allow the Army to develop thoroughly the doctrine and concept of land-forces operations that have the strategic agility of current light forces and approach the combat power of current heavy forces--major features of a desired next generation Army.
The authors contend that today's Army is essentially a "barbell" shaped organization: very light or very heavy forces with little in the form of "middleweight" units. One of the fundamental decisions that the Army must make in the coming decade is whether it intends to continue this organizational structure or modify it modestly or radically. If major modification is appropriate, what are the options? Fortunately, the Army has several years to consider such issues.
Probably for at least a decade the United States and its allies will not be confronted by a major military competitor or a collection of medium-sized states that are capable of successfully threatening our vital interests with "conventional" combined arms forces. That does not mean that some regional adversary could not achieve a short-term success by invading and seizing territory from its neighbor. Furthermore, that "smash and grab" strategy could be reinforced by the deft threat or actual use of nuclear, biological, chemical (NBC) weapons-a feature described as a plausible major theater war (MTW) scenario by both the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) and National Defense Panel (NDP). Additionally, future opponents are likely to exploit long-range missile systems (both ballistic and cruise) armed with advanced non-NBC munitions to threaten the military viability of any future U.S. expeditionary force. Such a victory could certainly be reversed; for the foreseeable future the United States and its friends can certainly turn back overt aggression if they choose to do so. The critical strategic question is whether the United States and its allies will be prepared to reverse this act of aggression. Under the shadow of a NBC/missile threat, the cost might be perceived as very high especially if the United States has not adapted its forces to that plausible contingency.
One of the clear premiums of future U.S. combined arms forces will be their ability to rapidly deploy into a menaced theater and operate in the face of enhanced NBC and long-range missile threats. The early deployment of a high performance combat force will have a profound impact on the probability, duration, and overall cost of a major campaign.
More probable than MTWs is the possibility that the United States will be confronted by a whole series of lesser crises or small-scale contingency (SSC) operations. Civil wars that threaten to spill into other nations, relatively limited armed struggles between religious and/or ethnic groups, and breakdowns in civil order within "failed states" are all examples of the kinds of operations where U.S. forces could conceivably be deployed. Significantly, many areas where such breakdowns in order could occur are where the United States does not have forces permanently stationed ashore. Finally, many of these future conflicts will take place in an urban environment, which reflects the global migration from the countryside to the cities. Should the United States elect to intervene with ground force, deployments from distant locations would have to take place. This changing reality has a significant impact on how the future Army should be configured.
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