ON POINT II: Transition to the New Campaign
The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003-January 2005
Mission Requirements and Force Rotations
In some ways, CENTCOM conducted the new campaign in 2003 and 2004 with the resources the Army and the other Services could sustain over time (in terms of types and numbers of units), and not necessarily with what was needed in Iraq to accomplish the mission. It is now common to hear concurrence with prewar estimates that postconflict operations in Iraq would require several hundreds of thousands of troops. Generals Sanchez and Abizaid took steps in June and July 2003 to delay the redeployment of the 3d Infantry Division (3d ID) out of Iraq while they revised the campaign plan and reviewed the issue of force size and composition. In the late summer and early fall, CJTF-7 and CENTCOM coordinated with the Joint Staffs and the Services to determine the size of the OIF II force rotation. Given the Army’s inability to sustain the size of the original OIF I force, much less to increase it, both commanders resorted to selective tour extensions, temporary force size increases for particular operations or events, and the creation of security force capability outside the CPA’s army and police building programs to generate greater numbers of forces. The decisions by the Bush administration in late 2006 to modestly increase troop levels in Iraq in 2007, to change commanders, and to increase the overall size of the Army and Marine Corps could be seen as belated recognition of the problems created by the mixing of roles between the regional combatant commanders and the Services.
The Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 placed responsibility for the conduct of military operations on DOD’s regional combatant commanders and removed the Service chiefs from direct involvement in planning and conducting operations. The Act was drawn up to address many of the inefficiencies and interservice rivalries so evident in US military operations of the late 1970s and early 1980s. One result of the Act was that regional combatant commanders became responsible for planning operations, determining requirements, and conducting operations, while the Services provide forces and other resources as required. Yet, in this case the size and composition of the nation’s ground forces and force rotation policies appear to have overridden operational requirements.
It may be time for the Army and the nation to examine the very idea of force rotations as the default solution for extended campaigns. The Army’s post-Cold War experience of quick military victories, such as Operation DESERT STORM, and longer peace operations, as seen in the Balkans, has left a legacy with at least three negative side effects. The first is a belief that military campaigns can be conducted without extensive planning for and commitment to the operations that follow successful combat actions. The second is the concept of force levels that attempt to balance operational requirements with troop rotations deemed sustainable over time within existing resource levels. The third is a belief that military operations can quickly achieve national strategic objectives. If extended campaigns are necessary, the ascendant approach suggested that they could be managed as a series of rotational force deployments designed to limit the institutional effects on the Army and the nation while awaiting a political solution followed by a so-called exit strategy.3
While a national mobilization of the sort seen in World War II is unlikely to be needed in the future, the demands placed on the Army and the nation in OIF (and the Global War on Terrorism) call into question whether a military campaign ought to be planned and conducted in a way that does not take full advantage of the total resources of the US military, the US Government, and the nation. In 2003 the military forces were optimized for high-intensity, relatively short duration, conventional military campaigns. Waging protracted irregular war places quite different demands on military forces, and meeting those demands is emerging as one of the key strategic challenges for the United States in the early 21st century. Changes may include the longer deployment of larger portions of the Armed Forces, an increase in the size of the Armed Forces, and a greater national commitment of resources. Deploying military and nonmilitary resources for the duration rather than by rotation would put more resources on the ground, would involve a truly national commitment to victory, and paradoxically, could lead to quicker success.
Related to this issue of troop levels and warfighting requirements are the extensive mobilizations of the Army National Guard and Army Reserve. Both Reserve Components have shouldered a very heavy portion of the load in OIF. The ghosts of 1990–91, when some National Guard units were deemed unready to deploy for Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM, have been exorcised. Guard and Reserve Soldiers have amply demonstrated that they are a fully capable, and indeed, an absolutely essential part of the Army. The Active Duty Army cannot conduct operations for any length of time without participation by the Reserve and the Guard. The price paid by reservists and communities to sustain the long and repetitive mobilizations,
however, may not be sustainable in the future.
The prewar paradigm for use of the Reserves was characterized as “mobilize–train–deploy.” Inherent in this model was the assumption that after mobilization, time would be available for bringing personnel, equipment, and training up to necessary levels before the Reserves were committed. The new construct is now often called “train–mobilize–deploy.” This assumes well-manned, well-equipped, and fully-trained Reserve forces are ready for combat after a rapid mobilization and only limited refresher training. Before 2001 the Reserve Components were often conceived of as a “strategic reserve,” implying occasional use in national emergencies; since 2003 they have been referred to as an “operational force,” implying regular use in all conflicts. The differences between these two paradigms and the implications for the nation are significant. The Congress and the Army will have to provide much more of many things to rely on the Reserve Components in the future—more Soldiers, more modern equipment, more funding, more medical and educational benefits, more support to families, and more ways to support communities and businesses during mobilization periods. The practice of using individual Guard and Reserve Soldiers as augmentees to understrength Active and Reserve units rather than as cohesive units has proven quite problematic and is now avoided wherever possible.‡ Whether the Army, and the country, can continue to rely on its part-time Soldiers to perform frequent, long-duration deployments is an issue with which the military and civilian leadership must grapple. This burden is more difficult to bear in a time during which the vast majority of citizens are called on to do little in support of the war effort.
‡In December 2004 the Chief of the Army Reserve, Lieutenant General James Helmly, issued a strong cautionary note about the way many USAR Soldiers had been deployed. He decried their use as individual fillers instead of deploying them in cohesive units caused detrimental effects on the long-term readiness of the Army Reserve. The USAR and the ARNG are now undergoing fundamental changes in the way Soldiers are recruited and trained and how units are deployed.
Unity of Effort and Unity of Command
Phase III and Phase IV Operations
Mission Requirements and Force Rotations
Doctrine and Training
Training Indigenous Forces
The “M” in DOTMLPF—Materiel
Command and Control
The Battle of Ideas
Combat Service and Soldier Support
Soldiers: The Army’s Greatest Asset
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