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ON POINT II: Transition to the New Campaign

The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003-January 2005

Part V


Chapter 14


Command and Control

The vastly increased use of new command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) systems in OIF is one of many successes for the Army. The Army Battlefield Command System (ABCS [version 6.4 as of this writing]) encompasses a dazzling array of technologies that is constantly evolving—the Force XXI Battle Command, Brigade and Below (FBCB2) System; Blue-Force Tracker; new single channel ground and airborne radio system (SINCGARS); integration of Global Positioning System (GPS) data; and the Command Post of the Future (CPOF) are but a few. Commanders from battalion to corps have credited these systems with a large part of their ability to command and control larger than normal units (some divisions have commanded the operations of seven or more brigades at times) over vast distances. These technologies have reduced fratricide rates to new lows. The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is another success story. Though originally developed for intelligence gathering, the Army quickly adapted UAVs for battle command, and in the case of armed UAVs, to conduct attacks. At the tactical level of war, the Army has successfully harnessed the information age to improve its battlefield performance and should continue to expand those efforts.

Many outside the Armed Forces are unaware of the very restrictive rules of engagement that control the use of deadly force by US troops when engaging enemy fighters. At least some observers would also be surprised about the incredible restraint used by US forces to limit noncombatant casualties and to limit collateral damage to Iraq’s physical infrastructure. Images and stories from Iraq on US operations too often focus on the loss of life and destructive nature of combat. The number of cities destroyed by fighting has been very small, and primarily the fault of insurgents. Part of the failure to understand this must be laid on the Army’s public affairs programs. These efforts by the Army ought to be acknowledged. Nonetheless, more than a few celebrated cases of airstrikes and artillery missions that missed their targets or hit noncombatant targets indicate potential over-reliance on firepower and too much disregard for its imprecision and potential for collateral damage. Increasing precision continues to reduce the likelihood of error, but in stability and counterinsurgency operations, a more careful weighing of costs and benefits is imperative.

Chapter 14. Implications

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