December 22, 2004
A cry in the wildernessBy Douglas Hanson
The question asked of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld by a Tennessee National Guardsman over the up—armored Humvee refit issue was quickly exposed as another instance of 'gotcha' journalism after it was revealed that a hometown reporter had coached the Soldier who had asked the question. Not only was the entire exchange a set—up, but thanks to Newsmax.com, as relayed by the Washington Times, the reporter and Spc. Thomas 'Jerry' Wilson were apparently unaware that,
'...the Pentagon had already up—armored 97 percent of the vehicles in Thomas' 278th Regimental Combat Team, senior members of the Army's combat systems development and acquisition team said Thursday.
"Further undermining the premise of Pitts' question, orders to up—armor the last 20 of the 278th's 830 vehicles were already in the pipeline when he engineered the bogus inquiry," NewsMax said.
It isn't surprising that the legacy media is continuing the information warfare (IW) operation to undermine our efforts in Iraq in the wake of their latest electoral defeat. However, harsh commentary in some outlets of the conservative press and the severe criticism Rumsfeld received from a few Republican Senators was astonishing to say the least.
In particular, The Weekly Standard piled on with a series of attacks that, to my memory, was more severe than anything Clinton's first SecDef, Les Aspin had to endure. The attacks from the right side of the political spectrum have gone beyond pointed criticism of the Secretary, and have crossed the boundary into subtle misdirection to convince the American people to jump on the 'dump Rumsfeld' bandwagon.
One of the most technically accurate, yet still deceptive criticisms is Tom Donnelly's article in the Weekly Standard's on—line edition of December 16. Mr. Donnelly delves into the larger issues of transformation and covers them well; for example, the over—reliance on digitization and air power. But then comes the misdirection, when he says,
And to pay for it [air power weapons systems], the green—eyeshade analysts at the Pentagon looked to cut Army force structure. Like all good captains of industry, they looked to substitute capital for labor. Thus we have a Defense secretary more concerned about the Army and the force he'd like to have——the high—speed—low—drag transformed force of the future——than the force with which he actually has to fight today's wars.
Apparently, Donnelly forgot his own words earlier in the article where this process has been going on for 15 years, and if memory serves, Rumsfeld was not the SecDef during this time. As has happened before with the 'get Rumsfeld' media and retired general officer ambushes, their favorite critiques, such as inadequate troop strength and the lack of up—armored Humvees, actually have their roots in the decade of the '90s, when both the civilian and military leadership looked at combat operations through rose—colored glasses, and reconceptualized the military's focus to humanitarian and peacekeeping missions.
The fact is that the severe reductions in troop strength over such a short period of time in the 1990s could not have succeeded without the cooperation of both the uniformed and civilian Army leaders in control at the time. Therein lays the unfortunate reality our Army 'forward thinkers' have given us. After 15 years of questionable equipment procurement and testing of operational concepts for the Army's transformation, the inside—the—beltway Army leadership now finds itself half—way into the wilderness without their GPS, and — oh darn! — they forgot to bring along their good old fashioned compass. They are confused as hell because their new onceptual goals are falling prey to battlefield realities in Iraq. But what Donnelly avoids saying is that it is largely a problem of the Army's own making.
On the plus side, Donnelly understands the supreme irony of the Soldier's question to Secretary Rumsfeld. Over a decade into the process of transforming the Army into a lighter and more strategically deployable force, while theoretically increasing its lethality, and here is some National Guardsman asking for — horrors — more armor! And on a vehicle that was never designed to carry the additional weight, nor one that was ever envisioned to conduct mounted patrol missions in the main battle area.
For an institution that prides itself on a superior analytical process and a sound historical perspective, the Army of the '90s failed to understand even the most basic of the factors in the fight to balance deployabilty versus survivability. It is unknown if the Army even studied the process the War Department employed during the 30s and the 40s, when it transformed from essentially a constabulary, frontier—type force to a major land power capable of conducting sustained, large—scale combat operations in the European Theater. Had they done so, it would have been evident that taking advantage of new technologies does not necessarily allow a fighting force to drastically cut troop strength, scrimp on supplies and services, or employ light, under—armored and under—gunned units.
Donnelly's criticism about expensive Air Force programs such as the Joint Strike Fighter and the F—22 Raptor is correct, in that it causes funding shortfalls for necessary Army programs. But in the context of Army transformation, it is an absolute requirement if the new light and medium force is to succeed. By design, the Objective Force is absolutely dependent on the ability of airpower to maintain air superiority and to conduct precision attacks against the enemy. Yet, as witnessed in Iraq, we can only blow up so many buildings and people from a distance before the issue is finally settled by our tank—infantry combined arms teams on the ground. The question arises, in future conflicts, how much friendly airpower will be degraded should the US encounter an adversary with a decent air force?
Technically and tactically, the critics at The Weekly Standard are on to something. Our active duty troop strength was reduced predicated on the false premises of transformation. But, Mr. Donnelly has apparently joined the rest of the press gang who function as the voice for the cabal of retired Army leaders which promoted these faulty concepts and the politicians who funded them.
As our Soldiers in the field continue to rack up victory after victory, the inside—the—beltway Army leadership flounders with equipment and personnel issues that are the direct result of the faulty constructs of transformation undertaken in the '90s. Nobody is perfect, not even the SecDef, and he has made mistakes from time—to time. This is war, and as Tommy Franks is found of saying, 'the enemy gets a vote.'
But the critical mistake the ex—Naval aviator and experienced military leader , made is that, despite his brilliance and analytical prowess, he actually looked to his Services for their stated warfighting capabilities. Once war came, the Army holdovers from the '90s and their political sponsors got caught with their pants around their ankles. They didn't expect to actually go to war with only 490,000 active duty troops and a souped—up armored car called the Stryker, did they?
And what about those reserve components and the National Guard combat brigades to bolster our troop strength? The carping by certain Republican Senators about stretching our reserve units thin after decades of funding and support to train and fight the Warsaw Pact begs the questions: what was their true status on 9—11? And did Tommy Franks and the SecDef base their deployment decisions on faulty readiness data?
When GW said that 'help is on the way' during the 2000 campaign, the transformation crowd and the entrenched Army bureaucracy thought that the President and his defense chief would bail them out of their predicament and lead them out of the forest they had wandered into. Little did they and their media mouthpieces realize what an excellent job they had done of convincing GW and Rumsfeld that transformation as we know it was moving along in fine fashion.
Their cry for help is getting more desperate and shrill. As much as there are several Cold War sacred cows that need to be dispensed with, so too are there transformation boondoggles that are in dire need of de—funding. Perhaps the country would best be served if these guys who think outside the box apologized to the American people and the SecDef, rolled up their sleeves, and helped us win the war, instead of playing pre 9—11 political games.
Douglas Hanson is our military affairs correspondent.