Tuesday, June 3, 2014

"Reimagining" the Army

An interesting article from Foreign Policy Magazine.  Seems like GEN Odierno has this vision of the Army being out there as it's own foreign policy operation, via the training and deployment of "Regionally Aligned Forces".  As the article states:

The idea underlying RAF (pronounced "raff") is that more culturally attuned soldiers will be better equipped to identify brewing conflicts before they get out of hand, enabling more timely and effective "shaping" -- that is, activities to make conditions favorable for U.S. military success. Such efforts can include influencing local populations, establishing friendly relations with local leaders, strengthening military-to-military cooperation, and the like. If conflict does break out, more culturally sophisticated soldiers will better understand the enemy and work more effectively with the host population. 

What troubles me:

1.  His so called "shaping" is a military decision, not a political one.
2.  He seems oblivious to how this would be perceived by the peoples he targets for US "military success".  IMHO, there is a vast difference between "host nations" and "host governments", with the latter being quite subject to changes in who they wish to entertain as "guests".
3.  The generally imperialistic approach he his proposing, in his drive to "shape" throughout the globe.
4.  The unsupported theory that we can actually field a force of "culturally sophisticated soldiers".
5.  He seems to be over-intellectualizing the nuts and bolts of what the bulk of our troops really need to be, no less are, able to do.

But then, Old Ray does have a problem - keeping the Army relevant in the post Iraq/Afghanistan roles and missions resourcing scramble.  However, there is a significant difference between seeing the Army as an instrument of national policy so that the nation will survive, and "shaping" national policy primarily for the Army to survive at levels pleasing to the Army leadership.


  1. I like the principle of language and cultural training. But where and how and with what priority does it fit in? Not enough hours in the day and days in the week to accomplish that plus the basic unit competency training.

  2. mike- I agree that it is a nice to have add on. However, it would appear that the CSA's primary objective is creating a rationale for Army force structure by creating a new role and mission, rather than accepting a role and mission and preparing for it. Kinda reminds me of a comment then CMC Leonard Chapman made when asked by a young Marine why they were performing a mission other than a "naval campaign". Chapman pointed out the third mission clause in Title 10, "... such other duties as the President may direct", reminding the Marine that such duties pretty much "generated the bulk of our business." The Corps' willingness and ability to maintain their core competencies, yet still perform a broad spectrum of other missions is a major factor that has kept them going, regardless of ups and downs in resourcing and authorized structure. Meanwhile, the Army just changes MOTEs and doctrine to keep up with the ever shifting wind of foreign policy, rather than establishing core competencies and accepting new and different missions as does the Corps.

  3. The other likelihood is that this is the effect of the "COINdinistas" counterinsurgency philosophy sort of sneaking into the upper levels of DA. All this macguffin about "culturally sensitive/attuned" soldiering is definitely in the style of the Special Forces groups; remember how they were tailored to a region? 10th was USAREUR, 7th was USSOUTHCOM, 5th was Asia, 1st (?) was Africa, and so on...

    In all honesty, mike, units in a peacetime training cycle (which is something that most GIs know nothing about, the US Army having been in the ridiculous deployment rotation now for, what, twelve years now?) typically have enough time to do the pencil-whipping this "training" will entail - and that's really all it WILL be, since trying to turn PV2 Bongwater, ammo bearer and extra-duty specialist of 4/10th Infantry into Lawrence of Arabia by shoving a bunch of Arab crap at him in some company classroom in Ft. Lewis is like trying to stack cowflop with a dessert fork - and still take care of their normal squad and above ARTEP training.

    No. My problem with this is that that's all fine and good if you assume that you have a big enough Army to have a couple of hundred thousand Joes available to do rebellion suppression in Korea whilst holding another couple of hundred thousand in reserve in case something flares up in "their" AOR. That ain't the case and hasn't been for two decades. So you know exactly what's gonna happen; a bunch of GIs are going to end up hanging out on some Nigerian street corner practicing their Korean on the locals...

    I think that Odierno knows perfectly well what the US Army's core competencies are, Al. But he is also sniffing the wind and realizing that unless he makes the Army more "attractive" to the sorts of fucking nimrods who think that having GIs hanging around a Nigerian street corner is a good idea that it's just as likely that the USMC will get that coveted mission, and Chesty Puller forbid THAT should happen...

  4. Odierno is not the first to try to make the Army "more attractive" by ginning up a "mission". Back in 1994, the USAR was once again in fear of being gobbled up by the NG as the post Desert Storm drawdown took place. After all, there was nothing the USAR could really bring to the federal military mission that the Guard couldn't, and lots that the NG could bring to the domestic civil response table that the USAR couldn't. So the USAR did a major restructuring of their admin C&C structure, renaming "Army Reserve Commands (ARCOMS) to "Regional Support Commands", and reducing the number of ARCOMS/RSCs from about 22 to 10. These newly minted RSCs were aligned with the 10 FEMA regions, and had a small section for "Military Support of Civil Authorities", which included the ability to place a civilian "liaison" in the local FEMA office, if that FEMA office desired. In the process, the USAR actually "surrendered" 20 or so flag officer billets and touted this amazing act as part of their claim that being "relevant" trumping parochial interests. Being aligned with FEMA, the USAR claimed, gave them a "cross state border" capability they said was not found in the NG.

    At the time, I had a boating buddy who was a recently retired Calif Police Captain and CANG BG. Lots of hands on experience with NG response to civil emergencies. I asked him if the NG was going to raise objections to this "poaching on their turf". Not at all, as the fundamental legal impediments to using the USAR in the domestic missions the Guard is known for remained in place. The USAR still could not perform "law enforcement" due to Posse Comitatus. The USAR needed federal authority to be activated for civil relief, which took significantly more justification than a governor "calling out the Guard". And lastly, when in "State Active Duty", the Guard could easily "cross state borders" if the two governors agreed. It was just not as common an occurrence as duty solely within state boundaries.

    So, I asked, why this FEMA alignment, if it didn't really change anything? He said he raised that very question with an ARCOM CG he knew and was told that once the alignment was made, it was anticipated that legislation might be passed to make these "newly available resources" more readily employable. He joking said, "Obviously, the guys who wickered up this plan were devotees of that movie, [i]Field of Dreams[/i]."

    So, in an effort to make the Army more relevant, Odierno is wanting to build something in the hopes that "They will come". Can't see a case to be built for X number of maneuver divisions, so just gin up a bunch of RAF brigades of the same end strength and problem solved.

    Oh, by the way, the USAR never did get the support to civil authorities mission, and FEMA aligned RSCs lasted just a couple of years. Nobody ever came.

  5. Al,
    The O was anything but culturally sensitive as a div cdr.
    The Army used to have Foreign Area Specialists who were branch qualified and also did FAS assignments.
    This was usually a kiss of death career specialty.

  6. Hello!

    I have a quick question for you, could you email me when you have a chance? Thanks! –Emily