Four of the nations top military strategists told Congress this week what modernization plans theyd scrap and how theyd change military priorities.
These arent the dried up formers who populate the news talk shows with punditry based on a limited rolodex of graying colleagues, but men who have been there and done that. The panel of experts included former military brass and Pentagon officials who are involved in policy-making today - giving their opinions greater weight than those from the cable channels.
The list included former 24th Infantry Division commander and Clinton-era Drug Czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey; former commandant of the Army War College and a man who knows military history better than the back of his hand, Maj. Gen. Robert Scales; former Reagan-era Pentagon official and oft-consulted GWOT critic Lawrence Korb and head of the Center For Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Andy Krepinevich.
Scales is heavily involved in current Army war planning and in the development of new counterinsurgency doctrine. Korb is someone the DoD often talks to for his counterpoints of the Iraq war. McCaffrey has a key to the Oval Office - often providing his insight to administration planners and the president. And Krepinevich had been involved in writing the Quadrennial Defense Review and works on a range of strategic planning for the Army and other services.
In a wide-ranging and fascinating hearing this week, the four told lawmakers what theyd do to change the current DoD modernization plans, realigning resources to areas they say will better position America for the conflicts of the future. Their views were sometimes in conflict, but overall, they were remarkably concurrent and at times, quite radical.
Heres a synopsis of their views:
Take a sizable number of the current Army brigade structure and create irregular warfare units capable of counterinsurgency and humanitarian operations.
Create an advisor corps.
Create a Multi-National Security Transition Corps-Iraq (MNSTCI) in a box to quickly train indigenous forces to take over security in a counterinsurgency/guerrilla environment.
Build a Joint Urban Warfare Training Center that takes the current National Training Center adaptations to the next level.
Need to re-evaluate the Armys nearly $200 billion Future Combat System program. Thats an awfully expensive way to deal with irregular forces.
Disagreed with Krepinevich on creating counterinsurgency forces and going light. The U.S. may have to confront China at some point, he explained.
Didnt think bringing U.S. forces back from bases in Europe and Okinawa was a good idea, but said since thats a done deal, America needs to invest heavily in re-constituting its strategic airlift capability. He called the C-17 Globemaster III a national asset.
I love the C-17 as much as the M-1 [Abrams] tank, he said.
Thinks the future of FCS needs to be figured out by the beginning of 2009 or it should be turned into a semi-permanent R&D program.
Believes foreign language training is so important that the military should pick out service members by threes and say youre going to 90 days of language training.
Said the U.S. needs to properly equip the Afghan and Iraqi army with modern gear. Quit pawning off junk Soviet armor and sell them equipment that can help them win, including a fleet of modern helicopters. The Iraqis are getting 70 helos which arent enough for them to control the country, he said. We need a new lend-lease for our allies.
Extend the purchase of Los Angeles class subs, pushing them off into the future.
Cut down on nuclear weapons stockpile and modernization which will save the Pentagon money for other, more pressing needs. We need to lead by example, he said.
Stop spending so much money on ballistic missile defense. The program is the least likely threat we spend more on missile defense than on the entire Coast Guard, Korb pointed out, adding that the Coast Guard deals with a much more realistic threat.
I cant understand FCS, he said. The Army has done a poor job explaining what it will do and what its for. The Pentagon should slow down its development.
Marines do not need a new amphibious vehicle, he said, referencing the Corps troubled Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program.
Stop V-22 production and buy more helicopters.
Set a specific withdrawal date to get out of Iraq to help motive the Iraqi army to shape up for its own defense.
Need to continue supplemental spending bills to bring equipment levels back up to meet current needs.
Scrapping the FCS program is dead wrong (Scales has been a longtime booster of FCS for the Army), though it needs some tweaking.
Need to continue to field heavy forces 81 percent of military deaths are with dismounted infantry, mounted infantry face a 10 percent greater chance of survival when mounted.
The U.S. needs a full spectrum force, he added, saying if abandon FCS then youre confining the military to purchase old Cold War gear.
Does not agree with Krepinevichs specialization theory, saying troops trained in a variety of missions can do full spectrum operations. Whats important are skills not structure. Brigades dont do that, people do that.
Need to focus on officer and NCO education by creating a soldier sabbatical program that allows them to take time off from the service to go to graduate schools and study alien cultures and the art of warfare.
I hope this provides a little food for thought as Congress and the administration consider the 2007 supplemental and 2008 base budgets.