TCS Daily


Bob Gates and the Transformation Agenda

By Pejman Yousefzadeh - November 27, 2006 12:00 AM

Curiously absent from the discussion of the Pentagon's post-Rumsfeld era is what views his successor, Robert Gates may hold regarding the issue of military transformation.

Remember military transformation? It is what Donald Rumsfeld would have been known for had there been no September 11th terrorist attacks, no war in Afghanistan and no war in Iraq. And it is ongoing.

Military transformation will radically affect the nature, characteristics and capabilities of the American armed forces in the future far more than will the current reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. So what are some of the military transformation challenges awaiting Secretary-designate Gates? What are some of the issues he should be asked about in his upcoming confirmation hearings?

  • The openness of the military to transformation. As indicated by Peter Boyer in The New Yorker, the degree to which transformation has taken place in the military may be attributable to the fact that it was implemented during wartime. Boyer argues that "Rumsfeld would never have lasted in peacetime," and it might be inferred that his transformation agenda might not have lasted either. And as Boyer notes, Rumsfeld's immediate predecessor, Secretary William Cohen, had a very hard time trying to implement his transformation agenda against the wishes of a determined military bureaucracy. How committed, in the first place, is Secretary-designate Gates to the cause of transformation and how will he overcome the institutional opposition to transformation that appears to exist within the Pentagon? For that matter, does Secretary-designate Gates agree with the belief stated here that he was hired to focus on Iraq and not on transformation?

  • The state of American military technology. Secretary Rumsfeld has been a strong proponent of technological advancements in order to achieve a greater degree of integration and cooperation within the service branches. High technology combat forces are also supposed to help lead to a lighter and more mobile force structure being the centerpiece of the American military and the creation of a lighter and more mobile force structure may well be aided by significant improvements in the American military's ability to use airpower in a conflict. Secretary-designate Gates should be asked how much he will commit to the technological revolution going on in the military and how he views the impact of technological transformation on the evolution of the military's force structure and deployment capabilities.

  • Peacekeeping. Whether it was intended or not, the peacekeeping capabilities of the American military have now become part and parcel of the transformation debate. As referenced above, Secretary Rumsfeld has been committed to the creation and use of an American military that is lighter and more agile. The Rumsfeld Doctrine runs counter to the Powell Doctrine, which relied on the use of overwhelming force. Will Secretary-designate Gates opt for the agile force structure or will he resurrect the Powell Doctrine? It might be worth splitting the baby—not so much as a matter of convenience but rather as a way to get the best of both doctrines—by opting for a light and agile force to win the initial military phase of a theater conflict and then employing the heavy footprint called for by the Powell Doctrine in peacekeeping. That's my idea. What is Secretary-designate Gates's?

  • Ballistic Missile Defense. How does Secretary-designate Gates wish to deal with this important topic, especially given the efforts of Iran and North Korea to augment their missile capabilities and their efforts to create a viable nuclear arsenal? We all know that opponents of missile defense will seize upon any test failure as proof that missile defense is per se unfeasible. Does Secretary-designate Gates agree? If so, why? If not, how will he confront such critics so that ballistic missile defense efforts can continue to go forward?

  • Cooperation between the service branches. Apart from technological developments referenced above that are designed to increase intra-service cooperation within the military, how does Secretary-designate Gates intend to get the service branches to work together as a seamless team? In toppling the Taliban, we saw a tremendously high degree of cooperation between the service branches, cooperation that led to a lightning victory in a country that had humbled Soviet military power throughout the 1980s. We saw the same degree of cooperation in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. To be sure, there are daunting peacekeeping challenges in both Afghanistan and Iraq, but the intra-service cooperation we saw in both theaters would appear to be a model for the prosecution of future wars. How will Secretary-designate Gates institutionalize intra-service cooperation? Will there be more peer-to-peer meetings and cooperative endeavors among the leaders of the various service branches? Will there be a greater emphasis on intra-service exercises designed to further the integration of the armed forces?

Iraq will be the biggest front-page challenge for Robert Gates as he prepares to assume his new responsibilities. But military transformation is a tremendously consequential issue that should receive more attention in light of Secretary-designate Gates's appointment than it currently does.


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23 Comments

Progressing backwards
Force transformation, in the sense of relying on a smaller, more connected invasion force, was put to its first tests immediately, in Afghanistan and Iraq. It failed those tests miserably. Why would Bob Gates want to do anything but distance himself from it?

Peacekeeping: I believe Mr Rumsfeld's approach to peacekeeping stands on the record. Five years into the GWOT, do we have as much peace as we had then? Anywhere on earth? Iraq? Afghanistan? Somalia?

If we argue from the record, it looks like Bob Gates' best move will be to click on "system restore", with an effecive date of 1/1/2001.

as usual, roy's positions are influenced by ideology, not reality
The small unit has succeeded far beyond it's designers hopes.

Is there a transformation agenda? Or is it dead due to reality?
I've applauded the idea of transformation to this point, but in light of our situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, is tranformation really whats needed in 21st Century conflict? Our two experiences thus far seem to indicate not.

I have an idea: lets examine the Powell Doctrine and the Transformation Doctrine, and any other Doctrine out there that may be useful, and devise a new doctrine that captures the best elements of all those and addresses real world situations.
Bush would surely oppose this, but maybe Gates has the kahonays to do it right anyway.

That's how the terrorists are operating
Small, networked units with wide latitude to acheive their objective.

Unlike the US defense network at home and abroad that require days for warrants and permission from a judge somewhere.

Interesting book by Max Boot on the subject.

http://www.cfr.org/publication/11713/max_boot_on_war_made_new.html?breadcrumb=%2Fissue%2F56%2Fdefense_technology

Right on Mark, but take it a bit further
If anything we had "overkill" in numbers in Iraq for the invasion. It seems that occupation was never the goal of the transformed U.S. military under any cirmcustances. The design is in place to win the war and it has been very successful.

However, Iraq and Afghanistan have shown a need to secure the invaded territory in certain situations. Perhaps there is a need to develop a secondary "security force" that is larger and works as a follow-up to the invasion force. Either that or we need to decide now to never get involved in any type of occupation ever again.

The two doctrines are not incompatible
The Powell doctrine, as I understand it, is to go in with overwhelming force so that the enemy collapses quickly and completely.

The Transformational Doctrine emphasis small networked units, rather than large divisions.

As to Bush, considering that the plan he signed off on required overwhelming force in the invasion phase and shifted to small networked units in the occupation phase, he has already taken the best of both doctrines and applied them where appropriate.

You would be able to see this if your ideology permitted you to.

Brilliant analysis
"If anything we had "overkill" in numbers in Iraq for the invasion."

Right. That's why when the looting broke out, we didn't have enough manpower to patrol the streets and restore order. So order was never restored, and to this day conditions have only gotten more chaotic, never less.

And that's why the the advance invasion force carefully pointed out all the ammo and materiel dump sites, flagging them so that someone could be sent to guard them. But no one ever was, because the manpower just was not there. And so in time, Saddam's cashiered ex-Baath armed forces regained the weapons, and tucked them away for easy reference.

Yessir, that's why we won the war once, back in April 2003. And why years later, we're still tied down trying to win the same old war.

Big difference
Between winning the major combat operations and securing the area. Gee, I pointed that out, but I guess you didn't read that far.

The force size for the actual invasion was probably at least twice what was needed; but there was no back-up force securing the area and policing the grounds removing weapons and working with the population.

The war was easily won; the peace may never be.

Wrong all around
What you said was nonsensical. You said "If anything we had "overkill" in numbers in Iraq for the invasion. It seems that occupation was never the goal of the transformed U.S. military under any cirmcustances."

First, the invasion force itself was short. The forward troops outran their supply lines-- a basic no-no for anyone with military training. Had they met with any degree of resistance, they would have been stuck in traffic, out of gas. That was a rookie blunder.

Second, what do you mean we had no intention of occupying? If that was the case, why didn't we just leave the day after flyboy had his photo op on the deck of that carrier?

OF COURSE we intended to occupy. We just didn't give the details a whole lot of thought. And once we did see it, the opportunity to regain control had been lost.

Let me ask you a question. Do you think the only thing there is to foreign policy is just to conquer some place, put a point on the score board and then go home? What did you think the objective was, beyond just taking Saddam down? Did the architects of this invasion think the Iraqis would somehow not notice, if their crappy government was replaced by anarchy and not by better government?

Priceless comment!
"As to Bush, considering that the plan he signed off on required overwhelming force in the invasion phase and shifted to small networked units in the occupation phase, he has already taken the best of both doctrines and applied them where appropriate."

That must mean we now live in the best of all worlds, there are no problems in Iraq and we can go home now, congratulating ourselves on a job well done.

Thats true, no one has said they're incompatible
The Powell Doctrine- is to go in with overwhelming force, heavy ground forces that can defend supply lines and flanking attacks, that can conquer a city and keep it stabilized as the main force continues to its objective. The PD also calls for exit strategies and broad international support. Its a comprehensive doctrine for waging war and consideration of all its consequences before engaging a conflict.

The Rumsfeld Doctrine- is to go in with lighter, faster forces that direct airstrikes on the enemy versus major engagements with ground forces. Its a premise that the enemy won't be able to hit us because we're constantly moving position. And major battles of ground forces won't happen because our troops will position the enemy, and then our precision missiles and airpower will destroy them. We'll use advances in communications and targeting technologies to exact destruction with fewer troops on the ground.


A good example of the PD in practice was in the first Gulf War. We had the UN and international community with us, we went in with hundreds of thousands of troops, heavy divisions and ground forces to secure areas as we conquered them.

The 2003 Iraq invasion was an example of the Rumsfeld Doctrine, not the Powell Doctrine.

Which, seemed to be quite successful considering how fast we conquered the country. But there are some serious problems too. As our forces conquered and moved on from city to city, we didn't leave a stabilization force in the cities. Same for ammo dumps and sensitive sites, etc. The invasion force marked them as they passed on their way to Baghdad, but no one else was around to secure the sites, so they were looted by insurgents. We also can't discount the low morale and poorly equipped Iraqi army that we trounced to conquer Iraq. The bigger problem in the invasion was the Fedayeen, small groups of guerilla fighters that weren't pacified as we conquered areas. I could go on.

The point is, there are some good things about the Rumsfeld Doctrine in the Iraq and Afghani invasions, but there are also many negatives we learned. I say lets take the positives we learned from any Doctrines and create a new doctrine that uses their strengths to address real world situations. The Rumsfeld Doctrine was very successful in a very small sphere of operations, but it left gaping holes in other spheres. And thats why I pose the question of whether we should just kill the Rumsfeld Doctrine, in light of what we've learned from using it, or go back to the Powell Doctrine, or some hybrid. I vote for the hybrid, depending of course what it would be. We should learn from our mistakes and successes to be better next time. Thats tough to do if you don't admit any mistakes.


I appreciate the humility of your post, Mark. You didn't douse us with your normal certitude of position. Its obvious you haven't thoroughly read about the Powell Doctrine or the Rumsfeld Doctrine, which is fine, but it is very interesting you're willing to make a conclusion of support for Bush derived from ignorance. And yet you say my ideology doesn't permit me to see clearly? Clean your glasses Mark.

Yeah, o.k.
First, outrunning the supply lines is one of those things that actually happens quite frequently in history. It is a no-no, but it is due more to speed of movement than numbers. Elements of the Third Army did the same in France in 1944 on a few occaisions, and so did forward elements during desert storm, as just two examples.

Thus, that was a stupid example and shows your lack of knowledge of military history. I repeat, that has nothing to do with numbers. Unless, of course, you consider Patton and Stormin' Norman were both just rookies making rookie mistakes.

I never said we didn't INTEND to occupy. I said this force was not DESIGNED to occupy. As i said, the lesson here is that we may need to have a secondary larger back-up force whose job is strictly to handle disarming and occupation issues. Either that, or we never get into an occupying situation.

As to your last: There were two smart ways to do this and neither was done. The first was to get in, destroy the Iraqi military and get rid of Saddam and get out. Leave the government problem to the Iraqis. Not the most considerate thing to do, but it beats the present situation.
The second was to go in with around half a million occupying troops and get the job done right. It would have been a more oppressive occupation at first, but it might all be over now if it had been done. Also beats the present situation.

No argument that the occupation was poorly planned and implemented. The question is what to do from here.

looting
Is there any subject under the sun that you aren't wrong on?

The reason the troops didn't quell the looting was because they weren't ordered to. The higher ups thought that the sight of US troops firing on civilians would be more damaging than the looting. Maybe they were right, maybe they were wrong.

I keep forgetting that anything that doesn't come from the DNC is a lie.
...

Ask the Iraqis
Have it your way. But the third and fourth days that looting continued unopposed were the days when Iraq was lost.

A poorly planned event
I was not there at the time. But the way the invasion was reported, the inability to provide adequate supply lines to the rapidly advancing front force was due to an inadequate number of men. And let us not forget, what I am asserting is a critique of Rumsfeld's battle plan. Commentators on the scene state that the only thing that saved our advance was the fact that, unexpectedly, there was essentially no resistance. Thus, all observers agreed that it was a blunder, and that disaster was only inadvertently avoided.

Not a good advertisement for force reduction.

Next, you make this gem of a subtle semantic distinction: "I never said we didn't INTEND to occupy. I said this force was not DESIGNED to occupy."

So you are saying that Rumsfeld KNEW his force was not designed to occupy the country, and he KNEW the intention was to occupy the country, yet he listened to no one who counselled him to do it differently? I want to get this right. Is this exactly what you are saying?

In local news, it has taken us only one losing season to dump the previously wildly popular coach Chuck Amato from the NC State football program. Yet the team that brought us Iraq and Afghanistan, two outrageously disastrous howlers, is still around after five years of fumbling the GWOT. How is this less important than football?

back to reality - - - - -
Rumsfeld's transformation doctrine was a smash success on initial testing the field, twice. Critics carp "of course it works in practice, but it doesn't work in theory, so let's throw it out". To quote a certain 3rd Army general, Rumsfeld went thru the moslem mass murderer fascist 'armies', "like crap thru a goose". And he even did it with historically low costs in blood, money & time. This is the first test and only essential requirement for victory. Waddya want?

Occupation is a separate matter. With the luxury of hindsight, we should go in with a fully formed regime change government-in-exile (Chalabi & Co.?) and back them to the hilt. That things weren't instantly perfect for the first time in the history of warfare, is the last refuge of Bush haters, and antiAmericanists. Poppa Bush and the Powell Doctrine are the reason that we had to go in the second time, to clean up their mess. Powell didn't want to go, even the first time. If we wimp out now, we'll have to go back a third time, and each time it will be worse.

Little argument
Ahhh… no! Every comment I heard, from anyone worth listening to, simply stated they outran their supply lines. Light resistance did not save them it caused the problem; heavy resistance would have slowed them down. Also it wasn't like they were unarmed; they can do quite a bit with what they have on hand. Also, the sand storms played a big part. I remember seeing imbeds talking about running low on MREs at one point, but I don't remember anyone getting critical on ammo.

I've said all along that the game plan was poorly concieved (especially in iraq; Afghanistan was a different game entirely). I've never argued that this was properly or well done. You must be confusing me with some Bushie right winger.

Okay
The critical item was not ammunition, because little was being used. It was gasoline. Had they had more fuel trucks and drivers they would have been able to keep up.

And had there been an army lying in waiting, as one might have expected, they would have waited until the forward force had run low on fuel and stopped, waiting for the resupply to catch up. Then they would have attacked. This did not happen, but could have. I would consider it a flaw in the strategy.

But in retrospect, a small one compared to the glaring flaw of not having a plan to secure the country, or to rebuild it around a new governing principle. Here the hubris is outrageous, as the Pentagon had a perfectly good plan to work from, as did the State Department. Both plans were thrown aside in peremptory fashion by people who assumed they knew so much more than the planners who had worked for years on such issues.

In Afghanistan, a case can be made for the idea that the lack of nation building is purposeful. It's a denial of area strategy, where the area is intentionally kept as a wasteland to deny its possible use to an enemy. If so, that plan has succeeded brilliantly-- unless you count the fact that the locals will turn to any alternative to American control, and will aggressively support any independence movement presenting itself to them.

Not surprisingly, allied forces are now taking rising casualties there also. So overall, I will stick to my thesis that these campaigns have been devised and maintained by bunglers. Nation building would have been by far the better Phase Two of any successful invasion. It would have had as its first priority the provision of gainful employment for the general population.

Wheres the reality?
I hope you're aware Don that reality is more than what you decide in your own mind.

"Rumsfeld's transformation doctrine was a smash success on initial testing the field, twice. Critics carp "of course it works in practice, but it doesn't work in theory, so let's throw it out". To quote a certain 3rd Army general, Rumsfeld went thru the moslem mass murderer fascist 'armies', "like crap thru a goose". And he even did it with historically low costs in blood, money & time. This is the first test and only essential requirement for victory. Waddya want?"

If this is the only essential requirement for victory, what is happening still in Iraq???

As I said, the Rumsfeld Doctrine was very successful in a small part of the bigger picture. We rolled the Iraqi army and the Taliban with quick moving forces and overwhelming air power. At the same time, those enemies were no match for the American military, there was no resistance in the air, our planes flew with little threat of being shot down. It was a success, but it also wasn't a real difficult test.
Who are the critics saying we should throw out the Rumsfeld Doctrine because it works in practice but not in theory? Thats insane, and anyone saying it is too. Thats you Don, you're the only one saying it.
Yes thats right, low costs in blood and time, thats a benefit of the Rumsfeld Doctrine, and its proved successful. Low cost in money is questionable. I haven't seen any proof of that. A bomb costs much more than a soldier makes in salary, so that point seems doubtful.

"Waddya want?" I want victory. I want a plan to achieve victory. Is that too much to ask? We dominated the first phase- invasion. But now the second phase is not going so well. Thats because there was no plan and there still is no plan.

Occupation is not a separate matter. There would be no occupation if there was no invasion. You can call it another phase if you want, it entails different circumstances, requires different skills, etc., but is most definitely the same war, the same effort.


"With the luxury of hindsight, we should go in with a fully formed regime change government-in-exile (Chalabi & Co.?) and back them to the hilt. That things weren't instantly perfect for the first time in the history of warfare, is the last refuge of Bush haters, and antiAmericanists. Poppa Bush and the Powell Doctrine are the reason that we had to go in the second time, to clean up their mess. Powell didn't want to go, even the first time. If we wimp out now, we'll have to go back a third time, and each time it will be worse."

Don, seriously, try to inform yourself before you post on subjects you don't understand.
The luxury of hindsight? How about the luxury of a plan, that would be a good place to start.
You think installing Chalabi would've been a good idea? The same Chalabi who misled Bush into misleading us to invade Iraq? The same Chalabi who would be wholly rejected as leader by the Iraqi people? Normal people knew depending on Chalabi was a bad idea, hindsight confirms how bad an idea it was, but that didn't stop Bush from depending on someone who was telling him what he wanted to hear.
There is no last refuge for Bush haters. Bush hating is open to everyone, its primetime, its in the light of day and there for everyone, and its justified for the worst President in our history. No rational person expects perfection. We do expect SOME honesty, some accountability, diplomacy, discussion, debate and decisions. A plan, a plan would be nice too, as if I haven't hammered that point home enough yet.

Whatever you say general
"The critical item was not ammunition, because little was being used. It was gasoline. Had they had more fuel trucks and drivers they would have been able to keep up.

And had there been an army lying in waiting, as one might have expected, they would have waited until the forward force had run low on fuel and stopped, waiting for the resupply to catch up. Then they would have attacked. This did not happen, but could have. I would consider it a flaw in the strategy."

The dragons tail must be able to maintain all necessary supplies, on this we both agree. Here's where your sharp assertion runs into the blunt wall of reality and history:

1. running out of gas is definately a problem for a smaller mechanized force which relies on it's mobility. But, when our forces got low on fuel they held up. Had there then been an attack it would have been a small matter to fire up the engines and go get 'em. No unit commander with any brains ran his vehicles dry for just that reason. Again, Patton's Third Army is a perfect example; they were forced to hold up and go on the defensive due to a lack of priority supply. Patton was beside himself as the Germans were able to re-group and bog donw his army. Also, in his opinion, it gave the Germans the opportunity to plan and execute the "Battle of the Bulge".

2. Movement is the problem, they had the recommended supply train for the force size they were using. The problem was that lead elements were running fast and hard and support was unable to set up more forward "supply dumps" as is commonly done (making the trip for supply trucks shorter and faster). This was because of the lack of resistance, not in-spite of it. Had they suddenly meat heavier resistance it would have A. slowed the advance giving supply a chance to catch up and B. been destroyed in spiet of the supply situation as the American forces were never bingo (tanks dry or virtually so) fuel.

The problem was a matter of a few hours, not days, and lead elements would have had all the fuel they needed had the resistance appeared. A lot of arm-chair generals out their have tried to make a big deal out of a lot of little tactical situations; none of which amounted to a hill of beans in the overall attack plan. Great, if you are using them as examples when teaching tacitics at the War College. Useless for any other purpose.

Look roy, on the aftermath of the invasion in Iraq we are pretty close to full agreement. But you obviously know little about military history, tactics, logistics and planning. The attack plan was nearly flawless, and as close to seamlessly executed as any such has ever been. In this phase Rummy was right on. The occupation was another matter entirely. It was unplanned, poorly thought out and the military seemed to have no plan as they sat around doing little once Baghdad was taken. After a few week they seemed to start taking some actions, but you are right; that was too late.

I think we're all a bunch of little wanna-be generals, but its fun to analyze
One point to add is the lack of history with the Rumsfeld Doctrine. It was new for the Afghani invasion, so there was very little historical knowledge of how it works. A part of the Rumsfeld Doctrine is the idea that you don't need supply lines, at least not in the traditional sense. Part of the theory is that the lighter, more mobile units are more self-sufficient, they need to be re-supplied much less.

Rummy was right on in the invasion phase largely because the forces we faced were weak and demoralized. We had total air superiority. Think of it, we probably could've conquered the country with 40,000 troops. Small units running around targeting the enemy so the planes could take them out. I've read that Rummy wanted 60,000 troops, the Pentagon wanted 2 or 300,000, we settled with about 140,000. Thats all fine, BUT:

It was the fact that we didn't secure rear areas, we didn't have the troops to do it, it wasn't part of the plan under the Rumsfeld Doctrine, that the fedayeen was as successful as they were at disrupting our progress and inflicting damage. It also ultimately contributed to the chaos that ensued after we conquered the country, we didn't pacify the cities in the first place, so when we had control of the whole country, and needed probably half a million troops to maintain order, we ended up shackled to a 3 foot chain at the bottom of a 20 foot pool. Overwhelmed. It was over at that point, because we never did react with sufficient opposing force to get things under control. Thats where we get into the failure of the occupation. I say the Rumsfeld Doctrine helped lay the foundation for a poor occupation.

But I'm not saying we should scrap the Rumsfeld Doctrine. To be honest, I think the Rumsfeld Doctrine is hardly even comparable to the Powell Doctrine. The RD covers one part of the bigger picture of a war, the PD is more comprehensive and beckons answers to many more difficult questions about a said conflict.

Thats why I like the idea of a hybrid doctrine. The RD could be a part of a new doctrine that takes the best of many ideas and crunches them into one. As successful as the Rumsfeld Doctrine was in the invasion of Iraq, I think we learned more about its weaknesses than sucesses.

Bravo! Very well said bob
And I agree completely.
Also, I've been against overall downsizing of the Military my whole life. We need an active ground forces of over 1 million and an 800 ship navy with over 600,000 personel. I hate to say it, but the Marines and Air Force could be absorbed into the Navy and Army, and probably should be. This would reduce the level of the in-fighting administrative BS, improve response times and capabilities and improve procurement. If you do absorb them into the other services, you need to improve Army manpower to around 1.7 or 1.8 million and navy to 800,000 to 1 million.

But I am for downsizing individual units. Patton first did this prior to WWII with armored divisions. As the technology has improved, there is certainly room to continue to make individual unit designations smaller and make more of them.

However you do things, a total active duty military of 2.5 million + should be the recruiting and retention goal, not the present under 2 million level. Also, combat ready ground fighting forces should number over 800,000 (actual combat fighting troops). Reserve and guard numbers could remain the same.

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