Reconfiguring the US military for life after The Long War
Summary: Slowly our political and military leaders recognize that the current level of military spending not only strains our resources but also does little to improve our national security. Proposals to fix this deserve our attention, despite the reflexive — often hysterical and irrational – responses from those profiting from the status quo. Here we look at a proposal by Congressman Mike Coffman, with an analysis by Doug Macgregor (Colonel, US Army, retired).
- Proposal by Congressman Mike Coffman (R-CO)
- Analysis by Doug Macgregor (Colonel, US Army, retired)
- About Doug Macgregor
- For more information
(1) Proposal by Congressman Mike Coffman (R-CO)
Excerpt from his Press Release of 23 September 2011:
Today U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-CO, submitted a plan to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to highlight defense budget cuts that can be made without compromising national security. “I’m a Marine Corps combat veteran who cares about making sure that we have the best equipped and best trained military defending this country, but I also believe that we can make additional cuts without harming national security,” Coffman said.
Coffman’s plan would cut an additional $103 billion over the next ten years, on top of spending reductions already planned for by drawing down our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and reducing the end strength of our military that will bring it just above the pre-Iraq War level of 2003.
Coffman’s plan does two things: The first part would expand the size of the National Guard and Reserve by 100,000 and require an equivalent reduction from the active duty force structure to save $90 billion in personnel cost. The second would save up to $13 billion in construction cost by suspending a plan to change the assignments in South Korea from a one-year unaccompanied tour to a three-year accompanied one that will allow service members to bring their families with them.
According to Coffman, transferring the equivalent of 100,000 active-duty positions to the National Guard and the Reserve would achieve a $90 billion savings in personnel cost over a ten year period. For example, the average cost of a U.S. Army soldier is $130,000 per year while that same soldier cost $43,000 in the National Guard and $37,000 in the Army Reserve. Currently, the military has 1.42 million on active duty with 740,000 in the National Guard and Reserve.
Coffman would like to see the 100,000 reduction in active duty personnel come out of the equivalent force structure assigned to Europe and South Korea where there are a combined total of 107,000 U.S troops. By redeploying the equivalent force structure into the National Guard and Reserve, Coffman argues there would be an additional savings beyond the $103 billion envisioned in his plan by closing overseas bases in Europe and South Korea.
Coffman, a first Gulf War and Iraq War veteran, sees a shift in strategy from the costly counterinsurgency/nation building doctrine, which has demanded large troop deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, to a counterterrorism approach that leverages a very light footprint of specialized personnel and equipment to carry out surgical strike operations as currently employed in the war against al Qaeda in Somalia and Yemen.
“I’ve served in the Army, the Army Reserve, the Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Reserve and I know from experience that we can retain our capability while reducing cost by transferring some of our units from active-duty into the reserve,” Coffman said.
(2) Analysis of Coffman’s proposal by guest author Douglas Macgregor
This strategy works if the National Guard is prohibited from deploying beyond America’s borders except in the event of a declared war or national emergency. This is a strategy I would strongly support, particularly if the Guard is refocused on homeland security and disaster relief.
The danger now is to assume that National Guardsmen are ever ready or capable of deploying and fighting a capable enemy; that is an enemy with air defenses, armies, air forces or coastal naval capability. The Guard has never been able to do that without months of preparation and the widespread replacement of its officers and senior non-commissioned officers with fresh blood from the ranks or regular army officers. I’ve trained numerous Guard units from Nebraska to South Carolina and never encountered one that was ready to do much more than constabulary work or static guard. As Patton observed during WW II when he was routinely frustrated with Guard units (from The Patton Papers, p142):
According to Patton himself, a soldier fought primarily for two reasons — hero worship of his commanding officer and desire for glory. Patriotism was not enough, for patriots could defend but glory hunters could attack.
People who insist we’ve fought wars in Iraq and Afghanistan disregard this reality. Only about 10-15 percent of the Soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan were ever under fire and while our losses are tragic, they are a pittance. The opponents were and are pathetic, ill armed and ill trained individuals. The conflicts in these places were and remain colonial suppression campaigns. In the end, we will leave these areas because we cannot afford to stay and there will be no tangible impact on American national security. In fact, our own security may actually improve!
Today, the lesson of greatest importance from Iraq and Afghanistan is not counterinsurgency, but the necessity of avoiding occupation, reconstruction, nation-building, or the pretense of liberation inside backward societies with dysfunctional cultures we cannot change in three years or thirty years. Nothing will survive the withdrawal of our military power except the lingering hatred of the Muslim Arabs and Afghans we leave behind.
Indeed, if the United States is compelled to intervene with military power in the Middle East, Africa or Latin America, then, the United States should limit its commitment to a mix of forces designed to wipe out all known and suspected enemies in the country or region that genuinely threaten the United States and its interests. The target set for such operations must also include people and infrastructure that support the identified enemy. Then, we should withdraw our forces making sure the inhabitants of the region know with certainty that further threats emanating from their soil will result in the same devastating outcome. Clearly, this strategic approach eschews the kinds of missions we’ve seen for 20 years. It also requires a truthful and accurate evaluation of the presumed threat, not the sort of nonsense Douglas Feith and his NEOCON sponsors prepared in isolation from reality or accountability in the run-up to the Iraq intervention.
Organizing ground forces to operate within an integrated Aerospace-Maritime Framework to execute these missions should be the focus, not imaginary future mobilizations to fight on the Asian mainland against a grossly exaggerated Chinese threat. Of course, this approach suits neither the Army nor the Marine bureaucracies both of which stand to lose in the fight for flag officer overhead, money and “people in uniform.” This simply reinforces the desperate need to reorganize the Army and Marine Ground Forces to provide more ready deployable combat power that is complimentary, not competitive in content and capability on rotational readiness than is current the case. This can be achieved at lower manpower levels, but not without sweeping change in the structure and content of these forces to ensure the Army and Marine units bring different, but mutually reinforcing capabilities to the joint fight.
Until we shrink/clean out/reorganize the Defense and Intelligence bureaucracies and rid ourselves of politicians interested in squandering blood and treasure for reasons unconnected to American national security, this approach will be difficult to implement. The good news is that bankruptcy may yet provide the opportunity.
(3) About Doug Macgregor
From his Wikipedia entry:
Douglas A. Macgregor PhD. (Colonel, US Army, retired) is widely recognized as one of the most influential military thinkers of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries.
… Macgregor’s seminal work, Breaking the Phalanx: A New Design for Landpower in the 21st Century (Praeger, 1997) was the first book by an Active Duty military author since Brigadier General William Mitchell, U.S. Army Air Corps, to challenge the status quo and set forth detailed proposals for the radical reform and reorganization of U.S. Army ground forces. His follow-on work, Transformation under Fire: Revolutionizing How America Fights( Praeger, 2003) expands on the concepts and ideas for reform and includes a foreward by a former British four-star general, Sir Rupert Smith.
… Macgregor is now the lead partner with Exec VP with Burke-Macgregor Group LLC..
… Macgregor’s newest book is Warrior’s Rage: The Great Tank Battle of 73 Easting (2009). In it Macgregor explains how the failure to finish the battle with the Republican Guard in 1991 led to Iraq’s second major confrontation with the United States in 2003 resulting in two hollow military “victories” and the tragic blood-letting that continues today in Iraq.
(4) For more information
(a) One of the many prescient presentations by Macgregor
- “Adapting to Reality in Warfare: Changing how the Army and Marines Organize to fight in the 21st Century“, 11 November 2008
(b) Other posts about the work of Douglas Macgregor
- Colonel Macgregor sums up the state of the Iraq War, 2 July 2008
- Important reading for every American who wishes to understand our foreign wars, 7 April 2009
- Powerful and insightful new articles by Macgregor, 10 October 2009
- Macgregor sketches out the global geopolitical picture for us, 18 May 2010 — Includes links to many of his articles.
- Important new articles about reforming our military, a key to balancing the Federal budget, 29 April 2011