Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Prophecy of Warfare: Theme Two

This is a really good article on planning for future wars by a talented retired Army major general.

Let me review, at his challenge, the ten themes Scales set forth about future war in 1999. Mind you, it speaks well of him to predict the future and then stand by them when the future approaches. As he notes, predictions about future war shouldn't be about getting the future right, it is about not getting it too wrong to win.

I'll do them one at a time in separate posts. This is the second post. Let me preface this effort with my warning from my 2002 Military Review article (starting on p. 28) about the projected FCS that was the primary weapons system envisioned by those planning efforts:

Barring successfully fielding exotic technologies to make the FCS work, the Army must consider how it will defeat future heavy systems if fighting actual enemies and not merely suppressing disorder becomes its mission once again. The tentative assumptions of 2001 will change by 2025. When they do, the Army will rue its failure today to accept that the wonder tank will not be built.

The second theme from 1999 is:

2. Project and Maneuver Land Forces by Brigades
Land forces will best be able to achieve the necessary balance between strategic speed and sustainable fighting power if all early-arriving, close-combat forces are dispatched and fight as autonomous, self-contained brigades of about 5,000 soldiers each.

In 2000 (starting at page 91) I was in favor of having more but smaller divisions (two brigades) to speed deployment, with the ability to add a third brigade when power is required. I did not think that self-contained brigades would have the power of the same number of brigades in a division.

I did not anticipate the need to rotate forces through Iraq for years, which was definitely improved by having self-contained brigades which the Army adopted during the Iraq War.

And I do wonder if the return of conventional warfare as the prime focus means divisions should be revived as the basic Army unit.

At least for Europe. Perhaps we need a mix of divisions using brigades reliant on the division for support; with more resilience for Europe and self-contained brigades for the rest of the world where flexibility and ease of deployment is more important.

So I'm not sure what to make of this. For the environment foreseen with no peer competitor, the independent brigades--brigade combat teams as they are called--have performed well and were probably superior to divisions as the basic self-contained unit.

I'm not sure if we need divisions now given some talk that precision firepower and persistent surveillance might require dispersal and so require self-contained Army units at a level even lower than the brigade. I just don't have a handle on this.

Theme one is here.