Monday, July 02, 2007

Core Competencies

By Cernig

Noah Shachtman over at The Danger Room writes that the Army's poobahs are worried that "the new emphasis on... counterinsurgency may be undermining conventional [big war] capabilities," and cites an article to that effect from the Inside The Army magazine.
“The major concern is, while we’re doing all this COIN [counterinsurgency] . . . do we have battalions that can still do an attack or a major defense, or brigades that can coordinate three battalions attacking an objective?” said Dennis Tighe, deputy director of the Combined Arms Center for Training . “Maybe we’ve got some problems there.”

Tighe added that the greatest concern is not that the next generation of battlefield commanders are learning skills like foreign military advising, policing and reconstruction -- but that they may be learning them at the expense of those hard skills.

...Gen. Richard Cody, the Army vice chief of staff, was the first to sound the alarm publicly late last year. He warned that soldiers need more than 12 months between deployments so that they can complete a full range of combat training.

“We need to reset the sergeants and send them to schools, the lieutenants and captains and send them off, so that we don’t erode and become an Army that only can fight a counterinsurgency,” Cody told reporters. He added that North Korea’s Oct. 3 nuclear test “reminds us all that we may not just be in a counterinsurgency fight and we have to have full-spectrum capability.”

Earlier this year, Maj. Gen. Robert Williams, the commander of the Army Armor Center at Ft. Knox, KY, raised similar doubts.

“I am concerned,” he wrote in the January/February issue of Armor magazine, “based on reports from the field as well as observations of training units, that the long war is taking a toll on our core competencies.”
Noah observes:
when the Army has spent the last five years or so fighting a pair of insurgencies -- and not exactly burnt out the scoreboard with its performance -- isn't it time to make counterinsurgency a core competency? Especially since planners from the President on down are talking about keeping American troops in Iraq for decades?

Of course we need to have an Army that's prepared for every eventuality. But it seems to me like we should be zeroing in on the eventuality that's right in front of our faces.
The military's core competencies, as far as those in the Pentagon's corridors of power seem to be concerned, are keeping the military/industrial complex happy with hi-tech and high-dollar contracts while prepping for that "inevitable" land war with China someone nation like North Korea. What that means for the actual wars being fought right now is amply illustrated by one of Noah's commenters, Christian:
My unit just spent the past year completing two major "warfighter" exercises--that is to say, massive simulation exercises designed to test the ability of our unit to wage a coventional manuever war. Shortly before the second exercise, we were informed that we were to deploy to Iraq in support of the surge, about a year ahead of the original schedule.

So basically, we wasted a year learning these "hard" skills while completely ignoring COIN. A third exercise was hastily added to give us some idea of what COIN is about. There is not an enemy out there who is going to be dumb enough to take us on in a straight manuever fight these days. COIN is where it's at. I wish these old dinosaurs would go gracefully into retirement and let the Army learn what actually needs to be learned.
Maybe the core competencies which are lacking are among the yes-man generals and Bush's neocon political cronies at the Pentagon and in Cheney's fourth branch of government.

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