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Sling and the Stone: Composition of Forces (Pt. III)

This is Part III of a three-part series on The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century, by Col. Thomas X. Hammes.
Read Part I here. Read Part II here.

This final installment deals with the makeup of the United States’ Armed Forces, which echoes the days of large-scale conventional warfare. Hammes spends the majority of his time discussing the US Army, but I’ll begin this summary with a few brief notes on those other guys…

In the sea, while our enemies are focused on developing anti-access weapons (e.g., mines, submarines), the Navy is largely ignoring these developments. In addition, the recent war game in the Persian Gulf shows the potential for huge losses were a US fleet attacked by a swarm of small speedboats.

Meanwhile, the Air Force has too many air superiority fighters, and too few transports, tankers, intel aircrafts, bombers, and other special mission tasks. In both cases, the onus has been on delivering a heavy punch, when it should be on flexible response.

For the US Army, six heavy reserve divisions (out of ten divisions total) are too many. Hammes argues that the Army needs less heavy forces, and more “flexible, multi-mission capable, medium-weight forces … for forward presence, quick response, nation building, and peacekeeping or peace enforcement missions.” There is a critical shortage of this type of unit in the Middle East.

Hammes’ ideal unit is able to operate in any terrain (so no large flock of tanks), is prepositioned for rapid deployment to likely conflict areas, and has a staff educated in conducting joint and interagency operations.

Large Infantry and Military Police units are needed for post-battle security, along with good human intelligence and a significant number of Civil Affairs, Engineers and logistic elements saturating the streets. MPs will need to be capable of both community policing and combat operations. Civil Affairs will need to provide basic civil functions, network with agencies and organizations, and help the locals establish governance. Infantry will need to operate as small units to patrol, live with, and advise the local population. Everyone needs to take a lesson from Special Forces.

Intel also needs an overhaul. Operationally, intel needs to worry less about tracking big conventional forces, and more about “recognizing, analyzing, and understanding networks.” The impetus must be on locating the nodes in these networks to either exploit or destroy. Given the sophistication of the enemy, human intel (old-school intelligence gathering) is essential for locating the node. In addition, because the enemy does not need to communicate before attacking, human intel is far more important signal intel (which intercepts electronic communication). To summarize, intel must mirror the enemy, create a similar network of small forces, saturate the population, and track the enemy as police track gang activity.

The Army National Guard is changing many heavy Infantry units to more appropriate Military Police units. For Hammes, the transformation has not been enough. For instance, with the National Guard’s dual roles in conflict abroad and disaster at home, the Guard is particularly well-suited for consequence management. Therefore, the Guard should expand its Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear Explosive (CBRNE) units to provide downrange assistance to hazmat squads in case of disaster at home, and civil support in foreign theaters.

There are major changes being made to the US Army. I haven’t found a good summary article on this transformation, but here’s a wiki entry on the Transformation of the United States Army and a brief article on the “Biggest Change Since 1939.”


Filed under: World

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