January 21, 2015 by Lazarus - informationdissemination.net
The Pentagon’s 08 January choice to rename the Air/Sea Battle concept is a poor choice that will negatively affect the ability of the Navy and Air Force to modernize their forces for 21st century combat. It is an attempt by the U.S. Army to insert itself into an operational construct for which it is neither equipped nor trained in which to participate. Finally, this decision demonstrates a compelling need to reform the aging Defense Department organization created by the Goldwater Nichols Act in 1986. This reform legislation was designed to empower joint military institutions to make the best decisions for national security outside parochial service concerns. This name change illustrates that service-driven parochialism is alive and well and well in the Pentagon, and is aided and abetted by joint bureaucrats intent on shaping all problems with the same joint tools, whether appropriate or not.
The U.S. Navy and Air Force are desperately in need of new equipment to wage war in difficult 21st century anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) environments. Both services need new aircraft, (manned or unmanned), to replace aging Cold War platforms. The Navy needs new missiles in order to engage opponents outside A2/AD envelopes. The naval service has conducted an active information campaign to inform members of Congress and the general public as to the importance of seapower in ensuring U.S. economic and physical security. The Chief of Naval Operations’ “SailingDirections” and later "Navigation Plans" specifically identified a need to “communicate our intent and expectations both within and outside the Navy,” and "strengthen alliance relationships and partnerships." The Air/Sea Battle term is one that easily explains service intentions to a wide global audience. Renaming this concept with the awkward joint term “Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons” (JAM GC) will not resonate with the average U.S. citizen, whose support is vital for continued military funding. Such terms make joint bureaucrats in the deep warrens of the Pentagon’s mezzanine level happy, but will not draw the vital public support necessary for strong legislative action.
The joint moniker and apparent Army intrusion in an otherwise Naval and Air Force activity represents an unneeded diversion of U.S. Army efforts. The ground force again appears ready to abandon vital lessons learned from a long, hard counterinsurgency campaign in order to preserve its funding relative to the other services. After the Vietnam War the Army quickly disbanded its counterinsurgency (COIN) forces in favor of a return to conventional expeditionary warfare as represented by the Soviet and Warsaw Pact threat on the plains of Germany. Counterinsurgency lessons learned were left in the dustbin of Army history as the service embraced Air/Land battle for both operational relevance and funding concerns. While this doctrinal change was useful in many ways toward developing present, effective expeditionary warfare concepts, its failure to make COIN an institutional part of the Army handicapped the service for wars since 2003. When the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq degenerated into insurgencies, the Army was forced to re-learn lessons very similar to those painfully gained over the course of the Vietnam War. The Army would best serve the nation’s interests in the wake of the Southwest Asian conflicts by solving the 50 year old problem of how to have both effective expeditionary and COIN capabilities in its organizational structure rather than attempting to couple itself to Air/Sea battle.
Finally, the name change illustrates the increasing need to reform the aging, Cold War- era provisions of the Goldwater Nichols Act. This reform legislation was designed to empower joint organizations to make national security decisions independent of parochial service needs. Now, the need to maintain a “joint” face on all military operations has created its own ossified, parochial structure. The efforts of one or more services to create solutions to national security needs are stifled and suppressed by joint bureaucrats seeking to preserve their own institutional authority. This situation of “joint uber alles” is just one of the problems with the quarter-century old Goldwater Nichols structure. Its transfer of the business of strategy from central, service-based systems that produced successful products like Air/Land Battle and the 1980’s-era Navy Maritime Strategy to regional Combatant Commanders (COCOMs) may have been permissible in a post Cold War environment free of peer competitors with global reach. This decentralized system is no longer possible in the 2nd decade of the 21st century. The global impact of post 9/11 terrorism; the rise of China; and the return of a revanchist Russia (among many concerns); make this 1986-era construct a prime candidate for significant Congressional reform.
Renaming the well-known Air/Sea Battle concept with an awkward, unfamiliar joint term serves no one well. It forces the Navy and Air Force to change their public modernization campaigns. It is a distraction for an Army that should be preparing for its next expeditionary and COIN operations rather than trying to re-enter the coastal defense business. Finally, it shows that both service and joint bureaucratic parochialism persist within the Department of Defense despite the provisions of Goldwater Nichols. Congress should take action to restore easily identifiable names to military concepts in need of public support. It should direct the Army to concentrate on its traditional service requirements rather than compete with the Navy and Air Force in an operational arena for which it is not equipped. Finally, Congress should look at potential reforms to the dated Goldwater Nichols Act of 1986. It should restore the abilities of services to create strategic and operational solutions to global military needs beyond the purview of individual regional commanders.