Academic journal article Military Review

Develop People and Units before Developing Technology

Academic journal article Military Review

Develop People and Units before Developing Technology

Article excerpt

Agesilaus answers a man who asks why Sparta has no walls by pointing to the army and saying, 'There are Sparta's walls.'

--Silius Italicus (1)

DURING THE 1st century A.D., Silius Italicus recognized the supremacy of man over machine as he decried Rome's reliance on its walls to defend it against attack. The French learned the lesson when they saw that the Maginot Line was no match for the Wehrmacht. The lesson-that nation's soldiers, not new technology, are its best defense-is worth remembering as America's Army builds its 21st-century force.

Is the Army in danger of placing too much reliance on new technology? The Army has long studied the requirements for the Objective Force, which it expects to field between 2010 and 2020. The operational and organizational (O/O) plan outlines the capabilities this new force would require. The Objective Force would depend heavily on technological improvements. The plan recognizes the need for a new way of thinking about soldiers, leaders, and units to enable them to use new technology to their advantage instead of relying on technology to make up for personnel inadequacies.

U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Pamphlet (Pam) 525-3-901, The United States Army Objective Force Operational and Organizational Plan for Maneuver Units of Action, states, "By far the most important design requirement of the Objective Force UA [unit of action] will be the development of adaptive soldiers, leaders, and units." (2) Because brigade- and battalion-level commanders of tomorrow's UAs are now lieutenants, captains, or majors, the Army must begin now to design and field the organizations to develop leaders with the skills and attributes the future fighting force will need.

Unfortunately, many of the Army's organizational and administrative requirements undermine the attributes that leaders, soldiers, and units explicitly require for the Objective Force. The most egregious is the Army's individual-centric personnel policy. The individual replacement system continuously rips apart the cohesion that fighting teams need. The Army must institute a unit-centric personnel policy to build individual skills, but not at the expense of operational units. The Army does not need to wait for new technology; such a system is possible now.

Always Ready? Never Ready

In Path to Victory, Major Don Vandergriff explains the origin of the individual-replacement system, which stems from a strategy that assumes the full mobilization of the Nation's resources to conduct war. (3) Chief of the Army Reserve Lieutenant General James R. Helmly recently claimed, "All of our processes are built for wars in which we have some amount of warning time; against a distinct state actor; against which we mobilize a large amount of forces, and then it's over and they go home." (4)

Helmly was speaking of U.S. Army Reserve USAR) mobilization plans, but what he said relates to the Total Army as well. The Army's policies support the notion that there will be a long lag between the decision to employ the Army and its actual use.

Military affairs writer and reporter Elaine Grossman says, "Nearly all the services are organized around a preset rotational base for portions of their force to train up, deploy to expeditionary operations, return for a recovery period, then train up again. The Navy has deployed carrier battle groups in this manner for many years, and the Air Force adopted a similar approach with its Aerospace Expeditionary Forces in late 1999.

"Army officials say their objective is to keep all their active-duty forces at the highest state of readiness, and-at least thus far-have rejected the naval model of a rotational base for their own use." (5)

The Army clings to the belief that all active units should be ready to deploy at any time. Young Army leaders quickly learn that a unit or division cannot stay at readiness condition 1 indefinitely. …

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