Academic journal article McNair Papers

4. Moving the Force in Future Conflicts

Academic journal article McNair Papers

4. Moving the Force in Future Conflicts

Article excerpt

Preparation for the preservation of our freedom must come in peacetime, and we must pay for it in money and inconvenience. The alternative is payment in blood and extinction.

General Brehon Somervell U.S. Army Services Commander, World War II

Had Saddam Hussein been a good military tactician, he could have manipulated our weaknesses and caused a prolonged, costly battle much longer than the 3-day routing. Future enemies need only exploit the lessons of the Gulf War to disrupt America's deployment and sustainment by:

* Capturing, disrupting, or destroying rival ports to slow or eliminate U.S. ability to close and sustain equipment and forces.

* Mining harbors to prevent amphibious assaults or over-the-shore cargo discharge, taking advantage of American weakness in mine clearing. (At sea, the lack of U.S. minesweeping ships may have been a factor in our decision not to stage an amphibious landing into Kuwait.) (1)

* Interdicting sea and air lanes to bottle up the movement flow of U.S. forces and equipment. (Iran recently bought three Russian submarines, with an option to buy two more).

* Employing nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons on ports and main supply routes.

* Taking first strike action and follow through, before the United States can deploy forces.

* Employing terrorism or other means to destroy or disrupt key American ports, intermediate staging bases and coalition ports.

To avoid these pitfalls, U.S. strategy will have to face these new realities:

* Geography separates America from most of our vital interests by long distances over water, requiring a viable means of long-range strategic lift.

* Crisis response strategy requires more strategic lift that cap. quickly surge, and the ability to place necessary war materials nearer to a potential battlefield. We had to rely on others during the Gulf War;, their assistance may not be available the next time around.

* The United States will never have enough lift for all scenarios, but the U.S. role on the world stage demands sufficient capability to project a decisive force to at least two regional flashpoints in time to ensure success.

* To save cost and lives, we will need to go with enough force to get the job done quickly.

* The defense budget will continue to shrink.

* Pressure will increase to find economies of scale to save acquisition and transportation costs.

* Few regional scenarios have sufficient infrastructure to support U.S. force requirements.

* The value of information, communication and space systems will a play a critical role in optimizing the global transportation network.

* Americans will work more closely with our allies in intervention operations.

* Increasing the distances forces must travel increases the transportation requirement. As forward presence decreases, the likelihood of strategic deployment from the continental United States increases. Surge lift--quickly available transport--will thus take on ever increasing importance.

* It is not economical for the civilian transport industry to maintain a capacity to move massive amounts of heavy military equipment--a requirement without commercial application. America's next conflict may not call for the full mobilization of the armed forces. So, unlike the Gulf War, we cannot expect to rely so heavily upon commercial transportation to support future deployments. Only increased organic military transport can meet this challenge. (2)

* The capability to deploy sufficient forces quickly provides an early response to crisis. This early response will reduce the forces required later, when more lift options may be available to deploy them. (3)

* The duplicate supply systems among the Army, Navy Air Force and Marines complicated and slowed the movement flow. Such inefficiencies and redundancies, if not corrected, will plague us again in future operations, at the expense of timely deployment and effective sustainment. …

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