Magazine article National Defense

War Outcome Will Shape Future Investments. (President's Perspective)

Magazine article National Defense

War Outcome Will Shape Future Investments. (President's Perspective)

Article excerpt

As we watch events unfold in Iraq, it would be fair to predict that the outcome and lessons of this conflict will influence the Defense Department's investments for at least the next 15 years.

The post-war hot-wash will not only affect acquisition spending decisions but also tactics, training and doctrine--not to mention the overall thinking of military planners and policy makers about how the lessons from this conflict can help us do better next time.

Operation Iraqi Freedom, as Gen. Tommy Franks said, is unlike any other campaign the United States has ever fought. But this war, like every other war, reaffirms some basic principles. The battles our troops have been engaged in have proved once again that training pays off in big ways and that there is no substitute for well-executed combined-arms coordination. It is no secret that wars are won by those who can maintain the element of surprise and can bring their firepower to bear most effectively. In other words, success in war requires a balanced mix of firepower, information and mobility.

What does this mean in terms of future investment decisions for national defense?

The developments seen so far in this war reaffirm one of the key tenets of the military "transformation" effort that has been underway for several years. The integration of firepower (through combined arms), maneuver and information (also known as network-centric warfare) is critical to the success of "effect-based operations," where the intent is to minimize civilian casualties.

All the services are moving toward network-centric warfare. Their long-term investment plans reflect that. The Army, for instance, is heading in that direction with its Future Combat System, which places the soldier at the center of networked fires and information.

Some critics have charged that our ground forces in Iraq were not heavy or large enough. That criticism appeared to overlook the effectiveness of our combined arms formations. The more important questions are: how capable is the whole combined arms ream, how effectively are the fires coordinated and how fast can the information be passed around. One of the success stories of this campaign was the rapid movement of the 3rd Infantry Division to positions south of Baghdad, effectively fixing Iraqi ground formations. From that point on, joint fires (artillery, fighters, bombers and attack helicopters) weakened those "fixed forces" before they were ultimately destroyed. The success of this combined arms effort was enabled by superior intelligence, superior mobility and fires, and superior integration--all tied together by a robust command and control network.

This notion of "linking the battlefield" will continue to underpin future investments in defense research, development and acquisition. In the Iraq conflict, which presented a complex battle-space, effective network-centriciry was achieved, with mobile command-and-control centers and sensors that gave commanders access to real-time data from unmanned aerial vehicles, from the Joint STARS and the AWACS radar aircraft, from strategic overhead assets and from ground intelligence. Notably, leadership targets were struck in real time. In one instance, time from "go" to bombs-on-target was four hours. In another instance, it was less than 15 minutes.

As good as overall performance has been, additional capabilities are needed for battlefield situational awareness and tracking smaller units at the tactical level. The ability to track individual Marine rifle companies, for example, could help improve our force-protection capabilities. …

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