The United Kingdom's View of US Army Transformation

By W. H. Moore | Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly, September 3, 2002 | Go to article overview

The United Kingdom's View of US Army Transformation


W. H. Moore, Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly


From the United Kingdom's (UK) perspective, the US Army Transformation process is one of the more adventurous and exciting military programs in the world today. Emanating from General Eric Shinseki's vision as he took office as Chief of Staff of the Army, it has moved ahead with breathtaking pace. Indeed, it is very hard to keep up with this rate in America, let alone 4,000 miles away in the UK. I will focus on what the UK Army is doing to meet the new challenges of the future operating environment, and then draw out the similarities and differences with the US Army. Let me say at the start, though, that I find the transformation process an entirely logical program, that, if successful, will focus America's Army on the key aspects of rapid effect and deployability, thus making it an appropriate force for the 21st century.

The process would appear to have minimal risk in that it does improve the Legacy Forces thus maintaining a strong warfighting capability at the same time as it is developing both its Interim and Objective Forces. I have no doubt that transformation will be successful, provided that the money is available for all three strands.

The UK Ministry of Defence differs from its US counterpart in that it is more closely integrated; it has to be the UK has smaller Armed Forces and therefore has to make the most economical use of all its scarce assets. The UK Army, for example, does not have its own budget, and procurement of equipment is a truly Joint affair, and this brings me to my first observation about transformation. Despite the rhetoric from the Association of the United States Army (AUSA), I am not yet convinced that US Army transformation has the full support of the other services, and despite the ongoing Rumsfeld review, I am not sure how much Defense support it has (in terms of dollars).

While I realize that I may be on sticky ground in this respect, this is just a perception. I hope that I am wrong. But this does lead me to the next point, that of perception itself.

US Army transformation, to the outside world, seems very focused on equipment and a Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA). And yet this is not the case, as any discussion with somebody from your Training and Doctrine Command or a US Army senior leader will tell me. In fact, the US Army is taking a holistic view of what they are currently doing, but this is not the picture that is often portrayed outside of the United States. You may not consider that such an observation is valid, but if your allies do not have a real grasp of what you are up to, they will find it difficult to work out how we might best work together. I will return to this point.

The UK took a close look at its future in the Strategic Defence Review of 1998, a year after the Labour Government came to power. It was clear that the UK faced no clearly identifiable strategic threat, and while its first priority was to ensure the defense of the UK, the Armed Forces were to pursue a more expeditionary role.

But how were they to be configured for such a mission?

A look at how they might operate in the future would see a battlespace that has many more players than it had during the Cold War. In the UK Army, we would see ourselves operating more closely with the maritime and air components to project power to where it was truly most needed. More, and very different, allies would be involved in coalitions of the willing. In addition, there would be many more interested parties in theatre than hitherto. Contractors, other governmental departments, nongovernmental organizations like the Red Cross and charities, the United Nations, bodies like the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and multinational cartels all of whom would be in theatre before us, and would remain behind long after the Armed Forces had left. People possibly the neutrals who would either be dependent upon armed forces, supportive of their actions, or downright hostile to their mere presence, would also complicate the issue. …

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