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Thursday, May 16, 2013


Nagl: COIN works, but requires ‘extra investment’ in time, blood, money.

The principles of counterinsurgency worked when President George W. Bush “doubled-down in Iraq” in the wake of the 2006 elections, but it required an “extra investment” in time, blood and money, one of the principal authors of the Army and Marine Corps manual on irregular warfare told attendees at the EAST: Joint Warfighting 2013 symposium in Virginia Beach, Va. on Thursday.

John Nagl, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and instructor at the Naval Academy, added that under Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Gen. David Petraeus, “the United States Army changed its spots” from a force that “was completely unprepared for occupation” of the country after the regime of Saddam Hussein fell in 2003 to one actively engaged with the Iraqis locally.

Looking at Afghanistan the principles of “counterinsurgency [political-military link, cultural awareness, building local security forces] worked where it was resourced.” In answer to a question, Nagl said, “we don’t want to have to go back and re-take Afghanistan.” Unlike in Iraq, he expected the United States to leave behind 8,000 to 10,000 troops to assist the Afghans and that stay-behind force will help hold congressional support for the effort.

“The all volunteer force has come through these crucibles of blood and fire with great distinction,” Nagl said. But the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have also taken its toll on the force via post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries primarily from improvised explosive devices.

He said he hoped the lessons from the war include “approaching future interventions with greater humility” and that some of the softer skills of counterinsurgency remain in Army training, particularly, as it rebuilds it skills in conventional state on state warfare.

Nagl predicted that the nation would continue in “an age of unsatisfying wars,” like Iraq and Afghanistan in the future.  “Insurgencies against governments have existed as long as men have been governed with increasing danger coming from “states are too weak to control what is happening inside their borders,” using Pakistan as an example.

“Resulting fights will be protracted,” and will be “the kind of war we will most likely face in the future.”

Nagl said, “COIN may be the least bad option. But it’s long, slow and hard.”

The United States Naval Institute and AFCEA co-sponsored the symposium.

Think through what is needed before buying: Keys to acquisition success.

“Real important concepts have to be game-changers,” but how to translate that innovation into reality is tricky in a bureaucracy, the commander of the the  Navy Warfare Development Command said in explaining how the Navy is trying to speed delivery of new capability to operators.

Rear Adm. Terry Craft, speaking May 16 at the EAST: Joint Warfighting 2013 symposium in Virginia Beach, Va., said experimentation was a key and need operator input.  And in an era of tight budgets, answering “What’s the entire cost” question is a must. “Decide what we’re going to buy and stick with it.”

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Jeff Sorenson, , said, the services need to realize “time is cost” and that to hold costs down the military needs to establish technology thresholds, freeze requirements at decision points and establish milestones and rewards.

To speed delivery and ensure troops get the right equipment, James Smerchansky, deputy commander, Marine Corps Systems Command is realizing, the process we have is not the enemy. Rather the military should work on better upfront thinking before writing requirements and specifications.

In an era of austerity, “this is the time we have to be thinking; this is the time to be experimenting” as the Marine Corps did when Gen. Al Gray was commandant and defense spending was coming down.

The accent was on speed to meet immediate soldiers’ needs in Afghanistan and Iraq that led the service to creating its Rapid Equipping Force and Advanced Warfare Group, Allen Resnick, director of analysis and integration at the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, said. “We had to have solutions quickly.”

While the Army is transitioning out of Afghanistan, he said it was important to remember that “our adversary goes to school on us everywhere, everywhere, everywhere.  And I’m not stuttering.”

Because of that, he said the Army is still looking for agility in turning technology to its uses. But is also ensuring that soldiers test equipment before it is fielded through its experimental brigade combat team at Fort Bliss, Texas. “Does it do what you need it to do?” is the question they are asked.

At the same time the Army is setting affordability goals for new equipment before any work is begun.  “What is driving the cost” and then rigorously examining operational requirements to determine “distribution within a unit and which unit gets it,” he said. This can lead to incremental buys and regular product improvement.

On the industry side, Ken Mahler, vice president at Huntington Ingalls’ Newport News Shipbuilding cited two success and one challenge at the yard.  The Virginia-class submarine has been “a very successful program” that has benefitted from the competition between Newport News and Electric Boat.  “The first two in the class took 94 months to build, now it’s 60 month and goal is to reduce it to 58, 55 months.

Likewise the carrier refueling program, now done in 44 months, is considered a success, Mahler said, because it has been sustained and stable with consistent requirement.

“The first of a class is a big new challenge,” he said, referring to new Gerald Ford (CVN-78) nuclear carrier.  He attributed the more than $12 billion cost, among other things, to not having the design completed before construction began and major technology insertions causing the delivery schedule to be extended by four months.  “That will change on 79 and 80” because they will be using similar design and construction techniques as Ford.

Mahler said that Newport News engineers and the Navy are working together “to get to affordability, and [delivery] schedule.”

The United States Naval Institute and AFCEA co-sponsored the symposium.

Bob Work's Advice for the Pentagon

Bob Work — the chief executive officer of Center for a New American Security and former under secretary of the Navy— gave Pentagon leaders advice on how the services should innovate in a time of austerity in Thursday remarks at the EAST: Joint Warfighting 2013 symposium in Virginia Beach, Va.

Work said the greatest threat to U.S. security would be not taking advantage of the current drawdown in resources to create a force structure that makes sense for security threats. The second greatest threat was the current climate of political indecision in Washington.

The only bipartisan agreement in Washington was between conservative budget hawks and liberals interested in increased social spending. Both groups want defense budget cuts.

Work was convinced the bottom in Pentagon funding cuts had not been reached and advised the military, "to quit whining about sequestration." 

He advised military funding going forward should emphasize naval and projection forces. He said an ideal Pentagon budget in the era of austerity should remain consistent for naval, aerospace and special operations forces; for the U.S. to take some risk with reducing ground forces and increase funding for cyber operations.

Along with technical innovation, U.S. forces should begin experimenting with new unit structures to maximize the utility of military assets. Work used the example of French and English navies in the late 1800s. The French were the first navy to employ a steam powered battleship in 1850, the first mechanical submarine in 1863 along with other naval innovations. Despite the French's technical innovations, the British Royal Navy was the better force because it perfected using the available technology and experimented with how its units were composed.

With 12 years of fighting, the U.S. has been unable to experiment with its structures due to war fighting commitments. With two thirds of forces forward and one third in a surge posture, the military's deployment schedule doesn't allow for organizational experimentation.

Work also said the U.S. is unlikely to go to war with China, though they remain, " tough competitor."

The United States Naval Institute and AFCEA co-sponsored the symposium.


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