Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Is John Nagl on the New York Times editorial board?

The Defense Department just announced that our NATO allies are falling short in their commitment to deliver more institutional trainers to Afghanistan, necessitating a stopgap deployment of about 150 U.S. Marines and a U.S. Army battalion through the end of the summer. The Times weighs in with an op-ed decrying this development:

NATO agreed that non-American members would provide half of the 5,200 trainers.
Since December, those capitals have pledged to send only 1,000 trainers, and they have been very slow to deliver. Mr. Gates is now expected to send Americans to cover 600 of these slots for 90 days.

While the Americans are close to complement, General Caldwell also had to fight hard to secure enough troops to fill the American slots as well as management positions on his staff. For all of the talk about new missions and new thinking, there are still a lot of brass — and those who want to become brass — who don’t consider training a warrior’s job or a path to promotion. That culture needs to change.

American and NATO officials also need to look seriously at creating a standing corps of combat advisers who are trained and equipped to develop indigenous national security forces in overseas conflict zones.

That last couple of paragraphs are the most interesting for me. There's obviously merit to the idea of institutionalizing a training and advising capacity in the American land forces, but there's a lot of debate about the best way to do this. Nagl has been calling for the establishment of a 20,000-troop standing advisor corps for the last several years, and the Army has dismissed his suggestion for a whole host of sensible reasons. It's interesting to me that the New York Times wakes up one day to an advisor shortfall and suggests that "American and NATO officials... need to look seriously" at this problem, as if the Defense Department and the Army haven't been doing exactly that for the last four to six years.

So what do you think? Permanent advisor corps (pdf)? Modular brigades augmented for security force assistance? Bifurcated, Krepinevichian army (pdf) with separate forces for the different points of the spectrum of conflict?

17 comments:

  1. Gulliver:

    Are you asking what the Army should do, or what the Army will do (or both)?

    I see all three options you laid out as unlikely. The "Hey You" model laid out by John Fishel in the Mosul Case Study (available on SWJ) seems to me most likely. Making that model career enhancing would probably be difficult, but perhaps most effective, everything else being equal.

    (Yes, I recognize I have no empirical support for anything I just wrote.)

    ADTS

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  2. I'm asking for your opinion about the right course. We already know what the Army is doing and will do, absent a significant shift in outlook and policy.

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  3. Gulliver:

    First, I'm outside the Beltway and not a thinktanker, so I'm not as familiar with the policy options floating around.

    Second, to me, in a way I posed a false dichotomy. What the Army would do partially determines what the Army should do - to ignore the Army's reaction would be folly (something which Krepinevich would probably agree, if I read "The Army and Vietnam" correctly).

    All said, a bifurcated military does not seem feasible. I suppose it makes a fair amount of sense, but *only* a fair amount of sense. The institutional restructuring that would be required seem to me unduly onerous. How would one "run" two parallel militaries? Would one have separate CGSC tracks, for example?

    The idea of a permanent advisor corps would seem to me to pose many of the same problems. How would one, for example, set up career paths and incentive structures (see, eg, Rosen, "Winning the Next War" for how to institutionalize military innovation)? Moreover, while I recognize they're not scalable, won't some object that FID/SFA is already an SF mission?

    The best option of the ones you laid out, to me, would be to retain the basic Army structure of BCTs with augmented SFA contingents. This seems to have been the model for helping the Iraqi Army win the Battle of Basra; embedding "normal" forces, while admittedly not involved in bringing the Iraqi Army up to standard, nevertheless helped the Iraqi Army win.

    Actually, to me, the best option is Fishel's, albeit modified from "Hey You" to "Hey You, Let's See If You Have What It Takes To Be An Advisor" (I'm thinking of Daniel Bolger's article in Military Review, "So You Want to Be an Advisor.") Find out who actually *wants* to be an advisor, give them some form of training, send them off to be advisors, and then have them return to a "normal" career track. They'd be small teams - not permanent advisors, not part of a bifurcated military; arguably part of a BCT with SFA augmentation - but essentially, something more than an ad hoc team of advisors, but nothing that really changes the institutional structure of the Army for any great duration.

    ADTS

    A permanent advisor corps also seems unlikely to me

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  4. ARFORGEN will solve everything.

    http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf&AD=ADA490977

    SNLII

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  5. I fully support the establishment of a permanent advisory corps, so long as it is not in the Department of Defense.

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  6. I fully support the establishment of a permanent advisory corps, so long as it is not in the Department of Defense.

    This is an interesting idea. Can you elaborate?

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  7. ARFORGEN will solve everything.

    Indeed, that seems to be the Army's approach. Well, so long as "everything" is the problem of retaining force structure once the wars are over. Curious how the linked article demonstrates that, though.

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  8. Yeah, the advisory corps gig that Nagl and the rest of the marketers at CNAS have been hyping up is part of an integrated "whole of gov't" pipe dream. A good first step would be giving the advisory corp mission to some other department in order to prod at least one other dept into actually doing something to develop some capability that could fit within a "whole of gov't" framework. Maybe State?

    Also, sending a bunch of non-DoD advisors into a country is perceived differently than sending Soldiers and Marines in an advisory role.

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  9. Schmedlap -- Yeah, the advisory corps gig that Nagl and the rest of the marketers at CNAS have been hyping up is part of an integrated "whole of gov't" pipe dream. A good first step would be giving the advisory corp mission to some other department in order to prod at least one other dept into actually doing something to develop some capability that could fit within a "whole of gov't" framework. Maybe State?

    I appreciate the point you're making, but we have to put the blame here on Congress more than on the other departments. After all, the funding has to be there before there can be a significant amount of organizational change. They're not gonna do it by themselves.

    Also, sending a bunch of non-DoD advisors into a country is perceived differently than sending Soldiers and Marines in an advisory role.

    While this is true, it cuts both ways: in many countries, having US military on the ground is precisely what the host nation wants. I recognize your point about visible uniformed presence in politically-sensitive places, but in Saudi or Kuwait or UAE, for example, they want green-suiters.

    And that sort of just nibbles around the real problem with your suggestion, which is this: how the heck do a bunch of civilians (or more likely, contractors) in State Department employ teach Botswanan infantry, for example, how to fire and maneuver?

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  10. Gulliver,

    I'm not pointing fingers at the other departments. I'm just saying the ball isn't moving forward toward any "whole of gov't" ideal. Is it because of funding? Probably. So blame Congress. Whatever. I don't care whose fault it is. I'm just saying, it's not happening at the moment. Tasking a department with the advisory corps mission and then giving them the resources to pull it together might help to get the ball rolling. Again, is it the fault of Congress? I don't care. But if it is, go ahead and blame them. Whatever.

    ... in many countries, having US military on the ground is precisely what the host nation wants. I recognize your point about visible uniformed presence in politically-sensitive places, but in Saudi or Kuwait or UAE, for example, they want green-suiters.

    If the host country wants troops and we're willing to send them - then go for it. If non-DoD folks would be better, then a non-DoD advisory corps would be nice to have. Your comment seems like more of an observation than a dilemma.

    how the heck do a bunch of civilians (or more likely, contractors) in State Department employ teach Botswanan infantry, for example, how to fire and maneuver?

    I've taken surprisingly good courses from contractors that covered everything from marksmanship to small unit tactics to low-profile ops. I'm pretty sure we've got the know-how in our contractor rolodex. There are a lot of Blackwater sleeve-tattoo retards out there, but there is also a lot of talent that goes unnoticed by the media.

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  11. If the host country wants troops and we're willing to send them - then go for it. If non-DoD folks would be better, then a non-DoD advisory corps would be nice to have. Your comment seems like more of an observation than a dilemma.

    Yeah, I mean, ok, but we're talking about coming up with a comprehensive solution here, determining what capabilities need to be institutionalized and where. It's fine to say "where needed, as needed," but that's not a planning construct.

    I've taken surprisingly good courses from contractors that covered everything from marksmanship to small unit tactics to low-profile ops. I'm pretty sure we've got the know-how in our contractor rolodex. There are a lot of Blackwater sleeve-tattoo retards out there, but there is also a lot of talent that goes unnoticed by the media.

    My point isn't to disparage contractors. In fact, the current U.S. Army regulation on security assistance training (which is to say all actual TRAINING provided to foreign customers under sales cases and whatnot, not exercises and seminars and SF-type stuff) mandates that sourcing for foreign training missions starts with contractors. You have to prove a compelling need before they'll source that mission with green-suiters.

    The point is that this isn't really a sustainable solution, both because if contractors can perform the mission, then they'll cut back all the force structure that the Army wants to keep around, and because the DoD probably doesn't want to outsource what you'd think constitutes an inherently military/governmental function. You're not institutionalizing any capability when you farm it out to contractors. And that's fine too if you want to accept that this isn't an important mission area for the military and the nation, but we've decided otherwise.

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  12. Gulliver,

    You asked a few questions. I gave blog comment-section worthy responses.

    Yeah, I mean, ok, but we're talking about coming up with a comprehensive solution here, determining what capabilities need to be institutionalized and where. It's fine to say "where needed, as needed," but that's not a planning construct.

    WTF? No we're not coming up with anything comprehensive. I floated a very broad, general idea. You posed some broad questions. You got broad responses. Let's back up and look at the few details that you're extrapolating wide-ranging assumptions from. Given the current DoD and a hypothetical advisory corps under some other department, we get a hypothetical mission set that includes countries that prefer green suiters and some that don't. My general idea: if it is in our interest to send personnel, send green suiters to the former and advisors to the latter. Where in there did I discuss anything about institutionalizing, determining capabilities, number of personnel, etc, etc? Or are you just trying to goad me into typing and uploading a 200-page proposal? Not gonna happen.

    The point is that this isn't really a sustainable solution, both because if contractors can perform the mission, then they'll cut back all the force structure that the Army wants to keep around...

    You asked a question about how contractors could do something. I responded. I didn't realize that by answering a question that asks, "if we do X then how do we achieve Y?" that I was by implication asserting that "we must do X." I'd like to see State start hiring a lot more people - FSOs, diplomatic protection, etc - and a full-time 20-year career corps of non-military folks who can fill the advisor niche would be a nice addition in my view. Yes, I realize this requires intervention by Congress. I doubt that even Congress is so stupid as to tell State, "hire thousands of people and incur decades of legacy costs" and not give them any money.

    You're not institutionalizing any capability when you farm it out to contractors.

    I agree.

    And that's fine too if you want to accept that this isn't an important mission area for the military and the nation, but we've decided otherwise.

    I'll accept for the sake of argument that an advisor corps is important for the nation. I've yet to hear or read an argument for why it must be created within DoD, other than to fulfill Nagl's desire to see Advisor tabs being sold in the PX. What I have read above is that, given current regulations, it's probably not wise to man it with contractors. Ok, then don't.

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  13. We have an Advisory Corps already...they are called Army Special Forces and they were damn good at it (both in FID and UW) until they fell in love with Direct Action in the current war(s). There is still an active insurgency within SF to get back to their roots, but the romance of DA is a strong pull.

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  14. We have an Advisory Corps already...they are called Army Special Forces and they were damn good at it (both in FID and UW) until they fell in love with Direct Action in the current war(s). There is still an active insurgency within SF to get back to their roots, but the romance of DA is a strong pull.

    You're right that FID is the traditional role of SF, but they don't have the capacity to do the sort of large-scale SFA that's been required during the ongoing wars. Further, it's not clear that the capacity exists in SF to do all the Phase 0 SFA that will be required into the future (just as a matter of sheer numbers). And on top of all that, if we say "SF can do SFA just fine!" then the Army can't use the SFA mission as a justification to retain force structure after the wars wind down.

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  15. I think SF could very easily have done it if they went to 12 month tours like the rest of the Army, got out of the DA mission (leaving it to CAG, 75th RR, and NSW)which is where most of their casualties come from, and kept a reinforced SFG in Iraq and another group in Afghanistan, especially now with four battalions per group and an STB per group. Army Special Forces is big on touting how an ODA can take a bunch of rag tags and make a battalion out of them.

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  16. How would 12 month tours help?

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  17. We had the seeds of an Advisor Corps with the TT program which is dying a slow death due to zero support from the conventional side and no interest/burning contempt from the SOF side. I fully believe that we need a military based advisor solution (civilian agencies lack all the systems to deploy and support), however your not going to see the Army or any other branch jump at this. Like SF in the 50-60s it would be a fight to get recognized and would require serious political pressure. In all likely hood we will continue to base our force structure on a legacy force with high tech toys instead of a well educated and trained force. The smoke is in the wind, with the Army "experts" talking about pulling away from "big" COIN and going to FID (small COIN).

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