- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 13, 2005

On July 27, Gen. Richard Cody, the Army’s vice chief of staff, announced major, across-the-board changes that reflect a radical and long-needed transformation. Congress must scrutinize these changes as they relate to a mix of ongoing Pentagon studies, reviews and commissions to make certain they do not become stalled by bureaucracy and politics. Congress must also insure funding of the Army’s transformation, which goes well beyond relocating and equipping our battle-hardened force.

As the Army fights with 17 brigades overseas, it is simultaneously transforming into a modularized, expeditionary force that will primarily be based in the U.S. and capable of quickly moving anywhere in the world to fall on pre-positioned equipment to engage a range of threats.

This radical makeover is part of the Pentagon’s ongoing transformation and the Global Defense Posture, a 10-year plan to lessen the country’s footprint in other nations. It includes relocating 50,000 soldiers from Europe and Korea to forts in the U.S., simultaneously creating new brigade-sized units, growing the Army by 30,000 new soldiers and realigning forces. Most Army posts will be impacted and many soldier families will soon pack up for new homes.

Gen. Cody promises the service-wide makeover will give the Army more predictability, rapid deployability and increased stability for soldier families — an important retention factor for the over-stretched service.

The Army’s transformation is linked to four moving parts still being worked by the Pentagon: The Overseas Basing Commission, Base Realignment Commission, Quadrennial Defense Review and the Mobility Capability Study.

The Overseas Basing Commission and the Base Realignment Commission either looked or are looking at military facilities for closure or other uses. The congressionally-mandated Quadrennial Defense Review, due February 2006, is an every-four-year effort to create the best-structured, -trained and -equipped force to meet our defense strategy. The Mobility Capability Study examines the intra-theater airlift needed to support the defense strategy.

“All four of these pieces brought together are … meant to dovetail so that the Pentagon can get the critical planning done to satisfy the Global Defense Posture,” according to Principal Deputy Undersecretary for Policy Ryan Henry.

The Global Defense Posture, according to Mr. Henry, is based on estimated threats. With regard to the use of our military forces, Mr. Henry explained, “we cannot predict where, when or in what manner we might need to use those forces.” Flexibility and speed of response are critical.

Because time is short and the threat is serious, the Army is going ahead with transformation even though there is the chance that the outcomes of the four still-incomplete “moving parts” may conflict.

In order to sustain the service’s worldwide combat effort and at the same time transform it to prepare for an uncertain future, Congress needs to protect the Army from adverse bureaucratic and political outcomes associated with the “moving parts.” The challenges are momentous.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers explains the need for radical transformation. “We want to make sure, when we get our forces set here in the early part of the 21st century that they can deal with a wide variety of threats.” He indicated that we cannot focus on just one area as we did during the Cold War. Neither can planners assume that future operations will be run like today’s operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It’s impossible to accurately predict future threats but indicators that inform our understanding of the security environment we face will help us formulate a response. Today, instead of a mass nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile threat, we face suicide bombers, improvised explosive devices, and possibly, crude weapons of mass destruction employed by irregular state and non-state enemies scattered across the continents.

This radical shift in the nature of the threat has elevated our ground forces to a strategically decisive role. Now when diplomacy fails, instead of the threat of mutually assured destruction, we must rely on infantrymen with bayonets to win the battle. The ground force’s new strategic role means it must be ready for global operations at a moments notice.

A study by the Center for Army Analysis at Fort Belvoir, Va., identifies a broad area that faces a future of significant instability. The study, Analyzing Complex Threats for Operations and Readiness, has accurately forecast country-specific instabilities five years in advance with about 80 percent overall accuracy. The CAA’s latest forecast suggests through 2015 there is an arc of likely instability stretching from Latin America, through Africa and the Middle East and extending to Asia.

Clearly, the U.S. can’t station forces in all of these volatile countries, nor should it. Being unable to anticipate all the possible political twists that might influence a president to employ troops, the military must be prepared to send forces whenever and wherever required.

The Army, our nation’s new strategic force, is transforming ahead of the curve. It is betting that Pentagon reviews, studies and commissions now in the mix will have negligible impact on the momentum of its transformation. Congress must shield our strategic ground forces from bureaucratic entanglements and misguided politicians who would trip up Army progress. Congress must also insure the transforming and mostly U.S.-based ground force has reliable foreign country partners, sufficient air transport capability and strategically located and secure pre-positioned equipment sets.

ROBERT L. MAGINNIS

Robert Maginnis is a retired U.S. Army officer, a national security and foreign affairs analyst for television and radio networks and a senior systems analyst with BCP International Ltd. in Alexandria, Va.

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