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“Given prospective resource constraints, the ground forces should seek to ‘use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without’ whenever possible,” wrote Mr. Krepinevich, a retired Army officer who runs the Center for Strategic Budget Assessment.

He said the Army’s future battles are likely to be on so-called “nonlinear” battlefields with no defined front lines. The enemy is increasingly able to secure precision anti-armor weapons that require the Army to constantly update vehicle defenses.

For that reason, instead of fielding a new generation of vehicles, he and analyst Eric Lindsey wrote, “the ground services should do the opposite, pursuing recapitalization and off-the-shelf solutions whenever possible, upgrading existing systems as much as possible.”

The next big idea

Gen. Scales took umbrage at Mr. Krepinevich’s “wear it out” procurement plan.

“This, to the service that has suffered the most in terms of dead and wounded, hugely disproportionate to any other service, to me is just unconscionable,” he said.

At the least, he said, the Army needs the new infantry carrier capable of taking a squad into battle while defeating future anti-tank weapons. It also needs a new mobile howitzer to attack enemy encampments.

What the Army lacks, Gen. Scales said, is a big idea on the scale of the Army’s Air/Land Battle plan of the early 1980s. President Reagan and Congress bought into it, ushering in procurement of mainstay systems such as the Bradley, the M1 tank, the Apache, and the Patriot air-defense missile whose improved versions arm soldiers today.

Retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor, an author and revolutionary thinker on Army warfare, has another view on what the next big idea should be.

He advocates the Army breaking down its current battlefield formations; join the Marines, the Navy and the Air Force in joint scenario planning; and then develop the weapon systems to match the contingencies.

“I think we are talking about an institution that has successfully resisted any serious reform and reorganization for 20 years, and the current outcome is the result,” he told The Times.

“The Army four-stars have sent a clear and unambiguous message ever since the end of the [1991] Gulf War that the Army is a single-service war fighter, and that it has no interest in any form of integrated operations that would diminish Army general officer command and control of Army forces.”

Army leaders say that when it comes to new vehicles, the service cannot wait for the next transformation or a better deficit picture.

“The Bradley does not have the maneuverability and the protection for our rifle squads that we believe we might encounter for those adversaries that would employ hybridlike tactics against us,” Army Lt. Gen. Keith Walker, director of the Capabilities Integration Center, told Mr. Lieberman’s subcommittee.

He said insurgents have made significant advances in armor-penetrating weapons since the 2004 battle for Fallujah, Iraq, where Bradleys protected M1 tanks.

Story Continues →