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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Donald Rumsfeld Resignation and the Doctrine(s) of Military Transformation 

And with everything else going on, this happened:

After years of defending his secretary of defense, President Bush on Wednesday announced Donald H. Rumfeld's resignation within hours of the Democrats' triumph in congressional elections....

The Iraq war was the central issue of Rumsfeld's nearly six-year tenure, and unhappiness with the war was a major element of voter dissatisfaction Tuesday — and the main impetus for his departure. Even some GOP lawmakers in Congress became critical of the war's management, and growing numbers of politicians were urging Bush to replace Rumsfeld....

With his often-combative defense of the war in Iraq, Rumsfeld had been the administration's face of the conflict. He became more of a target — and more politically vulnerable — as the war grew increasingly unpopular at home amid rising violence and with no end in sight....

Numerous Democrats in Congress had been calling for Rumsfeld's resignation for many months, asserting that his management of the war and of the military had been a resounding failure. Critics also accused Rumsfeld of not fully considering the advice of his generals and of refusing to consider alternative courses of action.

Let's look at the Rumsfeld disagreement with his generals. The following was written in March 2003:

This has been a terrible week at the Pentagon: the worst since the building itself was attacked more than 18 months ago. But as his limo drew up to fetch him last night, one of the most senior figures in the building might just have permitted himself the thin smile of a vindicated man.

His name in General Eric Shinseki. And at a time when generals - whether on active or pundit duty - are the hottest showbiz properties in the world, hardly anyone knows who he is....

[F]or the past two years [2001-2003] Gen Shinseki has been in total eclipse after what appears to have been the most spectacular bust-up with his civilian bosses, in particular Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary.

Hardly any of this the reached public domain until last month when Gen Shinseki told a congressional committee that he thought an occupying force in the hundreds of thousands would be required to police postwar Iraq. Mr Rumsfeld publicly repudiated him, saying he was "far off the mark".

In semi-private, the Pentagon's civilian leadership was far more scathing. A "senior administration official" told the Village Voice newspaper that Gen Shinseki's remark was "bullshit from a Clintonite enamoured of using the army for peacekeeping and not winning wars".

Then the general said it again. "It could be as high as several hundred thousand," he told another committee. "We all hope it is something less." Most of the media were too distracted by the build-up to war to notice. Serious analysts, however, were staggered by the insubordination.

This appears to have been round two of another, more immediately relevant, dispute about how many troops are needed to win this war. In this case, the military prevailed over the original civilian notion that fewer than 100,000 could do it. As even more soldiers rush to the Gulf to bring the number closer to 300,000, the original Rumsfeld plan looks in hindsight to be what the army said at the time: a recipe for possible catastrophe....

[Gen Shinseki] came into office in June 1999 with a clear vision for "transformation" and talked passionately about the army's need to adjust from thinking about traditional enemies to what he called "complicators", including both terrorists and the then little-known phrase "weapons of mass destruction". Gen Shinseki might thus have relished the arrival of a Republican team equally committed to change.

Unfortunately, the two sides had very different ideas about what the words meant. The general wanted a new kind of army, one that could combine the adaptability of light infantry and the power of heavily mechanised forces. His new bosses had other ideas. "They had pre-decided what transformation meant," said one Pentagon source. "It meant more from space, more from air and it didn't involve the army much. That was the essence of the conflict."

This erupted over the Crusader mobile artillery system, which Mr Rumsfeld has scrapped. Gen Shinseki told Congress a year ago it would have saved lives during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan. By then he had already been turned into a lame duck ("castrated", according to the same Pentagon source) by the apparently unprecedented Rumsfeld decision to announce his successor 18 months in advance.

He seems to have been caught in a classic bind: distrusted by his subordinates for being too radical and by his bosses for being too conservative.

Rumsfeld's proposed transformation was discussed in Slate in February 2006:

Consider the Quadrennial Defense Review, a 90-page document that the Pentagon issued today. Rumsfeld has lived for this moment these last two years. Amid the scandal of Abu Ghraib and the disastrous lack of planning for the war in Iraq, he has resisted calls for his resignation in order to solidify what he sees as his "legacy"—the "transformation" of the U.S. military, which he hoped the QDR would embody and galvanize. And yet the document, in its finished form, is a muddle at best, an assortment of interesting ideas with no scheme for translating them into reality....

The document envisions a world where the U.S. military's main missions are homeland defense, the war on terrorism, and "irregular" or "asymmetric" warfare (i.e., wars against enemies that are not nation-states or that use weapons and strategies, such as roadside bombs, that make the most of their relative weaknesses). Much ink is spilled in discussing these new kinds of wars and the new kinds of soldier and command structures that they require. But look at what the Pentagon is really doing, how it's spending its vast sums of money (close to $500 billion next year, not including the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan). With a few notable exceptions (most of them inexpensive), you'd think that we were still fighting the Soviet Union and that the Cold War were still raging on.

Rumsfeld intended to make lots of changes. Back in 2001, when he wrote his first (far more ambitious) QDR, he observed that military transformation required major changes in the budget; that new technologies couldn't be developed, built, or maintained unless many of the weapons geared to old-style warfare were dropped. In preparation for this new QDR, one of his chief aides—Andrew Marshall, the Pentagon's longtime director of net assessment, who coined the term "military transformation"—recommended cutting the budget for tactical fighter planes by one-third. The newsletter InsideDefense.com recently quoted one senior official as saying, "Some people went into the QDR thinking that 'tac air' was going to be the piggy bank to pay for a lot of things."

But it was not to be. The fiscal year 2007 military budget—which Rumsfeld will present next week—imposes no cuts on the Air Force and Navy's Joint Strike Fighter program (a total of 2,443 planes over the next several years). It slightly boosts the number of F-22 stealth fighter planes to be built by 2010 from 178 to 183. And even the QDR touts a plan to deploy an additional aircraft carrier and to resume building two nuclear-powered submarines each year. What these (and many other) big-ticket items have to do with the new kinds of threats, or new kinds of warfare, is unclear.

But one can't say that military transformation is solely a Rumsfeld creation. There are other hands in the pie, as this 2003 article (at the Democratic Leadership Council website) notes:

The swift three-week victory in Iraq was a vindication of a vision of military transformation that began with pioneers like former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff William Owens, was picked up and championed by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and former Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), and is now being taken up by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. What we witnessed was a new kind of warfare based on lightning speed, precise targeting, total information dominance and the adaptability and flexibility to react quickly to changing realities on the ground.

This was written in 2003, when (as Slate notes in a 2004 article) a certain optimism about military transformation prevailed:

Given the quagmire that Iraq has become in the 18 months after the genuinely stunning battlefield victory, is Rumsfeld's brand of transformation—even if it were put in place—the sort of transformation that the U.S. armed forces really need?

"Military transformation"—remember the phrase? It was all the rage in the spring of '03. It's a theory of warfare that envisioned lighter, faster, more agile, yet also more lethal combat forces. And it seemed vindicated by the back-to-back toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan and then of Saddam in Iraq....

At the start of the Bush presidency, Rumsfeld seemed clear on what had to be done. In his "quadrennial defense review" of 2001, he wrote that without such a transformation in management, mission priorities, and weapons procurement, "the current defense program will only become more expensive to maintain over time," and we will "forfeit many of the opportunities" that the new technologies have made possible.

Three years later, that's exactly what has happened. The military establishment has become more expensive to maintain—its budget has risen from $362 billion to $420 billion (not including the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan)—but the extra money has purchased little in the way of "transformational" combat power....

[I]n the words of a report from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments—a Washington think tank directed by Andrew Krepinevich, a former Pentagon official who invented the phrase "military transformation"—Rumsfeld's programs "fairly closely resemble those of previous years and the plan … inherited from the Clinton administration."

Slate goes on to identify the reasons why the military never transformed itself:

Military operations are now run through joint commands—i.e., as interservice endeavors. (U.S. Central Command, or Centcomm, which ran the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is one of these joint enterprises.) But military budgets are still devised, weapons are still purchased, and priorities are still set by the individual services—Army, Air Force, and Navy. (The Marines are part of the Navy, but they've been allowed increasing autonomy on these matters.) Overall military budgets have gone up and down, at varying rates, over the past 20 years—but none of the services has had its apple cart toppled.

For instance, look at the three services' allocations in the FY 2005 military budget that Congress just passed. The Army received $114 billion, the Navy $123 billion, and the Air Force $124 billion. (The total sum, $361 billion, does not include money for other Defense Department agencies or for the Department of Energy's nuclear weapons divisions.) This amounts to 32 percent for the Army, 34 percent for the Navy, 34 percent for the Air Force.

Now look at the Pentagon's archive for fiscal year 1994, the Clinton administration's first military budget. The relative shares are nearly identical: 30 percent for the Army, 36 percent for the Navy, 34 percent for the Air Force.

In fact, go back to fiscal year 1984. It's 29 percent for the Army, 35 percent for the Navy, 36 percent for the Air Force. Go back to nearly any year in the past quarter-century, and you'll see the same pattern. This is no coincidence. This reflects an informal accord among the service chiefs on how to divvy up the budget, and anyone who disturbs this arrangement can count on unleashing a storm of backbiting dissent and bureaucratic warfare.

In short, partly for reasons beyond the control of all but the most tenacious defense secretaries (and it looks as though Rumsfeld, for all his bluster, will not join those ranks), "military transformation" has not begun to gain a grip on the bowels of the Pentagon.

In short, Rumsfeld wasn't done in by the Democrats. Rumsfeld was done in by the bureaucrats. And the new Secretary of Defense, or President Obama's Secretary of Defense, is going to have the same problem.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

I am a two tour Vietnam Vet who recently retired from 36 years in the Defense Industrial Complex working on many of the weapons systems being utilized in the Middle East today.

If you are interested in a view of the inside of the Pentagon procurement process from Vietnam to Iraq please check the posting at my blog, "Odyssey of Armaments"


The Pentagon is a giant, incredibly complex establishment,budgeted in excess of $500B per year. Rumsfeld, Presidents,Adminisitrations and Congresses come and go but the real machinery of policy and procurement keeps on grinding away,presenting the politicos who arrive with detail and alternatives slanted to perpetuate the machine.

How can any newcomer, be he a President, a Congressman or even the Sec. Def. to be - Mr. Gates- understand such complexity, particulary if heretofore he has not had the clearance to get the full details. Answer- he can't. Therefor he accepts the alternatives provided by the career establishment that never goes away and he hopes he makes the right choices. Or he is influenced by a lobbyist or two representing companies in his district or special interest groups.

From a practical standpoint, policy and war decisions are made far below the levels of the talking heads who take the heat or the credit for the results.

This situation is unfortunate but it is ablsolute fact. Take it from one who has been to war and worked in the establishment.

This giant policy making and war machine will eventually come apart and have to be put back together to operate smaller, leaner and on less fuel. But that won't happen unitil it hits a brick wall at high speed.

We will then have to run a Volkswagon instead of a Caddy and get along somehow. We better start practicing now and get off our high horse. Our golden aura in the world is beginning to dull from arrogance.
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