Sunday, November 27, 2005

Retro Sunday: Back to Basics with an FCS Twist

What do Stephen Biddle, Donald Rumsfeld, and Arnold Schwarzenegger have in common? They’re all advocates of the modern system as the single most important element to the Army’s success. (Yes, as with everything else, preponderance and technology play a role, and need to integrated, but are certainly not on par with the quality of force employment.)

Biddle advocates the ability to cover, conceal and disperse one’s forces, as well as the ability to suppress the enemy’s fire, as the key to success. If you don’t do this (or don’t do it well), your opponent, using such a system, will win virtually every time, regardless of your advantage in technology and preponderance (unless extreme). Rumsfeld acknowledges the necessity of quality force employment. His decision to have brigades restructured into smaller forces, thereby increasing their ability to disperse, conceal, and cover, gives them the ability to mobilize, making them more suitable for both differential concentration and deep defense. He also acknowledges the necessity of junior officers being able to make their own judgments due to changing battlefield conditions. Finally, he downsizes the value of technology. Why? For two reasons: 1) your enemy may be able to match your every move with a technology of his own, thus keeping the playing field level; and 2) technology can not be relied upon. It breaks down. If you rely too much on technology, and it breaks (as a lot of vehicles have become susceptible to sand in the Iraq War), you may be required to fall back on something less desirable. If you’re not properly trained, you’ll be unable to adapt and risk losing the battle. If you are, you can adjust and conquer. This brings me to Arnold and how he supports my case.

Last night I sat on the couch watching Predator (it’s even better on tryptophan), a movie in which an alien hunts humans for sport. Yet even though the alien possessed vastly superior technology (precision guided laser weapons, infrared heat detection), Arnold (“Dutch”) is able to defeat it. “How is this possible?” you ask. It is possible because Arnold adapts his tactics, incorporating the modern system. Preponderance, which he had at an earlier stage, did not help. (The alien killed his entire squad.) He succeeds because he learns to conceal and cover himself against his enemy’s technology. (And what happens to the alien’s cloaking device? It breaks down. The bane of technology.) And while he can’t disperse himself (that would be neat, wouldn’t it?), he does use suppressive fire, at one point using a small explosive to distract the alien, then moving to another location from which to launch his offensive. Were Dutch unable to employ the modern system (or if he did not understand it) he would have lost to the alien (and the movie would’ve been kind of pointless). This scenario can be expanded to include squads, regiments, and battalions. The modern-system would prevail every time. Force employment should be every military’s foundation, to which technology is added.

So my question to those in the know (Ryan Consaul) is how will the Future Combat System (FCS) affect force employment? The goal of FCS is to improve force employment, but what will happen if the network breaks down (or is jammed)? Will soldiers know how to react? Or will training with the FCS create an unhealthy reliance/dependence on technology? (For more info visit: Will the Army be neglecting some core element in its training when it switches to an integrated training approach with automotive technologies? I like technology, but I'm wary of an over-reliance on it.

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