Dempsey’s Plans for a Better Army

Craig here.

I’ll give this report from Inside Defense a grain of salt.  But the article is at least worth a quick read.

A draft version of Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey’s “Intent for the Army” lays out a host of markers for the service on everything from acquisition to uniforms, while sketching a narrative about the need for flexibility in the face of budget constraints.

New uniforms?  Oh, not again!

According to the article the memo is scheduled for release on June 15, on the Army’s 235th birthday.  What makes this high level statement important is the lineup of the planets at this time.  The Army WILL downsize, there’s just no way around that.  And the Army WILL retain significant operational commitments in active theaters of war.  So this document might well form the plan, from the Army’s perspective, to close out the current wars, transition off the wartime mobilization, and at the same time step up for the “third war” or “fourth war” which seem to loom on the horizon.

I struggle to find even a single historical parallel that matches the situation.  Even in the closing stages of World War II, when everyone in the room knew “the bear” would be the next opponent, nobody considered a “Win-Downsize-Reorganize-Remobilize” cycle.  Otherwise we wouldn’t have used Sherman tanks in Korea.  So I’m interested to see what experiences the paper draws upon.

As the article notes, the draft follows many earlier public statements by General Dempsey.  He’s  already “called his punches” here.  But there are two paragraphs that caught my attention in the article.

In the area of acquisition, the draft document picks up the oft-cited theme of buying new equipment more often but in lower quantities. The idea goes against the traditional acquisition process of large-scale procurements that offered little chance for in-process modifications to weapon systems.

If there is a dead horse worth beating, it is the inadequacies of the current acquisition system.   But let’s hate the game, not the players here.  I know many working in the acquisition process.  And they will agree something’s got to change.

The other paragraph catching my attention discussed this “Building Partner Capacity” (BPC) mission:

The concept of building partner capacity rests on the idea that U.S. intervention in global crises can be limited by picking factions most aligned with American interests and providing them with material support and training. Such is the case in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the Army has supported fledgling government forces to help them fend off bloody insurgencies.

Perhaps the old guard has finally dropped that 90’s term “nation building” here?   I recall those long, boring lectures about this “new facet” to Army operations that emerged from the dust as the iron curtain collapsed.  The new spin here is that part about “picking factions.”  The old “nation building” notion prescribed a non-affiliated and non-partisan peacekeeper force that would naturally work through the complexities to forge a new “happy land” out there in which the Krasnovians and Mojavians would hold hands and live together in harmony.  Yea, right….

The approach to BPC will emphasize “rule of law” and “anti-corruption.”  That means the national command authority has got to invest a lot of confidence in decisions made on the ground by guys with bars and stripes on their collars.  Those junior leaders will be in effect “picking factions” that will define the BPC engagement.  This also puts the Army in the role of consciously defining the future of the “partner.” All this, of course, when the same Army practically has “apolitical” enshrined as a core value.

I’m interested to see the doctrinal changes this approach brings, as well as the changes to leadership methods.  The bigger question, of course, is how much of this would General Dempsey carry forward as the Chairman of the JCS.

1 thought on “Dempsey’s Plans for a Better Army”

  1. I don’t anticipate that “BPC” will require much evolution in doctrine, certainly not revolution. “Capacity Building” has been in the lexicon for a few years now, at least since my 07-08 rotation. It might gain a little bit of specificity in definition, but right now it is a fairly all-encompassing Line Of Effort in most units, and essentially equates to a new buzz-word for nation-building. Under BPC you can work on whatever your partner needs and still be “building capacity” whether it is security force assistance or economic development.

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