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Army War Games Provide Azimuth For DoD's Future Force

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 29, 2002 – War gamers at Carlisle Barracks, Pa., are testing the envisioned capabilities of the U.S. military of tomorrow -- a quickly-deployable, interoperable, high-tech force with global reach -- today.

The transformation of the U.S. Army is nothing less than the biggest upheaval in doctrine and equipment since tanks replaced horses, said Army Brig. Gen. Michael Vane, deputy chief of staff for doctrine, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

To achieve military transformation, Vane noted, "We have to change our culture, we have to change our processes, adapt to new technologies, and, in the middle of this, we have to have an adaptive mindset.

"We're well on our way," he added.

Vane was one of several transformation experts who answered reporters' questions April 24 as part of media day at the Army's "Vigilant Warriors 2002" war games at Carlisle, the third annual.

From April 21-26, a group of 500 U.S. and allied military and civilian personnel, sequestered in rooms filled with wall-mounted maps, telephones and computer terminals, conducted "table-top" exercises at Carlisle. The war gamers focused on using expected military capabilities of tomorrow -- to include the Army's future Objective Force -- to mitigate several global crisis scenarios set in the year 2020.

Lessons learned from this year's war games not only assist the Army in development of its Objective Force envisioned around the year 2020, Vane remarked, they also address service interoperability capabilities espoused by DoD's Joint Vision doctrine.

Why change the U.S. military? Vane rhetorically asked. The world situation has changed greatly since the Cold War ended a decade ago, he remarked, pointing to the absence of a peer competitor for now that can militarily challenge America.

However, Vane noted that the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States have proved that asymmetrical warfare can be waged against the United States and its allies. The U.S. military must begin to transform itself for the future now, he said, using available technology to prepare for a mix of threats to national security, at home and abroad.

Scenarios depicted in this year's Vigilant Warrior exercises include cascading military-strategic crises in the Far East, Indonesia, Latin America, the Balkans, the Caspian Sea region, and homeland threats to the United States, noted Bill Rittenhouse, TRADOC's director of war games.

Rittenhouse noted that the war games provide military planners the opportunity to obtain operational understanding of the effects and capabilities of military transformation.

However, the war-gaming process "goes beyond" addressing and solving mock military-political emergencies, he explained.

"It gets to the notion of strategic responsiveness across the spectrum, as a part of this joint team," Rittenhouse continued. "It gets to change within our process of change, our institutions for that, our culture, our philosophy toward war fighting."

Most importantly, Rittenhouse said, war-gaming helps U.S. military planners to understand how emerging American technology could be applied to military needs, as well as technology available on the international marketplace.

This is, he added, "all for the purpose of providing an Objective Force as a member of the joint-combined team that has the ability to assure our allies, dissuade and deter our adversaries and, when the time comes, to decisively defeat" anticipated threats.

The 2002 exercises at Carlisle involved increased combined arms or joint participation, Rittenhouse noted, as compared to more Army-specific scenarios in previous years. It would take several days to resolve this year's mock global "hotspots" at Carlisle, he noted, that in real time would last more than a year.

The Army is now working on its rapid-deployable Interim Force, which consists of fast-deployed, medium-weight infantry brigades equipped with the Stryker multiwheeled, armored vehicle. The 38,000-pound Stryker can be airlifted to global hotspots by C-130 transport planes. Units equipped with the behemoth, 70-ton M-1 Abrams tank, which must be shipped to theater, take much longer to deploy.

"The Interim Force is a bridging strategy. We want to find out more about the leadership, the training, the deployability, the organization of our Objective Force," Vane said. "Technology today only has so much capability, but we know what technologies we want in the future, so let's put a few (available technologies) out there in this force that's full-spectrum capable.

"It's not only for war fighting, it's also a bridging strategy to how we change," he added.

Rittenhouse said Army planners expect that brigades equipped with Strykers could be deployed to world hotspots within 96 hours, much faster than heavy armor units. It took six months to deploy U.S. forces to the Mideast for Operations Desert Shield and Storm, primarily because tank units had to be transported by ship.

Digital communications partnered with unmanned aerial reconnaissance sensors will enhance these units' ability to instantaneously pinpoint the whereabouts of friendly and enemy forces, Rittenhouse noted. When matured, the capabilities of these units, now called Initial Brigade Combat Teams, will be shared across the Army and incorporated into the Objective Force of 2020, he said.

Some Carlisle war gamers portrayed administration officials, Joint Task Force and combined command commanders in chief, special operations commanders, and other military and diplomatic officials.

"My own role is to try to put it all in a broad national security framework," said Lawrence Pope, a retired U.S. diplomat and ambassador who served in North Africa and the Middle East.

The Army's Objective Force "will be a very sharp sword, clearly," Pope continued, "and the sharper the sword, the more precision is required in using it, I think."

Technology-enhanced reconnaissance and communications capabilities will provide the future Army with information dominance, he said, noting it will "have insight into the opponent, which enables it to attack the opponent in a way that we can't do now," he explained, "It will understand the opponent's strengths and weaknesses better."

Pope emphasized that such enhanced U.S. military capability "makes it even more important that you get the politics and the national interest side of it right before it's used."

Army Maj. Gen. Jerry Boykin, commanding general of the Special Warfare Center, Fort Bragg, N.C., worked the war game as the special operations forces commander for the American Joint Task Force in the Indonesian scenario that involved a fictional U.N. action to separate warring factions.

"The idea is to get them separated and then be able to transition to a U.N. peacekeeping force," Boykin said. The exercise is "very interesting," he noted, because the war gamers interact with other services as well as the Army.

The Indonesia scenario is a joint operation involving all the services. "The Marines have a fairly robust force afloat. The Army is playing its Objective Force, and then we have the Air Force and the Navy playing their future technologies," Boykin said.

He said the war game scenarios test the future U.S. military by asking questions. "Is our force multifunctional enough to be able to operate in a high-intensity conflict, which is more of what is being played in the Caspian scenario, and the low intensity end of the spectrum, which is what we're playing?" he asked.

"Is our force flexible enough to do that?" he continued. "And if it's not, what are the additional requirements that we need to build into our capabilities?"

Conceptually, the war games are proving "that we're on the right track," Boykin said, noting that a lighter and more deployable U.S. force is a key to success.

"We can get there quicker," he noted.

Boykin said U.S. airborne and air assault troops would come in handy in his Indonesia scenario, as it is located in a part of the world with few improved roads. He said robotics and UAVs would be widely used for high-human-risk surveillance, reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering missions.

"If I can send a robot or a UAV to find the enemy, that's far more preferable," he remarked.

Boykin noted more long-range air transport and fast sea transport would be needed to move troops for his scenario.

"Unquestionably, the Navy and the Air Force have got to have the assets and the resources to move the Army," he said. "We've got to have that to be able to get to the battle."

Another important element "is to make sure that we have the compatible command and control communications systems that in fact will allow us to integrate," Boykin said, noting that U.S. forces today are moving away from the term integration.

"We really want to see DoD build an interdependence into its future concepts and structure," he continued. "So, it's not just a matter that we integrate, it's that we are dependent upon each other."

Other war gamers played the opposition, developing and launching strategies and counterforces to stymie American and allied military attempts to resolve crises.

Rick Sinnreich, opposing Red force commander facing Boykin, noted that his task as part of Vigilant Warriors is to disrupt U.S. and allied "Blue" forces that try to prevent insurrection in a country in the region.

"Give me a threat that won't roll over, that tries to be really nasty, and there's a problem," Sinnreich said.

Throughout the war games, the Army is trying "to make it as difficult for themselves as they can, so that they have some assurance: 'Boy, if it will work against that, it will probably work,'" he added.

The Caspian Sea scenario involved competing regional interests, and eventually war, over oil and natural gas, said retired Marine Corps Col. Darrell Combs, an infantryman by trade who portrayed the deputy opposition force commander.

Combs said his forces seized territory near an important pipeline. After diplomatic efforts failed to resolve the situation, he noted, American troops were sent to the region.

"There has been 30 days of pretty intensive combat, with the Army's Objective Force being the key maneuver element that's come against us," Combs said, adding, there'd been some air combat, too.

Combs said his air force is unique in the Caspian scenario. It's comprised entirely of unmanned aerial vehicles.

"We don't have pilots in our Air Force, except for helicopters. We spent our money on (armed) UAVs almost 1,000 of them," he explained. "We're using them as 'niche' technology against the Army's Objective Force, which is a very capable force."

The Army's Objective Force in the Caspian Sea scenario is very rapidly deployable and gets to the battlefield with a lot of capabilities, especially in communications and intelligence-gathering, he continued.

As part of early lessons learned in the scenario, Combs noted, the joint community is going to have to weigh in to provide adequate air transport capability to get the Objective Force to the battlefield "so it can be fully effective."

Army transformation efforts are headed in the right direction, Vane said. As Army transformation continues, he added, more attention needs to be paid to joint operations.

"We can't transform and come up with a new way to do something without fitting in, and so we have to interweave with the joint process," he concluded.

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