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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with the New Yorker

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
June 18, 2002

(Interview with Peter Boyer, New Yorker.)

Boyer: I have been at work for, as Kevin says, for some time on a piece about the Army. One way to look at it is a profile of General Shinseki's tenure there, which as you know began with his coming in and declaring that there was a thing called transformation on his mind, and that he wanted the Army to be lighter and more agile and more deployable and more lethal, and they were going to do this, that and the other to achieve that by such and such a date. That is what the bulk of the story is, trying to understand and explain transformation.

Now one of the complicators is that there are of course variants of transformation and that's one of the things I wanted to talk to y'all about. And I'm just wondering if there's much more I can say. That's basically it.

Wolfowitz: Actually, that maybe is a good point if I can make an opening comment.

I think one way to think of this Crusader decision which is something very different from simply killing a program or killing a Cold War system, as some people like to characterize it inaccurately, in my view, I see it as a decision to accelerate the -- it's a decision to take those valuable taxpayer dollars and use them to bring on as quickly as we possibly can that transformed ground force capability that is actually envisioned in Army transformation and the Army objective force.

After a lot of thinking and analysis and looking at the problem we came to the conclusion that Crusader was not a bridge to the future. It was much more a barrier to the future. That the money that was being spent on Crusader would be much better spent on accelerating the Future Combat System in the longer term, and to look at longer term capabilities, and in the near and medium term in accelerating the development and instruction of accurate artillery, both accurate canon and accurate rockets. The Excalibur round and the guided MLRS [multiple launch rocket system].

So, I'm trying to think of why I was connecting this to your earlier comment.

Boyer: So Crusader, one gathers in those terms, would not be considered transformational. I would wonder, would the IBCTs [interim brigade combat teams] or what are now called the Stryker brigade, would you consider those transformational?

Wolfowitz: No. I think they're, there I think they are a step on the road to transformation, but -- it's true that transformation is in the eye of the beholder, but what I'm impressed by, and I was out at Fort Lewis and saw some things in there that I thought were very interesting including, by the way, not just the vehicles but the thing that impressed me the most was the way in which they're trying to develop sort of use networking and information technology to remote, if that's the proper use of a verb, a transitive verb, to remote the tactical operation centers. And even the possibility of having certain key command structures like intelligence fusion centers located outside the theater.

So they're doing transformational experiments. They are using this new structure to look at innovations and how they organize and train and innovations in doctrine. And the truth is at the end of the day those are much more important for transformation than equipment decisions are. So in some sense one might argue it's more transformational, but that interim brigade by itself I don't think is going to be the transformational capability. I think it's going to be the test bed on which some of those ideas are developed, and by being on-line sooner it let you work with those ideas more quickly.

Boyer: I guess the term I've heard associated with that is maybe those brigades can serve a forcing function toward transformation and getting them back to, as you said, some structural thinking in new ways, including doctrinally and so on.

Wolfowitz: I've been very taken for many years with the example of the way in which the tank transformed warfare in the '20s and '30s and the fact that it wasn't the Germans who invented the tank. It was the Germans who first used tanks in modern warfare. And in fact at the time of the Battle of France the British and French had as many tanks as the Germans did but they didn't know how to use them. They used them basically as armored artillery. The Germans used them to transform the way in which they fight, including to use the term culture loosely as we do around here, the cultural change that goes with letting lieutenants or even senior NCOs make key tactical decisions which enabled you to push tanks way beyond the normal span of control of a senior officer.

Those are the kinds of changes that made tanks the decisive instrument of warfare. The armor plate and the tracks did not do it all by themselves, and the British and French demonstrated quite clearly that you could have a lot of tanks and not know how to use them.

Boyer: Yes, indeed.

I guess that gets to the heart of my question which is what do you all, when you all behold the Army's transformation plan, the Future Combat System, what it's going toward, the IBCTs not as an end in themselves but as a conveyance if you will, toward the objective force. All of that, what you see out at Fort Lewis and what you know of the Future Combat System and the plans at DARPA, all of that stuff. The hiring of Boeing to put the thing together. When you all behold that, what do you see that is not transformational? Or is it just because whoever is at the head, whoever is the top bureaucrat of any service always has as part of his job the obligation to carry that service's [hod], to do the bureaucratic and political fights for, in Shinseki's case, the Army's prerogative?

Wolfowitz: Hold on just one second I'm looking for a speech of Shinseki's. I think it might have been at the Fletcher Conference.

As I heard the description of what was in your question, it sounded to me like you're describing the things that I do consider transformational. I don't consider Crusader transformational. I think it's sort of true that every service has too many requirements to meet. Some of them are real world requirements imposed by strategy or by the civilian leadership. Some of them are self-imposed requirements which arguably stem from strong internal constituencies or different judgments about what is militarily important. And one does have to recognize the fact that anyone who's been in a firefight wants as much artillery as they can get, and Crusader seems to promise as much as you can get. No one has ever been in a firefight though where they could call for artillery with ten meter accuracy because we've never had it.

What I would say is not that what you described is not transformational, but that there were two additional pieces that need higher priority. One is the whole Netfires concept, which actually wasn't being funded beyond this year. Kevin, would you check that for accuracy? At any rate, it was dropping off the Army screen. That is the most transformational notion of indirect fire around, and it may be too futuristic. There is a retired lieutenant general named Cole Gorman, have you ever run across him or talked to him?

Boyer: No, I know who you mean, though.

Wolfowitz: A very interesting guy. He actually believes that we're too conservative. That you should forget about tube artillery and go completely Netfires. We're not doing that. But to have dropped that out of the program was a sign that, in my view, that there was too high a priority on near term, medium term fixes and not enough on the future.

The other thing that I don't think they gave enough priority to is accuracy, and it's true, it was in their program. We're simply accelerating things that were there.

But we've had experience over and over during the last 25 years where initially services, military services, didn't appreciate the importance of accuracy probably I'm guessing because they'd rather have the old dependable stuff even if it's inaccurate than some pie-in-the-sky, very expensive accurate system. But when they get the accurate system it's more than worth the cost and they can't get enough of it. That was true 25 years ago actually when Rumsfeld was secretary the first time and he had to push the Navy on the Tomahawk cruise missile. As far as they were concerned it was a waste of torpedo space. You know what they think of it now.

In the '80s and '90s, and this is history I'm a little less familiar with, but both GPS [global positioning system] and JDAMs [joint direct attack munitions] were consistently underfunded. The JDAMs by the Air Force, and GPS by both the Army and the Air Force. Now of course we can't live without them.

So part of what's behind this decision is a belief that one of the most transformational things one can do is to be able to put the first or second round on the target instead of having to smother a whole area. In the case of artillery, 100 to 150 rounds to achieve the same effect.

Boyer: Right. They worry, as you know, that there is perhaps too much value placed on the idea of precision. But I sat in there in that whole debate and I pretty much understand --

Wolfowitz: One of the things that I've heard in the last month or two that it seems to me has a basic flaw in it is the argument that when you're doing suppressive fires accuracy doesn't matter, it's only volume. But the truth of the matter is the closer you can get with your suppressive fires to your own troops, the more effective it is. And for that, accuracy is critical.

So there are a combination of things, and there's, just as technology is not the solution, there's not a single capability that is the solution. You're looking at changing a whole way of fighting.

I guess what I would also say is I believe where the Army is pointed with transformation maybe even more transformational than they appreciate yet. I don't mean to sound in saying that that I know more than they know, but I am struck in the briefings about Army transformation at how much of an emphasis there is on the idea that there are a lot of strategic requirements that aren't high intensity conflict but are more than low intensity conflict for which this sort of lighter, more lethal force is valuable. I agree with that.

I would also say that almost everything that you might describe as a high intensity conflict could possibly be transformed if you had a combination of our traditional heavy forces plus a lethal, lighter force that can be deployed into the enemy's rear or onto the enemy's flanks in ways that are historically unprecedented. And at the risk of maybe a mistaken historical analogy, but it seems to me that if you think about the Battle of Arnhem, the sort of classic bridge too far situation, what the Army is developing is the capability to go many bridges further than we've ever been able to go in the past. To put a relatively light force relatively deep with much less support having to be dragged with it, both because its own systems are more lethal and because it's networked with other long range systems. If you can do that --

Boyer: You're speaking about what they're about to start fielding.

Wolfowitz: No, I'm speaking about what's in the next decade.

Boyer: The --

Wolfowitz: I'm talking about the objective force. And one reason why I believe it's very important to accelerate the objective force is precisely because until you have some of these capabilities you really don't know how to maximize their potential, and that I think is the main justification for the IBCTs also, is that having something you can actually work with and put your hands on and start having people develop doctrine for and think of careers for and so forth changes the most important thing which is the organization, the doctrine, the culture.

Boyer: Which is some of what you saw out at Fort Lewis.

You've noticed, I guess the Crusader debate has been the catalyst, but I'm supposing that you have noticed that there are people in the United States Army, officers, who many toward the top, who have come to think of OSD as the enemy. I mean there's this remarkable photograph of the Secretary of Defense on the cover of, I think it's Armed Forces Journal, and the cut line, "Does he really hate the Army?" And I've heard with my own ears Army officers literally referring to OSD as the enemy.

What should we make of that? Does he hate the Army?

Wolfowitz: Definitely not. That's a simple question to answer. And he's, by the way, let's remember he's a very demanding guy and he's tough on everybody including himself. And no one should misinterpret that for hostility.

He and I believe emphatically that we've got to have effective ground forces. That you don't win wars just from the air. In fact I don't know where he would be but I would have to say I was astonished that we accomplished as much as we did in Kosovo without ground forces, and I think that was a fluke.

There may be somewhere around OSD staff some individuals who think that air power is now so accurate that you don't need armies or you don't need armies with artillery or you don't need this or that. I would suggest they study a little more history.

We have been arguing from back last summer in the QDR that long range precision strike is most effective when it's a combination of air power and ground power, not air by itself. And we just had a dramatic demonstration in Afghanistan of the truth of that. The Air Force wasn't accomplishing anything until we got some guys on the ground. And then they were able to reinforce other guys on the ground who ultimately are what brought about the victory. We could have dropped bombs until kingdom come and it would have had no effect.

Boyer: And witness 1999.

Wolfowitz: Right. So in part I suppose the -- first of all there is some confusion about the thinking behind this decision because you can read any number of outside commentators or editorialists or whatever who make some of these mistakes that suggest that the era of ground forces is over. That is not what is reflected in this decision and that's why we're keeping all the money not only with the Army, but with Army artillery. And I bet there are a lot of guys in the Army who still haven't quite absorbed that. The initial thing is OSD has killed the Crusader. They must hate the Army, they must believe in victory through air power. But if you stop and see what we've done, that isn't the decision at all.

Boyer: In the context, that is true. I was in the room again when you all said it is staying with the Army, it's going to go to these other systems and accelerating the artillery portion of the Future Combat System.

But I think part of what they see is OSD does seem to be sending how to put an anti-Army or Army unfriendly signals, and aside from Crusader. Putting a Marine in Europe as SACEUR, for example, or --

Wolfowitz: It has nothing to do with the uniform he wears. It has a lot to do with the fact that this is a guy who grew up in Europe, speaks fluent French, is one of the leading, the best of the best of military leaders of any service. To take it as anti-Army is just nonsense. I'll stop, I could go down that road a lot further. It's just silly.

Let me say something that is also important, and I do not for a moment suggest that General Shinseki likes this decision. However, I do believe that where we are putting the money is a reflection of some of the priorities that he has set and set with a good deal of courage, actually. He is the one who's been pushing the Army that you have to be lighter, more deployable, more lethal. The objective force is his doing. And in fact one of his quotes which I love, though I don't mean to -- I feel a little guilty. I'm not trying to use his words against him. But he said to the Army a few months ago, "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less."

Boyer: Yes, he did.

Wolfowitz: It's quite a good speech. I guess you've got it. There's a lot of good stuff in there that in my view supports this decision. But I'm not trying to say therefore he should agree with the decision.

I just think the Army as an institution was trying to do too much with the resources that were available. If resources were unlimited I'd love to have the Crusader. It's a lot better than Paladin, nobody argues that it isn't. And there may be situations in which you want that kind of capability.

Boyer: I know that --

Wolfowitz: But there are hard choices that have to be made.

Boyer: I've seen the memo that you all wrote in anticipation of the briefing for the president arguing the case for Crusader, and I heard from your lips and the secretary's your view that it's a fine piece of artillery. I think I understand your reasoning, I know what you're saying. That yes, it is fine, but.

So the Crusader aside --

Wolfowitz: By the way, it was oversold. Part of what led to this decision was we had multiple meetings to try to get that briefing to the point that we were really comfortable with it, and each time we discovered something that wasn't quite right like the Paladin wasn't 30 years old, and Paladin had no difficulty keeping up with the ground forces during Desert Storm, and that the accuracy touted for Crusader really comes from Excalibur and not from Crusader, the high rate of fire is something that you can't sustain for much more than ten minutes because you run out of trucks and ammunition.

(Laughter)

Wolfowitz: Each time you peel the onion -- oh, and by the way, that there is no prototype yet of Crusader. It was amazing how long it took to learn that fact, and that it wasn't going to come in until 2008.

So I don't know, the more important part of the decision, of the analysis, was as people began, including Gorman by the way, but PA&E prominently, began to lay out look, the real alternative to Crusader isn't Paladin. The real alternative to Crusader is the things that you now see in the budget amendment.

Kellems: We're going to need to wrap this up fairly soon.

Boyer: I'm going quickly.

[Portion deleted due to ground rule.]

Boyer: So it's not then an accurate reflection of OSD thinking, if there is such a thing, that the Army itself by its nature is kind of not transformational just because of the laws of physical nature. It's not aerospace, in other words, therefore it's always just going to be soldiers on the ground in close combat, and who wants that, and the RMA thinking. So that is not an accurate reflection of the thinking?

Wolfowitz: It's definitely not an accurate reflection of my thinking or the secretary's. I would not deny that I think there are pockets around OSD and the Air Force that are afflicted with that way of thinking. I've fought unidimensional thinking for 25 years, I'm not going to stop now. I think you need people on the ground to win wars. It would just be nice if you could do it with less of them and if you could deploy them faster so that the next time there's a Desert Storm it doesn't take six months to get ready for it and then you bring back 90 percent of what you deployed.

Boyer: I've gotcha.

Kellems: Thank you, Peter.

Boyer: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. Take care.

Wolfowitz: You're welcome.

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