Defense

October 29, 2012

Army leaders discuss service’s future role in land power

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J.D. Leipold
Army News Service
Army photograph
Soldiers from Fort Knox, Ky., conduct M1 Abrams tank exercises in mock battles designed to test tactical proficiency. Heavy hitters such as the Abrams main battle tank help the Army influence other countries to partner with the United States.

For more than 10 years, the U.S. Army has been engaged in two wars. As a result, the Army has not been as engaged as it would like to have been either globally, or with all of its combatant commands.

The Army expects to change that over the next decade as it exits Afghanistan and in some ways reinvents itself, said Col. Bob Simpson, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Army Capabilities Integration Center, or ARCIC.

One very basic element to the Army that won’t change, however, is the concept that land power is about controlling land resources and the people who use those resources.

“People can understand control of the sea … or control of the air,” Simpson said. “But when you say land power, you inherently understand it’s about people and resources and how complex and problematical that is.”

“Land power doesn’t necessarily require soldiers on the ground,” he continued. “But if you want to influence decision-making of a government, you have to be capable of putting Soldiers on the ground to control the land and the resources and the people, or you’re not going to pose a credible deterrent to their behavior.”

Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno has said that as the Army makes transitions over the next five years or more it will focus on three broad functions: prevent war; shape the international environment through strong military relationships with allies and by building partner capacity; and win the nation’s wars decisively and dominantly.

Simpson also said the Army and land power itself will continue to face a complex operational environment. There are several aspects of that environment which will drive how the Army transitions and postures itself in its future role.

One thing he believes the Army is struggling most with is the speed in which events happen, how quickly the news reaches the rest of the world, and the pace of change in the information age.

“The speed of information, the speed of human interaction, the knowledge and the ability to organize through social networks and over the Internet creates tremendous challenges for policymakers or decision makers in terms of being able to develop a strategy, mount a response, and do what’s needed to gain control over world events,” Simpson said.

Speaking at a session on land power at the annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army here, the colonel stressed the importance of engagement and the importance of the role of the U.S. as the leaders of the free world in terms of being forward, influential, engaging and doing what’s necessary to prevent conflict.

“Every military in the world has an Army … most of the regimes that we would be likely to face are underpinned by their armies,” Simpson said. “Some have air forces, some have navies, but all have an army and use land power in different ways, whether they’re adversaries, potential competitors or potential partners.”

The future of Army land power is that strategic success requires a personal touch and you’ve got to be able to influence behavior, he said.

“It’s not enough to merely topple the head of a government to control the people and it’s not enough to control the one or two people in control of the resources,” Simpson said. “You’ve got to be able to influence behavior at a much lower level.”

He also said other nations want to partner with the U.S. Army because of its heavy land power capability – tank forces – that make the U.S. the “biggest dog” on the block. He warned that if the United States ever loses that capability, the country would become a less desirable partner, even to current partners.

“Desert Storm proved the clear superiority of the American Army, not just in terms of its equipment, its leadership, [and] its doctrine, [but also] that we were the most desirable partner for land armies around the world,” he said.

Simpson said that the Chinese are now producing a main battle tank that is ranked by some as one of the best tanks in the world. He also cited a recent report that the Russians were increasing their military budget by 30 percent.

“This isn’t about Russia as an adversary or China as an adversary, this is about competing for influence around the world and they’re doing it through their armies by creating capabilities that could undercut our current dominant positions as the most desirable partner in the world,” he said.

Simpson also said the U.S. has to be careful in saying it doesn’t need a particular capability just because it hasn’t been used.

“It’s very likely when it comes to armed conflict that you didn’t use it because the adversary chose not to engage you because of that capability,” he said.




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