Free the troops in the field from tactical red tape!

I railed a while ago (repeatedly) against the deconfliction craze.

The underlying thing is that I'm convinced of the need for agility, responsiveness, elusiveness. A force that doesn't allow a commander in the field to do what he deems necessary (launch a small UAV, send a helicopter in, shoot with mortars) shackles him and slows him down.

Such a kind of red tape originates from a desire to perfect the techniques of warfare. Friendly fire and accidents ought to be eliminated if possible and thus all the red tape meant to prevent them. What's lacking is an optimization of the overall outcome.

The mortar not fired until minutes later might have saved a patrol from being slaughtered, but it also might have hit a second friendly patrol mistaken for hostiles. Grown-ups are supposed to accept that life demands compromises and optimizations. They are supposed to understand that perfection isn't achievable. This expectation doesn't seem to be applied to military bureaucracies with much vigour, though.

In case you think it's not all that bad, and military bureaucracies are sensible enough, especially in wartime: Look at this quote, which stems from an old article (2004) that I read again recently:

In OIF, with thousands of designated no-fire areas (NFAs), it only took about six and one half minutes from the time the Firefinder radar acquired the target through the battle drill to clear the fires for NFAs and friendly forces and vet them for the rules of engagement (ROE) until the cannons or MLRS fired.
"Why Organic Fires?" By Colonel Robert F. Barry II
Field Artillery (journal) March-June 2004

"OIF" of course being the War of aggression against Iraq in 2003, a real war in which a sensible military bureaucracy would have dropped its peacetime BS deadweight.
6.5 minutes. About two minutes (+/- a lot, depending on many factors) could be expected from a moderately trained and streamline organisation without the tactical red tape. Keep in mind that the time of flight for the shells or rockets may easily have lasted about 30 seconds on top of the delay mentioned here. Furthermore, most (even towed!) somewhat modern artillery pieces can be moved out of their firing position within about two minutes by a well-trained artillery unit. The American counterfire efforts in OIF would have been near-100% impotent against a quality opponent, and mostly so due to tactical red tape

S Ortmann

P.S.: I am most disturbed by the "only" in the quote.


  1. Where would you like to have MLRS corps/division?


  2. That's not the topic, but long story short I would send ATACMS_II and GUMLRS to the corps, as well as GUMLRS to the field brigades (less for the brigade itself as for support of other forces in a 80 km radius).

  3. Thanks for the reply, but I thought placement would help with red tape. Since MLRS was mentioned i thought it would be on topic still. I took commander in the field broadly. I agreed with the overall theme on NFAs, but was wondering where you would place MLRS.


  4. Sven, have a read of this


  5. Precious few towed batteries can clear a position in under 2 minutes. Especially if you have any quantity of ammo on the ground.

    Sure, you can have your tractors right behind the gun with everything except the gun-box loaded and not have any cam-nets up, but then you stick out like sore thumbs.

    I suppose it depends on the threat environment.