2017/09/03

"U.S. Army unprepared to deal with Russia in Europe"

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But the assessment details a series of “capability gaps” the unit has identified during recent training with Ukrainian troops with experience battling Russian-backed separatists, who have used cheap drones and electronic warfare tools to pinpoint targets for artillery barrages and devastated government armored vehicles with state-of-the-art Russian antitank missiles.
Some of the shortfalls, like the brigade’s lack of air defense and electronic warfare units and over-reliance on satellite communications and GPS navigation systems, are the direct results of the Army's years of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the enemy has no air power or other high-end equipment and technology.
“The lessons we learned from our Ukrainian partners were substantial. It was a real eye-opener on the absolute need to look at ourselves critically,” Col. Gregory Anderson, who commissioned the report earlier this year during his stint as the brigade’s commander, told POLITICO after it had obtained a copy of the report. “We felt compelled to write about our experiences and pass on what we saw and learned.”  


This is ridiculous. Nobody needs to talk to Ukrainian combat vets to learn these things. Practically all senior NCOs and senior officers worth their pay knew this, and for a long time.

The article didn't even mention the poor 155 mm artillery of the brigade or that its anti-tank defences are almost wholly dependent on the Javelin missile which can be defeated with mere multispectral smoke (a defence that doesn't even require any updates to tanks, just some cheap smoke munitions).

The problems likely go much deeper than that: There's a reason why U.S.Army personnel sucks at almost all multinational competitions, be it tanks, artillery infantry or whatever; it can be explained with the extremely common complaint about poor training of basic soldiering skills. You can hear and read these complaints almost everywhere.
The root cause appears to be the personnel system that prohibits any continuity. Personnel is getting moved into and out of units that quickly that any year-long training plan to build up qualification from basics to small unit level to unit level to formation level is moot. Too much personnel gets transferred out after learning the early stages, and replaced by new personnel that missed the basics training. There are also more mandatory training days per year than there are days available per year. The captains cannot possibly devise a training plan that follows all orders about mandatory training, an obvious failure of TRADOC.

To fix their personnel system (which has been demanded by reform proposers such as Vandergriff for decades) does not require additional money. It may even save a lot of money. I'm not sure how much of Congress' micromanagement-by-laws gets in the way of personnel reform, but I'm quite sure it should be done. In two decades I've seen great many calls for such a reform, and no-one standing up in defence of the current personnel system. The symptoms are really bad and warrant change.

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4 comments:

  1. Interesting presentation. I believe I've read something by this guy somewhere else.

    Recently I read an article by an Air Force officer recommending a switch from the current enlisted/warrant/commissioned structure to one of position centric. https://www.militarytimes.com/opinion/commentary/2017/08/20/commentary-the-rank-structure-is-holding-us-back-its-time-for-drastic-change/

    Don't know if this is a U.S. thing, but this emphasis on officers attending civilian business schools, etc is the right focus. I'm not saying it bad, but I want these officers to be experts in their field of warfare. Did Rommel and other great German generals attend civilian universities for masters and doctorate levels of education? Same with Patton, Montogomery, etc. It seems to me, at least in the U.S. to have started in earnest during Mcnamera's time. Maybe you know?

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    1. It's widely considered to be a good thing for officer development. It's good for the way HOW they think.
      Some U.S. general who shall not be named here wrote about this but a few years ago. He had been used to giving orders, to can do and to hierarchical organisations and when he began to study alongside civilians he was at first at a loss because suddenly everyone expected proper arguments, logical reasoning, and so on.
      Others emphasise that especially history, military history, economics, psychology, geography, mechanical engineering, slavic studies make a lot of sense for officers (in addition to the obvious medical studies for medical officers).
      Also keep in mind that most officers serve but a couple years, such as 12 years in Germany. They need a civilian job qualification better than truck driving afterwards (except fixed wing pilots; their pilot's license should be good enough).

      Besides, yes, there were lots of very successful high ranking Wehrmacht officers who were doctors - particularly among the reserve officers who rose to ranks like Lt.Col up to two star during wartime.

      Uhle-Wettler, the most famous outside-the-box thinkers among Bundeswehr generals, had written his doctor thesis on socialism prior to joining the Bundeswehr (he was 150% anti-communist, which explains why his tolerance for brown BS was tolerated throughout his career and became troublesome only afterwards). He actually wrote an anecdote about this in one of his books; during some indoctrination course the teacher used his doctor thesis as source and asked the officer candidates for their interpretation. The teacher then insisted that Uhle-Wettler's interpretation was the wrong one. :-) The teacher didn't notice the issue because the book was published with an alias name.

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  2. Would they not benefit from more of a regimental-type system, like the British and commonwealth armies? Soldiers and officers there spend most of their careers in one battalion or regiment, which does not seem like something that happens as much in the US Army.

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    1. There are lots of existing and imaginable superior personnel systems. The U.S.army (if not U.S.military) personnel system(s) of today is/are accused of treating personnel as exchangeable like screws, as was almost suitable for feeding the meat grinding of 1917/1918 with warm bodies, but has been unsuitable for a long time.

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