Disappointment and Duplicity
The 20 year track record of key Army leaders
1 August 2013
On August 8, I published an article in the Armed Forces Journal (Purge the Generals: What it will take to fix the Army) in which I argued a reform of the general officer corps of the US Army was necessary for the health of the Service. As part of the justification for such an unusual recommendation, I included a short two-paragraph survey of some of the more egregious failures over which Army leaders have presided spanning the past two decades. Yet those two paragraphs cannot come close to conveying the seriousness of the failures nor adequately justify why a serving officer would recommend some of the senior Army leaders need to be replaced. This larger work will provide the necessary detail.
The pages below contain a chronology of the unsuccessful efforts regarding the most critical Army modernization and acquisition efforts over the past 20 years. These botched efforts are not primarily the result of things “just not working out” but of avoidable – and in many cases predictable – failure of leadership. The many different categories of unsuccessful efforts detailed below have common characteristics: the Army’s senior leaders have been unwilling to accept failure of preferred programs even when testing and evidence made clear it wasn’t going to work; they ignored year after year of failed test results; suppressed publication of unsatisfactory results; and, in some cases, actually made statements to the press that the system or testing was working well and was on track when they knew it wasn’t.
If this were a case where half the major programs failed while half succeeded, then the attitude of pressing through despite overwhelming evidence might be valid. Instead, we have seen a near-unbroken record of two full decades of colossal failure in technological development. Rather than seeking course correction when failure became evident, it appears that senior Army officials are not only turning a blind eye to those failures, which serves only to propagate technological mediocrity.
What is clear by seeing such consistent failure over an extended timeframe is that without fundamental change in how Army senior leaders are selected and promoted, it is very likely the track record earned over the past two decades will continue into the next two. In this time when future operating environments may be filled with pressures and stressors that have historically been factors in state-on-state war, and when it is likely US federal budgets will remain constrained for the foreseeable future, we cannot risk perpetuation of the status quo.
Below is a survey of the major weapons, acquisition, and reorganizational failures overseen by a series of different senior Army leaders since 1991.
Crusader and Comanche
In 1991 the Army officially launched the program for the RAH-66 Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter, the Comanche. In 1995 the Army started the program to build a new self-propelled cannon called the XM2001Crusader. In numerous marketing brochures and other similar types of communication, senior Army leaders routinely lauded the utility and necessity of both the Crusader and Comanche. They warned that if the programs were not funded and developed, the US Army would be at a disadvantage on future battlefields. But independent and fully qualified analysts identified considerable problems with both programs. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released numerous reports on the problems of the two systems. Below is an excerpt of two separate GAO warnings – which Army officials ignored.
GAO’s 1997 report of problems with Crusader: http://www.gao.gov/assets/230/224130.pdf
“In response to funding reductions, the Army is making critical program scheduling decisions that will compress the program’s schedule beyond its already-compressed schedule under the streamlined acquisition process. In the past, such schedule adjustments have resulted in reduced testing and/or concurrent testing, allowing programs to enter low-rate initial production before they were ready. Allowing programs to enter low-rate initial production before they were ready has often resulted in procurement of substantial inventories of unsatisfactory weapon systems that required costly modifications or, in some cases, substandard weapon systems being procured for combat forces.”
GAO’s Feb 2002 report of problems with Crusader: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-02-201
“However, more progress and knowledge is needed to minimize the risk of cost overruns, schedule delays, and performance shortfalls. The Crusader program will likely enter product development with most of its critical technologies less mature than best practices recommend.”
Despite the Army’s insistence the program was on track and needed, the Secretary of Defense canceled the Crusader three months after the above report was published.
GAO’s 1992 report: http://www.gao.gov/products/NSIAD-92-204
“the Army continues to experience some technical risks in some of the aircraft's essential components, such as the mission equipment package and the targeting detection system, which could significantly reduce the Comanche's ability to navigate and communicate and cause the Army to incur significant additional costs; and (6) since significant developments have occurred that could affect the Comanche's requirements, such as a diminished threat, planned force reductions, and planned upgrades to other helicopters, it is an appropriate time to assess the program's viability to ensure that any future decision to buy the Comanche is appropriate.”
GAO’s May 2003 report: http://www.gao.gov/assets/240/238188.pdf
“Since the program’s first cost estimate was originally approved in 1985, the research and development cost has almost quadrupled and the time to obtain an initial capability has increased from 9 years to over 21 years… This reduction in quantities, combined with the research and development cost growth, resulted in a unit cost increase of approximately 62 percent. Program officials stated that the restructuring added a more robust internal review process and balanced program requirements with force requirements and program risks. Weight issues were addressed through increased engine performance. Initial operational capability was moved from December 2008 to September 2009 to reduce risk and significantly increase the amount of testing conducted.”
Despite these reports, the Army’s leadership continued to insist the program was on track and would be completed, the Comanche was canceled in February 2004, 10 months after this report.
Advanced Warfighter Experiment
In 1997, while a member of the Individual Ready Reserve, I served as a Foreign Affairs and Defense aide to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R, TX). In late 1997 I attended a congressional staff delegation trip to Fort Hood to observe the Army’s “Digital Division” in action at what they called the Advanced Warfighter Experiment. The purpose of the visit was for the Army to showcase what it claimed was dramatic advancement in technology and capability. What I observed was something rather different.
Upon my return to Washington, I wrote a report for my supervisor on the Senator’s staff. Below are a few excerpts of what I found to be most problematic:
The scenario driving this experiment depicted the 4th ID initially performing a covering force mission across a frontage of 250km. Then they defended a sector 150km in width when the Corps was fully deployed. While in this defense, 4th ID absorbed a combined arms army of three divisions and held, but at the end of the battle division strength was between 50-55%. They then immediately endure a second attack, this time by a tank army - again they repelled the attackers without allowing a penetration anywhere in sector.
In the 48-72 hours following the successful defense, they received replacements and were bolstered to 90% strength. They then launched a complicated attack to destroy the remnants of both the combined arms army and the tank army. To even suggest that any division could sustain 50% casualties and then receive replacements that had never trained with the division and expect them to conduct a successful attack within days is absolute fiction.
One of the biggest reasons provided as to how the digital division was able to defend a 150km frontage against two attacks consisting of six divisions, and the then able to launch their own counterattack, was because the experiment has proven the increased killing power of the division. Consequently, they don't need all those tanks, brads and howitzers. In order to reduce the size of the division from it's current level of 18,000, they have cut one maneuver company per battalion - reducing the killing power of the division by a full 25% - resulting in 58 fewer tanks, 58 fewer Bradley's, 18 fewer howitzers, and 400 fewer infantrymen.
So they reduce the combat power of the division by 25%, and then expand the territory they are supposed to cover by three times what a heavy division of today covers? Information dominance is not a killing element - it is an enabler only. If we get rid of the killing systems and increase the coverage required, we will be less, not more, capable.
[Training and Doctrine Commander] General [William] Harzog told me the reason we're dropping a maneuver company is because "evidence" shows that with this new organization, we don't need as much combat power to get the same job done. Additionally, they said that part of the purpose of reducing the combat power is to make the army able to deploy faster, and it would be easier to deploy if there were fewer tanks, brads, and tubes.
Citing the AWE’s results, Army leaders proceeded to eliminate one maneuver company per combat battalion. But the loss of fighting systems was never offset by a commensurate rise in killing capability, and thus as a result of the Advanced Warfighter Experiment we fielded less capable fighting formations than those we replaced. This fact was graphically demonstrated only two years after the AWE.
In March 1999, then-Colonel Rick Lynch commanded the 1st Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division (designated the “Digital Division”) and led it through a tactical exercise at the National Training Center in California. In a June 2001 paper for the Institute for Defense Analysis, he wrote:
People are touting that information technology is going to show an immediate impact on our ability to conduct warfighting. They are trying to convince the world that information technology will show immediate improvements in lethality, survivability, and the ability to manage the tempo of the battle. But after hearing all these pronouncements, we then conduct a major test and these so-called improvements are not obvious. In July 1999, the Government Accounting Office published a report, Battlefield Automation--Performance Uncertainties Are Likely When Army Fields its First Digitized Division, with references to the lack of obvious improvement in tactical operations: In our opinion, the efforts thus far designed to measure force effectiveness have produced inconclusive results, with maneuver units in the field showing no significant increase in lethality, survivability, and operational tempo while modeling and simulation do show increases.
July 1999: GAO reported: “However, based on a recent initial operational test and evaluation, the Department of Defense (DOD) Director of Operational Test and Evaluation characterized the earlier software version as not being operationally effective or operationally suitable… There are four key performance uncertainties that the Army will confront when the first digitized division is fielded at the end of 2000. First, the operational effectiveness and suitability of FBCB2 will be unknown. This uncertainty will persist until the system’s initial operational test and evaluation in November 2001. Second, between now and November 2001, nearly every other high-priority digitization system will be undergoing some type of operational evaluation. Since fielding of the first digitized division is scheduled to be completed by December 2000, individual system performance uncertainties will exist when the first digitized division is fielded.”
A full year before the first unit had even conducted ground maneuvers to validate or refute the results of the AWE, two of the Army’s senior training officials LTC Billy J. Jordan and LTC Mark J. Reardon (Chief, Combined Arms Doctrine Directorate and Chief, Special Doctrine Team) co-wrote “Restructuring the Division: An Operational and Organizational Approach” in the May-June 1998 Military Review in which they stated the AWE’s results offered a “proven vehicle” on which to base future force development. They explained:
While the basic division tasks have not changed dramatically (following the AWE), the manner and scope in which DXXI (the Digital Division) accomplishes them is significantly different from its AOE (Army of Excellence, or DXXI’s predecessor). The (operational and organizational) concept highlights the fact that digitizing C2 architecture and weapon systems has led to a quantum leap in the division combat operations' tempo… The increased synergy between the separate DXXI combined arms team components led to the redesign of its maneuver battalions. DXXI features maneuver battalions organized with three maneuver companies equipped with a total of 45 combat platforms compared with the AOE division's four companies and 58 combat platforms. This redesign decision, which resulted in significant manpower and equipment savings, also increased tactical mobility (smaller physical footprint), reduced the logistic tail and decreased strategic deployment requirements while sacrificing none of the division's overall lethality.
The methodology used during the AWE has also offered the Army a proven vehicle for future force development. The experimentation process that resulted in a DXXI design also ensured it could meet all design constraints while retaining an unmatched ability to defeat enemy forces or seize and secure key terrain. The heavy division, when reconfigured as the DXXI organization, will undoubtedly remain a relevant and capable warfighting organization well into the 21st century.
In order to persuade Congress of the need to give the Army more money, Lieutenant Generals Paul J. Kern and John N. Abrams testified before a sub-committee hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 11, 1998 to emphasize the success of the AWE. According to their joint prepared statement, they told the committee:
(T)he Army has embarked on a methodology of experimentation to gain insights which guide senior leadership decisions for modernization and digitization of the force. We have seen the value of experimentation over the course of the past several years and, in particular, during FY97 and FY98 with the conduct of the Task Force XXI Advanced Warfighting Experiment (AWE) and the Division XXI AWE (DAWE). Experimentation has permitted the Army to make decisions accelerating the pace of modernization and digitization in those cases where we have had compelling experimental success… In the last year, as previously mentioned, we conducted two pivotal experiments. Using digitally enhanced weapon systems, the EXFOR completed the Task Force XXI AWE at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, and the DAWE at Fort Hood. These experiments have provided a range of insights into future force design…
Drawing upon experiment results from the Force XXI process, the Army has designed a networked and digitized division—the basic, self-sustaining element of land power—as its initial Army XXI organization. Given the promising results of the 1997 AWEs, the efficacy of the Force XXI process, the explosion in available information technologies, and, most importantly, the requirements of the new century, the Army plans to field the first networked and digitized division by 2000… Additional resources are required to realize Army modernization objectives and achieve the full-spectrum dominance of JV 2010.
We are at the dawn of a new era. Through our Force XXI process, we are moving to create, shape, test, and field a force prepared to meet the impending challenges of the next century. Central to our effort is the soldier—America’s sons and daughters in uniform.
And yet as COL Lynch and the GAO report both emphatically stated a year later, the concept of what the AWE proved was not evident on the ground. Nevertheless, all the Army’s divisions were stripped of almost a quarter of their equipment, troops, and maneuver units based on a concept derived from a single Division’s experience with a simulation, and even when other Army units physically exercised the new concept at the National Training center two years later, they confirmed there was no increase in capability identified.
Reducing the capabilities of the battalion was not the only reduction many in the Army’s senior ranks had in mind. The Brigade Combat Team was next on the chopping block.
Modular Brigade Combat Team Reorganization
When the Army transformed into “Modular Brigade Combat Teams” beginning in 2004, it announced a planned reduction of the brigade from three maneuver battalions to two. Army officials said the reduction of a combat battalion would be offset by increasing the size of the headquarters, especially the intelligence sections, and the addition of new technology and would be effective across the spectrum of military conflict. Yet after spending an estimated $75 billion and almost nine years of transforming the brigade combat team by removing its third combat battalion, Army leaders are today planning to reinstate it.
In February 2013 Maj. Gen. Arthur Bartell, deputy director of the Army Capability Integration Center said, “two-maneuver-battalion BCTs worked in a [counter-insurgency] environment, but a three-maneuver-battalion design gives commanders more agility and more flexibility across the range of military operations.” Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno suggested at an AUSA conference in 2013 that “significant flexibility and capability would be gained by adding a third maneuver battalion and more engineers to our brigade combat teams.”
When announcing the reduction of size of a battalion from four companies to three in the 1990s and again when reducing the brigades from three to two maneuver battalions, the senior Army leadership specifically claimed the moves would make the Army more effective across the spectrum of conflict. Yet after spending tens of billions and a full decade making the change, they now seek to return the third battalion and justify the move using very similar arguments to those that they used 10 years earlier to remove it. This apparent contradiction has not been fully explained.
In April 2006 the GAO reported that in 2004 the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command and other stakeholders had serious reservations about the capabilities of the new BCT design. The report states that, “TRADOC’s 2004 analysis noted that the brigade designs with the two maneuver battalion organization had reduced versatility compared to the three maneuver battalion design, and cited this as one of the most significant areas of risk in the modular combat brigade design. Some defense experts, to include a current division commander and several retired Army generals, have expressed concerns about this aspect of the modular design. In addition, some of these experts have expressed concerns about whether the current designs have been sufficiently tested and whether they provide the best mix of capabilities to conduct full-spectrum operations.”
The above categories of failure involved major weapon systems or the redesign of particular organizations. As troubling as these predictable failures were, the traits among the senior Army leaders that led to them into these flops also applied to more comprehensive failure: in a near-unbroken series of events starting in 1999 and continuing through the date of this report, the Army has failed to produce the reformed, modernized force promised.
“Army After Next” to Future Combat Systems to Ground Combat Vehicle (1999-2013)
In the spring of 1998, the United States Army, then two years into an effort to reform itself under the banner of then-Chief of Staff General Dennis Reimer’s “Army After Next (AAN)”, conducted the third in a series of simulated wargames to ascertain the validity of a new warfighting construct. RAND’s Arroyo Center was tasked by the Army to chronicle the event and write a summary of results. In its report entitled “Issues Raised During the Army After Next Spring Wargame,” RAND identified significant weaknesses in the concept:
The AAN Battle Forces were clearly unsuited for urban operations. Its tilt-rotors and light armored vehicles were very vulnerable to enemy fire coming from concealed locations such as buildings. Also, the precision-guided munitions (PGMs) and information systems of the Battle Force were seriously degraded in the city… Operations in cities, especially cities in Gulf States allied with Blue, became a central theme of the wargame… During the Spring Wargame, inability to hold terrain against Red's advancing forces was a limitation that contributed to Red's operational success… Even on the march, Red land forces enjoyed highly effective air defense. Due in part to the vulnerability of tilt-rotor aircraft, air-mech Battle Forces had limited options early in the campaign. Indeed, their only significant operation during the first week was a tactical strike against Red forces that failed to achieve operational success. Battle Forces might be ineffective unless air defenses were largely suppressed. Moreover, air defense suppression could be extremely difficult, especially as concerns low-altitude nonemitting systems, including guns and shoulder-fired missiles. During Desert Storm, in 1991, for example, the United States usually evaded low-altitude air defenses by flying outside their range, but Battle Forces might not have this option.
During the first week of the campaign, Blue committed an air-mech Battle Force on just one occasion; a Battle Force attacked a 2020-pattern Red division that was advancing along the Gulf littoral toward Abu Dhabi. This Battle Force inflicted severe losses on the Red division, which nonetheless reached and occupied Abu Dhabi, where it linked up with Red forces that air assaulted across the Straits of Hormuz. After completing its strike, the Battle Force withdrew for its own safety rather than attempting to block the Red advance. In the absence of the Battle Force, Red's badly depleted division and a follow-on division continued to advance against Omani forces that were too weak to stop them... Air-mech Battle Forces are designed to conduct strike missions, then quickly relocate. They are not designed to seize and hold parts of the earth's surface against opposing forces designed for traditional land warfare. As an example, the Red force advancing toward Riyadh suffered severe air attacks in open terrain for two days and sustained heavy casualties, but it still reached and occupied the Saudi capital because no land forces blocked its way. According to Army Vision 2010: "The power to deny or destroy is possessed by each of the military Services. The contribution of land forces to the joint warfight is the power to exert direct, continuing, and comprehensive control over land, its resources, and its people." Forces designed according to an air-mech concept did not make this primary contribution of land forces in the Spring Wargame.
Faced with the likelihood that light forces relying on rotary aircraft for operational mobility could not engage with likely future enemy forces, it would seem reasonable to assume that the Army’s senior leaders would either change how they equipped their future formations or change how the formations were employed. In either case, when faced with the likelihood that projected enemy formations would be able to absorb our offensive efforts and that we would remain vulnerable to even primitive air defenses, major changes would result. Unfortunately, in what would come to be a repeating theme, that is not what happened.
The year after the AAN Wargame, General Eric Shinseki replaced General Reimer as the Army’s Chief of Staff, and in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 7, 2002 he shared his vision for modernization. In his prepared remarks, he explained:
Transformation is first and foremost about changing the way we fight in order to win our Nation’s wars—decisively. The 21st Century strategic environment and the implications of emerging technologies necessitate Army Transformation. The global war on terrorism reinforces the need for a transformed Army that is more strategically responsive, deployable, lethal, agile, versatile, survivable, and sustainable than current forces… Transformation will result in a different Army, not just a modernized version of the current Army. Combining the best characteristics of our current forces, The Army will possess the lethality and speed of the heavy force, the rapid deployment mentality and toughness of our light forces, and the unmatched precision and close combat capabilities of our special operations forces—adopting a common warrior culture across the entire force. Transformation will field the best trained, most combat effective, most lethal Soldier in the world.
Planning to launch the Service’s signature modernization program the next year – The Future Combat Systems (FCS) – the Army decided to conduct a follow-up wargame to the 1998 AAN games to test the updated concepts. Approximately six months after General Shinseki gave his Senate testimony, the Army conducted a robust simulation pitting the FCS force against an opponent having “enhanced enemy capabilities” projected to exist in 2016.
In 2007, while I worked in the Future Combat Systems program at Fort Bliss, Texas, I interviewed Larz Welo, a former employee of Advanced Systems Technology (AST) who participated as a member of the opposition force in the 2002 wargames. He told me the exercises were designed to examine what might happen if an FCS organization fought against a well-equipped, modern force. Mr. Welo worked for AST from 2001 to 2003 and took part in over 100 simulations using various FCS scenarios. The vast majority of the scenarios were against foes using inferior technology with average to poor equipment – like the Iraqi enemy we faced in Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Unsurprisingly, FCS won every engagement during the simulation exercises. But when matched against an enemy force that had the same or better technology, the FCS force was routed.
According to Mr. Welo, there were three iterations of the more challenging version of the experiment. The “Blue Force” was composed of an FCS brigade equipped with all the threshold capabilities expected to be fielded in the 2016 timeframe. The “Red Force” – the enemy force – was a larger force than Blue, and primarily composed of “legacy” forces, which means they were outfitted with equipment that existed in 2002. The Red Force also possessed a number of “enhanced” forces composed of expected future capabilities including advanced tanks, artillery and armored personnel carriers, as well as unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and anti-aircraft systems currently under development in various countries. In the first run of the simulation, the Red force “played very cautiously,” but still rendered the Blue force combat ineffective “before they were even halfway to their objective,” Mr. Welo recalled. The next iteration, however, proved catastrophic for Blue:
In the second run, the Red commander decided to be very aggressive. First, we waited until the air was full of Blue Force UAVs, ground attack jets, and other aviation assets. We had previously deployed our anti-air assets but up until that point had kept them turned off. We then simultaneously turned them all on to overwhelm Blue’s ability to counter them and destroyed virtually all of the Blue air assets within 5 minutes. Next we launched all of our UAVs. Although many were shot down by Blue, we had more UAVs than they did missiles. We then massed all our legacy and enhanced forces in the area together in a massive armored spear-head attack and charged at the assembly area with about 2 battalions.
The Global Hawk continued to fly so that blue forces could use precision fires to destroy many of our elements while they were still out of direct fire range. But Red had precision fires of their own and the surviving Red UAVs identified the most critical elements of the Blue force, which we then engaged with artillery and guided missiles (ATGM) from the tanks. When the charge came within 4 km of the Blue forces the (Red) tanks began to engage with direct fire and it was like shooting fish in a barrel. When Blue attempted to maneuver away, their signature reduction was neutralized and they were immediately shot. Their Active Protection System was unable to help them against the tank’s ATGMs and Sabots. Blue suffered unbelievable casualties and the run was ended.
Despite the fact that the shortcomings in the 2002 simulation were very similar to those identified in the 1998 AAN wargame, no changes were made to either the mix of platforms or to the concepts behind FCS. Mr. Welo provided a possible explanation as to why this might have been. “The green suiters (uniformed members of the Army) that were in charge of the gamers were split in their opinion on the implications of the results,” he explained. “Those who participated in my Red camp said we should run more simulations against an enhanced threat because of the possibility that in the future this could become a real-world disaster, and those that fought with the Blue camp argued that the simulation data and parameters were flawed and that the USA would not be this outmatched any time within the next 50 years. The ‘neutral’ green suiters seemed puzzled at the power of the enhanced threat, and seemed to believe that the result was unlikely to ever happen in real life and not a scenario that was very profitable.”
Mr. Welo also noted that while Blue was crippled during the running of this simulation, his Red forces were likewise mauled. Had such an engagement actually occurred, the real threat to US forces would have come from follow-on units. As explained in the RAND study above, the 1998 AAN simulation likewise showed that the Blue Forces could inflict serious damage on enemy forces, but that owing to the lightness of the Blue Force, they would be unable to persist and even a “mauled” enemy force could achieve tactical victory over the US Force. According to Mr. Welo, US leaders believed future adversaries would not actually adopt those tactics. However, recently published reports, such as those cited below, indicate that our potential future adversaries have indeed developed such methods.
In a November 2011 compendium published by the Strategic Studies Institute entitled, “Chinese Lessons from Other People’s Wars”, several chapters discuss Chinese lessons learned from watching US military operations in Desert Storm, Bosnia, Kosovo, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Afghanistan. It is unknown whether the Chinese ever read the 1998 RAND report on the AAN simulation or have knowledge of the 2002 FCS simulation, but the lessons they claim to have learned from watching our forces in combat indicate they have come to very similar conclusions, and in the event of a future fight against the US, would employ similar strategies as those of the “Red Forces” in our simulations.
For example, in the 1998 wargame cited above, the enemy forces suffered serious conventional losses, but moved to urban centers (Riyadh and Abu Dhabi in the simulations) to conduct a dug-in defense with which they could hold out against US Forces. The 2011 Strategic Studies paper reports that the Chinese observed Iraqi failures to properly defend their country via a better urban fight. They noted:
But some PLA [People’s Liberation Army] analyses nonetheless conclude that Iraq could have waged a better defense. In particular, a more resolute resistance might have inflicted more losses on the American forces. Some believe that a more effective defense might have led to more American deaths, striking at the American “center of gravity (重心),” which is the desire to limit casualties… Most glaringly, they failed to convert their urban centers into defensive bastions. They did not construct fortifications and obstacles inside or outside the cities, nor did they lay minefields or build tunnels and other underground facilities to undergird their defenses. Even after the war began, the Iraqi military did not engage the American forces with heavy concentrations of firepower; instead, they dispersed their forces and assets [p.168]
A feature depicted in both the 1998 and 2002 wargames was that “Red Forces” would make effective use of air defenses to the detriment of the future force, and the 2002 simulation discussed the use of enemy unmanned aerial vehicles. The Strategic Studies report notes the importance the Chinese place on just these capabilities in the context of potentially engaging American Forces. Regarding observation of US operations in Afghanistan, the Chinese found the use of helicopters to be:
of particular interest, as the PLA were developing armed WZ-9G helicopters and were deciding on a purposely designed attack helicopter. The WZ-10 attack helicopter similar in size to AH-1W and will be the linchpin of the PLA Aviation’s modernization plans. Besides anti-armor, its missions will include escort, armed reconnaissance, and force protection, the latter against enemy attack and reconnaissance helicopters and UAVs
The paper reported that in late 2005 the People’s Liberation Army “experimented with the use of UAS for the targeting as well as reconnaissance and surveillance in night operations. UAS were deployed on operations with thermal imaging equipment and a data link to transmit their images back to a joint operations cell to coordinate strikes…[p.245]” By January 2006 the PLA had “already started to practice long-range aerial maneuver and massed helicopter raids behind enemy lines, as an October 2005 exercise report from a Jinan mechanized infantry division indicated. The ability to both launch and then defeat a helicopter landing were practiced at that time. [p.244]” Contrary to what many senior US officials seem to believe, the capability and tactics depicted by our 1998 and 2002 simulations of what a future adversary might employ were very accurate. Nevertheless, when the FCS program was officially launched the next year, no changes based on these simulations were observable.
Though I was unaware of these simulations at the time, I published my first critique of the Future Combat Systems in a July 2005 Armed Forces Journal article in which I wrote that if the FCS was fielded in its then-current design it “might lay the groundwork for defeat of the U.S. Army on a future battlefield.” I further noted that even if the system functioned perfectly, “none of the manned systems will be capable of engaging in direct-fire engagements with enemy tanks or withstanding coordinated assaults by ground forces armed with anti-tank weapons. Virtually all military analysts agree that future wars are likely to be fought in urban terrain – in cities. Even if we have perfect knowledge of where enemy forces are and which buildings they are holding, there will still be a requirement to send in ground troops to engage them. What would happen if an FCS-equipped force were directed to fight in a large, Baghdad-like city in future war?”
Though two simulations had exposed serious problems with the Army’s modernization construct, the Service’s senior leaders made no adjustments. My 2005 AFJ article wasn’t the only dissenting voice raised in 2005. The Government Accountability Office also weighed in with concerns of its own. In his prepared remarks, Paul Francis of the GAO said in his March 2005 testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on Airland that in its “unprecedented complexity, FCS confronts the Army with significant technical and managerial challenges in its requirements, development, finance, and management.” Undertaking a complex, even unprecedented challenge is, of itself, not necessarily negative. However, Mr. Francis noted that these challenges and complexities were apparently proving beyond the capacity of the Army to effectively manage. He flatly stated that “FCS is at significant risk for not delivering required capability within budged resources,” and then explained what led him to that conclusion:
The program’s level of knowledge is far below that suggested by best practices or DOD policy: Nearly 2 years after program launch and with $4.6 billion invested, requirements are not firm and only 1 of over 50 technologies is mature. As planned, the program will attain the level of knowledge in 2008 that it should have had in 2003. But things are not going as planned. Progress in critical areas--such as the network, software, and requirements--has in fact been slower, and FCS is therefore likely to encounter problems late in development, when they are very costly to correct. Given the scope of the program, the impact of cost growth could be dire… The individual FCS systems will also rely on a layered system of protection involving several technologies that lowers the chances of a vehicle or other system being seen and hit by the enemy… Meeting all these requirements is unprecedented not only because of the difficulty each represents individually, but because the solution for one requirement may work against another requirement.
On the same day the GAO released the above report, Vice Chief of Staff for the Army General Richard Cody and Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology) Claude M. Bolton said the following in their prepared statement before the same Airland Subcommittee:
FCS is the core of our Future Force’s combat brigade, consisting of 18 systems, plus the continued expansion of the network and capabilities to the Soldier – all designed to function as a single, integrated system. FCS is the Army’s primary materiel program for achieving future force capabilities. It will integrate existing systems, systems already under development, and systems to be developed. Fielding FCS is essential to providing the kind of lethal, agile forces required for full spectrum operations in the future.
No mention was made of technology maturation problems, nor of the cost explosion, software problems, or the slowness of development. Virtually the entirety of their remarks recited program objectives and listed a number of facts about the US Army. Two years later, after I had been assigned to the FCS program, I identified several problems that I brought to the attention of the program’s leadership through internal memorandums.
Between 29 October and 8 November 2007 I participated in an FCS simulation in which I played the part of a Cavalry Squadron company commander. The purpose of the simulation was to test what would happen if several of FCS’ technologies were ‘spun out’ to regular Army forces. The test was conducted with a ‘base case’ using current equipment and a ‘spin-out case’ using FCS gear, with the engagements projected to occur in 2012. The scenarios involved Stryker units in mechanized infantry and cavalry roles.
As I had fought with the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment during Desert Storm and had trained extensively with other cavalry units, I was familiar with how the simulation scenarios would manifest in actual combat. After the two week simulated wargames concluded, I observed a number of serious deficiencies with the way the simulation was conducted and had concerns with how the results might be conveyed to the FCS Program’s senior leaders. On 14 November 2007 I wrote a memorandum to my direct supervisor informing him of the problems to the games.
After detailing a number of the unrealistic ways the simulation portrayed events playing out, I explained the nature of my concern. I said I had written the memorandum out of concern that, “when TRAC [Training and Doctrine Command Analysis Center] issues their report and makes recommendations to BG Terry [Brigadier General James Terry, then the Director of the Future Forces Integration Directorate] regarding lessons learned from this exercise, I expect the results will be characterized as being doctrinally sound, that we used tactics representative of how Stryker units would actually fight, and that the use and utility of SO2 items was accurately represented. It is my view that none of those things are true.” I ended the memo by noting:
JANUS models [a type of simulation system] should be redesigned to accurately represent combat conditions. We short-circuit the process when we overtly require maneuver units to fight in ways everyone knows they would never use in actual combat. If I were actually fighting in an urban environment and would fire through plaster walls with a .50 caliber machine gun to kill or suppress enemy soldiers inside, then I ought to be able to fight that way in JANUS. To try and draw lessons learned and provide TTPs to the future force on how to use SO2 items as a result of what we ‘discovered’ in a JANUS exercise that includes significant instances of non-reality is to court failure.
On Friday, 30 November I attended the TRAC briefing to General Terry where the results of the Spinout 2 scenario were presented, and as I had feared the official “confirmed” to the General that the simulation “proved” that the FCS spinout items would make a significant improvement to current force units in the 2012 timeframe. On the following Monday, 3 December 2007, I sent an email message to my supervisor informing him of what had taken place at the briefing. Three of the main points I conveyed were: