As the U.S. Army and Marine Corps begin to plan for the long, uncertain transition away from wartime force rotations and rapid-equipping strategies, they’re casting a wary eye at the platform-hungry Air Force and Navy, which argue that their long-rage capabilities are what’s needed for the new emphasis on the Pacific.
Fighting for funds in an era of serious fiscal constraints and strategic uncertainty, the two ground force providers have teamed up with Special Operations Command to form something called the Office of Strategic Landpower, according to the Army’s top officer.
The Army’s chief of staff, Gen. Raymond Odierno, told an audience at a Washington think tank on Nov. 1 that the new partnership will take a hard look at “future conflict, and what that means for ground forces.” It will also help determine “what are the characteristics that we want” to have in the future when it comes to training, equipping and force structure.
After the chief’s speech, Odierno’s spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Kathy Turner, clarified to Defense News that the office is still very much a work in progress, and that a task force has been set up to define who the office would report to, how it would function and what its overall scope would be.
While short on specifics, Odierno’s speech covered a lot of ground with regard to what the general sees as his main lines of attack in moving the Army into a future that promises less money, fewer troops, multiple equipment modernization challenges and an unpredictable global threat picture. Underpinning the general’s comments were his own admission that “the last 10 years have been a resource rich environment ... as we all know, that’s no longer going to be the case.”
As Odierno has said multiple times in the past, the Army wants to expand on its 10 years of sharing the battlefield with Special Operations forces in the hope of generating greater “SOF-conventional force interdependence,” especially when it comes to training and mentoring foreign forces.
One of the biggest challenges for the Army is how to restructure its training model away from an emphasis on Iraq and Afghanistan to one that more broadly encompasses the spectrum of potential conflicts around the globe.
“We need to start training using virtual constructive and live capabilities in order to help the Army train for combined arms maneuver and to be regionally capable,” Odierno said. The problem is that “we don’t know how much that’s going to cost because we haven’t done it in so long.”
The service is conducting some pilot tests at Fort Hood, Texas, that will take a look at what this might mean.
When it comes to the regionally aligned forces (RAF) concept, Odierno said that one of the big tasks is to try and adjust the Army’s force generation model “in order to train and make available to combatant commanders regionally aligned forces, and that’s all sizes from platoon up to brigade” to combat services support units.
As part of this new regional alignment plan, the Army has designated the 162nd Brigade at Fort Polk, La., as its training brigade for future RAF units. The 162nd was originally stood up to help build and train teams to train Iraqi and Afghan forces, but it will now transition to become “the training center for global operations … we’re going to adjust that command as we start to come out of Afghanistan to look worldwide at how we do building partner capacity. They’ll be our training center to make sure we’re training our individuals properly to do this,” he said.