Friday, December 6, 2019

Duplication and Overlap

The US military is set up with certain, fairly well defined roles and areas of responsibility.  Why?  Well, this prevents needless duplication of effort, defines responsibilities and authorities, and clarifies operational requirements.  In simple terms, the service responsibilities are:

  • Army – Responsible for physical occupation of territory and the battlefield’s immediate front out to 30 miles or so.
  • Air Force – Responsible for aerial supremacy and deep strike beyond the Army’s front.
  • Navy – Responsible for naval supremacy, logistical support and transport, and short to medium range inland strike.
  • Marine Corps – Responsible for rapid response and entry point seizure.
Those roles seem pretty clear and straightforward with relatively little overlap or duplication of responsibilities.  However, the services have, of late, been expanding beyond their own realms and moving into each other’s areas.  The Marines are far and away the leaders in this mission creep/grab but all the services are guilty of it to some degree.

Here are some examples of duplication and overlap:

ATACMS – ATACMS missile has a 100+ mile range which more than covers the Army’s immediate front responsibility and now Raytheon is developing the ATACMS successor, DeepStrike, with a 309 mile range.  This is well beyond the Army’s immediate front responsibility and overlaps and duplicates the Air Force’s deep strike.  The weapon is capable of hitting land and sea targets (ships) which duplicates and overlaps the Navy’s responsibility.  On a related note, the 309 mile range is a limit imposed by the 1987 INF treaty.  The weapon’s actual range could, and will, likely be much longer now that the treaty is no longer in effect.

AGS/LRLAP – Although the Zumwalt’s Advanced Gun System (AGS) and Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) have been cancelled, this is still an example of the Navy’s attempt to move into the Air Force deep strike mission.

Marine Aviation – The Marines have moved beyond simply providing their own close air support and have entered the areas of air superiority, anti-shipping, deep strike (well, as deep as an F-35B can go), broad area maritime surveillance, etc.  The Marines are in the process of becoming America’s third air force.

MUX – The Marines have called for a MUX Group 5 UAV (same size group as Triton, Reaper, Global Hawk) to perform broad are maritime surveillance, ISR, early warning, electronic warfare, and communications relay.  Well, we already have Triton broad area maritime surveillance aircraft, Growler electronic warfare aircraft, AWACS early warning and aerial surveillance and control, E-2 Hawkeye airborne early warning and control, and numerous varieties of ISR UAVs.  This is utterly pointless duplication.

Marine Sea Control Missiles – The Marines are looking at HIMARS and various other options for launching long range anti-ship missiles which blatantly overlaps the Navy’s sea control mission.

Super Cannon – The Army is developing a super cannon with a 1000 mile range.  This duplicates, carrier strike groups, Tomahawk cruise missiles, B-1/2/52 bombers, Air Force AGM-86 cruise missiles, Navy SSGNs, etc., all capable of thousand-plus mile ranges.

And the list goes on.

This is not to say that all duplication is bad.  Some is warranted and useful but – and this is the key point - the problem is that each service is seeking to expand their domain even while their own core responsibilities are not being met.

Marines lack an effective ship to shore connector that jibes with the Navy/Marine doctrine of assaulting from 25-50+ miles offshore and yet they’re expanding into fleet airborne early warning, broad area maritime surveillance, and electronic warfare with the MUX drone.

The Marines lack initial wave heavy firepower and mobile anti-air defense and yet they’re trying to establish anti-ship missile capability.

The Army lacks effective mobile anti-air defense capability, electronic warfare capability, and a Bradley replacement, yet wants to expand into deep strike.

The Navy lacks … well, everything we’ve talked about in this blog and yet they want to expand into deep strike.

If you have everything taken care of in your area of responsibility, are fully trained and 100% combat ready, and have extra money to spend then, sure, expand – but that’s never happened before and never will.  The services are engaged in budget grabs, pure and simple.

66 comments:

  1. You missed the kings of duplication, JSOC.
    They have special or unique versions of most everything.
    And they buy in smaller quantities.

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  2. A recurring thread, if you look at all the capabilities the services are developing, is that they want stuff that overlaps into other services, because they don't trust or don't believe that the other services will provide that. Take the army supergun - Big Army wants an asset capable of providing long range fires without having to deal with the Air Force or Navy.

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    1. The Army is doing the same with communications and DISA. Can't blame them, to be honest. The big bureaucracies aren't moving fast enough to keep up with the demands of the services.

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  3. I doubt we will see a outright replacement of the M2/3 in army service. Last I talk to some BAE, the were looking at remote control turret/ larger autocannon.

    As to mobile AA defense, couple things. While a M6 or another Bradley variant could be easily be brought into service to fill the role, in my experience, the army dosen't really train for operations in a contested airspace. I dont even think the manual on it has been updated since the 90's. Not so much an equipment issue as it is a doctrine issue.

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    1. "the army dosen't really train for operations in a contested airspace."

      And there's the heart of the problem. You've nailed it. I think the Russian-Ukraine combat is slowly waking the Army up. The Army has begun to make some small progress in electronic warfare and I've heard them at least talking about air defense although not much has actually happened.

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    2. The army can't expect AF F-15s and F-22s to deal with backpack drones and small UAVs. Nor can they expect the AF to shoot down incoming rockets, cruise missiles and mortar shells.

      Theres also the simple fact that SPAAGS are outstanding weapons to use against mass attacks from infantry and lightly armored vehicles (such as VBIED) attacks.

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    3. Stryker Dragoon amazes me because for once Big Army is getting a capability into the field without wasting so much money on failed programs.

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    4. "Stryker Dragoon amazes me "

      Of course, one could argue that in an era of Russia/China moving to heavier and heavier armored units, the Stryker is a failed concept since it lacks armor protection and has only a 30 mm gun. It will likely be badly outclassed on the battlefield.

      The lessons of Ukraine don't suggest the need for a Stryker Dragoon, they suggest the need for armored brigades and massive artillery support.

      Stryker is a product of anti-terrorism requirements, not high end combat.

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    5. When I said "amazed", I was refferring to Big Army actually getting SOMETHING out on the field. If you think Navy procurement is bad, Army procurement and R&D is a nightmarish clusterfuck. These are the people who deliberately insisted on a camo pattern that blended in with nothing, after running trials lasting for years!

      Assesment of how failed or not Stryker Dragoon is depend on the role and what you look at using it, IMO. As an interim SHORAD vic against drones and helicopters, it's alright. As a tank destroyer, it's not that badly off in protection vs its counterparts and carries heavier ATGM* (Hellfire) than the average ATGM vic. It'll fare well enough vs the existing BMPs and BTRs that make up the bulk of the Russian force - the T-15 HIFV won't be seeing mass deployment anytime soon.

      If you think of it as an organic SHORAD vic with 2ndary fire support role, it's not a bad fitout. Certainly most wheeled APCs don't have this level.of firepower.

      *The Stryker Dragoon turret can carry a box launcher that fires either Hellfire.or Stinger. Radar Hellfire is carried to engage drones that dont have enough IR sig for Stinger to lock.

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    6. Oh goddsmnit i've had a brainfsrt i was talking aboutnthe stryker dragoon when I meant the IM SHORAD Stryker.

      Goddamnit brain.

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    7. LOL! Stryker SHORAD does, indeed, look to be semi-capable. I don't know the acquisition history so I can't say whether it's been a good get or not. You seem to think so, so I'll accept that.

      I'll offer one other thought. Stryker (whatever variant) should not be considered in isolation - Stryker vs xxxx - but in how it integrates into the entire battlefield. For example, maybe it's good against xxxx threat but if it has to operate on a battlefield being constantly bombarded by artillery, it's not going to last long enough to perform against xxxx. Military commenters have a strong tendency to analyze in isolation and I'm constantly trying to get people to view the bigger picture.

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    8. Certainly, but I thought that went without saying. ;)

      I'd rate it as being fairly artillery resistsnt - stryker protection spec is the same level as Bradley in that regard, protected against 155mm fragments. Given the Russian propensity for drone guided artillery it has a fair chance: the russians love the God of War but even they're moving away from blindfire barrages. They seem to want to push spotter UAVs down to the artillery battalion's level, instead of just being owned by division and higher. Blind the arty's UAV eyes and then run away, kill scout helos and gunships harrasing friendly forces, and in thenworst case you can still shoot at people with the gun and use the Hellfires on tanks.

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  4. What I find frustrating is not the duplication of capability, but, the need for entirely new systems to do the same task. If we have an existing system that does the same job, how can a authorization be issued for a similar system with all of the accompanied R&D to develop something we already have. If the basic capabilities are the same, why must each service have distinct missiles and artillery, etc.

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    1. Conceptually, you're saying that if the Army wants a thousand mile missile, they should adapt the Navy's Tomahawk rather than create their own, say, ATACMS thousand mile missile or super-cannon.

      I agree with you!

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    2. The Air Force used to have nuclear armed, ground-launched Tomahawks in Europe; BGM-109G.

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    3. @Unknown: in the case of the Army, as I understand it developing a longer ranged variant of ATACMS is so that they can slide it into their existing launchers and vehicles, instead of having to get new TELs specifically for a new missile. Note Ground launched Tomahawk and its dedicated TEL.

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    4. "Conceptually, you're saying that if the Army wants a thousand mile missile, they should adapt the Navy's Tomahawk rather than create their own, say, ATACMS thousand mile missile or super-cannon."

      Yeah, sure, next time you'll tell people that blatant budget grabs are a bad thing.

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    5. There is a huge difference between one service buying, a weapon in use by another service (generally a good thing); and a service independently procuring a weapon system that is largely duplicative of an existing weapon system from another service. Sometimes you can justify both examples, but in general duplication is bad.

      Example, the USN operated B-24 bombers (a U.S. Army Air Corps aircraft) and ultimately produced its own variant the PB4Y-2 Privateer. This worked well because it leveraged an existing aircraft base and helped to win the U-boat war in the Atlantic.

      A bad example is the H-53, which largely duplicates the capabilities of the H-47, costs much more upfront to buy, costs much more to operate per flight hour, has a significantly worse safety record, and while more capable, most of that capability is superfluous to ‘typical’ combat requirements (e.g. both aircraft will lift a 155mm howitzer and ammunition load).

      GAB

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    6. While I agree with the sentiment. Some weapons are tactically useless for certain missions. So we cannot replace the ATACMS with the Tomahawk. That is an apples and oranges comparison. The flight time is much too slow. It would be more akin to using something such as a SM-2/6.

      At that point price/ability/numbers becomes an issue right along with the tactical usefulness.

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  5. I know its probably all just the money grab from the services BUT I wonder how much this isnt taking "advantage" of clueless politicians. When I talk to my friends, most of them know I follow military affairs so they ask me questions, you just realize how many are clueless, at least they ask questions! BUT how many dont care or just roll their eyes? I know we are all honest people here and I'm sure plenty of honest people inside DoD BUT how easy is it to sell something to a gullible customer? We have all done ot or witnessed it, seller taking advantage of a clueless customer....

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    1. Although theoretically that is why members of congress have staff. Or you know thay could occasionally listen to the GAO.

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    2. "I wonder how much this isnt taking "advantage" of clueless politicians"

      You raise a very good point that needs to be expanded on. You fault clueless politicians and, without doubt, many are too wrapped up in their own power plays or other projects to pay much attention to military matters and so you're correct that they are to blame for their lack of attention - cluelessness. HOWEVER, when you go to the auto mechanic for help fixing a problem, don't you expect him to be professional and competent so that, even if you're clueless about mechanics, you can simply take his recommendation and feel assured that he'll do the right thing? When you go to the doctor and he recommends a procedure, are you clueless for not completely understanding the medical issues or do you trust that he's a professional and will give you the best and proper recommendation? Our technology has become so specialized (division of labor) that we are all nearly clueless about matters outside our field of expertise.

      So, when Congress goes to the military to ask how money should be spent, don't they have the right to expect that professional warriors will give them the best recommendation, no matter how clueless they, themselves, may be? Make no mistake, our 'professional' warriors have betrayed Congress' trust by recommending programs that are not in the best interest of the country.

      Yes, it would be nice if all members of Congress were knowledgeable about military matters but it is our professional warriors who have let us down. They're supposed to give Congress expert guidance and they've failed to do so.

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    3. "clueless politicians"

      Let's be fair. Politicians are expected to be experts on hundreds or thousands of topics. It's just not possible. How many subjects are any of us experts on? Probably just the one we went to school for and perhaps some decent knowledge about a couple other subjects that have caught our interest over the years. And that's it.

      I know nothing about the Federal Reserve and yet, if I'm in Congress, I'm expected to know it and vote on matters related to it. Now, repeat that times the hundreds of subjects a Congressman encounters. They have to depend on the recommendations of subject matter experts like professional warriors. Unfortunately, those professional warriors have betrayed Congress.

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    4. @Kath: "...thay could occasionally listen to the GAO."

      GAO is not without its own issues and bias...

      GAB

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    5. "GAO is not without its own issues and bias..."

      @GAB: I'm reminded of GAO's complaints about the teen fighters, Abrams, Bradley, Apache, Blackhawk, AWACS... things which today are considered solid, proven platforms.

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  6. After 10 years of GWOT, there is a military love affair with Joint Operations. We're all supposed to work together, but after ten years of "Joint Ops" everyone is creeping into everyone elses' lanes.

    Part of the issue is a lack of trust ("we need planes and ships because we can't trust the AF and Navy") but some of it is also the mindset that you can't "play" with the AF and Navy if you don't have your own "toys".

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  7. "MUX – The Marines have called for a MUX Group 5 UAV (same size group as Triton, Reaper, Global Hawk) . . ."

    While providing a similar function as Triton, Reaper, et al., MUX is designed to operate from L-class ships and destroyers. An amphibious group by itself has no organic AEW, ISR, maritime surveillance capability. The Blackjack UAV offers some maritime surveillance capability, but its range is limited by comparison. MUX is a needed improvement in capabilities, not a duplication of effort.

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    1. "MUX is a needed improvement in capabilities, not a duplication of effort."

      No. In a war, an amphibious group is never going to operate alone. It will have carrier group(s) supporting it, submarines screening it, Air Force support to the extent possible, maritime search aircraft (Triton, P-8, etc.), a large number of escorts, etc. A MUX would, absolutely, be a duplication of effort. Worse, every MUX takes away another aerial asset that is much more pertinent to the amphibious group.

      "An amphibious group by itself has no organic AEW, ISR, maritime surveillance capability. "

      And does not need those capabilities. They are provided by all the supporting elements. Too many people tend to think of military capabilities in isolation which is completely wrong because that's not how we fight.

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    2. That amphibious group will need organic ISR if you're going to use it as a COIN overkill force. The Marines are oriented very well as a COIN force, but its debatable how effective an MEU can be in thenhypermythical peer war between great powers.

      Chinese efforts in making their own ARGs are likewise oriented towards punching down at their overseas african interests.

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    3. Are you aware of any amphibious group ever having been used as a COIN force?

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    4. It's my belief that COIN and OOTE are the only things you can use a MEU for. they've done that before in Somalia in the 90s, and Lebanon in the 80s. It also makes no sense to put a MEU/ARG in SEA if you don't intend to use it in this fashion.

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    5. Counter insurgency is a long term effort (and has never been demonstrated to work!) involving local political hearts and minds, infrastructure development, general security, education, outreach, as well as military efforts. MEUs, and the Marines in general, are a short term, crisis response organization and are no equipped for COIN.

      Somalia and Lebanon were not really COIN you saw how they worked out.

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    6. I'd offer Malaysia as an example of when counter insurgency has worked. Rhodesia is another example (the simplified answer is that the Rhodesian security forces' COIN efforts were working, until the government gave up).

      @JMD: I'd suggest that what you're thinking of isn't COIN per se, but more correctly termed as stabilisation operations, which tend to be shorter duration missions than a proper COIN effort.

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    7. Malaysia was not a US effort, was not conducted by Marine amphibious forces, which was the specific topic of discussion, and was a success only under the very loosest of definitions as insurgency and conflict continued from the 1940s through around 1990.

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    8. I submit that your undersanding of the Malaysian Emergency and the various communist insurgencies is incomplete - you previously termed this as a civil war, and you're counting it as a continuous event when there were several phases, including an 8 year gap at one point - but that is getting off topic.

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    9. A 50 year insurgency, even with ebbs and flows, is hardly an example of a successful COIN operation! If that's success, I'd hate to see what failure is.

      The statement stands. There has been no successful COIN operation and even if someone can find a single example somewhere throughout history, that would be an anomaly rather than a model for success.

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    10. Respectfully, it wasn't a 50 year insurgency. The first Emergency was from 1948 to 1960. The Second Communist Insurgency was started in 1968 because Chin Peng had been led to believe by the PRC that he would receive support by then (so the pot being stirred by outside actors), and evem that ended in 1989. At best, the actual years of conflict were 33, not 50.

      The Malaysian experience with insurgency is also different to other nations because the Communist Party of Malaysia was essentially acting with the desire to overthrow the ruling government, and for all practical purposes was a group of political exiles with little grassroots support. It's a fair difference from Iraq and Afghanistan where the insurgency is homegrown by the locals; this is an insurgency maintained by outsiders.

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  8. The military is responding to the political imperatives around budgets. Which are that the politicians responsible for the US military budget view it as a job creation and sustainment program for their districts. It's an extraordinarily expensive and inefficient way of doing that, but there's a politically sacrosanct idea that makes it a good choice for politicians.

    It's politically unacceptable to say that the US might not be the world's supreme military power, so nobody can question the idea of spending lots of money on the military. They can criticise obvious miss-spending, so the services have got good at concealing that.

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  9. What dictates the traditional roles you have outlined? Is it just tradition, or is there another reason why certain services take on certain roles and not others?

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    1. It's a combination of tradition, common sense, some laws, and established doctrine.

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  10. Using the breakdown of roles that you point out, the navy should hand over the SSBN and nuclear missiles to the airforce to control.

    You could argue for only three groups.

    Strategic forces. Primary role strategic deterrence as well as missile defence.

    Tactical forces. Primary role, conventional combined arms. Composing elements of Marines, Army, Airforce and Navy under one command structure.

    Sea control. Primary role control of sea. Submarine, Antisubmarine and surface warfare.

    By delineating the services into three groups, their focus may improve and the duplication of the bureaucracy may be reduced.

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    1. While the concept of three functional groups may be appealing on paper, the practicalities are overwhelmingly bad. Our Navy can't seem to master naval activities. Our Air Force can't seem to run aerial activities. Our Army can't figure out ground activities. Asking a single (Tactical) group to master air, land, and sea simultaneously is beyond reasonable. This also sets up duplication and operational conflicts. For example, you'd have naval (SSBN) forces operating at sea without the knowledge or control (deconfliction) of the sea control group. Sure, they'd claim to cooperate jointly but when has that ever worked well? You'd have naval ports run by at least two different groups. Who'd handle amphibious forces? And so on.

      Appealing on paper, perhaps, but not workable.

      The better solution is for each service to stay in their lane.

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    2. @Anonymous: “Using the breakdown of roles that you point out, the navy should hand over the SSBN and nuclear missiles to the airforce to control.

      You could argue for only three groups…”

      The USA fights by joint, unified commands, not by service components.

      The service components (USA, USN, USAF, USMC, USCG) are force providers; the *combatant commands* are the warfighters and include: NORTHCOM, STRATCOM, EUCOM, SOUTHCOM, PACOM, USSOCOM, TRANSCOM, and so forth. Okay, the USMC seems to think it fight by itself…

      In your example, the USAF would not know what to do with ‘its’ own ICBMs, let alone USN submarines.

      There are issues with the Unified Command system (primarily the empire building the services do at the component commands), but the system is far more flexible than the organization you are proposing.

      GAB

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    3. I think you misunderstood, I did not say the airforce should have the SLBM. I said using COMNAVOPS delineation the airforce should get the SLBM and SSBN.

      What i am saying is that the forces appear to be competing with each other and not doing their primary role properly. Perhaps delineation would perhaps improve this. If the naval primary role was sea control, perhaps the equipment, strategy and doctrine would be better aligned to acheiving that primary role. Perhaps the ships would actually have an antiship armament designed to sink ships. Perhaps Harpoon would of been replaced 20 years ago. etc etc. Perhaps the coast guard would be integrated to perform the littoral combat and mine countermeasures.

      What I see is a confused mess where the services where empire building in the service takes precedence over the focus of their role. This leads to under investment in acheiving that role while pursuing agendas that are best acheived by other groups within the service.

      if the USA fights by joint commands, why not formalise this process and make them responsible for doctrine and procurement.

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    4. "airforce should have the SLBM. ... airforce should get the SLBM"

      I'm not seeing the difference. They sound exactly the same.

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    5. “if the USA fights by joint commands, why not formalise this process and make them responsible for doctrine and procurement.”

      Because what you are proposing is effectively a return to the same inefficient system prior to the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act.

      Post Goldwater-Nichols, the services are force providers, and the Unified Commands direct those forces. Essentially Congress funds a capability, the services assemble and train that capability, which is then shared by the Unified Commands. This is a far more efficient way to allocate forces, because if the Unified Commands were responsible for procurement, each unified command would procure different systems, train their forces independently, and you would need to much larger military in order to fill out the Unified Commands.

      The Unified Command system is *formalized* - it is defined in doctrine, there is a training system with strong motivation incentives (officer promotion), and the Unified Command staffs are a part of the procurement process (defining requirements and capabilities http://acqnotes.com/acqnote/tasks/requirements-development-overview).

      GAB

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    6. GAB, you're describing our current system of Unified Commands(UC)/Combatant Commanders. The problem with the UC approach is that each UC is incentivized to grow itself by requesting more and more forces. To be fair, this is a characteristic of all organizations, military and civilian. The Combatant Commanders (CC) would like unlimited forces under their control and are happy to make their requests without regard to other UC/CC needs. Functionally, it is left to the services to prioritize the CC requests and allocate forces as best they can. The services are incentivized to provide those forces even at the expense of maintenance, training, and readiness since the more requests, the more the service can justify increased budget to Congress. This is a flaw way to justify and allocate forces. Of course, I'm not telling you anything you don't know.

      A separate, though related issue is what I discussed in the post which is the issue of services encroaching on each others areas of responsibility. We seem to lack any oversight authority to weight the various development/procurement efforts and decide which are valid and which are unnecessary duplication. Currently, all that is needed is for the individual service to have their own justification and be able to 'sell' it to Congress. As I mentioned, the Joint Chiefs could take this responsibility but do not. The SecDef should take this responsibility but does not. Do you have a suggestion for how to deal with 'responsibility creep' and duplication?

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    7. @CNO: “Do you have a suggestion for how to deal with 'responsibility creep' and duplication?”

      Yes, get educated and vote!

      The word ‘idiot’ has its roots in the Greek word ‘idios’ (ΙΔΙΟΣ) meaning self: Athenian Greeks who did not demonstrate social responsibility and participate in the political process, which in meant voting for officials *and* taking some active part in the governance of the city-state. Non-participants, or ‘idiotes’ were branded as laggards or outcasts: considered apathetic, uneducated, and ignorant.

      Readers of this blog are obviously virtuous citizens honoring the highest standards of western democracy…

      GAB

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    8. @CNO: “Functionally, it is left to the services to prioritize the CC requests and allocate forces as best they can. The services are incentivized to provide those forces even at the expense of maintenance, training, and readiness since the more requests, the more the service can justify increased budget to Congress.”

      The services play a wicked game of behind the scenes politics and espionage, but forces are assigned to the Combatant Commanders by the SECDEF, not the services, under the Global Force Management Implementation Guidance (GFMIG). The JSCP apportions forces according to operational and functional planning (for this discussion, war plans), which are directed by the JS. In fact, the JSCP, assigns generic units, although it gets really silly when the guidance says something along the lines of “… one ranger regiment on day 12…” when there is only one 75th Ranger Regiment in the US Army…https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/jp5_0_20171606.pdf

      Actual force assignment (USS Biddle) can only be done by the NCA (President and SECDEF).

      A number of assessment and planning events like the QDR play into the strategic planning/guidance process. The intelligence community, Dept. of State, and other key organizations, and sometimes even private citizens (e.g. Einstein, FDR, and the A-bomb) influence the executive branch on strategic military planning. Unified Commands like EUCOM are normally tasked by the Joint staff to plan to deal with ‘likely crises’ yielding operational and functional plans.

      None of this happens in a vacuum: Unified Commanders, like U.S. Ambassadors (Chief of Missions) are some of the few people in the USG that can pick up the telephone in the middle of the night and call the President.

      These plans influence service planning, and of course, ultimately the President’s budget request, which then goes to Congress and the next round of politics starts.

      GAB

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    9. "Readers of this blog are obviously virtuous citizens honoring the highest standards of western democracy…"

      Hopefully, that also includes writers of the blog!

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    10. Speaking of ancient Greek duties, there's lots of blog topics just waiting to be written … !!!

      Delete
  11. When evaluating weapons systems, we should consider them outside the arbitrary boundaries of their parent service. Pretend the services don't exist. Can the weapons system justify its cost on its merits alone, taking into consideration the entirety of our military capability and missions?

    Which service or services owns the weapons is a secondary concern.

    For example, ATACMs (and LRPF) are useful as a medium range, fast response weapon that's difficult to intercept. It was used to strike air defense targets to open up safe lanes for airpower, and to attack fleeting targets of opportunity.

    Land-based, anti-ship missiles enable land forces on "unsinkable islands" and friendly territory to bring enemy warships under fire. And they probably aren't that expensive to field.

    Super cannons, on the other hand, don't seem to bring much to the table. They appear to be an expensive and cumbersome way to deliver modest payloads. Might as well build S/IRBMs or cruise missiles or rely on traditional airpower.

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    1. "Can the weapons system justify its cost on its merits alone, taking into consideration the entirety of our military capability and missions?"

      You're close a good concept but you're missing a couple elements.

      First, every weapon system, even if it's an exact duplication of another service's weapon can be given a justification, however, simply having a justification isn't the entire picture. For example, the Marines clearly and emphatically justify their entire 'air force' on the basis of a fear of abandonment by the Navy and Air Force (presumably dating back to Guadalcanal). They justify each Harrier/F-35B as a vital close air support asset. Well, they're right - that is a vital mission and their aircraft can do the mission. Hard to argue against, isn't it? However, that justification isn't sufficient. That capability already exists in both the Air Force and Navy. The Marine's aircraft are just duplications and, arguably, poor and inefficient duplicates.

      This leads to the next missing element and that is opportunity cost. What is NOT being built and acquired so that the Marines can have their own air force? The untold billions the Marines have spent on their personal air force has cost the US military many other pieces of equipment and maintenance.

      "Land-based, anti-ship missiles enable land forces on "unsinkable islands"

      This is a complete duplication of the Navy and Air Force's capabilities and responsibilities. That the capability can be justified ignores the total duplication aspect. If the Navy hasn't got the strength to exert sea control then they certainly haven't got the strength to forcibly insert and logistically support some missile-firing land unit into the enemy's waters. Then there's the ever-present opportunity cost. What else could the military have done with the money spent duplicating a Navy/Air Force capability?

      The reality is that there are very few systems that can justify being duplicates.

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    2. @Anon2: “
      When evaluating weapons systems, we should consider them outside the arbitrary boundaries of their parent service…”

      This is already done.

      It is a flawed process, but the Unified Commands are ‘supposed to’ generate, or at least validate the capabilities used to justify weapons systems.

      GAB

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    3. "This leads to the next missing element and that is opportunity cost."

      This is a good point. We don't have infinite budgets.

      "Justification" is inherently subjective. What's justifiable for the Marines might not be justifiable to you or to me or to someone else. Ultimately it comes down to what the services can justify to Congress to secure funding. Presumably there is some overlap between what they can justify to Congress and what they actually need to accomplish their missions.

      I think having similar capabilities that differ in basing mode can be valuable, and thus justifiable in some cases. Anti-ship missiles that can be fired from ships, aircraft or land is one example.

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    4. "What's justifiable for the Marines"

      This is kind of the point and problem. The Marines can make a case for, say, land based anti-ship missiles but that's irrelevant. The relevant question is whether the case can be made for land based anti-ship missiles within the context of the total military strategy and capabilities. That's what we lack now. We have no overarching authority that weighs the overall justification. You would think the Joint Chiefs could do that but they don't. You would think the Secretary of Defense would do that but he clearly doesn't. Because we have no one in that overall authority role, we wind up with lots of duplication, waste, and lost opportunity costs.

      As far as land based anti-ship missiles, specifically, when you consider how many ways we have of delivering anti-ship missiles now (carrier aviation strike, LCS, Burke, Tico, submarine, B-1/2/52 bombers), adding yet another delivery system just seems pointless and wasteful especially when you think about all the other things we could buy with that money (the opportunity cost). If we had everything we needed as a military and still had excess budget left over then, sure, go buy some land based anti-ship missiles - but that's not even remotely the case. There's so much else we need more than yet another anti-ship missile delivery system.

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  12. "We have no overarching authority that weighs the overall justification. You would think the Joint Chiefs could do that but they don't."

    Well, the services seem to feel that their rivalries are the most important aspect of defense policy. To one of the political parties, that looks like free-market competition, and the other party isn't very interested in defense at present. And the Joint Chiefs seem to act as representative of their services, rather than taking an overall view of defence. A peacetime military doesn't tend to promote people who rock the boat.

    "You would think the Secretary of Defense would do that but he clearly doesn't. Because we have no one in that overall authority role …"

    As of February 2018, the Quadrennial Defense Reviews ended, and the office of the SecDef became responsible for the National Defense Strategy document, which is supposed to be based on the National Security Strategy produced by the President's staff.

    Since the 2017 NSS changed the whole basis of US foreign policy, it's hardly surprising that the Pentagon staff are taking a while to adjust to that, and maybe hoping in places that it will change back. So the SecDef needs to expedite turning the policy into something coherent. Good luck with getting the President to appoint someone competent to make that happen.

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  13. "the Pentagon staff are taking a while to adjust to that, and maybe hoping in places that it will change back."

    This is a troubling statement in a couple ways...

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  14. What about scrap the navy and airforce and let the army do everything! The Chinese have the PLAN, is it run separately or is it part of the army as the name suggests?

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    1. It's not actually part of the Army. In many asian languages, the word translated into English as "army" can also mean "military force". A more correct translation would be People's Liberation Military Forces Sea Forces.

      But PLAN is a better acronym than PLMFSF. :P

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  15. Marines are incompetent carrier aviators. I'd never sail with em flying onto my ship. Keep them to helicopters and that stupid Osprey ashore and keep them far away from flight decks. There was no need for that whatsoever, pure vanity. They aren't suited..

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  16. "Marine Aviation – The Marines have moved beyond simply providing their own close air support and have entered the areas of..."

    Well yeah. That move occurred sometime around 1942-45. Marine aviation has had virtually identical capabilities (albeit on smaller scale) to USN for quite some time.

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  17. Rereading your initial post delineating responsibility areas, there seems to be one critical area missing--close air support. The Air Force seems to think this is somehow beneath them, hence the efforts to get rid of the A-10. All they know is that they don't want the Army doing it. But somebody has to.

    I agree that you get good at your assigned mission before you start taking on others. I think what we need is a really strong and well-defined mission and responsibility statement, with a firm requirement that every expenditure be justified in terms of the assigned mission and responsibility.

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    1. " I think what we need is a really strong and well-defined mission and responsibility statement, "

      I could be wrong but I think we have that somewhere in the various joint documents. JP-1 might be a good starting point. 'GAB' can probably set us straight on this.

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    2. Yes, that was a pretty generic comment on my part.

      But what do you think about the close air support mission? Do you see it as an Air Force mission in your division of responsibilities? As nearly as I can tell, the Air Force doesn't want it, but they don't the Army to get it. I do see it as an essential mission for somebody.

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    3. "Air Force doesn't want it, but they don't the Army to get it. I do see it as an essential mission for somebody."

      This kind of sums up the problem I've mentioned from time to time that the US military has no one, central authority that's exerting any control. Someone needs to tell the Air Force to shut up and do the job. Firing the top 10 AF Generals is a good way to get their attention and then, hopefully, the number 11 guy will put some legitimate effort into CAS. If not, fire ten more. Sooner or later you'll reach someone who's willing to do the job.

      SecDef ought to be the one to enforce these kinds of things but we haven't had a SecDef with any sense of command in recent history.

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