Situation Report

FP Exclusive: Odierno says the Army must change; Hagel expected to be confirmed next week; Is the Taliban playing chess while the West plays “Chequers”? Why North Korea wants a test; Flournoy on HQ staff: they grow “like weeds”; and a little more.

Whither the Army? At the end of more than a decade of two large land wars and budget cuts forcing new thinking in the military’s role in the world, the Army is at a crossroads. While the much-hyped pivot to Asia seems to give the strategic nod to the Air Force and the Navy, with ...

Whither the Army? At the end of more than a decade of two large land wars and budget cuts forcing new thinking in the military’s role in the world, the Army is at a crossroads. While the much-hyped pivot to Asia seems to give the strategic nod to the Air Force and the Navy, with the small Marine Corps not far behind, the Army is now seen as having to adapt quickly to position itself for a new future. For the man who has to lead that transition, it’s all about explaining what the Army does, how important decisions today will affect tomorrow, and what the service must do to change. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno is releasing his "strategic intent" this morning exclusively on FP and here in Situation Report, where he makes the case that his service is still critical, still relevant, and still necessary in an uncertain world. But he says the service must also adapt to meet an array of new challenges by making forces more scalable and investing heavily — and earlier in their careers — in building leaders, all while remaining accountable to the taxpayers who make the force possible.

Odierno: "To posture the force for the complexities of the strategic environment, we must simultaneously reform our processes and training to generate forces scalable from squad to corps. We cannot afford to limit our planning to brigade combat teams. Our success going forward will be built on deploying the right soldiers, with the right training, in the right size units, at the right time. Small unit leadership will be at a premium in this potential environment of dispersed, decentralized operations. In some circumstances that may require small teams of soldiers engaged in partnership activities. Others may require the combined mass of brigades, divisions, or corps. This does not necessarily suggest a smaller force, but an Army capable of deploying tailored packages to the point of need, while retaining the ability to rapidly reassemble into larger combat formations as requirements change or small conflicts expand."

On the Army of today: "[A]n objective assessment of what is required to fulfill our mission in a complex future environment against a constantly evolving range of threats demands that we continue to invest in the specific skills, equipment, and forces needed to do so effectively. This demands foresight and innovation, as well as a bottom-up engagement by our most valuable asset — our soldiers and leaders. It also requires recognition that the Army, like our nation, must be good stewards of our resources in an era of increasing fiscal austerity."

On keeping pace with technology: "The cyber revolution has created new ways for people to connect. Information passes instantly over great distances, and entire virtual communities have been created through social media…. [M]any of our adversaries lack the ability to confront our forces physically, choosing instead to employ virtual weapons with potentially devastating effect. We must take full advantage of these technologies, building our own capabilities to operate in cyberspace with the same level of skill and confidence we enjoy on the land. We will either adapt to this reality or risk ceding the advantage to future enemies."

On equipment and the leaders it needs: "This effort requires equipment that gives our squads, as the foundation of the force, capabilities that overwhelm any potential foe, enabled by vehicles that improve mobility and lethality while retaining survivability. It needs a network that connects all our assets across the joint force together in the most austere of environments to deliver decisive results in the shortest time possible. It demands leaders with the ability to think broadly and critically, aware of the cultural lenses through which their actions will be viewed and cognizant of the potential strategic ramifications of their decisions."

The Navy’s Adm. Jon Greenert wrote on FP about the Navy’s pivot to Asia in November and the Marine Corps’ Lt. Gen. Richard Mills wrote on FP last fall about the need for the Corps to return to the littorals for the bulk of the operations in the future.

Odierno’s likely new boss will probably be confirmed by the full Senate next week, we’re told. There are still a good many people who believe Chuck Hagel is the right man for the Pentagon’s top job, but his showing at the confirmation hearing Thursday was roundly considered lackluster. That’s why he’s still working the Hill this week, visiting senators who are seen as key to getting him the 70 votes the Hagel camp wants. The Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to vote Thursday, and the full Senate will take up the confirmation next week before the President’s Day recess, Situation Report is told. That could put Hagel in office within a couple of weeks. Indeed, Panetta’s Farewell Tour begins this week.

Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of Situation Report, where we’re always trying to confirm the metaphorical space monkey story, warts and all. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at And sign up for Situation Report here or just drop me an e-mail and I’ll put you on the list. And if you have a report, piece of news, or tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease.

Waiting, watching, and wondering about North Korea. North Korea’s threat of conducting a third nuclear test and whether it will be composed of plutonium or uranium is still a mystery as the NYT reports this morning.  Why the test in the first place? Siegfried Hecker writes on FP that the North is "greatly limited in its ability to miniaturize a nuclear device to fit on one of its missiles. The 2006 and 2009 tests demonstrated that North Korea can build a nuclear device, but that its nuclear arsenal is likely limited to bulky devices that would need to be delivered by plane, boat, or van, thereby greatly limiting their deterrent value. To make its nuclear arsenal more menacing and provide the deterrent power Pyongyang’s vitriolic pronouncements are aimed to achieve, North Korea must demonstrate that it can deliver the weapons on missiles at a distance."

"Talks about talks" between Afghanistan and Pakistan are taking form. Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari met at British Prime Minister David Cameron’s country residence, Chequers, yesterday and agreed to "seek" a six-month timeline for a peace settlement between the two countries. It is seen as the first tangible steps toward  reconciliation between the two countries. As the U.S. draws up plans to withdraw and sketch out a post-2014 presence, there is increasing pressure to find ways to end the violence. But the U.S. Institute of Peace’s  Scott  says it’s a little premature to get excited about what transpired yesterday. "It is difficult to ascribe much significance to an agreement like this when the Taliban are not a party to it," Smith told Situation Report in an e-mail. "This is also the third time that a ‘major breakthrough’ has been to open the same office in Doha. Only two weeks ago opening the same office was a ‘breakthrough’ at the Washington summit, and even then the office had already been open for more than a year. The breakthrough seems so insignificant, and the timeline seems so unrealistic, that it seems that the Taliban are playing chess, and they’re playing Chequers."

Ash Carter visited Turkey yesterday. He went to the U.S. embassy in Ankara, where he reaffirmed his "conviction" that the suicide bombing there "would not shake U.S. and Turkish commitments" to work together against terrorism, according to a statement released by the Pentagon. He also met with Turkish guards and expressed condolences to the family of Mustafa Akarsu, the Turkish guard killed in the attack. Carter also visited with Minister of National Defense Ismet Yilmaz and Under Secretary for Defense Industry Murad Bayar to talk counter-terrorism, violence in Syria, as well as "defense industrial cooperation." Carter also visited the new American Patriot battery deployed to Gaziantep.

Michele Flournoy weighs in on how not to create a hollow force. Cuts are inevitable, she argues in the WSJ this morning, but there is a right way and a wrong way. With history as a guide, the tack taken is usually the wrong way. "…the easiest way to reduce Defense Department spending quickly is to enact across-the-board cuts in military end-strength, operations and maintenance, and procurement-solving the budget problem on the back of the force rather than on the department writ large," she writes. Past drawdowns were predicated on new eras of peace — after Vietnam, World War II, the Cold War — but "no such calm appears on the horizon," says Flournoy, who was passed over for SecDef but whose voice remains an important one in defense circles. So how to make cuts? Cut down headquarters staffs, eliminate "unnecessary overhead" in the Pentagon, reduce military healthcare costs, close bases the Pentagon doesn’t need, and reform acquisition.

Staffs have grown like weeds, she says. The number of "DoD civilians" has grown by a whopping 100,000 in the last decade. As an example, when she served in the Pentagon in the mid-1990s, the policy shop had 600 people. Today it has nearly 1,000, she says. "Delayering" — eliminating excess people — can achieve 15-20 percent in cost savings in the private sector, according to Flournoy. "Imagine the savings and enhanced performance that could result from delayering the Pentagon."

Into Africa

  • BBC: Remote mountains of Mali perfect for guerillas. 
  • Reuters: France arrests suspected Islamists in rebel probe.
  • WaPo: In North Africa, a decade of anti-terror errors. 


The Stan

  • Time: Retrograde: learning lessons from Afghanistan’s logistical nightmare.   
  • AP: Bombing of tea house kills three in northern Afghanistan. 
  • Trudy Rubin: The next steps in Afghanistan. 

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