The Army’s spokesman can’t define its purpose becuz it doesn’t have a clear one
"The U.S. Army exists for one purpose… to win wars in the crucible of ground combat.”
By Lt. Col. David Yaegers Jr., U.S. Army (Ret.)
Best Defense guest respondent
“The U.S. Army exists for one purpose… to win wars in the crucible of ground combat,” was the comment made by the new Army Chief of Staff and highlighted by the Army PAO on Twitter.
That comment and a follow-up discussion were collected by Tom in the post, “Does the Army Win our Wars?: My Colloquy with Brig. Gen. Frost.” I saw both the comment and subsequent debate as dismaying evidence that the Army has no viable vision for its future.
The “one purpose” Army described by GEN Milley and highlighted by BG Frost is not a viable vision for the future. As Mr. Ricks points out in his tweets, the Army has not been able to achieve this result since the end of World War II. This leaves BG Frost with an ends-ways-means mismatch. He attempts to compensate for this in two ways. First, he leverages Clausewitz by suggesting the non-linear aspects of war, like politics, make it inherently complex and therefore something the Army must always be ready for in any form. Although in a perfect world this is preferable, in a typical environment of limited resources no Army anywhere can prepare for everything. To overcome limited means, BG Frost then reaches for the other instruments of national power as a way to ensure the Army’s success. When this doesn’t work he departs from the colloquy. What concerns me is that both the comment and inability to defend it suggests a problem with Army’s purpose.
“Winning Wars in the Ground Crucible of Combat” isn’t a vision or purpose that is likely to help focus resources, increase readiness, or improve morale. What is needed is a vision that takes a realistic appraisal of our nation’s geography, economy, and the effects of globalization. It should consider the strategic warning our geography provides and realistically assess the value of regional alignments/other non-named missions that may be burdening readiness. It must be affordable in the context of what our economy can sustain, and forward thinking relative to the other aspects of national power (I suggest using the 1953 to 1955 National Security Policy debate over massive nuclear retaliation to inform affordability discussions).
Finally, it should consider how technology and the rapid transfer of information across the domains is forever changing how the world works. These changes may make positional basing, securing the global commons, and control of the human domain is less relevant than being able to shape “group think” to conform to our interests. The benefits of geography, limitations of economy, and the opportunities of globalization suggest a revision is needed.
The Army needs a purpose that is achievable and sustainable relative to the current strategic environment. It must forward looking and limited in scope to ensure it contributes to the defense of the nation and not create new problems that detract from it. Most importantly the Army’s purpose must be minimalist by design to conform with the spirit of the American tradition established by our Founding Fathers. Bottom line: Our Army exists as the final guarantor of the American way of life.
Lieutenant Colonel Yaegers is an armor officer who served on active duty from 1992 until 1997. He then transferred to the Florida Army National Guard, where he has served in a variety of assignments, including one deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and another in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn. He is a graduate of the Armor Officer Basic Course, Airborne School, Ranger School, Scout Platoon Leader Course, Armor Officer Advanced Course, Cavalry Leaders Course, Combined Arms and Services Staff School, Command and General Staff College, and the U.S. Army War College.
Photo credit: U.S. Army
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