LtCol Lewis’s “Is the King dead?”
LtCol Lewis has accurately depicted the dilemma confronting Marine artillery and has suggested that we need to increase our capabilities in the following ways:
1. Precision attack and
2. Precision targeting;
3. Longer range and more reliable communications;
4. Greater simplicity in fires architecture.
LtCol Lewis also recognizes the importance of precision in today’s COIN fight. He goes on to identify the problems that technology can pose in building confidence in the system among not only our infantry brethren but amongst ourselves as well.
However, LtCol Lewis disagrees with LtCol Dunne (“Enhanced Artillery Battery Operations”) by insisting that “the tactical decision to deploy howitzers…must rest with the artillery battalion commander…not the battery commander.” Aside from citing the history of entrenched retention of artillery tactical fire direction at the battalion level, LtCol Lewis fails to explain why battery leadership cannot and should not be able to assume such responsibilities in the interest of distributing capabilities. Rather, LtCol Lewis simply subscribes to a rather centralized—and dare I say “attritionist”—mentality in his claim that while some additional functionality might be responsible at the battalion or regiment, “we certainly do not need it at the battery.”
Perhaps LtCol Lewis believes that battery commanders are incapable of assuming tactical fire direction responsibilities? Perhaps LtCol Lewis believes that distributed operations present a threat to the centralized massing of artillery fires? Perhaps LtCol Lewis feels there are not enough fire support assets at the discretionary use of the forward deployed battery commander in order for him to properly direct fires in a tactical manner? LtCol Lewis tries to draw a comparison to aviation squadrons in his claim that battalion is the preferred size for tactical employment. But there is actually little similarity between an artillery battalion and a squadron in terms of flexibility, responsiveness and basic geographic coverage...especially in a FLOT-less (or 360 degree) battlefield.
LtCol Lewis is correct that we cannot simply wait for “the next big one”…but perhaps there are better ways to remedy the situation.
Last edited by artillery_officer; 01-31-2010 at 03:16 PM.
While I am all for the principle of subsidiarity, responsibility being pushed to the lowest level capable of handling it, I have to agree with LtCol Lewis that the Bn is where it needs to stop.
LtCol Dunne makes an excellent point that the problem of performing enhanced artillery battery ops is a C2 problem. He gives several ways to mitigate the issue, and potentially enhance our ability to perform "EABO". 1) Dropping FOs in favor of the Army's concept of Company level FSCs. 2) Pushing some degree of survey and met assets to the Battery IOT allow the Btry to support the Fires platoons in performing their accurate technical fire direction. 3) Give tactical missions (DS, GS, GS-R, and R) to the Batteries, and give the Battery CO the ability to mnvr his Battery; split it into different Fires platoons, and positiong them as he sees fit in order to support the Mnvr element.
While they are excellent points, they don't fully solve certain questions of practical logistics. Resupply, who will coordinate that for the Battery? Maybe we can bring out the 4 shop, but leave the Bn HQ element in CONUS. After all, artillery ammunition is sizeable and heavy. Who’s going to move it for us? Would it be more cost and space effective to drive in ammunition, or fly it in? Wouldn’t it be easier to use the lift capabilities inherent in the Bn and their fleet of trucks rather than have to go out or through some other agency, a unit that you've not worked with before? This all depends on the terrain as well. How would all this look in forested or jungle terrain versus the desert we've been operating in?
Granted, I am assuming we will be using artillery ammunition in quantities that would require relatively frequent resupply. If we are in an environment with minimal kinetic activity the supply issue won't be so profound. If we are more kinetic, however, and still operating in dispersed formations, then the ammo req would be greater. Without a Bn HQ, logistics could become a greater point of friction than necessary.
Another issue that needs to be addressed is ECO in high-kinetic environment versus ECO in a low-kinetic environment. This issue can be morphed into the question, what will be the difference in capability requirements for the Battery when faced with high-kinetic vice low-kinetic environments?
Leaving the Bn HQ as the ultimate decision maker, even in an ECO environment, would allow for more fluid transitions and uses of fires between high level kinetic operations, like an assault on a City, and lower kinetic operations, like a winning the hearts and mind operation. The Bn HQ would be better able to coordinate with clout the use of his batteries, and coordinate their use as artillery.
While it would be nice for a Battery CO to have the ability to position his Battery’s Platoons where they need to be IOT to support dispersed Companies, keep in mind that those ECOs still have a higher HQ providing them with a mission that supports greater operational goals. What might happen is a Battery CO, instead of being positioned by the Artillery higher HQ, will find himself positioned, and his Platoons positioned, by the Infantry Bn HQ. Then you will run into the same issue of a Capt battling wills with a LtCol.
Last edited by 5th_Req; 06-14-2010 at 03:13 PM.
Another note, with dispersed Companies, and a Battery supporting a Bns worth, what you'll ultimately have are dispersed Fires Platoons, with the Btry HQ element playing Bn HQ element. Again, you'd have to resupply two Plts at two distinct locations. This raises the question of not only resupply, but the defense and security of those resupplying elements, and the platoons themselves.
When are we ever going to be in a high-intensity "high-kinetic" environment that would require distributed operations? We won't be. The primary enemy in this century will be the non-state actor, or minor powers. Both these enemies will have a goal of controlling their own region and destabilizing the influence major powers have over both them, and their own targeted sphere of influence.
Additionally, major states, such as China and Russia, have too much to lose in a conventional war. Conventional war will also be anything but what we have conventionally done in the past. What you will see is the use of long range missles that will disrupt and possibly eliminate any sort of opportunity to pursue a conventional ground, air, or sea campaign against our enemy. Why send a Marine where you can send a cruise missle?
The future of warfare for our country is low-intensity conflicts. LtCol's Dunne's article is an incredibly detailed and well-thought out assessment of how Artillery is going to remain relevant in the situations we will be facing in the near future. LtCol Lewis' thinking reflects too much 3GW, and doesn't delve enough into that 4th generation.
Battalions are not the way of the future, and they are losing their grasp and relevancy due to their size. They are easy targets for missles, in a conventional war, and they are cumbersome decision makers in an asymetric environment.
Some thoughts on the submission by Verified By...
Interesting point regarding the hesitance for "conventional war" by states such as China and Russia...but I don't know if I agree. Here's why:
(1) History. Look back to early twentieth-century Europe. The nations that would soon commit such atrocitries against one another were in the midst of an orgy of international trade and growth. Fortunes were looking up for all; the race--primarily a peaceful one for the Europeans--was over colonies in remote lands; (nobody much cared for sub-Sahelian rubber plantation workers at the time). If one were to view the world in 1910, it would look rather similar to the current quasi-arms race between China, Russia and the US (fighter/bombers, submarines, etc.).
(2) Motive. China's single-child policy resulted in increased infanticide (of females) which in turn has created a disparity of males:females. Whereas in a typical population, a ratio of 51:49 is normal, China has a far more lopsided ratio, especially when one realizes that numbers with China are HUGE. What does this mean? Estimates range from 30 to 50 million males with NO potential for sexual outlet/reproduction, marriage, progeny, etc. And (since the policy ran from1979-1997), the disenfranchised males are coming of marriageable age NOW. There is a huge potential for dissatisfaction among the populace. Many civilizations have experienced a gender disparity and dealt with it in a variety of ways: (a) religious monasticism (such as priests being celibate)--can't work in China due to the anti-religious fervor of the government; (b) prisons/work forces (such as that which built the Great Wall)--can't be done due to the increased human rights watch/scrutiny from well-meaning Western NGOs/governments; (c) war--what better way to eliminate 30-50 million disenfranchised young adult males than conduct internal propaganda campaigns against an external threat and send them off to fight? It has worked many times in history.
I don't know if I believe war is on the verge of breaking out, but I wouldn't count conventional fights out based upon the premise that partipants "have too much to lose". Just a few thoughts...
Have you read the paper titled "Unrestricted Warfare" written by a few Chinese colonels in the late 1990s? It talks of Chinese strategic methodologies to engage American military/civilian infrastructure in case of war. How do the thoughts put forth in that essay conflict with the assessment that cruise missiles and the like will be the primary tools of war?
Think about a conventional battlefield with the lights turned off...and I mean all technology. No GPS. No comm radios. No C2PC. No vehicles to carry our gear. No cruise missiles. No radar. What then? We can't not engage the enemy, yet how difficult will it be to adjust to that environment? We--Marines--claim we are flexible and adaptive (see MCDP 1). Are we really?
You say Battalions are not the way of the future, but what happens when the Battery FDC is made obsolete? What happens when we receive the capability to calculate a technical firing solution via software on the CSD? The first check on computations can be done at the Bn FDC, and the verification on the gun. All we would need at the battery level is a command element, a Guns Platoon, and some personnel to run security. Bn can maintain a chart and sticks in case digital comm is degraded. If all comm goes down, then there is no way except via messenger that we'd be able to fire.
After all, if comm goes down completely, we'd have to establish lines of communication via wire or again, messenger. And you can't shoot without some sort of comm with the observer.
Maintaining the skills of the Battalion HQ element will keep those skills of manuevering subordinate elements within the echelon of tactical command that would need them i.e. the Bn. These skills will be crucial, 2, 5, or 10 years down the line, if our guns receive the ability to compute a technical firing solution. If the guns do receive that capability, it should revolutionize the Battery T/O, and subsequently make it easier for a Bn to support, in a quick and efficient manner, the Mnvr rlement.
Regarding the so-called 'generations' of war, perhaps we could debate the applicability of that theory in the forum designated for it.
Last edited by 5th_Req; 06-17-2010 at 01:24 PM.
Artillery_officer . . . .
Starting a conventional war in order to kill off 30-50 million of your own men comes across as rather arbitrary and an unlikely motive for war. After all, war on the scale needed to stabilize the Chinese population would be a war that would affect other countries to a similar degree. The end result of such a war would by Pyrrhic. Though they may deliver themselves of the problem of social upheaval resulting from 50 million disenfranchised men, they'd have the problem of an incredibly unstable and broken world. With carnage on that scale, you'd likely have a global dark age, and the end of the State as we know it. Such a result would not be in the interest of those currently in power, anywhere. The Chinese are too sensible to consider starting such a bloodbath, there is no Hitler nor Stalin guiding their foreign policy.
To answer your question on cruise missiles, I believe cruise missiles would be the primary tool in a more conventional war. I do believe the next state vs state military war will be fought with ballistic missiles. What better way, in the minds of our enemies, to succeed against the United States? As the Chinese Colonels said themselves, the one thing that America has consistently pursued is increasing combat power while decreasing our casualties. So the best way to sour our taste for war, to a win a war, in their eyes, is by causing significant enough casualties soon enough so that we eventually bow out in a rage of sentiment for the fallen.
We are already at war with China, and Russia, though. The war we're engaged in is the very kind of war those two Chinese Colonels spoke of. It is a non-military war, or non-military combat, as they call it. But this is nothing new. They even said it themselves, we the United States have always fought non-military wars. We have done this via foreign policy, and agents in services (or agencies) other than the U.S. Military that enforce and pursue the ends of that foreign policy. We have utilized non-military combat through their suggested practice of "combination." Combining economic, social pressures and political pressures in order to acquire the capitulation of our enemies is nothing new. We did it to Iraq before we even went in to Kuwait.
In regard to your last point about the flexibility of our beloved Corps: I don't believe the Marine Corps is flexible enough to operate without our technology. After all, how often do junior officers look at a Map while riding shotgun in a Humvee that has BFT?
Last edited by Verified_By; 06-20-2010 at 01:20 PM.
Honeslty, I believe just the opposite. If computational capability goes down to the gunline, that would decrease the need for the Battalion. Tactical Fire Direction will rest on the shoulders of the FDO, and tactical employment of the battery's assets ISO of mnvr will be performed by the Battery CO.
It is never wrong to continue pushing greater responsibility and authority further and further down the chain. The more decision making capability we give to the lowest elements, the greater ability we have to satisfy cmdr's intent.
Regarding the supply issues, you actually alleviate them by not having the Bn there. That is, after all, an additional battery (HQ) you need not worry about supporting with food and water. Maybe to solve any concern, maybe in the re-task organization of the Battery, one of its officers will act as a Liason with Higher HQs. This way the battery has a voice speaking for the Battery's interests, and can actively coordinate resupply, and other support, with the appropriate organizations.